Archive for the ‘Liam’ Category

Liam strikes again



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Nearly two months have passed and it feels like years ago now that I lived in Japan.  Every time the job situation looks like it will be going cold, I get a few more leads…I hope one will materialize.  I really am enjoying be able to spend time with my son and watch him grow.  If I were working full-time I wouldn’t be able to enjoy moments, such as how he just recently started sitting up on his own.

Here are a few pictures from life in NC.


Bamboo even grows in Duke Forest, near my brother’s apartment in Durham, North Carolina


I used to really like this book store chain, but having recently visited there recently, the selection has really shrunken, the coffee shop is full of people working on notebook computers rather than reading books or magazines.  Shame.


Liam is enjoying his baby crib, the same one I used almost thirty years ago.  He no longer sleeps well on just a blanket on the floor, so I guess a futon on a tatami mat is out now.  We just recently bought him that sheep which he seems to be taking to.  It plays relaxing sounds like gentle rain fall, a stream running, waves on the ocean and whale calls in the ocean.  The ocean waves seem to really put him to sleep when he is tired.


Babies are not all that sleep around the home.  The family cat, Patches, enjoyed a few days without the dog recently.  This cat is quite a jerk though, he thought it was a great idea to wake me up at 5:30 AM to see if I’d feed him.  After chasing him away, he kept coming back every half hour until I finally took care of the issue.  No, I didn’t feed him until I was ready… ha ha ha!


My brother’s dog is a retired greyhound race dog that he adopted.  Even in retirement she is faster than the wind!  I just love the way she sleeps, as shown above.  Apparently it is called “roaching” when a greyhound sleeps like this.

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Akasaka Night

I had to take the family to the US Embassy for an 08:30 appointment this morning, and based on our experiences riding Tokyo’s transportation network with an infant and stroller, my wife and I decided to fork over the money for a hotel downtown the night before rather than fighting the suits in the morning.

My wife found a hotel in Akasaka, just five minutes from the embassy, that looked like it would be perfect.  For the same price as the major hotel chains, we had a room about three times the size of a typical business hotel with a roof-top balcony, super shower (more on that below), and a mini-kitchen.  It was perfect for us as we could eat dinner on the balcony as well as mix formula and wash bottles in the kitchen sink.  For small families this is definitely the way to go.


No ordinary shower…

Perhaps I give away my background as a Hachioji peasant from the outer rims of Tokyo, but I was quite impressed with the shower.  It had a bench extruding from the wall and six nozzles that sprayed water on your back acting as a light massage.  Overhead was a large shower nozzle that dumped warm water down in all directions.  All you have to do to wash the shampoo and rinse out of your hair is simply move your head around–it is a morning-slug’s dream come true.  The funky blue thing in the middle is…well, this:


The panel controls the fan speed based on user input and the temperature of the shower chamber, and one can also adjust the brightness of the lights.  From what I can tell you can also take phone calls and even listen to the FM radio (bottom right).  One no longer has to risk electrocution while listening to music in the shower/bath.


The view from the balcony wasn’t anything too special as it is only the fifth floor (or 4th if you count from ground floor), but we could still see many of the tall buildings and the breeze was not blocked by the other buildings.


We walked a few blocks over to the “Akasaka Sakasu” area to find some take-out to bring back to our hotel balcony.  This area is home to TBS television, HSBC (匯豐銀行) and a myriad of large national and global corporations.  Most of the embassies are just a five-minute walk away as well.  All around there were many foreign restaurants, both Western-style and Singaporean/Chinese, that cater to the expatriate professionals that work in the area.  There were already plenty of drunk expat “professionals” in the expensive-looking bars at 19:30, downing cocktails and talking loudly with American and British accents or even in German.  In the basement floor of the Akasaka Biz Tower we picked up a Singapore chicken rice meal-in-a-box from Hainan Chi-Fan and retreated back to our hotel room.  It is probably a very fun place for singles and young couples looking to enjoy the good weather.  Definitely check it out if that is your scene.


Akasaka Biz Tower

I particularly enjoyed drinking “the good water” while taking in the cool night air and the city night scape from the balcony.  The chicken rice was quite good too, and I imagine it must be better in the restaurant when it is fresh out of the kitchen.  One of these days I have to get to Singapore and try the real deal.


It’s good to be king

Alas, all good things must come to end.  Before we knew it was midnight and time to go to bed so that we could wake up by six and get ready for the trip to the embassy.  How time flies!


Damn it feels good to be a gangsta…

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Vernal Equinox

Another weekend has come and gone, but this one was very much appreciated.  Friday was “Shunbun no Hi”, a national holiday for the vernal equinox, and as such I was able to enjoy a very relaxing three-day weekend.  To make it all the better, Spring is upon us!  The weather is pleasant with cool breezes and all around the flowers are in bloom.  I suppose the sakura are due any time now.  As beautiful as tropical climates are, I cannot imagine living somewhere without seasons.


Alas, it is Monday though, and I found myself sitting in an fluorescent-lit office with a temperature of 28 degrees and no ability to open the windows due to all of the “kafun” (pollen) whiners.  Look now, I have really bad seasonal allergies too, but let’s toughen up a little and enjoy the weather, yeah?  Before I get myself into a rant, let me return to the events of the past weekend.


You know you want to go for a swim in this beautiful Tokyo water, right?

I have been running on empty since I moved from Hachioji.  It is not that my son is keeping me up at night, no.  I don’t know why, but I have just been exhausted from the move and have never recovered.  After this past weekend, however, I feel quite recharged and excited.  On Friday morning I woke and accompanied my wife and mother-in-law to their favorite salon in Oizumi Gakuin.  With my hair thinning as quickly as it is, I of course have no business at a salon.  My job was to take care of Liam while they had their hair done, which, believe it or not, is a four hour ordeal.

So I set Liam up in his stroller (or pushchair if you like), supplied him with his favorite pacifier (or dummy if you like) and the two of us headed out for a walk around Oizumi Gakuin.  It is funny hour parenthood changes your perspective.  As I walked down the narrow roads that separate one block of houses from another, I could not get over the thirty-something and forty-something men in family-vans racing down these narrow streets at high speeds.  Were they trying to relive their early-twenties?  Have they no fear of hitting a child on a bicycle?  I suppose the penalties are not so daunting…


Oizumi Gakuin residents have successfully chased away a property builder trying to construct an 11-story one-bedroom apartment building on a very small plot of land in their neighborhood.

All of the traffic was starting to make me stressed out, so I ducked into a Jinja (a shinto shrine) and after getting weird looks from an old man relaxing on a bench on the shrine grounds, I made for the main street in Oizumi Gakuin.  This street stretches from the station all the way to the Self-Defense Force training facilities in Wako City (和光市) .  It was quite nostalgic walking around this area, recognizing shops where I purchased furniture or had eaten lunch/dinner.  I was reminded of my naive optimism I had at the time.  I was also reminded of how everything except my career has been quite wonderful here in Japan actually–I’m thank for that.  Unfortunately, work dominates a man’s life in Japan.


A jinja tucked away in the vast suburbs of Oizumi Gakuin

Oizumi Gakuin was a nice place to live when I look back on it.  Sure, our place was quite far from the station, but everything we needed for daily life was around us.  The area is quiet and clean, and was always wonderful for taking a stroll.  Liam enjoyed a nice two hour nap in the stroller, waking up only once in awhile when I stopped pushing his stroller which always upsets him–he likes to be on the move.  He falls to sleep almost instantly in cars, trains or any moving vehicle.  It was really nice to simply walk around and look at everything around me.  While the weather is nice I’d like to take Liam out more often for walks like this one.


Every once in awhile you seem something that reminds you that this is still Japan — I love this gate!

Saturday was a slow day, this time in Kawagoe, and the three of us–Liam, my wife and I–decided to go shopping near the station.  We actually didn’t do much shopping though.  We walked around Kurea Mall (Clear Mall), a street lined with many shops in between JR Kawagoe and Seibu Hon-Kawagoe stations, and Liam slept like a log.  In Baby Gap we made the mistake of waking him to try on an outfit and he would not forgive us for it.  He screamed and cried even after we returned him to his comfortable sleeper clothes and he was not happy until we were back on the street pushing his stroller.  After looking around a bit more, we took a break at a Starbuck’s coffee shop with amazingly comfortable sofa chairs.


Another hidden secret in Oizumi Gakuen

Now for an anecdote.  I have to admit I have not had much coffee in a long time.  This past autumn I had to sit by a guy at the office who woofed down McDonald’s every morning, ate snacks every hour, and was constantly drinking drip coffee.  Somehow the mixed aromas of McDonald’s and drip coffee every day killed any desire to drink coffee of any kind.  Four months have passed now and I have recovered from the trauma.  Time heals everything.  I know that coffee snobs will say Starbucks is crap, but it sure beats the diabetes-inducing canned coffee from the vending machines!  The combination of the jazz music, the light chatting background noise, the comfortable maroon sofa chairs, and a warm latte while night began to fall on Kawagoe was really quite therapeutic.


Master of his domain, watcher of all that can be seen

After Liam had a bottle of formula milk–and I must say I don’t know why he drinks it, it smells awful–he looked like he would fall asleep so we thought we’d sneak off to dinner while we had the chance.  We had Thai at a little place tucked away deep in Kawagoe that only the residents know, and I left with a full stomach after enjoying a Chang Beer and my favorite Thai dishes.  The night air was quite cold, but I suspect that is because I was still sweating from the spicy basil minced chicken dish (Gai Pad Krapow)!


My son, Liam, just a day after he was born

Sunday was really quite uneventful.  In the morning we had a video conference with my parents over Skype.  Liam was friendly and fun, showing off for his grandparents and putting on his best smile.  The rest of the day he was quite cranky.  He wanted to go to sleep but he was fighting it all day.  While Chie took a much-deserved nap, I opened the window in our room to let in the breeze, and  I sat with him in the rocking chair to try to get him to sleep.  He fell asleep quickly and snored for about an hour while I read the weekly newspaper (especially the fascinating report on the rise of entrepreneurship).  He woke from the nap with the same crankiness as before and continued on his rampage for the rest of the day.  He finally lost the battle during his bath, however.  He lost his energy to fight and feel asleep twice in the bath, and afterward, he slept for three hours on our futon before we moved him to his baby bed.  To top it off, I woke up at 7:30 AM to get ready for work this morning, and he was just starting to wake.  The little guy slept over six hours without waking!  He must have really worn himself out over the weekend.


“Put the camera down you wanker!” – this is one of my favorite pictures of the little guy

Now that I am a parent, I can really appreciate how wonderful a three-day weekend truly is.

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And then a miracle happened

My wife labored for eleven hours and this was the result: our first child and son, Liam.

Liam on Day One

So let’s talk about something different.  I find that no one really talks about the stress of the father during childbirth.  It’s not like we go through anything painful, so I guess it sounds kind of pathetic too.  Sure, our wrists and biceps are sore from the massages on the lower spine and what not, but come on, chopping firewood is a lot more strenuous.  It’s not a physical stress though, it is the mental stress of knowing that you cannot do anything at all.  You just have to standby and wait, and even then, you cannot do anything.

What is most stressful is watching your spouse in pain for 90+ minutes, and after each contraction you’re hoping your child will come out and your spouse’s pain will subdue.  It was all very stressful to watch (and you thank the gods that it is not you in your spouse’s place!), and as professional as the midwives are, you wish they’d just shoot the truth instead of saying “good job” on each contraction and push.  Some women take three days in labor, and I doubt I could have handled that as a spouse.  Our 90 minutes felt like eternity, but when Liam started to cry, complaining about how he was evicted from his home of the past months, the stress quickly evaporates and you’re just left in a state of awe.  I’m not a poet or a writer of fiction, so I cannot really describe it.  Perhaps every one just has to experience it for himself.

So the New Year is almost here, it is good timing so I can spend some time with my wife and Liam.  We have so much to learn about Liam, and hopefully he is equally interested in us.  I hope Liam doesn’t end up with his old man’s ever-thinning hair and “stocky” build.  

Happy New Year, everyone.  2009 is an odd-numbered year, it should be quite interesting.  I suppose it is time to go back to Longshan Temple in Taipei as well.  I owe yet another delivery of thanks at that temple.

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