Being Re-Oriented

Due to the torrential downpour on Tuesday morning, I asked Nico to give me a ride to work on Wednesday.  Also, that way I wouldn’t have to try to balance my backpack and duffle bag on my bike ride to school.  I got to school and dropped my stuff at my desk, as I do every day.  I spoke with the three English teachers for a bit and triple checked that there was nothing that they needed me to do.  Kyoto-sensei (vice principals are called kyoto-sensei, principals are kocho-sensei) had left me a gift on my desk, a small dish cloth of some sorts, so I made sure to go over to her desk and thank her a thousand times (approximately).  After that, I checked yet again that I did not have anything to do an then I went to the karate club.

At this time, I was dressed in decent work clothes that I would need to wear for orientation, so I figured I would just be watching this time.  After all, the karate teacher (and every single other teacher in the school) was in a meeting, so he was not there to challenge me to join the students during their strength training.  I looked up from my phone while the club was doing their planks to see the two brown belt second years looking at me.  The two girls are the senior members of the club and lead the club when the teacher is not there.  One of them just looked at me and sort of tilted her head to the side, asking silently if I was joining them.  Well…they asked.  So what was I supposed to do?

I smiled and nodded before pulling off my socks and joining them.  Of course, that was the death of my plan to not look like a sweaty mess on the train.  Still, worth it.  So worth it.  Around 10:30 I had to excuse myself to catch my train.  When I got back to the teacher’s room to grab my stuff it was absolutely deserted.  I was unsure if I was supposed to tell someone I was leaving, but they already knew which train I was supposed to be on and when I was planning on leaving, so I just left.

The walk to the train station seemed to take forever since I normally make the trip on bike and without a duffel bag on my shoulder.  Not to mention that I was a little sore from the strength training with the students (not that I will ever admit that to karate-sensei).  Yet again, my plan to not look like a hot mess was ruined.  I grabbed a quick snack bar from the mini-conbini in the station and headed to the platform.  By this point, I knew where I was going and just chilled on the platform without stressing (too much) that I would get on the wrong train or into the wrong car.

The train ride was uneventful.  I arrived at Miyazaki station and pulled out my phone.  Sally sent me a pin on Apple Maps so I knew where I was headed.  I then spent the 20 or so minutes walking around what felt like back streets, holding up my phone to use as a GPS, and yet again I got to enjoy the relative safety of Japan.  I realized that in any other strange city I would feel pretty nervous about wandering around looking rather lost.

I got to the prefectural headquarters and was told that I wasn’t allowed to bring my duffel bag into the room (despite people who definitely brought bigger luggage later).  Thankfully, I had a few friends who were staying at a hostel nearby who let me drop my stuff with them.  After that, we returned to the kencho and had our opening ceremony (because everything needs an opening ceremony).  The rest of the day was spent in lectures and listening to (mostly) interesting presentations.

Afterwards, a group of us went to the bank to enjoy our paychecks.  Most of the new Miyazaki city JETs had little to know English, so trying to use the ATMs was rather difficult.  Thankfully, I had asked my supervisor to walk me through out to use the ATM when I first opened my bank account.

Because it would be too easy if it was the same as an ATM in the US.

I also had enough Japanese to recognize the correct buttons that she had showed me.  I ended up being the ATM assistant for a few JETs.  I tried to explain that the button they needed to withdraw looks like a bow.  Then I relented and said, “Ok.  It looks like a weird snake next to a stick, but it’s supposed to be a bow.”

お引出し

(I promise the second character is supposed to be a bow.)

Once we all had a comfortable amount in our wallets once more, we returned to our various lodgings to get changed and drop our things.  Sally was letting me crash with her (on a real bed and everything) so I went with her and a group of other new JETs that lived by her.  I want her apartment.  It is newer than mine, a little smaller, but definitely more modern.  Every time I go to another JET’s apartment I make a list of improvements I can make or that I need to have made.

For those who do not know, I live in teacher housing.  This means that my apartment building is managed by a school and everyone who lives here is a teacher.  It also means that I have cheap rent and subsidized utilities.  However, it also means that I am much more restricted about what I can and cannot do to my apartment.  More than anything right now I really want to paint every room.  I want this not for some form of artistic expression, but because there are cracks and weird marks on almost every wall.  Out of the corner of my eye the dark sports look a lot like bugs.  For the most part, they aren’t big enough to be mukades, so they do not freak me out too much.  I typically have at least one small spider in my apartment at all times, so I am used to small spots on the wall, but anything bigger makes me kind of paranoid.

(Small personal victory that I wanted to share: I went to bed last night without doing my nightly mukade check where I shake out all of my sheets, my pillow, my blankets, etc.  When I woke up this morning I realized that I got into bed without checking first.  Little by little, I’m moving back to being able to act normal in my own apartment.)

Back to Wednesday.  After freshening up at Sally’s, we all headed back out.  The busses in Japan work a little differently than the ones in the States.  When you get on the bus, a small machine spits out a ticket at you.  You grab it and take your seat.  On the ticket is a number.  It just so happened that the stop we used was number eight (my lucky number, for those not in the know).  At the front of the bus is a big display board with numbers on it.  Under each number is a price that goes up like a taxi fare.  When you get off the bus you drop your ticket and the correct change into a little bin.  I don’t think there is any way for them to know if you were dropping the correct change.

But…you know…Japan and whatnot.  So I guess that isn’t an issue.  We went to an Indian restaurant for dinner.  I have to admit, hearing the Indian waiter speaking Japanese temporarily shorted out my brain.  The food was great and it was nice to have some “foreign” food that tasted the same as back home and as not Japan-ized like the “Italian” I had for lunch the first Friday I was here.

We went to a bar afterwards.  Our group of 15 or so absolutely dominated the space of the tiny bar and we outnumbered the three Japanese patrons.  Being one of the only people who had some Japanese (and being me) I ended up talking to some of the patrons and staff to explain why we were there and in such a large group.  It just so happened that two of the patrons were businessmen from Tokyo there on a business trip.  They asked where I was from, so I told them America, which normally is enough for most Japanese people, but they asked for my state.  When I told them I was from Missouri, (with a tone of voice that let them know that I didn’t expect them to have any idea where that was) I was pleasantly surprised to learn that one of the men had actually been there on a business trip.

All in all, it was a good night.  We headed back to Sally’s apartment after stopping in another bar and grabbing a taxi.  As awesome as Sally’s apartment was, I was hot and didn’t get to sleep until about 3 or 4 in the morning.  Still, it was cool to see where other JETs live and it was really nice of Sally to let me crash there in the first place.

More orientation stuff to follow.  Stay tuned.

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