Saturday, August 11, 2007

The last week on Hokkaido day by day: Saturday

Our last day living on Hokkaido at least at this point in our lives. We may come back someday for another extended visit especially since this is Keenan’s birthplace. For now though this is it and our last day here isn’t even a full day. The 3 of us woke up together all within an arms reach of each other. Having sold Keenan’s crib yesterday he was bedded down on his travel futon next to ours. It was nice to wake up to his easy breathing and eventual big smile. He is such a morning baby and it did loads to lift the packing weary spirits of his pooped out parents.

Pretty much everything was ready to go and we just needed to sit on our suitcase to get it closed over Keenan’s futon, strip our bed of bedding, fold up our futon for Kasi and wait for Sean’s supervisor Iwata-san to arrive to take us to the train station. He arrived around 7:15 am having just finished 18 holes of golf and we realized he likely was waking up just shortly after we drifted off last night. He was a little amazed by the weight and amount of our luggage but we got it all downstairs and packed into his mini van. There was no time for a lingering good-bye to our apartment. No last look in each room. No last peek at the stunning view of the Hidaka range from our balcony. No last chance to stand in our tatami room to take in that sweet scent of the mats one last time. Just a dash down the stairs in an effort to make it to the train station before the train left at exactly 7:50 am. Miyagashi-san, Sean’s other supervisor came by the apartment to pick up the receipts for the final payments of our utility bills. She has done a lot for us including bending a few rules in the last months of our stay here. To the depth of his gratitude Sean hugged her before bowing. She was genuinely shocked by the contact but I think she really appreciated the weight of the gesture. On the road and sitting in the back seat I was reminded of the last time one of Sean’s supervisor’s drove us down the same road. It was 8 pm, dark and foggy and I was in labor for Keenan. This time it was 7:30 am, bright and sunny and Keenan was sitting in my lap pointing at all the wondrous things he was seeing flying by the window. An arrival and departure so familiar and yet so very different. My heart ached for our home of 3 years already and it felt dreadful to get out at the train station. We got out of the car and made our way up the escalator. Iwata-san helped us with our heap of luggage and when we got to the platform Eiko was waiting for us. It was so good to see her. It helped slow time down a bit. We got our stuff loaded on the train and then we had some time for last good-byes and a few photos. The next time Eiko sees Keenan he’s going to be a much bigger boy so the two of them had a few last cuddles. Then we returned to our seats and our last good-byes were waves separated by the window. For those few minutes before the train departed I thought my heart would break. Seeing the tears on Eiko’s cheeks, feeling the lump in my throat, hearing Sean sniffing beside me and then on top of all of that Keenan was having so much fun making faces and waving to Eiko and Iwata-san. Another mixed bag of emotions and there we sat stalled on the verge of our departure. Then in a blink we were finally off. We sat and cried for a few seconds and then eagerly sat up to take in our last view of Obihiro. The most tears came when we crossed the city/town border between Obihiro and Memuro. Our last look at Obihiro was farmer’s fields a few weeks before harvest and at their peek of green-ness and beauty. After that we settled into our seats and enjoyed the view as much as possible. The only unpleasant view was the porn mags the guy sitting in front of us seemed to be enjoying. Friggin’ jerk. Keenan was a little fussy but it was nothing a couple of boobies couldn’t fix and he soon settled into a nap. The ride across the Hidaka range was beautiful and blissfully relaxing. Getting out at Minami Chitose is always a nightmare with lots of luggage as it is completely non-wheel chair/stroller/large rolling luggage accessible and of course we had 2 of the 3 including 4 carry on pieces. We did receive more than our fair share of stares but we managed fine nonetheless. Once inside the airport we headed directly to check in and got rid of the bulk of our burden. Our bags ended up being overweight but they let us get away with it. Our flight ended up being delayed by an hour, which we of course didn’t find out about until after we went thru security. So we had crappy food and little running around space for Keenan who was now both not interested in crappy food and very interested in running around. Yippy for us. Eventually we got on the plane and the sadness crept into our hearts and minds again. It was raining as we sped down the runway and rain streaked across the windows like the tears slipping down our cheeks. At long last we lifted off and left our beautiful Hokkaido with only one-way tickets in our name. It was a very strange feeling leaving our home behind. Regardless of the cultural differences and language difficulties we made lots of great friends and fell completely in love with the island. We had so many wonderful adventures and saw so many great things. We learned a lot about each other, our relationship and ourselves. Best of all though we left with the best omiyage ever our sweet, energetic and brilliant son Keenan. The best living memory we could have asked for.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The last week on Hokkaido day by day: Friday

Waking up on Friday was like being shot out of a canon. We had a very tight schedule we needed to maintain and a frightful long list of things to do. Within an hour of waking up Keenan had us frazzled. It seems all of his molars are fighting to come out at the same time and it’s causing him a lot of discomfort. It’s really hard to see him cry from the pain. We gave him a shot of baby Tylenol and rubbed a bit of teething gel on his tender gums which seemed to bring him down a couple of notches. Then we were off to take Sean to Nougyou for his very last day of teaching. On my way down the stairs I noticed something in our mailbox. It was from Keiko. She mentioned the night before that she had bought us a going away present but forgot to bring it. She must have dropped it off late last night or early this morning. It made me cry just thinking about it and I left it in the mailbox for later not wanting to open it for fear of before 9 am meltdown. After dropping Sean off Keenan and I went to the Abe’s to meet Ross and get the paperwork for the car sorted out. Keenan slept in the car while we took care of business and I arranged to meet Ross later in the day to drop it off. Then I took Keenan to daycare and I prayed he stayed asleep while I took him upstairs to the baby room. No such luck. He woke up as soon as we got into the genkan. Probably had something to do with 150 kids running around and shrieking! He cried when I tried to sneak out and it really broke my heart given how out of sorts he’s been this week. But this was our last full day in Obihiro and we had things we had to get done and we couldn’t afford being slowed down today. I ran out to the car, got home in record time and finished the last box. I weighed it and the snowboard bag and the big duffle bag all were miraculously under the weight limit. Then I darted back out to Nougyou to pick up Sean for 11:30. He started crying as soon as he got in the car. Being an agricultural and forestry school the grounds and driveway are beautifully maintained. We looped around and drove thru the forest one last time. We stopped for a few minutes and talked about leaving and then off we went. Sean had just realized he hadn’t taken any photos of his schools from the outside and he was really sad about it. We headed over to his office to pick up his airline tickets from Tokyo to Ottawa. I initially stayed in the car but he was taking too long and I had to pay the road tax for our car in the same building so I went up to his office. As soon as I walked in the door I could tell something was wrong. The tickets weren’t ready and wouldn’t be before we left for Tokyo. Un-f!!k-ing believable. We talked about what we would do and it was decided they would send them to us in Tokyo. Thank God we’ll be staying in one place and not spending each of the 6 day in a different hotel and city. Then there’s the Visa issue whereby Sean’s work Visa runs out on Wednesday and he needs to get a tourist Visa that he needs his ticket to Canada for. The tickets are supposed to arrive in Tokyo on Tuesday but we both have reason to feel like that could just as easily get screwed up too. We’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. While Sean dealt with that typical office nightmare I paid the car tax and did some banking. By the time we were done we were an hour behind schedule. We rushed over to the train station to buy our train tickets from Obihiro to Chitose for Saturday. Then we flew home, taped up the last box and sped to the post office. The box ended up being over the 30 kg limit so we had to remove a few items. Not good since we were steadily running out of space in our bags. Luckily the woman at the post office had amazing English and it was really easy to communicate that we wanted to repack and reseal the box right there and then. While I took care of the box, Sean paid our rent and water bill and cashed some Post Office money orders we received for selling some books and his Sony disc man. Then I did some banking and we dashed home. The whole ticket thing at the office bunged up our schedule so we loaded the car full of the luggage we were going to send ahead to Narita Airport in Tokyo, and then I dropped Sean off at Black Cat the delivery company and then left to pick up Keenan. He was sound asleep when I got to the daycare and the woman who takes care of him was going on about how much she was going to miss him. I felt for her but honestly I really just wanted to get the heck out of there. We said our good-byes and as soon as we got home we set to taking Keenan’s crib apart. Sean loaded it in the car and then realized we all couldn’t fit with it in there so he unloaded it and then we went to Sean’s office so he could deliver his Sayonara speech. In the meantime Keenan and I went to City Hall to pick up 5 copies of his birth certificate, as I won’t be able to get another once we leave the country. Yes, that’s right. Stupid policies! The whole birth certificate thing makes me livid as when we went to City Hall to register Keenan’s birth shortly after he was born I filled it out in English so it could be read by someone who doesn’t read Japanese in like our “home” country and after we left someone crossed out all the English and replaced it with katakana. So Keenan’s birth certificate is a total mess and to top it off I get asked a zillion questions when I want a copy. So I showed up ready for the questions and of course was asked “Why do you need a copy?” To which I replied “Because he’s my son and should be able to have a copy of his birth certificate whenever I want”. So then I was asked, “What are you going to do with these copies?” And I said “None of your business”. So the woman sat there mumbling “my business”, “my business” over and over again trying to figure out what I was referring to as I grew more and more hot under the collar. From that point on it was English only for me. Every time she spoke to me in Japanese I just butt in and said, “I’m sorry I don’t speak or understand any Japanese” and then to make matters worse she spoke to me in English like she should have been doing the whole time! Anyhow, I paid my 1000 yen for my copies and was out of these for the last time. Thank goodness I don’t have to go through that crap ever again! So back to pick up an emotional Sean at his office. His speech went well but he was in rough shape. We drove home from his office one last time and then reloaded the crib into the car. I went by Black Cat (the delivery company that we used to forward our luggage to Narita Airport in Tokyo) dropped off Keenan’s car seat and then on to Big Ban to try to sell his crib. I got 1200 yen for a 10 000 yen crib, 3000 yen mattress and a 2000 yen set of Winnie the Pooh bumper pads. Oh well, we did get great use out of them. I got back into the car and drove it down Shirakaba-dori one last time. I dropped it off at Ross’s and Eiko picked me up and took me back to our place where Sean and Keenan were waiting to go for dinner. We met up with Gregory and Kajsa at Ryugetsu and had a really lovely meal. Keenan was a pretty good boy and certainly loved having Kajsa and Eiko around to pour attention on him! Eiko drove us home and we finally had our tearful good-bye. We’re going to miss you so much Eiko. And so will Keenan. I sing a few parts of the songs you sang to him and his face lights up each time. He’s really going to miss his Auntie Eiko.

At long last we were down to our final night with lots of cleaning, organizing and a bit of packing to do. We did so nonstop until 2:30 am. I packed and Sean finished the cleaning. He attacked the kitchen with a tenacity I’ve never seen from him. I guess he was partially fueled by the reminder of the nightmare of an apartment he walked upon his arrival in Obihiro 3 short years ago. We both really strove to leave the place cleaner than we found it and in a way that would be inviting to Kasi, Sean’s successor. When we finally crawled into bed it was just so wonderful. We were so tired we didn’t even have the time or energy to be sad. One more sleep.