Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Alex Goes to Korea

We spent yesterday sightseeing in Seoul. We went to Namsan Park, on a huge hill. We took a cable car up to the park, then walked around for a bit and had lunch. The Seoul Tower is on top of the hill, and we rode the elevator up to the top for a great view of the city.

We also walked down Insa Dong, a great little street with lots of souvenir and antique shops. Then we went to Gyeongbokgung Palace. Alex did great the whole day. He enjoyed riding in his stroller and all the attention he got from people we passed by.

We have been enjoying wonderful Korean food. We had bulgogi (Korean barbeque) on Monday night, and last night we tried stewed chicken with ginseng. Delicious! Korean food is much spicier than Japanese food.

It has been good to rest and relax for a bit before we continue our journey to Portland.

Our Spotted Leopard

This is for everyone out there who asked to see pictures of Alex with the chicken pox. Poor fella! These were taken last Thursday. He looks much better this week, I promise.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Our precious boy has a full-blown case of the chicken pox! I thought he was going to escape with just a light case, but that was not to be. Poor fella has them everywhere, and I do mean everywhere! Thankfully, he does not seem too bothered by them, and he is too young to really scratch himself. The doctor gave us some anti-viral medicine, which he has been taking without a fuss. The hardest part of all of this is getting him to lie still long enough for me to rub the cream on all his spots. Maybe I should be glad he is not rolling over yet! Hopefully, he will be mostly scabbed over by Monday.

We are still planning to leave Japan on Monday, July 24th. Stupid travel agency wanted to charge us 50% to change our tickets. Not an option. So, we are going. Alex will be wearing long pants, long sleeves, and a hat, and we are just going to pray no one says anything. If anyone does ask, though, we also have a doctor's note, thanks to Rusty's Uncle Willie, who is a pediatrician.

From Japan, we will fly to Seoul, Korea, where we will stay two nights. Then, on Wednesday, July 26th, we fly to LA. From LA, we are renting a car and driving to Portland. Believe it or not, it was cheaper to do that than to fly all the way to Portland! We are hoping to arrive in Portland by July 28th.

We are almost finished packing the shipment. After that, all that remains is to pack our bags for the plane, and clean the house. Jennifer, the young woman who is replacing Rusty will be moving in here after we leave, so we don't have to empty out the house. A lot of the furniture and other items will be staying for her to use. We are so thankful that things worked out this way -- it certainly has made everything easier on us.

Tomorrow, some friends are throwing us a goodbye party. Sunday, we will say our goodbyes to Taga church. And on Monday, we will begin our journey across the Pacific. It all still seems a little unreal to me. Things have happened so quickly that I have not really had much time to process everything. But, ready or not, we will be getting on a plane in less than 72 hours!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Special Treat

The Brass
Originally uploaded by rustyandlaura.
In the midst of all the craziness that has been our life since the end of June, my sweet husband still found a way to fulfill a desire I've had since we came back to Japan a year ago. What a great guy!

When we lived in Mito, my favorite restaurant was called "The Brass." Since we have been back, I have wanted to eat there again, but what with one thing and another, we just never made it. When we realized we were going to be leaving Japan unexpectedly, I resigned myself to the fact that we would probably not have the time to make it back there. But Rusty found a way to make it happen, and we had lunch there last Friday.

The Brass 2
Originally uploaded by rustyandlaura.
The Brass is a "yakiniku" restaurant, which means that the meat comes to your table raw and you cook it yourself on a grill that is set into the center of the table. Everything about this restaurant is simple, but classy, from the decor, to the food presentation, to the food itself. You choose what kind of meat you want (I had chicken and sausage; Rusty had beef and sausage), but your meal also comes with a green salad, onion soup, rice, a dipping sauce for the meat, and to finish, a glass of juice, tea, or coffee. We had a great time, the food was delicious, and it was a nice break from all the stresses of packing and getting ready to leave.

The Art of Packing

Originally uploaded by rustyandlaura.
If there's one thing we global nomads are good at, it's packing. We may not be so good at settling down in one place, putting down roots, getting "real" jobs, or being the all-American family with a house in Suburbia, 2 cars, and 1.6 kids. But by golly, we are sure good at packing! As you can see, Alex is getting an early start in learning the fine art of packing. Don't worry, we took him out of the box before we taped it up!

After packing and moving several times since we got married, I am happy to report that Rusty and I have finally figured out a "packing system" that keeps us out of each other's hair and the arguments to a minimum! Basically, Rusty does the majority of the actual packing. Since he used to work for a moving company, he knows all the tricks of the trade -- how to maximize space, how to protect fragile and breakable items, and how to do it all relatively quickly. He also does most of the research and makes most of of the arrangements for things like tickets and our shipment. My jobs are to sort and pile, clean, do laundry, cook, and try to keep our household running as normally as possible right up until the end. This time around, of course, I have the added responsibility of taking care of Alex.

As I type this, we are at the tail end of packing the boxes for our shipment, which is scheduled for pick-up this coming Friday. And, just in case you are wondering, we are leaving Japan with much less than we brought -- final box count is still unknown, but it looks like it will be somewhere around 25.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Saying Goodbye

Alex with Sakas
Originally uploaded by rustyandlaura.
The worst part about moving has got to be saying goodbye. Now, I heartily dislike the packing, the sorting, the innumerable errands, the endless decisions about what to keep, sell, give away, toss... But saying goodbye has to top the list as far as things I hate about moving. We have moved a lot and said a lot of goodbyes over the past several years. They don't seem to ever get any easier. And the hardest, of course, are the ones you say to family and dear friends.

And the Saka's have been both to Rusty and I. They were Rusty's host family when he came to Japan in 1997 on OC's Pacific Rim Program. When we came to Mito in 1999 as AET's, we were lucky enough to be placed in an apartment just down the street from their house. We shared a lot of good times together in our three years in Mito. Dinners in each other's homes... trips to the Tomihiro Hoshino Museum... seeing the plum blossoms in Kairakuen... watching the World Cup... visiting Asakusa Temple in Tokyo... picking grapes... learning ikebana (Japanese flower arranging).

The Saka's graciously hosted both of our families when they came to Japan to visit since our tiny apartment wasn't big enough for so many extra bodies. Our plum tree that they let us plant in their garden is still flourishing, and every year, they send us pictures of it in bloom. Rusty and I call them "Oka-san" and "Oto-san" (mother and father in Japanese). When Alex was born, they became his "honorary grandparents." In so many ways, they have been our family when we were strangers in a foreign land.

Two weeks ago, we had dinner with the Saka's one last time. Oka-san made a delicious Japanese meal as usual, and we spent a fun evening together. Alex especially enjoyed all the attention from his Oba-chan and Oji-chan. Oji-chan tickled his feet and played peek-a-boo with a fan (see photo above), and he just giggled and giggled. He thought it was the funniest thing! When I think that Alex will have no memory of the Saka's (or any part of our life here in Japan, for that matter), I am sad. Well, he will have the scrapbook, if I ever get around to making it!

Saying goodbye to the Saka's was one of the hardest things we've had to do so far. But we hope we'll see them again someday. Maybe they will come and visit us in Portland! Or maybe we will make a trip back to Japan at some point in the distant future.

So, we won't say "sayonara" -- just "jya ne" (see you later)!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Change in Plans

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." - Proverbs 16:9

I've been putting off writing this post because somehow, "putting it down on paper," or in this case, on the web, makes everything seem more real. As long as I don't put into words what we are about to do and why, I can pretend that life as I know it will go on: working, playing, eating, sleeping, going to church, raising a family here in this quiet little neighborhood in Hitachi, Japan.

When we came back to Japan last July, we intended to stay for... well, we weren't exactly sure how long we wanted to stay. But certainly longer than a year. I mean, we shipped 37 boxes full of "stuff" from America. You only go to all that trouble and expense when you intend to be somewhere for awhile. But here we are, almost exactly one year later, pulling out the boxes and filling them up again. Is there any sound more synonymous with moving than the sound of packing tape coming off the role?

We are leaving Japan. We are moving back to Portland. Under normal circumstances, I would be excited about returning to the one place in the United States that feels more like home to me than any other. But these are not normal circumstances. And the reasons for this unplanned return are anything but happy.

Rusty's mom, Mary Campbell, has been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a very aggressive, malignant brain tumor. At the end of June, she underwent brain surgery, and the prognosis is not good. To read more about this particular kind of tumor, click here.

So, we are moving back to Portland to be close to Rusty's family during this very difficult time. This move will happen soon, probably by the end of the month. In fact, we had purchased tickets to leave today, July 11th, but then I came down with the chicken pox! Yes, it is a childhood illness. And yes, having it once usually provides lifetime immunity. Apparantly, it is still possible, although rare, to contract it a second time -- lucky me! Although I am feeling better this week, now Baby Alex is almost certain to contract the chicken pox as well, so our plans have been put on hold until he is well enough to travel.

We would like to ask for your prayers for our family during this time. Please pray for us as we sort, pack, sell, clean, say our goodbyes, and leave Japan. Pray that Alex will have a mild case of the chicken pox and feel better soon. Pray for Mary and Ronda and the rest of Rusty's family -- for God's peace and strength and comfort to be made very real in all their lives...

Blogging may be a bit sporadic for the next few weeks as we make this transition, so please be patient with us. And to all you Portlanders out there, although we wish it were under different circumstances, we're excited about seeing you very soon!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Four Months Old

Four Months Old 3
Originally uploaded by rustyandlaura.
On June 28th, Alex turned four months old. Our tiny baby is not so tiny anymore. At his four-month check-up last week, he weighed in at 7600 grams (almost 17 pounds). That is more than double his birthweight! He also measured 65 cm., 15 cm. longer than he was at birth. The doctor pronounced him a healthy baby and said he was ready to start taking clear liquids (like diluted apple juice).

Alex is at such a fun age right now. He smiles a lot and giggles hilariously when tickled. This month, he was introduced to baths in the big bathtub with Daddy (see previous post) as well as the joys of reading books with Mommy (pictures coming soon). He is working hard at trying to roll over, but hasn't accomplished that feat just yet. He is, however, sleeping through the night now on a consistent basis! I put him to bed about 9 p.m. and he will sleep until about 7 a.m. I really did not expect him to be doing this quite so soon, but I am certainly enjoying it.

Happy Four Months, Alex! We love watching you grow and change.