Monday, July 24, 2017

Life Post: Settling into Japan

Five days ago, I arrived at the school I'll be working at. It was overwhelming, to be sure. I was put on a train in Okayama and got to watch new (to me) parts of Japan fly by outside. We even got to drive over the ocean, and the scattered islands and mountains were unlike anything I'd seen in person before.

By the time we arrived in Tokushima, I was ready to get the initial day over with. I don't mean that in the "I just want it to be done" sense but in the sense that I'd been waiting for so long that I really needed to jump into it finally.

Arriving at the school didn't actually feel as scary as I had thought it would. I'll remain vague about school here. I can't publicly give out information about my co-workers or the students from work, and admittedly, that makes it a bit difficult to go into detail about everything I felt over the first several days.

What I will say is that I made a lot of memories that will likely stick around forever. Since I started this blog, I haven't written anything in a journal because, aside from a few scattered memories here or there, there was never anything I really wanted to remember that I wouldn't share here. As it is though, I'm starting to write down memories that I'm making here.

Tokushima is different from Okayama (where I was in training) in a number of ways. It's smaller, for one thing, and that leads to a number of qualities that are shared with smaller cities in the US. 

There are plenty of stores, restaurants, etc. in Tokushima, but they're a bit more scattered than in Okayama. For instance, our training center was quite close to a mall, which we went to during training. There's a mall in Tokushima, too, (even owned by the same company), but despite living near downtown, I can't get to that mall without walking more than half an hour. (Strangely enough, there's no public transportation to the mall. It's very odd how out of the way it is considering you'd think it would want to be in a busy part of down, but, again, this is a more rural Japan and more people here likely have cars.)

Being in a more rural area also means that fewer people here have seen foreigners before. (Or, if they have seen foreigners, they've seen very few of them.) In Okayama, I didn't notice anyone staring, and no one really cared that there was a white girl walking around. In Tokushima, I'm getting more stares, which I was expecting and also warned about by several people. 

Yesterday, a group of teenaged boys drove by me on their bicycles while I was walking home from the store. One of the boys noticed me, and was so shocked that he yelled something really loudly to his friends. All I caught from it was "gaijin", which means foreigner, so that was an experience unlike one I'd ever have in the US. It was something I was expecting to happen, though, so that's one thing to check off the list. 

While I can't share more stories about work, it is going well. I feel as if training prepared me, but I also think having studied teaching in college gave me a boost. (And I got told during training that the speed with which I learned the lesson steps was extremely rare for trainees, but I don't know how I managed that. I've always thought that I'm really bad at memorizing information.) I'm feeling pretty good about the upcoming week. Tomorrow I teach my preschool class for the first time, so that's a little intimidating. I've easily taken the "something will definitely go wrong but it won't be the end of the world" view though, so I'm not too worried about it.

Everyone at my school has been incredibly helpful and keep telling me to ask them if I need anything. They made sure I had a new skillet, new blankets, laundry detergent, etc. in my apartment and that I was able to find things I've needed at the store. I know that just how great of an experience you have with this company depends on the people at your school, and so far the people at mine have been wonderful. I'm really grateful for that.

There's more I could likely share, like eating at an izakaya and eating a fish whole or eating my first ramen that wasn't instant (which was delicious), but I don't want this post getting ridiculously long. I'm sure I'll have more to talk about in the future.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Life Post: Being in Japan

In the two weeks since I last posted, quite a lot has happened, not the least of which is finally moving to Japan.

I left the U.S. on July 5th and, after layovers in New York and Shanghai, landed in Kansai airport on July 8th. It was a long trip. My last two of three flights were delayed. One (from New York to Shanghai) was delayed for several hours, and instead of taking off at 1:45 a.m. like it was meant to, left the airport at 4 a.m.

That long flight to Shanghai was also unlike anything I've ever experienced in that it was like entering an alternate reality that you become convinced you're never going to escape from. All of the blinds on the plane were kept closed the entire flight until landing, so it was a bit strange to sit in New York through most of the night, then a 15 hour flight, and then arrive in Shanghai having skipped a day. I tried sleeping for most of it, but I was only slightly successful. The first time I woke up, I thought I'd slept a lot longer than I actually had. By the end of the flight, time felt like it had no meaning anymore.

Japan has been really great so far. Right now I'm still in training, so I'm not yet in the city I'll be living in.

I was pretty nervous to begin training because I knew that it was going to be intense, and while it's been busy, I'm having a lot more fun during it than I had expected to. Everyone here has been really great, and I think I'm going to go into the job feeling more prepared than I actually thought I would feel.

Plus, I've gotten to visit a Japanese castle, go grocery shopping, and eat conveyor belt sushi (among other things) over the past week. It's been hectic in a really great way.

In just a few days, I'll be making the trip to the school I'll be working at and will see my apartment and the rest of the city. I'm really excited for it. I've already spoken to a couple of people from there both online and in person, and I'm really excited to see everything for myself.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Review: Some Go Hungry by J. Patrick Redmond

ISBN: 1617754676
Published: May 17th, 2016
Publisher: Kaylie Jones Books
Received: purchased
Read from May 17th to 25th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Some Go Hungry is a fictional account drawn from the author's own experiences working in his family's provincial Indiana restaurant--and wrestling with his sexual orientation--in a town that was rocked by the scandalous murder of his gay high school classmate in the 1980s.
Now a young man who has embraced his sexuality, Grey Daniels returns from Miami Beach, Florida, to Fort Sackville, Indiana, to run Daniels' Family Buffet for his ailing father. Understanding that knowledge of his sexuality may reap disastrous results on his family's half-century-old restaurant legacy--a popular Sunday dinner spot for the after-church crowd--Grey struggles to live his authentic, openly gay life. He is put to the test when his former high school lover--and fellow classmate of the murdered student--returns to town as the youth pastor and choir director of the local fundamentalist Christian church.
Some Go Hungry is the story of a man forced to choose between the happiness of others and his own joy, all the while realizing that compromising oneself--sacrificing your soul for the sake of others--is not living, but death.

Review:

As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. Some Go Hungry takes place in southern Indiana, the same place I grew up. While the town in the book, Fort Sackville, is fictional, it seems to be a fictional version of Vincinnes. Portions of the book also take place in Evansville (which is essentially considered a metropolis to Fort Sackville just like it is my hometown), and while they're never shown in the book, it was cool to see Indianapolis and even Greenwood mentioned.

The book is about a gay man who has grown up in Indiana. His family owns a restaurant that he now manages, and he's stayed in the closet in Fort Sackville his entire life because he doesn't want to ruin his family's restaurant. He knows that no one in town will continue to eat there if they know that he's gay.

This book doesn't offer an idyllic picture of southern Indiana, but it is, without a doubt, realistic. I could recognize the town and how it operates. It was cool, if had times disheartening, to read. For me, that really helped the book.

There were a lot of times where I wasn't a huge fan of the writing style. There was a lot of description that felt unnecessary. That was the biggest fault of the book for me. There were also times where the characterization felt off. Sometimes a character would be in a scene but go through the whole thing and only speak one line, making it easy to forget that they were even there. It didn't feel quite like a realistic conversation. Even more than that, after reading the entire thing, I was left feeling like some characters would have been better off being cut out completely (such as the main character's brother) because they did/said so little and seemed to serve no purpose to the plot other than just being there and barely speaking.

The story, though, was touching, and I did enjoy it more than I disliked it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Life Post: Preparing to Leave

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written one of these. Considering I'm in the midst of preparing for the biggest move of my life, though, I thought I should give a brief update.

Recently, I have posted two phone vlogs on Youtube that mention a bit of what has been going on. While I usually post my videos here as well, I didn't with those purely because they were uploaded from my phone and I just didn't take the extra step of sharing them to the blog. Since I plan to more or less say what I said in those videos here, I won't bother with those now, but I'll try to get better about it in the future.

I've had my Japanese visa for a while, as well as my plane ticket and all of the other necessary paperwork. Currently, the only thing left for me to do is pack all my stuff up and say goodbye to everyone. Packing is an ongoing process as I try to sort through what I'll take and what I won't. From the beginning, I planned to take very little with me, but I keep having moments of worry where I think that maybe I should take a certain item after all.

The biggest source of stress, however, is my carry-on. I'll only have access to my carry-on during the week of training, and I'm not sure I can fit all of the clothes I need in it (and I'm not talking about an entire week's worth of clothes). That's currently my biggest challenge, but I'll make it work.

When my visa came, it became much more real that I was moving to Japan, but it still felt far away. Last night I had a moment where it truly hit me how soon I'll be leaving. Today, though, it's like that reality has faded a bit, and once again it feels far away despite my departure being only a week away.

I'm incredibly excited but also nervous. Funnily enough, my current nervousness comes largely from a fear that something will happen with my luggage. (Not packing the right stuff, it getting lost, etc.) I'm sure I'll get nervous about plenty of other things as they happen, but I also think how excited I am will outweigh most of that.

I really can't believe it's next week.