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


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.)


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.