Phew. As of yesterday morning we have internet access at home again. Had it at the office as of Friday but I was given the wrong key for my new office so won't be able to get into it until later today. We've been running so many errands since we arrived in the States a week ago that it makes the last month in Fukuoka look like a vacation. Who would have thought that getting set up back home would be more trouble than getting started in a new city in a foreign country?
As the details of car-buying (Prius, thank you very much), home-owning (unpacking, re-organizing, and dealing with carpet damage and an underground water leak), child-care-arranging (what little we can afford, that is), tax-paying (yeah, we filed for an extension), and doing-without-tv-ing (yeah, I don't believe it either) are likely to bore you more than me, as I missed blogging the Canadian Open (way to go, Lorena! better luck next time, Moira and Ai-chan!), and as I have a limited amount of time to take advantage of my jet lag sleeplessness and my girls' jet lag sleepiness, I'll devote this first Mostly Harmless post composed in the States and posted on Eastern Time to some random thoughts on (re)connecting.
Let's start with cell phones. Nothing brings home the meaning of "uneven development" like realizing that your 1-yen 2-years-ago-model cell phone from Japan that is now your daughters' toy is not only $49.98 cheaper than but also better than Consumer Reports' #1 cell phone in the U.S. (as of two months ago, at least, according to the salesperson). Or that your bare bones calling plan in Japan includes in it standard features (like text messaging and emailing) that are luxury add-ons in most U.S. calling plans. Or that in one week of calling in the U.S. I had more dropped calls than in an entire year in Japan (in which I had none). Or that the reception and call quality would be so poor in the U.S. Or that I'm locked into a two-year contract here.
If anyone has any ideas why this is so, let me know in comments. My pet theory is that with most of Japan's population already using cell phones, the few companies competing there have to offer better services and prices just to keep their customers from being raided by their competitors. And that with Japan's population so concentrated in cities, it's relatively cheap and easy to put up transmission towers. Hence, even on Kyushu, which has seen serious development only in recent years, and even then mostly in its major cities, people get far more for far less than in Rust Belt NY--and not just there. If you want to offer more culturalist explanations, I'm all ears. It'll be interesting to see if more people side with the tsuma's than mine.
In any case, we went with the company that has the best coverage in Western NY rather than the one with the coolest cell phone, which is similar to the choice we made in Japan. I don't know which hurts worse--knowing what I'm missing ($20-$30 a month for starters) or realizing that it only took a year in Japan for me to go from being a cell phone Luddite to a cell phone snob.