(Deutsch) Der erste Monat ist um! Außerdem: Zahnarzt & Unterrichtsbesichtigung in der Grundschule

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Flight Summary & First Weekend In Japan

(Sorry, this is a pretty long entry, so you better equip yourself with a cup of hot tea or coffee and some snacks. :-) )

Finally, after a whole nine months of waiting, anxiety, arguments and pain I finally landed in the arms of my wife Midori in Japan on Friday, September 23rd (coincidentally a national holiday).

Midori mentioned earlier that I hate long distance flights, and indeed, I do, but I gotta say that this SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) flight from Düsseldorf (Germany), via Copenhagen (Denmark), was one of the better, if not the best flights I ever endured. My very first flight ever coincidentally was the same route, back in 2008, and as luck/fortune/karma/god/whateveryoubelievein will it was that flight which brought Midori and me together. We met for the very first time then, because she was assigned to be the welcome and greeting "team" who had to escort the new exchange students from the airport to the dormitory rooms back then. Unfortunately it was also the one flight that made me hate long distance flights, cause it was not only painful to sit in a very confined space for more than 10 hours, but also because I could not get any sleep whatsoever during the travel time and felt like a chicken skinned alive when I finally landed, totally over-exhausted and with a whole lack of sleep. This was also partly due to me getting seriously sick with some kind of virus infection at the same time (thanks Stefan! :-? ).

Anyway, I digress. Let me begin from the start on Tuesday night, two days before the flight.

On Tuesday night my family, brother, sister and my parents, as well as my aunt and uncle (both 70+ years old), met for a last family gathering with me to say good bye and see me off. It felt like the usual Gollub family gathering with the usual arguing and yammering about local and national politics, but this time you could also feel a touch of everybody being relieved and happy for Midori, the kids and me being able to live together.

Then, on Wednesday, my best buddy Stefan had organized a little birthday and good bye party for me at his place. We had a couple of beers and snacks with our closest friends, and it was a really great time. We talked a lot and everybody wished the best for Midori, the kids and me, which was really, really nice. Thank you, guys (and girls)! But I gotta say, one of the best presents ever somebody made for me was Stefan's really cool photo collage!!! Buddy, I so gonna frame this one!!! It's AWESOME! (Sorry, can't really show it here, because I don't have a scanner available at the moment - it's like 1:30am and I don't wanna wake up my wife.)

The next day, Thursday, my parents drove me to Düsseldorf airport in the morning and saw me off. It was a pretty tough time for me, because I was so nervous and anxious that I could neither sleep nor eat for the longest time. I even woke up several times during the night from Wednesday to Thursday morning because of this.

However, all my anxiety and nervousness was unfounded and for no reason, because the flights weren't really that bad at all. The flight from Düsseldorf to Copenhagen was not even one hour, and although it started 10 minutes late we still made it on time for the connecting flight to Narita, Tokyo.

The thing that sticked out the most to me on that part of my journey was how beautiful Copenhagen airport is. It is, from all the airports I have ever been to, the most beautiful one. Heathrow is the worst one, but that's just because I was treated like a criminal when I had to go through it 2 years ago. Düsseldorf airport is okay, nothing special I'd say. Same goes for Aéroport Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle, Cologne/Bonn Airport and the airport of Vienna. Narita International Airport on the other hand is a really simple, yet beautiful "small little" airport (disclaimer: that is the feeling I got. I have no clue whatsoever how big or small it is in comparison to Köln or Düsseldorf).

But coming back to the story at hand. The connecting flight to Narita, which took somewhere between 10~11 hours, was actually quite okay, although I had such bad experiences with long distances flights before (see above; with "bad experiences" I don't mean bad service - never happened so far, and I used all the major airlines like SAS, JAL, Air France, Lufthansa, BA). They served dinner and breakfast on board, as well as some little snacks in between. To kill some time during the long flight I read several entries/chapters of Bram Stoker's Dracula (in English) and watched three movies: Pirates 4, X-Men: First Class and Rio. However, I became really anxious about 45-30 minutes before the actual landing, kinda like a kid who can not wait for Christmas/Birthday to happen: "Why are we still in the air? When is this thing gonna land? Come on! Land already!"

When the plane finally landed, I got through immigrations pretty fast (thanks to my spouse visa and CoE) and could claim my bagge without problems. One last inspection from customs and I was greeted by Hikaru, Sasuke and Midori. Hikaru came running into my arms and nearly jumped at me, while Sasuke was a bit shier and Midori just smiled happily. It was a really, really happy moment for all of us and before we went home via train and bus to a little small town in Saitama, we enjoyed the observation deck for a bit.

Strangely enough I was not really tired at first after we finally arrived home. We had some nice lunch, after which I took a 2 hour nap, and then we all went to Hikaru's violine class (a private home teaching class). The teacher was quite nice and although pretty much a non-stop talker, he was so nice to not only take a picture of us (will upload this at a later date), but also print several copies for us as well. After that we went home and had an awesome chicken dish (you gotta have to ask my wife for the recipe, cause I only remember it being delicious) before we went to bed.

On Saturday I woke up very early, around 6:30am, because I couldn't sleep any longer, which probably was due to the time difference: Jet Lag, oh how I hate thee. The good thing about the early awakening was that I could join my wife and the kids to go to the local kindergarden sports-festival and I gotta tell you, never have I seen so many parents and kids take part in a sports-festival (to be honest: the last time I saw a school-sponsored sports-festival in Germany was around 1990 or something: kinda like a more fun-oriented competition than Bundesjugendspiele, if anybody remembers that). It was quite funny to watch, although the burning sun (26~28° I guess) gave me some headaches.

Sasuke and Hikaru took place in the second-to-last competition (basically jumping rope, running and stuff I don't understand yet writing their own names in Hiragana or Kanji according to my wife), which was for the graduated children (both are already in elementary school), and both of them got 1st place in their rounds. Yeah. :-) But the most interesting and entertaining thing for me were all those older kids (elementary school as well) who "played" around with the "wildlife". They caught frogs, ants (big Japanese ones), very small lizards, and other insects and showed them each other. Whenever they didn't show them each other they just threw them either around or into each other faces. Yep, fun to watch. But the most fun part was when this one kid asked Midori to look what he got, so she came down to his level, and he then opened his palm in which he had a HUGE FREAKING PRAYING MANTIS - my wife jumped like 10 meters backwards. Hilarious!

Also, the grown ups didn't seem to mind what the kids were doing. Some were playing in a rice field, and no one cared. I swear if this would've happend in Germany in a corn field, the people around or the farmer himself would have shouted and screamed at the kids: "GET OFF MY LAWNFIELD" for sure.

So, after that we went home and had a nice hiyashi soba Sōmen lunch before we had another nap, which turned out to be a bad idea for me, cause it kept me awake until now. It's nearly 3am and finally, after an awesome shrimp, fried potatoes and sausages dinner (gotta link you that recipe later if you know Japanese, here is the link 茄子と海老の韓国風揚げびたし), I feel tired again. I hope you enjoyed my little story time so far. I will update this as soon as I get the foto and recipe online.

Gute Nacht. :-)

Long Air Flight: hours of Torture or Joy?

So, Daniel doesn’t like a long flight: I love it! :-o

I always enjoy long flights of 13 hours to NYC, Chicago or to Düsseldorf. Why not?! They provide drinks, meals, snacks, movies and games! I could live there! ;-)

Here is what I do: to adjust time gap, I only have a few hours of sleep on the night before the flight, so I can fall asleep as soon as my hip touches the seat! Sleep for first 5-6 hours, make sure no stewards bothers me with food/drinks beforehand. Then it’s show time! Champagne! Movies! Book readings! Things I can’t normally do/enjoy too much when I work harrrdd everyday.

So, to me, a long flight is a perfect way to start my holiday.

Hope you enjoy it, Daniel! :mrgreen:

Packing for Japan

On September 22nd I will catch an airplane in Düsseldorf (Germany) at 1:30pm, hop over to Copenhagen (Denmark) into another airplane and 13 hours later, around 10am on September 23rd I will arrive in Narita, Japan. First time in over 18 months. It has been that long since I saw my (now) wife (back then girlfriend) and her (now our) kids face to face.

So now is the time to pack my last few packages (four to five in total with 20~30kg each) and send them over. Let's see what I got so far:

and a whole lot of books (seriously, it's not even funny how many books I have!), especially Märchenbücher (fairy tale books) of famous authors like Gebrüder Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Wilhelm Hauff, Wilhelm Busch (most famous for his illustrated story "Max und Moritz") among others. Among the books is, of course, a copy of 1001 Nights/Arabian Nights and, I am especially fond of this, a hardcover collection of the 100 most famous fairy tales from around Europe: Das große Märchenbuch: Die schönsten Märchen aus ganz Europa which features very very beautiful pencil illustrations. It is a huge hardcover book and weighs like a ton, but it is worth it. I am really looking forward to read some tales to the kids; in German - hilarity will ensue for sure! :-)

Also I have several math and logical puzzle books, which are quite fun and I hope to teach Hikaru and (especially) Sasuke a thing a two. Actually, I am super happy that Sasuke seems to be very keen on learning math at the moment! Seriously, my wife has him enrolled in some afternoon math classes because he can not get enough of it. Gonna exploit that and teach him all about programming, which actually is just fancy math with more practical applications. :-P (I know that this is not even a 90% correct assessment, but whatever. :-P )

Those are the basic things I have to pack together and send on their merry way to my wife in Japan. But, of course, I will send along some nice presents for the kids, for her, for her sister, for her parents and some of the neighbours and friends, as it is custom in Japan (hint: read about omiyage if this is new to you).

Naturally you would pick something that is not common or rare or hard to get in Japan or very German in my case, so I picked stuff I had fairly good success with as omiyage in the past:

In case of my wife I usually send along three more items: Löwensenf Extra (hot/strong mustard, famous brand in Germany, Senf is the general German term without brand association) and Lakritz in various forms and shapes and tastes (hint: most Japanese don't like the taste of Lakritz, therefore this is more of a 'joke' gift :-P ). Usually I put in a pack of small Jägermeister bottles as well, but I forgot this time (*sadface*). Another item I usually get for my wife is German sauce mixes/packet sauces/spices and seasonings (also known as "food helpers") for different dishes.

So today I went to the supermarket or rather to three different supermarkets to get "some" of the above mentioned stuff.

At the first supermarket I got Haribo and Lakritz and I came back with like 5kg of different kinds of them.

a ton of Haribo

A ton of Haribo

From the next supermarket I returned with some sausages and Löwensenf. And another kilogram of Haribo.

Salami sausages and Löwensenf!

Salami sausages and Löwensenf!

And finally I drove home from the third supermarket with some seasoning, sauce mixes, food helpers and yet another kilogram of Haribo stuff.

Knorr Fix seasonings and food helpers

Knorr Fix seasonings and food helpers

Of course, this is only the stuff I gonna send in packages, not take with me on the flight in the luggage. I have some extra special stuff for that and because I want to surprise my wife, I am not going to say what exactly that is. :-) Hopefully it'll be a nice surprise for her. :-D

I am really looking forward to land in Japan and close my arms around my wife. It'll be the first time in a long time and I will savor the moment. And of course I am looking forward to Sasuke and Hikaru running and jumping in my arms when they spot me at the airport, like it happened the very first time I met them back in December 2009. That was one of the most awesome and emotional moments in my life so far. I love them, even though we are not related by blood. :-D

However, what I am absolutely not looking forward to is the 14 hour long flight, especially those confined seat/spaces in the airplanes. I hate flying long distances! It is sooooooooooooooooo exhausting and pains my long legs (I am 1.85m, but still, my legs are pretty long) so much, not even mentioning that I can not, for the love of it(!!!), fall asleep and sleep on those flights. I wish I could just beam me to Japan. Scotty, where the fuck are you? Beam me up already!