You had quite the week! Three of your Japanese family members came over to meet you: Opa and Oma Kotera and Great Aunt Akiko. As soon as they arrived they fell in love with you. Of course.
Akiko spent a week with us. We did some sightseeing in Buxton and Bakewell, went out for a few meals and – even better – enjoyed quite a few home-cooked Japanese meals. Our Japanese guests really enjoyed England and, as expected, they had the most fun hanging out with you. Uncle Djamo and Aunt Yasmin joined us a few times, so you were surrounded by a large group of family members. There was no shortage of attention for you. You loved it, they loved it.
Normally, it is just you and me. And it’s quite hard to get something done during the day, since you love to be held after feeds and have a little chat. Now, with your Japanese family in the house and your daddy off from work, there were quite a bunch of people eager to hold you and play with you in between your feeds. They all love you and you’re not shy, you loved them all right back.
Three generations of Kotera men:
We also went on a short trip to London, our Japanese visitors went for a day of sightseeing, and we went to visit the Japanese and Dutch embassies to get you some passports. Since it is not cheap and quite the hassle to travel down to London, your dad and I decided to get new passports as well. Your dad’s passport expires next year September, but mine only got renewed two years ago in San Francisco. Still, I want a 10 year passport (a rather new thing for Dutchies) and I want to add your dad to my passport, so I can start using Kotera as a last name, just like you and daddy.
Traveling by train to London costs a fortune, especially, when it’s five adults and a baby. So we rented a car. Also, this was our first time traveling with you and I was quite nervous about all the things that could go wrong and all the things we had to bring. So a car would be much more convenient than public transportation. Still, what if you hated being in the car and would scream the whole way there? Or what if you constantly wanted to feed? What if you wouldn’t sleep in a new place? And what else could go wrong that I couldn’t possibly even imagine beforehand?
So I tried my best to make things as easy as possible. We rented an apartment hotel in North London. Hotels in central London cost a fortune, are of terrible quality, and don’t come with parking. Our apartment hotel wasn’t awesome, but good enough and was supposed to be quite convenient. They would let us park the car there for free (even after check-out), while we hopped on the Picadilly Line at a nearby tube-station, that would take us to the embassies in less than 40 minutes without having to change trains.
But then the tube strike happened. It started about two hours before we arrived in London and would last all the way through the next day. The same day we had chosen for our business in London. I remembered San Francisco a few years ago when the BART strike happened, it was total chaos. Way too many people trying to cram themselves in way too few buses, hours and hours of traffic jams because of all the extra cars on the road, and parking garage prices shot up like rockets overnight.
We only had one day in London and we needed to make sure we were at the Japanese Embassy at 9:15, so we could get the passport applications in early enough for them to finish them the same day. We had appointments at the Dutch Embassy later in the day, as the Dutch passport could not be picked up the same day but would be posted to Buxton. So to beat all the traffic chaos, we all got up really early (especially you and I) and drove to Central London at 6:00, and we made sure to leave for Buxton way after dinner and rush hour. All day long we saw cars, cars, cars, overcrowded bus stops, and buses bursting at the seams with commuters and tourists. We walked ourselves to our different destinations and managed to avoid all the madness.
Surprisingly, they did not let daddy renew his passport yet. Since it’s still more than a year before it expires, but only just… Mine has almost three years left on it, but the Dutch had no problem letting me apply for a new one. So your poor daddy will have to travel back to London soon for a new passport. I should be set for the next ten years, and you for the next five years.
Remember when we went to that special photographer, a few weeks ago? They claimed to be specialists in passport photography, even for babies, and guaranteed that all photos would be accepted by foreign embassies. I wasn’t very impressed with the end result. They took photos of you lying down instead of sitting up, and the print quality was simply awful and fuzzy. I know the Dutch government has strict rules, and have already had photos rejected in the past, so I had them retake your photos but the new ones weren’t any better. The shop ladies then guaranteed me that their photos would be accepted since their photos had never ever been rejected before, not by any foreign embassy.
Yet as expected, the Dutch embassy rejected the photos. I asked whether it was because they were fuzzy, they said that didn’t even matter since the sizing of our faces was all wrong to begin with, too wide and too tall. So we had to go get new ones taken, on an already hectic day, in hot and sweaty London. They were really expensive but the photos were much better. Obviously, they did have right measurements, your photo was taken with you sitting up, and quality of the prints was very decent.
I did end up getting a refund for the rejected photos, but the shop people were very defensive about it. They said it was the very first time ever that their photos were rejected, weren’t interested to hear why they were rejected, and claimed that the Dutch government must have only recently changed their requirements… They haven’t.
Oh well, at least your Dutch passport will have a better photo now and our problem-solving skills were thoroughly tested during this first trip. It has made me feel much more confident for our Scotland road trip next week. And you can officially leave the country now, because we left London with your Japanese passport! We have to careful though, your grandparents are talking about taking you back to Japan. And with you having the same last name as them, I don’t see why anyone would stop them at the airport ;).
Your uncle Djamo is quite an amazing photographer. I’ve known that for a long time. He lives in Buxton. Yet, it never occurred to me to ask him to take some photos of you and us before. Yep, pretty silly. When we came back from London, he just happened to have his camera on him when I asked him to stop by for a chat. And lucky for us he used his camera and made me aware of the fact that I really need to take advantage of having a photographer in the family. He took these lovely shots of us: