The internet is not being cooperative.

I have a post ready to review the past several days of training but the wifi part of this internet cafe is not letting me connect. I'm going to try again in the morning (there are several other wifi-related things I want to do as well!) but until then, enjoy this...
Yeah. I don't have a lot of time, so that's all you get!

Destination: Akihabara

I spent a majority of my day Sunday exploring the side streets of Akihabara. While many tourists most likely walk along the main thoroughfare and browse the shops nearest Akihabara Station, I knew that the entire area was worth some detailed viewing.
That’s not to say the main drag is not a good indication of what’s found in the alleys and narrow paths between the buildings. The entrances to several pachinko and other amusement centers can be found, as well as a few large electronics stores. Walking from Akihabara Station to Suehirocho Station along the busy sidewalks allows the brief visitor time to see several anime shops and even the Japanese version of an adult novelty shop. There are a few restaurants and many of the most popular shops will be found there. The best bargains of all the large appliance stores seemed to be at SofMap, though I didn’t price many things and I know some of the stores excelled in their selection and/or prices of certain items. One of the “Duty Free” locations across the main street from the station had the best prices on pants presses, with one model being only about 5000 yen (the equivalent of $50USD).
But walking on the back streets of Akihabara allows you to see the area as the Japanese do. This is where many of the maids stand, enticing passersby to visit their maid café. One wanted to lead me there to ensure I made it; I had to tell her (thanks to my translating app) that I would visit later. I will go into maid cafes later, so please don’t think I’m dodging the subject – it’s just something I want to put together in a full post.
I found many electronics, anime, and toy stores in the alleys, many of which had some specialty. Some stores had really low prices on computer equipment, while others focused on home gadgets. Some anime stores had figurines, while others were exclusively bookstores. Japanese toys are more than just amusements for children, as several stores had capsule machines carrying figurines of popular comic characters, scantily-clad women, or even different types of trucks. A few had stickers or trading cards. Collectible Card Gaming seems to be quite popular in the area as well, as a couple stores had large inventories of cards for role-playing games.
While Akihabara definitely caters to the “geeks” of Japan, it’s an amazing place to wander around and there are several stores hidden in the alleys and up the stairs of the buildings. I am not finished exploring Akihabara by any means, and I will be looking deeper into several of the places I talked about above. If you’re interested in anything specific about Akihabara, please leave a comment below so I can be sure to address it sooner! And don’t worry; the maid café experience will come soon.

Location: The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

When you think of Japanese art, you probably think of scrolls, religious carvings and figures, and nature scenes on rice paper. Modern Japanese art can be some of this, but there is so much more to the works produced in the past century.
 Ryusei Kishida: Reiko, Five Years Old
While this has a fairly traditional style, it still deviates a bit from the “natural” scenes westerners associate with Japanese art.
Kanji Yo: Embracement under the Light
Some of the works are fairly erotic by western standards. This beautiful sculpture depicts two naked figures in a passionate embrace beneath a lamp. Many of the works on display from the museum’s collection went with the special exhibition’s theme of nudity.
Iwami Furusawa: Pluto’s Daughter
While the theme of nudity is seen again here, this work is both disturbing and attractive at the same time. Unfortunately I was unable to read the Japanese text explaining the picture, but the use of the frightening hands and feet and the nearly out-of-place wolf’s head with big eyes brings a lot of fear into this viewer’s mind.
The museum itself is spread out well among several floors, with the collection on display laid out by time period. It is easy to see the change from more traditional artistic methods, including several nature scenes on screens and scrolls, to the more modern emotion-inducing works similar to Pluto’s Daughter and the several sculptures seen towards the end of the of the path. The museum lays out a very clear path that brings you from room to room, and time period to time period, very clearly. Unlike several western museums which are a maze of rooms, great care was taken in determining a logical sequence to ensure a good traffic flow and to be sure the viewers don’t miss any of the beautiful pieces on display.
An English guide was given to me when asked; though once I entered the museum I saw several different language pamphlets available for the taking. Each time period in the exhibit had an introduction printed on the wall which was provided in both Japanese and English texts, and English text about each time period (or main exhibit) is included in the guide. As the featured exhibits change, I assume the collection on display changes as well, which means visiting multiple times during the year can bring new and interesting pieces of art.
The museum is located directly across from the Imperial Gardens East, and can be reached by crossing two bridges – one over the “moat” around the gardens, and the other over the busy adjacent street. Also in the area is the science museum and the National Archives; several other attractions can be found in the general area. Admission for the main building and Crafts Gallery (which I didn’t take time to see, but I will see when I eventually revisit the museum) was only 420 yen. 

Please note that I mean no harm in posting images of artwork shown at the museum; I simply intend to give readers a small indication of the many wonderful works that are on display. These images are for no purpose other than to inform my readers and may not be copied or reproduced for any reason at all.

My First (Practice) Adult Lesson

This post was written Tuesday evening.
I taught my first adult lesson today. Unlike the kids lesson, where I felt unprepared and I feel like I bumbled through many parts of it, I remembered most of the structure and points to note. I think I hit every step needed, and there were only a few points the trainer brought up I needed to address. I still need to relax! I’m not sure how I can address this problem, because no matter how many times I tell myself to relax, I still get anxious and it’s debilitating at times. The rest of my problems were minor, but I’ll certainly make a point to work on them.

We also practiced interviewing prospective students today, and while I did much better the second time through, I still don’t feel certain of my skills in this area. I’ll have to practice this more once I reach my school. Speaking of which: in one week, I will be working in the actual school! I visit the school on Monday, but I think most of the time will be spent greeting the staff and other teachers, moving my luggage to my apartment, and applying for my resident alien card and completing other paperwork. I won’t be teaching the first few days, either. The teacher I’m replacing will probably teach next week (at least some of the lessons; I’ll find out soon!) and I will be introduced to each class and start preparing for real teaching!

On a side note, we had a decent earthquake this morning (maybe a 3 or 4? I can’t look it up while writing this post, though I might remember to check once I reach the internet cafe). Nothing was damaged or even fell. I’ve mentioned there is a large amount of construction going on in the building behind us, and that tends to shake the ground pretty violently, but I was able to identify the shaking as an earthquake pretty quickly. Nobody panicked (remember, most of us have been in Japan or at least earthquake-prone areas).

I’ve not put much thought into what I’m going to do next weekend. I hope to meet up with Elizabeth and Eiji, but if that doesn’t happen I have several options worth exploring within my current budget. I’ll need to repack my bags, which I’m not looking forward to! I haven’t accumulated much extra weight, but it was a challenge getting everything properly organized the first time. Meanwhile, I’m off towards the train station to post this and my other topics to the blog, and I can grab a bite to eat as its 8pm, which means dinner time! I’m thinking curry! That stuff was awesome.

Location: Science Museum

This Sunday was my first full day off in Japan. While my female training mates headed to Shibuya for some clothes window-shopping, I visited a couple museums and spent some time wandering the back streets of Akihabara.

My first stop was the Science Museum, tucked inside a park among several other government buildings, including the Modern Art Museum and the National Archives. The building itself is shaped like a five-pointed star, with the four longer spokes each holding a certain exhibit, and the smaller front spoke holding offices, seating, or a cafe. You start by traveling to the second floor via an escalator, which brings you to the first exhibit.

Each exhibit or area is full of interactive gadgets. For example, the second floor has two bicycle exhibits, both of which have bicycles you can "ride" (they are fixed to the ground) to accomplish tasks or learn about a science principal. One station taught about motor-assist bikes, while another taught about energy and power.

Other exhibits included Waku Eco Motor Land, which taught about driving vehicles and Eco-friendly car principles such as hybrids and even recycling cars.

The third floor had exhibits on energy, such as atomic energy, natural gas, motors, and electricity. The fourth floor had very fun areas on construction, future technology, and space. The final fifth floor had more on mechanics, computers, DNA, and optics.

I was able to pick up an english guide which provided basic general information. The exhibits and most of the stations had english titles but Japanese text. Several of the stations had computer games in Japanese text that I would not be able to understand. Even so, most of the exhibits are easy to figure out and fun to play with. A child would be able to spend hours here turning knobs, pushing levers, and pedaling bikes to the point of exhaustion, and I had a great time as a (former for now) science teacher and kid-at-heart. I spent about two hours there.

As a destination in Tokyo, it's located right next to the Imperial Gardens, so visitors can easily access the location by walking. On the way there, I saw many runners jogging around the park, which seemed enjoyable. For those who have an interest in science or those who have children, the Science Museum is a perfect destination.

Let's go to the toilet! Western style!

This post was written Saturday evening. I feel the need to add this as some of my posts seem to be out of order, or I'm writing them one day and just not being able to post them until a day or two later.

I'm sure many of you have heard about the fancy toilets in Japan. I used one of them recently, and I thought I'd give a little bit of my thoughts.
Obviously I borrowed this image, but the concept is the same in the one I used.

Here I am, in the internet cafe, writing a post, when the urge comes. Not just a minor urge, either. In the words of Michael J Fox's character on Scrubs, I had to make. So I made for the cafe's bathroom and opened the door, and saw basically what you see here!

I forgot to bring my tissues. They hand them out on the street here as advertising materials (I'll show that some other time). But thankfully the bathroom was properly stocked. The seat was up, so I dropped it down, had a seat, and... wow! It was warm! Yup, the heated seats are just that!

Anyway, I did my business, and curiosity got the best of me. I can tell the difference between the pink and the blue buttons (which, by the way, were even better-labeled on this men's-only toilet), so I hit the blue and prepared myself mentally. Which you can think you're doing, but really, you can't possibly imagine what water shooting at your butt feels like if you haven't done it before! As with the seat, the water was pleasantly warm, and I suppose it did a good job of cleansing. I hit the stop button (which didn't say "stop" on it, although I figured it out when the water went on a bit longer than expected). I still needed the toilet paper to dry myself, and I didn't exactly check to see how clean it was afterwards. That's not my idea of a good time.

It's exciting because it's different, but still, the toilet was totally awesome. The heated seat alone makes fancy toilets worth whatever they cost.

By the way, toilets here have two flushes. One symbol represents a low-water flush for liquids, and the other a larger flush. The symbols are "small" (小) and "large" (大), and I tend to think about it like a person spreading their arms to represent a small flush (arms closer together) or a flush "THIS BIG!".

As for Japanese word progress, I haven't been working too much on this and I haven't had much of a chance. We went out tonight for ramen (oishii!) and I asked to be reminded about some of what Elizabeth taught me - itadakimasu (literally, I humbly receive) and gochiso sama deshita (desh'ta) (which means thank you for the meal). I haven't used oishii out loud yet, though nearly everything I've had so far fits the bill! As I said, I had a really thick-brothed (lots of flour?) ramen and fried rice combo meal for dinner tonight. Really, it was great! It certainly hit the spot after today's training.

There will be a whole other post devoted to more Western-style Japanese toilets at some point, but for now, I thought this would be a great experience to share as it was my first, and it's on my mind!

Now, to catch up on the 165 blog posts I haven't read from the past two days! Reading (and commenting) will be much easier when I can return to checking a few times per day instead of once every day or two.

My first Demo Lesson

It's been almost a week now. Today is Saturday and I just finished teaching my first demo lesson.

I taught a lesson designed for 4-5 year olds and it went fairly well. I have plenty of areas to improve on though. I've been exhausted the past couple days from training as several of the activities have been quite kinetic in nature. I went to bed at 9pm last night, I was so tired.

The sleep certainly helped as I was refreshed this morning after my shower and ready to teach my lesson. As I said, there are things I need to work on, and I could not remember the starting points of the songs. My mind was a total blank. Ugh!!! Plus, I kept saying "good job" instead of giving specific feedback. And I kept forgetting to elicit responses for the words. I tend to over think and overwork things and that's how it comes back to get me. Plus, I know I am very unsure of myself right now and that shows. I also think I didn't get enough practice with the last parts of my lesson with "students" there to help the flow. It's ok though, I suppose. I was energetic and gave some good gestures. Hopefully I'll rock the adult lessons next week.

Because I've been so tired and busy I haven't really left the building these past couple days. We have a bit more time tonight and I think we're going out for dinner and then I can go to the Internet cafe and publish this post, catch up on my reading and such, and relax for a while.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to go explore a little but of the city. I'm being as careful as possible with my money so I think I'm going to a couple museums and I can explore Akihabara. I don't want to stay out too long tomorrow because we have class again on Monday. Hopefully I can get a quick post together for tomorrow night. Not having local internet is a pain because it means I have to walk about 30 minutes to the train station area to sync my blog posts and read all the posts everyone else makes.

Meanwhile, I need to get back for the second half of today's training. There's some deconstruction going on behind me which makes quite a racket from about 8am until 5pm, which since it's 2:30 is in full swing. No midday naps for me! They finished demolishing the building on Wednesday and are now picking up the mess.

My working schedule and classes

As I mentioned recently, I received my working schedule and details about my apartment and such on Wednesday. Once I get to my apartment I'll be able to share more details about the size and layout, though it looks like it will probably be about the same as the room I'm in now (posted earlier this week).  My schedule will probably be the same until April, when the new school year begins. For now I'm working Tuesday through Saturday. I will be teaching 8 kids classes and two middle school classes, 14 adult classes, and four private lessons. That's a total of 28 lessons per week, each 45-50 minutes long. each class will probably have 6-8 students (private lessons have 1 and some of the adult classes could have over a dozen).  Of the kids classes, three groups will be three-year-olds, with a 4-5 year old group and the rest being 9-12 year olds. We have been doing kids training today (written Thursday afternoon) and they are very energetic and fun lessons, with a lot of work involved in preparation and teaching. By Saturday I will have planned and taught my own young kids lesson and I should have a good grasp on the expectations.  Sunday is our first full day off and it looks like we won't have to worry much about homework or anything so I should be able to get out and do something fun. My training mates are all girls and they were talking of going to Shibuya and a butler cafe. I don't think I'll join them if that is the case, but I'm still at a loss as to what I want to do first. I want to be frugal with my money this month but I want to have a great time too. Decisions decisions!

In-Flight Impressions

This post was written on Monday/Tuesday. After years of flying without a hot meal served to me, I finally got a full, cooked meal as part of my flight. It wasn't that long ago that they served meals on the long flights I'd take from Atlanta to San Francisco and back.  Granted, it was airplane food. I had the steak pieces with onions, peppers and broccoli, rice, salad, roll and brownie for dessert. It really wasn't too bad. The salad was surprisingly good. Not that I have much to compare with. The roll and butter were bland, but that brownie was awesome! It had little butterscotch chips in it that really added a great flavor.  The meal reminded me of tv dinners. Not even one day away from America and I'm already missing a staple food item! Country fried chicken and gravy was on my food list but I never got a chance for that one last meal. There's a Hungry Man dinner with white chicken pieces, corn, mashed potatoes and a brownie that would be really great right now.  Meanwhile, I'm writing this with about three hours left on my flight. It's amazing how long 11 hours is when I don't have a computer to entertain me. I read a little from a book, took a nap, ate the meal discussed above, read some more, read even more, finished the book (300 pages), played several games of solitaire, and there's still a long way to go! Another random thought while flying: why do the flight attendants wear so much makeup? I don't find it attractive. Forty to fifty year-old women with gobs of makeup look trashy. Add that business uniform and it seems they're trying to be a low-class call girl.  After several trips with older women and men as attendants on my flights, there is one attractive younger lady working this flight. She's still got way too much makeup on, which makes me think the airlines require a certain amount of makeup by weight, but she looks cute and is even cuter with a flower in her hair that makes me think we're flying to Hawaii instead of Japan.  There's still a little kid in my heart. I didn't just figure this out; I've known that i don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid. But this was even more obvious to me during takeoff today, when I stared out the window like I was a dive year old kid and this was my first flight. It didn't help that we flew right over Ocean Beach. I could see so much of San Francisco that I'll miss: Lake Merced, Sunset, Golden Gate Park, the beach, the Beach Chalet where I just had my last SF meal, the Cliff House, the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown, and even my grandma's house just up the hill from SF State. If only I could use a camera during takeoff, because there were so many great views up the coast all the way to Bodega Bay!

First morning impressions

It is my first morning in Japan. I woke up pretty early, around 7 AM, but I slept well after going to bed about 11 PM last night. My bed is a futon, thin and quite hard, but I'm not sore and I don't recall having trouble sleeping. I was a bit worried that sleeping on such a firm mattress would be uncomfortable. Ask me again in a few days and I'll let you know how it is in the long run. Of course, in two weeks I'll be sleeping on a different futon in my apartment, which may change the game completely!

I have a fairly large room, empty except for the futon and a short table, all to myself. The bathroom is Japanese style with a western toilet (I don't have to learn how to squat and poop yet!). This means there's a very deep tub and the rest of the room is waterproof so you can shower outside the tub. It looks like most people probably shower in the tub anyway (at least around here) as there are some paper products and such in the bathroom. Plus this bathroom has the toilet and shower/sink in the same room, which isn't quite traditional I think.

For breakfast so far I had this strawberry and bread type of thing that was really good. I think it was meant more for dessert though, something I didn't realize until I opened it this morning. I took a cue from my more Japan/experienced training mates and grabbed a package of noodles in a hot dog bun (soba roll) and something that I think is a peanut butter sandwich. Since nobody else is up and downstairs yet I'll probably wait to see how she eats it (does she heat it up? Does she eat it like a hot dog?) and do the same as I'm still a bit hungry. It looks like we don't get a lunch break today since we're working from 11 til 3.

Am I experiencing culture shock yet? Not quite. I can thank my training mates for that as they have been doing all the talking. The restaurant yesterday was my first experience with a ticket vending restaurant, but it was simple to figure out. They did the talking at the Internet cafe, and I didn't need to say much of anything at the market. I realize I need to get some basic Japanese down quickly, though.

Words I already know:
Densha - train - learned from Elizabeth
Ichi, ni, san, chi, go - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - learned from a song, mainly
Hachi, juhachi - 8, 18 - learned from Saturday Night Live. Ju (or is it juu?) means 10, so I can count 11-15 as well. If that's correct, that is!
Origato - thank you!
Sumi maisan - I'm sorry.

I think those are correct. If I can get those down, I have a good start on very basic communication. Having people around me who speak some Japanese means I have some help I communicating these next two weeks, but it is also a crutch of sorts that might slow down some of the first steps in learning.

Day Two: Training Begins and a Quick Trip to Akihabara!

The title says it all! I was up about 7 AM this morning but had a full night's sleep.  I wrote out a nice post on my iPod to share once I found WiFi but I can't seem to get connected with it to post both that and my airplane experiences. I may have to bring in my laptop and connect with it to transfer the posts. I might go back to the counter to see if they can work with me on getting connected, but they don't seem to speak English and I don't speak Japanese!

Training was exactly what I would expect it to be on the first day. We learned a basic overview of the company and it's structure and an overview of the teaching methodology and concepts. The great thing at the end of the day was the receiving of our apartment and schedule information!

It appears that I'll be living about two stations north of the school's location. My school is located next to or very near the Shin-Koshigaya station, but I will be a two minute walk from the Kita-Koshigaya station. This means a commute of approximately 15 minutes - a short walk to the station, a short train ride, and a short walk to the school. At least I don't have to worry about the cold weather too much! This is even closer to transit than I had in San Francisco, and I should be very close to the action as far as nearby restaurants and stores.

My apartment will be about seven tatami mats in size with no loft (I wanted a loft, but it's not like I can ask for one). Of course, it has a small kitchen and bathroom and a small closet. It looks like I have a balcony as well! I'll be sure to bring you pictures and/or video as soon as I move in. I was hoping to bring you pictures of my room at the training center but I can't do that without wifi access.

After the half-day training session, we headed out to a curry restaurant (really delicious!) and then I bought my SUICA card (more on that later) and headed to Akihabara.

I won't get into too much detail. We didn't spend a lot of time there - we walked about 550m each way down the main street. There were maids everywhere (I'll eventually tell you about them) and plenty of electronics and anime shops. It's a bit tamer than I expected but I know I can spend at least a full day there and find several stores and other places to explore. We didn't even start to look down the alleyways. I played a drum game with a couple of my training mates (fun but challenging!) and we looked in a DVD/video game shop (live action Sailor Moon! For only about the equivalent of $150!) and checked out an anime book store (again - the training mates are into this stuff). Anime isn't really my thing but I have enjoyed a few of the dubbed movies. Again, a couple pictures will follow once I can get some wifi, though taking photographs inside most of the stores is not allowed.

It's nearly 8:30 PM here, and we have homework and we haven't had dinner yet. So far, I'm excited! It's early in my experience, though. I haven't had a jet lag problem or any real trouble communicating but I know the time will come when Elizabeth's phrase book will come in handy and I will still have trouble.

Words I kind of learned (spelling may not be accurate):
sumi maisen - sorry
origato - thank you
hai - yes

Plus, I can count 1-5, 8, 11-15, and 18. I'm slowly picking up a little language! I don't have much opportunity to speak or learn much because my training mates do most of the talking for me, though we do little spot lessons here and there. And I have no idea what anybody is saying. But it will come in time. Everyone I've talked to (who came from America, etc) said they started without any language skills and they do pretty well now.

Good night!

First impressions.

My time is short and the keyboard is difficult to work with.

Everything went smoothly (other than some turbulence on the plane). No issues at customs, and we got to the training center quickly and easily.

So far I almost feel like I am in New York. Lots of buildings and advertisements and lots of people hurrying to their destinations. We ate dinner at a little restaurant. I had the beef bowl and it was delicious after a long day of sitting on a plane and eating bland airplane food. The beef was flavored well and there were just a few onions to add some more flavor and texture. The rice was good; the accompanying soup was decent but a little too sour for my tastes. I suppose that's a taste I'll learn to enjoy!

 We also wandered around a Japanese supermarket to admire the food. Since my training partners have all lived here in the past, they knew what they were looking at and found some familiar items. I just looked at it all (with no English writing on most items) and nodded my head and smiled. We'll probably all go back again soon to pick up food to cook back at the training center, so I can find some items to test! I'm already surprised at how inexpensive the food is here. My dinner bowl was ¥340 and most of the prepared food items at the store were about ¥400.

Now I am trying to type quickly on a Japanese keyboard that is just awkward enough to cause minor problems as I type. Things like random Japanese characters showing up when I miss the little spacebar and instead turn on the Japanese characters. Like so:
sdfうf笛ウイwhうwrhw希恵rふいおうぇいおうえwhるいうぇkjぅしdvhlsぢうhふぉわういえ. Plus, a few of the keys are rearranged slightly. The letters are where they belong, but other keys are moved and I think a few keys were added. Such as the key that gives me the yen symbol.

If you're wondering, I'm in an internet cafe. These places stay open 24 hours usually and I get my own little room for whatever private naughty things I want to look at, or in a bind a quiet place to sleep for the night. They seem to have free WiFi so if the Starbucks just down the way doesn't work out, I can always pop over here for some quick posting!

So there you go! I have a whole post on my iPod for you tomorrow about my flight, and I should bring you my first full Japanese day's observations after the day is done (perhaps another 24 hours).

I'm excited and happy! I am about ready to go to bed, though. It is 9:40PM local time. Training starts at 10:30 and I'm done by 3. Have a great day! (良い一日を.) (Yoi ichinichi o.)

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

Don't know when I'll be back again.

In about twelve hours, I'll board a plane to Japan. My life is about to change!
Koshigaya LakeTown Pond
Most of you will already know the details. I'm teaching English at an eikaiwa in Koshigaya. Koshigaya is about 30-40 minutes by train from Tokyo (just under one hour to Shinjuku Station). While I don't know much about the city itself other than the official website, I am excited to be so close to so many great tourist locations! I'm sure Koshigaya has some interesting places to explore on its own.
Generic eikaiwa photo.
As I said, I'm teaching English, and I believe my schedule is supposed to be Tuesday-Saturday approximately 12-9, with the occasional Sunday and some variation in that schedule. My training starts on Wednesday and will run for nearly two weeks! I have time to relax or sightsee on Wednesday afternoon, Sunday, and the following weekend. After training, I'll finally visit my actual school and meet my coworkers, see my school and students, and be able to get into my apartment. Then, the full-time teaching begins!
I have a ton of locations to visit, and I hope to tell you about every one! Plus, I'll bring you my thoughts on the culture and differences between my experiences living in America and Japan. If you're not familiar with my background, I taught high school science in Georgia for several years before moving to San Francisco, which has been my home since last September. I've traveled all over the United States and I've been to Europe and Australia, but this will be a big culture shock for me. I'm very excited and looking forward to the challenges a new country, new customs, and a completely foreign language will bring. (I know one word of Japanese: densha - train. I'm not supposed to use Japanese in the school at all, and I'll learn more once I arrive and get settled in my school.)

My friend Elizabeth will live near me - approximately 90 minutes by train. She's been there for several years and has helped me prepare for the move. I've been warned about bringing plenty of deodorant, toothpaste, and medicine (though some medicine isn't allowed in Japan that's commonplace here). I have extra pairs of shoes and enough clothes to last me well into the next several years (I hope!). I'm sure I'll miss some of the amenities (or, food, really) that I have in San Francisco. Some of the food items I've been sure to enjoy this past week:

  • pizza (both thin crust and Chicago style!)
  • cheeseburger, with bacon and egg on top
  • Chinese food (I'm going to miss kung pao)
  • chicken wings
  • tacos and nachos
  • clam chowder and fish and chips
  • banana split, cookies, cake, and pie
I know I can find some of those in Japan, but I'm told some of the food I'm used to tastes different (or bad, but not always) or is expensive. I'm bringing taco seasoning and some dry seasonings to make pretzel, vegetable or chip dips.

I am beyond excited and so ready to start my new life. I know Japan isn't perfect, but the culture and work ethic is admirable, and I know the next year will be an amazing adventure and experience.

How long will I stay? The commitment is one year, but I hope I enjoy it enough that I stay for a few years. Besides sightseeing in Japan, my first international vacation will be to Taiwan - with Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, China, and Korea soon to follow. In Asia alone, there are enough locations to visit and experiences to have that I can be busy for a few years. If I can find a full-time science teaching job at an International school after a year or two with the eikaiwa, I could make Japan my home for even longer. Right now, I have no set plans for my future. There are several different routes my life can take, and my life experiences have shown me that situations can change in an instant.

Since I'm not sure about my internet accessibility for the first month in Japan, my first posts might be sporadic. I can find free WiFi and upload pre-written posts as I can, as I'm sure most of my cultural thoughts will come quickly!

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