What an insane week this has been! It’s hard for me to believe that a week ago this time we were still in Japan, although we were getting ready to leave. Since then we’ve gone through our trip back to Kaua’i, the efforts to get YaYu here, and now we’re starting the process of resettling on the island in the middle of a pandemic and quarantine. It’s been hard to take it all in at times.
Quarantine Life: Where we’re spending most of our time for the next two weeks.
YaYu arrived home on Friday evening, but not without a bit of work. After two cancellations and two schedule changes to her original itinerary, we were nearing our wits’ ends, and when Delta changed her flight once again to Saturday we said enough! I called Delta and in five minutes had her on a new flight that departed early Friday morning. Her boyfriend’s mom and I set up a plan about what to do if she got stuck anywhere, so those bases were covered before she departed, but thankfully each of the three flights involved in her itinerary took off on time and even got her here to Kaua’i a little early. I had a fairly sleepless Thursday night/early Friday morning though as we had asked her to message us each time she arrived at her layovers, and then each time she boarded the next plane – we needed to know she wasn’t getting stuck somewhere. She’s now settling into her quarantine, and Brett and I are feeling a lot more relaxed than we were.
The Wailua Bridge remains closed until the log dam behind it, created by Friday night’s torrential rains, can be removed.
The rain since we arrived has been nearly non-stop and quite heavy at times. Friday night was the worst, with massive amounts of rain falling all night along with a fierce thunderstorm. Lightning was all around and struck the golf course next to us a couple of times which was VERY loud and shook the entire condo. As you can see from the pictures at the top, roads and bridges around the island had to be closed because of flooding. People also had to be evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night, but thankfully no lives were lost nor was anyone hurt.
We got our car the day after we arrived, and on Wednesday found a place to live following YaYu’s quarantine. Brett and I went out that day and looked at two places on the south side (Koloa/Lawai/Kalaheo) that we had spotted on Craigslist. The first place was nice, with two bedrooms and gorgeous views of the countryside, but the trip up to its location and then back down to the highway was quite treacherous, and the rent was also at the top of our budget. In fact, by the time we made it back to the highway (alive) we had decided we didn’t want to live there even if we were accepted (we weren’t). The second place we looked at was a smaller, older apartment. It was a nice size and in a much better location; the rent was much less and included utilities; and, it came with a new refrigerator and a new washer and dryer (we would have had to share the washer and dryer at the other place). There was also a nice yard where Brett could putter around. After checking it out we said we would take it and were accepted on the spot (we still had to pass a credit and criminal check, which we did easily) and we will officially be in possession of the apartment on Tuesday. However, we have to stay at our condo on the north side until April 11 as YaYu is under full quarantine and has to stay inside here, but that will give Brett and I a few days to go down and try to get the place set up as much as possible before our official move-in. I’m not sure how much of that we can accomplish as almost all stores on the island are closed and movement is limited, but at the least, we should be able to get a bed, sofa, and a TV in to get us started, and we can eat Costco casseroles and sandwiches, and use paper plates until our things arrive from the mainland. We have no idea how long that will take though – Amazon shipments are currently taking a month or more at a minimum to get over here so getting our stuff across the ocean may take much longer. In other words, getting re-settled is going to take a good, long while, but we now have the basics in place and are moving forward. It’s been great having our old car back too – it runs great and makes us feel like we never left. All that’s left to do is transfer the title but county offices are currently closed so whenever they reopen we will take care of that piece of business.
Our soon-to-be new home
Although schools in Japan are supposed to be reopening next week, according to our son, Tokyo appears to be moving toward stronger quarantine measures at the same time so whether the kids will go back is still unknown. A resurgence of the virus is expected, and the government is ordering/recommending stricter measures short of a full lockdown in hopes of keeping the virus tamped down. By the way, it snowed in Tokyo yesterday – unreal for this time of year!
I have tried not to think about how much money we may have lost over all the changes we had to make to our travel plans in the past couple of weeks. We are outside the no-fee change dates for the flight we booked on Aeromexico to go from Mexico City to New York in May as well as our flight from Boston back to Portland on Alaska in early June. We can pay a cancellation fee with Alaska and at least get back about 68% of what we paid, but the Aeromexico flight is a complete loss. Delta fully refunded our Dallas to Mexico City flight (Delta has been amazing during all of this and we will remember that when it comes to future travel). We also lost the entire amount we paid for our one-night stay in Vermont following WenYu’s graduation as any cancellation included the first night’s stay and we were only there for one night. Our Airbnb host in Mexico has also refused to refund all of what we paid because if she cancels she loses her Superhost status, but she has agreed to return 75% of what we paid and give us the rest in a coupon toward a future stay. She hasn’t been able to accomplish anything from her end though, and we have asked Airbnb repeatedly to look into it, but who knows how long that will take or if it will ever be resolved. If we cancel we will lose everything. I realize these are all first-world problems, and others are hurting far worse than we are, but it’s still extremely frustrating. We are grateful for all the people who did refund our money and I hope we will get some further relief from Airbnb, but I’m not really counting on it at this point.
This morning I am:
- Reading: I’ve given up on reading for the time being as I’ve been unable to sit and focus, even with a good book, for any period of time.
- Listening to: Brett is rustling around in the kitchen making blueberry pancakes this morning. YaYu is up, but she’s as quiet as a mouse (for now). There are blue skies outside again and a gentle breeze blowing, thank goodness – I hope it lasts. The condo complex is very quiet overall, but that’s because there really isn’t anyone here but us and a few other full-time residents.
- Watching: I watched Knives Out last night on my computer, but otherwise we again didn’t watch anything this past week. We have full cable here, but got out of the habit of watching TV when we were in Japan. I’m sure YaYu will get us involved again fairly soon, although she is pretty busy now with her online classes.
- Cooking: Brett and I enjoyed a Costco meatloaf and mashed potatoes for most of our meals last week – we had it for dinner on three nights along with some four-bean salad and then used the last of it up in sandwiches on Friday. It was very good and we would buy it again. Things will get eaten more quickly though with YaYu here. This week we’ll be having enchiladas (also from Costco), pork yakisoba, CookDo pork and pepper stir fry, and breakfast for dinner one evening. I will be doing prep in the kitchen, but YaYu will be the chief cook. We couldn’t find any fresh chicken at Costco, and customers were limited to one package there anyway. Shelves in Costco and Big Save market were stripped bare of some items (i.e. especially ramen and rice, and of course toilet paper), but the Princeville Foodland market has had everything we couldn’t find earlier, although at a higher price, and we were able to get toilet paper there. We’re still trying to find out if we can set up a weekly CSA delivery from one of the local farmers – I am craving Kaua’i produce!
- Happy I accomplished last week: I am sort of amazed by all we accomplished this past week: flights home to Kaua’i; getting food and getting settled into the condo; getting our travel wardrobes washed and put away; finding a place to live; and most of all, getting YaYu home. It was a day later than we initially hoped for and took a bit of work, but she is here now and that’s what counts. And, we seem to have conquered our jet lag in less than a week – a new record! One big (and happy) chore YaYu and I took care of yesterday was sorting out all the KitKats we brought back. We made bags of them that we’ll send to Meiling and her boyfriend, WenYu and her boyfriend, and to YaYu’s boyfriend and his family. The rest went into a big bowl and the three of us will have one every evening after dinner and hopefully can make them last for a while. I had one of the tangerine ones last night and it was delicious!
- Looking forward to next week: Tomorrow is Brett’s and my 41st anniversary. Our celebration will be very low key: we’re having enchiladas for dinner and ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream for dessert. I’m going to get started ordering some things for the apartment this week as we will have a few items from IKEA (flat packs) included in our shipment that Brett can assemble once they get here. Ordering furniture is always fun (for me, anyway), and that needs to be done before we can set up our shipment.
- Thinking of good things that happened: Arriving back on Kaua’i and finding a place to live so quickly was a very good thing, especially in our preferred location. Having our car back again has been a good thing too. And of course, best of all is having YaYu here with us. The other girls are doing well, although we worry about Meiling and her boyfriend in NYC. They have not gone out of their apartment except for one quick trip to the grocery store. There are apparently no chickens/roosters in or around this condo complex either as we haven’t seen nor heard even one of them. It will probably be the complete opposite though at our new place – we are mentally preparing ourselves.
- Thinking of frugal things we did: Choosing the less expensive rental was the most frugal thing we did this past week, and with utilities being included in the rent our island budget will be in very good shape and help us put more away for YaYu’s college expenses (important since she most likely will not find employment this summer) and also give us more discretionary income. Our grocery expenses upon arrival were quite high as prices for everything but gasoline have gone way up but we have enough food to last the three of us for over two weeks.
- Grateful for: Brett and I are feeling beyond blessed to have such good friends, and such a wonderful son and daughter-in-law. They have been and were an immense help this past week and offered unwavering support over the past two weeks when we needed it most.
- Bonus question: Is there anything you regret not getting to do on this last visit to Japan? In spite of all the restrictions that came about (for good reason), the one thing Brett and I most regret is that we weren’t able to visit Kamakura as we had planned. It’s one of the most interesting cities to visit in Japan, and one of our favorites, but it was just too risky at this time especially considering it would have involved over an hour-long train ride each way with transfers in two busy stations (Shibuya and Yokohama). We feel sad that we did not get to go to the brunch at the New Sanno Hotel, especially since this was one of the first things C asked if we could do, and also that we couldn’t be in Japan for his birthday. We had reservations at the New Sanno for Easter brunch, but all brunches at the hotel have been canceled for now. Otherwise, we have no regrets over how things turned out and appreciate the opportunity we were given to spend increased time with our family and explore and discover the area surrounding our apartment in Sangenjaya.
Finally, the answer to the mystery food I posted a couple of weeks ago: the food shown above are fish cakes! Called kamaboko in Japanese, these mild fish cakes have been eaten in Japan since the 14th century. Made from pureed, deboned whitefish, the fish is formed into loaves on a narrow piece of wood and then steamed until they have the consistency of a firm sausage. Besides the standard loaves shown above, kamaboko is also formed into a variety of different shapes for other purposes, such as for oden, Japan’s most famous winter stew. Kamaboko is eaten and enjoyed in a variety of ways, such as fresh and dipped into a sauce, or sauteed and served warm, or sliced and added on top of a bowl of ramen or other noodles. The pink color and the grilled topping are done purely for aesthetics – the three versions above are otherwise the same. Red kamaboko is also available; it is most often used on holidays or for special celebrations. Kamaboko is popular in Hawaii too – it’s made locally and always served with saimin. It is also sometimes used to make a tasty dip!
Thank you for all your support over the past week or so – it’s been quite a roller-coaster ride! We are missing Japan and our family there so much still, and that’s been hard to deal with along with all the worry over getting YaYu back to us. The next couple of weeks are going to be hard as we get ourselves moved into more permanent housing. But things have and will work themselves out, and all your comments have helped. Here’s wishing you are all well and continue to stay that way, and that in spite of all that is currently swirling around us, that you and yours stay safe and healthy, and good things continue to happen.