Shall I describe the end of the visa saga? We heard on Thursday evening that OMF Japan had received the certificate of eligibility, and that we would receive it on Saturday. So, we made arrangements to go out for lunch with some friends on Friday. 20 minutes before we were supposed to meet them, we unexpectedly got the parcel a day early... then we hastily filled out the application, picked up friend 1, went to get passport pictures, picked up friend 2, ate lunch, left friends at Van Dusen Gardens, went to the consulate, applied for visa, returned to spend the rest of the afternoon with friends. We heard from the man at the consulate that we would be able (most likely) to pick up our passports with the visas on Wednesday morning before our flight, and that we would know for sure Tuesday morning.
We moved out on Saturday morning, had a goodbye party Saturday night, played for worship on Sunday morning, slept all afternoon, then resumed the cleaning and packing frenzy on Monday. Tuesday morning we called the consulate, and the visa was ready to pick up! So, we went and got it, then resumed the last-minute preparation frenzy. (Did I mention that while all of this was happening, it was 90 degrees F/33 degrees C in Vancouver? And no air conditioning anywhere, except in the car?) The result of all this is that we were already completely exhausted when we got on the plane...
Wednesday morning we went to the airport. My brother and several Japanese friends came to see us off... apparently going to the airport with your friends is a tradition in Japan. It was very nice.
I found out that Japan Airlines is definitely the way to go for cellists: there is actually a procedure for booking a seat for cellos and other large objects. The person at the check-in counter greeted me with "Ah, you're the one with the cello. They told us about you in briefing this morning." No one batted an eyelash as I went through security and boarded the plane. On our second flight, the flight attendant helped me carry the cello, and she went right to the correct seat and proceeded to strap it in for me. Yes... very impressive. There weren't any worries at all about whether or not I would be allowed to board, as is the case with most US airlines.
We met Tony, one of our hosts, at the airport. I felt bad because we had so much luggage (5 suitcases, 2 instruments, and 2 backpacks--but what can we do? We had to bring winter clothes too!) We got into our new apartment around 10 p.m. and immediately passed out on the bed. Unfortunately we were up by 4. Ugh. Oh well, today we managed to sleep until 5. Maybe tomorrow we'll make it until 6.
Yesterday we were out most of the day. We went to a supermarket and the local department store (which includes a supermarket, restaurants, and a variety of other shops), talked to a lot of people, ate some ice cream, and went to a fireworks display, at which we fell asleep while sitting upright. Oh dear.
Some observations and reasons to be thankful:
- The water tastes good! Yay, I won't get dehydrated.
- The milk tastes good too. It's creamier and sweeter than I'm accustomed to. It makes me want to try some cheese from this region when I get the chance...
- The weather is cool. There's no bugs either. I'm so glad we're not in Vancouver at present. When the weather clears up a bit, we're looking forward to seeing the mountains, but we're really not in a hurry...
- ふくろはいりません (fukuro wa irimasen) means "don't give me a bag, please." I'm a tree hugger, what can I say?
- There are two hymnbooks commonly used in Japanese churches, mostly consisting of translations, but still treasured: さんびか (sambika) and せいか (seika).
- Sapporo (our city) is written 札幌.
- I ate a lot of little tiny fish. They're a little larger than mosquitos. I'm not sure I want to think about how many animals I ate yesterday.
- I also had soft serve ice cream with red bean, mochi, banana, and green tea syrup. It was delicious.
- I want to try おこのむやき (okonomiyaki--cabbage pancake/frittata thing with toppings) and the ramen which is a specialty in Sapporo. I'll probably wait until the weather gets a little cooler.