Friday, August 26, 2011

Would you like to hear about my day?

I'M IN JAPAAAAN! Is the appropriate thing to write here.

And I already feel Japanese. Seriously.

It started in O'Hare, naturally, and after saying goodbye to my parents (mom is probably still crying), I made my way through security, etc etc.

On the plane, I felt safe and secure and good, and despite running on three hours of sleep and only catching two more hours on the 14-hour flight, I felt well. Strong. Confident.

Then I watched Babe. For those who don't know what movie this is, you don't have a childhood. If by chance you do have a childhood and you've just never seen the movie, it's about a little pig that's won by a farmer in a contest, and instead of being eaten he finds his place on the farm as a sheepdog-pig.

Anyway, in the beginning of the movie, Babe is separated from his mom, his friends, and his brothers and sisters. He walks forlornly into this new barn that's supposed to be his home, lays down and whimpers in a sad, pathetic, adorable voice, "I want my mom."

And with those words, everything in my system shut down. Hell, I want my mom. Realistically, carting her around Japan would be impossible between the complaining about the humidity to translating everything. But in my head, that kind of comfort is simply incomparable. Safe. Secure.

I started asking myself if this is what I wanted to do. Do I really want to be in Japan for nine months? Away from the english language and familiarity in general? Do I seriously want to break that kind of mold? More importantly, isn't it a little too late to be having these doubts? The first few weeks in Japan, I knew, were going to be stressful. I wasn't going to know what I should do or how to do it and I still have a shitton of shit to organize, as though I haven't even left America yet.

So as I'm sitting there for the last four hours of my flight, berating myself for voluntarily choosing to leave everything I know and love, I feel my confidence slip. I tell myself I should've studied more this summer. Should've studied on the plane. Should've slept more. Should've, should've.

And then I saw the coastline of Japan.

And I actually breathed out, "Oh, wow." And in a way, everything cleared up and I felt good again. Better, rather. I'll feel my best probably when I wake up after a VERY long sleep (it's only 9:36p here, but I think I'm hitting the hay shortly. For future reference, Japan is 14 hours ahead of Wisconsin time).

And then my confidence slipped once I was off the plane.

I gotta be honest, I followed everyone else. No idea what the hell I was doing. Walked with confidence, kept my chin up, my eyes wide open. I was determined to do everything right.

Well, there was a lot of stumbling along the way, between filling out immigration forms and talking to the man at the counter in Japanese, going down to my baggage area where I had to pick up my 58-pound bag to accompany my maximum-size-requirement carry-on and purse, get it all in a cart, fill out more forms (had to find them first; this involved going in the line, getting directed out of the line and directed towards where I needed to be); in fact, a lot of the trip involved asking for directions and getting redirected many times (in O'Hare, I had no clue where to check-in my bag, or what terminal I needed to be in).

tl;dr: Today was STRESSFUL.

But then I made it through customs and met up with my cousin, Matt. Some of you may know of him; he and his wife run their own translating company and they also publish books on the side. We are eerily similar in our interests this way, and it happened without trying (I didn't know anything about Matt until after I started studying Japanese six years ago). We exchanged my money (I lost $75 in the conversion rate, because the economy BLOOOOWS) and ended up sitting and chatting for about 45 minutes before catching a bus.

This is where you get to learn about commuting in Japan.

We managed to hit traffic like it was our job. What should have been an hour and 30 minute trip took twice as long. In the downpour.

The bus stop was near Matt and Hiroko's (Matt's wife, who is VERY sweet and works often with CNN!) place, BUT we couldn't catch a taxi. So in the middle of the busy Tokyo streets, in the rain, we ran to the train station. I got a ticket, put it in the machine (which spits it back out at the end), and we were on the train.

All the while carrying luggage enough for me to move into Japan.

After THAT, we met Hiroko outside the train station and walked five minutes to their home (did I mention it was raining?), but despite being jet-lagged, running on four hours of sleep, having had no food or water for several hours at that point, I WAS SO HAPPY.

After a hot shower (In Japan, bathrooms tend to have three parts, all doored off but connected to each other. The first part has the sink and some room for a washing machine, the second part has the toilet [with a divet, if you don't know what it is, definitely look it up. Japan is weird/amazing], and the third part has a room with a door with a rubber bottom so that you can turn the entire section into a shower, and there's also a bath snugged in later) and LOTS of water and a little bit of food (was seriously dehydrated), I am now updating my blog.

And that, my friends, is my first day in Japan.

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