May 2004

Since my wife and I will be going back to Japan in June, mostly for the purpose of Ryoko’s family seeing their new granddaughter/neice, It means that we need a passport for our baby girl, Karisa. I first looked up the requirements and application form online at the U.S. Department of State. The application form is straightforward, and the amount of red tape we had to go through at the county offices was pleasantly small. The only complaint is that we had to pay an extra $60 for a total of $140 in order to get the passport within 2 weeks. Normally it takes up to 6 weeks, but we need her passport before that.

But later I took a closer look at the Department of State homepage. After the title and shortcut bar at the top, it has several headlines that are considered of top importance for U.S. citizens abroad. The first item concerns voting while overseas, but after that it has a Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Middle-East and North Africa Public Announcement, East Africa Public Announcement, and then travel warnings to various countries including Lebanon, Iran, and Haiti. After looking through all the travel warnings and such, I have compiled and simplified the data so that any American can plan an international trip in relative safety:

1.) Do not go anywhere near the entire Fertile Crescent. This pretty much includes all of the Middle-East and Asia Minor.

2.) Do not go to any country that ends in -stan.

3. No Northern Africa, Eastern Africa, or Western Africa. In fact, just to be safe, avoid the entire continent. It’s just not worth the risk.

4.) Wherever you do go, try not to let on that you are American. This is impossible for your average American, who generally blend in like a killer-whale in a group of seals, both physically and culturally. Since only cosmopolitan Americans (all too often an oxymoron) could successfully pretend to be Europeans, your best bet is to claim to be a Canadian. This is easily accomlished by wearing a maple-leaf pin on your backpack or shirt. Unless you’re a Quebecois, even Americans and Canadians can’t really tell the difference.

Well, I’ve been too busy and then too lazy to write anything here for the past week or so. My wife Ryoko gave birth to a baby girl, Karisa, at 9:40 pm on Monday the 5th. Pretty much everything went fine, with no major complications or anything. I’d say she’s very cute, but I’m horribly subjective, and pretty much everyone thinks babies are cute anyway. I’ll even post a few pictures as soon as Mitch tells me what I need to do to upload files onto this thing.

Wtinessing my childs birth did bring some revelations that I wasn’t prepared for:
1) The moment they are born, babies are ugly. Hideously ugly. I thought my wife had given birth to an alien mutant purple monkey-Yoda. It’s only until an hour or so later when all the goo has been wiped off and the head has mostly gone back to it’s original shape that they start looking cute. And then after a week, they become really cute.
2) Becoming a parent does not give you any innate knowledge on how to be a parent. The hospital does give you some very useful booklets that I would summarize as “things that might happen to your baby that you don’t have to freak out over”, but other than that you’re mostly on your own. Thank goodness for friends and relatives that have been through this before and are very helpful with all sorts of tips and reccomendations.
3) New-born babies do one of 4 things, generally in sequence every 2 hours or so. Eat, sleep, poop, and cry. That’s it. No peek-a-boo or giggling. Since Ryoko has to feed her every couple of hours or so, that means she gets no more than 2 hours of sleep at a time. That’s a really difficult way to spend a couple of months. I’m trying to be helpful as a dad, by burping the baby, changing diapers, etc., but there isn’t a lot that I can do.

Still, it’s pretty neat being a dad and having your own child. We’ll she if she lives up to some of the steroetypes of ethnically mixed children: bright, beautiful, and cosmopolitan. It’s that second one that scares me. How will I react when she starts dating guys? Especially if the guy is a jerk-wad or a scumbucket. Maybe I’ll be conveniently polishing my sword collection when she introduces him to me. If I can act like a Bond villian, surely he won’t try anything with my daughter. (I can already see her rolling her eyes at me. “Dad, would you stop that? It’s so embarassing.”)

Another concern is how to raise our children multi-lingual. Probably the best way to ensure that they know Japanese is to always speak Japanese at home, at least while we are in the U.S. But that would be hard on my wife, who still doesn’t speak English well yet. Well, we still have a couple of years to think about what we will do.