Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lazy days



This past week I really haven't done much besides sweat, eat, and sleep. I had to attend a formal meeting with the local board of education where I was introduced to a lot of people in high places. I didn't have time to form a proper speech in Japanese so I had to wing it because I didn't know I was supposed to be there till the night before. Anyway, I'm not really big on preparing for speeches and such and considering I haven't used my Japanese in over a year I think I did OK, or at least that's what Mrs. Kyoko said to me... It is hard to judge how much people are being nice to you here but I'll take compliments where and when I can still get them...




I spent most of the day waiting for this late afternoon meeting so I really didn't do much today besides a little laundry and a short cat-nap. Speaking of cat-naps, I had the best sleep I've had in a long time. I think I finally adjusted from my old uncomfortable couch back in San Diego to my nice comfy double futon mattress in Japan. I really value sleep and I am relieved to find myself getting some real uninterrupted sleep for once. But that really isn't interesting I guess... It is to me and that's who I am really writing for!




Around 7:00 PM I met up with Josh, a nice local English instructor just like me, his wife, one of their friends, and another English instructor from Australia (which I can't remember her name unfortunately) for a little bit of social drinking and dinner at a local restaurant. It was a pretty good place and it was nice to finally spend some real time with people for once. Even when I was training in Tokyo I really didn't feel connected to anybody there. I'm glad I'm starting to meet new people, this should lead to meeting more people hopefully. The sooner the better I'd say. The restaurant we ate at closes around 11 ,which is pretty early by Japanese standards, so we had to all go home shortly after that. I had fun and ate and drank more than I can remember since I arrived in Japan yet I still feel fine. I think the beer here is weaker or something...




Anyway, that's about it for today. I'm hoping I can ride to the next city or something just to do a little more exploring before I have to start seriously planning my lessons for next week. My company Interac, hasn't been too helpful with suggestions so I hope what I got from training and my own intuition will be enough to get me through this. I'm not saying Interac isn't good at all or anything like that, on the contrary they've been very helpful but I still feel a little disconnected from them out here in the boondocks.




Here are a few pictures of the inside of my apartment like I promised yesterday. This should give you a better idea what I see every day and how nice I have it this time around.




Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The long awaited first post.


It has been a little over two weeks since I arrived in Japan. A lot of stuff has happened since my arrival and I've finally had my Internet service installed today. Up till now I haven't really done very much since my city is kind of out on the fringes of society but things not as bad as they could have been. On the contrary, life in Minami-alps is pretty comfortable especially since I've done this before two years ago. I'm sure I would have been super disappointed in Minami-Alps if it were my first experience with Japan. But, having lived in Japan two years ago really helped soften the reality of living in the countryside. This time I knew what to expect and how low to set the bar for country comforts and how long it may take to re-establish myself with new friends and contacts. Just a 'heads up' you can click on any picture to see the full sized image.


Before I get carried away sharing details of my new city and the many pictures I've taken of it (which may not be that impressive), I would like to briefly cover my week in Tokyo training with Interac. My reception at Narita International Airport was comfortable and easy although my flight was long and sleepless despite having my own row to myself and three tasty meals. I was met at the airport by an Interac teacher like myself who helped me find my hotel in Asakusa.


The big shrine at Asakusa. I've seen this many times before.

The hotel was pretty good and it free which was pretty cool because it was deep in one of the most famous cites in Tokyo. The actual training took place at Interac headquarters which lasted about one week. As far as the training went, I feel it was OK but I left it feeling a little worried about how I'd set up my first lesson. We only spent two solid days going over lesson planning and critiques the other days were for siginging contracts, meeting with managers, and doing ice breaker activities with the other new Inteac trainees.


Shibuya at Night


On Tuesday the 21st, I was swept away early in the morning, to my surprise to my new home in Yamanashi-ken (home of Mt. Fuji). Apparently I overlooked the time that my train would arrive and mistook it for an evening train when in fact it was morning. Either way I made it to my town safely where I was met by a very nice housewife Interac volunteer named Kyoko. Kyoko helped me set up all my utilities, sign my apartment lease, set up a new bank account, and helped take me to a few places to buy things I needed in my new home.






Its like this for miles and miles between my town and Tokyo...




My Apartment-



The apartment I now live in is operated by a national company called LeoPalace21 which handles many rental homes across Japan. Compared to the apartment I had last time, my LeoPalace apartment is pretty darn big (for Japan standards). I have all wood floors (thank God no stinky tatami mats) and every thing is modern in it right down to the shower room which has a nifty electronic heater device. The apartment came fully furnished and equipped with a bed, 20inch TV, refrigerator (with a freezer), microwave, AC/Heater unit, a table with two chairs, and tons of storage space which I will never use.I live on the ground floor yet again but all my neighbors are Japanese this time and the walls are fairly thick. I occasionally hear my upstairs neighbor walking about but its really not that noticeable unless I am not watching TV or doing something on the computer. I think the best thing about my new apartment is that it is NEW and it has a cool little loft where I can place my bedding (no more sleeping on hard floors). I'll post some interior shots later. I have a lot of pictures I want to show but I don't want to sit at my laptop forever waiting for my uploads to complete so you're only getting a small sample of what I have...







Outside my apartment. I am literally on the outskirts of the city...



Details about Yamanashi Prefecture/Minami-Alps city-

Since arriving in Minami-alps, I have endured about a week of insanely humid weather. I found out from Kyoko that Minami-alps/ Yamanashi Prefecture is the second hottest place in Japan and just about as windy and cold as Gunma (my last prefecture). I know for a fact I've never sweated as much as I have until now. Just to give you an idea how hot it is (even with a dehumidifier and air conditioner) I start sweating after I'm out of the shower. Its pretty gross but I'm used to it now.



My FREE superior Japanese phone. The only thing iphone has over it is the touchscreen...


Minami-alps city doesn't have a train station, the nearest useful one is in Ryuoh about three miles away. I won't even dare attempt the bike ride to Ryuoh in the summer or winter because its either too dang humid or windy to do it and on top of that its all uphill on the way back home. For being nestled in a valley between three mountain ranges, Minami-Alps is pretty hilly (especially near my apartment). I will be contacting my Interac advisor about getting my car lease paper work in order so I can get around a lot easier. Although my car's gas isn't covered by my company, the insurance and lease costs are next to nothing for a person at my age which should more than make up for any fuel costs I rack up. Until I get the car I will be forced to walk/ride my nifty mountain bike which has full front/rear suspension and enough gears to face a 10 percent grade hill (if my legs can handle it).






On a clear day I CAN see Mt. Fuji. I couldn't believe it the first time I saw it. Mt. Fuji is HUGE.



As far as grocery stores and other shops go, my city lacks any real variety. I have one tiny grocery store which seems to stock more beer than any thing else, and its about a ten minute walk from my apartment. The closest electronics store is Yamada Denki in Ryuoh, which is about three miles from me with a hell of a hill to ride back up. Another seven miles from me is the heart of Minami-Alps where I can find the tiny city-hall, a big supermarket called "MaxValu", a wal-mart like store called "Trial", KFC, Mc Donald's, Kappa Sushi, and a Tsutaya video rental shop along with the biggest 100 yen DAISO shop I've ever seen. I even managed to find a used store for anime/games/movies about five miles away from me. Its way down a hill but well worth visiting once I feel more comfortable about spending some money on game again (probably in October).






Midai JHS. You can see Mt. Fuji even better from the schoolyard!


My best bet for any real good food/conveniences would have to be my local "Daily" and "Lawson" convenience stores. Unlike their American counterparts, Japanese convenience stores are extremely convenient. I have been buying most of my lunches and daily needs from them because they are a short walk from where I live.


So, thats about it. Not much has really happened, and probably won't happen till after I start teaching at Midai JHS next Monday (September 3rd). I've already been to the school already and its small and very nice. I gave a small self introduction in Japanese to the student body which seemed to be well received (they were pretty shocked to see me speak Japanese but afterwards I could tell they were relieved about it too). Now that I have an Internet connection of my own, I'll be posting daily. For some of you this won't matter much, but to a lot of you this may be entertaining and well worth a read during dinner or at work during a break. Either way, I'll be in Japan for at least a couple years if all goes well so this may be the only way you'll see me for a while.