I’m in Tokyo!

I just wanted to let you know that I arrived safely, and am currently using wireless access from our hotel in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo…I spent so much time catching up on websites that I didn’t get a chance to write about anything yet. It’s been great so far, though tiring–today was our major get-over-jetlag day, coupled with a full day of orientation, and we have even more tomorrow. But everybody’s been friendly–I’ve struck up random conversations with so many people around here. There are 2000 new JETs coming in this year.

I already ran into my first vegetarian issue…a few of us went to an izakaya last night (like a combo bar/restaurant), and I asked the waitress if the yakisoba had meat or fish in it, and she told me it didn’t…but when it arrived, it had ground beef in it, so I had to waste all of it, though the other guys at my table helped me finish it off. I think that getting to Ikeda and buying my own groceries will make things much easier.

The Tokushima JETs got together and went out for karaoke tonight, which was a lot of fun, though a bit expensive. But they’re a pretty cool bunch. I got an e-mail saying that there’s going to be a meet-and-greet for us this Saturday in Tokushima city, which should be cool.

I’ll post full details later. We’re currently 13 hours ahead of Atlanta, and it’s 1:15 AM here; I wanted to be in bed an hour ago, but it took me way too long to catch up on stuff…I’ll be sure to have some green tea tomorrow to keep me going. I also have been taking a bunch of photos, but I can’t find my Photoshop install CD, so I can’t edit/resize them just yet.

Anyway, I’m here and doing well. I’ll be sure to post some more soon!

It’s finally here

I’ve been going through that period where I start thinking, “This is the last time I ___ before I leave for Japan.” This is the last time I see these people, the last time I eat this food, the last time I update my Pirates of Dark Water website, the last time I visit Georgia Tech’s campus, the last time I drive down the connector and through the streets of Midtown, the last full week and weekend that I’ll spend in the states…and now, after months of anticipation and wondering how I’d feel when this day came, we’ve arrived at my last full day in the US.

My suitcases are almost completely packed, and I’m finally done with my clothes-shopping–I still have to fit some books in there, and I need to pack my carry-on bag. I also still have to totally configure my laptop. I was going to sleep early tonight so I can get sort of used to the idea of going to bed really early tomorrow–we have to wake up around 5 AM on Saturday so that we can leave for the airport around 6 and make it to the Northwest ticket counter by 7 AM. But instead I went down to get a snack, and I watched TV and looked around the family room and tried to memorize every little detail of my last waking midnight in the US.

And I did buy my omiyage (souvenirs) today–Ghirardelli chocolate bars for the most part, and a few bottles of made-in-America peach preserves for the “really important” people (even if they were made in New Jersey and not Georgia). I still want to stop by a dollar store or Big Lots and pick up some stickers, and I have to take and print out photos tomorrow to bring with me. I still have to install Office and Photoshop on my machine–I have all my files backed up onto DVDs and CDs (all the audio’s on CDs–15 CDs, to be exact–so I can listen to it on my CD/mp3 player), so I’m not in a hurry to transfer them all over before I leave.

This week’s been my week of truly saying goodbyes…dinner with individual friends, an ice cream social with my high school friends, our last orchestra dinner last night (where we had an impromptu toast to everybody who’s leaving, and they claim it’s “the end of an era,” since I’ve been in orchestra longer than many people there and I’ve been a fairly regular fixture at our dinners and such), and tomorrow I’m meeting a few of my coworkers before our pre-departure orientation. Time’s just slipped away–I was hoping to see Star Wars in theaters again before leaving (while it’s 1. cheap and 2. in English–it just came out in theaters in Japan a couple of weeks ago, but it’s most likely dubbed), and maybe catch some newer movies I hadn’t seen yet, like Batman Begins and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…oh well.

It’s finally here. I’m pretty sure I’m getting a cellphone when I get there, and waiting to set up internet access–or maybe not setting it up at all, depending on what access I’ll get from work and how expensive a land line and DSL are–and I’ll be sure to e-mail my friends/family (a.k.a. 95% of my readership) my new contact info.

This may be one of my last blog posts from the US, too. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to write tomorrow…we’ll see. If not…here I go! Wish me luck. I love you all, and I’ll see you on the flip side. :o)

Down to the grindstone

This week’s going to be so stressful. I have an insane amount of stuff to get done, and I’m trying to fit last-minute socializing into that as well (I have plans Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and maybe Tuesday). I was hoping to be able to relax this week and have everything done by this past weekend, but I just know I’m going to be scrambling on Friday night, and probably making an emergency run to Walgreen’s in the middle of the night or something at the rate I’m going.

Five days left. I’m going to be in Tokyo in a week, and I’ll be in Ikeda a week from Wednesday. I can’t believe it’s already here…


Louise just called…she was offered an ALT position with JET, and she’s taking it! She just had a 5-minute conversation with the JET folks–she doesn’t know where she’s going to be yet, and she isn’t departing till August 16, but she had to call and let me know. I’m really happy for her, and a little relieved…I know there’s probably no chance that we’ll be placed anywhere near each other, but it’s good to know someone I’m really close to is going to be in the same country at least.

My family and friends are amazing

I’m going to be writing about this a couple of times, I’m sure, so sorry for any crossposting.

My family threw me a surprise going-away/belated-graduation party yesterday. They’d been planning it for a month–that’s why my grandmother flew in this past Wednesday, so soon after July 4th, and not this weekend. Something like 60 people were there–the Indian families we’ve known for years, and many of my friends from school (high school and college) and work (past and–er–more recently past), and even my orchestra conductor from Georgia Tech stopped by. The lengths they all went to to plan this and to keep it from me are amazing–my dad got in touch with many of them due to his own ingenuity, my mom got in touch with a few more by stumbling across my address book, and my friends helped out a lot by giving him names and contact info of other friends he could contact, and spreading the word and getting more people to come. They even tried contacting several of my close online friends, but of course none could make it–not that I would have expected them to anyway.

I have such amazing people in my life. I don’t know what I did to deserve you all, but I hope I keep doing it!

But now I have a lot more stuff to take with me, in the form of gifts (and cake; we have enough left over from the MASSIVE cake my parents bought that I’m sure they’ll try to send me off with some, haha)–though I got quite a few gift cards and money, but those will lead to me buying more things and cramming those into suitcases. My aunt got me a couple of books to read on the plane ride over (and she made sure to write in the accompanying card that she hopes that I meet a nice boy over there *groan*), and I got some jewelry and Bath and Body Works-esque products, and a watch from my grandmother (who often scolds me for depending on my cellphone as my watch *grin*). My coworkers chipped in and actually got me things I can use to teach kids over there basic English and grammar, and my parents’ friends got me a book on Japanese business etiquette.

I went out with my friends and then went to pick up Laura from the airport, and we alternated talking about my party (which she helped out with by looking up names and e-mail addresses) and her backpacking trip up in Banff in the Canadian Rockies, and I crashed at her place overnight. And now I’m tired and dazed and I have no idea where to begin…I have so much stuff in my room that I have no idea what to do with.

Oh, and they finalized the time of the flight: 10:00 AM on the 23rd, so we have to be at the airport at 7. Just under 2 weeks now, and I still don’t feel like I’m leaving.

Other than that, let’s see…still buying stuff, still in definite need of more day-to-day shoes (I still need to figure out what sort of indoor shoes I want) and clothes, especially for school. Danielle yesterday clued me in to Lane Bryant, and they actually do have some quite nice and normally-sized stuff there, including long-ish skirts. I also bought a CD/mp3 player at Target the other day–I still need to try it out. And I need to start burning backup DVDs of my files so I can start configuring my laptop, which I don’t think I’ve turned on in 2 weeks. I’m going to wait to buy a mouse and mousepad and speakers until I get to Japan.

I ordered some stuff on Amazon–I ordered 2 from Amazon directly and 2 from individual resellers, and Flight 2 and the Lost in Translation soundtrack came in yesterday (I’m listening to the latter right now–such an amazing compilation). I ordered 2 more CDs, which should come in next week, hopefully (Hilary Hahn’s recordings of the Barber and Meyer violin concerti, and Incubus’s “Make Yourself”–I really mean it when I say that my musical tastes are all over the place). I also ordered violin strings off Southwest Strings (they do offer international shipping, but I figured I may as well try to restring my instrument before I leave–I got Thomastik Dominants and Pirastro Aricores; I’ve never used Pirastros before so I’m interested to see how those work), and I did pick up some sheet music to work on over there–Vaughan Williams’s “The Lark Ascending” and Saint-Saens’s “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.” And, of course, the Barber violin concerto, still. I’d love to be able to come back from Japan having these 3 pieces mastered.

Generally, everyone has been saying, “We need to get together one more time before you leave.” It’s funny, because I’ve seen quite a few of them more than once, and they say that every time we part ways. It’s touching, though, that they really would like to see more of me–maybe get in as much Smitha-time as they can before we’re separated for a year. Or even longer, because many people are moving out of Atlanta in the next month or so, to work or to start grad school. But it’s really getting down to the wire–less than 2 weeks now. But I still can’t even really tell what’s beyond that 2-week boundary…it’s this big void, just a huge and unnerving blank.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I need to get back to cleaning and packing and all that…so till next time. ;o)


We headed to the mall today, and I got in an argument with my dad because he didn’t want me buying a greenish suitcase when the other 2 we own that I’m planning to take are red. You’d think he’d have more important things to worry over than what people will think of me because my suitcases don’t match.

(I know he’s going to read this, too. Hi, Dad! Just for you, I’m going to keep an eye on what color people’s suitcases are when we’re meeting at the airport, and point out clashing sets to you.)

I ended up buying a blue one–blue at least matches red better than dull green does, so maybe that’ll appease him a bit. Plus, the one we bought today is the one I’m going to be shipping off to Ikeda once we land at Narita, since it’s the bigger one and we’re only allowed to keep 1 suitcase and our carry-ons with us for the Tokyo orientation. And speaking of carry-ons, I picked up a messenger bag today–it’s padded and laptop-friendly, but it only just barely fits into my suitcase (I’m taking one of the overhead-compartment-sized ones with me, since my violin is my personal item and most people would probably have a bag plus a laptop case as their two carry-on items), while the one I got at Target fits perfectly. I’m hoping to keep a spare set of clothes and basic toiletries, as well as CDs/etc., in my carry-on suitcase…but in the event that they say my suitcase is too big for the overhead and make me check it, I want to be able to keep my laptop case up there and store a few things in it as well.

I bought TWO SKIRTS today at JC Penney–those of you who’ve known me for a long time know how strange this is for me. One’s long enough for me to wear to class, and it looks like something my elementary/middle school teachers wore; the other’s a denim skirt. I think I’m slowly starting to concede the fact that “girly” stuff does look okay on me, and that it won’t kill me to not wear jeans/slacks/capris all the time. Though don’t get me wrong–I totally got my share of girly-bashing in, by making fun of all the incredibly impractical/ueber-frilly/pink and lime green purses they had on display. We also ended up going back to Circuit City and signing up for the extended warranty on my laptop–I guess it doesn’t hurt, considering it probably will get jostled around a bit, and laptops/notebooks are much more susceptible to having things knocked out of place than a stand-still desktop tower would be, especially since I may be taking it to class frequently with me.

Three weeks. In three weeks, I’m going to be somewhere over the northern Pacific Ocean. I think we’ll have crossed the International Dateline by this point–it’ll be 1:15 PM July 24th, Japan time.

Oh, and hi to any of my (former, as of yesterday) coworkers who stop by. :o) I seem to be in the habit of sending out long, spammy e-mails plugging this journal to everyone lately (though the stupid proxy server blocks this one and I don’t even know why, since I could get to starwars.com at work)…hopefully this’ll be a lot more interesting in a few weeks. (And you guys especially will be interested (or not) to know that this site was coded almost entirely in standards-compliant CSS. With properly implemented IDs and everything. The only thing that the validator caught was the code setting the opacity of the text areas to 70%, since that’s more of a workaround than anything else…and I designed this site before the last web standards workshop, so there’s no XHTML or anything semantic. Heh, oh well–maybe later.)


I got a big piece of really relieving news just a couple of days ago from Lindsay–well, two fold. Firstly (well, sucky for her), the Peace Corps isn’t placing her in the program she’d applied for (edit–they didn’t reject her; sorry, Lindsay!), so she’s staying in Ikeda, where she already has a job for the foreseeable future, so she’ll be around to help and to hang out with. Secondly, there’s going to be a 3rd ALT in Ikeda. Her name’s Hannah, she’s 21 and from the Pacific Northwest, and she’s even living in the same building as we are. She’d registered at Sudachi, so I sent her a private message and we’re now e-mailing back and forth. She’s just as relieved as I am that there’s another new person, and within such a close proximity. It’ll be great to have someone–or another person, rather–to make a fool out of myself with!

But as a result of Lindsay sticking around, it turns out she’s no longer my (or anyone’s) predecessor, and I’m not going to be at Ikeda Chuugakkou anymore–instead, I’m succeeding someone else, a guy named Dave who Lindsay’s mentioned a few times. He and his wife are moving to another area, or something like that, so I’ll be taking over his ALT position at Ikeda Daiichi Chuugakkou (Ikeda’s #1 Middle School–“daiichi” meaning “greatest,” or literally “big one,” and “chuugakkou” meaning “junior high school”–“chuu” is middle and “gakkou” is school). According to the maps Lindsay sent me, that one’s probably not within walking distance, so I may have to take the bus there daily. I was looking forward to being able to walk a lot…maybe I still can, if I give myself lots of time to get there. We’ll see.

Hmm…I’m totally putting off doing my telework, so I may as well write some more. The JETAASE held a JET orientation at the Atlanta Consulate General this past Saturday, so I went with my dad. It turns out that I know someone who’s going–Alexa, who didn’t actually go to my high school, but her dad was an administrator and would be a chaperone on our orchestra trips quite often, so since she played violin at her own school, she’d come along and we were all friends. She’s going to be in Niigata, I believe, so nowhere near me. I almost wish I could switch places because I love snow…but from what I’ve heard, Tokushima sounds like it’s going to be amazing. I also ran into 4 people from the Genki dinner, as well as Trevin, a guy who’d just finished 3 years on JET and enrolled as a grad student at Tech, so we had 1 or 2 Japanese classes together.

The way the thing was set up, we had an intro session (with a speaker of Japanese origin, an older man who gave us a talk on the differences between Japanese and American culture), then we split up for 4 “breakout sessions.” I went to ones focusing on teaching in junior high schools, minorities in Japan, budget, and women in Japan. Honestly, the only one that really helped me was the JHS one–I could have skipped the budget one (since they e-mailed all the Atlanta JETs the documentation that was given to us at the session anyway), or even the minority and women ones, because I already was familiar with pretty much everything they discussed (in theory–it’s going to be quite different when I get there, I’m sure)…but I wish I’d gone to one on traveling, because I don’t know anything about that–like, how booking reservations and whatnot might be different in eastern Asia than it is here, plus just getting around airports and using transportation systems in other countries (Japan included). I’m planning that trip to India in December (tickets are EXPENSIVE, though–around $2000 one-way! There are no direct flights from Tokushima or Osaka to Hyderabad; I have to connect in Singapore (I LOVE Changi Airport!) or Malaysia or Korea, and probably again in India, either in Delhi or Mumbai. I’m looking at either flying out of Tokushima’s airport, which would make me connect through Nagoya or something, or just taking buses/trains up to Osaka-ish and leaving from New Kansai International Airport (Shin Kansai Kokusai Kuukou–that’s fun to say)) and that would have come in handy. I’ll just have to wing it when I get there, I guess.

Oh, and the travel agent–JTB is the agency that’s booking our flights to Japan and our accommodations in Tokyo. We got an e-mail from them with a form we had to e-mail back–it’s the first time I’ve used my JET number (you’re assigned a number you use for all official JET purposes; it came in the 1st e-mail I received after hearing that I was accepted, and it took me a minute to remember that I actually had one). In it, though, we were able to specify our smoking preferences for the hotel and our food preferences for the plane–Muslim/Hindu/Vegetarian/Vegan/whatever. (I requested Hindu–while airline Indian food has nothing on the real thing, I’ll take what I can get.) I also ended up calling the agency and requesting an aisle seat (long legs + 12-hour flight = Not Good), and despite not being able to pronounce my name at all, the guy was quite friendly and said he’d do what he could. If worst comes to worst, I could beg someone to switch seats with me, maybe.

I’m putting off teleworking…my last day of work’s tomorrow, after which I’ll have 3 weeks to do all my packing and shopping. (There’s a Star Wars symphony in Cincinnati, which is just straight up I-75 from here…my friend Emily’s going, and I’m SO TEMPTED to go join her. I just don’t know if I’ll be able to, though, especially since my other grandmother’s flying in this week and I’ll want to spend a lot of time with her.) I grabbed dinner with my friend Hamza yesterday, and he reminded me about the humidity there and how I need to be careful that my violin doesn’t warp, which also reminded me that I need to get spare strings and other maintenance supplies. And sheet music. And other non-music-related stuff, too, but I’m totally forgetting…I’ll remember eventually, I hope.