Sunday, January 24, 2010

Another post from the way-back e-mail machine

Found this one still online at the cooking forum I used to haunt back in the day ("the day" being 1998 and 1999, while I was living in Japan and was using the forum as a substitute for actual friends).

Oh, one more thing. For those of you who are interested, here's a copy of the message I sent out to friends and family, to let them know what our last few weeks have been like. Hope you enjoy!

This week's topic: Sayonara!

Well, it's been a long, hard road, but we've finally made it - our last day at the lab! Thank you, dear readers, for giving me a place to vent and explain our life abroad. It's so nice to share our thoughts with our friends, without having to tell the same anecdotes over and over again. I hope that you have learned a little, and laughed a little, and will miss the messages a little now that they're done. Better hold on to printouts of these little gems . . . you never know, maybe someday I'll become famous and they'll be worth something as records, rather than as kindling! Anyway, as a public service to you, I leave you with a step-by-step list of instructions for closing down your life in Japan, in case you ever need to do so.

** Allow two moving companies to bid on the move, as required by company policy. Explain to moving company representatives what will be sent by air, what will be sent by boat, and why your cat has its own bedroom in your apartment.

** Cram in day trips to all the places you meant to go see, but never got around to visiting. Shop for potential Christmas gifts and last-minute home decorations; add several more little paper weeble-wobble dolls to your now-extensive collection.

** Prepare cat for trip. Attempt to put cat into the carrying case he used on the trip to Japan; realize that he can't fit all four legs and his tail in at once. Visit hardware store to purchase crate large enough for a medium-sized dog, because "we want him to be comfortable." Sigh with relief when huge crate actually fits in the back seat of your car. Take cat to vet for pre-move checkup and updated shots. Watch as cat goes ballistic at the sight of other animals in the exam room; almost receive rabies shot instead of the cat because he squirms so much. Wish you had a tape recorder to capture the sounds coming out of the cat's throat, some of which could be marketed to the folks who make sound effects for horror movies. Vow that when you have to take the cat back to the vet again right before you leave the country, for another round of shots and the final certificate, you will either drug him into a stupor or wrap him up tightly in a towel.

** Purchase airline tickets, remembering to reserve a space in the cargo hold for the cat, and to get the animal-approved flight from Cincinnati to Cleveland (which involves a 3-hour layover in Cincy, rather than the standard 1-hour layover). Make hotel reservations at cat-friendly hotel. Reserve mini-van rental car to tote luggage and cat home from the airport.

** Begin disposing of Japanese appliances. Sell washer, dryer, and refrigerator at bargain-basement prices. Arrange to borrow company minivan to transport large appliances to their final destinations. Purchase large amounts of aspirin to alleviate hernia you anticipate will occur after you lug the refrigerator downstairs. Give away hair dryer, telephone, and light fixtures to strangers who make eye contact with you on the street.

** Begin sorting out what will actually be sent by air. Bring home boxes of work-related papers, and empty boxes to use for sorting. Watch in amusement as cat goes partially psycho when furniture is moved from one room to another . . . try to record the highest spontaneous vertical leap he performs when he hears a loud noise.

** Begin disposing of excess food. Offer American canned goods to fellow expats at reasonable prices. Devise delicious meals to use up foods that have already been opened ("Hmmm, a box of frosted flakes, a can of tuna, a bar of white chocolate, and two boxes of baking powder. Looks like we're ordering another pizza!").

** Ask secretaries to find a Japanese hotel which allows pets, for your last few nights once the apartment has been vacated. Determine that the closest one is two hours away from work, and three hours away from the airport. Decide to stay at a hotel in Nagoya and either smuggle in the cat, or leave him with a friend for a day or two.

** Deal with the movers for the air shipment. Explain, in a horrible mixture of English and Japanese and without the benefit of a map, how the movers should get to your apartment ("We're near the Meito Ward post office, and across the street from an elementary school. Does that help?"). Explain to the movers that the piteous noises coming from behind the closed door are not from a human sacrifice, just from a spoiled kitty. Try not to feel awkward as you sit on the couch watching a rerun of professional wrestling - it's the only English-language show on - while the movers grunt and strain in the next room. When movers ask if they may take a 10-minute break, consider the question carefully just to worry them, then say "yes." When movers ask if they may use the bathroom, consider the question carefully just to make them squirm, then say "yes."

** Deal with the aftermath of the air shipment packing. Let the cat out of his room, then watch as he actually does a double-take when you let him into the room the movers have emptied out. Notice how he jumps two feet straight into the air anytime you move or make a noise, for about 2 hours after the movers leave. Decide to get all the psychic cat damage done at once, and bring the dreaded suitcases out into view.

** Decide that to make things easier on the cat, you will leave the country one day earlier, thus eliminating the need to board him at your friends' house. Rebook airplane tickets, hotel, car rental. Notify everyone in the expat division of the changed date. Reschedule apartment inspection for the morning of the day you leave Japan. Schedule necessary maintenance on newly-purchased home (being certain to schedule the chimney cleaning BEFORE the carpet cleaning, and the cable tv installation AFTER the delivery of the television in the air shipment).

** Deal with Japan's farewell present to you, in the form of one last Unpleasant Seismic Event (we don't like to say the E-word). Think to yourself - and I'm suggesting based on experience here - "God, what are they doing downstairs? Ok, this one does feel like a truck hit the building - several times - and it's still going. I don't want to be trapped in the post-earthquake apocalyptic rubble wearing nothing but spandex tights and a sports bra - should I put my shoes on now and get crushed to death, or put them on later and risk having to run through broken glass barefoot to escape? Huh, the china cabinet sure is rattling - good thing we packed up all the photos and breakables earlier today. Maybe I'd better go stand by the door with the earthquake kit and see if this is going to stop soon. JASON!!!!!" Wait for 30-second temblor to finish, wait for a few seconds. Find husband, half-clothed and trying to pry the cat out of the box spring of the bed. Remind husband that in the case of a real emergency, it's better to have a dead cat than a crushed husband. When he disagrees, remind yourself that his life insurance policy is large enough to provide for a comfortable life for you. Remind yourself to check on whether he's covered in an earthquake, and if the "Accidental Death or Dismemberment" policy would apply in that situation.

** Say goodbye to coworkers. There should be plenty of opportunities for this, since you'll have a farewell staff meeting, farewell luncheon, night out with the secretaries, and official Soubetsukai on the evening of your last day of work. Begin thinking up excuses why you are unable to sing karaoke that night. Mentally review the useful Japanese phrase, "I cannot drink much tonight; I am on a diet." Lay in a supply of Tums, aspirin, and cool cloths for the next morning.

** Supervise packing of sea shipment. Stand around awkwardly while the movers do all the work, gradually taking away all the comfortable places to sit and interesting things to do. Remember to buy earplugs for yourself and all moving company employees, so that the noise from the cat - who will be locked into an empty room by himself - does not drive anyone insane. After movers leave for the day, watch as cat becomes completely psycho as he views the boxes and rearranged furniture one day, and the completely empty apartment the next day. Partially open doors between the connecting bedrooms, so that cat can run circular laps around the apartment. Feel really guilty when you leave him alone in the apartment and check into a hotel.

** Last day in Japan: 6am - wake up, check out of hotel. Travel to apartment; clean like maniacs. 9:30 - apartment inspection. When apartment owner and management company try to charge you for the tiny holes in the wall where you hung pictures, point out that they were going to have to re-wallpaper the whole apartment anyway, since there are so many 4-foot-long cracks in the walls. Remember to stand directly over the spot in the carpet where the cat tried to chew his way under a door (so that inspectors don't notice the frayed area). As inspectors make unreasonable demands for compensation, whisper hilariously menacing catch phrases you learned from the professional wrestling show under your breath ("He wants $500 because we didn't sanitize the oven? Yeah, right, I'd like to take that oven, shine it up real nice, turn it sideways, and stick it straight up his roody-poo candy a** "). 10:30 am - apartment inspection complete; turn apartment keys over to apartment owner. Turn company car keys over to secretary from work. Throw yourself on the mercy of your neighbors, whom you will visit until it's time to go to the airport around 4:30 pm. Check watch. Realize that you will smell like sweat and bleach all the way back to the US - that's another 20 to 24 hours. Check watch. Hope that the Business Class amenity pack contains refreshing moist towelettes, which you can use to give yourself a sponge bath in the airplane bathroom. Check watch. Cram yourself, 400 pounds of luggage, and the cat, into two taxis and head for the airport.

So long, farewell, sayonara, and good night!


gshock 7768 @ sbc said...

so, have you moved to the "new" cooking forum that Madmom set up?

mlf said...

Just think how this would play in the crazy airline indignities of today!