Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 18th and 19th

August 18th
My 9am meeting with Yuko and Kazuma was changed to 1pm, so I had a bunch of time to kill.  I wrote some messages online and looked up a few new kanji.  After lunch, I went to Daiichi J.H.S.  Yuko, Kazuma, and I went over the speech multiple times.  When I say multiple times, I mean somewhere close to 30 times.  Again, we pronounced individual words until they had no meaning.  I really hope he does well on Tuesday.  Kazuma has worked very hard, memorizing a majority of the speech and even including body gestures and intonation.  I really can’t tell you how upset I am that I’ll miss his speech.  I’m hoping to find an omiyage for him while I’m at the conference this next week. 
I got my car back from the shaken inspection and found out it’s going to cost me $1,300!!!  Crap.  I was really hoping somewhere around the figure of $700.  Not only that, but before I gave my rental car back, I accidentally filled it with $20 worth of gas, instead of the $10 I was thinking of.  Again, crap.  Ahh, oh well, sometimes these things happen.  Just take them day to day. 
After work, I headed to my favorite beach and surfed a bit.  The waves were a bit larger today, but still not great.  I’m not sure where this huge swell is, that’s supposed to hit.  I really hope it comes soon, because I’m itching to get a nice ride.  I’m also getting more impatient about not having a fishing pole/spear.  I keep seeing these huge fish jumping out of the water at my surf spot, and I would love to catch one or 10. 
Making dinner tonight (spaghetti, chicken, mushrooms, broccoli, garlic, tomatoes, onion, and some spices), I listened to the entirety of ‘Stop Making Sense.’

I forgot how great that DVD is, and it reminded me of all our San Diego Thanksgiving celebrations.  I was able to think of some great memories of Todd, Mike, and my first Thanksgiving, as well as the insanely fun ones at Law St.   Please, would you all come to Japan and have Thanksgiving with me?  I’ll cook everything and give you all the drinks you need.  From what I’ve been told, the Japanese think KFC has traditional holiday food.  They go there on Christmas (maybe Thanksgiving too) because “That’s what you do in America.”  Crazy huh?! 
Soooo, to the dismay of some, I ate the dried horse cake/cracker today.  I honestly felt sick eating it, especially thinking about the horses back in Wyoming.  But…and this is a big but….I kind of liked it.  It wasn’t pure horse meat, it was definitely mixed with spices and other things, and it was good.
Horse Treat

 Even before I ate it today, another one of my coworkers gave me another horse cracker thing.  I sat there thanking him, thinking ‘Please God, no.’  Never-the-less, I find out horse is pretty good.  I pray that it was the meat from a lame, old, random-reason expired horse.  I don’t want to know if they butcher them out here, that’s just not my thing.  I’m just worried that they’ll be bringing in whale meat someday.  I’m actually more willing to eat whale than horse, seeing as I’ve never ridden or taken care of a whale before.  
Enough of that, I have another day of reading Kazuma’s speech tomorrow.  Please, even though you can’t read this yet (only 2 more weeks until internet), pray that the waves get bigger!  Thanks!

August 19th
It was so hot today!  I stayed at the office until 12pm then left for lunch and directly to Daiichi.  We worked on the speech with Kazuma and he’s starting to memorize it.  We also worked on some hand gestures that he seems to be figuring out.  I got home from work and realized my yard was way out of control.  I found a small handheld blade (like what the undertaker carries) and cut grass (hunched over) in my front yard.  I found a bunch of black and yellow caterpillars, so not knowing much about them, I let them be.  My neighbor helped me figure out that the yard clippings go into a pink trash bag and I found out there’s something in my yard that makes me break out.  Luckily, it only hit a small part of my arm, but I still don’t know what plant it is.  That was pretty much the extent of my day.  I went and explored some new shops in Osaki, where little kids found me amusing and kept bringing their dog over for me to pet.  But, that was about it.  Finally, I get to sleep early tonight, it’s only 9pm!  I’m spent, g’night!

August 14th-17th

August 14th
We left in the morning and headed to Miyazaki.  We stopped off and met up with Cassi, Topher, and Tyler (his first day in Japan) at the beach.  They took off and left us a surfboard, although the waves were a bit small.  We still stayed for a few hours and caught some waves.  As we were leaving, the lifeguards formed a search party, 8 firetrucks/paramedics, two helicopters, and about a dozen jetskis were looking for a lost child.  About 20 surfers joined hands and swept through the water to see if they could find him/her.  We found out the next day that the child was found, but didn’t survive.  That was when we all realized that the undertow they talk about is no joke.  We don’t know all the details of what happened, but it was a shock to have seen the search take place. 
Afterwards, we went to an onsen (bath house) and rinsed off.  It was only about $10, and was wonderfully relaxing.  John and I dunked in the hot water for a bit, but I found myself hanging in the cold, alkaline water for the majority of the time. 
At night, we headed to downtown Miyazaki, which is crazy.  We met up at a Mexican restaurant, where I ordered carne asada tacos and a chorizo flauta.  It wasn’t quite like the real thing, but it was close enough.

We headed next door to a salsa club, that the owner of the Mexican joint owned, and proceeded to do the merengue. 
Cervezas Mexicanos!

Only stayed for a bit and then headed out for some karaoke.  Some drinks later and a little drive to the beach, we popped our tents on the sand and watched kids light fireworks until we fell asleep.
Thanks to the heat, we woke up in our sauna-tent at 7am.  Packed up and headed to meet up with the other guys at the beach.  Surfed for a couple hours and had a great time.  The waves were only a bit larger, but I got to ride Chris’ 10ft board that caught every single wave.  Got some Thai food for lunch, with coconut ice cream, and then went to a 2nd hand shop to look for boards.  I think I may have found one, but I’ll have to wait until the next pay period.  John bought a 9ft board that looks like it’ll be great for the waves out here.  The shop also had a bunch of fishing poles, guitars (unfortunately no ukuleles or slide guitars), and just about everything else you could imagine (washers, dryers, stereo systems, toys, TVs, etc.)  We left and drove back to Osaki.  It was a long day, I think I got a little burned, and now I’m beat.  Turned out to be quite a fun weekend (my first private room karaoke and onsen) and I’ve found a new shop to look for surfboards.  I was also stoked to have finally met Chris, who is an avid surfer and is actually heading to Mexico for a week-long trip.  I can already tell that we’ll be riding a lot of waves together.

Augus­­­­t 16th
Today was another day in the office, with practically nothing to do.  The mechanic from a local garage came in to take my car away for its shaken inspection.  They left me with a yellow-plated car that looks like a cube.  At least it has A/C and automatic windows.  Yuko Tojo, from Daiichi J.H.S. in Nogata, sent me one of her student’s speeches.  I got to correct it in preparation for his English competition.  Yuko came to the office and showed me a video of the students competing last year, and we went through the speech very carefully.  She invited me to an evening Taiko session and I accepted. 
When I got to the auditorium, it was junior high schools students practicing Taiko.  The high school performers and adults were teaching them different cadences.  After the junior high students left, they allowed me to practice with them and invited me back next week.  It was a ton of fun and the drums literally shake you with every beat.  I had been wanting to try this since coming to Japan, I’m so glad that it’s such a great group of people.
Tomorrow, I’m heading to Daiichi J.H.S. to work on the speech a bit more.  I forgot to add that during work, Aiboshi brought an omiyage of sliced horse meat.  I was all pumped to try it until they came over and said, ‘Horse.’  Now, I know I’ll try it, but I just feel horrible.  Hopefully it was some lame horse that was on its way out. 

August 17th
At about 9 this morning, I got called by Yuko from Daiichi J.H.S. to come on over and work with Kazuma's speech.  We worked on pronunciation on R’s, D’s, OU’s, and a variety of other English language rules.  Kazuma did really well and will be giving his speech this next Tuesday.  I was excited to go, but realized we have our KAJET orientation next Monday and Tuesday.  He’s working so hard on it, I don’t know how I’ll make it up to him. 
After working on the speech, Yuko and I went to a horserace-betting building.  It’s just a room filled with gamblers watching a huge screen of horse racing in northern Japan.  There’s also a little lunch room inside, which may have become my new favorite place to eat.  Not only is the food great, the price is substantially lower than other places I’ve been.  STOKED!  Yuko was driving me back to the school when I told her about my work on the ranch, and she immediately turned to take me to where the racehorses are kept.  The facility was amazing, filled with stud horses.  The people working there were so nice, and took us on a tour of the grounds.  Their oldest horse is 23 and he kept nuzzling us.  Every one of them is exceptionally tall with a huge chest.  (I wanted to saddle one up and take it for a run J)  The caretaker of the horses invited me to come back anytime, as he needs help shoveling manure, feeding, and random checkups.  I think I may be visiting a path I once previously took.  Anyway, it was so nice to be around horses again.  The guys even kept dirty magazines in their back room (reminds me of another ranch) and they kept asking me if I’m single and what type of girl I like.  Of course I told them that I like the hairy type, about 120 lbs., long tongue, and usually referred to as ‘Canis Lupis.’ 

They didn’t understand but smiled and nodded their heads anyway.  I love Japan. 
Went surfing after work today, but it wasn’t much.  Got a couple short rides and then headed home.  The rental car is still hanging in there, but I think they bring back my good ole’ hatchback tomorrow.  Finally, I’ll get to put all my awesome California stickers on it.  I can’t wait to get the internet so I can post pictures of all this for you.  It’s the coolest little car in Japan, with its super-reflective tint and everything.  UPDATE: Here it is!

So glad I saved my Taco Surf sticker for so long...

This has to be the only one in Japan...thanks John!

Tomorrow, another day with Yuko and Kazuma at 9am.  Then, who knows?  Another big swell is supposed to hit the shores, so hopefully tomorrow will be the day. 

August 11th-13th

August 11th
Today was pretty boring at work.  I did learn some new Kanji and vocabulary, so that was a plus.  I was given another Goya, and my coworkers kept telling me that they were trying to set me up with Japanese girls.  Some sort of party with just single girls and guys, and probably me as the only Gaijin.  They like to gesture and point at me saying, “Handsome,” and then read their translations from Yahoo that say, “Irresistible to ladies,” and “Ladies pleasure.”  Oh please no, I can’t even name my car, let alone take on someone that I can’t converse with. 
I finally took the night off to myself, played some video games, and had a couple whiskey drinks.  I encourage you whiskey drinkers to find some Suntory Old Whiskey, if possible, because it’s becoming my new favorite.  I won’t say that it’s better than Pendleton, but it’s the best I’ve had in Japan.
For dinner, I made my first Japanese hamburger that included onions, garlic, tomatoes, lettuce, pepper, and mustard. 

Oh it was good, but I would have rather had cheese on it.  They do have cheese, but I didn’t want their only options of cream cheese or brie on my hamburger.  It seems there’s not a huge demand for queso here.  Pork, chicken, beef, and especially fish is awesomely abundant and cheap.  I think I mentioned it earlier, but to recap, Kagoshima is known for its black pork and beef.  Both, which I’ve had, are delicious and fatty.
Cheeeeeeap veggies and fruit

Don’t worry, I’m surfing, running a bit, and doing a lot of sit-ups and push-ups.  Plus the weather seems to sweat a pound or two away, per day. 
I forgot that yesterday, Shinmiya, Aiboshi, and Mizoguchi all invited me to fish with them.  I had told them that I went searching for fishing poles and they were stoked, saying that they have extras for me to use.  They’re also in the process of finding a cool, used motorcycle for me.  These guys have become my brothers.  Fishing poles, motorcycles, food, and girls…they’re always hunting.  I guess Aiboshi and Mizoguchi used to be riders too, but since they got married, they had to sell their bikes.  Sooo, I’m slowly trying to get them back into the scene.  If you have a chance, check out Red Baron motorcycles in Japan.  Huuuuge distributor, seller, buyer, and renter of motorcycles in Japan.  Bigger than anything I’ve ever seen in the US.  They even buy and sell to other countries.  We’re all glued to our computers now, looking for all bikes for sale in Kagoshima. 
Mizoguchi said that his wife bakes bread, so he asked when he could bring a loaf over.  The generosity of the people out here still amazes me every day.  On a daily basis, they offer to buy my bento, drinks, and then offer me food.  I’ve come to realize that it’s not even a situation where they expect anything in return, it’s purely friendship and hospitality.  I just don’t know how to compare this to anything else.  I can’t, it isn’t comparable.  I just know, already, that if the time comes, it’s going to be insanely hard to leave these people. 

August 13th
I didn’t get a chance to write in the journal yesterday because I was running all over the place.  Work went by slow, as usual.  Upon getting home, I got a call from Mary Margaret saying that their sea turtle eggs hatched and they were going to release them into the ocean.  I headed out as quickly as I could, but unfortunately made a wrong turn and was driving my little car through the sand.  I was able to get turned around, but then bogged myself down.  A fisherman and fisherwoman came over to help.  They looked like they were in their 80s, but immediately got behind the car and started pushing.  I felt horrible, but they actually saved me.  I waved to them and made sure to drive extra fast across the sand so I wouldn’t get stuck again.  I made it to Mary and Kyle, with one of their coworkers.  There was a bucket of newborn turtles and we got to place them on the sand. 
'No hurling on the shell dude, just got it waxed.'

They all ran toward the ocean and we got to see the waves sweep them up. 
Mr. Kyle setting the little guys free

It was so much fun!  Afterwards, we decided we would watch a meteor shower at night and meet up at the beach again.  I left and surfed for an hour and then got back to have dinner at Mary’s.  We lay on the sand and watched some great meteorites burn up in the atmosphere.  Fell asleep on the beach and ended up waking up around 2am.  Needless to say, I was a bit groggy for work this morning. 
My ‘Big Boss’ called me into his office to watch a high school baseball game, where our Kagoshima team was destroying some other team.  Last I saw in the 6th inning, Kagoshima was up 13-0.  One of the boys was from Osaki Town and hit 2 triples. 
One of Imoto’s friends came over and showed me pictures of his motorcycles and invited me to come to a bikers BBQ next weekend.  He and his wife, who previously lived in Costa Mesa, have a 1200 Harley Sportster, and some European bike from 1936 that looks like my ideal bike.  I’m excited because he’s going to take me to some used motorcycle places and introduce me to his riding buddies. 
Mizoguchi brought over a fresh baked loaf of bread, his wife made, as well as some ‘fish balls’ (patties and sausage-looking things).  I had them for dinner and surprised myself, as they were delicious.  Now, I’m not sure if anything is going to happen tonight. 
Tomorrow, I leave with John, Laura, and Chelsea to Miyazaki.  They are going to be staying with our good friend Cassi, tomorrow, but I want to camp for the night so I can get the early waves.  Also, we are going to look for surfboards for John and myself.  That…is it.  I’m out for the night.  Hoping I’ll be back with some better stories. 

August 8th-10th

August 8th
What a day!!!  I woke up at 7 this morning and decided to sleep in until 8:30.  Ate a good breakfast and got the board and car ready to go to the beach.  I headed to Miyazaki, where Andrew had shown me a surf spot.  It was supposed to be overhead today, so I was in high spirits.  I got to the ferris wheel at the old amusement park and saw a bunch of surfers on the beach.  I stopped, checked it out and decided I would try there.  But, on my way driving back to their parking lot, I saw two cars filled with surfboards heading even further down the road.  So, I turned around again and followed them.  I ended up finding the place that Andrew had shown me and the beach was completely open.

By the time I got out to the water, two younger boys had gone out and tried catching some waves.  We all found that they were forming really nice near one of the cliff sides and paddled that way.  My first wave in Japan, shoulder high, fast, smooth, and I nailed it!  Thank goodness because I didn’t get another until an hour or two later.  But the area, surrounded with a mountainous backdrop and crazy bird calls, was worth the trip.  My hands got wrinkly and I stayed for one last wave that turned out to be the longest ride of the day.  So happy, sooo soooo happy!  On the way home, I stopped at a surf shop (but there weren’t any good board deals), bought some groceries, and headed home.

I got an email from Mary Margaret saying she was having people over for a BBQ.  I took the invite and this turned out to be even more fun.  We drove out to pick up some other ALTs and get some supplies (including fireworks J).  We even saw a hand spider walking around the parking lot at the grocery store.  Ohh ohh ohh!  Plus, I found that they sell Hawaiian slings (spear guns) for $3!  They also had fishing poles and supplies, so now I’ll be set when I get a chance to go back.
Kyle, Becka, Chelsea, and I had a blast trying to get the coals lit and ready to go.  The food was delicious (ume!): marinated beef, pork, vegetables wrapped in meat, and a huge steak that we unfortunately washed in the sink.  A few JETs from Kanoya came down as well, so we had a great group of people to eat and talk with.  Most of the party left, while we took the fireworks to the beach.  Miki, Mary’s Japanese friend was with us and nearly shot us with bottle rockets.  We were laughing so hard and kept giving her the fireworks that shoot into the air.  Even when it started to rain, we managed to get a couple more sparklers lit and then headed home.  The night was gorgeous, semi-cloudy skies with great visibility of the stars.  The ocean was nice and loud, smelled like a beach, so I was at home.  Today was definitely one of my favorites so far.  I now have friends that live close, who like to BBQ, shoot fireworks, and laugh.  I can’t wait to hang with these people again, they are an absolute blast!  Now the task of uniting them with my friends back in the states.  I’m off to bed, it’s late and I, unfortunately, have work.

August 9th
Not a whole lot today.  I gave an omiyage (mini cans of Welch’s fruit juice) to my coworkers and they were thankful.  One of the guys said, ‘From the quarter machine?’  Haha, oh those jokesters!  Most of the day I was reading some ‘Gaijin Smash’ websites.  Ohhh!  I finally got my Alien Registration and insurance cards and can now get internet access!  I think they set up an appointment for me tomorrow.  You will all finally be able to read this and I won’t feel like I’m just talking to myself!
I was going to surf, but found myself walking around a Wal-Mart type store and finding the fishing poles, car stereo speakers, and beard-trimmer I’ve been looking for.  Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ll be able to wake up early enough and ride some waves.  There’s a hurricane/typhoon off the coast that’s supposed to bring some decent waves.  Hopefully not too big, I don’t feel like battling white wash.  G’night!

August 10th
Another day starting with work and ending with good friends.  Work consisted of looking up Kanji online, and reading about 40 pages of  I gave an omiyage of surfing/bodysurfing stickers to the guy who lent me his board.  I discussed my internet options with Shinmiya and Tomomi, and we never came to a decision.  It appears that modems, out here, cost upwards of $500 U.S.  So, I’ve got to figure out exactly what I need.  The day at the office ended with me being given a ‘Goya’ vegetable from the vines that grow outside our window.  It looks like a cross between a pickle and a banana, and it supposedly is very bitter. 

Twenty minutes after work was over, I was looking at Goya recipes with the guys in the office.  They decided on one that needs tofu, eggs, soy sauce, and 'sperm.'  I kept asking if it was fish sperm, and they just kept saying “Sperm, sperm.”  Luckily, before I left the office, they had Google translated the recipe that called for Spam.  Thank goodness, because I would have felt like an idiot asking for fish sperm at the store.  I would have had a Gaijin Perimeter for about 8 blocks.  After work, I headed to Miyazaki for surfing, since we have Typhoon coming in and the waves are supposed to be crazy!  They were and I almost didn’t make it past the white wash.  I got crushed by 6 or 7 huge waves before they finally settled and I was able to get past the break point.  Upon getting there, I noticed all the Japanese surfers riding in and leaving the beach.  Either they were tired, knew bigger waves were coming, or just didn’t like the white guy out there.  So there I was, alone, with some good overhead-sized waves coming at me.  I, unfortunately, was taken out to sea a bit by the currents, but managed to paddle back.  I decided that I should probably not test the seas and catch a ride in.  Well I caught one, got barreled standing up for the first time (in a barrel) in my life, and was immediately crushed.  Luckily it’s a sand bottom there, and I only got flipped around two or three times.  I’ve had surfer’s drip all night, including during a meal near Kanoya with John, Chelsea, and some other JETs.  My eardrum hurts, so I guess I’m not surfing for a couple days.  Anyway, I have to get some sleep.  We might all go out for some Indian food tomorrow to meet the new Kanoya JETs.  Hope everyone else is great.  I found out that I won’t be getting internet for another 3 weeks.  Bummer-status.  

Coloring and T-shirts

August 6th
Today, for my job, I mostly colored and cut out pictures.  I’m making some ‘About Me’ posters so the kids can get a feel for who I am: surfer, kayaker, snowboarder, wrangler, and all that other boring stuff.  I went to lunch with Tomomi and 3 of her co-workers.  I can’t go one day without these people trying to set me up with someone.  Even my bosses, when introducing me in Japanese, will always throw in ‘Handsome man,’ and tell me what girls are single.  It’s no wonder though, this city’s population has actually decreased over the years and there are very few young people left.  There are only about 1,200 students in the 9 schools combined as compared to 6,000 students 20 years ago.  Crazy huh?  Anyway, the lunch was great again.  We went to some little restaurant/home where they only serve one type of dish a day for 600 yen (little less than $6).  Today it was a sort of chicken katsu/curry thing with salad, rice, miso soup, and some veggies.  One of Tomomi’s friends paid the bill before we could get up and I taught him how to say ‘Amigo.’  He was stoked and called me ‘Amigo’ about 20 times before we got back to the building. 
Mastumoto-san left his surfboard for me, but it’s not the foam board like I expected.  It’s a legit fiberglass board, probably about 7-7.5 feet and really clean.  I’m shocked he’s letting me borrow it!  Mind you, I haven’t even met this guy.  After hearing that I surfed, he left it for me on his day off.  Suuuuper nice people here. 
My meeting with the kochos went well.  I only had to introduce myself, say some interesting facts in English, and then I was excused to leave the room.  Got a call from another ALT, Rob, and they were heading to an onsen.  I wanted to go but remembered that I said I would attend a Tai Chi class.  I’m so glad I did because I got to meet some of the real Osaki people.  Looking for the room where it was taking place, I ran into one of my coworkers and he laughed when I told him what class I was attending.  He said something about the age of the people.  All senior citizens, only one spoke a little English, and they all kept clapping for me, saying ‘Good Job!’  It was too funny.  There was the guy with his pants too high, the lady who wears too much makeup, and the one who doesn’t talk, but just sits and watches us.  I was invited back for the next session so I’ve got to find a Borat mankini this week. 
I forgot to mention that my predecessor left me something in the trunk of my car.  A Nintendo Super Famicon console with 15 games (including Super Mario RPG, Mario Kart, and Street Fighter to name a few).  This will definitely help while I don’t have the internet at home. 
Alright, I need sleep again.  I’m driving to Kagoshima City tomorrow for New JET Day Out.  It doesn’t start until 1, but I’m hoping to find a good 2nd hand store and find some rare odds and ends.  I hope the states are great.  I miss big dogs and tacos.

August 7th
I got to take my first long road trip to Kagoshima City today.   It was great.  Almost went the long way around the place, instead of taking the ferry to the city, but luckily turned around and found my mistake. 

Met a lot of JETs today that are all awesome.  Actually, I met some surfers and we’re all going to try and find some waves tomorrow (if I get a hold of them early enough tomorrow).   Went to the Kagoshima aquarium with a bunch of people and had a blast.  Bought an omiyage for Tomimo and her family.  Saw my first live whale shark (in a tank) as well as a grouper. 

As small as the aquarium was, I was completely impressed.  Then they told me there was a whale shark half the size of the tank in Okinawa and I won’t believe it until I see it.  We ate some good traditional ‘Dutch baked goods,’ went to probably the best sushi place I’ve ever been to in my life, and then walked around a 6 story mall.  Some of the JETs knew the guy at a surf shop at the mall and we got some great local surf spots.  I think I’m heading out tomorrow with Mary Margaret and some other JETs tomorrow.   We got to hear Sakurajima (the volcano) erupt.
Ash on the ferry seats

Ash was being thrown all over the place today (it actually wasn’t ash as you may expect, but particles of lava that felt like sand).
Sakurajima Burps...

I saw a whole bunch of motorcycle places tonight, which inspired me, even more, to buy a bike out here.
It’s crazy, all the shirts, stickers, board-shorts, etc. in the surf shops out here at double, if not triple, the price they are in the states.  Wish I wouldn’t have given away so many t-shirts and stickers from the ASR conventions I went to.  Honestly, it was $10 for one Rusty sticker.  They also had some of the coolest ‘California’ paraphernalia.  Bad ass OP (Ocean Pacific) t-shirts, shorts, and changing robes (for surfers).  I was tempted to buy the ‘maple leaf’ robe.  But sadly, I know how cheap they are in the states.
I left Kagoshima City and had a great drive back.  I listened to Gian-san, Metcalfe, Mike-iko-san, and Pat sing some songs that I had recorded over a year ago.  It totally brought me back home and I felt like I hadn’t left more than a day ago.  I also found out, that after 3.5 days of being on, my phone finally dies.  This incorporates much texting, calls, and playing with the settings.  

August 4th and 5th

August 4th
Last night was so much fun!  Tomomi, her husband, son, and daughter were a breath of fresh air.  She actually picked me up from my house and drove me to her place, with the kids giggling in the back.  Her husband and I spoke broken English about surfing, fishing, and food while drinking Kirin beer and Shochu mixed with hot water.  Her son, 7, was interested in exchanging Japanese and English words (especially names of fish and pokemon characters).  Their daughter, 2, is quite possibly the cutest kid I have ever seen!  For an omiyage, I brought a box of jelly candies that she immediately opened and began eating like it was a meal.  All night, I would catch her studying me and then she’d give a quick smile with her dimples and I would melt. 
Through dinner, I quickly had a full page of notes and translations.  The husband cooked a dish of yakiudon with bonito shavings.  The aroma, the presentation, and quite possibly the Shochu made it perfect.  They even accompanied the meal with French fries, or as the kids call them, “potach.”  I remembered my etiquette and got my food from the main dish with the opposite ends of my chopsticks, and they quickly stopped me to say that I’m now family.  A tear glistening in the corner of my eye couldn’t even do justice to the feeling I felt.  I now have a family in Japan (outside my actual family in Okinawa that I have yet to visit).  Less than a week in the country and they have accepted me as family in their home.  Later in the night, the Takehara family (my neighbors) came and visited with their 8 year old daughter and twin 5 year old daughters.  The kids ERUPTED!  Huge fighting beetles were brought out to play with, they were jumping on cushions, eating puffed shrimp crisps, throwing wads of paper at each other, and I was sitting there probably staring like an idiot.  I don’t know if you can imagine all this, but they went even crazier when Tomomi cut up mango and melon.  Mangos over here, they go for about $5 - $7 each since their growing season is so short, and the kids know it’s quite a treat.  Screaming and running to the table, the kids were allowed two pieces each (about the size of a sugar cube if not smaller) and they were satisfied.  That was a culture shock, I actually felt it.  I saw the kids eat their pieces and immediately go back to what they were doing.  No complaining about who got the bigger piece, asking for more, or anything.  Does this place really exist, am I dreaming?
Another couple glasses of Schochu, some talk about “The Endless Summer,” and we were all beat.  The neighbors had left and the kids were falling asleep fast.  Actually, their son was sleeping under the table and the daughter wanted to ride in the car when Tomomi brought me home.  Perfect, perfect night.  Bad, bad morning.
I woke up, not feeling the greatest, but managed to get to work early.  We had an English seminar with my JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) from all 9 of my schools.  The two girls presenting were absolutely full of energy and helped me forget about my hangover.  We played some games that are going to help students learn about fruit, as well as practice the phrases, “What are your favorite fruits?” and “My favorite fruit is…”  We went from 9-12 and luckily we have an hour lunch break at the BOE.  Hamaya and Masuyama had ordered a bento box for me which was the fish special.  The main dish was some part of the fish’s face (best tasting of the bunch), followed closely by some sort of small fish (maybe their local sea bream) that still had tiny edible bones, chunks/tentacles of squid, and tofu-miso soup.  Unme! (Kagoshima-ben for delicious).  After lunch, Moroki (the superintendent of education) took me to Osaki Junior High to watch the girls play volleyball.  He was going there to congratulate them for winning their 2nd championship in a row and wanted to introduce me.  In unison, the girls stopped what they were doing at the sight of Moroki, and lined up a chair for each of us.  They then finished their drill and came over for introductions, which sounded like a military drill team .  One girl would shout something and the others would shout back without hesitation.  I would actually love to get this on video to show all the punk high school kids back at SDUSD.
Nishitake brought me an envelope with my first week of pay.  Here’s what two of the items on the list said (and I swear I did not make this up): sarary and erectricity.  I thought ‘sarary’ was hilarious until I saw ‘erectricity’ and immediately thought of some low-budget ‘romance’ movie.  
I became a thousand-aire in 5 days, including erectricity.

Nothing special at the end of today.  I went to the Daiwa to get an omiyage for my office, some cool looking mushrooms, chicken, and of course a bottle of Lah Yu (J).  I hope you’re all enjoying this because I’m having a blast.  Lah to all.

August 5th
I fell asleep to some intense rain last night.  When I woke up, it was nice and humid again but luckily there were clear skies.  For a majority of today, I read ‘Japanese for Busy People.’  Much better than the CLAIR workbook that was given to us.  I surfed on the web for a bit, until it was lunch time.  Had a BBQ pork meal today, again accompanied by miso soup and some pickled veggies.  Tomorrow, Tomomi and I are going to go out for lunch, so I’m hoping I’ll find something rural (I think that’s what I’m trying to say).  She introduced me to some other big-wig guys in the building across from us.  I’m going to attend some sort of Chinese martial arts that takes place every Friday evening.  I was trying to hint that I was more interested in the archery area they have set up next to our parking lot.  Oh well!  Moroki-san told me that I have a meeting with all my kochos (principals) tomorrow.  I’m supposed to give an introduction, but I still don’t know how to say more than a few things.  This will be fun.
Saturday is ‘New JET Day Out,’ for the Kagoshima prefecture.  I’m either going to be going to the Kagoshima Aquarium (they have a captive whale shark), the Sakurajima Onsen and Park, or a place called ‘Round 1 - Amusement Center.’  Sound like it’ll be a great time, plus I’ll finally get to navigate the car over some long distance.
I’ve been amazed with my new phone!  Well, the whole typing process is insanely horrible (it’s meant for Kanji and Hiragana), but I haven’t had to charge this thing for 2 whole days and it still shows full battery.  I’ve made a couple local calls and have taken more than enough time to type out some e-mails.  If they would transplant the battery of this into an iPhone, I would be sold.  Well, I actually wish I had gone with the iPhone out here, but spending $400 for a phone and then $100 a month that doesn’t include internet just didn’t sound right.  One of my co-workers brought in an iPad today and said it cost him $700!  Is that how much they’re going for?!  Now I don’t feel so bad about my ‘base’ model phone. 
I went for a run this afternoon, for the first time in a long time.  Didn’t go far because I kept scaring school girls who weren’t ready for a westerner yelling ‘Sumimasen!’ behind them.  Haha, I had to laugh, it was one of the funniest things I’ve seen since being here.  
I was invited to go surfing with Tomomi and her husband this Saturday, but completely forgot about the JET event.  I think someone is going to bring their foam board for me tomorrow, but I have no clue how to get it home.  All I have is some bundling twine and they haven’t said how long the board is.  Hopefully they’ll be willing to go on Sunday instead.  I just want to riiiiide.
That’s it, Bob Dylan is putting me to sleep and I need rest after all that office-sitting today.    Adios!

August 2nd and 3rd

August 2nd
Rode my bike to work today and it turned out to be a fairly hectic day.  Shinmiya, Andrew, and I went to the AU store to get my cell phone.  The rates out here are unbelievable!  The phone was nearly 10,000 yen (almost $100) and the plan includes 25 minutes of talk time per month, 2 yen per text, and free e-mailing.  All that for 1,600 yen (about $16) a month.  I guess that means the Japanese people have made e-mailing their primary form of mobile phone communication.  It’s definitely different here.  Anyway, the phone is pretty cool.  It has a bar code scanner, a high quality camera/camcorder, a built in run/walk counter, and some other functions I have yet to understand.  If anything, though, the price was worth it just to see the reaction of my coworkers at the BOE.  Shinmiya was walking around pointing the RF transmitter at everyone else’s phone to send and receive contact information.  Everyone was saying, “Cool” and playing with the sliding face of the phone.  So now I have the section chief manager of Osaki Town’s number, section manager’s number, and various other high-ranking officials from the department.  I was actually surprised that he didn’t go to the mayor’s office, two doors down, and do the same thing with him.  We also went over all my car insurance, car tax, and internet information.  This is going to be an expensive month!  Thank goodness, though, I get my first paycheck on the 22nd.  Think I might have to go and invest in a few really important things: surfboard, wetsuit, and some fishing stuffs.  Luckily, Andrew and the previous JETs left a tent, BBQ, foldable chairs, and mostly everything else I need to go camping.  Besides that, all I did was learn how to write the vowels and Ks in Hiragana.  Really, this is what I’m getting paid to do right now.
Ate some ground beef, veggies, and a popsicle tonight.  Oh! My bento lunch box today: Beef stew, pickled veggie, noodle salad, rice, miso soup, and squid in a red squid sauce.  Don’t remember if I mentioned it yesterday, but I had “Tempura Soba” which was soba noodles with shrimp tempura for lunch.  I’m not exactly ‘missing’ the food from back home yet, but I’m sure that will happen once this initial “everything is awesome” phase fades away.  Alright, off to some Japanese lessons and bed!

August 3rd
Today was my last day with another fluent English speaker in the town.  Shinmiya, Hamaya, and I took Andrew to the airport.  We ate at a little restaurant in the airport that specialized in black pork.  I had the pork katsu with curry sauce and rice, and again…it was delicious!  We said our goodbyes to Andrew and I finally felt like the foreigner I had imagined.  On the way back to the BOE, Shinmiya and I played a sort of guessing game with plenty of hand gestures and laughs to see how much we could communicate with one another.  At the BOE, Ikoma (the section chief manager) said in broken English that I should teach them some more English words as well as learn some more Japanese.  Sounds like a good deal to me. 
One of the nice ladies, Tomomi, from the library had introduced herself to me when I first got to the BOE.  She speaks a good amount of English, so I feel a little more at ease when she’s around.  Today, she made arrangements for me to get a foam surfboard so I can go surfing with her husband on Friday morning (I think J).  She has also invited me over for dinner tonight (saying that she’s worried about my cooking) even though we’ve discussed the fact that I enjoy cooking.  I think this is one of those situations where the Japanese person is trying to hint at something they want (cooking for me) and repeatedly asking me until I figure out what’s really going on and finally accept.  I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. 
I got to drive my car home today!  The thrilling Toyota Corsa hatchback (previously known as the Toyota Tercel hatchback).  The AC blows warm air very fast, and the window roller always pops off to keep you on your feet.  I’m telling you, she’s a head turner.  Now to think of a name…this might take a while.  Please, if you have any ideas, feel free to post.  But now, I can finally get out to that surf shop I saw the other day and buy 1 or 9 boards, find a second-hand store to get a region-free dvd player, and of course buy 1 or 5 fishing poles. 
Anyway, I’ll have to get back to this after dinner or tomorrow.  I’m sticky and stinky.

Three More Days

July 30th
I was called this morning at about 8:20, by Shinmiya.  Who would have guessed that a Japanese speaker and an English speaker couldn’t understand each other on the phone?  Luckily, he passed the phone to Andrew who translated that they wanted to see if I could bike to school, proving I have memorized the route.  I agreed and hung up.  Went to the shed to find the tires of the bike deflated.  No big deal, there’s a bicycle pump.  Oh wait, the pump doesn’t fit the tube stem AND the connecting hose is so rotted, it doesn’t hold air.  Somehow, Shinmiya sensed this and had already headed over to the house to pick me up.  Tons of introductions today.  I’m pretty sure I met the “FBI” of Osaki Town as well as some other head figures.  They showed me a museum of the ancient artifacts that have been uncovered throughout the town.  Actually, it was all quite amazing.  Visited some more schools, met some funny kids who just came up and blabbed in my face (I’m guessing they were making fun of English) but it was funny.  Finished the work day by taking a drive to Miyazaki and seeing some awesome beaches.  I got to touch sand and salt water again!  There were also a few surfers riding the 1.5 – 2 foot waves.  Oh it was a wonderful day.  Now, I’m pressed for time, as my Enkai (welcoming party) is going to start in the next couple hours.  So, I’ll add more when the hangover goes away, and I’ve had some good food.  ;)

July 31st
Met a ton of people last night, including a bunch of Kagoshima JETs.  Perry, Rob, and Cara, John, and Laura.  The ceremony was great, as there was a ton of a food, a beer garden, and they welcomed me to the city by standing up and yelling “Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!”  The other JETs and I went to Kanoya and had a few beers at some pub that was decorated in UK rugby paraphernalia.  The owner was awesome, playing vinyl records and displaying the case on the wall so everyone knew what the music was.  We then headed down the street to a karaoke bar that was about $30 to get in, but you got to drink as much as you wanted.  The drinks weren’t that strong, but they made them with really good stuff (Dewars, Kahlua, Grey Goose, etc.).  We called a Daiko, which is a taxi service that brings two drivers, one to drive you in your car, and the other to follow, so that you don’t have to worry about leaving your car overnight.  Woke up this morning, having had better days, but we were all alive.  John drove me home, I slept for a bit, and then headed out to explore the town a bit.  I got lost, but finally found one of my schools and made my way back.  Bought some Pocari Sweat, Crunky, and a cool little ball of rice that was wrapped in seaweed and had some unknown type of meat in it.  Now I’m just waiting for Andrew and the other ALTs, to see if we are going camping on a beach tonight.

August 1st
Ended up going out with Andrew and a huge group of other ALTs.  It was in celebration of Gabe's birthday, but I got to meet Colin, the KJET President, Ruth, Daniel, Neil, and some others whose names escape me.  We arrived at the beach that had a view of Japan’s 2nd largest rocket facility, and there were already a couple people getting the BBQ ready. 
Camping on the beach...

We ate different meats, veggies, and had some beer.  Started a campfire with driftwood that washed on shore, along with tons of trash.  As beautiful as the beach is, there is always trash around.  It’s not left from beach-goers, but brought in with the tide from Korea and China (or so I’m told).  Some people lit fireworks, we went swimming in the ocean, got a few jellyfish stings, and found that there were bioluminescent organisms in the water (reminded me of midnight kayak trips in Mission Bay).  I can’t even describe how amazing the night was.  The sky was bright from the moon, the air was warm, the water was probably in the mid-70s, and the backdrop of the mountains and ocean was unreal.  I have a feeling I’ll be going there on a regular basis after I buy a fishing pole.   At night, I fell asleep on the beach in a tent with a futon as my sleeping bag. 
This was my view, waking up in the tent that morning.  That guy on the right was fishing...I love Japan.

We got a few bursts of rain throughout the night and morning, but it has turned out to be a nice day.  Actually, it’s just barely 1pm, but I feel like I’ve already had a full day. 
I finally motivated myself to get out of the house after a nice nap.  Took the bike to find the Daiwa (supermarket and 100 yen store) and of course passed it by a few miles.  On the way home I saw the sign for it and stopped to get some food and home necessities.   It was so much fun looking up and down the aisles, but I’m still getting weird looks because the people don’t know who I am yet.  Supposedly, after the school year starts again, the families will begin to recognize me and practice their English whenever they have the chance.  Rode home, made some spaghetti, and fell asleep listening to my Japanese language instruction. 

Next Three Days

July 27th
Again, we had orientation all day. 

At night, Albert David, Brian, Curtis, and I go to meet one of Curtis’ friends in Rappongi.  She takes us to a cool little restaurant where we sit in our own private room and enjoy small plates of beef tongue, chicken gizzard, seafood salad, and a few beers. 
Chicken Gizzards
Brian and Curtis in their usual poses

Beef tongue!!!

Everything was ‘Oishi’ – sp?- (delicious).  She leaves us to explore the town and we head to Shinjuku, to check out a huge video game arcade.  Super John, Danny, and Adam, if you’re reading this, you need to Google a game called Border Break 1.5.  This game was insanely awesome looking, and the line for it showed how popular it is.

Coffee vending machines, men dressed in business attire, and rows of video games packed this small place.   Almost reminds me of a Nickel Nickel arcade, but with high definition screens and awesome gameplay.
July 28th
Our last morning in Shinjuku, Albert David, Curtis, and I eat breakfast and leave at different times with our prefectures.  We take a bus to the Hanada Airport and take off at 11:25am.  There was a warning before we left of bad weather, possibly forcing us to land in Miyazaki or Fukuoka, but luckily all went well.  One unfortunate flight was cancelled due to volcanic gasses.  I’ve never heard that excuse for a cancelled flight before.  Arriving at the Kagoshima Airport, we are welcomed by current JETs as well as our supervisor, predecessor, and others.  I am lucky and have my supervisor Shinmiya, one of his coworkers at the Board of Education (BOE), Hamaya, and my predecessor Andrew waiting for me with a huge sign reading ‘Nicholas Stavroulakis, Welcome to Osaki Town.’  Oh thank goodness, they have my awesome new passport photo (no smile, no teeth showing) of me looking like some sort of thug, enlarged by 1,000 on the sign.  I couldn’t help but laugh a little at what they imagined from that picture.  Andrew answered a bunch of questions I had, we drove through green forest-y, jungle-y, farm-y terrain.    We stopped for lunch at a little ramen shop on the side of the road and I can’t begin to describe how great it was.  When I heard ‘Ramen,’ all I could think of is the horrible, salty, crap Top Ramen in the states.  Now, I’m a Ramen addict.  They even ordered some hand-made gyoza to accompany the already delicious lunch. 
After lunch, I was taken to my new house.  Did you hear that?  I didn’t say room, apartment, condo, or even town-house.  I have a HOUSE!  A HOME! 

Kitchen, living room, tatami-floored room for storing my clothes, tatami-floored bedroom, toilet room, shower, washer, dryer, and even a little shed outside for storing the bike, tent, and barbeque that is being left to me. 

There’s even one of those small front rooms, where you take off and store your shoes before actually walking into the house.  The place is huge!

Roommate?  Nope, just me.  I think I have just become the luckiest JET ever.

I am told by Andrew that there have been 10 other JETs that have lived here since 1995, and none of them staying more than 3 years.  Andrew has been here the last 2 years.  Anyway, when we arrive, co-workers from my BOE are busily scrubbing, sweeping, and vacuuming my entire place.  It’s spotless!  The hardwood floors are gleaming and they have purchased new tatami mats for both rooms that require them.  Really, can this get any better?  You betcha!  Andrew tells me that all the JETs who have lived here have ‘Paid it forward,’ leaving something for each new JET that comes to live here.  I’m setup with a TV/VHS combo, tables, drawers, dishes, pots/pans, laundry detergent, teaching materials, two air conditioners, heaters for the winter, and a cabinet stocked full of various alcohol.  So who’s visiting first?  No really, I have room.
So I see the house, we drop off my luggage, and head to the BOE for me to meet all the bigwigs of the place.  I even meet the Mayor of Osaki Town.  Smiles, bows, and handshakes later I find myself at my own desk at the BOE.  Andrew, Hamaya, and my female co-worker (Nishitake),  take me to the store to buy some groceries.  Chicken, salmon, locally raised Osaki pork, veggies, fruit, juice, bread, and world famous natto are all in the bag.  We unload, the new tatami mats are brought in, and they look over some things that need to be replaced/fixed.  I find out there are 27 different categories for sorting trash here.  Osaki town is supposedly the most environmentally friendly town in all of Kagoshima (perhaps all of Japan).  I won’t get into it too much, but just to throw away a bottle top, saran wrap, and a can has taken me more than an hour.  I still don’t even know what to do with food scraps.
Everyone leaves me to unpack and I eat a salmon and rice dinner for my first night in Japan.  I sleep like a baby, until I am woken up at 6 am by the local wakeup call.  Speakers are located right near my home, so I have no use for an alarm clock anymore.
July 29, 2010
Today was wonderful!  I spent my first whole day working for the BOE.  It was raining all last night with intermittent pouring.  Before Shinmaya (my supervisor) picked me up, we were lucky enough to get some clear weather.  Mind you, although it’s raining, it’s still probably in the mid-80’s.  We got a lot of paperwork done, including my contract (Yay!  I’ve got a real job!), alien registration, bank account, water bill, and a piece about me that they will publish in the newspaper.  The banking process took quite a while, but the nice young lady helping me out wouldn’t let the smile fade from her face (everyone else keeps the same smile all day, it’s amazing!).  She even asked if I could help her with her English, I have a feeling this is going to be a common thing. 
Andrew (my predecessor) took me around to all the schools, which was, to say the least, perfect!  Of course, it was confusing for me and I know I’ll get lost when trying to find them on my own, but hope is in the air that I’ll get it down. I was able to meet some of the students, since they are still in clubs during the summer vacation and from what I can tell, this is going to be quite fun.   When meeting most of the staff, they would bring everyone in for introductions and in one case, a female staff member made an announcement over the loud speaker for everyone to come meet me. 
For lunch, I ate my first bento that consisted of a ground beef patty, chicken, fish, potato salad, spaghetti with sauce, coleslaw, pickled vegetables, and miso soup.  Masuyama, one of the men in the BOE, bought me my first ‘Fire Black Special’ coffee.  Although you may know me for not drinking coffee, this was particularly good (considering it was ice cold and I was tired).  The men in my BOE also made my official name tag.  It was hilarious because all I could hear them repeating over and over was, ‘Ni-ku-ra-su Sta-bu-ro-ra-ki-su’.  This was even more fun when getting my alien registration card, because they thought Stavroulakis was my first name.  Bah!  What a long day.  I came home, began making some food and cleaning the kitchen a bit. 
My neighbors, also coworkers at the BOE, brought their children over to introduce themselves.  I could only get a ‘Konnichiwa, Watashi wa Ni-ku desu,' and 'Watashi wa Nihongo ga scochii (sp?) wakarimasu,’ out, but the kids were great with introducing themselves in English.  I cannot wait until I can start to speak whole sentences and understand most of what’s going on.  Honestly, it hit me today that I’m excited to learn a new language!  Anyway, tomorrow is my big day!  Work til 4:30, and then a Going Away/Greeting Ceremony for Andrew and myself.  I get to give a quick speech about who I am and then it’s as much food and drink as you could possibly want.  Did I mention that Shochu (a liqueur) originates from Kagoshima (a different form of araki) ?  They are also well known for their black pork and black beef.  I think I’m in for a treat tomorrow.  Tonight, cubed chicken, onion, shiitake mushroom, and rice for dinner.  Maybe an Asahi too J
Okay, time for me to keep cleaning and get my speech ready.  Love you all!

First Two Days

July 29, 2010
I’m starting my journal today, but hopefully I can recall most of what has happened since I left.
July 24th
What a series of emotions.  For the previous week, I had woken up thinking, ‘I have _ many days before I leave.  There’s plenty of time to be with my family and friends before I go.’  Somehow the days went by faster than usual.  For me, when I know I’m leaving my family for a long time, I seem to tell myself that it’s not really happening.  Whether it’s helping me to cope with the final days I have or what, this is what I was doing.  I started packing, seeing all these things (really just things like rocks, pictures, just watching my family as they go about their daily business) and began to realize the reality of what was to come.  Somehow I held back the tears until the airport.  I was so lucky to have my mom, stepdad, and sister there to see me off.  I didn’t want them to go.  Along with my grandparents, these people are my life.  So now, how the hell am I going to cope without them for nearly a year?  I watch as they leave, not wanting to take my eyes off them, but also not wanting to show my fellow JETs what a wuss I am.  There they go, all my joy and inspiration, my family. 

Next to me, my new buddy Albert David, who turns out to be one of my roommates in Tokyo.  We go with Ruby Jou, to Pink’s Hotdogs in the airport.  I have my first and last Pink’s chili dog for a while.  I am also lucky enough to meet Jeff, who I saw was having the same emotional trouble that I had earlier.  His family has stayed with him until the security checkpoint and he continues to wave, cry, and try to push forward in the line.  I introduce myself and it seems to help him out knowing that I had gone through the motions not too long ago.  Everyone goes through the security and everything still feels like I’m only going on vacation for a week or so.
Well, from here to the Narita airport is not too interesting.  We each have a video screen and remote control at our seats, allowing us to play video games, watch movies, listen to music, read facts about Japan, etc.  I watched, I think, 4 movies.  I can’t even remember what they were because I was tired, excited, and everything else at the same time.  We had two meals, the first being a choice of beef or fish, and I opted for the beef.  The second meal was a pasta with squid balls and some veggies, salad, and bread.  Both were tasty and I’d rate them 5 times better than any other airline food I’ve had.  This may have technically been my first bento, but I wasn’t yet in Japan, so I didn’t count it.  I had a drink or three, stretched out a few times, and that was the extent of my flight. 
We followed the sun, leaving at 1:40pm on July 24th, and landing at the Narita Airport at 4:30pm on July 25th.  We all got off the plane, found our luggage, and then proceeded to walk out the airport into a sauna.  I have never felt humidity like that in Tokyo.  I dripped and dripped and dripped alongside the other hundred or so JETs waiting to board our buses. 

We finally left around 6:00pm and arrived in Shinjuku at the Keio Plaza Hotel.  I got the room key and headed for a desperately needed shower.  I was soon followed by Albert David, to my surprise, and his buddy Curtis.  We dressed and headed a couple blocks away to a nice little restaurant with their friend Brian.  I had a katsu dinner (a lot like the chicken katsu from L&L, which I saw in Tokyo, only made with pork) that was accompanied by a bowl of miso soup and a beer.  We toasted our first Kompai and ate until we all felt sleepy.

Early night, we were in bed by 9:30.  

July 26th (remember, we skipped a day)
We all wake up at 1:00am thanks to our trusty alarm clock (this alarm clock is also our musical entertainment for the next couple days, reminding me of the Peyton Manning locker room skit on SNL).  Curtis thinks it’s time to get dressed and starts heading toward the closet when we tell him that no, we don’t know how to use this alarm and it's 1am.  Thank goodness, because we were all extremely jet-lagged.  Orientation ALL DAY LONG.  Introductions, speeches, and seminars until late that night.  We are provided with a dinner at the hotel and an open bar of beer, whiskey, and sodas.  Everyone toasts a big Kompai and shares their experiences of the orientation so far.  Albert David and I decide to leave the crowd of JETs going to karaoke, and explore Shibuya instead.  Trying to figure out the rail/subway system is quite the task.  Luckily, Albert David understands some Japanese and Kanji to get us through the ordeal.  Shibuya is the home of those crazy pedestrian walks you may have seen on the Travel Channel or in pictures of Tokyo. 

We visit the Tower Records shop, walk around the small streets, and try to take in all the lights and excitement of this city.  We head back to the JR (Japan Railway) and find ourselves in Shinjuku again.  Oh what luck for me to follow a guy dressed in the same shirt at Albert David and get lost at the station.  Luckily, with the help of a building landmark and a quick ‘Sumimasen’ to a street cleaner guy, I find myself back at the hotel, and in the room.  I was quick to fall asleep.  Sorry for being so short on this, but I think I was too tired to remember much more.


I have been here over a month and things have definitely changed since arrival.  I thought I'd give this post, before I paste my journal, just to give you a heads up.  My first weeks were a bit emotional to say the least.  I actually handled them well, keeping my time occupied by newly made friends and organized events.  Though,  I definitely had the 'What the hell did I do?' panic attacks.  They still come from time to time as you may see, but I am not as irrational, and have become a master at calming myself.

Already, I have traveled to the southernmost tip of Kyushu, camped in Miyazaki, and taken the ferry by an extremely active volcano.  These, however, are nothing in comparison to the little stories that have accumulated during my nights with Shibushi, Kanoya, Miyazaki, and countless other JETs and new-found friends.  Each day, and I'm being absolutely serious, I stop to think to myself how lucky I am.  There are hundreds, maybe thousands of us JETs, and we all have the common bond of having people back home telling us how lucky we are.  We even tell each other quite often, how lucky we have become to experience this opportunity.  But for me, I don't wholly understand the degree of insane pleasure I have found, until I find my 'spot.'  In the states, my 'spot' was in the ocean, on a surfboard with no one within 30 feet of me.  It was also flying down the highways on my motorcycle at 1am.  In fact, I even found my 'spot' in the mountains, underwater in a swimming pool, and even wrangling in Wyoming.

The difference, though, is that all the places I had a 'spot,' I also had the knowledge that there was someone readily nearby (family or friend) to help me in a pinch.  In Japan, my spots have become eerily similar, but with a little twist.  I have found one of my spots at a cool little beach in Miyazaki, on a surfboard in the ocean, with not a single soul around.  I have also found it at my home, with a neighbor who speaks no English, but insists on waving to me and literally directing me out of my driveway so I don't hit the hedges.  Also, my office setting has given me numerous places to feel comfortable, with broken English everywhere, and constant gifts of omiyage that let me know I was thought about while someone was on their weekend holiday.  Most of all, my new friends have given me such great strength to function that I would probably have gone insane by now if it wasn't for them.

Instead of listing these people and the things they have done, I will post these entries and you may 'meet' them for yourself.  I honestly plan on keeping this blog active throughout my stay here.  It is the best attempt I have ever had at maintaining a personal journal, ever.  Please comment and share your own thoughts with me.  I have enjoyed writing this and can only hope you will experience 'my Japan.'