Gypsy-soul to Blame

Before leaving Tokyo to fly to our new homes (done in groups of prefectures) we are sitting in the airport and one girl turns to me and the people I’m sitting with and says “look what I just bought!” It was a towel/washcloth sort of thing. She says, “It’s a sweat towel”. Now, in my mind I’m thinking, “that’s straight up disgusting”, but what I say is “oh?” She says, “Apparently it’s so hot where we are going that everyone carries these around”. “Mmmhmm,” I reply. That is gross. Why would I want to carry around a towel filled with my sweat? While other people go off to buy these sweat towels, I think to myself, I don’t really sweat that much anyway, I don’t really need one. So I don’t buy one. This decision turns out to be a mistake.

We board the plane. We fly. (Side-note: the flight was super cool because they have a camera on the outside of the plane that feeds to the television sets inside the plane so you can see all the beautiful scenery you are flying over live! Super neat! Although I seemed to be one of the few who hadn’t seen this before.) We get off the plane. We are waiting for our bags and due to the small airport size we can see everyone who is already here waiting for us with big signs: “WELCOME” and with our names. It was super nice. People who were flying in here but had still many hours of travel left (by bus or train to more remote areas) had groups of 3-4 people waiting for their arrival. Since I’m staying in the city, myself and a few others can see our names being held up by people who also live here. But before I can get to this person who is holding a welcome sign with my name on it I have to stop. I am dripping sweat. DRIPPING. The humidity is absurd. As I look around people are wiping their faces with little towels to remain dry. Now I am the disgusting one. Finally I reach the guy who is holding the sign with my name (a fellow JET, who has lived here for a few years now and once taught at my schools). He must have been alarmed by my appearance as he immediately gives me a little hand fan so I can cool myself down.

Anyway, this guy used to live in the apartment building I am moving into, so he says he is going to take me to it, since it is not in the same area as everyone else’s building (in fact, it’s about 30 minutes away by train and then walking). Him and some people from the Board of Education grab my bags from me and lead me to a car where we drive into the city to meet everyone for lunch. Everyone else had to take the bus in, apparently I was also supposed to – at one point we pulled over in the car we were in because upon realizing that everyone else was on the bus, they were going to kick me out. Some talk in Japanese occurs; I realize that the other JET promises the Board of Education (B.O.E) staff that he will teach me how to use the bus later and its stupid for me to get out now. So we continue on. We get to the B.O.E building, meet up with everyone, and have lunch. We then go back and are all taken to meet the staff where we have to do a self introduction in Japanese. Awesome. Before having time to think or prepare, we are thrown in front of a staffroom full of people who are all staring at us. “Go, go, introduce!” Hajimemashte. Watishi wa Rachel desu. Canada kira kimashta. Dozo yoroshiko onegaishimasu. That’s what I should have said. That’s what’s in the back of the handbook they gave us says to say. What did I say, you ask? I don’t really remember. I think I said my name. I think I mumbled everything else incoherently (since I didn’t know the proper pronunciation or word order, I kinda just knew the sounds from listening to everyone else say their introduction). Then I bowed and ran and hid behind the people who were already done. The staff people were really nice though, they listened, did a little clap after each one of us spoke (I think they could tell we clearly knew no Japanese, but they were impressed that we tried).

After that embarrassment, I get back in the car with the JET and the BOE staff I was with before and we drive to my new apartment. They help me bring my bags up. They hand me the keys and I open the door. I can see that the woman helping me carry my oversized and overweight luggage is struggling, and as the JET guy already has one of my other, even larger bags, I quickly grab the other bag from her and drag it into my new place. “GASP. AHHH NO NO NO!!! OHHH!” I stop. I’m freaking out. Is there a giant bug in my apartment already? Is it one of those mega cockroaches everyone keeps talking about? Is it a giant spider? If it is a giant spider I’m getting on the next flight home. None of the above. It took me a second to realize what was wrong. The other JET steps in: “it’s okay, it’s her house… she doesn’t have to take off her shoes if she doesn’t want to!” Oops. I didn’t take my shoes of in the little designated area at the entrance of my house. The reaction was funny looking back. I thought something was very wrong, but no. I quickly kick off my shoes and drag my luggage the rest of the way in.

They take me grocery shopping. They show me where I can get my bike fixed (apparently I have a punctured tire on one of the bikes I was given). They take me to the train station and show me how to buy a ticket back into town, which I will have to do tomorrow morning, as our training now takes place at the BOE in town. The other JET promises to meet me at the train station in town and show me the rest of the way. They take me back home and I’m left alone to unpack and do my own thing.

The first night was a lot better than I thought it would be. My apartment is a decent size; it’s nice to have a home base after moving around so much recently. I can see the ocean and the mountains. It’s super hot though. I find a washcloth in the linen left to me by my predecessor and put it in my purse for a “sweat cloth” for tomorrow. I unpack a bit and go to bed.

Note about the bed: it’s literally just a blanket on the floor. I sleep on a floor. If you were to right now lie down on a carpeted area somewhere in your home that would be the equivalent to the “mattress” that I sleep on here. Here’s hoping I get used to that.

I fall asleep at like 9pm. I actually had to force myself to stay up until 9. I was super tired, and since I’ve been here I crash at like 8 pm and then wake up at around 3 am. It’s inconvenient and I need to get back on schedule. Tomorrow things start for real.

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