Post number 4
Sunday October 14 – Wednesday October 17th:
Forget about our trip! The real story is that Hannah Jean Roy was born on Tuesday, October 16th, and she and Lizzy are both healthy and getting the best of care! Here’s our beautiful new granddaughter, born 6 weeks early but strong and healthy!
The last four days are one big blur. Maybe writing this blog will help me remember what actually happened here, since the real timeline in our our hearts right now is in Charlotte. The story of her birth is intertwined with the events of our trip.
Sunday October 14th – Sarah’s birthday and off to Japan!
We had an early flight from Bangkok to Tokyo, and settled into our hotel, the Royal Park Shidome Tower. Our hotel is part of a space-age complex, where multiple levels float above one another – the metro station below, the shops and restaurants and the hotels above, with skywalks and stairways connecting. Kind of a Star Wars thing. The hotel lobby was on the 24th floor, so we had to go up to the lobby!
We opted for a simple non-Japanese dinner that night – I don’t think John was ready to take on “raw,” and I certainly was not.
Monday October 15th: Lakeland College Japan Thanks to instructions from Luis Posa, I made my way via the metro from our hotel to the Shinjuko Station (after a change in Shibuya), about an hour’s trip. Then I followed the map which Luis had sent and found, at the end of a narrow street, a building with “Lakeland College Japan” posters in the windows! How cool! I’ve always wanted to go to LCJ! I felt as though I’d been there after so many years covering events with the student media and interacting with writing faculty. (They were even using some of my syllabi at one time.) I was welcomed by Otis Richardson, the new director since August, and introduced as a “VIP” to the four LC Japan instructors who were in the instructors’ shared office area. I met Charles Laurier, the librarian, who passed his best wishes on to Ann Penke at the LC Library. Then I took a few pics of the students in the lower level student lounge – and of course they all grinned and whipped out the peace signs. How welcoming is this?!!
Here’s Ottis Richardson:
Tokyo Metro. Dad bragged to the kids in an email about my ability to navigate the Tokyo metro system, and I was rather proud of myself. It didn’t happen without a little help from the people in the ticket booths and a nice Brazilian gentleman who walked with me through to my connection at Yoyogi on the return trip. He seemed happy to chat through several metro stops. “It freaks me out that they don’t speak English,” he said!
Her’s a little glimpse at the Tokyo metro system map!
I spent far too much time finding the Tokyo Hands department store (where I did not find fabric despite a big selection), and headed to the Yoyogi metro stop and then the Tokyo Tower, where I bought a combo ticket for 1420 yen for the special observation tower. It’s designed after the Eiffel Tower and was a spectacular view of the city, just as it was lighting up for the night. Had a fabulous margarita pizza at a little shop in the tower and took a taxi home. Taxis are expensive – they start at 720 yen and then start to go up when you’ve reached a couple miles. Cost was around 850 yen.
Tokyo Tower and view from the top.
The Japanese. I love them. The people here are classy, fashionable, and surprisingly friendly. On several occasions people actually came up to me when they could see I was looking at the metro map or just looking like a person without a clue. In one case, a Japanese man on the street tried to direct me (in increasingly louder Japanese) until he finally gave up, but not without dragging another stranger from the street into the conversation! I found one solid principal: if you want to know where a store is, ask a woman!
I love the orderly nature of Japan, the clean lines of the architecture, the crazy styles of young and old. A middle aged woman in classic skirt and sweater with bright, dyed red hair! Girls along the street dressed like crazy looking Shirley Temple dolls?? What’s with that?
Thoughts on healthcare. Interesting that I saw a blind person with a cane working his way along the busy marked streets, and well dressed people in electric wheelchairs dodging traffic and making three times the progress I was making. Only saw one case of what looked to be a homeless person sleeping in a construction zone. So here’s a country where the disabled seem to be are part of the working society. Contrast this toThailand or even China where people expose their stumps and twisted appendages on the streets. Makes me wonder what way our country is going (and I don’t even mean that as a political statement. I think we are all asking that question).
Tuesday October 16th:
from Tokyo to Tokoname near Nagoya
More news from Lizzy. In the late morning (which felt like midday since we were alerted in the early morning hours in a call from Lizzy that she was in the hospital and most likely would be delivering the baby soon), we departed with Danny and Larry via train to the small town of Tokoname, about the size of Sheboygan. We changed trains in Nagoya. Our little hotel, the J Hotel Rinku, had no internet – a huge shortcoming at a time when we needed to be in touch with our little girl. John, of course, had his cell phone and could connect his laptop directly in our room.
Dinner in Tokoname. John went off with Larry and Danny to meet with customers and I settled into our room. Bought some Asahi beer and peanuts at the tiny “souvenir” shop, which was the only sign of life outside the hotel in the huge concrete space between the hotel and the train station. Surprisingly, there was a fabulous Japanese restaurant just across from our hotel, and that’s where the Tokoname customers took us all to dinner that night. It was a welcome delight! We sat in recessed chairs (into the floor) and had course after course of beautiful Japanese food, served by waiters who bent to their knees when delivering each course. Favorites: seaweed in a vinegar sauce, tuna (actually broke down and ate it raw, along with raw shrimp), steak, and bbq pork. And the beer! No one knows how much beer we had that night due to the time-honored Japanese custom of filling each other’s glasses before they are even half empty. But I can tell you, we all loved each other after that dinner, and perhaps that is what leads to business deals?
Danny, who is Japanese (and lives in Kiel Wisconsin), translated to the Japanese customers, most of whom spoke no English), that we were waiting for news about our daughter and that she was going to be delivering early, at 34 weeks. The look around the table was instant compassion. It was an embrace. It didn’t matter that what they were saying to us was in Japanese.
Wednesday October 17th: Hannah Jean Roy: A Gift of God, Merciful
We fly from Nagoya to Beijing, higher than ever!
We had another early morning call from Lizzy, updating us on new ultrasound information, telling us that the birth would be soon, that the situation was urgent. It was the hardest phone call in my life – just wanting to be there, wanting to somehow make everything all right, and being on the other side of the world. Lizzy is so brave, so strong. She was facing the challenge of a lifetime, but she filled her voice with hope and determination. She is a champion. I’m so glad I was with Dad during this call.
Hannah is born! We got an email from Sarah that Lizzy was in having a c-section. Moments later, as I was walking across from the hotel to the train station, John caught up with me and said, “Hannah Jean. Congratulations, Grandma!” We got a call from Lizzy herself, moments later, telling us that the baby was born and that everything had gone perfectly and that they were so happy! Hannah was breathing on her own and healthy and strong enough to cry! We were still on the phone with Lizzy as John checked in at the counter for our flight to Beijing. We told everybody who helped us move, me in a daze and John on some phenomenal sort of autopilot, from train to airport. “We just became grandparents! Yes, just this moment!” By this time we even had a baby picture, the sweetest face ever, to show on our phone. Ahhhhh! The young Japanese girls who helped us with our luggage onto the train and the girls at the check in counter at the airport all lingered over the images of a beautiful newborn. The universal language!
To Beijing. We traveled from Nagoya to Beijing with pictures on our phone to carry us through the air – pictures of Lizzy, TJ and Hannah together after delivery, of Hannah, looking so beautiful and actually pretty big!, and another of Hannah with the fullest head of black curly hair you have ever seen on a baby! Hannah’s name means “Gift of God” and “Merciful.” Oh yes. Our prayers are answered.
We had time to do a little shopping in the nearby shops next to our hotel here in Beijing, The Great Wall Sheriton. We bought a beautiful watch for me only to notice, an hour later, that it doesn’t run. Not at all. Had an artist in the hotel lobby paint some nameplates for Hannah and Anelise. He pointed out the symbols for happiness. 🙂 Had a pizza in a nearby Italian restaurant. We slept like we hadn’t slept in days – with emails from Sarah telling us of Anelise’s visit to her Mommy in the hospital and of Lizzy’s holding Hannah in the NICU. I think we both smiled in our sleep all night.
Thursday October 18th. Ahhhh. Knowing that Lizzy is doing so well, that the baby is thriving, breathing on her own, and even nursing a little in Lizzy’s arms, makes the peace of this day so wonderful. Hannah is is considered by the neonatal staff to be the “heavy weight of the NICU,” and everyone is thrilled by her progress (and of course, her hair!)