So... I made it to Japan. The flight was endless, and orientation was a blur. I had so much fun meeting people from the Atlanta consulate, my prefecture, and the program in general. Tokyo is fun as ever; Matt and I even went out for a little *deito* in Shibuya Monday evening! We had dinner at a nice restaurant, got a slice of cake at a cafe, and even did purikura in one of the arcades.
On Wednesday we took the shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto City. I had never been on one before and it was quite an experience. We did the traditional thing of buying a bento box for lunch and eating it during the trip. Since I had been kept in the "JET Bubble" of the Keio Plaza hotel, I hadn't seen any children until we were at the train station. Seeing little kids again pulled my heartstrings a bit, in remembrence of my amazing Pre-K class this past school year. I'm going to miss all of them!
At Kyoto station, I met my supervisor and another ALT outside the gates. They were even holding up a sign that said, "Welcome Meredith and Matthew!" So sweet! I instantly took note of the different atmosphere Kyoto City has in comparison to Tokyo. As we drove away from the city and into the countryside, I started to take in all the beautiful scenery.
At my new apartment, we met my predecessor. I came with Group A Orientation, but he came with Group B 2 years ago, so our time overlaps a bit. Thankfully, the apartment has 2 bedrooms and is very accomodating. I can't wait to clean, decorate, and make it our own! Right now Matt and I are just sleeping on traditional Japanese futon, but we plan to buy a bed later (probably from IKEA in Kobe).
My first day on the job involved introducing myself at the BoE and junior high schools and filling out paperwork. Another helpful person from the BoE, who is a translator, took Matt and I over to the next town to purchase the basics. Later, we met with her husband and we enjoyed delicious Thai food on the beach!
Friday was my first day at my base school, which is a junior high. Although it's summer, the teachers still come to work unless they take their paid leave (we get 20 days). Some students are also there for club and sport activities. My translator did not come with me, and none of the English teachers were in, so it was an "interesting" day. Everyone here is very kind and friendly, and make an effort to communicate despite the language barrier. I'm also trying my best, but right now I only now basic greetings/phrases, random vocabulary, and a few hiragana characters. Although it's more challenging at first, living in a rural area allows me to experience authentic Japanese culture and learn the language faster, since I can't rely on English as much as I would in say, Kyoto City.
This weekend Matt and I also went on a little adventure one town over. We took the train and walked about 3 miles to the festival on the beach. It's apparently festival season right now, and next weekend there will be one in my town. Our landlords invited us to go with them, which will be exciting!
I guess that's it for now~ Currently I'm using the internet in my apartment that my predecessor set up, but he's cancelling it after the weekend. I may not be able to email and blog for a while.