28 Oct

Monday Moment: Japanese Manhole Covers

Japanese Manhole Covers

It is the attention to detail, in so many ways, that I love about Japan. Even wandering down the most mundane of streets I was amazed at the beauty that I found underfoot.

As with many things, the Japanese take manhole covers to a whole new level. Even the simplest among them had beautiful cast designs; the more ornate ones were storyboards of the places in which they were found. Flowers, deer, paper cranes, and sake breweries; all represented in a most unusual way.

14 Oct

The Trigger Is Pulled

“Yes! They said YES!”, I whispered as I read the email that we had been obsessively checking the inbox for. I looked up at Jason and saw mirrored in his eyes the same mixture of abject fear and excitement that was in mine.

And so our plan is coming together. In so much as we have a plan – what we really have is a pulled trigger and a panicked look on our faces.

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” – Leonard Bernstein

We’ll leave Calgary by the end of November. 46 days from now. Not quite enough time, but we’ll get it done; we have to.

We’ve been Kijiji-ing like mad; trying to sell as much as we can as early as we can. Slowly reducing our living space to less than we lived with during college, trying hard to determine what we can keep (next to nothing) and what must go (everything), while still wagering on what we can leave to the last minute (the sofa and the bed perhaps?).

We’re working on our resignation letters and plotting the perfect time to unleash our plans on our unsuspecting co-workers. We work for the same company, on the same team, so coordination is key. **waves to unsuspecting coworkers who are no longer unsuspecting**

And we’re trying, trying, to come up with a plan.

Our totally-soft, not-worked-out, throw-it-against-the-wall-to-see-if-it-sticks, plan is to start with some good old fashioned couch-surfing with family and friends through December and into January.

Jason’s job search has now taken on an air of urgency that it needed in order to really get going. Time really is the enemy but not in the usual way; too much time usually means that nothing gets done in anticipation of tomorrow. Removing the tomorrow changes everything. We will go wherever the work takes us.

Of course there is a Plan B. It involves hot sun, crystal clear water, the softest sand I’ve ever felt, and as much paad thai as I ever wanted. But it’s not time for Plan B…yet.

Yes, we’re batshit scared. We’ve talked about this for a long time and now, all of a sudden, we’ve pushed ourselves deep into the middle of it. On purpose. We may be filled with nervous anxiousness much of the time, but there is also a quiet confidence that it is all going to work out. We are determined that fear will not be the winner.

10 Oct

The Time Has Come

I’ve long known that, in order to make a dream come true, you have to take small, continuous steps toward the goal. But it’s not until you have to take the OneGiantStep that is undoable that makes it really real.

Things just got really real around here.

I think we knew within a few days of being in Japan. We just slipped right into traveling mode; feeling comfortable even though we knew where nothing was and could hardly communicate with a single soul around us. Being away just felt right. 

Within just a few days our earlier conversations about moving abroad ‘within the next 6 months’ turned into ‘by early next year’. By the time we were on the plane home we were committing to leaving ‘by the end of the year’ and were making lists of what needed to be done when we got home.

The weekend passed in a haze of jetlag, laundry, and the first post-vacation run. Mondays return to work loomed on the horizon but we avoided any talk of it as we stretched our holiday time out as long as humanly possible.

Nothing can stop the march of time though and Monday dawned just as it always does. If my heart wasn’t in it before we left for Japan, it was not even near the front door upon return. Clearly I had left my heart on the road, and it showed.

I lasted two days before I blurted out to Jason that I thought we should leave by the end of November and listed all the reasons why waiting one more month would be not only unbearable but also would do nothing to move us toward our goal.

Yes, we could save a bit more money if we stayed another month but we could say that about every upcoming month. Yes, eight weeks is a rather short time frame to avail ourselves of all our possessions, clear up our work commitments, and make travel plans but I think it’s doable if we really focus. Yes, our apartment lease runs until the end of March which is 4 months after I propose we leave but maybe we can sublet or break the lease somehow.

We discussed all of this over an evening of cocktails and decided to let it sit over the weekend before making a decision.We, of course, lasted until the following evening when we drafted up a letter to our landlord explaining our plan and asking what could be done about the time remaining on our lease.

Pressing ‘send’ was the OneGiantUndoableStep. 

Waiting for their reply was tortuous.

07 Oct

Living Like A Local In Tokyo

“Can’t you just imagine living here?”

On this trip, more than any other, this thought kept creeping into our minds and conversations. Not only because we are looking for a new home but also because we used apartments for this trip and so really could feel as though we had moved in.

We were especially connected to our Tokyo apartment. We stayed in it for three days when we first arrived and then returned for the last 6 days of our trip. As we had already settled into the space and explored the neighbourhood a bit it really felt like we were returning ‘home’.

Want to see what it looked like? Check out this virtual tour I hosted:

It’s more than a cute, little kitchen and a comfy bed though, it’s our place in a real neighbourhood.

Downstairs, the narrow streets buzz with activity coinciding with the time of day; early morning sees bleary-eyed salary men making their way to the nearby train station before the uniformed school boys and girls giggle and gossip along the route to school and then there is the mid-day pilgrimage to the markets and shops by moms and wives as they plan and prepare dinner for their families.

We spend our days out exploring the sights of the city but return late every afternoon to relax and enjoy a cocktail at home. We have not eaten dinner outside of the four square blocks surrounding us. There is no need to; every evening we stroll down a different street and discover ever more cute, interesting, little places calling our name. Izakayas, yakitori stands, ramen shops, sushi bars, and tempura joints abound – we could try a different one every night for a month and still not get to them all. I love the abundance.

Kaiten Sushi, TokyoWe start to recognize people…and be recognized. The clerk at the grocery store knows that we remember to bring our own bags. The young man making custard fish sees me coming and wraps my daily addiction up for me. The call of “Irasshai” from the sushi chefs feels warmer as we walk in for the third time this week.

We are starting to fit in with the ebb and flow of what happens in real life in this real life Tokyo neighbourhood. This is what I’m looking for; this sense of home and yet not quite knowing how it all works. I love to travel, but I also love routine. It is during this trip, during this time spent in apartments so far from home and yet feeling so much like home, that cements the whole wanna-be expat idea.

In fact, during our last few days here in Tokyo we set about re-imagining ‘our’ apartment as a more permanent home; we could put a linen closet in the toilet room, a few posters on the wall, a tiny couch and table in with the bed in the other room, perhaps a small rolling kitchen island would increase the kitchen counter space. We had it all figured out.