Problems and bigger ones
So, yeah, I'm in Japan.
It's been about a week (as in, one-sixth of my program) since I arrived, but this is only my first real post. The horrendous lack of updating, which I'm sure has held many of you in unbearable suspense, is due primarily to a lack of steady Internet, and secondarily to the fact that I'm so darn busy. I hope the reasons for both will become clear as I try to catch up to date on here.
However, if you had asked me the day after I landed in Tokyo why I hadn't updated, my answer would be along the lines of "every single force of man and nature conspiring against me to make me look like a fool." I started my first-ever solo flight by holding up the Raleigh-Durham security gate for three minutes while I emptied my pockets. For those of you who don't know me well, let's do a brief run-through of what I typically carry in a pair of cargo pants/shorts:
Right top pocket:
- 2-3 pens
- 1-2 pencils
- Burt's Bees chapstick/lipbalm/whatever
- Car keys
- Spare change
Left top pocket:
- Cell phone
- Assorted items, if present (wrappers, receipts, etc.)
Right bottom pocket:
- Trade paperback book
- Scrap paper/maps
Left bottom pocket:
- iPod w/headphones
- Digital camera
Add my Point-It Dictionary, my passport, and who knows what else to the mix, and you begin to see the botch of an unsatisfactory situation I was in.
Surprisingly, the connecting flight to Dallas was relatively painless. To compensate, naturally, I managed to be the only person (out of 10) from our program's group flight to catch the first inter-terminal shuttle, almost getting my head caught in the sliding doors in the process. Got my ear nicked a bit, but nothing but my pride fatally damaged.
Somehow, I managed to also get through the Dallas-Narita flight in one piece. Since I spent most of my time reading a book, watching Casablanca twice, and taking some great pictures of the Canadian Rockies, I suppose there wasn't much trouble I could get into. I also only got about 5 minutes of sleep, which may help explain a lot of the following.
So we got into Narita (45 minutes early!), shuffled through customs, and met the representatives from IES in the terminal, where we were immediately told that we needed to pack two nights' worth of stuff for our program orientation, while the rest would be directly sent to our host family. Unsurprisingly, this was a mild shock to... everybody, as was the experience of converting our money into yen and immediately using it to pay for shipping our baggage. My first direct confrontation with a non-English-speaking Japanese here--the cashier--... did not go astonishingly well.
While half of the group was off getting Japan-usable cellphones (Japan Paradox #1: How is the most technologically advanced nation in the world unwilling/unable to adapt to a mobile phone protocol virtually every other country has already adopted?), the Kanda University student in charge of us for the next 90 minutes decided to go ahead and take the other half of us to the orientation site. The Wakamatsu Honten, a ryokan (りょかん, or Japanese-style inn) in Narita, promised to be highly interesting and a 15-minute train and bus ride away.
Although your faithful protagonist made it through most of the ride intact, if rather bemused, he did stumble upon a problem when he discovered you needed your train ticket to get both in and out of the station. Though I didn't lose it--that would have been much too cliche--I did spend an amount of time reminiscent of Raleigh-Durham before I finally found it and disposed of it in the machine. We arrived at the ryokan a few minutes later, where, of course, I was the first person from my room to show up. Though this sent me into a tizzy for a few more minutes, it did, at least, give me a few minutes to collect myself before we moved on to the orientation proper.
If I recall correctly, Catherine (far right) said she would decapitate me for taking this picture. Hopefully I'll be far away by the time she sees this.
More updates coming late Wednesday or Thursday America time. Don't worry, it gets a bit worse and then a lot better.