Arrival in Japan: Spring Term 2012
At last I’m in Japan.
It’s taken me a few days to pull through the fog and disorientation of screaming west through multiple time zones, but finally, I’m starting to find my equilibrium. It feels good to be in my little, humble Japanese apartment with time to regroup after the action of the last few days. On Monday, the A-Team (aka my parents) enthusiastically and heroically braved the middle-of-the-night wake-up (2:30am) to drive me to Denver International Airport so I could be there by 4:30, two hours before my departure at 6:30.
The Troopers at DIA.
After a three-hour layover in Los Angeles, I boarded the plane that would transport me to Tokyo – 11 1/2 hours of jetting across the Pacific Ocean. The plane was not full and I had the luxury of an empty seat next to me. I watched movies, ate, read, tried unsuccessfully to sleep and listened to my Japanese audio lesson. I still did not know much Japanese when I landed. In time…
After claiming my luggage and going through customs, I located the Westgate desk at the airport. As I expected, the staff there were very welcoming. Several other teachers were gathered there, including a few who were on my flight, although we didn’t meet on the plane. I was also glad to meet the woman who interviewed me and with whom I’ve been in contact via email for the last several months. I’ll get to see more of her and the other teachers and staff at our orientation tomorrow.
- Taking the train from the airport, I was not struck by anything too extraordinary. In fact, the surroundings were reminiscent of the eastern U.S. in spring – green, fresh and overcast from recent rain – it reminded me of parts of New York I’ve been to outside of the city.
- My apartment is in a compact neighborhood with a train station nearby. I have yet to explore all of it, but what I’ve seen so far is neat and orderly – a kind of micro-burb with small, brick two-story homes and apartment buildings set close together. Some have tiny yards and gardens adjacent.
- I can’t help but make comparisons to China. In fact, on my first night here I kept thinking I was in China. But the differences are becoming more apparent: People do not stare. It’s cleaner. The traffic (at least in my area) is not that chaotic or congested. People drive on the left side of the road which will take some getting used to.
- Lots of rain! I’ve only been here three days, but it has been cloudy and rainy the whole time.
The day after our arrival, Yukari, another Westgate staff person, took four of us to get our paperwork taken care of. We had to apply for an Alien Registration Card, health insurance and a bank account. It took most of the morning but was a good way to get a feel for the area and provided a chance to get to know some of the other teachers.
There are a few things I still need to figure out: Most importantly, I need to find a place to run. Colm, one of the returning teachers told me there’s a river with a path nearby that would be good for running, so hopefully I’ll find that soon.
Our schedule has allowed for a couple free days before our orientation which has been helpful in getting adjusted to our surroundings. Things are off to a good start and I’m excited about meeting my students next week!