Osaka: Day 3 (Monday)

On Monday, Day 3, our Thing of the Day was going to be our visit to Nara Park in Nara Prefecture, where wild deer mill about. The deer are famous for being polite, bowing to curious and happy humans who feed them the deer cookies you can purchase at every corner of the park. But we also read some reports that said that they were aggressive and rude, acting very spoiled and entitled to those deer cookies, to the point that they would literally bite the hands that fed them. 

We wanted to find out. And we thought Max might have a blast.

We started off the day by having breakfast outside our hotel room for the first time. We chose McDonald’s (yes, we are those kind of tourists)—Char and Max had a boring old Sausage McMuffin with Egg, and I had a strange burger-muffin hybrid with a kind of spicy-garlicky sauce. It was excellent. Their orange juice was excellent, too—Char later admitted that that was what she was curious about in McDonald’s, more than the food.

McDonald’s was just a few meters up the road from Apple Store Shinsaibashi, so we decided to drop by since it was only 5 minutes to opening. When we got to the door, they asked us to choose one of two queues: shopping, or Genius Bar. We queued up on the shorter shopping line. I planned on zipping in and checking out the second floor, picking out an Apple Watch band, paying for it, processing my tax refund, and heading on out of there. What happened instead was one of the greatest moments of my life:

I love applause, and I love Apple, and from what I know, Apple Store employees only applaud first entrants whenever it was for a launch of a new product. But there we were, basking it in, on a random Monday in Osaka. It was surreal, and I’m so happy I got to share it with Max, and that Char got to record it. 

After nabbing my 42mm black Sport Loop, it was off to the deer.

We took the train and arrived at Nara station at around 11, and we decided to head to the park before having lunch. At the information center, when we asked for directions to the park (it’s supposed to be a 5 minute from the station), they warned us that it was going to be very hot, and that we should drink water. They were right—it was crazy hot. I had Max on in my hipseat carrier, and I held an umbrella over us. Poor Char had her hands full with the stroller so she didn’t use an umbrella. It was just ridiculously hot. Thankfully, the shade of the trees from the park were only a few minutes away.

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One of the first things we saw on our way to the park was this road sign.

The first deer we saw seemed so majestic: the deer was seated a short distance from the fence, beyond the reach of regular humans. It was a magical moment—I mean, how often do you see wild dear just hanging out a few meters away from you? But it was also short-lived: a few more steps and suddenly deer was everywhere. And so were the little stalls that sold the cookies. Char quickly bought us a set of cookies, and Max and I tried to feed a few. Whenever we did, it was such a thrill for Max. We kept walking and feeding deer who were just hanging out on the sidewalk, surrounded by tourists. 

Char had to follow us and keep pushing the stroller, so she didn’t get to feed any of them. Max enjoyed feeding them, but we couldn’t get them to bow. Honestly, it was probably because it we were also very tense. I was worried that these wild animals would suddenly just pounce on Max, or pounce on Char, or pounce on the stroller, or pounce on me. So we just tried to feed as many as we could. When the cookies ran out, we decided to head back to the station to figure out where we could have lunch.

 

Nara station is connected to a kind-of strip-type mall, with food places galore showing off “classic Kyoto specialties”. We chose a place that advertised a really good-looking set meal that included unagi, which is what I ended up ordering. It was excellent, but I forgot that unagi was only my favorite thing as a child, and not as an adult. Char had salmon and lean tuna sushi, which were just sublime. For dessert we found a place that offered matcha (green tea) soft serve. Char and I generally don’t like matcha (it tastes like leaves), but to me, this one was great. We each had a milk/vanilla and matcha twirl on a cone. Japanese soft serve is the best in the world. (Char still didn’t like it though, and wished she just got plain milk/vanilla flavored soft serve.)

After lunch, we went to Daiso, the JPY100 store, and we took a quick shopping trip. There are also Daiso and Japan Home stores here in Manila, but it was just so exciting to be in a Daiso in Japan! They had things we would have a hard time finding here: wooden fridge magnets, a hose that made water transfer from aquariums so much easier, and even a straw tool that made it easy to make two-layer dessert drinks! Needless to say, we freaked out. (Char more than I.)

At around 2PM we decided to try and feed the deer again. We kept the stroller and our shopping bags in a coin locker (JPY500 for 24 hours!) so that Char would have her hands free to feed the deer. On the intensely hot walk back to the park, we saw a family off to the side—a man and his young son rubbing sunblock all over his wife. It was like taking a peek at our silly future.

When we got to where the deer were, all of three of us got to try feeding them, and we got them to bow too. Max was just delighted. Our nerves were a little calmer so we fed them a little more actively, but then that also led us to encounters with more aggressive deer. One of them, after being fed twice, tried to search for more cookies on my person, and ended up biting the strap of my hipseat carrier (that Max was on!). It was fun, but freaky. Max loved it. Also the part where they bit it smelled like poop.

 

We walked deeper into the lovely Nara park where some families having picnics, and the deer were just grazing around, ambivalent to the non-wild human creatures hanging out around them. It was nice to have some fresh air and delight in the beautiful non-consumerist touristy part of the Kansai region.

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Afterwards, of course, we decided to dive straight into consumerism all over again. Our next stop was back in Osaka, to Denden Town—Osaka’s answer to Tokyo’s Akihabara, and the hub of otaku culture in the prefecture.

We arrived in the area at around 4PM, and one of the first things I saw was a wrestling-focused store, proudly proclaiming they had products that featured WWE’s Asuka. I geeked out at the paraphernalia (a RING of HONOR Championship replica!) and large selection of DVDs, and I wanted to buy a shirt or two, but unfortunately they had nothing that fit me.

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We then went to have a quick snack at a hybrid legitimate-restaurant-and-heat-your-own-food-yourself-shop, and then after few minutes of confused navigating, we found what had come for: JOSHIN Denden Town Kids Land! I went nuts. Kids Land is a 5-story toy store. The first floor featured character toys, Lego, and puzzles; the second featured plastic models (Gundam, etc.); the third was called “Tamiya Corner”; the fourth featured model vehicles and weapons; and the fifth featured train and railroad models. We were so excited to take Max to the train floors, but honestly, I was more excited for myself. Unfortunately, we found out that the train and railroad models were those for serious hobbyists, and the locomotives were insanely detailed replicas—not toys at all. We ended up getting Max a car wash set, and I bought some Star Wars and Dragon Ball “Figure Rise” plastic models that were on sale.

 

At about 7PM, we checked out a few more giant Joshin stores (cosmetics, home appliances, and electronics), but there wasn’t much to them besides being giant awesome Joshin stores—there wasn’t really anything else for us to shop for. We knew that there was more to Denden Town, but we were pretty tired and hungry by then, and we figured we had had our fill of the place with our huge shopping bags in tow. Max was also getting a little fussy. We decided to get some dinner and then head back to the hotel. We chose to have dinner in Yoshinoya, which served fast-food Japanese cuisine. Yoshinoya stores can also be found in Manila, and, frankly, they’re not very good. But our friends told us that Yoshinoya was excellent in Japan, and it was comfort food to them. 

Char had a gyudon (beef on rice in a bowl, topped with egg), and I had a gyudon topped with curry sauce. Max had some of Char’s food while watching YouTube videos on an iPad. I must say that our friends were right. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about their curry sauce.

It was then off to the train and back “home” to our hotel. When we got home, Max immediately fell asleep and didn’t even give us a chance to bathe him and brush his teeth. Char curled up and watched Twilight on Netflix—it’s still one of the things I don’t really understand about her. It’s like the universe’s way of compensating for her amazing-ness. I decided to assemble my Super Saiyan Son Goku model on the hotel room floor. Assembly took about an hour, and the succeeding photo shoot and social media posting took about 30 more minutes. 

By 12:45AM, I was falling asleep, with happiness in my tummy, thinking about Son Goku, Denden Town shopping, my dorky Twilight-loving wife, and my son squealing in delight as he fed those entitled deer.

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Since we visited Nara, Max is always points out deers in books and videos. He’ll say “dee!” (deer) and “kiki” (cookies). He loves watching his deer feeding videos over and over again. ❤
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Labor Pains

Welp, I’m in labor!

Last Thursday, my doctor gave me a prescription for Evening Primrose, which I was supposed to take three times a day. It was supposed to help “ripen my cervix”. I have no idea what that means. But I guess it was because I wasn’t dilated at all. And then, over the weekend, I had another ultrasound (BPS) and non-stress test. The non-stress test showed that I had two moderate-strong contractions in 30 minutes, but I didn’t feel anything. I was asleep for most of the test and I was surprised when the nurse asked me if I was feeling okay.

This morning, when I got up to pee, I noticed a small drop of blood when I was cleaning up. It was so tiny, like a needle point. We wondered if we should go to the hospital, but I told Mikey that maybe it was just a fluke or something. Soon after that, I received a text from my doctor’s nurse asking me to take 30 ml of caster oil this morning. I think that’s where it all started.

We left our apartment to buy some castor oil at the drug store and have breakfast at Aristocrat. Before our food arrived, I took a swig of the castor oil. It wasn’t so bad! It was citrusy and lighter than I expected!

The castor oil is supposed to encourage contractions because it’s a laxative. It’s also supposed to make you poop a lot. Hehe. Mikey was worried that I might have to run to the bathroom right away, but we had a normal, pleasant breakfast. I even took over a Poké Gym!

Yay! 10 coins!

When we got home, I was unusually tired, so I took a nap. At around 2:00 PM I woke up with a really bad stomach ache and I thought I that needed to use the bathroom. So I sat there for a while but nothing was happening. When I cleaned up, there was blood again and it wasn’t just a needle point this time! I woke up a sleeping Mikey with: “we need to go to the hospital”. He got up automatically and we left right away.

On our way to the hospital, I experienced the most intense contractions I’ve ever had. I actually noticed it! It felt like a really bad constipation that radiated to my back and then my thighs. They were pretty close together. In our 20 minute car ride, I had a 4-5 contractions. By the time we got to the hospital, I was tired. The kind guards even gave me a chair to sit on while waiting for the elevator.

When we got to the delivery room, we were asked to fill up some forms and answer a bunch of the nurse’s questions. Then they hooked me up to a machine (to measure the contractions and Squishy’s heartbeat) and gave me an internal exam (for some reason, it was really painful! It’s never that painful when my doctor does it). After about two hours, they told me that while I did have bloody show and my contractions were regular, I was only 1 cm dilated. So they sent us home and asked us to come back tomorrow morning to assess the progress. They usually only admit patients who are 4 cm dilated. Sigh. Today was not the day.

We had a yummy dinner at Hossein’s which took long because I could only eat and talk in between contractions. This worked really well for Mikey because he ordered a lot of food (this was his lunch and dinner rolled into one meal). For the first time ever, we finished eating at the same time!

After dinner, we walked around. After 7 hours of experience, I therefore conclude that contractions are easier to handle when I’m standing/walking! Maybe it’s because contractions are supposed to help the baby get into position? And when you’re walking/standing, there’s less struggle. The pain was most intense when I was lying down. There’s some relief when I’m sitting, but even in that position, the intense part of the contractions would take my breath away. But while I was walking/standing, I could converse through entire contractions.

We’re at home now. And we’re kind of glad that we got sent back because we realized that we left our breakfast doggie bag of chicken and longganisa out. And we got to clean up a bit. Mikey’s even watching WWE Backlash. It feels kind of anticlimactic though! When we left the apartment, I told Mikey: “can you believe that the next time we come back here, we’ll have a baby?” Haha. Oh well. Squishy seems to be doing well so far! His heartbeat was strong and he’s still pretty active. There’s so much to be thankful for. ❤️

The sacrifice of fatherhood

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I often have visions of our little family unit doing the nerdy things that Char and I already do together. I picture us having Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading (U.S.S.R.) Sundays together, with Squishy’s and my noses glued to comic books while Char reads Harry Potter for the 200th time. I picture the three of us snuggled up together in the couch watching a Star Wars marathon in preparation for Episode VIII. And, above all else, I see us watching live wrestling events together, disagreeing about whom to cheer and boo, but definitely having an incredibly good time.

In fact, Squishy already kind of watched wrestling with me and his mom just two months ago, during WrestleMania weekend. He seemed to enjoy Roman Reigns. (He’ll learn.)

Training our child in the way he should go in terms of geekdom is one of the things that Char and I are super excited about. In the process, we have been immersing ourselves even deeper into the things we geek out over. My impending fatherhood has opened up more exciting facets about my favorite things—I often pause my wrestling-watching now so that I can explain to Squishy who my favorites are, and why they’re good, and why, sometimes, his mom is wrong.

So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that WWE is coming back to Manila for the first time in 9 years. And it looks like they’re bringing in the big guns, too—WWE Champ Roman Reigns, Sasha Banks, and Kevin motherfrickin’ Owens (my current favorite artistic performer of any kind) are prominently featured in the marketing material.

My heart raced as I scarfed down all the details I can. And then my heart screeched to a halt, turned around, and went home. WWE Manila is scheduled for September 9.

And Squishy’s estimated due date is September 8.

My mind raced (quickly past my sullen heart): Would it be possible to delay Squishy’s birth? Could a pregnant, any-day-now Char be willing to watch wrestling with me in a noisy, crowded venue? Would I be a bad human being if I left my wife and newborn child for a few hours so that I could watch my favorite artist?

Logic opened up my bedroom ceiling and her voice came crashing down on me: No, you idiot. No, you idiot. Yes, you idiot.

Squishy, one of my favorite things is coming to Manila for the first time in nine years. I will miss it completely, and it will totally be worth it. As much as I love wrestling, you are totally my hands-down, absolute favorite thing in the universe*.

And besides, the next time I’ll get to watch WWE live, you’ll be with me and your Momma, letting Roman Reigns know that he sucks.

* – next to your mom

I am a monster.

We were supposed to have our Doctor’s appointment last Thursday, but we asked to reschedule the appointment because of our misadventures last week. So yesterday, I went to the Doctor for the first time by myself! Mikey wanted to come along, but he couldn’t afford to miss any more work.

We weren’t expecting any big news this visit. It was just our regular monthly check-up and the doctor was supposed to explain the results of the Congenital Anomaly Scan (CAS). But, boy did we get big news.

I gained 10 pounds in one month. 😭 The nurse was so shocked that she made me check my weight twice. The Doctor was shocked too, but she explained that since I didn’t gain any weight in the first three months, the overall average weight gain was still within the normal range (about 4 pounds each month). She told me to try to keep it within the four pound range again this month. 😞

But still! 10 pounds! No more burgers or cupcakes or vanilla milkshakes for us, Squishy! I blame all the deliriously good food in Davao. I thought that it was okay to pig out because I was swimming a lot. Sigh. Oh well. 😞

Yesterday marked the beginning of our new and improved diet! Here’s what I had yesterday after the doctor’s visit:

  • Lunch: grilled chicken and one side serving of pesto (World’s Chicken)
  • Merienda: almond cream cheese pretzel sticks (Auntie Anne’s)
  • Dinner: Cesar’s salad and some of Mikey’s fries (TGIF)
  • Post-dinner: ¾ of Mikey’s peanut butter sandwich (I got really hungry after we watched Game of Thrones).

Wah. 10 pounds. I still can’t believe it.😱

But I suppose all of this really doesn’t matter because Squishy is doing great! ❤ The CAS results were great! Everything is where it’s supposed to be and everything is the right size. ❤ Squishy is a little over one pound! ❤ He might be arriving a little earlier than expected though. I’m scrambling to find the right play yard! Also, this is on my project list:

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Mikey says we have to have one. 😅