Friday, October 31, 2008

Finally In Japan!!

We have arrived! 11 Months of preparation, anxiety, excitedness, research, and work has culminated into a smooth and successful arrival for our family. We have been here for a smidgen over 24 hours and it is difficult for me to put into words our experience. Fatigue has set in and it is all running together, so I'll start at the beginning.

We arrived at the airport in Virginia on schedule. Checking in at the counter took about 20-25 mins. because the pets had to be checked in and all of our luggage and passports had to be checked. We went through security very quickly with no issues. The first flight from Norfolk to D.C. went as planned except for Dolly losing her stomach. When we arrived in DC we were able to clean her up and requested that she continue to Narita as a carryon with me. I thought she needed close watching because of how sick she was on the first flight.

This is the inside of the United 777. There was 5 seats in the middle and 2 on each side. We each had our own monitor in the back of the seat in front of us. We flew economy plus and there was plenty of room for all of us in the seats and for leg room.

They were showing 8 different current movies during the flight. You could pick which one you wanted to watch or you could listen to music or watch a map of the flight.

The map was really neat because they also showed you screens that had our mileage and speed and outside temperature.

We actually flew right by the North Pole and then down over Siberia! I asked Bryan if he wanted to talk to Santa! He said, "No, he's mad because I'm going to Japan instead of the North Pole." The coldest the outside air was shown was -77F. I was so shocked that the plane could go through that cold of weather. The trip was 7240 miles long. We arrived near the North Pole at 3347 miles into the trip. Our high speed was approx. 700 mph.

The food was relatively good. Our first meal was beef brisket w/ mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, veggies, oatmeal cookie and a roll. They also were offering chicken curry. Our middle of the trip snack was chinese noodles which we ate with chopsticks. The last meal you could have a hot ham and cheese on a pretzel roll or veggie lasagna. They gave you o.j., yogurt, and a jelly shortbread cookie with it.

We were very, very happy to land in Japan. 14 hours of flying is no FUN. But it was tolerable. The first thing we all did was use the restroom! And to our delight we encountered our first FANCY Japanese toilets. They have buttons for bidet, spray, music and something else ? that I don't remember. I had been warned already about the spray--it goes to your bum! They are warmed toilet seats too. Very interesting.

I was so worried about going through customs, immigration and animal quarantine processes. The first thing we did was fill out an immigration form and presented it to the immigration official. They were polite but very serious. We had no issues. They stamped our passports. I still haven't had a chance to look at the first stamp in my passport! We then went down 4 escalators and looked for our luggage. They had all our luggage and our cat altogether!! There was a gentleman standing there waiting for us. I don't know how they did that!! Everyone else from our flight was already processed and gone when we got there. I guess they didn't stop to play with the toilets!

Here's a picture of all our luggage and animals. Over to the right you can see the customs officials waiting to check you through. Once we had our luggage, we proceeded to the animal quarantine desk. After much looking over of documents, they stamped a bunch of papers gave me a sheet that said we had no further quarantine and gave me a slip to give to the customs to let them know the pets could go with us. They also gave me a sheet that has to be completed by the Army Vet at Camp Zama. They were very nice and spoke very shyly in broken english. I was so relieved I had completed all the paperwork accurately.
Then we went through the customs counter, which was odd. They didn't even check anything. We filled out a form and they said go ahead. Once you pass through customs, you arrive at the airport exit. It was a very efficient airport. I was amazed.
A very kind command sponsor showed up with our Japanese driver to pick us up in a large van. There was just enough room for all of our luggage and all of us. The driver drove VERY FAST through Tokyo and Yokohama to get us to Zama. We arrived at Zama much faster than we thought we would. I think it took about 2 hours to get there from the airport. The kennel manager met us at the kennel to check in the pets. I was very, very sad to leave my babies there. It was very clean and large kennels, but after everything else they had already been through that day, I was angry with myself and felt like they were being tortured. The lady there assured me they would be just fine.
We hopped back in the van to head to Atsugi. The highways were a blur to me due to exhaustion. We were all amazed about everyone driving on the wrong sides of the road. It didn't take long to go from Zama to Atsugi. We arrived at the gate and our sponsor requested the driver stop at the McDonald's so we could get some dinner. The McDonald's was very nice and very clean, modern. The employees were all Japanese. They were very polite and very efficient. We hopped back in the van to get to the hotel which was 1 1/2 blocks away. We arrived at the hotel, checked in at the desk and scampered to our rooms on the first floor.
Hmmm....I'm still forming my opinion about the Navy Lodge. It IS old and musty. There are spiders trying to get me...... It is mostly very clean. The staff is very polite and friendly and helpful. It is just okay for now. I do appreciate the deep bathtub and the internet service. The boys are in an adjoining room. The command ombudsman left us flowers, milk, juice, fruit, pb and jelly, bread and some other things. That was so NICE!!
We were pooped. As I was putting some clothes away, my husband started snoring. The boys went to bed quick too. I have gotten a stupid cold. I woke up at 2:00 a.m. Japan time and started crying about everything. I did so good not crying before we left and it all caught up to me. I feel good today.
We woke up early and made some more phone calls to family and friends. We walked over to McD's and had some breakfast then walked 1 more block and purchased some basics at the commissary. We came back and was putting the groceries away when the command sponsor arrived and announced that my hubby had to leave to go to the ship next week. We were SHOCKED! They weren't supposed to do that at all. He wasn't supposed to leave until next year. He won't be out too long, thank goodness. Brian went with her to see if they could change their minds. Didn't work but he did have two more days added to be here. After that, we went and checked into the housing office. They have added us to the on-base waiting list. We are number 19 on the list. She thinks maybe about a year we have to live off base. Then we talked to the off-base housing counselor and signed up for a tour of the area for next Wed. She also gave us a really nice map of the area.
The command ombudsman picked us up and took us back to Zama to check on the pets. Dolly was estatic to see me. I didn't think I would get her to calm down. She wanted to be held. The cat was happy to see us too! They both are doing very well in the kennel and I feel a little better today about it. I miss them very much. I can't wait to get them back.
After that, we returned to Atsugi. Brian and I went to the exchange and back to the commissary while the boys went bowling. We purchased a new computer monitor for Bryan's computer and some more substantial groceries that we had forgotten earlier. It's amazing what you forget when you start with nothing. When I made dinner tonight, I realized I didn't have salt and pepper. OOOPS.
It is now 8:30 p.m. Japan time and the boys are all asleep. Brian is snoring, go figure! So, I will close for now and try to get some sleep myself. Tomorrow is Saturday and we are supposed to go to the Smashmouth concert at 11:30 a.m. I need to spend the next few days really enjoying my husband before he leaves me for awhile. I won't think about that today though..... Tomorrow is Another Day.......

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