Aiya! I’ve been here for just over a week now and so much has happened!
For efficiency purposes, here’s a “summary” (brevity is my strong point, as you well know by now) of what I’ve been doing since I got here (I promise not to do this again… it just seems salient at this point):
- Uneventful nine-hour flight to Tokyo. Shamefully entertained by two Jennifer Aniston movies in a row. Practice my first ultra-polite domo arigato gozaimases on the flight attendants, who graciously humor me.
- Wander around the mall at Narita. Eat overpriced/mediocre ramen. Sit in an awesome 10-minute massage chair for ￥200 (2 bucks).
- Board flight to Naha which looks more like it’s going to Virginia (98% military).
- Met by my two supervisors from the town’s Board of Education, minus my 3 checked pieces of luggage which are nowhere to be found.
- Taken to a hotel to spend the night. Dish out more yen.
- Call my “blockhead” (the head JET in my “block”, which includes the southernmost area of Okinawa) at 11pm to beg for something to borrow to wear to school tomorrow.
- In a stranger’s dress and coat, meet head people at the town office. Give out first omiyage (small gifts to important people you meet/who help you). Introduce myself in atrocious Japanese.
- Taken to my new place of employment: the town’s junior high school. Meet the kocho-sensei (principal), kyoto-sensei (vice-principal), and English teachers. Do a couple more introductions in my crappy Japanese.
- Shown around the school by the kyoto-sensei who speaks and understands English beautifully. He tells me to call him Michael Jackson.
- A gaggle of genki girls walks by and shyly says “hello.” I say “hello” back. They crack up hysterically and run away. Welcome to Japan.
- Kyoto-sensei makes at least 10 phone calls to different parts of Narita trying to locate my lost bags, to no avail. Thank him profusely for the trouble he’s going through, to which he replies, “Of course… we’re amigos!” I kinda like this guy :).
- Shown several apartments. Decide on a small studio (though at half the price of what I was paying for a shared apartment in SF… tscha!) in a newly renovated building. 13 minutes from school on foot. Albeit tiny, bathroom has a separate tub (modern by Japan standards) and outside my balcony is a view of the ocean.
- Return to the town office at the end of the day, where my luggage has magically appeared. Yay! But… why did no one tell me? Again, welcome to Japan.
- Meet Julie, another JET from Hawaii on her 5th year here, who hospitably takes me into her home for the next two nights and basically saves me from ending up dead on the side of the road.
- Sign contract for my apartment and given keys.
- Taken around by my supervisors to make my inkan (stamp that works as your signature here), register for my gaijin (foreigner) alien card, and open a bank account (an exhausting task which takes no less than two hours). Am also brought to Nitori, the Japanese version of IKEA, to buy a bed (consisting of a thin futon placed on top of an upscale fold-out cot).
- Have dinner with some other JETs in my block at the local Jusco (shopping mall). Try goya (bitter melon) which is an Okinawan specialty. Not half bad!
- Shopping for my apartment with Julie. Buy a small dining room table with two chairs (which will double as my desk) and a fridge in good condition from a “recycle shop” (second-hand store). Yay for my now 4 pieces of furniture :).
- Attempt to get a keitai (cell phone) at three different shops. Fail, fail, fail.
- Go to the Jusco at “American Village” in Chatan (where one of the bases is located). While at the mall, Julie runs into the former prefectural advisor (“PA”—a JET with a supervisory position in Okinawa) who invites us over for dinner.
- Pizza and beer at the former PA’s FUCKING AMAZING PAD. Seriously. It looks like it belongs in LA. The sweetest house I’ve ever seen. If I stick with JET for that long, do I get to live somewhere like this too?
- Chat with the veterans about JET politics and other stuff. Good times.
- Spend the first night in my lovely but lonely apartment.
- Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeppppp because I have no internet and am cut off from the rest of the world, so what else is there to do?
- Saved by Julie who gets me out of the house. We go to the Jusco again, and later to another JET’s apartment. Breakfast for dinner dinner. Meet a few more JETs.
- First real day of school!
- Give apparently a wonderful self-introduction in Japanese to all of the teachers. Stringing together a few key phrases and practicing over and over the night before certainly helps.
- Observe a few classes. Kids continue to giggle ferociously whenever I walk by (I try not to take it personally).
- Arrive in the office and no one’s there. Finally find the kyoto-sensei who tells me there’s a morning assembly. Will I introduce myself to the students?
- Walk into the gym where the entire school is sitting on the floor facing a stage. Go up to the front where the kocho-sensei is. He gets up, makes a little speech, and motions for me to come up to the stage. Over 600 eyes staring at me, but instead of feeling terrified, more than anything this is just plain hilarious. I do a steady, smiley introduction in English. I could have quoted a scene from The Office… they probably wouldn’t have known the difference.
- One of my English teachers helps me successfully get a keitai. And it is the cutest cell phone I’ve ever had!
- Give my first self-introduction with photos to three classes. Apparently my sister looks like Vanessa Hudgens, my dad looks Japanese, and my eyeliner is very cute.
But to be truthful… I’m really not as busy as I appear.