January 20, 2006
I got my license! The retest went much smoother, and I managed not to activate the windshield wipers each time I used my turn signal. And my reversing was great! That's a big relief, and I've enjoyed circling the base, getting used to driving on the left (and staying on the left when I turn!)
And we got the word that fiber optic Internet access is indeed available for the House on the Hill...and we're taking it (see photo of the entryway from the second floor). We've scheduled our initial paperwork appointment for Monday, and will probably move in next Friday or the following Monday. We can't sign the lease until we have a large chunk of money (about $6,000) in yen. The payment covers the first month's rent, a two-month security deposit, about $150 for fire insurance, $1,000 for a "restoration fee" which will go to replacing things like the tatami covers and any torn rice paper in the shoji screens when we leave, and a realtor's fee, which equals one month's rent plus 5%. The military will reimburse us for most of it, if not all of it, and will loan us the entire sum interest-free if we want..but it will take the bank 72 hours to gather the yen for us. We're not sure why they don't just have that much on hand, since so many military families go through this process every week, but that's the way it works here. And if the dollar drops against the yen in those three days, we get whatever the rate is on day three, not the day that we order the yen, which isn't much fun. We've been told that if we get travelers checks (which are free), we will probably get a rate at least two points better in town--the base bank has a monopoly, and their rate is not very good. We may try the in-town bank.
Our move-in day will be kind of nuts, as all of our household goods are already in Japan and waiting for us, and the movers will deliver them and unpack EVERYTHING if we want them to. The government will come with the government-issue stove, fridge and two heater-A/C units, and install them on the same day. And the Armed Forces Network satellite dish (free to us) will be installed that day, as well as our Internet access (we hope!) So it will be a very busy day! I will probably ask them not to unpack all the boxes, as I will want to do that myself, figuring out where I will put everything. But when I'm finished, the movers will come and pick up all the boxes and packing materials--no extra charge! (Here's a picture of my teeny slice of harbor view...click for a bigger version.)
We will probably have to purchase a wardrobe, another kitchen cabinet/storage unit and an island or something for more counter space. I wish we had not brought our dining room table, as I'd love to get a low Japanese dining table and cushions to sit on in the tatami room. But we have lots of space, so we'll have a guest room, as well as each having our own little office/study. I love our master bedroom...click on the photo for a larger version. I can't WAIT to have my own things around me again, and to be able to cook properly. But I already know I want one of the cool Japanese electric rice steamers. We'll see how it all works out!