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 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.

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’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, 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.