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)

*snort*

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.)

Whew…

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.

Hi, everyone!

Just a quick message saying hi to everyone who’s stopping by as a result of the mass e-mail I sent out to friends and family a day or so ago. I need to run to work now, but hopefully this journal will keep you reasonably entertained. :o)

Quick recap of stuff to talk about:

  • Atlanta orientation this past weekend
  • travel agent stuff (airline preferences, shipping luggage from Narita)
  • more stuff I’m sure I’m forgetting about

I want this to be as comprehensive as possible, but I’m lazy. So I’ll have to compromise somehow. ;o)

Just more of the same

I just thought I’d share that I’m posting this from my new laptop. Woo, WIRELESS! I got a Gateway this weekend–actually a pretty high-end machine (I honestly never thought I’d get a Gateway, but now that they’ve bought eMachines, that gives their machines a chance to compete with the bigger names while eMachines becomes the “entr-level” brand, so to speak), Centrino technology, Pentium 4 1.6 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 80 GB HD, DVD/CD burner combo drive…and under $900 after rebates. And here I thought I was going to get an Acer, with like none of that, for $700. Pah!

(I only just realized that I’d left my laptop on standby for 3 days without even realizing it, because I assumed that the blue light in front meant the battery was charged since it’s plugged in, and not that it was still on. Haha, oops…)

No real updates (besides picking up my new glasses yesterday–blue plastic semi-cat’s-eye frames! So cool!)…I’ve been busy enough with work to not get much done. Buying the laptop has been the biggest thing. This is only my first time really using it, after starting it up and burning the recovery CDs. I can take this opportunity to post some things that have been suggested at Chiisai Sudachi (the Tokushima AJET forum):

  • with the exception of clothes, underwear, shoes, and medicine, if you can get it in the US, you can almost definitely get it in Japan. They even have Herbal Essences shampoo over there. But yeah, don’t stock up on many toiletries you can get there…maybe bring some deodorant and sunscreen, things that may actually make a difference based on your “bodily chemistry,” but that’s it. And Japanese toothpaste doesn’t have fluoride, so bring a few tubes of your own.
  • ship your winter stuff over, and pack for a warm summer. This applies especially to Tokushima, whose summers parallel Atlanta’s (ew) in warmth and stickiness, but everywhere else as well. Actually, if you go to cnn.com’s weather section, you can pull up a ton of international locations, including dozens of cities throughout Japan. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Tokushima’s on their list–and the forecast is in English, unlike Yahoo!Japan’s weather site. So that can give you an idea of the climate in your area right now.
  • it’s okay to be original, because you’re over there because you’re a foreigner. Some things like piercings and really short/revealing clothes are frowned upon (I actually bought a really cute skirt that comes just above my knees–yeah, I used “cute” and “skirt” and “bought” in the same sentence; I can’t believe it, either–anyway, it’s too short to teach in, because it has to come to your knees when you kneel, and mine’s several inches too short), but they’re generally pretty understanding of foreigners’ idiosyncracies.
  • bring omiyage. (Souvenirs.) Bring a ton to give to your coworkers, principal(s), neighbors, friends, etc. Food is generally recommended, especially regional food–someone brought saltwater taffy, as a regional snack. (So would I like bring bottles of peach preserves to everyone then? Or just some general southern food…? Hmm. Maybe I’ll just get a bunch of cookies…can’t go wrong with that.)
  • dress code varies between schools. Generally, middle schools are a little more flexible than high schools, but you still can’t wear jeans, no matter where you are. (Heh. I wore capris to work today–I’m going to miss that flexibility.) Ask what you can and can’t wear, and look to see what the other teachers are wearing. In general, though, the more you dress up, the more the students will see you as a sensei and not just an oniisan/oneesan (big brother/sister) or something.
  • don’t bring a lot of color-coordinating shoes for your work shoes, since you have indoor shoes you carry with you to wear daily. Many people apparently wear white sneakers, but some places are okay with open-toed sandals (albeit dressy ones) in the summer, too. Just be sure that your indoor shoes are comfortable enough that they’ll let you be on your feet all day.
  • many American airlines let you check 2 70-pound bags and bring another one as well as a personal item as your carry-ons. Northwest is no exception. Clothes can be quite heavy, though, so ship what you can, if you get your address ahead of time. The USPS has very reasonable rates, especially compared to the other shipping carriers like FedEx and UPS.

Granted, I still have yet to follow this advice (though the last one I discovered myself), since I really haven’t started packing yet, and there’s a ton more they’ve posted as well that I’ll maybe recap in a future “killing time” post. Three weeks seems like it should definitely be enough time to get everything done–though I wish that tomorrow were my last day, because I would’ve loved to use the extra week to travel. My grandmother in Ohio is flying down to spend a few weeks here, though, so I’ll definitely get to see her. Plus, she won’t be lonely, since my other grandmother is currently living with us; she lives alone in Ohio, just a couple of miles from my aunt (her daughter) but still alone in an apartment, after my grandfather died 2 1/2 years ago.

All right, I should sleep…we have a neighborhood garage sale this weekend, and since I’m working from home, I volunteered to run our house’s tomorrow. I just need to figure out how to keep my laptop plugged in so I can have constant access to my e-mail for work purposes…and whether or not I’ll get a signal in the garage. Hmm.

Oh, and the first official JET orientation is this Saturday. I’ll definitely have a lot to write about after that happens.

Flight times

NW 464 Jul. 23 10:30am Atlanta – Jul. 23 12:30pm Detroit
NW 11 Jul. 23 3:30pm Detroit – Jul. 24 5:25pm Narita

OR

NW 466 Jul. 23 12:05pm Atlanta – Jul. 23 2:04pm Detroit
NW 11 Jul. 23 3:30pm Detroit – Jul. 24 5:25pm Narita

So, you know, if any of you want to see me off at Hartsfield-Jackson, you now have a timetable. ;o) I’d better try to set up a frequent-flyer thing with Northwest then, and inquire into requesting vegetarian food and an aisle seat. But ouch, Detroit to Tokyo…that’s a 12-hour flight. That’s kind of like the time we flew from Frankfurt to Singapore, on our way to India (I don’t know why we went east instead of west)–Really Really Not Fun. That trip put me (who loves airports and trips and such) off from wanting to go near an airport for several months.

It isn’t settled who’s on which flight yet, but I can bet that the flight out of Detroit is going to be filled with nothing but JETs. That might be kind of cool.

I need to call my aunt in Houston back–she was going to try to reach the embassy there about securing a visa, but I’ll just try when I get to Japan, because that gives me 4 solid months in which to get it. So now this means that I can apply for my Japanese visa, instead of waiting till mid-July to get it in. At least it’s settled.

Fun with visas

All right, who was it who searched for “smitha prasadh blog” and found this site? ;o) You’re in this timezone and a Bellsouth user–I know that much at least. Reveal yourself!

A word to the wise–go to your local all-in-one pharmacy for your passport/visa photos. I went to the post office (where I’ve gone for all my photos for the JET application process so far), and the woman behind the counter actually ordered me to go to Walgreens or CVS, because she told me the post office charges way too much. It would’ve been $30 for 4 photos, and I went half a mile down the street to our local Walgreens and paid half that. Plus, I got into a good conversation with the passport photo lady, whose friend’s daughter just graduated from college and is looking into similar programs, too, so I told her about JET and NYTF, and named a few other English programs in Japan (NOVA, AEON, GEOS, etc.). On the other hand, the passport photo lady at the post office never cracks a smile. So think about it. ;o)

Also–if you think you want to go to a country that requires a visa if you’re on an American passport…well, it’s too late now, but if you have more than 6 weeks before your departure, start RIGHT NOW so that you can give yourself enough time for it. I’m hoping to send my Indian visa forms off today, probably via Express Mail, and the website says there’s a turnaround of 7-10 days. But this is the Indian embassy. There’s absolutely no guarantee that they’ll stick to that deadline. (And to those idiots who like to flame me for being even remotely critical of my own people–just shut up, because you know it’s totally true.) I have to have my passport back so that I can submit my Japanese visa form to the Atlanta consulate by July 15th (at least I can drive there and drop it off if needs be, which is nice)…so I have a month, but right now my dad isn’t sure if we should go ahead and send it off or not. (He tells me this AFTER I get my 4 visa photos, and AFTER I get a $165 cashier’s check to cover the cost of the visa and having it shipped back to me via Express Mail. Great!)

I’m teleworking today, and I haven’t even gotten started on my work yet because I’ve been taking care of all this stuff. I’m about to call the embassy in DC, which is the one that handles visas according to indianembassy.org, and see if I can explain that I have a particularly urgent case. And, you know, maybe fib and say that I only just heard about this wedding, when in reality, we all completely forgot that I actually have to apply for a visa, since I was still on an Indian passport when we went in 2000 and didn’t need to then.

Oh! One more thing–the post office actually has somewhat reasonable shipping rates, too. My parents called UPS this weekend, and they said it’d cost $250 to ship a 50-pound box to Tokushima, but the USPS charges around $150 for 2-week air mail, and $60-$70 for 4- to 6-week surface/sea mail. So keep them in mind for all your shipping needs, too.

God, this sounds like a paid promo or something, when I’m the one who’s doing all the paying–I’ve spent like $500 in the past 4 days on JET stuff. I forgot to mention that I got a second pair of glasses (bluish plastic frames, whee), which was a big bill in and of itself. I’d better get back to work.

Trying to recap

Really tired, but I’ve been trying to recap the last few weeks and keep getting interrupted, so maybe I’ll just make this short for now and will elaborate on important things later.

Met up with 6 Atlanta-area JETs last Saturday–it’s cool to know that I’ll already know a few at the upcoming orientation on the 25th. And most of us were there for over 3 hours, so that’s also a good sign. We’re all over the country, and so far my predecessor has given me tons more information than any of theirs have.

I got my contract (really similar to the one in the Big Blue Handbook–it also finalized my salary and stated other terms; what I really like about the JET contract is that it’s really accommodating towards women, and even allows for menstrual leave for women with really painful/uncomfortable cycles) and some other info in the mail from the Ikeda Board of Education–they also included a couple of maps of the city, a few of Lindsay’s school schedules, and general information about Tokushima and Ikeda. Oh, and a run-down of the apartment…it’s furnished, rent’s ~¥40,000 a month (so around $400, but it depends on the size of the room), and I get 2 futons, a washing machine, 2-range stove, oven, kotatsu, toaster, TV, VCR, microwave, electric heater, air conditioner, and a fridge.

I also realized that if I want to go see my relatives’ weddings in India in December, I need a visa to get in…the last time I went to India, I was on an Indian passport.

We did a ton of shopping this weekend–toiletries and some clothes, mainly. Our big debate now is whether to ship stuff over in advance, and if so, what to ship…a moderately-sized box via UPS is something like $250 to ship, which is a lot more than I expected it to be. I guess I’d mainly be shipping a few plates, books, some of my toiletries that I won’t immediately need, winter clothes and jacket, and so on.

I’ve also been saying more goodbyes–the biggest one thus far was saying bye to Louise a couple of weeks ago, because she’s now up in New York for the next 1-2 years. I’m getting back in touch with people I haven’t talked to in a while, especially friends from high school and even before that I’ve fallen out of touch with, so I’m trying to sort of book my social schedule up so I can see as many people as I can.

It’s just under 6 weeks until departure now. I have under 3 weeks at this job, and after that’s through, I’ll have 3 solid weeks in which to do nothing but pack. And panic. It’s all beginning to register, and I really am wondering how well I’ll be able to handle this.

(wow, that wasn’t too long after all…I feel like there’s more, but I can’t think of anything.)

Redesign!

I got kind of inspired last night…instead of doing the telework and overtime design work I brought home with me, I decided to do something for myself instead, to help recharge after designing something like 6 landscaping sites this week. The image is courtesy of stock.xchng, taken by zaido, though s/he didn’t specify what castle in particular this is. The design should work in 800×600 and up, but it’s optimized for 1024×768 and up. I wanted to wait till I could use one of my own Japan photos, but I just wanted to get rid of the template first, so…yeah. ;o)

It’s seven weeks until I leave. I still haven’t started packing–but I mainly need to pack clothes. Mom bought some kitchenware for me, but I don’t know if I should keep it or just buy my own when I get there. I also would be taking keepsakes and memorabilia from home, my Japanese textbooks (and my hundreds of kanji flashcards, haha), and my violin and music (I want to pick up more sheet music before I leave, so I’ll have plenty to work on…I’m in the middle of two, the Kabalevsky violin concerto (which I kind of gave up on) and the Barber violin concerto (I can only barely play the 1st movement), but I’d love to pick up Saint-Saens’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso and Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending.

Anyway. :o) So…for the most part, that should be it. The apartment where I’ll be is fully-furnished, within walking distance of anything I would need, and I’ve been assured that the BOE employee that works with us will be more than happy to take me shopping to help me buy stuff. Another major concern of mine, though, besides the general strict-vegetarian-in-Japan thing (though as long as I just constantly cook for myself, I ought to be okay), is that the washing machine and dryer there will shrink my clothes–and while I’m certainly not huge, I don’t think that adult-large in the US is quite the same as it is in Japan.

I’m actually meeting my best friend for lunch in an hour at Ru-san’s (an ueber-Americanized chain of Japanese restaurants…I’ve definitely had better, but they have a very original and cheap sushi menu, that includes quite a few vegetarian options), and one of the Atlanta JETs, Jaime, has organized a dinner at a Buckhead restaurant called Genki tonight, so I’ll be meeting around a dozen other Atlanta JET folks. I’m definitely looking forward to that–it’ll be great to have other people who, while they may not all be at the same point in life that I’m in, and while they most likely won’t be going to the same area of Japan that I am, are all prepping for this major transition as well. And it’d be great to get to know a few people before the official Atlanta orientation at the end of June.

Developments

Actually, a lot’s happened over the past week, but I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write about it (I’ve been too busy geeking out over Revenge of the Sith–OH MY GOD. Three viewings down, and I can’t wait to see it again!)…even now, I have to run, but I’ll just summarize:

  • several days after getting the e-mail, I got the Big Huge JET Packet in the mail. It came with a full-color foldout map of Japan, so I was able to really easily identify Tokushima-ken there. It also came with the visa application form (due in June–I actually can bring it to the Atlanta JET orientation they’re holding on June 25th), a “Japanese for JETs” textbook (I really need a refresher course, so this’ll be great), and a JET Program handbook. I read through most of it the day it arrived–it’s full of a lot of really, really useful information.
  • I got e-mails from my predecessor (Lindsay from Portland) and my contact at the Miyoshi-gun Tokushima-ken Board of Education overnight. I’m sending a quick one off to the BOE contact, and will definitely be sending Lindsay a much longer one pretty soon.

Oh, and I’ve also gotten some pretty heartening news lately–there are more JETs in the area than I thought (9 in Miyoshi-gun alone; Miyoshi-gun is made up of 6 or 7 towns, one of which is Ikeda-cho), and they’re a pretty tightly-knit community. Also, a new supermarket opened up in Ikeda, the largest in the area, and we can get flour tortillas there–so that’s a huge relief, because vegetarian food won’t be hard to come by. I also came across a couple of communities for Tokushima JETers–a Yahoo! group that I’m lurking on, because it’s mainly official business, and a messageboard, where I’m still waiting for my membership to be confirmed before I can even read the posts.

Everything’s moving quickly now. Monday marked the 2-month point until I leave, and I also got an e-mail from my manager asking whether I’d started thinking about my final day yet (not that they want me to go–and the other has already said that I’m welcome to join them again if they have an opening if I’m looking for employment when I get back–but they need a few weeks to hire somebody new)…and I have; I’m going to get back to them tomorrow or Friday about it. I wanted to give myself 4 weeks off, so I could use one week to travel and see people, but my parents aren’t fond of that idea, since I can stay and earn more money instead–so I’ll give myself 3 weeks off. That should be more than enough time, I hope…and maybe I can still make a few quick trips to visit relatives. (Like my grandmother…she’s definitely in her twilight years, and while there’s a strong chance I’ll get to see her in India at the end of the year, if I can get time off to go (I have two relatives who are getting married in the same week), I’d just love to spend some time with her beforehand.)

And now I have to run. More on the handbook and the e-mails later.