John and I are still patronizing the Large Smiling Frog Comic and Internet Cafe for all outbound communications -- hopefully, we'll have internet "constructed" (installed, I presume they mean) at the apartment within the week. But we might not. Here's a thing to know about Japan: do not count on being able to find free wifi anywhere, ever. Not even at the one Starbucks in Ichihara, which we were still damn THRILLED to find. So, a handful of updates:
* READING - We can't. Japanese text uses a combination of three scripts, some of which are icono(picto-?)graphic, some which represent entirely alien phonemes. Complicating matters, symbols the icono(picto-?)graphic script -- that would be Kanji -- can have wildly different meanings depending upon context. For instance: the character that represents "book" can also mean "present," or "central," or "true," or "origin," or "counter for long cylindrical things." To write this character, write the character for "person," then add two horizontal lines. If you only add the first horizontal line, you have written the character for "large." (Add a small apostrophe-looking mark to that character and you have written "dog.") Be careful of where you place your horizontal lines when writing "book," however, because if you misplace a line, you will have written "husband."
Don't even get me started on Katakana and Hiragana.
In summary, not only is John a jobless (soon-to-be) illegal immigrant and (probable) victim of racism, we are also illiterate. But progress progresses: I understood my first street sign yesterday. Symbol for [insert] + symbol for [mouth] = "Entrance." And speaking of progress...
* IMMIGRATION - good news on this front. Suzuki Sensei (my boss, and new favorite person on the face of the planet) drove us to the immigration office in Chiba city yesterday and helped John fill out paperwork for a dependent visa. While I have no idea how long it may take to process the paperwork, he told me us would more than likely be granted visa permission well within his 90 days of legal tourist residency. If and when he finds a job -- Catch 22! Can't work without a visa, can't get a visa without work! -- he`ll have to return to Chiba to change his status. Hopefully Suzuki Sensei will be free that day. * ERRATA - We met with the Mayor of Ichihara Friday morning, and hopefully didn't humiliate ourselves or America by proxy. We've pretty well mastered the immediate vicinity on bikes, including the Super Megalithic Wal-esque Mart (Cainz Home, pronounced "Kines"), the Not Quite Best Buy (K's, pronounced "Kays Deenkay"), and the Extremely Fishy Smelling Because All The Fish Grocery Store (Shigenoya, pronounced capably by others).
Here's a brief anecdote representative of our initial experience here: We missed the delivery of our bikes to the apartment Thursday. We knew this because we got a notice in the mailbox that had my name on it, the logo of the delivery carrier, and great heaps of inscrutable text. There was a phone number, we think, but we weren't sure, had no way to make an outgoing call even if we were sure, no way to speak to anyone over the phone even if we could make a call, and no one around to beg for help. Would our bikes be redelivered? Ha ha! Who knows? (Spoiler alert: they were, the next day. Thankfully, we were home.)
Yesterday, we figured out the trains. Took a local to a transfer to Funabashi, which has a.) the largest damn mall I've ever seen, and b.) an IKEA. The mall has, among other gaijin stalwarts, a KFC and a Krispy Kreme. (It also has a children's store called "Daddy Oh Daddy," which, well, I'm not sure they're doing that right.)
Even our little section of Ichihara (called Goi) has a Denny's and the aforementioned Starbucks. The neat thing about the larger train stations, as you get closer to Tokyo, is that they are themselves kind of malls, often with stores that offer imported goods. This is how we finally found real, honest to goodness Skippy peanut butter, and not that peanut cream bullshit we bought the first day here. (Similarly, be careful when buying bread! That's not a wheat loaf; it's chocolate white bread!) Another comfort of home: Cainz has Johnny Walker Red for 15 bucks a liter...John`s best birthday present other than the bicycles.