I found this today. It is from last August…. I suppose I sent it out in an e-mail to people… but I might have just considered sending it out, and never actually did it. I have edited only the name of the town… just ’cause… you know, Japan. 😛
My dearest family (and my friends who are like family),
I write to you from my new home in T—, Japan. It is a small suburb of Tokyo, with a whopping (supposedly, anyway) 100,000 people. I am tasked with assisting English language teachers at two different high schools in the town, one of them an art school, with specialties in painting/drawing/arts of that sort and music, and the other school a sort of engineering-for-mechanics-esque school. My vagueness is purely due to the fact that no one seems to be able to explain to me about the schools. On that note, no one seems to be able to explain anything to me clearly. Guess that’s why I’m here in the first place – to help them with English, and to learn Japanese.
Going along with the lack of understanding point, I literally have no idea what’s going on around me a good amount of the time. I was sort of trapped in my apartment the night I moved into it – I had purchased a futon (Japanese version of a mattress – not too sure if I’m fond of it yet, ‘cause I miss my bed, but I think I can handle the futon alright) and toilet paper and towels, but that’s it. No one could give me a map of the area (and didn’t think of it except for when I specifically asked for one); I didn’t have a copy of my address; and I don’t speak Japanese to be able to ask people for directions to get home if I went out and got lost. Oh, and I had no phone or internet to look up where on earth to go without a paper map.
And, the best part: My predecessor told me that she had a lot of things she was giving me, so I wouldn’t need to buy most things like a fridge, storage, dishes, “that kind of stuff,” she said. Way-to-be vague… 😛 So I had to eat food from 7/11 until she delivered her stuff to me… three days later. No way to cook anything, because she has the electric burner for me to use. No way to keep anything cold, so I couldn’t have fresh food of any kind for lunch at work (slash at all, since 7/11 isn’t entirely in the category of ‘fresh food’). No way to feel like I’m not just possibly going to die (Yes, I realize the drama here.).
On top of it all, I was super stressed that I kept asking about going at least to get me a phone number, so that I could use the internet to function (map, translation, where to buy what, etc.), and they, unconcerned, mentioned that someone could take me some time next week “probably”, but I had to know exactly what plan I wanted and from which company. Thanks, dude. And how exactly do you propose I figure out that information with no internet, no map of the town, and no Japanese skills?
How did I solve the problem? I went to meet another ALT (Assistant Language Teacher (Terminology for my program)) in Tokyo. We’d become friends during the brief orientation in Tokyo earlier in the week, and she was up for helping my get a phone, so I didn’t have to stand in the 7/11 parking lot for super slow, choppy internet anymore (which I’d only discovered the night before). Plus, I just needed some love.(1)
So I spent the day in Tokyo. After two hours in the phone store, and using a translator (real person) on the phone, I had a new phone and a decent phone plan for the next two years. We then went to Starbucks for a break and free wifi (for my friend to use), and we each caught up on all of our e-mails, messages, etc. from a million different people.
We then walked around a bit, and visited the Tokyo Tower area. I had this realization as we passed one part of a temple there, that still hasn’t fully hit me. Back home (USA), we have houses, etc., designed to look like traditional Japanese architecture, yes? When I was looking at the temple building, my background, passive thought was the same as when I see such styles back home… and then I realized that this building is not made to ‘look like those buildings in Japan.’ This building IS ‘those buildings in Japan.’ It’s still sinking in.
(1) I can note here that I’d actually gone down to Tokyo that Friday night, just after discovering that I had internet in the 7/11 parking lot, which is down the street from my apartment (so I was able to find it without getting lost or anything – FYI streets don’t exactly have names here). I was absolutely ready to cry from the stress of sitting around, waiting for people to take forever to accomplish tasks – unfortunately, my supervisor has never done this sort of thing before, so she had to have everything explained to her multiple times – and not knowing how I was even going to get dinner (I only found the 7/11 that night).
A friend who already had a phone (because he speaks Japanese, and so figured it out while we’d all been at orientation), happened to be in Tokyo for a festival with a coworker and the coworker’s friend, and invited me to come down for the evening. So, I managed to access train schedules (just barely with the internet connection there), screen shotted them, and set up a rescue plan, should things not work out (i.e. I knew 7/11 had internet, so I’d go find any 7/11, and the friend would come find me there), before rushing off to Tokyo.
I walked right into my friend when I arrived in Tokyo, and was given a nice, big hug. Hugs are really one of the best medicines. We watched the tail end of the festival (very cool with dancing performances and drums and bells all along this long street), and then all went to dinner. Turns out I only live a town over from the coworker’s friend, and she and I decided to be friends. (We’ve been in touch ever since.)