Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Great Day in Toyota!

Today continues the upward trend of my days here in Japan. First: I got my futon. It's amazing! It looks so comfortable I'm surprised I'm not sleeping on it now. But that's mainly because I'm eating instead. Second, I talked to my mom today 2x, and both times all of our remaining cats are happy and residing in the land of the living. It's sad when a good day can be summed up with "first thing, nobody died..."

In fact, my only “crisis” today is that my Debit card apparently only works in Postal ATMs, or those at the 7-11 (which I haven't found here in Toyota), not the ATMs that are displayed prominently at most convenience stores. As a result, while I have money in the bank, I can't get to it until tomorrow, so it's my second meal today of hard boiled eggs, fruit and some other starch product. Considering how well the rest of my day has gone, especially in regards to getting household items and Karaoke, this is a (very) minor inconvenience. My fridge may not be overflowing with food, but there are convenience store rice and seaweed wedges (they look like mini Onigiri and come in packs of three) in combination with some bottles of tea, a delicious pint of peach juice from Sunkist that I've become addicted to, and four apples (which will be my dessert with a red bean pastry that I bought yesterday for breakfast today but did not eat. I also have some instant soup, but it seems I put the spoons back at when I ran out of money at the Hyaku-en Shoppe (the equivilant of a USA Dollar General), so soup is on for tomorrow. Or the next day.

I made three great stops today, which I'm going to talk about out of order. My last major stop was the Hyaku-en Shoppe (rapidly becoming my favorite store), There I found salt, pepper and garlic! My mom is going to ship me Old Bay and some Italian Seasoning (and some Cinnamon Swirl Bread, yay!) so I should be totally set for my regular spices. It was like a whole new pair of eggs this evening with salt, garlic and pepper atop them. Also I got other household essentials, though I forgot my dustpan there so I still had to use a piece of paper to get up the dirt I got from sweeping before I put down my rug. While this rug I bought yesterday is not as attractive as the regular floor, it has the benefit of being soft and easy to walk on, so I'm happy with it.

Second Stop: I finally got my butt down to City Hall and started the process of getting my Alien Registration Card. As with the health check, I was amazed with how much I was able to get across in Japanese. It helped that they had a form in English so I didn't have to worry about the reading. But even so, I had to explain what a “State” was--similar to a Japanese Prefecture is what I said, after drawing a really poor map of the USA and breaking off Texas and Florida. Also, I had to explain what city I was born in, what my zipcode meant, where I was from, etc. In the process of getting this process in gear, I also had to have two photographs taken at another photo place that seemed to specialize mostly in pictures of children. Alien Registration Card in Japanese is “Gaikokujin Touroku Shoueisho” The first and last part I actually know already from my studying (first means: foreigner, last portion means “Written Proof” which I guess tacks onto ID card) but the middle was totally new to me and I kept stuttering over it. Luckily, I look like a foreigner, so when I started about a third of the way through the word, the person in question would finish it for me and point me in the right direction. After I finished the process, my passport was stamped with something, and my Alien Registration Card will be ready in about a month. At that point, I can get a Japanese bank account and use all ATMs.

Lastly, the place I thought I liked more was full when I stopped in the late afternoon/early evening for Karaoke, and boy am I glad they were, because the first place has an incredible special: If you're by yourself on a weekday (possibly just Monday through Thursday), you can do Karaoke from 4-8 for about 500 yen (that's about $5). I got there at 4:30 and stayed until 7pm, mainly cutting my trip short because I really wanted to get to the Hyaku-en store. This Karaoke place also had more songs from my favorite group than the other (and their books were different, making me think in retrospect this maybe a third Karaoke place), including Mass Missile's “Naruhodo” and “Sign,” both of the screen for entering songs was easy to navigate: in short—a fantastic experience that I intend to repeat. I am developing a new relationship with my favorite Japanese songs now that I'm able to see the Kanji and their readings, thus getting at least a vague idea of what the songs mean. It's made of happy.

One other interesting thing I attempted today was to introduce myself to my neighbors and give them little gifts (postcards of Philly and some candies from my stash). I tried all of my neighbors, but only one was around—I caught him as he was leaving. His name is Ito-san and his wife actually is an English teacher at a local Shougakou (Elementary School). Maybe even one I'm working at, who knows?! While my self-introduction was a total mess, I feel really good about having at least made contact with one of my neighbors, and I'm going to try again through the weekend to meet everyone else. I also need to find my local bar so I can get to know people. Right now, with the exception of phone calls home and going out to perform specific tasks, I'm not really having much by way of human interaction. It's kind of relaxing to be moving at slower than my usual breakneck pace, but I think this is going to wear thin by the end of the weekend.

Next week picks up a bit in regards to activities anyway. On Monday I'm going with the group of Altia Toyota City ALTs to meet our BOE (Board Of Education). Then next Thursday, I get to go meet the principals and teachers at all of the schools I'm working at. I'm super excited for both of these things, especially the second one, though because I'm going to six schools in one afternoon it's going to be rushed. I am a bit nervous about working at so many different schools. God forbid I screw up and end up going to the wrong school on the wrong day. I've only just stopped getting lost on the way to my apartment.

Other exciting news today: I've got the washing machine going! It got unbalanced once, but seems to be okay now. Next stop will be hanging the clothes in my dryer bathroom over the tub. My washing room (toilet is in another room) is literally a dryer. That seems kind of nuts, but we'll see how well it works. Update: Washer finished, and clothes are hanging in the drying room. We'll see how they are in the morning!

This entry may be a trifle dull, but to be honest, it's okay with me to have a boring day! Well, not boring. These simple tasks are taking quite a bit more brainpower and attention than they would in the States. And I'm totally loving it! Tomorrow I'm going back to Nagoya to visit Immigration and get my Reentry permit. I will also be shooting and posting my “Leo Palace Tour” video to youtube, so it can join the hundreds of other such videos that already inhabit there.

Posting my pictures to facebook now. And then to sleep on my wonderful futon!