So I have now been living in Kobe-shi for little over a week now and honestly I have been meccha busy ever since I stepped foot off the plane last Wednesday. Either I have been insanely busy setting up my new life here or socializing (read: getting drunk) at every opportunity.
So I guess I’ll start at the beginning, now my journey from Melbourne to Kobe was a tad less amazing than I had hoped, perhaps having something to do with the sheer amount of baggage I decided to lug half way across the world which amounted to over 2/3rds my body weight.
The story of the flights over make for less than interesting reading so I will skip straight to the arrival, now before I left I was given a schedule that had me spending a day in Tokyo after my arrival, soon as I passed through customs I discovered this was not the case and was quickly ushered by a CLAIR employee onto a train, only stoping briefly at a counter to have my baggage posted to me. This was my first experience with logic head-butting with Japanese rationale, basically it would take 36 hours or so for my baggage to reach me being couriered from Narita to Kobe and I would have to pay for the inconvenience. I left room in my bag to stuff a good 10kg of heavy stuff I had in my carry on so this ‘service’ would be little more than a grand inconvenience so I stuck to my guns and eventually she let me take my baggage with me, god I have no idea how I would have got through my first 2 days if I had let them take it……. Like sure I get why you post your baggage if you’re going to Tokyo Orientation but seriously I only had to lug it a couple hundred metres through Tokyo Station to the Shinkansen and that was pretty much it. At the end of the day I guess in Japan you pick your battles and 99% of the time the best course of action is to just smile, nod and accept things are just done here the way they are.
So after an enduring 20 hour or so trip (yeah I know I can’t bitch as it’s a slap on the wrist compared to a lot of the rest of ya) I was brought to the KIC where I spent 2 hours being orientated and signing documents before finally I was taken by one of my CIR’s to my apartment.
Although I think this really warrant its own post but upon stepping in my apartment for the first time I was very taken aback, impressed even! As I was expecting little more than a tiny 1DK and all I’d heard prior to arrival is that my particular building is renowned for being particularly small! This is of course not to say that it is huge but regardless its more than adequate and really already feels like home. As it came more or less bare I have tried my best to furnish it with what little funds I brought over, Daiso (my nearest 100 yen store) has really filled in the gaps as they sell pretty much most home wares one would need, hence why I have sunk in a good man (万) there in the past week XD.
Despite my urgent need for large purchases such as an air conditioner, microwave oven, washing machine, bike, cabinets and bed (yes the novelty of a futon has already worn off >_<) just to name a few I have decided to leave my apartment fairly Spartan for a couple more weeks. As I was a JET who arrived at a very unique time I am fortunate enough that about 20% of my peers will be departing in about 6 weeks’ time. What this means for me is that there are many opportunities to inherit much of the departing JET’s stuff at a fraction of what It would cost to buy it new and before the bulk of the new JET’s come in, as most are looking to pack away their lives whilst I am trying to set mine up, so it’s really a WIN-WIN situation ^_^
Everyone I have met in Gakuentoshi thus far has been amazingly hospitable and have really made the transition into an entirely new country as painless as possible. On my first night a couple of the girls from my building brought me a little welcoming kit with a couple things I might need in the immediate future then spent the evening taking me shopping and showing me round the neighbourhood, the next evening they all threw me a little potluck welcoming dinner where I got to meet a couple more of my new neighbours. Honestly though it all the little things like that that have made me really feel at home ^_^
The following two days prior to the weekend of insanity, were spent orientating me as fast as possible (I had 2 ½ days of this as opposed to the 7days plus Tokyo orientation most new JETS get), basically I had a plethora of information thrust into me quick and nasty, was taken to get my Alien Resident Card, had my gas water turned on, got my Keitei (iPhone 4s), had my bank account set up and was shown where my school was, needless to say it was hectic. I made the situation just that much worse by forgetting my passport when I was taken to the Prefectural Ward office to get my Alien Card (which was a good hour’s trip there and back which we then had to do twice), to be fair however it was only mentioned that I should bring it once the day before just after I had stepped off the Shinkansen from Tokyo.
However at the end all the chaos came the weekend!!! Friday night I was kidnaped and dragged to ‘The Hub’ which is the Friday night meet up spot for the ALT community here in Kobe. Where a little welcoming party was thrown for me and I met another plethora of new faces, the next 6-7 hours were spent hopping from one bar/combini to the next getting progressively drunker and drunker to the point where it all becomes a little hazy just how we missed the last train and ended up in a crazy pricy cab back to the burbs, needless to say I woke up Saturday morning feeling well orientated (read: so hungover I wanted to die). I dragged myself out of bed futon however as a city tour/mandate with the ever charismatic Jerome was awaiting me, I spent the day being shown the best Kobe has to offer before we decided to jump right into afternoon pre-drinks prior to a welcoming wine and cheese party he had organized for me at his apartment on Port Island that evening.
Awaking hating life for yet another morning after an evening of deliciousness I spent the day shopping in Sannomiya, before heading back to Gakuentoshi in the afternoon where I was taken to a newly opened Costco, which is only a 15 minute walk from my apartment.
The following are a couple photos from my Kobe adventures last Saturday.
Alas Monday morning came around with my first day of work, thankfully it was organized for me to spend a day shadowing a senior ALT at his school in Shin-Nagoya. Due to testing at his regular JHS unfortunately I was not able to visit so instead we went to a nearby Shougakko (Elementary School) where I spent the day playing with the kids, this was my first time exposed to the Japanese school system in almost a decade since I visited when I went on exchange in Highschool. Let’s just say it provided some interesting insight into the Japanese thought process. For example at lunch time suddenly all the children who were playing outside were suddenly ushered back into the building and the teachers were all crowded around right outside the staffroom door……. Now what was this grand threat, a sexual predator? a bomb threat? NOPE! It was 3 crows that were perched on some nearby streetlights, along with a couple of the male teachers, myself and the other ALT simply screamed at the birds and banged things until they flew away. Regardless this was reason enough to cancel PE classes for the next 3 periods. As I mentioned before, do I understand……. Well unless they have had situations before where a crow has swooped down and picked of an ichinensei (this is feasible I had one on my back like a koala for like 10 minutes and he was almost weightless) I don’t see what the commotion was about but the best course of action is to simply smile and nod regardless of how crazy things may seem using western rationale.
Once the threat of the evil Crows was deemed to be neutralized the sannensei were all gathered in the area to practice an Okinawan Taiko dance for the Bunka (Cultural Festival) I was invited to participate, although I really had little idea of what exactly I was doing it was insanely fun and the kids really looked like they enjoyed watching my less than accurate rendition of the dance.
The whole experience was really quite enriching for me and provided me with the confidence to jump right into team teaching when I headed to my own school but more on that later.
In short I have been nothing short of overwhelmed by the kindness and support I have received from the ALT community here in Kobe and am truly content with life at the moment, I really think I’m going to be happy here J
Next Time on Nihonomnom: The Annual Kobe Scavenger Hunt (SCUNT)