Saturday, April 9, 2011

One of us, One of us, One of us

Today marks the ninth day living in Kimitsu-Shi, Chiba and also marks the seventeenth day of living in Japan.

Yesterday, I took the Uchibo rail line to Chiba City to receive my school calendar; pick up keys to my company car; give my bank note card and international drivers license to the office to photocopy; and pick up example lesson plans for the schools I am scheduled to teach. Those schools are Kururi Elementary, Obitsu Elementary, and Matuoka Junior High School. I spend three out of the five workdays at the Junior High. I googled the two elementary schools and found that they exist in the mountain areas and take a good 35 min to drive to (lol so I'm glad I dont bike like I initially hoped).

Several of the other intake spring 2011 alts reported already meeting their Boards of Education; meeting fellow teachers; and even partying with their coworkers. lol I feel like I am missing out and going stir crazy waiting for April 14th when Kimitsu schoolkids resume classes after spring break. Anyway, I need regular access to a computer ASAP. I intend to give the kids and their parents their money's worth of an introductory class. lol hopefully.

Oh! I drove yesterday! In Japan! Granted I only took two turns, one left turn and one right turn, I drove without much stress down route 16(?) from Chiba to Kimitsu. I noticed I spaced out while driving: even the possibility of horribly dying while driving topsy turvy English style could not hold my attention.

Today I sat in for Japanese class at Kimitsu International Exchange Society (KIES). Their building lies behind the Kimitsu library, stands beside the train tracks, and has close proximity to Kimitsu City Hall. The organization exists partly to fulfill Kimitsu's goal of becoming an international city. The Saturday class I attends had only one other non-Japanese from what I could tell. So the lesson proved very personalized. Two people Shimitsu-san and Shibata-san gauged my level of Japanese. LOL my Japanese level deteriorated within a year of no practice. They pegged me for kore, sore, are level. Back to basics. LOL I remember second year Japanese at university with all the conjugations and if I correctly remember my last lesson was about politely addressing a superior's/inferior's possession. Anyway that is all moot. I later bought the two textbooks they use: Minna no Nihongo regular and translated version for about ¥4800 total (50ish US dollars). lol buying the two expensive books reminded me of a nagging suspicion I had in college: that learning comes at an obscenely whorish premium. Still, emo griping aside, I look forward to working towards Japanese proficiency.

This taking a class thing also is a conscious effort to integrate myself into community life. The past few days of downtime and accompanying boredom impressed upon me how susceptible I am to becoming a shut-in/recluse/crazy cat lady. So I eat out to feel normal and part of the community (and partially because I can't cook jack). I also jog around town. And for the time being, bike when I do errands. In short, I plan days around maximizing seeing people and being among people.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I intend to drive around the country side.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Strong Virile Update

I'm too lazy and forgetful to sum up everything that happened since the last post; but here goes a weak attempt:

I landed in Narita International; spent a night there at the Narita View Hotel;following day rode Shinkansen to Osaka; spent seven days in Osaka going through orientation; spent seven nights in Osaka touring landmarks like Osaka Castle, Shinsaibashi, and sampling its famous food from several restaurants; met and befriended amazing people; rode Osaka's enviable subway; lived in the smallest four-star hotel room ever; walked countless meters; soberingly realized how fleeting our individual lives are (the international nature of orientation impressed upon me the idea that people live intriguing lives, meet and bond with intriguing people, and eventually must part); rode the Shinkansen back to Tokyo; split with Chiba Alts to Chiba to spend night at forgettable hotel; split with fellow Kimitsu alt to meet IC (alt helper) and buy futon, register with city, get national health insurance card, and cell phone; moved into apartment; frequent local department store and Sukiya curry shop; bike around Kimitsu, Shojo, and Ahori; EAT OUT EVERY NIGHT PAST TWO WEEKS (LOSING MY MIND); and now writing this blog.

That I've been in Japan for about 15 days or so jars me. The first week felt more like a vacation. The second week feels like a slow slow dawning realization that I'm in a totally different country.

I unfortunately could not take any pictures during orientation (I came to Japan completely analog); so I am more than making up for it by inundating the interwebz with another video about a person's apartment and riding a bike and seeing a train crossing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Post-Sendai Earthquake Japan

A friend recently asked something to the effect of "What does the recent Sendai Earthquake entail?", a good question.

Japan gets better. But I also imagine that the earthquake may unleash whatever latent anxiety, disillusionment, and frustration gripping modern Japanese. Disasters unite people for better or for worse.

The rebuilding process may very well galvanize Japanese. Among other things, rebuilding means new jobs, a reinvigorated spirit of community, and a clearly defined "real" goal to work towards (a better Japan): all of which proves panacea to an existential funk because busy, needed, and involved people do not have time to worry about their life purpose or meaning. In short, the rebuilding process may actually help Japanese recenter themselves and reorient towards what they truly value in life.

But rebuilding may also usher in popular resentment: that this earthquake literally snapped the popular psyche. Latent grumbling issues like political reform, economic downturn, and societal stress all suddenly find voice in swaths of hitherto just mentally/spiritually displaced Japanese. This anticipates one of two scenarios that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. First, final physical disconnect may cause Japanese to rally around their government leaders and scapegoat historical outliers like opposition politicians, social minorities, and foreigners. Second, final physical disconnect may compel Japanese to intensely scrutinize their prevailing political culture and social culture. Gnashing of teeth defines both scenarios.

The aforementioned sounds all gloom, doom, and slippery slope sure; but the possibility palpably remains.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Crunch Time! Number-wise. Also, solving a KNOTTY problem <--Get it?!

I did a bit of number crunching. My tentative expenditures for the first month (not including food) follows:

  • LeoPalace Apartment: 
    • Two Months Rent Upfront: 101530¥ (US$ 1234)
    • Insurance: 20000¥ (US$ 243)
    • Lock Change 3150¥ (US$ 38)
    • Data Entry Fee (Whatever that is, I imagine they simply add my address to a Rolodex in town hall): 2100¥ (US$ 25)
    • Utilities (Electric, Water, Gas): 10000¥ (US$ 121)
    • Furniture and accompanying Accoutrement: 16451¥ (US$ 200)
    • Total: 153085¥ (US$ 1861)
  • Phone
    •  iPhone 4 32g: 51330¥ (US$ 624)
    • Value Plan (Unlimited Data with free* Voice Calling): 6185¥ (US$ 75)
    •  Total: 57499¥ (US$ 699)
  • Car 
    • Car Lease (?) with Insurance: 24677¥ (US$ 300)
    • Novelty Dice (jk)
    • Total: 24677¥ (US$ 300) 
  •  Grand Total: 235263¥ ($US 2860)
In short, best to work and save some money before heading over to Japan land. These expenditures do not even count purchases leading up to Japan like clothes, plane tickets, etc. I suppose everyone already knew that moving is expensive; but for the rest of us still late in the adulthood game, this serves as a reminder. Also, I remember my initial estimates for graduate school and dorm life at Ritsumeikan APU totaled (with granted 50% tuition scholarship) 2478000¥ (US$ 30124) for one year. Upon retrospect, spending a little money now to work and make money feels like the better decision. 

Anyway, the following is one of the more effective videos on Tying a Tie, specifically, a Windsor Knot. For those of us who still find ourselves confounded and wounded against a lank piece of cloth, Godspeed.  


So, I have two weeks left. I really feel restless. Oh, while in Japan I intend to start up a video blog on Youtube not unlike the many expat blogs already established. The late Rodger Swan, TkyoSam, and Meaphe inspired me to record my own impressions and maybe, just maybe, intelligently contribute to the thriving expat community. Or hell, maybe just entertain. For now, just houses some Japanese language video projects from yesteryear.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Packing Preparation and Phone Plans

Leaving in a little more than a couple weeks frequently makes me mull over my packing. Ideally, I'll bring only one checked-in luggage and bring my messenger bag; but the list looks overwhelming. I tentatively plan to pack the following:

  •  T-Shirts
  • Oxford Shirts (x3 blue; x2 white)
  • Pants (x1 brushed khakis; x2 corduroys; x2 jeans)
  • Suit (x1 blue; x1 gray)
  • Ties (x3 gold; x1 blue)
  • Sweaters (x1 heather charcoal gray; x1 plum)
  • Jacket (x1 blue; x1 gray)
  • Socks
  • Belt
  • Watch
  • Pom Pom Hat
  • Jogging Shirt (x1 blue; x1 gray)
  • Jogging Pants (x1 black; x1 gray)
  • Gloves
  • Pajamas
  • Boxers 
  • Swim Trunks
  • Gillette Deodorant (x6)
  • Electric Toothbrush (x1)
  • Sensodyne Toothpaste (x pack)
  • Listerine (x pack)
  • Pepto Bismal(x lol idk)
  • Nail Clipper (x1)
  • Floss Wands (x pack)
  • Poker Chips
  • Bible
  • Batteries
  • Caribiner (x2)
  • Casino Playing Cards
  • Collapsible Pull Up Bar 
  • American Flag
  • USA Map
  • State Map
  • Family Photos 
  • Photos Around Town
  • Batman Plushie
  • Eye glasses x2
Japanese Reference

Anyway, I have been researching iPhone 4 offerings and plans in Japan. I plan on getting an iPhone 4 largely for its camera, GPS, and video conferencing with friends and family. SoftBank solely sells iPhones in Japan. iPhone 4 go for $500 and $624 (16g and 32g respectively). The price more than doubles US offerings of $199 and $299. SoftBank offers a monthly bill discount of 1920¥ ($23) in the 32g unlimited 24month data plan (the value plan) to "defray" the initial phone costs. According to the previously linked article, the money saved over 24 months with the discounted data plan amounts to 46080¥ ($559): the article argues that in a sense, a person effectively pays $125 for the iPhone4 32g. Still, this is a suspect suggestion because over the course of 24 months, a person still must pay the $30 data/calling plan. So, $30x24months=$720 after 24 months. Then, $720+$624 (iPhone 32g)=$1344. Very pricey. Still, compared to the US offering of $299 32g for $114 (AT&T 4g data plan and unlimited calling): $114x24months=$2736. $2736+$229 (iPhone 32g)= $2965. Much pricier.

As an aside, avoid T1/Mcall providers. An ALT friend relayed how many other ALTS found themselves wanting out and hit with a weighty cancellation fee. 

The packing list and the number crunching makes me appreciate just how difficult and expensive immigration is. Much respect and admiration to my parents and the many unsung immigrants past and present.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Captain's Log: 3000.6 (part the 2)

Previously on Dexter


October 16th 2010 (Part the 2). Anyway, the presentations briskly proceeded.  If I correctly recall, the presentation part lasted for an hour or so because our orientation only had eight applicants. After the last person finished, our recruiter convened for break asking every individual applicant to come back later for personal interviews--part three. The recruiter slotted me for 2:45 pm, so a bunch of us hopefuls decided to eat out while waiting. Between sobs and slurps, we vented over our perceived failures: "Oh, I failed the grammar test", "Oh, I didn't smile enough", and the occasional "SHIT".  Oh I forgot to mention that the recruiter gave us Myers-Briggs questionnaires to complete before our personal interviews. So, on top of sobbing and swearing, we  worked on our questionnaires. We played a sort of mind game with the questionnaires, trying to psych out the piece of paper with answers we thought THEY wanted us to answer: eg. one girl purposefully answering affirmative to all the obviously extrovert questions but always marking  a few introvert answers to not appear "too gregarious". Anyway after an hour or so, we headed back to the information session and waited. Eventually my interview came up and we exchanged goodbyes. Now, the personal interview was surprisingly chill. The recruiter asked "why Japan?", "Are you holistically prepared?", and other standard HR questions; but more often than not, she and I found ourselves loudly laughing. */sigh* typing tires me. /cop out. Fast forward ten days and Interac sent me an email congratulating me and wishing to hire me.

Late October 2010-Today, Now, This Moment. After restlessly waiting a good 5 months, I now find myself 19 days away from leaving for Japan. Anxiety often grips me. Still I sometime surprise myself, girding up courage not unlike a salty whaling captain in tumult-tossed sea legless-ly steering into a volcano. The following are the confirmed aspects of my assignment:

Placement: Futtsu-shi elementary schools
Accommodation: neighboring Kimitsu-shi; LeoPalace apartment
Driving: Yes
Start: April 1st

I am very stoked about my placement. I live near the countryside; Tokyo (wary I am to visit it) is a hop, skip, and a jump away; and the beaches! As much as I admire/love the Nevada desert crapshoot climate, I relish the idea of lazily sunbathing or clam digging weekends.