Sunday, July 25, 2010

JET Program Tokyo Orientation 2010

I'd like to take a moment to release a long, deep, sleepy sigh:


It's been quite a day.

I am in Tokyo now. In the same city, in the same hotel where I was exactly one year ago today. Except this time, I am on the other end of things.

Last year I stumbled off a plane, piled my bags onto a cart, trudged through a hotel full of smiling people pointing the way, wondered why they were so incredibly happy to see me, and came to this hotel to collapse in a haze of utter exhaustion.

Today I took a short bus ride to the airport, was assigned a little corner next to the elevator, and spent the next 8 hours grinning crazily at new JETs as they stumbled off a plane and trudged past me pushing a cart piled with bags, and then came to this hotel to collapse in a haze of utter exhaustion.

Still exhausted, but this time, I am on the other end of things. This year, instead of being a new JET just off the plane, I am a Tokyo Orientation Assistant (TOA). And I have to say, I prefer it!

I flew to Tokyo on Friday.

I took a monorail and three trains by myself, arrived in Seijo, Tokyo around 10 p.m., and met some friends to stay the night.

I woke up on Saturday morning, took another train, and arrived at this hotel: The Keio Plaza Hotel. Then I attended 4plus hours of training, got sushi with a new friend, boarded a bus, and went to a different hotel near Narita airport.

Woke up this morning, joined the rest of the TOAs, and went to the airport to anxiously await the arrival of hundreds of new JETs.
Our duties at the airport involved an unnecessary amount of waiting around, so when that first JET walked around the corner to my little welcome station, I nearly grinned my face off. I was so happy to welcome this new french friend, who I may never see again, to a year or more of incredible adventures, that I could hardly contain myself. I wanted to hug every JET that walked by me (except the ones that were all glare-y... they scared me).
So for the rest of the week I will be here at this hotel, manning the information desk or the hospitality center (where JETs can iron clothes, skype call home, get medicine, or have a chat), setting up for orientation sessions, and just generally trying to make myself helpful. All while meeting other TOA JETs from all over the country, learning about their experiences, and making awesome new friends. I am loving it already.

I feel like I've come full circle in a way, and I can't imagine a better celebration of my one year anniversary in Japan. Here's to another year and Tokyo Orientation 2011!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I did it! I passed the test for my Japanese driver's license!!

For those of you who don't know, you may be surprised that I've been here a year and driving around without a license, but actually, I was allowed to use an international driver's permit (like a translation of my american license) for a year, but it expires next month. Some countries have some sort of agreement with Japan so that they don't have to take the actual driving test, but that isn't the case for Americans.

I might post a longer blog about the whole grueling process later, but for now I will just say: I did it. I am so happy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cafe KUGAFU: Updated

Cafe KUGAFU Mosaic
Originally uploaded by ReBekha Michele
I felt a little down today after failing my Japanese driver's test (more on that later), so I decided to spend the rest of my morning off at my favorite cafe: KUGAFU. I wrote about this place before in my "Open Letters" blog, and continue to go back at least once a week. I love it so much!

So, I've decided to write a little review about them for the Okinawa JET newsletter, and another for a local website called Okinawa Hai. Gotta share the love! I will post one of the reviews on here when I finish, too. :)

To prepare for those reviews, I took a bunch of photos today. Here are a few of my favorites in mosaic form. Yay!

Kazuno-san (the owner's daughter who helps run the cafe) was incredibly obliging. She answered all my questions, tolerated my photo-craziness, and was so kind. Thank you, Kazuno-san!

I'm really excited to have a writing "assignment" of sorts. I've missed this!

p.s. Kazuno-san has used some of my photos on the KUGAFU website! Click here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oh, Beautiful

I'm trying to teach my students about Independence Day this week,
but every time I say the words "constitution," "independence," or "patriotic,"
their eyes gloss over.

Show them a picture of a kid in a cherry-pie eating contest, however,
and they're nothing but riveted attention.

I think all they're getting out of my class is that people throw candy during parades and fireworks scare dogs.

On the other hand, all I'm getting out of it is homesickness.

I have to admit it's difficult to be patriotic while living abroad.
Especially when so many people's opinion of America is negative
(often for good reason).
I find myself fighting down the urge to lie about where I'm from
just to avoid the ridicule and judgement.

It feels like other nationalities can be openly proud of their heritage,
but since Americans are expected to be cocky jerks, I have to bite my lip.

I am proud, though.
I don't hold to the delusion that America's got it all together, or that we are somehow superior to other trazillion* people on the planet.
I love my beautiful country and all of the incredibly warm, loving, and embracing people in it.

So even though I didn't eat hamburgers this year,
didn't light fireworks,
wear red, white, & blue,
or get to spend time with my family,
I am thankful for the 4th of July.

Thankful it reminded me that where I'm from is part of who I am, like it or not.

Happy Belated Birthday, America.

*rough estimate