Surprise present

I came home yesterday and found a big manila envelope with my address hand-written in large letters across it. Upon closer inspection, after dumping my bags (shoulder and gym), I did not see an actual sender name, but I did realize that the envelope came from my junior high in Japan!

Upon opening it, I found a clear folder with about 12 hand-written notes from my girls (er, former students–it’s still so easy to say “my kids”), with photos attached, and a pretty postcard with a handwritten note on the back from Mayumi, my JTE. As part of the “Sentaku Eigo” (Advanced/Concentrated English, as opposed to the clothes-washing “sentaku”…it took me months to figure that out when I first heard her say it) class, she had the students write me notes, and she mailed them all to me!

If I have time, I would love to reply to each of them and mail them off on Saturday. Of course, at this point, I could just bring the replies with me and deliver them in person, but it’s much more fun and exciting to receive international mail.

I’m so freaking psyched for this trip. I rented a cellphone earlier this week that I can pick up and then drop off at Kansai Airport. I have e-mails to return to Shizuko and Yaemi, inviting me to stay with them (as did Terumi) and already suggesting things we can do, and I received a letter on Monday from Mitaka, suggesting we go bowling and eat udon again. I laughed a lot at that. Udon, oh yes. Bowling, absolutely not. Besides graduation and the musical, everything else is still totally up in the air. I can’t wait to see what happens.

JLPT results

I just got the e-mail notifying me that I passed level 3! I got 328/400, and rocked sections 1 and 3 (kanji and grammar), but screwed up on the listening section, and I know exactly why: I forgot and/or didn’t realize that the listening section only plays once, so I didn’t listen as closely as I should have.

But, I mean, come on. It’s so unrealistic to think that a Japanese speaker will say something to you only once in a conversation and then refuse to repeat it, especially if you’re a foreigner. S/he will be more than willing to repeat him/herself if you didn’t quite hear it all.

…okay, well, 49 times out of 50, the speaker would think that my asking him/her to repeat him/herself meant that I didn’t understand, and not that I didn’t hear it properly, so s/he then would try to reword and simplify it instead of just repeating it, which was frustrating.

And I do get why they only played it once: to force you to listen closely. It just doesn’t really jive with the real thing.

But–yeah! To celebrate, I’m going to go watch the lunar eclipse, which just began about 10 minutes ago. Sweet!

Getting closer

Whoops. I ended up finding my passport at work of all places. I’d taken a folder to my work orientation session with me and stuck my passport in it, and brought that folder to the office and stored it in the locker where I keep my work-issued MacBook Pro (*siiiigh* my next home machine will totally be a Mac), where it’s been collecting dust for the last five months. On a whim, and at the general suggestion of my boss, I decided to check it, and voila! That’s a big load off, for sure.

And the trip is looming. I’ll be in Texas in two weeks–in Houston for two days, visiting my aunt, then to Austin for SXSW Interactive, then off to Japan! Among the letters I’ve received recently was one from one of my dearest eikaiwa ladies, who finally wrote down her e-mail address for me. I’m hoping to stay with her and/or one other lady for a few days, with my JTE the night before graduation, and with friends the rest of the time. I’ll definitely need to get a prepaid phone at Kansai Airport to keep up with everyone–hopefully it won’t be too expensive.

And the apartment hunt has been dragging on and on…but as of today, I think it’s finally coming to a close. There’s a gated condominium complex just down the street from my office that has a couple of very promising units. The area’s safe, my office is 5 minutes away on foot, and there are numerous grocery stores and restaurants and even a public library and a MARTA rail station within reasonable walking distance (woo, easy airport access! Much better than driving 1-2 hours to Takamatsu or Tokushima’s airports, or traveling five hours to Kansai Airport outside Osaka). All I can say is it’s about damn time. Holy crap, man.

And Genna’s flying into Atlanta tomorrow, and Japan Night #2 is on for this weekend! Have any of you been to Momo-ya in Buckhead? My Japanese teacher cautioned me that it may not be the most authentic experience…but at least we’re doing karaoke afterwards. You can’t get much more authentic than that.

So in the next two weeks, I’m hoping to move, unpack and repack (which will be a challenge; it’s warm in Texas and snowing in Tokushima), buy a ton of omiyage, dust off my camera (or buy a new one…), and ship out. I’m feeling pretty genki about this next month, and really looking forward to the changes and new beginnings and reflection it will bring.

One small screw-up

I’ve lost my passport.

I wouldn’t have even realized it if not for my dad bringing it up out of the blue yesterday, when he mused that it’d been two years since my family visited me in Japan. And I’m grateful, because it’s just over a month until my trip back to Japan. Any closer to the departure date would’ve been pretty risky.

We’ve ripped the house apart looking, and it’s nowhere to be found. The last time I took it anywhere was for orientation for my new job in September, so it’s hard to retrace my steps back that far. I feel like I had to have just misplaced it somewhere at home, but it’s just not here.

Besides kicking myself for my clumsiness, the thing I really regret is that I’ve lost my Japanese work visa. They took my alien registration card when I left Japan in August…so the visa was the one official document I still had that attested that I had indeed spent two years working there. And the multiple reentry permit, too…that’s something else I couldn’t have gotten as a visitor. At least I still have my Japanese driver’s license, but it’s not quite as “sacred” as a passport.

And what are the chances of my ever getting a residency visa for Japan (or for any other country, unless I’m incredibly lucky with work or grad school acceptances) ever again?

I also regret losing my entry/exit stamps from South Korea, since I really don’t know if I’ll ever make it there again. The other stamps I had were from Japan, India, and Italy, and I know I’ll be going back to all of those in the future.

This really hurts. Even if it turns up the day after I declare it officially missing to the government, I’d like that because at least I’ll have it. That’s all I care about.