July 29, 2007

I'm in Tokyo!!!!

Well, I’m here. I have arrived in Tokyo. It was a long journey, but I’m so happy and excited to be here. I couldn’t stop smiling even though I was about to fall asleep standing up.

So here’s how it went down…. I went to the pre-departure orientation at 3:30 and got my ticket, passport, and visa and basically a review of everything we’ve heard before. We finished at 6:30 with a reception where the consul and deputy consul toasted our departure. Kanpai! I left at about 7:30 and met up with friends at Fernbank and said goodbye to them (that was Matt and John who are moving to London). Then I went to a restaurant with my friends Buck, CJ, and Lindsay where we ate and had a cocktail and said our goodbyes. I got home around midnight and got back to packing as I wasn’t yet finished. Around 1:30 or 2 is when I finished my actual packing for Japan and then I tried to finish as much as I could in my room so that things will be easier for my parents when they eventually move. I finished that around 2:45 and I think I was asleep by 3. I got up at 6:30 and ran around making sure I had all the last minute things I needed to get done done. I showed my parents what they can sell or get rid of and what I’d like them to keep and store for me. My dad kept asking which piles and boxes were which… so I might come back from Japan to a bunch of stuff that I don’t like. We left around 7:40 I think and stopped at McDonalds which screwed up my order… steak and onion biscuit instead of my sausage, egg, and cheese… oh and the orange juice was completely watered down. It barely tasted like orange and was semi-translucent. Anyway, arrived at Hartsfield around 8:30 unloaded and said bye to my dad.

Then began the cycle of waiting and traveling that would last for the next 24 hours. It took about 45 minutes at the ticketing counter as there were 80 JETs all leaving at about the same time and all trying to check in. Next, it took about an hour to get through the security line. That totally sucked. Then another 50 minutes of waiting at the gate. We boarded the plane a little bit late and were going to leave on time until they realized they had weight issues due to a full flight. They needed 4 people to leave the plane. 3 finally volunteered after they guaranteed them a same day flight to Minneapolis plus 2 free flights within the year. Well, all of that plus having to then find their luggage to remove it took about an hour, I believe. Finally, we lift off and it’s about a 2 hour and 15 minute flight. We land and actually get right to the gate. From touchdown to disembarking was about 10 minutes, maybe.

It was a quick walk to the next gate where the plane has yet to start boarding even though it should have started 15 minutes earlier. So I grabbed some subway with my friend Alana and we boarded about 20 minutes late. Then we take off on our 12 hour flight to Japan. Incredibly, long. My longest flight to date. I don’t recommend it. Not to mention the time change. Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of Atlanta. So it’s almost midnight here whereas it’s 10:45 AM there. Crazy. Then comes the bus ride from Narita to Tokyo. I didn’t realize how far it was. It was about an hour and 45 minute bus ride. I can’t remember the exact time that we got to the hotel. I’m thinking it was about 8 or 9 which made it, home to hotel, a 24 trip.

But like I said, I am soooo excited to be here. I showered and went out to eat with my two roommates. We ran into a larger group of JETs and about 11 of us sat down at a Japanese pub. We had to take off our shoes to go inside and we sat around a long table. Luckily a Japanese woman helped us order and everyone agreed to just share all the food and split the check evenly at the end. I had some lettuce with a sauce, some carrot and potato thing, some noodle and red sauce thing. Then we had some beef stick thing, I think. And a tomato and pesto pizza, some sashimi – I tried the octopus, tuna, mackerel (I think) and one other. I ate some squid as well and some pork on a stick with this really good sauce. I decided note to drink any alcohol as I am already struggling with the jetlag and feel pretty cloudy. But at the pub you can actually pay for an hour of all you can drink beer for about 10 or 20 dollars, is what some people were saying. Now, I’m back in the room and my hotel mates are laying down to sleep so I better sign off.

More to come soon, I’m sure.

July 26, 2007

Closer and closer

Not too much packing was done today. I went to lunch with Shari, Alison, and Courtney and we said goodbyes. I'm really going to miss them. I guess I haven't been letting myself think about not seeing my friends for a year or more and I haven't been getting sad until recently. I think it's starting to hit home.

I managed to get my international driver's license and finally got a digital camera. I ended up paying a bit more than I had intended for an Olympus Stylus 770SW. I got it because of it's indestructibility. It's shockproof (5ft), waterproof (33ft), crushproof (220lb), and freezeproof (14°F). Apparently, the image quality is not the best, but as I'm not a professional photographer, this doesn't concern me too much. I'm excited about the underwater pictures, though.

I also played tennis with my sister Caitlin and then I came home and have been figuring out the digital camera. I HAVE to finish my packing tomorrow. NO excuses. I have sooooo much to do even aside from packing.

July 25, 2007

PHEW!!!!! Crisis averted

Well I get to go after all. I got a message this morning that said that I'm all clear to go. I was so happy I ran around the house a bit before I calmed down and got back to preparing.

There's a lot to do. I looked at my list and realized I hadn't completed anything on it. And this is my majorly important to do list. So I called my financial institution today and got a lot of money matters worked out.

I didn't do much else today though, preparation-wise. I went to White Water with 3 friends and we just relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. It's kind of interesting. 2 of them are actually about to embark on a big move as well. Moving to London for a not quite determined number of years. John is going to Cambridge for some post-doc work while his significant other Matt has found a job in London. They are actually moving within the next couple of weeks. So lots of goodbyes.

Anyway, needless to say. I am much relieved to know definitively that I am indeed going and get back to the normal level of stress associated with moving a few thousand miles across a continent and an ocean.

Oh and with Japanese tradition when you move and meet people in a new place, you are supposed to give a gift, called omiyage. A lot of people suggest for us JETs to bring things that represent our culture a bit. And they say edible is most desirable. Email me or comment me with any ideas about things I might that would be somewhat small, would travel well, and would represent Georgia or southern culture. Yeah, I know, it's last minute, but that's me.

July 21, 2007

1 WEEK!!!

Well, I know I haven't posted in a while. I'm sorry. As I'm sure you can imagine things have been pretty hectic. I started a couple posts but ended up getting interrupted and never finished them. Thanks for the comments and emails that people have sent me. I'm sorry about not getting back. I will when I get a chance, which may not come soon.

Unfortunately, part of what I'm running around doing is outside what you would expect with moving halfway around the world. One was a little bump that I'm not letting myself worry about though it won't be resolved completely until about September. I don't want to go into details on that. The other thing is a bit more recent. I've had a heart condition from birth. It's always required monitoring but has never required any restrictions. Well basically, I made the JET folks aware of it as part of the application is a medical background. They don't want to send someone over who will drop dead or not be able to receive the medical treatment they need. That's not the case for me, but apparently hearing "heart condition" and possible follow-up in Japan, freaked out some officials in Tokyo. I guess that's understandable. But really, the worst case scenario is that I would need surgery in a few years. Get that... a few YEARS. And most likely it would be a procedure that could be done laproscopically for which I could be an outpatient. In and out in the same day. So they wanted a note from my doctor that said I would be able to travel to Japan. I got one and it wasn't enough. They needed to know specifics and if they thought I would not be able to receive treatment if needed, that I would not be allowed to go to Japan.

So I'm freaking out now. I just faxed a bunch of stuff to the consulate and I'm crossing my fingers that it's adequate to allay any fears the JET Programme has about my going to Japan. I had the doctor specify that I could go for a year and get the follow up after I come back and that only if I stay for more than a year that I would need a check up in Japan that would be part of any normal cardiac check up. I even wrote my own personal letter detailing my heart history and my active lifestyle (soccer, running, the half-marathon I did) and how I've never had restrictions etc. I also included links to a hospital in Kagawa, my hopefully soon-to-be home prefecture, that has a cardiology department and cardiovascular surgery capabilities. This would go above and beyond my needs in Japan with regards to a simple check up. I also included a link to an article about the type of test that would need to be done during my check up, an echocardiogram. Which is a typical test for cardiology. I think the JET coordinator at the consulate had already left for the weekend, so I now have to wait until Monday to even hear from her, let alone her getting it faxed to Tokyo and hearing back from them. It might not be until Wednesday and I'm supposed to leave on Saturday!!!!!!!

I'm trying to stay positive and hopeful. But I have this feeling of dread that keeps coming back. And I'm supposed to be celebrating my departure with friends in the next days and it's like, am I really going anywhere? And after next Friday, if I don't get to go, I will no longer have an income and I will be officially unemployed, with no real backup plan. I mean I just checked out the teachgeorgia site and there are French positions available in Georgia, but I gave up my job at Cherokee. I don't really want to work at another high school. I wouldn't have given up my position at CHS if I hadn't felt strongly about being on this JET Programme. It's like... hey, you're going to Japan...... psych! Gotcha. Except it's not really funny.

So hope, pray, sing, cross your fingers, do interpretive dances... whatever it is you do so that I can get to Japan!

July 16, 2007

2 weeks

Ok... so I'm flipping out just a bit. 2 weeks left and I haven't even started packing. I'm still running around doing errands that I should have done a month ago, like get a suit which is apparently essential to working in Japan and my to do list is about a mile long and growing...

and I have nothing better to do than read about JETs currently in Japan and watch silly youtube videos. But I think I have figured out how I'm going to teach elementary kids.

July 11, 2007