Monday, November 21, 2011

Third Time's the Charm

The process of getting our Japanese drivers licenses has been putting us through the ringer. After much time and paperwork, we've only just hit the halfway point in the process. Just getting here has been an exercise in patience and perseverance.

In order for a license-holding American to get a Japanese drivers license it involves providing a pile of paperwork, taking a written test, taking a practical test, and retaking the practical test a few more times until you pass. (Foreigners do not have a very high first time pass rate on the practical exam). Only after you've jumped through these hoops, can you get your real Japanese drivers license.

We started the process back in September, to give ourselves enough time to do everything before our current international licenses expire. Little did we know, just to take the written test would take 3 tries.

1st attempt:
The license center is an hour from us, but only 5 minutes from our supervisor's home. So, after a Bible study/staff meeting we went to the driving center with a pile of paperwork.
When we arrived, and found the right window, we were told that we need to make an appointment to take the written test. This didn't surprise us too much. We went in knowing this might be the case, but it's much easier to use our lame Japanese in person than over the phone.
What surprised us was when the lady told us we needed proof that Stephen had lived in the US at least 3 months after receiving his license. Apparently, she would accept my passport (issued after my license) as my proof, but Stephen needed something more.

Away we went, with an appointment, and a few more papers to find for the growing pile.

2nd attempt:
The day of our appointment, October 26, we got in the car early and drove the hour across town to the driving center. It wasn't until we were 5 minutes away that I realized ALL the papers I had gathered to qualify us for the test were sitting at home on the floor, organized in a nice little folder.
We went to the window, and explained to the woman that we forgot EVERYTHING at home, 1 hour away. Based on the look of terror and surprise, I don't think anyone has ever done that before.
We made another appointment for the next available time slots: November 21.

I should take a moment to mention that in addition to trying to beat the clock on our international licenses, we were also in a hurry to take the practical exam before it started snowing. Pushing the written test back to late November was not helping our cause.

3rd attempt:
November 21st, we awoke to find that it was snowing and had snowed the whole night before. That meant, the hour trip across town would now be an hour and a half. We got in the car and both made sure we had every single piece of paper needed. Yup, all there, and we were off like a herd of turtles.
At the driving center, we provided our paperwork, including 3 forms proving Stephen lived in the US, and were told to wait 2 hours while the processed everything. Rather than venture out into the snowy tundra, we opted to hang out at the driving center's coffee shop. (I suspect the /real/ reason they made us wait 2 hours was to get some more business for the coffee shop.)

The test itself was nothing too bad. 10 true/false questions, mostly common sense.
We passed and were able to make an appointment for next Wednesday to take the practical exam. We're praying there's no snow.

Oh, and of course, before we left the lady at the counter informed me that I too must find paperwork to prove that I've lived in the US since getting my most recent passport. Apparently she changed her mind and I'm being docked for not bringing my expired passport with me to Japan. Oh, well, such is life (in Japan)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Snow driving adventure

After close to 4 weeks since the snowbugs were spotted, the snow is finally upon us. We awoke this morning to a winter wonderland.

Fortunately for us, Stephen spent yesterday with the pastor changing our summer tires for the winter ones.

Unfortunately for us, the first heavy snowfall happened the night before we have to drive 1 hour away to teach an early morning class.

Since we didn't get our car until last spring, we have not had to drive in the snow yet in Japan. And really, since were California kids, driving in the snow has never been part of our day to day lives. Today was a trial by fire.. er.. uh, snow.

First thing about driving in Sapporo in the winter is that you must clear off the car.

We were in a hurry, so we left a nice pile of "lazy cake" on top.

Stephen did a great job. since it was the first real snow, it melted in the sun as we drove.
By halfway there, the road was mostly slush and water.

The most harrowing part of the trip was when a HUGE truck passed us and covered our tiny car in a tidal wave of dirty snow-water. I had a minor panic attack for the 1.5 seconds we couldn't see out of the windows. Stephen kept his cool and remembered the wipers. (That's why he was driving.)

We arrived safely in Chitose, with some lazy cake still on the roof.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Only in Japan: 10 Months Pregnant

Did you know Japanese women are pregnant for 10 months?

But, it's probably not how your thinking. Every woman is the world, Japan included, is pregnant for about 40 weeks. The difference is how the western world and Japan count those months.

In the States, pregnancy is counted by calendar months. Every month, is between 4 and 5 weeks long (with the exception of February, which just likes to be different).

In Japan, pregnancy is broken up into 10 4-week "months."

It took me some time to wrap my head around it, so I made this handy chart.

Both systems have their up-sides: counting with calendar months makes estimating a due date much easier. Also, trimesters are broken up more easily into 3 3-month periods.
With the Japanese way, I always know what months I'm in with out having to consult "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

I am 4 months pregnant in the US and 5 months pregnant in Japan.

Luckily for us, both countries also count pregnancies by weeks. To make things easier, I tend to default to weeks when ever someone asks how far along I am.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Adventures in Cooking: Squid

Pregnancy cravings and aversions are a funny thing. They're never what you think they'll be. For example, though I've never been much of an OJ drinker, for 6 weeks straight I craved and drank multiple glasses each day. As for aversions: I never thought, being a missionary in Japan, that Japanese food would wind up on the "get that away from me, now!" list, yet somehow it has.

This little quirk of pregnancy has made life a bit difficult for me, as you can imagine. But, I think my greatest challenge was today's Japanese cooking class.

Today's menu: rice stuffed squid-head, & sauteed squid-tentacles.

I'm sure it has a pretty sounding name, but I didn't catch it while I was staring and the whole, raw squid I was about to dismember.

The last time I was that up-close and personal with a squid was 8th grade biology.

I'll spare you the gooey details. but,
with much prayer, I was able to disassemble, clean, chop, cook, AND eat the squid.

Pictured center: squid-head stuffed with rice
Pictured left: sauteed squid tentacles

the Japanese expression "Ganbatte" (try hard/persevere) has never meant so much to me.

I think today's class may have been the end of my Japanese food aversion. Just to be safe though, I'll still be staying clear of the fish section and the grocery store for now.
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