The above phrase is my most used phrase here in Japan, hands down. I get a giggle usually when I say it because every other means of communication that I use is pointing and/or grunting, nodding, bowing, and saying "hai". I think they laugh at me because I try to speak in English but then end with "arigato gozaimasu" Or maybe they're thinking, "who is this cracker and why is she butchering my language?" Either way, I'm really not bothered by it.
So. Japan. It's a weird place. I've only been in Katsutadai (my town) and Narita (where the airport is), so I haven't got a taste of any big cities yet. Even still, there are a lot of people here, and everything is different. I'm not even sure where to begin. The airport was a bitch getting through immigration and getting my luggage, and I will NEVER over pack again. Carrying two huge suitcases, a massive shoulder carry-on, and a purse all the way to my hotel was cumbersome to say the least. I'm incredibly sore from doing so, and I'm not looking forward to lugging it down the sidewalks again from my hotel to my apartment tomorrow. Sheesh.
The streets here are very different. Well, at least here in Katsutadai. They're narrower and a sidewalk on the smaller streets is kind of non-existent. You get used to it pretty quickly, as most Japanese seem to walk everywhere and/or take public transit, so there aren't too many cars here. In some smaller streets there are cute little restaurants and windows to buy cigs and such with people standing and walking around everywhere, so it's quite a change from the smaller streets in DC or even in Kentucky.
I was so incredibly sleep deprived yesterday (Sunday) after I finally made it to my hotel around 6 pm, so I thought I'd wait to see Gail and tour my future apartment on Monday. The problem was that I didn't know when she was leaving to go back to the States and was worried I'd miss her. I thought about it for a bit and luckily Gail called my hotel phone around 9 pm and told me that she and her boyfriend were in my hotel lobby, and kindly invited me out for drinks. I shook the sleep out of my eyes, got dressed, and went downstairs. And boy am I glad I did.
Gail is super cool. She is so helpful and friendly and saved my life the entire night by translating for me and giving me very useful tips that I will always be grateful for. And her boyfriend Mineo, who speaks English very well, is probably the nicest person I've ever met. And on a slightly more superficial note, they both smoke (everyone seems to here) and Gail says fuck nearly as much as I do, which is a quality I adore in people. We went to an izakaya (that's Japanese for bar) and had some sake and a tea/vodka drink that I can't remember the name of, then we went to see the apartment (which was great to finally see in person and I can't wait to move in), and then to Gail's favorite izakaya called Daruma. The owners of this place are a couple in their 50s/60s and may need to win an award for the cutest people on the planet. I don't have a picture of them now, but I'll have one eventually. I very much plan on being a regular there in the near future. Did someone say drinking problem? Eh, do as the Romans do, I say.
I feel very positive about my health and weight changes that are sure to happen in the following months. Gail told me that if you're a bit on the heavy side it is incredibly easy to lose weight here because of the diet and how damn much the Japanese walk. I walked around more yesterday than I usually do in the span of 3-5 days in DC, so I feel optimistic. Especially since I have vowed to do my best to avoid Western food. I actually prefer Asian cuisine in general anyway, so aside from the occasional craving for french fries, I think I'll be okay.
It is a little scary being new here, for realsies. Every time I go in somewhere they ask about a million questions and all I can do is stare blankly or nod or say "wakari imasen" ("I don't understand"). It's weird. Although I must say I haven't been stared at as much as I thought I would be, which is good.
I went to my main MIL school this morning and met Dana in person finally, as well as another new teacher, Jamie. The whole teaching sub-plot of my adventure really makes me feel overwhelmed, although I am excited for the experience. We'll see how all that goes. I need to make sure to get my advance that MIL offers, as the funds are quickly dwindling!
This evening I went walking around the Katsutadai station looking for a place to eat and I spotted a restaurant with pictures of food on the windows (always helpful) and the smell of grilled meat (I'm a meat-a-holic) and went in. I quickly discovered that it wasn't really the best choice as it was a family-style restaurant where you cook your food in the middle of the table, and I don't feel quite ready to take on that endeavor yet. However, I decided to sit down anyway and see what looked decent on the colorful menu. For fear that I would be deported from Japan because I burned the damn restaurant down, I instead opted for a nice big bowl of soup (wherein the ingredients were already cooked for me). It was delicious. Needless to say, the noodles and soup here far surpass those in US Asian restaurants. Yum.
I am appreciative for my last couple weeks in the States, as I had an absolute blast with my family and some tender goodbyes with Blake. Blake and I have been Skype-ing and that has been really fun because Blake and I have the exact same sense of humor and he's really gotten a kick out of the funny Japanese things I've seen. My sisters and mom were amazing right before I left. When you're away from your fam for so long, you can take for granted how fucking awesomely fun they are. And my family is at the tippy top top of the fun spectrum.
I love it here. Gail says to treat Japan like a cocoon, where you get to immerse yourself in its ways and completely re-invent yourself if you want to. I am so very glad I came.