Thursday, August 05, 2004

First Impressions and Udon

Wednesday, July 28th
After taking a short domestic flight from Tokyo to Izumo airport, me and 20 other new ALTs disembarked to be met by our new supervisors and co-workers.

In my case, I was met by the head of my BoE, Abe san, the superintendent of teachers, Yoshikawa san, my direct supervisor, Utani san, and one of the JTEs (Japanese Teacher of English) from the local Jr. High (Taisha chuugakko)- Ms. Murayama. Murayama sensei was able to translate 90% of my English so we could all have a conversation.

It was about noon when I got to Izumo airport, which is about 30 minutes away from Taisha, so they took me to lunch at a local restaurant first. Nice little place where we sat at the table cross-legged and removed our shoes before entering. Picture menus helped, and I ordered hot udon noodles with some rice and veggies and a cola. Good stuff, but after a few minutes of struggling with chopsticks to get the slippery noodles, they had the waitress bring me a fork.

Right away they wanted to know if I drink sake, etc - if I smoke - if I like sports and which do I play. The past 4 or 5 ALTs in Taisha have been women, so it's been a while since they've had a big guy to beat up on in kendo (Japanese sword fighting) or judo class. I told them I like tennis, soccer and ping pong - so we'll see what happens. They want me to take part in some Japanese cultural activity - for instance, the woman who preceded me, Sara, did tea ceremony and flower arranging.

As we drove back to Taisha after lunch I started to get a good look around my new hometown. It's very RURAL - with almost no big buildings and many large fields of rice. They also have a winery right next to my apartment, so many fields of grapes dot the landscape as well. Large, green-tree-covered mountains dominate the horizon to the east. And the Sea of Japan in about 20 minutes to the west. No fast food, no hotels, no two lane roads, no 7-11s - only one gas station at the end of the main street, which also has my new bank and the post office. Taisha is somewhat of a tourist attraction since we have a very large and very old Shinto shrine in our town.

They drove me to my new apartment, which must have been 100 degrees inside. But it's a neat little place with a decent size living room, a nice little kitchen, a western toilet, and a big bedroom with two big closets. The shower room has the standard area to wash yourself before you bathe, but it also has a shower nozzle with decent pressure and a small tub too small for me. I also got a washer/dryer that are fairly small but get the job done. My bed is about 6 feet long so if I sleep at an angle my feet don't hang over the end. I also have a futon/couch in the living room and a TV with a DVD/VCR. My fridge is pretty small, but since it's only me and I don't cook much, that should be no problem. Later on I discovered that I have not one, but two built in air conditioning units that work great - I just have no idea right now how much they cost to run, but it's been so damn hot I don't really care.

They took me to the BoE, where I gave the first of many self-introductions in both English and Japanese. The JET people gave us a diary with all kinds of useful info, including some set Japanese phrases to use for introductions, and these worked well. I saw my desk and met some more co-workers and then it was off to the grocery store to get some food for my empty fridge.
I was doing just fine, and everything was a reasonable price. I asked Utani san to grab me a bag of rice and he picked out a bag about 3 lbs. Turns out this one bag of regular white rice cost me about $26! So we headed back to my apartment and Utani san left me to unpack and settle in.

Exhausted by all the traveling, I settled into my couch and just watched TV for a while even though I couldn't understand it. I cooked some rice in my rice cooker and made yakitori (strips of chicken on skewers) in my rangu (a combination microwave-toaster-oven) and then went to bed at around 10pm - since I had to be up the next day for my first day of work at 7am.

Next: Working in Japan

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

just checking to make sure the comments are working.

-Jason H.