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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.

Lull

Miraculously, or maybe just because I haven’t adjusted to the time difference, I woke up early today and went for a run. Now, one of the few things wrong with Japan right now is that fact that it’s as hot and humid as Lil’ Jon’s balls, and sunny as all get out all the time, which makes it pretty difficult to run. That and I’m just a busy lazy fool who makes excuses at 6:00 AM and instead eats greasy tori-yaki for dinner. Anyway, I’ve really gotta get out of that habit soon and this morning was a good refresher. To a small degree of surprise there were plenty of people out, and not only elderly obaa-chans and ojii-sans. I found a path along the main river and saw a guy who looked like a high school student practicing his baseball swing, while another man was sprinting back and forth along a open patch. Despite the foggy haze and heat I actually had a pretty good time, which was a somewhat necessary way to start the day being we had another 6-8 hours of orientation.

IMG_2015Along with the heat, and the grimness of the city, though, having more orientation isn’t such a bad thing this time. I think my group is a lot closer, and we’re doing super well with our amazing leader Christen. She met us in Tokyo and took us out for izakaya and has basically been a godsend since. Seriously, it’s been way more comfortable getting through orientation this time around. Not to mention the Fukui JETs and community are just awesome in themselves. We actually had some time in the afternoon to have some more one on one with the veteran ALTs while walking around the city. The city has a lot to offer, and is pretty accessible by train, but I’m still pretty set on living more rural, at least where you can see the landscapes from the road.

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I realize that I won’t have many selfies up on this blog so I’ll take them when I can get them. Anyway, tonight we had a welcome party (even more fried food), beer and mixed sake drinks, and plenty of Japan-English conversation. Seriously, once I start living alone (/whenever people stop throwing food at me) I’m screwed, or at least will have to sign up for cooking classes ASAP.

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But until now, I enjoy, just like this little dude. CHYOU-KAWAII!

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Transit

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The move from the hotel to our home prefectures came with joy and woe. On one hand, we were finally done with Tokyo workshops, moving on one step closer to our original purpose. On the other (at least for those of us heading to Fukui, and many others going much farther) it was just another 8 hours to tack onto the other hours we’ve racked up in such a short time. By the time I actually move into my apartment later on in the week I feel like I’ll actually spend a whole day of this week moving in a vehicle. I can’t be too critical about this moment though, as shown by my temporary roommate Grace, it was hard not to contain the excitement of finally exiting Tokyo.

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As someone who’s only been in Tokyo and the greater metro area, I had little expectation on what it’d be like on the way to Fukui City (later Echizen). Really, my overall research has been pretty poor, and mostly futile. I’ll admit when I first read the email that had my placement I was a little disappointed, as I think many Fukui Jets are, in finding out I’d be placed in Fukui. Why not the Osaka, or Nagano, or Kyotos of my imagination? Was Fukui even a real place? A simple Google search leads to few English website, so I decided to go out with an optimistic view (at least I wasn’t in Ibaraki). By the time I finished with the Tokyo orientation, my viewpoint solidified. It sounded like I was headed to one of the best parts of Japan, and in no way shape or form should I worry about my situation.

IMG_2016The first views out of the city were like nothing I had seen before in real life, and I was only waiting for the landscape to stop. As we kept rounding corners and driving through mountains, the foliage and beauty of Japan countryside only increased, and I really couldn’t believe what the hell I had gotten myself into. The Tokyo version of Japan I’d been used to has its certain appeal, but after living in a town of 14,000 people for the past five years, it’s revitalizing to think I’ll be back in the countryside (definitely not something I thought I’d admit).

The end of the bus ride really wiped me out, so once we got to the hotel I passed out in my single room, almost missing the group leaving for the Izakaya. Seriously, I’m gaining so much waiting eating all of this greasy fried dark meat food thrown at me. I’m also not complaining very much, but I definitely need to find the time to start working out and really need to get some vegetables into my diet. Still, it was another good night to get to know some of the other ALTs living in Fukui-ken and finding out all of our backgrounds. Really, it’s not what I expected. So many people apply to JET for various reason and at different points in their lives which is also reassuring that I’m not the only one without a clue what he wants to do with his.

Orientation

Now for the longest three days in recent memory. I mean, not much can be said in terms of what I expected and what I definitely did not think about, but basically the JET orientation in Tokyo was a huge daze of information fed and repeated while we tried to figure out what exactly was “cool biz” appropriate.

Welcome Reception

But seriously, walking into the main hall for our welcome reception I think the biggest thing that hit me was just the fact that there were so many of us (not only keeping in mind that there are another two groups after ours). At some point we were told that there are about 2,000 JETs this year, and at least a thousand fit into this room.

We sat patiently through various workshops, lectures, and redundancy, while basically taking three things away from it:

1.) Don’t Drink

2.) Don’t Upset Your Boss

3.) You Represent Your Country

It’s all really just a big blur looking back on it, but I think I retained enough to come in handy when I really need it. That night there was a closing reception where I could finally meet all the people heading to Fukui prefecture with me, and I’ve gotta say: despite there being a bunch of us, I really lucked out in terms of having a cool crew to join me on this journey. I suppose only time will tell, but for now I’m doing alright.

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I think the most amazing part of being in Tokyo was the ability to see my long lost roommate and onii-chan, Yasushi. After a day like the one I had I was ready to pass out before 9 o’clock, but once I trudged down to the lobby to see him I became revitalized. It’s hard to believe that it’d been over two years since we’d seen each other, and it really didn’t feel like any time had passed since I waved him goodbye back at St. Olaf. We spent most of the night out, and it really gave me a sense of assurance that whatever does happen to me in Japan I’ll always find a home to go back to. Today was really the first time that I realized I’d be OK staying here for more than a year, or at least in the sense that I had nothing to fear about not going home after this one had passed. Although again, only time will tell.

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Departures

Let me first start by saying it truly is a miracle that I was ready to go, but also admit that by ready to go I only include having my bags packed. The day I left for Seattle I was in no shape ready to leave, and despite having a couple of days still in America to sort things out before my trip, I really squandered any opportunities to set my life in order. In reality, though, I knew exactly how I would do things and feel (or hope at least) that any consequences will be trivial. Mainly, this first month in Japan may be a bit of an issue, but it’s nothing that my time spent in New York (and in some ways Northfield) didn’t prepare me to handle.

But hey, I made the plane at 6:50 in the morning, made it soundly through the three hour flight, and — while dragging two fifty pound suitcases, lugging another 40 pound duffel bag, and wearing my backpack — made it through downtown Seattle to find my way at my former college roommate, teammate, friend, and all around life-saver’s front door. When I made it back he was still in school, and so I had nothing to do but completely crash and take a nap until he came back from lab.

We went out that night for dinner and drinks, explore some of the more original parts of Seattle. It’s pretty strange for me to look back and think that those would be the most recent American memories I’d have to compare to the left I’m expecting, but on a whole I’d say the arcade/bar/concert venue we drifted into summed up all the good parts of young city life. We didn’t stay out too late that night because the next morning I had pre-departure something or other for my trip. I woke up fairly early, and after breakfast, moped around, dressing in business attire including a new sport coat bought specifically and necessarily for this trip. After too many times of checking my watch, and missing a bus stop or two, I made it to the consulate of Japan’s residence.

It was pretty unsettling the first time seeing everyone sitting in the basement and still a bit looking back on it. Like, here were 64 people about to embark to Japan to teach that I had no clue about. We shared so many similarities and were all too different beneath the surface. Most of all, past the following two day that we’d be travelling together, there was a strong chance that I would never see any of them again. It’s a haunting feeling that definitely shaped that way I behaved with most people this past week, and one that I’m finally moving out of.

The night it was decided that John and I would attempt to make one of the most American dinners possible for my last meal stateside. After a quick run along the river we decided on Mac & Cheese (a Midwestern delicacy) and while I packed and repacked my things John got the ingredients. I must admit right now that I have never seen someone more proficient in the kitchen than John and without any sense of a recipe he always makes the perfect meal. I think he gets it from his dad who once cooked traditional paella and fresh crab for me back to back.

John cooking

Anyway, we went out a bit late that night and ran into Stina Nesbit of all people who ended up being fantastic and buying a lot of our drinks — exactly what you want when it comes to a last night out. By the time it came to getting to the airport I had just the right amount of fatigue to help me sleep the ten hour plane ride off, but enough energy to keep me from having a very destructive hangover.

The airport was packed, but we got through security pretty easily. Once I got on the plane I almost instantly pulled on my eye-shades and plugged into a podcast, and apart from eating lunch, I slept for a good five hours. Two movies and a couple TV shows later, lo and behold we landed in Japan. From there it was another two hours by bus, but finally we arrived at the hotel. Five star, amazing and what not, right in the heart of Shinjuku. I went out with a guy named Thomas who’d actually probably become one of the few that I’ll see again, and after a very awkward stint trying to order ramen and find a bar we had what could only be describes for foreigners in our situation as a completely successful night. On a whole the day was definitely exhaustive, but how naive was I to think that the most difficult of the trip was finally behind me.

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Origins

This is something I’ve been waiting months for, but it is such a weird concept for it to finally be here. People–and by people I literally mean everyone: family, friends, co-workers, strangers– would constantly ask me one question first: “Are you nervous yet?” And despite the time already coming and going, I can honestly say at no point was I ever nervous to be here. Over the past couple of days I’ve certainly had moments where I’ve felt unsure of the moment, or felt uncomfortable about sitting next to someone who’s sharing the same experience as me but ultimately someone I would never see again, but  I never once felt weird about finally being back in Japan. I definitely wasn’t ready for the path I would take, didn’t prepare to the extent I should have, and procrastinated to the point that it’s uncanny I was able to get on a plane out here without fate stopping me and telling me to head back. Nevertheless, I made it to Japan, albeit am still a bit away from my final destination.

I feel a bit like I’m walking in an unreality. It’s hard, since in the past week I’ve spent more than 24 hours in transit, and another 24+ working inside hotels. Slowly I’m working my way towards the life that will be my life for at least (or most) the next year, and I guess the start of this blog is a good distinction to the end of my transition. At this point I may just want more to be able to wear whatever I want without having to dig to the bottom of my suitcase and repack my bags everyday, but I think truly I’m ready to unwind. Fukui prefecture seems to hold itself up to its reputation of the happiest life in Japan, and I hope I can do it justice as I keep track of what goes on in my life. Tomorrow I’ll be heading to the city where I’ll be permanently based (though temporarily without an apartment, and indefinitely without a bed), and I suppose then I’ll finally be ready for it all.

No matter what happens, I have to remind myself of what I was left with just a week ago. Almost incredibly I moved out of my Northfield aprtment of ten months, flew to Fargo and Boston, and spent a week without sleeping in my own bed. In fact, since leaving my apartment I didn’t actually get a real nights rest and that may be one of the things later on that I regret most. To the point though, I started off the night before I left with my room (and my life) in the truest sense of bedlam. Through the night I didn’t panic–well, barely at most– and was able to tidy it up by the time the morning came. Truly, the fact that I took the room in this picture from shambles to liveable gives me at least some security going into whatever chaos becomes this next future.