Thursday, July 31, 2008


Well, here I am. Safe and sound and in Saitama. It`s a very nice place. It reminds of my small hometown in a lot of ways. There are fields everywhere, and it has a nice rural feel to it. Of course, it is much bigger than where I grew up, but it combines the rural and the residential in a really cool way. I`m not sure how to photos on this blog, but if I can`t figure out how to do it, I`ll include a link to a photobucket account or something.
I really intended to update more often than I`ve been able to. I don`t have the internet at my apartment, yet...which has actually been the cause of a great deal of stress. Long story, really. First day that I got into Saitama, I met up with two representitives for Saitama. One was very nice, though he didn`t speak hardly any English. The other spoke okay English (L-San!), but it was still rudimentary (which is fine, you know? I`m here to teach least there`s someone who can help me order food). I was really jetlagged, and had not been eating hardly anything because I`d been so nervous, and wasn`t sleeping hardly at all. I kept having this weird vertigo sort of sweep over me, where I`d feel certain I was about to fall over. So, after all this, I get taken to a government office where I need to pick up a Gaijin card. And already my body is like, failing me...and I was making an effort to speak japanese, but people kept laughing, probably not at me...but it didn`t help me feel any better. After all this, I get introduced to the mayor, who I then horribly offend with my lack of etiquette concerning meishi (business cards). I had bowed a lot and said polite things like `Please continue to look favorably on me` and things...which I understand could be funny. But, then someone comes into the office, and bows really deeply, like a full if he were greeting the emperor or something, and introduced himself as `a Japanese man.` I felt like he was having a go at me, so I introduced myself as `stupid foreigner`. ...Then the office got really quiet, and I was sent home for two days holiday.
I took it really hard initially like...`Oh, how did I mess up so much?` But...really, I`m trying here. I`m trying to learn the language, I`m trying to have a good time along the way, and if that`s not what I`m supposed to do, they can send me home.
The last couple of days have been really horrible, though. I`m totally over it now...but just sitting at home, sleeping 12 hours, waking up at 5 in the morning and not having anything to do all day but sit is hard. It felt like some strange kind of torture. Like...there`s no contact to the outside world, I don`t know anyone here, I can`t meet them because I don`t speak japanese yet, there was no internet, I can`t understand the TV, etc. ...Only, I couldn`t leave my house, because it was the only way my bosses could contact me, you know? I went for a couple of short walks, but ultimately, I just had a bit of a cry on the phone (I called my brother and mother, paying god knows how much for direct international calls...I considered it an emergency at the time).
Anyway...this is deviating from my initial plan for this blog. I didn`t want to get too personal, but for all my friends and family reading, I had my first freakout, but I`m doing much, much better now. As soon as I get the internet at my apartment, I`ll be fantastic.
As far as Tokyo Orientation goes...that was truly amazing. I mean...getting up early, and getting well-dressed (my school is aparently super laid I have all these dress-clothes for nothing. I`m going to wear them, and my kids will think I`m just some straight-laced dude...*shudder), and sitting through long, hot lectures was a bit taxing. But, after that, we`d go karaoke (which I did for the first time...and it was AMAZINGLY fun), or hit up an Izakaya (bar and restaurant). I even got a drink on top of the Keio building, overlooking all of Tokyo. Pretty amazing things. I met really cool people, and got very excited to teach...especially grade school. I`ll essentially be like Barnie without a costume. ...Tight.

I miss one person in particular, and it`s hard to think about a whole year without them.

Hello, to all my friends, from Japan.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Oppai or Ippai?

Today has been a bag of horrible emotions. They are all volatile, and waiting to come out. They are horrible in the sense that they are intense, and can't easily be coded into words and expelled.
Let me start again. Today was my orientation in Chicago. Tomorrow, I get onto a plane headed for Tokyo, where adventure and the deadly "kancho" await. ...But, probably more on that later.

Today, I sat through many helpful parts of the orientation...but, it was also very sterile and boring. I had the same conversations about a hundred times with all the other nervous JETs.
Then I realized how sad I would be in Japan. Not sad, really. But...geez. I feel safe and secure and things around me feel familiar at home. But...I realized today that I'm wearing clothes I don't feel good in, and that I don't identify with, and that I'm all out of context for the people I'm meeting. And...those people who do know me...won't have any say or influence where I'm going, because we'll be all over the island. And...if I ever want that feeling of safety and familiarity again...I'll have to create it myself, in a place where I don't even speak the language. ....Needless to say, I got pretty upset. I kept getting nervous and feeling like I'd made some kind of mistake.

It's very hard to say goodbye to someone you love. I want to say more, but it's really quite hard. Why does the difference between staying one year and staying two years seem to bother me so much?

(post script)
Things are a little better now. I'm in Tokyo at the hotel, and I've got orientations all day today. I'm not freaking out right now...but, things here are weird. This post was written in a late-night freak out before I left, and though I still have many issues to freak out about...things are just fine now.
Last night in Tokyo, I hung out with some people and ate at a japanese restaurant, which was amazing and pretty cheap (I thought Tokyo was expensive!). We caught a beer in a Western bar, and it felt really weird. My new friend Rock mentioned that it felt like Chicago, and I was shocked at how right he was. I needn't freak out. THere's a little Tokyo in Chicago, and there's a little Chicago in Tokyo. I guess that's where we're at in this modern world. There's no such thing as goodbye anymore, because we can keep in touch almost instantaneously.

More later...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

July already?

It's like squinting through fog and seeing something huge take shape and materialize before your eyes. I'm realizing quickly, and with horror, that my days in America are truly limited. This is difficult for me for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I've come to know and love a lot of people here in Indiana. It's incredibly difficult to see someone for what might be the last time and try to find the words to express how great it's been to know them, and what a gap they'll leave in my life while I'm gone and lonely. I had a going away party back at my folks' house, and it was so hard to see everyone and tell them goodbye. Oh well ... just one more inevitable step.

Secondly, the political situation in America is just becoming tolerable! Minimum wage just finished increasing (which is huge, for a minimum-wage-earner), which gives me something like 20 hours earning the new minimum before I leave. To top it off, we actually might have a Democrat in the house! And he's black! ...Tell me if that's not some kind of progress. ( least compared to the last eight years? ...That's what a thought.)

On the upside of the political issue, there's an Obama, Japan. And they're really excited that someone shares their name. Classically Japanese motivation for getting enthused. I might spend election night in Obama just so I can be around a bunch of excited people, if he wins.

Anyway...things are getting good in the USA, so of course I'm on my way out the door. Perhaps, by the time I get back we'll have something rad like socialized education or medicine! ...Or maybe I shouldn't hope too high...

The shape in the mist is beginning to look a lot like me with a backpack, waving goodbye.

And, really, what else could it look like?