Sunday, November 23, 2008

Real World Japan

"This is the true story... of seven strangers... picked to live in a together and have their lives taped... to find out what happens... when people stop being polite... and start getting real...The Real World."

Well, really.. this is the story of four strangers, hired to teach English, share a house, work together and have their lives interrupted by Facebook, when people start to get to know each other and start getting real....The real world.

We finished training and training was informative and interesting. There are definitely pros and cons of training. I really like the idea of new teachers staying at the guesthouse. People really get to know each other and its a good way to start the journey. Most people are here alone so its a great way to meet people. Even though, there are couples that come together, still nice and refreshing to be with new people. The guesthouse sucks since its not really our own place. Erin, Ricky and Jen and I are dying to move out here.

I havent really had too big of a cultural shock yet. Being that I've been to Taiwan and some Asian foods are very simliar to others, food has been awesome. The supermarkets are really great especially for foodies. All the items are so nicely packed and are so fresh. Sundays are the best days to go to the supermarkets, you can fill up on all the samples! Today, I made flat udon-ish noodles with an already packaged soup base with veggies, bean sprouts and I topped it with sauteed beef with garlic steak sauce and inoki mushrooms. (see picasa for photos)

Last night, some of the teachers threw a "Steven Segal" party @ Katsutadai - where i'll be moving to. Good thing no one was paying attention to the movie or else we would have been bored to death! It was at a joint called Beats.. pretty much dive bar and tiny. Had a good time and we went to karaoke afterwards. People here party right through the night since trains stop running at 12am and first train is around 5/6am. Apparently, people here do that a lot. Around 4am, i was falling asleep at the karaoke bar but good thing it was within walking distance to the guest house.

The toughest thing about being here so far is the fact that I'm traveling alone. You'd be surprised as to how many couples traveled to Japan to teach together. Its a little crazy. I think its awesome though, wish Adam was here to experience things with me but not everyone works in my favor.

Even though I miss home, I wouldnt change anything for the last week and a half and this is just the beginning.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lost in Translation

Ever see that movie, Lost in Translation with Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray? It's about a movie star with a sense of emptiness, and a neglected newlywed meet up as strangers in Tokyo, Japan and form an unlikely bond. This is how my life in Japan seems to resemble. Walking in the streets of Japan, not knowing more than 3-4 words is quite interesting. No one really understands you and you have to use hand motions to help them understand you. It doesn't really hit you until you need help with something and no one speaks English or very little English (eigo).

Perfectly good first example, the first night I arrived in Japan, I had no shampoo, conditioner or bodywash/soap. My two new housemates and I walked to town to a Family Mart. I went to the toiletries aisle and picked up shampoo/conditioner and the only thing I wasnt sure of was the bodywash/soap. There was no bar of soap to be found so I went for a bottle of Johnson/Johnson. How could I go wrong? It said 24 hour care on it and the rest was in Japanese. I came home, took a shower and little did I know, it wasnt bodywash!!! it was LOTION! haha

Next was our train ride to Narita. Of course, being that it was the first time any of us took the train (JR to be exact), we had no idea how to buy tickets. we stood at the ticketing machine and pressed buttons, didn't exactly help. Good thing, we bumped into a few Americans who happeend to be some other teachers from ALS. They were headed to an event in Naruto. We got on the train with them since we were chatting up a storm and yet again, little did we know, we were headed in the wrong direction. Now, that isnt so bad when you can back track and still arrive at your planned destination. After arriving in Narita, we did all the sight seeing and decided to head back. We jumped on the Kiesei Narita Line. For those that are not familiar with the Japanese train system, it is not like the MTA who monopolizes all the transportation. Here, different large companies own their own lines. Keisei and JR are two different lines/owners. We got on the wrong line and ended up having to speak to the fare adjustment guy and he had to point us in the right direction. Not only did we have to take a bus there (extra $$), but we didnt understand how to pay the buss driver either. Lets just say a lot of hand motions were thrown out there and eventually, we realized we pay when we get off. All in all, you learn from your experiences and ended a great day with awesome ramen in Chiba.

The two most used phrases of the day: "sumimasen" and "wakarimasen" which means excuse me/sorry and i dont understand.

So i'll leave you with this... "For relaxing times, make it Suntory time. "

Here is the new link for picasa (you can also click on the slidesow to the right):
Picasa Web Album
Picasa Web Album for the Foodies

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I made it!

I'm finally in Japan.... the long awaited journey has begun. Its almost 9am on Friday 11.14.08 and i'm sitting here with jetlag. I was up at 5 with nothing better to do except go on line. I havent really explored anything yet since I arrived yesterday afternoon/night. I am staying at the guesthouse for the first two weeks. There is another couple here. The girl is teaching and the guy is substituting becuase they werent able to find him a position.

The flight was alright, nothing special. Saw a few movies, ate some mediocre plane food and slept a mere 5 hours. When I arrived, a guy who is an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) picked me up since he lives in Narita and drove me to the school to pick up keys and dropped me off at the guesthouse. I guess you're really on your own. Its not a host family or anything, just a hostel.. no ones around except whoever stays here (mostly new teachers though).

I'm thinking of heading to Narita (20min by JR - Japan Railways) to go to Aeon Mall, supposedly a very large mall and stop by Chiba on the way back which is 10 min from Yotsukaido, where the guesthouse is. Traveling alone really sucks but I guess it's part of the experince. I'm definitely looking forward to meeting new people along the way and just seeing what Japan has to offer.

check out my picasa web albums for some photos that I have taken so far

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Almost there...

So here I am, all packed and ready to go. I'm checked in, and my bags are on their way on the conveyor belt. I've tried to see as many ppl as I could before I left but there just wasnt enough time. Thanks for coming out last Friday to Sin Sin, had a blast and it was nice to see everyone before I left.

I think its finally hitting me... I dont even know what to think, my mind is a blur and all I want to do is just go home. I'm going to miss everything about home, mostly family and close friends, okay my bed too. There's no turning back as much as I want to. Perhaps I dont really want to, its just preflight/leaving jitters. I've wanted to do this for so long but how come it doesnt seem right?

Well, in any case, my next update will be when I'm in Japan....

Japan, here I come!