14 December, 2010

This day ten years ago we arrived in Japan

Ten years ago today we landed in Japan for the first time.

We started the day very early in Singapore. We'd just attended a compulsory orientation course during November at OMF's International headquarters. The temperature was average - 30 degrees and humid. 

Our first stop was a brief one at Taiwan airport - so brief that all the passengers who were continuing on were kept in one large spartan waiting room. There were no baby change facilities, so I changed the nappy of our 18 month old on the waiting area floor.

Then we took off for Osaka. My first glimpse of Japan was the multiple forested mountains that dominate the country. They looked lush and thick and the mountains seemed to stretch right to the edge of the islands and into the sea. It was an emotional moment, as we'd been headed for Japan for almost two years and there'd been times when we wondered if we'd ever make it.

In Osaka we had time to find dinner, which was a challenge for our toddler. I think we ended up ordering sandwiches - a wonderful cultural beginning. It was in Osaka airport that we first heard the word "Kawaii". It was to become oh so familiar to us. It means "cute" or "adorable" and white babies growing up in Japan are prone to thinking it is their middle name, so often do they hear it in relation to themselves.

Then our connecting flight to Sapporo, our fourth airport for the day. We were getting pretty tired of aeroplanes and entertaining our son on them. His usual style would be to resist strongly against remaining seated for the take-off and then, once allowed, walk constantly around the aeroplane until once again restrained. We met lots of people that day.

When we finally landed, we were greeted with a sea of red and green. The Sapporo airport welcome lounge was filled with Poinsettia. It's not a flower we're used to seeing in Australia, so the sight was quite striking.

We were met by a veteran missionary who escorted us out to the mission van. Before we left the warm building she asked if we had warmer clothing with us. We'd been adding clothes along the journey, figuring the temperatures would be low. But being Queenslanders we didn't quite realise how low that would be. About 40 degrees lower than where we'd started the day. It had been snowing outside. the temperature was below freezing. Well, we pulled out the jackets that we'd packed on top of our suitcases. I don't remember if we had gloves and scarves. I do know that we didn't have snow boots. That was one of our first purchases in the country a couple of days later. sneakers just don't cut it in wet, slippery snow and ice!

Not the first day!
We drove for more than an hour through snowy landscapes to our new tiny apartment.

My first impression when walking into our apartment was, when is it going to open out into the rest of the place? It never did. The ceiling was so low I could touch it. The lounge so small, I could pace from one side to the other in three or four steps. The only bench (counter) space in the kitchen was where the dish drainer sat. And the place to change for the shower was next to the washing machine, which was next to the sink which was next to the microwave and fridge. It was a tiny apartment.

Then our kind welcomer proceeded to tell us how to turn the water off and empty the pipes before we went to bed and other important details. But by this time it was quite late and I could hardly take anything more in. My brain was partially jelly after all the travel that day. But it was true - it was important to turn the water off or it might freeze in the pipes, leading to burst pipes and a great mess. But I was just too tired.

As soon as she left, I crashed - tears and sobs came flooding out. The whole day had been too much.

We quickly huddled into our beds and slept very soundly. The next morning we found ice on the inside of the walls of our room and our son's hands were blue.

That was the 14th of December, 2000 for me.


Footprints Australia said...

At least these days you have "acclimatised" ... haha sorry couldn't resist the pun ...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, God, for giving you new mercies each morning these ten years to sustain you and help you thrive! Celebrating this wonderful milestone with you all!!