BBQ

The past week I started to put up my school bulletin board, but once I glued the final touches of my name in cut out fluorescent orange bubble letters I realized since I didn’t have access to a printer or any art supplies my job was put on hold there. Instead I focused on the beef of this month’s work: the jikoshoukai, my self introduction. Being that it’s what I’ll be doing for each class the first time I visit, and there are three years, and eight classes per year, I’ll be presenting my self introduction roughly 24 times. Except, due to sports day festival and silver week, there are only 14 days of class this month. In which case I’ll be performing my self introduction at least two times a day, each taking up roughly half an hour, meaning I’ll be spending at least half a day introducing myself, and the other half answering questions like: how tall are you? What do you want to do in Japan? and of course, do you have a girlfriend?

So even though I got the layout of my presentation completed, I was still lacking in which photos to add and and even what software I would use. I was determined to finish it up over the weekend, but after waking up to a temperate and sunny Saturday morning I decided it could wait just a bit. Instead, I cleaned thoroughly for the first time, moving plenty of things around, sweeping the floors and organizing my closet. Really, it wasn’t much of a challenge since the only furniture I do have is a fold out futon mattress that goes into my closet. Still, it was nice to put things away and imagine what I’ll be doing come next paycheck. I keep going between a desk, chair, and monitor, or a couch; really, the conflict is do I create a space for myself to work and play, or a space for others to relax and socialize. For now, I’m leaning toward the latter, but also my lack of internet might be skewing what I’ll really want to have time for after a ten hour work day.

Anyway once the place was clean, I pulled out my iPad where I’d downloaded those Japanese textbooks, and spent some time studying and waiting for one of my neighbors to wake up. We had planned to drive to a nearby town where the local board of education and international club were hosting a yakitori at a local park. It’s weird to think that this was the last weekend I’d be having as part of summer vacation (especially since I’d been working most of the day for the past two weeks), but I really wanted to enjoy it.

We got to the park a little after the barb-b-que had started, but were welcomed by the people there. It was cool to see some of the ALTs we knew but also get introduced to a plenty of Japanese folk. A couple spoke very fluent English and started to pass raw cuts of meat our way.

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They had what seemed like an unlimited supply and the most ultimate of awesome secret sauces produced from a local restaurant. I gorged myself, with the thin strips of beef, chicken, and pork taking almost no time to cook (it gives me wonder to how I was vegetarian for five years). On top of that we also had a couple of bowls of yakisoba, some sort of slow roasted pound-cake, and a prawn and rice dish served by this awesome guy who owned his own miso shop and spoke English perfectly from living in Toronto for three years. Before we left with promises of future events we said we’d be visiting his shop and I really hope that I can soon because he seemed like a sweet person to get to know and enjoy the area better.

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That night after much internal debate, I decided to join a party of ALTs in the area for karaoke. Initially I was on the fence because of last week’s hangover and an overall lack of sleep that I’d be getting this week. I knew I needed to get into a better sleep schedule in order to feel good for school, but I figured I should take the opportunities that are given to get out and not be stuck in the shell that is my apartment. In the end I had a good time, but we stayed out way past midnight. My Sunday started early with the hope of carpooling to Costco some 2 hours away. Alas, no one else woke up early enough to make the drive before I met my adviser at 2:00 to get his old college washing machine. Kind of bummed, but hey, I saved what was probably a lot of money, and I finally have a washing machine… well, I do have the washing machine, but I still have to figure out how to hook it up to the spigot without having water spray everywhere else. All in good time. First, I’ve gotta set my sights towards the first day of school.

Functional

This week was pretty unremarkable in the long run, and it’s actually to the point where I can’t remember what I did for the first half of it. On Monday I finally got my refrigerator from a second hand shop, a bit sketchy a bit wonky–and that’s after spending almost a month without one–but it didn’t smell and after plugging it in and slapping it a couple times it doesn’t make too much noise either. Alas, I don’t really have an efficient way of hauling groceries around yet. I’m in the market for one of those collapsible rolling carts that I’d always see elderly women use to haul groceries around when I was working in New York, but even those seem a rarity at the most basic daizo. Instead, I’ve been relying on the kindness of my neighbors and trying to make my trips to the grocery store line up with theirs. Everyone likes to carpool right?

Needless to say I’m finally in the market for a car. I can’t really afford it with all the credit card debt I charged getting over here, and the continual student loans I’ll be paying off (for the rest of my life), but I think I’ll be able to save up enough by the time snow falls and I really want one. The thing about Japanese cars is they’re dirt cheap on a whole. The thing about those kei cars, is that they’re made out of cellophane and dirt bike motors. It doesn’t help that I’ve got dreams of grandeur and a lust for the Fast & Furious franchise, meaning I’m only in the market for something that will boost my pride. Luckily enough, without a car I’m not going to be going out and spending money as much, and my salary has enough of a contingency where I think I can set enough aside for multiple savings.

One thing I did learn this week was how to send money over to my American bank account. Because of the aforementioned loans (and probably heavily on the fact that Japan is a cash based economy so my cash card is almost entirely limited to ATMs) I still have to keep my bank account open in America. Unfortunately, through living alone, paying off loans, and making the move to Japan, I wasn’t able to save… well, let’s just say I did the opposite of saving and now that American bank account is pretty low. Thus, I have to send over money from my salary every month to keep up with those payments. Really, it’s something I could have fixed with a little more planning ahead (i.e. starting a savings back in November when I first applied), but alas is still a habit that I haven’t quite figured out yet. Thankfully I’m great at making a budget, and have only recently started becoming good at adhering to it. Anyway, enough of the Pity Party.

The point of the above story, is that I tried to figure out how to send money home. The easiest and cheapest (although by cheap I mean ¥2500) way to send money home I’ve found is through the post office. In the grand scheme (now that I’ve done it) it really isn’t too hard, but being I went to the post office alone twice (to get the form, and return it) my confusion rate got double the dosage. Eventually I figured it out–with some help from my advisor–but really it’s starting to wear me out. It’s the same thing that happened when I was in the hospital getting stitches. Then I was lost when they were asking me if I had any allergies, and here at the post when I was sending ¥80,000* (a meager $572 due to an American economy that just doesn’t want to give in to a crumbling China) I was running in and out of understanding if I could confirm my bank account number. Between my health and wealth, a small misunderstanding could have really screwed me over and I think it’s really the best motivation for me to start studying Japanese.

(*back in 2012 when I first visited the exchange rate would’ve put that at $912…)

And that’s actually what I’ve started doing. I almost lost sleep over it, one night not being able to fall asleep, scanning Amazon,jp for the books that I used in college, and almost walking to the nearest conbini to pick up a gift card so I could order them by the end of the week. Ironically, after finally making the debate to ignore the impulse buy I randomly found that I had a complete set of my first and second year textbooks and workbooks downloaded onto my hard drive. Thank goodness, I’ll only be spending my Amazon points on hedonistic materialism.

Speaking of which, perhaps the highlight of my week was not getting a refrigerator, nor was it spending another hour at Nitori (my second favorite place in Japan), or even making my plans for the end of September holiday to go to Tokyo. No, the actual highlight of my week was Wednesday evening and the arrival of my Amazon wishlist. I think I mentioned before how (along with peanut butter) I’ve been longing for some emotional stability through playing high quality music loud. Well, wishes fulfilled as I unwrapped: audio technica headphones (because I left my last ones at home, not even near my suitcase), a bluetooth speaker, and among other things, a desk clock, an iPhone wall charger (previously left at the airport), and unbelievably itchy scalp relieving shampoo.

The first thing I did was put on the headphones and cook dinner from dry goods. They stayed on the rest of the night and I could physically feel my dopamine levels increase.016

Recuperate

This weekend was absolutely indescribable. So much money spent, so many freshman mistakes. I can only be glad the ceremony and party was on Friday so I had both Saturday and Sunday to recover. First, the ceremony had all the pomp and circumstance that I went out and finally bought my first pair of dress shoes since the winter formal of my sophomore year in high school. Another couple of expenses for cool biz apparel and factoring the party for the night and I’d already broken in an eighth of my paycheck. Needless to say we’ll gloss over the night I don’t remember (apart from the two Japanese women who gratefully drove me home from a piece of torn off paper Emer had given me with her address on it).

The next morning was fantastically (and deservedly) cruel.

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It took us all a little while to get moving, the picture was taken at 1:00, but for me it was especially tough. We had an exquisite breakfast made by Emer and Ashleigh which I got to participate in towards the end. In the late afternoon we finally accomplished our goal of leaving the apartment and starting the day. We went to a bunch of stores to deplete our paycheck even more, but I was a little more stingy (with the aid of a kei car full of people and luggage). We went out to dinner after the errands and I finally felt lively, I was disappointed that I was finally coming to. As Atmosphere raps, “mad that I gave half the day to last night.”

Sunday I did little to nothing, except for visiting the dollar store and finally buying some essentials for the house (all but a refrigerator) and finally placed the order of my Amazon wishlist consisting mostly of American amenities and above all a nice pair of headphones. I don’t know if I mentioned that I left mine at home (like, didn’t even bring them to the airport), but it’s really had a subtle impact on my overall emotional state to the point that every time I get in a car with radio I can feel myself becoming more calm. It’s kind of like peanut butter, too. Magically, in this backwards land that has yet to discover peanut butter, Emer was able to find the smallest of jars at God knows what supermarket and shared more than a spoonful with me. You really don’t know what types of things you miss until you realize they’ve been missing from your life, and apparently peanut butter holds a huge place in my diet.

One thing I don’t miss about my Midwest of America is the overall lack of bugs. I didn’t ever think I’d say this, and actually it’s not true, but really the mosquito isn’t so bad compared to the excess of spiders, dragonflies, cockroaches, and various other creeps. For instance, this gal who just decided to post up outside my doorstep.

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Stitches

On Monday I finally got my stitches cut out. It hurt entirely like it did when I got them put in, but after only a couple of hours I could finally walk normally. It was a pretty nominal week for the first couple of days. It was really good to be able to go into work and have things to do, but I’ve just been correcting a ton of compositions which after a while can start to melt the brain.

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Thursday though we got a break (somewhat) to attend a conference in the city. It had a lot of useful moments and introduced me to a lot of people, sweet lesson plans, and really make me question why they did so much initial orientation in Tokyo. Granted I met some awesome people, but really, most of them I’m probably never going to see again and I’ve a much better experience spending time with the people who are living around the prefecture.

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Plus, whenever I’m around them it seems life is just always throwing new experiences our way… like jumping the battery of a car that wouldn’t be legal on American roads while all the cable instructions are in Japanese. Because we had to be back in the city the next day for our Contract Signing Ceremony I planned to stay with Emer, an awesome Irish native, in her (mansion-sized) apartment. I was down to my last yen, quite literally, but I wanted to spend the night in a good way (plus were getting paid the next day) so I decided to indulge and spend the rest of my money on the meal. It was a grand idea in the end as we went to this tiny hole-in-the-wall Malaysian restaurant with delicious cheese mochi and chicken roti.

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By the time we walked back to her apartment, I and the other Irish guy next to me, we crashing hard. It didn’t take Aiden too long to fall asleep, but on the thinnest versions of borrowed futons and a decent amount of snoring Emer and I were up on and off all night. Not too much of a problem considering we’d be able to sleep in, but when it came to the Signing Party the next night it seemed we be up all night, so not such a great night.

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Fireworks

At some point between Saturday and Sunday my foot felt supremely better. Still slightly limping, but at least able to put pressure down on my foot completely. I decided that today I’d put amends to my lack of excitement for the week and end my holiday with a bang. In the afternoon I got a ride to what I’ve been told are the biggest (and therefore) best fireworks in the prefecture. Honestly, the only bad thing about today is I had to stay on the beach and couldn’t actually get in the water (oh, and it rained a bit, but apparently that isn’t a problem for Japanese fireworks).

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By far the largest fireworks show I’ve seen. It was pretty cool because they went in stages. too, with various announcements and dedications in between each one. One was even set to a Joe Hisaishi medley,and another synced to rad girl j-rock. Makes me wish I had a little bit more time to explore before school actually starts, but  I’m already going into work, so I’ll have to wait a little longer before I have time (and money) to actually adventure.

Incarceration

This past week has been probably one of the ways I would least want to spend my third week in Japan. On Monday I went into school and gave a small introduction speech in front of the entire school– all 684 students in the overheating gym. It was incredibly painful, both physically and emotionally. First, I tried not to limp, which was a problem because I definitely needed to limp with my fresh stitches. Then I had to introduce myself using both English and Japanese, but clever as I am, I wanted to try and make some sort of joke. I think I actually did OK, but I probably sounded like an idiot. Anyway, by the time I bowed and got off the stage my shirt was soaked through, my mind was exploding, and I was probably bleeding through all my bandages.

I took next two days off, and then there was a Japanese holiday for the rest of the week. Apart from the fact that I’m still getting settled into my apartment, it was probably one of the worst weekends to miss in Japan. It seems like every night there was some type of fireworks festival going on. Very tempting, but in the end completely not doable with my limping abilities. Instead I was stuck to Miyazaki films and Friends marathons while I lied on my futon cursing my luck. In the end it was probably a good thing since (after visiting the hospital three more times to get my foot still without health insurance) I am down to my last 2,000 yen.

I did actually have some fun Wednesday night going out to perhaps the cheapest Karaoke I’ll ever find, and singing my heart out with a group of other ALTs, former JETs, and friends.

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We ended on Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA, which only seems most appropriate. It’s weird, the Karaoke was so cheap because it was BYOB, and even though I only brought a conbini mixed drink (like a 9% Mike’s Hard) and a smoothie version of that which came in a pouch I felt a deeper sense of buzz. Definitely helped that on the way back we stopped at another conbini and I got some sort of phylo chocolate baklava desert and karage chicken. Not a bad highlight for the week.

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What a ridiculous past week it’s been. I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s just say it started out great. I came back to camp all riled up and ready to go. We had half days at school on Thursday and Friday and our supervisor took Coral and me to Nitori (which is basically Japanese for Ikea), and I loaded up on a lot of things for my apartment. In the end I budgeted ¥40,000 and spent ¥39,200 which worked out perfect. Although, that night I started going through everything I had and organizing it all, and sadly once I got it all into place I really was sort of back to square one with an empty apartment. Basically everything I’d gotten just when into a closet of some sort. I still don’t have a refrigerator, couch, any sort of table or chair to sit and work at. In fact, the only necessity I purchased (which did end up making up half the budget) was a bed and sheets. But even then, I only got a futon that goes on the floor and can fold up and get placed in my closet. (It’s a surprisingly comfortable bed for it’s design, but that’s beside the point). I’m definitely getting cabin fever over the lack of anything to do in my apartment, and if it weren’t for the view I think I would really consider trying to move.

IMG_2074But as far as views go, this one’s hard to beat. The sun sets pretty quickly, but if you watch it just right the amount of colors in the sky are spectacular. So I’m happy with or without the amenities. Like all things that are slowly applying to my life: once I get paid, I’ll be much better off. Especially after this weekend.

Throughout this week I’d been talking with another ALT named Carmelo about going to a beach in Kanazawa for the weekend. Carmelo is on his second year and it seems is always in the know about the best places to be. Such it seems was this weekend. Him, another new ALT, and I left a little past noon on Saturday for the three hour drive to the northern beach in the Ishikawa prefecture. Along the way we swapped cars and met a Japanese friend of Carmelo’s who’d drive the two hours from Fukui city.

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I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but as soon as we arrived at the beach I new it was going to be a whole different experience. The view from where we parked the car was pretty awesome, but from the moment I stepped out I was blasted with the bass of house and dance music. It was so strange to have this scene and the middle of the day cut by what you’d typically hear in a club in Roppongi, but hey, it was already three o’clock. The place was a bit peculiar, but would only increase in population and fanfare as the night set in. For a while we avoided the dance floor, instead setting our things down, making a toast, and heading toward the beach.

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I think there’s a joke that could be made about how an African-American, Russian-American, and Mexican-American all go to a Japan beach, but I’ll just skip over it for PC sake. Because the Ocean, man, the ocean. It’s been a couple of summers since I’d been in one, but that was nothing like this. The water was perfect, fairly clear, and a pleasant temperature. The waves were just large enough to lap over you, but not strong enough to knock you over. We all split up and started to talk to whoever we could (read: women). It’s funny how easy it is to approach strangers here, I mean, I still think there may be the idea of “stranger danger” that we use in America, but for me it’s like obviously I’m a foreigner, so obviously I must be a n00b and probably non-threatening.

Apart from a beer in the car (because yeah, that’s legal here), and a couple of swigs before our toast, for the rest of the night I don’t think I had any alcohol, which considering how giddy I was is pretty surprising. Once we left the ocean, plenty of people had gathered back at the stage, and they were rounding off sets of using the foam machine. At first the four of us mostly stood back and watched, but eventually (maybe once we saw how everyone else did it) we joined in the fray. One of us even got up on stage (though, he was quickly brought off). So I guess, drenched in foam, pumping my first in the air, and bouncing up in a down, in the center of a crowd singing BigBang’s “Wow, fantastic baby,” I should’ve expected something wrong to happen.

And it was then, while my feet were sloshing in the foam soaked sand, sinking even further with every up and down, that I felt the simple slide across the bottom of my foot of something that shouldn’t have been. Through the adrenaline it took me another jump before I decided to reach down and feel the arch of my left for assurance. When I brought my hand back my fingers were splashed with blood barely visible in the laser and torch lights. It’s sad how sober I can become in situations like that. Not even panicked or frustrated, just efficient. Knowing that I was standing in a vat of sand and soap and sweat, with god knows whatever sort of rust and diseased covered sharp object sliced through my foot, I snaked my way through the crowd, already beginning the limp, to head to the restroom.

Once I was there (literally a shack with a tiny flap over the open doorway with the kanji for man on it) it’s amusing how quickly things went into action. Outside I passed a couple of girls waiting for the women’s stalls to be open, but once they saw me limp they rushed into the men’s toilet with me. Both clad in bikinis, one held my shoulders while the other grabbed my foot and brought it up to the sink to begin flapping it with water. It seems, or at least in my mind, that this was also the time all the men decided to take a leak because I swear at least eight more guys entered the room in the next five seconds. Some stared, some went about their business, but eventually I had to escape (even though the one was still splashing water on my still bleeding foot) and I hobbled outside to a barstool.

I got some weird looks. People asking me “daijyobu?‘ and a lot of whispering. I defiantly smiled back wearing nothing but short plaid swim trunks, while cursing my bad luck. I think at that point I knew I’d need stitches, but I didn’t really have a choice in the matter of getting them since none of us would’ve know where the nearby emergency room was (let alone, I don’t even know what type of operating hours emergency rooms might have out here). Instead I eventually waddled back to the ocean, a plenty distance away, thinking that salt water was probably the best option I had in making sure my new wound wouldn’t get infected.

The water was still impressively warm, and I waded in to my waist and stayed there for a while. Even in the darkness, with hardly any stars, I could hear people out there, see some silhouettes on the beach, and the occasional flash of fireworks. It was truly an OK situation for me, and even with the cost, I’m glad I broke away from the flash of the foam party to experience it. By this point it wasn’t even midnight, and I still had a long night ahead of me. I hobbled back to the main part of the beach and fell into one of the hammocks that were placed up by the stage. At least I wasn’t the first who’d be passing out.

I woke up over two hours later, and went to check and see if the car was still there. From the hammock I’d tried to keep an eye out for the guys I was with, but eventually I dozed up. Luckily I caught them as they were on their way back from the car to do one final sweep for me. We got in an cruised the ride back, stopping once at a Seven-Eleven and momentarily conversing with the odd crowd that frequents a conbini at three in the morning.

When we got back to the apartment complex, I knew (from the oozing redness around the crusted blood) that I’d have to go into the hospital. But at that point I told them to get some sleep and Carmelo offered to take me to get my foot checked whenever I woke up. It was five in the morning, and all I could do when I stumbled up the stairs and into the apartment was stick my foot into yet another sink and try to wash all the rest of the crud off. I stuck a sock on it so it wouldn’t bleed all over my new sheets, and went to sleep for as long as I could.

I woke up five hours later, and thankfully Carmelo had just woken up as well. We drove to the hospital and I hopped in while he parked. Now, I think my three years of Japanese classes will get me through most day to day situations I’ll encounter here, but visiting a hospital was definitely not something I’d studied for. Luckily my ailment was external and so all I had to do when I approached the receptionist was point to the bottom of my foot. She got me situated and after enough repeated successfully determined that I’d probably cut it on a can, I’d washed it several times, and had no allergies to any medicine. When we got to that last point it really hit me how screwed I was for not knowing how to communicate. Like, luckily I’ve been healthy enough not to have any lasting concerns, but if I did how the hell would I know how and when to tell them.

Inside the (for lack of a better word, or maybe it’s the right word anyway) operating room, I met the doctor. There were at least five nurses all dressed in scrubs, and my doctor is sitting at a desk wearing a moss colored t-shirt tucked into blue jeans. I mean, I know it was Sunday, but still it took me off guard. They quickly laid me down on my stomach and the doctor said the word “painkiller” in English. Thank god the cut was on my foot, because I looked back enough to see him pull out a needle and then didn’t look again. The painkiller was the worst part, though, as he had to poke me several times around the cut. “Painkiller is the worst part,” he said, again in English. I got a couple more “daijyobu”s from the nurses before they went to work. It was actually quite an easy process, and despite the anxiety, didn’t hurt at all. On the way to the hospital actually I kept thinking I would vomit from the pain, but once my foot went numb I felt normal again.

In the end I got “seven stitches” again in English, “it’s a lot, no?” The hardest part was probably what came after. I got handed a couple of sheets and figured out that they wanted me to come back in the morning to get it changed again. I also had to pay in full since my health insurance hasn’t kicked in yet. It’s shit like this that we need Obamacare for. After paying for the apartment, amenities, food, I had to give in all the cash I had left on me. In US dollars it only equated to about $200, but that was the money that was supposed to last me through the next two weeks. After I paid they directed me to the pharmacy to pick up medication. That has got to be the most confusing conversation I’ve ever had in Japanese. The pharmacist just wouldn’t slow down using his Japanese and if I didn’t know the words “hitotsu” and “hirugohan, bangohan, asagohan” (otherwise no Japnese language) I probably could’ve just packed up and hoped they didn’t have to amputate after an infection. But hey, I was fixed up, the painkillers were still working (and when they stopped, I would know), and I had gotten over the first real life crisis of my time in Japan. All that, and I’d only been here two weeks to the day.

Work

It’s the first week of work! Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve had to dress up and wanted to do it. I mean sure, I had to wear cool biz attire all through orientation, but I really didn’t want to be dressed up all that time and there wasn’t really anyone for me to try and impress. This was a whole new game.

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Still wearing the vans because I didn’t want to drop the money on ridiculously fancy shoes yet. I suppose that’s an inevitable, but hopefully once I’ve gotten a few paychecks. Plus, in Japan society you’re always sliding in and out of shoes that I was going to slip into my “indoor shoes” soon enough. Just when I though orientation was over, I completely forgot about the first day at work. It wasn’t very rough, but there were still plenty of things to try and remember. It was a little bizarre since a lot of the ALTs living around us weren’t required to go into school, and it seemed like we didn’t have too much to do. It would’ve been so much better to spend the day finally moving into my apartment and getting everything I needed in order (but I guess we did that eventually).

We went over the basics for the rest of the summer, and reviewed the lesson plans, cleaning out the desks giving to us. Then our supervisor took me to get everything sorted out at the housing agency so I could move in and another Japanese teacher took Coral, my ALT partner in English crime fighting, went to pick up her phone. We only had a half day, though, because we had a meeting half an hour by train in Fukui City for an overnight camp taking place the next two days.

It was such a dulling schedule to what would have otherwise been a day of excitement over finally being able to move in. Granted I did overcompensate that night with a couple of the other ALTs, but that is a story for another place. Otherwise, I literally opened the door, had the gas guy turn on my stove, and then locked the doors to an empty apartment for the rest of the day (because I still didn’t have a bed I’d be sleeping at Grace’s again). Not to mention the next two nights because I’d be gone on this summer camp–which was actually one of the better things I’ve done in a while.

At first I was a little skeptical. My group consisted of six junior high girls, which from my initial impression meant plenty of shyness and little skylarking. True, Tuesday morning the first gathering of the group was koi and had little interaction. Once on the bus my partner ALT for the camp and I started talking to them and I made the potential mistake of telling them I didn’t mind of they talked in Japanese as long as tried their best at the English activities. Then they took off with a race of what I could only guess to be introductions, likes and dislikes, and jokes. The whole first half of the day was a challenge for me to try and remember what they were wearing and how to associate that with their names, but I think by lunch I figured it out. Then after a bunch of pseudo-English related activities we finally settled down to the main portion of the day which was speech writing. We all scrunched together all the tatami mat in between their bunk beds and went to work around a tiny table in the center. For a while, it was silent with them all focused and then occasionally one would look to me or my partner to get advice or find the right word. It’s crazy how tranquil and close we’d become in just such a short time. In my opinion we were verging zen meditation. Then came dinner and questions about what I might be eating left unanswered. By that point all the stigmas I had about junior high girls had been obliterated, as my group was the first (and almost the only) to finish their meals and then scrounge around other tables for extra rice bowls and miso. It actually made me laugh and extremely happy that I’d be teaching junior high. It’s exactly what I wanted: old enough to think critically but young enough not to give a shit what other people think.

Anyway, at night all the ALTs had their first onsen experience since arriving, and it’s funny the moments in life where being on a college cross country team makes things that other American’s find unnerving completely comfortable. When everyone was done washing, we gathered in the top of an annexed building where the directors of the camp had surprised us with snacks and treats. It was a really good way to unwind, but the day seemed like it lasted forever and I was certainly ready to go to sleep. It was kinda weird because the room we were sleeping in looked so traditional, but the situation really didn’t feel so unlike being in a cabin at a summer camp.

IMG_1791Oh, and by this point you might be wondering why I haven’t posted any pictures of the camp or my adorable group, but that’s actually because it’s illegal to post pictures of kids online without permission (and actually, that might just go for anyone without permission). It might seem like a crazy law from an American perspective, but it’s also kind of ingenious and I think it can help shape a more conscious view of how the internet works.

Respite

I forgot to mention in the last post what a pretty wonderful weekend it was. Seems like a lot of the JETs in Fukui are pretty close and the people living around me are all close enough to visit with. Strange enough one of the first things we did was drive Saturday over an hour away to Ono where there was a pretty sweet swimming hole. It took us a while to rally together and in all our sweat make our way, but once we were in the car with the windows down it made for a good drive.

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010Despite the unruly heat and humidity the water was still an absurd amount of cold. I think in the pool it just sits in the shade and without a current or sun gets all the heat out of it. Still made for a good dip once you got over that fact that you’d lose your testicles, and it definitely kept me cool for the rest of the day. It was mostly just the best to relax with everyone and really get to know these people for the first time. I even got to chat with some Japanese people. I think I’ll quickly overload my social media with completely random people. For example, I met a guy from Osaka who speaks pretty good English and you know if I ever want to go to Osaka, even if  I don’t speak to him until then, he’ll be the first I look for in finding a place to stay.

17On Sunday the group in my apartment complex went and ran errands at the local mall. Even though I churned over not having a reason to shop for anything because I didn’t actually know what I’d need in my place, it was still fun to tag along and see everyone get excited about the new ordinary stuff like dish soap and lotion that they would have.

That night we went out to dinner and had ramen at a local restaurant franchise. It was pretty delicious and super affordable. As we walked in the place was packed and we actually made our orders from the waiting room. I was the most fluent out of our group, and tried to do my best to order for us all. One of the girls needs a gluten-free diet so that was the most challenging thing to get across, but in the end it worked out. I think if I could I would eat out every day and try something new, but with the amount of fried and buttered food I think my diet would suffer more than my wallet.

Arrival

This weekend we finally arrived in Echizen, the ultimate destination. It’s hard to believe I’m actually here, and perhaps even more incredible that it’s only been a week. At this point I think the JET lag is finally hitting me, or I’m just so thankful for having some rest. I’ve been passing out around nine o’clock the past couple of nights (which is usually embarassing, being I’m typically with people). The most unfortunate thing is that I still haven’t been able to get into my apartment, so I still don’t really feel like I’ve settled. It’s hard to believe that I’m only living out of these suitcases for the next months.

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Friday, after a little more orientation and a closing ceremony, we finally got to meet our Supervisor. I say we because the school I’m going to help teach at is actually pairing me up with another ALT. The school we’re going to has over 650 students which give me a lot less to worry about knowing we can split up the work. Our supervisor and another English teacher at the school met us at the hotel and drove us to our apartment in Echizen. They both seemed very cool, and I think we got extremely lucky (although, stories from other JETs say on the whole supervisors are usually awesome anyway.) The weather was incredibly hot and we seemed to have a lot on our agenda. First we went to the bank, then the housing agency, then to the cell phone company. Except, by the time we left the bank I had zero yen in my wallet, and couldn’t withdraw enough from the ATM to pay for anything, so I just sat out going to the cell phone place. Good thing, too, because it seems like trying to open up a cell phone contract here is the most difficult thing we could do.

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In the meantime, I hung outside the door to my apartment and soaked in the view. Not a bad start in my opinion. At least compared to Northfield, MN it’s doing alright. That night our supervisor and three other English teachers took us out for yet another izakaya, but this definitely was the best I’d been to. We had toriyakitempura, and an array of sushi. For the night in Grace’s place (I can only assume is a palace compared to my future studio) and she was lucky enough to inherit a futon and a number of pillows and blankets.