Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Week Later

Greetings from the U.S. of A. We have landed.

The past week has been the standard half-way-round-the-world mush.
The flight here was the standard painfully long trip. Almost 4 hours to Japan, 3 hours there, 11 hours to Minneapolis, 2 hours there, almost 3 hours to DC. Yup, almost a full day of travel. Northwest isn't a bad airline, the chair/beds were relatively comfortable, the food was quite good (even the kid meals), no one slept well or enough, and our body clocks were on the fritz. My mom met us at the airport bringing armfuls of winter jackets, actually a strollerful, and we spent the next three days at my parents' home regularly waking at unearthly hours even with 9 p.m. bedtimes. Actually, Ian went to sleep at 6:30 the first night because he didn't sleep at all on the trip. Someone had pilfered his blanket so he was too cold to doze. Why didn't he get a replacement? You'll have to ask him yourself, I have no idea. One night after our arrival I had to tell the kids at 3:30 in the morning to stop talking, put the toys away and turn off the light because it was certainly not time to be up.
Do you know how difficult it is to force yourself to lay in a dark room and demand "SLEEP!" when you've awoken fully at 3 a.m.?
Jet lag sucks.
But we're over that now. We got over it with the help of Miller Toyota in Manassas that kept us in their offices for 8 hours over Friday and Saturday while purchasing a new car. We're the proud semi-owners of a brand new Toyota Sequoia. There's a story behind that purchase.
Kristine back in Manila has a Sequoia. Everytime I saw that car I marveled at how huge it was. I never actually sat in it, never asked Kristine about it, just thought to myself "good grief that thing is huge." Ian and I have been looking at cars on-line for many months so that we'd be prepared to purchase something this past weekend. Afterall, with the van and Jeep sold, there was no way we'd manage renting something for six months so buying was in our interest. Our thoughts went like this... We needed something easily repaired in Togo: Toyota or Honda. We needed a car for the washed out/desert covered/complete lack of roads: SUV. We needed one that could fit all of us: Third row to seat 7 or 8. That brought us to the Toyota Highlander or the Honda Pilot. The Federal Credit Union has AutoFinder assistance, so once we decided on a car, they would find it for us and arrange the financing.
We'd decided on the Toyota Highlander without seeing it (didn't exist in Manila) but obviously didn't make a final decision until we went to the dealership and went for a test drive. What we discovered is that while it does have a third row, it's meant to be a part-time 3rd row. There's little leg room even for our boys and with the third row up there was no trunk storage at all. Basically we would have been squashed from day one. If the kids never grew bigger it still wouldn't have worked for us.
So we looked at something bigger. Much bigger. And that was the Sequoia. It's huge (huge enough to cause issues with parking at our apartment building) but we have plenty of space for our junk, we're all very comfortable in it and I know that I'll feel safer in it driving around Togo than driving a little runabout. Parking garages won't be a problem in Togo either.
So, I should have asked Kristine about her car. It would have given us something to consider before being faced with an on the spot decision at the dealership. The process is mostly over and done and I'll be thrilled if I never step into a car lot again.
We like our car and we like our apartment here in Courthouse too. Monday we took a walk around the neighborhood and know we'll be very happy here over the summer. Within walking distance is Barnes & Noble, Cheesecake Factory, Pottery Barn, Whole Foods... you get the idea. There's also Wendy's and Taco Bell about 2 blocks away. Oh yes, we ate Taco Bell. Good grief the portion sizes are gigantic and only Ian finished his food but it was sooo good. We sat for a long time just chatting and enjoying being there. We walked the nearby streets, found the dentist and the movie theater, the metro station and the bank. Did you read that? We -walked-. The air temp was in the mid50s, it was a brisk cool wonderful walk. A walk. We'll be doing loads more of those as spring arrives. It had better not snow on Thursday like the forecasters are predicting. The kids were able to play at the ASFS playground after school today and loved it.
Oh right, the girls started school today at the Arlington Science Focus School. The neighborhood school is Key Elementary and it's in walking distance, but it's also a Spanish Immersion school and that's not what we wanted for the kids before heading to a French speaking country in August. They have an interesting set-up where school boundaries are blurred because of the focus of each of four different schools. As soon as I saw a science option I was hooked and I really hope the kids enjoy it. Rebecca is in Ms Riverson's class. She wasn't completely alone though, in her class is Alex, a boy she knew from kindergarten at ISM. Alex's twin brother Nicky was actually in Rebecca's class at ISM. Small world. Alex and Nicky are stateside until July before heading to their next post in China. The classes are very culturally mixed as well, which I'm happy about. Katherine is in Ms Knisely's class (yes, like nicely) and has already made friends. While Rebecca said her work was too easy (I'm doubtful), Katherine said hers was fun. I think they'll have a good rest of the schoolyear.
The kids are still getting adjusted, as we all are. They miss the cats, but the cats are being well-cared for in Manila. We brought them to their new home last Tuesday and the look on Pomelo's face said one word... traitor. I don't blame him, he knew something was up, but I'm sure he never envisioned that. By the next day though, Christy said he was exploring his new house. I think he'll be fine. Bopis was discovering every miniscule hiding spot and causing the housekeeper to panic. She never was a friendly lap cat, so she'll do just fine as the rat hunting prowler.
OK, wrapping up. It's 10:30 Tuesday night and we're back on track with nights and days. The school day doesn't start until 9 a.m. with bus pick-up not until 8:30. Ah, sleep-in bliss. But it's not bliss unless I get to bed at a decent hour. So goodnight.

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