Yesterday evening, I finally got my email from IES about my Japanese host family. I immediately pounced onto the attached file--virtually everyone else in the program had gotten their letter before me--toyed with the zoom until I could actually read the page, and found out that I would be spending the first six weeks of my life outside of North America with...
...an 80-year-old retired schoolteacher.
Although my mother immediately, to euphemize, became worried about the situation, I'm actually excited and a bit comforted. I was worried that I would be moving into a cramped Tokyo apartment with a nuclear family, like many of the other students. Of course, that would be extremely interesting and enrichening; however, I would hate to, for example, unknowingly be given one of the kids' bedrooms (which is apparently fairly common) or otherwise be an irreparable intrusion.
In her short introduction, Takeda-san (my homestay) mentioned that she had been on the hosting and visiting ends of homestays several times, and IES added that she was "an energetic lady who takes a leading role in the community". I was also worried that I might be put with a family that speaks little to no English, which could kill me before it made my (pitiful) Japanese stronger; that doesn't seem to be an issue here. Takeda-san, of course, seems like a nice person, and given the life she's lived I imagine she has a plethora of stories to tell.
I'm also in the fun situation of being only about two and a half miles from the IES Center, where our classes and other events are being held. Although I could bike there, there's the appealing prospect of ten minutes of walking plus a 4-minute, 150-yen ($1.30) subway ride. (By contrast, my friend Derek, who's also in the program, is about 40 minutes away by train.) I'm also about half a mile away from a post office, the predominant source of international ATMs in greater Tokyo. Finally, the Keiyo line that my local station on is pretty convenient for downtown Tokyo in general. All in all, a pretty psych-inducing situation.
Where I get on the subway (Warning for dialup users: Google Maps
Where I get off the subway
So today and Monday I get to finish my language review--mostly kanji, though I still have some advanced vocabulary and basic counters I should try and stuff into my head--and Wednesday I'm off! Don't expect to see me around much for a while. I've found out my mailing address, which I'll send to anybody who asks here or emails me, but try not to send anything too big--apparently the customs fees are brutal. I'll try and get postcards to everyone who asked, though.