Right now at this very moment as I am typing these first words to this blog I have been in Japan for a full 24 hours. I know what you are all asking: How do you feel? What is your first impression? What’s it like? Sooooooooo????
I am a fish out of water.
And I don’t mean that in a negative way; I am just overwhelmed. My head is spinning and…well…I just don’t know yet. So let me back up a bit and I’ll try to explain my experience thus far as well as I can.
I read this book not too long ago in which the main narrator was a young boy with autism. One of the main traits of people with autism is that they have difficulty understanding their emotions. This particular character described his feelings of worry, sadness or just melancholy as having “heavy boots”. I think that is a perfect way to explain my feelings during my last days in Reno and this term flashed in my head as I thought of what was to come. Not having a home, Rufus being gone, selling my car, living out of my suitcase, the impending task of saying good-bye to loved ones (again), the fact that I was moving to a foreign country….all of it gave me heavy boots and the fact that I should have been excited and ready to leap into this journey made my boots even heavier because I wasn’t feeling excited; just riddled with anxiety and uncertainty. To make things worse, my flight out of Reno was delayed and I missed my connecting flight to Tokyo only to be told I would have to be on standby and possibly wouldn’t be able to fly out until the next day. As I sat waiting, I couldn’t help to think that this was a terrible way to start my journey and that maybe it was a sign…Luckily for me I was able to get on the flight AND was upgraded to first class which was a total first for me and my “sign” completely did a 180. Yay.
Arriving in Japan was a cinch; upon arrival to Narita Airport I was led to a small room off to the side and it took only 5 minutes to get my alien registration card, another 10 minutes to grab my luggage, another 10 to get through customs and BAM! just like that I was in Japan! I was greeted right outside of customs by Marty, our business manager, and thus began my first true glimpse of my new home.
I have to admit, and unfortunately it may be disappointing, but I can’t really explain the journey from the airport to my hotel. It took about 2.5 hours and Marty pointed out many things to me, but all I can really recall is that downtown Tokyo is huge and we passed Tokyo Disney. After coming off a 10.5 hour flight with the stressful 2 hour delay, I don’t think I had the ability to be totally observant….Also, it was about 3 in the morning for me, I had taken a full Xanex on the plane and everything still seemed so surreal…like a dream and I was just floating on top of it all. Marty helped checked me into my hotel which is in a really cool part of “suburban” Tokyo called Musashisakai. At about 8pm when I arrived it seemed that the area was really hoppin’ and my plan was to get my luggage to my room, do a quick makeover and go explore. However, the next thing I remember is waking up about 12:30am sprawled out on my bed with my clothes still on as well as all the lights in my room….apparently I was more tired than I thought!
I woke early ( about 5am) and just hung out with my thoughts for a couple of hours; trying to wrap my head around the fact that I now live in Japan. The hotel provided a complimentary breakfast via a voucher for a cute café (Starbucks knock-off) right next door. My breakfast consisted of a ham sandwich with a bit of potato salad and a coffee As I ate I tried I noticed how quiet the café was; people reading, quietly eating and one lady was even sleeping ( head totally sagging to the side and she had her sunglasses on). I still had an hour before being picked up thus my first adventure of finding an ATM machine began! I remembered reading that most ATM’s were closed on Sundays, but luckily the third one I found was able to dispense some money for me (all in 10,000 bills!)
Toshi came to pick me up right on time and he took me to my new school. I’ll have to write more about my school later because, again, my observational skills were still on hiatus. Another teacher met us in Toshi’s office and we chatted for a few minutes about the places we were going to look at. Suzanne was looking for something larger than I needed so we had a few options for both of us. The first place we looked at was not on the list, but the agent we were working with wanted to show it to us anyway. It was super cute, right above a French bakery and only three blocks from school. It was tiny…but I figured that was going to be the case. It may not have been perfect, but with the location; I couldn’t pass it up. The other places we looked at were much nicer inside; one was a standalone house with sliding paper doors and windows, another was totally open to pets and even had a dog washing station built in the bathroom, another even had a view of Mt. Fuji!!! As appealing as all of these were, the downside was they are all pretty far out and I just felt that I needed to be close to the school and other teachers…for now anyway. Toshi shared his concern about my choice only because a big holiday is coming up and he wasn’t sure if it could be cleaned and ready for me in a timely manner. I might have to stay in the hotel for another 2 weeks! Arghh…oh well, what’s two weeks in the grand scheme of things, right?
Toshi dropped me off at my hotel and I was pretty much on my own for lunch. Unfortunately, I started to have heavy boots again. I had been here less than 24 hours, was told I’d be well taken care of yet here I am in the middle of a neighborhood I can’t even pronounce and I’m left to my own devices. I can’t lie; my frustration was building. I hadn’t heard from anyone by 4pm so I called Marty and left a message regarding the plans for the evening. He texted me an hour later to say he’d be there to pick me up to take me to dinner at the headmaster’s house. It was something.
At Ed’s house (the headmaster), I met the other two new people who were starting at ASIJ, plus some other administrators I’d be working with. I loved hearing everyone’s stories of travel and experience, but it seemed so out of my league. These people were experienced…they’d seen more of the world then I could ever imagine….”When I lived in Delhi…When I lived in Prague…When I lived in Paris…When I lived in China…When I lived in Quatar…Uh When I lived in South Park…”. What I need to remember is that everyone started somewhere and my somewhere is here and now. I’ll have my experiences soon enough and I can’t express how thoroughly grateful I am that I traveled through Europe this summer (thanks, Mom!) because at least I could contribute somewhat. I even met another teacher who backpacked through Michoacán as I had and we bonded instantly! The rest of dinner went well and I have a good feeling that all is going to work out and be an experience I can’t and won’t regret.
So there’s my first 24 hours…a bit long-winded and boring, but that’s it. I’ll have much more interesting stories to share in the days to come! …and pictures too…