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Friday, January 13, 2012

hello 2012

Finally finally finally an update, with warm greetings for 2012 and a recap of last year. Get ready for a read with visuals....

2011 was an eventful and momentous year for us, starting with the birth of our second daughter, Alanna Amelie, on Jan 30. Brechtje’s parents were visiting to help out and we all had such a special time together.

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March had Japan shaking with the great Tohoku earthquake, followed by the terrible tsunami and Fukushima reactor crisis. We were touched by the many messages of concern we received from you. B was at home with Mayra and Alanna (taking an afternoon nap—thankfully the girls slept right through the first quake!) and Manuel at work. Phones and trains didn’t work. M walked home after the office had to evacuate and we were soooo happy to hear him enter the door. Remarkably we had minimal damage in the apartment: only some items and photo frames had fallen out the bookshelves, and one broken plant pot on the balcony. Apart from being shaken up we were all fine thank God. Devastated though by the disaster in northern Japan where the tsunami hit hard. Our heart goes out to the affected people. Respect and admiration for the way the Japanese face a crisis like this.

Tired of the ongoing aftershocks and concerned about the threat of radiation we decided to pack up some bags and took an impromptu road trip to western Japan for 10 days. It was nice to have a break from the overall atmosphere of the “what’s next” and the panic shopping (impossible to anywhere find bottled water, diapers, milk, bread, curry (!), etc..). It was even nicer to have seen some more of the lovely towns and areas of the country before our departure later in the year.

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Indeed, for those of you who hadn’t heard yet:
we are no longer in Japan, but in Australia!
It had been in our planning already, and the events of March were a confirmation to us it was time to leave.

The long (half year) process of applying for a partner visa for B turned out to be a project in itself. You’d think that having two children together would say it all, but Australian bureaucracy demands more proof than that to know that our relationship is genuine and ongoing. Aaaaanyways… Mayra and Alanna both have a Dutch, as well as Australian passport, so at least they are already set for life.

In April Manuel went to volunteer in the town of Minami-sanrikyu, a town completely devastated by the tsunami.

In June we held a last of our BBQ’s to celebrate B’s birthday. Great time with friends which also was the start of saying our goodbyes.

Manuel wrapped up his work at Shinsei Bank in July, and joined Brechtje at home in the preparing for the big move. Despite the busyness we managed to make two lovely outings to friends who live in Chigasaki at the coast. B also did a pottery course there at TOTO (mostly known for toilet pots and sinks, though B made some cups and bowls), something she had always wanted to do since arriving in Japan 11.5 years ago. Brechtje absolutey LOVED it and discovered a new passion!!

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In August we celebrated B’s brother Elvin’s wedding to Yoshiko in Tokyo, where Mayra Dilan had the special role of ‘soap bubble blowing girl’. She looked like a princess and had major fun. B’s parents were in Tokyo again for the occasion, and therefore were able to witness our last weeks in Japan as well while lending a helping hand (thanks mam & pap!).

And then, on August 21, after a stressful month of wrapping up everything that comes with an international relocation, it was time to say sayonara to Japan and get on the plane to Australia. We spend the first week in Cairns with Manuel’s sister Ana Maria and her family, where we had a lovely relaxing time. Then we flew onto M’s parents in Sydney where we awaited word from the Australian immigration office regarding B’s Visa. It soon arrived and we left for Denpasar (Bali, Indonesia) for a week of “mandatory holiday”, since B had to be out of Australia in order to receive her visa. Highlight of that trip was riding the elephants. Unfortunately we have no visuals to share as our camera got lost/stolen (with on it ALL precious photos and movies from our last days in Tokyo, the first months in Australia, and the Bali trip….. the memories are in our minds but still… GGRRRR)

Brechtje was granted a permanent partner visa and she can live, work, leave and re-enter Australia indefinitely for the next 5 years (renewable). YOOHOO! Now we were able to get B sorted with Medicare, drivers license, bank card and all that.

Upon our return the container with our belongings arrived from Japan, and also our car. Nice. The girls excited to have their toys back.

Starting October we made another of our dreams come true: campervanning through (a part of) Australia with the purpose of spending some time as a family, adjusting to living in a new country, and to see if there’s a nice place where we might like to live. Destination: Queensland and the northern part of New South Wales. We flew to Brisbane and from there spent some time at B’s aunt Mieke & uncle Hans who live in Maleny (lovely town in gorgeous area!). Then we rented a campervan and for 6 weeks we drove north along the coast to Yeppoon (just above Rockhampton) and back south towards Sydney again. We had a fantastic trip and saw so many beautiful places. We’ll try to put some more stories of the journey on our blog.

To close off the adventure Alanna took her solo steps (at age 10 months!), and Mayra decided that she needed “no more nappy change”, went cold turkey onto underwear and was fully toilet trained 10 days later. Yay! We’re so proud!!

We were back in Sydney just in time to celebrate the end of year holidays together with the family, enjoying good company and plenty of yummy food.

Adjusting to life in Australia has been with ups and downs. We’re missing Japan and our friends, the people, the daily routine, the food. But we’re happy to be here and enjoy the fresh air, the space and being able to fully understand the language. Making a new start is daunting but exciting.

Mayra unfortunately is forgetting her Japanese, however has been picking up English at impressive fast pace. Her long curls have turned blond and she’s developing into a little lady asking if she can please have earrings, and she wants to go to school. Favorite color: dark blue.

Alanna has a healthy appetite and loves being outside. She’s a walker, and a talker too. Her first word (after “mamma” and “pappa") was “oh-oh” (when something drops on floor). Most impressive word: “abuela” (‘grandma’ in Spanish). We do sign language with her as well, the latest word + sign is “wa-we” (’water’). Alanna is a round little one, very cute, especially when jumping or dancing. Favorite object: shoes.

The adventure continues in 2012. Starting with Mayra turning 3 yesterday, followed by Manuel’s birthday in two weeks, and then Alanna turning one.
Next is (for M) to try and find a job in the Sunshine Coast where we ideally like to settle. Our dreamhouse will have space enough for guests, and we look forward to seeing you there! Until then, let’s stay in touch.

Posted by Brechtje • Comments (0)
Categories: mayra dilanalanna ameliedaily lifejapan

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

post-earthquake

In the time since the earthquake hit Japan we got overwhelmed by emails (and phone calls) from concerned friends and family. Thank you so much for your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes!

To let you know: we’re doing fine. We are still in Japan, but decided to temporarily “evacuate” from Tokyo.

In general things were/are OK there – the real damage and devastation is in Sendai (NW of Tokyo) where the tsunami hit and wiped away whole towns. Tokyo is facing power outings (sofar not in our area though); it is hard to get fuel and there are many empty supermarket shelves. People got scared and started bulk-buying items such as diapers, bread, milk, eggs and curry(!) .

The thing is that the foreign media really hyped up the whole aftermath. Of course the images of devastation were not lying—the earthquake *was* big, and then the tsunami really did do a major damage. However, as far as we noticed, the media outside of Japan created the impression that that desperate image was the case for the whole of Japan. With the result that we received urgent requests from friends and family to please get out of the country as soon as possible. But like I said, the situation in Tokyo is not like that at all.

The Dutch embassy advised to follow whatever the Japanese authorities say (the Australian embassy did as well), yet suggested to leave the affected areas if there was no real need to be there. This as a precaution only.

While the frenzy was going on we did consider flying to Australia. We monitored the local news carefully and decided it was not necessary to leave the country. Plus tickets are hard to get, expensive, and getting to and out of Narita airport is a mad house.

However, with the nuclear reactor in Fukushima getting more and more in trouble we wanted to be away from the Kanto area for a while. Especially for the sake of Mayra and Alanna.

Thankgod we have a car. That makes it easier to pack up and embark on sort of a spontaneous road trip through Japan, which we are doing this week. Getting out of the house was a bit stressful, but now that we are away it is quite relaxing and fun!

We are in Nara at the moment and will spend the coming days in Kyoto. Assuming things have settled we plan to return home this weekend.

The main concern for us then is food safety, especially tap water. Japan is very strict on this though and any vegetables and milk that turns out to have a higher radiation level than allowed will simply not be shipped and will never make it to the stores.

We will see and continue monitoring. Any big updates we’ll post here so you can follow what’s going on with us.

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Posted by Brechtje • Comments (96)
Categories: daily lifejapan

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

pre-earthquake

On the morning of the big earthquake we went for a play in the park (Rinshi no Mori Koen) near our house. Watch Mayra in ‘her blue house’.

Posted by Brechtje • Comments (49)
Categories: mayra dilanalanna ameliedaily lifejapan

Saturday, March 12, 2011

shaken, but OK

Yesterday afternoon we had a BIG earthquake here in Japan, measuring 8.9 (scale of Richter).
We received many emails and phone calls from concerned family and friends. Thank you for your concern.

This is just a quick post for now to let you know that we are all OK.
It was pretty scary and there were after shakes all afternoon and night. But (sofar) nobody we know got hurt.

The major damage was done in Sendai, not in Tokyo. We didn’t get flushed by the tsunami, and still have electricity, internet. Phone networks are up again too.
I’ll leave you to read further details on the news channels, and will try to post our personal story later.

Here’s a shot of Mayra and Alanna seconds after the first quake hit Tokyo. They slept through the whole thing!

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And this is what you see on TV right after an earthquake. The coloured parts on the map of Japan indicate tsunami warnings.

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Posted by Brechtje • Comments (3)
Categories: daily lifejapan

Sunday, January 30, 2011

from a proud dad: and then there were four !

In the early hours of Sunday January 30th, Alanna Amelie arrived into this world naturally, comforted by the warmth of the water in birthing pool, assisted by the expertise of our midwife So-san and the courage, strength and immense love that only a mother can muster.

Weighing 3650 grams and measuring 50 cm., Alanna is as healthy as can be. Mayra has taken to her role of big sister like a fish to water and can’t seem to give enough kisses and hugs to her little sister.

Both mother and daughter are fine and will stay a couple more days at the Matsugaoka Birth Center resting and getting to know each other. Dad will then take time off to work welcome the family home and spend time together.

Brechtje, Mayra and I are over the moon to have Alanna with us and want to share this wonderful news with all of you.

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Posted by Manuel • Comments (31)
Categories: alanna ameliedaily lifejapan

Monday, January 10, 2011

happy 2011 (year of the rabbit)

Best wishes to all of you!!

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2010 was a year that went by fast, and as a result we didn’t get a chance to keep you all as posted on developments as we wanted.

The biggest update is that (you probably spotted it in the photo....) we are expecting baby number 2 at the end of January 2011! Thankfully it’s been a smooth pregnancy again, let’s hope the birth will be as well.

Here goes a write up of the year, in overview:
• In January we went to Australia to celebrate Mayra’s 1st birthday there. We had a lovely time together with family and friends, enjoying the warmth of Ozzie summer. Mayra started walking!

• In April-May we went to the Netherlands to enjoy an early holiday and go see the blooming flowers. Manuel’s family joined us there from Australia, so we had a big family reunion. It was great, the weather was great, we biked a lot, saw many things, ate lots of cheese (Mayra looooooves it too), and recharged on seeing family and friends. And as a bonus it turned out we came back pregnant!

• June was when we bought a car, and it arrived on Brechtje’s birthday! It’s very luxurious to have one, and a nice one it is too (Honda Stream), able to stuff many things in the back, or alternatively seat 7 people. Japan is great to purchase second hand items because they are still like new. I (Brechtje) have never owned a car before, so I feel very “grown up” now, haha!

• During July-August-September we reaped the benefits of our improved lifestyle by taking some trips to the beach, which allowed us to get through the hot summer months. We also looked into moving to a bigger apartment, but eventually decided it wasn’t worth the investment and the hassle, since we plan to leave Japan in 2011.

• In October Brechtje & Mayra made another trip to the Netherlands. No holiday or social visit this time but a busy 3 weeks of completing the big task of sorting though 24 years of belongings and furniture, from my life in the Netherlands before I unexpectedly moved to Japan. It was a full-on job (especially at 27 weeks pregnant), but I realized it would be easier to do now, then in 2011 with two kids…. Results were pretty good: I managed to decrease my belongings with about 75%. The rest is in storage for now. While I was at work with the many boxes, Mayra got a chance to bond with her oma and opa, which was wonderful as well. They took several fun trips to the local kinderboerderij (pet farm).

• December was the month for many rehearsals and performing in 3 concerts (Brechtje).
Also, the introduction of the Dutch sinterklaas celebrations to Mayra. We went to see him and his zwarte pieten arrive by boat in the bay in Yokohama, and participated in the festivities afterwards. All made a lasting impression: Mayra is still asking me to sing her the songs! She prefers seeing and hearing about Sinterklaas over Santa Claus (HA, that’s my girl!).

Mid-December my (Brechtje’s) parents arrived from the Netherlands. For Christmas we took a 3-day trip to Mashiko with them, a real nice pottery town. Our last bigger outing before the baby will be born smile. We stayed at the Forest Inn, a real nice eco-friendly hotel there bordering the woods. Got a chance to see Jupiter through the hotel’s telescope as well.
New year’s eve we celebrated together with my brother & his fiancee, and friends.
Mum and dad will stay until mid-March, so when the baby is born and we’re back home from the birth center, mum will be there to help. She did that as well when Mayra is born, and how wonderful it is that she can be there again.

Mayra Dilan said goodbye to being a baby in 2010 and swiftly turned into a toddler. At about 1.5 years we completely stopped breastfeeding (this coincided with me being pregnant).
She changed daycare centers and though it was a bit difficult for her at the beginning, she now loves going there, on average twice a week.
By the end of the year Mayra weighs 11.8 kg; wears size 86; has 8 teeth plus 4 molars; her curly hair (that has never been cut yet) reaches to over her shoulders when wet, and most noticeably: she speaks in 3 languages! Makes 4-word sentences in Dutch, followed closely by Japanese, and her Spanish is picking up rapidly as well. Manuel and I don’t speak English to Mayra directly but I get the impression she understands much more than we might think, just from listening to us when we speak to each other.
It’s absolutely amazing to see Mayra develop and grow every day, and to realize what she can do, understand and say at the age of not even 2. She is a bright one, picks up on things quickly and (especially with talking) seems to be ahead of her age group.
Mayra seems to have jump-started her “terrible two’s” as well. The little lady certainly has a mind of her own and knows very well what she wants or doesn’t want! This is especially applicable to food, her wardrobe and wearing diapers (or not). She often insists to wear normal underwear, which is fine (even though it can get messy), but is not yet doable when we are not at home. Mayra has a great interest in toilets and flushing them and did start potty training, but the latter comes and goes in waves and is a casual work in progress. We are not pushing her either. It’ll come when she’s ready. 3 weeks ago she did her very first actual pee on the potty though!
Anyway, it’s very good that Mayra has her opinion about things, but simply has to learn to obey as well. Thankfully things seem to have settled a bit --at least for now-- and she is ready to become a big sister. Mayra loves babies and her very caring nature certainly comes out whenever a baby is around. She is also incredibly sweet for me and my big round belly! All out of her own initiative she goes and gets my slippers or shoes, helps me get up, lifts up my (heavy!) bag to give it to me when going out, helps rub oil on my belly, etc. All very touching.

Mayra’s interests of the past couple of months:
Favorite game: ”matte, matte” (kind of a ‘catch me if you can’), and playing ‘tent’.
Favorite color: blue
Favorite books: ”Nu-Nu-Nu” – a great illustration book by Japanese artist Gomi Taro, about a friendly ghost that says “boo” (’nu‘ in Japanese). Recently also much into ’Dikkie Dik‘ en ’Jip & Janneke‘.
Passion: music and dancing. She keeps on surprising me that she silently listens to a song several times, and then starts singing the whole thing a couple of days later, with full lyrics and all! Most recent one is ’head, shoulders knees and toes‘ (in English).
Favorite character: anpanman
Favorite food: fruit, rice, bread, cheese (any kind!), raisins. Ah, and chocolate as a special treat…
Loves watching (on the street): any kind of construction machine at work, but especially the ones that dig dirt.
Loves watching (on youtube): Sesamstraat; sign language; Pingu; Pocoyo
Loves watching (on TV): inaai inaai baa; pytagoras switchy; eigo de asobo (though at home we don’t have a TV and therefore she doesn’t get to watch these shows often.)

Manuel is still working as an IT engineer at Shinsei Bank. He had a couple of very busy months towards the end of the year due to the bank head office moving locations. Nothing exciting to report about his job unfortunately. Lets just say that things will chance in the future.
On Sunday mornings he enjoys his bike rides, and on Saturdays he and Mayra have some special daddy-daughter time when he takes her to her swim class (now that my belly got to big for me to take her during the week).

Brechtje is now with maternity leave but has been working 2 days a week (continuing freelance art direction/graphic design). It was not a very busy year work-wise. Partly because the economy still hasn’t picked up. Partly because I didn’t do a lot of networking and acquisition, since 2 days/week fill up surprisingly quickly.
In the second half of the year I went back to singing with the British Embassy Choir again, which was great. I even had a little solo in the Christmas family concert!

2011
The new year will be a year of change: very exciting, very full and presumably also very hectic. Starting with Mayra Dilan turning two on January 14, and becoming a big sister soon after. If our bub times it well, it is even possible that Manuel might receive a verrrry special present on his birthday (the 29th)! We’ll see…. Then, Brechtje’s brother Elvin (also living in Tokyo) will be getting married, after which –at some point this summer– we plan to do our big move to Australia. It’s been 10~11 years for us to have been in Tokyo, and it’s finally time to look up space, nature, and be a bit closer to more family. Ah and did we mention having more space?

Well, that’s it for now. Stay tuned for baby news!

Posted by Brechtje • Comments (4)
Categories: daily lifejapanpregnancy

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

sip-sap

I just LOVE Mayra’s word for sinaasappelsap (orange juice), check it out! It makes me smile every time again.

Posted by Brechtje • Comments (4)
Categories: mayra dilandaily lifejapan

Sunday, June 06, 2010

on the phone

Our little chatterbox is talking on the phone these days. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an actual one—anything that looks like a phone and can be held to the ear will do. Whole conversations starting with “moshi moshi” (she must have picked that up while playing at the hoikuen (daycare)), followed by some blurb including her name. At some point we’ll hear a well intonated “Eeehmmm” with the pause (!) (where did she pick that one up?!?!), and a bye-bye at the end.

Posted by Brechtje • Comments (9)
Categories: mayra dilandaily lifejapan

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