Saturday, August 7, 2010

August 2009 Revisited

Here is some more random year-old stuff! At this point, I was settling into my apartment and beginning to learn about my city and coworkers, but I had no internet (and some residual jet lag, I think).

Without further ado, I give you August 7, 2009!

Trash, you may have defeated me today, but washing machine, I will arise victorious! You and your little funny looking buttons and hoses have nothing on me. After all, I cooked an egg in the microwave today! Number one, turn on! Actually, I better connect you to the bathroom first, I believe. Mwahahaha!! Thank you for giving in so easily and playing a happy song for me! Now, about that trash...today I was skulking around the Board of Education office trying to figure out how to throw away a plastic cup. Apparently, there is a spot on the other side of the floor! Also, cars, we need to have a discussion. Y'all are making me look like an idiot! I keep trying to get into the drivers side when someone is taking me somewhere! And I'm still not used to driving on the other side of the road - when it comes to turns, especially, there have been a few white knuckles when I do finally get into the passenger side - everything in me wants to scream "Wrong lane!" Speaking of people taking me somewhere, can I just mention what a weird feeling it is to basically be completely dependent upon people I've known for a grand total of two to two and a half working days! It hit me several times today, as I've had many things to sign or stamp with my new hanko. Most of it has been solely Japanese, which as you know, I don't read. Well, actually, I can read this: エリサベス ホール. If you guessed that to be my name, you are right! Anyway, if you know me at all, you know that I am very hands-on and detail oriented - I like to ask questions and make sure I know what's going on before I commit to something. Not so here...for all I know, I could have just been sold to a Siberian work camp. Actually, everyone here has been amazingly wonderful - they have been taking very good care of me. Tonight is actually the first time I've been alone for any length of time (besides in the morning when remnants of jet lag and an early morning sun have me waking up at 5am). The staff actually cleaned my apartment for me before I moved in, which just blew me away. The first night, three people on the staff took me out for dinner to keep me company, and last night the whole staff had a welcome enkai for me.

Quick update - I won the wash battle, but the dryer battle seems to be getting the best of me. Time to check the guide! Hmm...it seems that the washer has had the last laugh - I thought I had turned the bathroom sink off before I unhooked the washer, but apparently I turned it on to full force. Blah! ...Pause to hang up clothes in wardrobe room...note to self, need fabric softener...

Anyway, back to what I was saying about the staff. Everyone has been exceptionally nice and helpful. For example, today I was a little unsure about what someone was saying. I was pretty sure that I had it figured out, but they went ahead and called an ALT in another city who'd just done the same thing to let him tell me about his experience. And today, Reiko took me to the bank to set up an account, the cell phone store to set up another account, the rail station to pick up a ticket, and the ferry terminal to see it (I have a visit to Rishiri next week). When I say that Reiko took me to set up accounts, please understand that she did all the work. I just stood around and tried to look like I was paying attention - again, just weird for me, who's usually plowing around in the thick of things. To just be a bystander looking in on my own life is really weird. It's really knocked my independent streak for a loop. I suppose it just goes to show that we can never judge an alien in our midst by his or her performance in our society (I can say alien because I am officially an alien now!). Look at me...an educated woman who can't really even order lunch. "What did you have for lunch?" "Uh, I don't know..." Come to think of it, I'm really not sure what I had for dinner either. It's really been good for me to have this experience and learn that the fate of the world really doesn't rest on my decisions.

Enough heavy stuff! Back to fun! I have to say that I am experiencing the most achingly beautiful summer! You know the old question, "Which do you prefer, mountains or oceans?" Heh heh heh...here in Wakkanai, I don't have to choose! While sitting at my desk in the office, the cool breeze brings in the cry of a seagull. I look up, surprised, and see mountains in the distance. In the cafeteria on my floor (AWESOME!), windows all across one side of the room look out over a deep blue sea. It almost hurts to look at it. When my plane landed in Wakkanai, I felt like I had been dropped off in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. The scenery was just wild and unspoiled. It's - of, course - different in town, but still oh, so amazing. I'm really looking forward to spending some quality time outside tomorrow learning the kana.

It's also strange to feel so cut off from the world. I just got my cell phone today and I can check my email, but other than that, I can't do a whole lot of communicating. I'm looking forward to getting some contact information for people at Sapporo Orientation next week.

OK, I really need to go to bed. I'm very surprised that I'm not tired yet - yesterday, I was worn out by like 8 (maybe it's the espresso I had at lunch without cream or sugar).


Friday, August 6, 2010

Go team!

OK, y'all! Who is ready for some motivation?? Woohoo! Anyone? Do I see a hand there in the back?

So, as you know, I am trying to learn Japanese. Makes sense, right? Some might say...makes sensei...? Ahahaha...sorry. Bad Japanese joke there. ANYWAY, as with any major project, one runs into roadblocks, setbacks, and general frustration.

And, sometimes, language study notwithstanding, one runs into confusing images like these. Together, they are pretty clear, but separate them a tad, and one desperately hopes not to intrude upon the wrong domain...as in Washington, D.C. That's a whole other story, though!
Maybe it's really one for tubby people and one for non-tubby people...I don't know...

Or one for linebackers and one for couch potatoes???

No non-kimonoed people allowed?

Anyhoo, what was I writing about again? Oh, yes, motivation! When I get frustrated with my language study (or lack of progress), I poke around in a handy little website, All Japanese All The Time. I always find something to help me improve my studies and make them more fun (a key point of the site). The link above will take you to an absolutely aaaaaaa-mmmmm-aaa-zzzzz-iii-n-gggggggg post.

"Ah," you say. "But I'm not trying to learn that there Japanese. Therefore, I have no need of this post and will go have a nice cup of tea."

No, no, no! If you are trying to attempt any long term project (or not), go read the post! To sum it up...


See, I even gave you a whole 'nuther link. Now, go enjoy!

Pretty please with sugar on top?


Thursday, August 5, 2010

One year here!

One year ago today, I arrived in the great Wakk of Nai! That day was so exciting and overwhelming. All the Hokkaido Group B ALTs flew from Tokyo to Sapporo, where we were met by our supervisors. Though I had practiced my Japanese self-introduction a million times as we flew north, I (of course) immediately forgot it when I actually met my supervisor. I'm glad he turned out to speak English fluently!

Next, we flew on to our final destination. It was so interesting to see the landscape of Hokkaido pass by as we headed further north. We actually flew out over the sea before landing. I remember leaving the airport and walking into a pleasantly cool afternoon. It was a nice change after Mississippi/Tokyo weather.

As we drove into the city, I felt a bit like I was in the movie Pride and Prejudice. The coast was a bit lush and wild, and we passed a lake that really reminded me of the movie. We drove past my apartment, where a bunch of BOE staff members were busily cleaning everything for me (I thought that was really sweet).

I was checked into the hotel (I don't think I did anything) and left for a few minutes before dinner. That was really the first time I had been alone since leaving Nashville. At that moment, everything kind of rushed in at once. It was a bit overwhelming. I was actually in Japan and in my city that would be my home for at least the next year. All other ALTs were gone, and now it was just me.

Thankfully, my BOE knew better than to leave me all alone the first night! Three of the staff members took me out to a local Western-style restaurant for dinner, which was really fun.

The next morning, I put on my little suit and went to breakfast. It was a full-on Japanese style breakfast, complete with fish and rice and miso soup...with no spoon. I couldn't figure out how in the heck I was supposed to eat soup with no spoon, so I wound up just leaving it.

I don't remember much about my first day, but that may have been because we didn't spend much time at the office. There were lots of tasks to be run, like getting my alien card and things for my apartment (so I didn't have to sleep on the tatami). Boy, I wish we could spend office days shopping now! That would be nice!

After my first day, we had a mini-welcome party with several staff members. That was also my first time to eat a raw egg (not in cookie dough).

Boy, things have come a long way since then!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Happy Japan-niversary!

So, in honor of the one year anniversary of 2009 Group B's arrival, I decided to take a picture of my dinner. Whatever! It was a delicious dinner that included one of my servings of fish. And, in unrelated news (because this post has been SO on target thus far), I found deheaded/de-tailed shrimp at a distant supermarket today! Yatta! I can't tell you how awful it is to have grey ooze come out of shrimp one is preparing for consumption. Anyway, now that I've ruined everyone's appetite, have a look at my shrimp-free dinner!

Well, this brings an end to my month-long daily photo experiment. I have to say, I had a good time! I felt like I saw my world a little differently, kind of like when I took the Creative Playground course. I'd like to try a new blogging challenge/project now, but I'm not sure what. Any ideas?

So, in the meantime, I thought that in honor of my one year in Japan anniversary, I would post some of my writing from that time. It's from my offline repository (aka a polka-dotted notebook). Over the next few days, I will try to convert some of the other offline writing to blog posts. So, without further ado, I give you August 2, 2009!

1:20pm Tokyo time, 5:17pm local time, 11:17pm Jackson time:
This has been the longest afternoon of my life! I really do mean that quite literally, as we took off from Dallas 10 hours ago and the latest it's been has been somewhere in the 6 o'clock hour. We've crossed the international date line, so I believe it's Sunday now! My poor body is so confused, because I set my watch to Tokyo time when I got on the plane, and I've basically been mostly paying attention to the local time. However, I don't think I'm completely fooled, as I was about ready to zonk out about an hour ago. I took a short nap - I couldn't not take a nap (it was one of those). However, it is so tight there is really no way to get comfortable (now it's 4-something!). My city (Sapporo) is popping up on the map now.

Hey, here's something festive! While I was listening to my friend's mix, the song "Top of the World" played while we were at the top of the world!

Here is the approximate size of my seat...in the PLANE! When my seat is fully reclined with my head against the headrest, I can stretch out my arm and place the heel of my hand on the seat in front of me. With my feet flat on the floor, there are about 2 inches between my knee and the seat pocket. The top of the seat in front of me is right at eye-level. At least there are plenty of things to watch and my iPod is loaded! When I book a flight home, I'm so getting a window seat, though! I will also accept donations for a first class or business class seat. At least I have a 36 hour acquaintanceship with the person whose knee is in my nose. It would be really odd to be crammed in here with two perfect strangers.

It kind of feels like I'm in a theater or something. Well, the wave of tiredness is starting to wash over me again, so for now I must say sayonara. Perhaps the next time I write, I will be in Japan - right now it looks like we are flying between the Pacific and the Sea of Ohtosk.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Oishikatta!

So, I'm back from my lovely weekend in Eniwa/Sapporo/Otaru! Meeting my JTE's parents was so much fun. They were such nice people. Going into it, I was a little nervous, because I've never stayed in a Japanese home (except for my own, which so doesn't count). I wasn't quite sure about all the proper etiquette and such, and as we all know, babies have a higher vocab than me. Case in point - I was at a restaurant, and someone had to say Konbanwa to me about 3 times before I realized they were talking to me. Oh, well. I'm studying!

Anyway, it was a great visit! And before we left, my friend's mother made bento lunches for us! They were so pretty and delicious!

Oh, and one year ago, I had started my trip to Japan! I believe I was flying with my Nashville peeps toward Dallas!

Night, all!