When we woke up on Wednesday morning we felt like our real summer vacation was beginning. No commitments, meetings or work! Chikara took the older three girls out for an hour or so in the morning so I could finish packing all our stuff. Our friends, Stephen and Abigail, had rented a cabin for a week in Awaji Island and had invited us to join them for which I was really grateful since we're six whole other people and we take up so much space, etc. but they were very gracious. Also, I had no idea what to expect since we've never done anything like this with all four of our children before. We've taken them back to Canada but we've done it so many times that it's almost second nature. But a cabin? the ocean? sand and dirt? I kept throwing more diaper wipes in the suitcase!
Check-in at the cabin was for 4pm so we left around 1:30 and got some lunch from the convenience store. We decided that we wanted to take the ferry instead of driving the whole way on the highway, even if it was faster. Basically we drove just over an hour from Osaka to Kobe, rode the ferry for 25 minutes to the island and then drove another hour to the cabin. It really reminded me of the trips we would taken to and from Gibsons, British Columbia when we lived there. We have a GPS navigating system in our car but the way the address was written it could only take us to the neighborhood. We ended up stopping at a cafe to ask for directions and when we found the right road it was a very amazing road. It was almost like a roller coaster at one point when we came over the crest of the hill on this dirt road and we couldn't see if the road continued or not because it was such a steep grade down. After the first time we really enjoyed it!
Stephen and Abigail had arrived with their son Matthew (1-1/2 years old) about an hour before us and had explored the house and what it had to offer. The cabin is a three-story log house built by a home-building company as a type of show house. The first floor is an office and the second floor (which we had rented) had 3 bedrooms, a Japanese room, living room, kitchen, toilet room and a bathroom with two sinks. We divied up the rooms with Stephen and Abigail in one, Matthew in another, Emi, Misaki & Sakura in the Japanese room and then Natsuki slept with Chikara and I in the last bedroom.
It's hard to describe what the cabin was like. Neither Abigail nor I took a picture of it so that's no help. The lady described it as their show house but it didn't really recommend itself. Many of the sliding glass doors didn't close right and the lighting they chose didn't match the type of house it was. There wasn't an air conditioner in the kitchen (where it was needed most!) so we had to cook and clean up in the heat. Originally the dining table was in the kitchen but I knew that was not going to work so we had the guys move it to the living room since there was plenty of space. On the plus side, all the rooms were quite large and had nice big beds and airconditioning so at least we slept well.
Abigail wrote about the first two days on her blog so I'll just give some highlights. There were two things we were looking forward to about the trip. One was taking the girls to the beach for the first time and the second was getting to know Stephen and Abigail better. Stephen works with Chikara so they see each other all the time but in a work setting which is different from a vacation setting and Abigail and I have only gotten together a couple of times although we e-mail each other often. I am pleased to report that we had a great time with them. We taught them our favorite game, Settlers of Cataan (seriously, go buy it right now!), watched DVD's, talked, cooked together, cleaned together, well, really everything and it was all fun and I think we worked well together. My girls entertained their son. Sometimes he just sat and watched them as they jumped around him. They had him laughing all the time and I was relieved that it went so well.
The beach was great, too. I know, I know, why haven't the kids been to the beach before? Because we keep having babies and it's hard to take babies to the beach. Also I don't like to get dirty and wet. I'm my own worst enemy! Emi and Misaki are taking swimming lessons at school so they were really excited for a chance to swim in the ocean. Misaki and I had a funny conversation about it the day before we left:
Misaki: Hey, mom, when are we going to the ocean?
Misaki: Are we going to swim in it?
Me: I'm trying to pack, can you go and play with your sisters?
Misaki: Are there fish in the ocean?
Misaki: Where we'll be swimming?
Me: I don't know. Maybe.
Misaki: ... what about ... sharks?
Me: (trying to suppress a laugh) No, there won't be any sharks, sweetie.
Misaki: Phew! I don't want to get eaten!!!
I guess that was her main concern. Sharks. Where did that come from? The biggest surprise for the girls was that the ocean is salty. They couldn't get over it and if a little bit of the water got in their mouth there was a big show of spitting it all out. Very dramatic spitting. Also there were a lot of jellyfish and Chikara didn't want the experience to be ruined so he made a big show of catching them with his sandal and throwing them onto the sand. I think he caught about 10 of them. The girls were very impressed with how strong and brave he was and actually Emi wrote about the experience on one of her diary pages for her summer homework. That's a big compliment coming from Emi.
I was mostly concerned about Natsuki and what to do with her but we rented a covered area on the sand and she sat in her carseat for a most of the time that we were there. I was really surprised because lately she hates her carseat but I just kept giving her snacks or toys and she was fairly content. I did take her in the ocean and she was fine for about 10 minutes and then she was was trying to climb up and over me so we retreated to our tent in the sand and then the last 20 minutes she started to fuss but it was time to go so that was good timing. We had some shaved ice before we headed to the car and the older three girls were really sad to go so I think we'll try that again another time.
The last day we went to a koala park but it was so hot and this time we weren't by the ocean so there was no refreshing breeze nor any air conditioned buildings. After only a hour it was too much so we had some more shaved ice and then headed home. I felt pretty lame but I didn't not want anyone collapsing from heat exhaustion.
I didn't take a lot of pictures of our trip to Awaji Island. I find that I just don't have a free hand. But the pictures I do have are cute so I'll share them with you. Enjoy!
week four to be continued... (it was a long week!)