The first few days here in Japan have been great, and full of new things, but also a lovely, gentle baby step towards my future of complete and total culture shock.  I am in training for my new English teaching job, learning the company’s methods and materials and getting to practice delivering their lessons.  There are 15 of us here at the training center, mostly Americans, but also 3 from the UK and 3 from Australia, so we are in a bit of an English-speaking bubble, protected thus far from the realities of living in a foreign country.  My first night here, I ventured down the street to the supermarket, but was paralyzed with fear when a local on the street bid me konnichiwa (hello, or good day).  I was so concerned about saying the “wrong” kind of hello that I said nothing and just shyly nodded and smiled.  I like to tell myself that was probably actually a fairly Japanese response.

A lot of Japanese people really do seem to know English.  I’d been told that they all study it intensely throughout school, and of course the reason I have a job here is that there is such a high demand for sharpening their skills in the language.  When I checked out at the supermarket the other night, I stared blankly at the young cashier while she read off all the prices to me in Yen, and so timidly handed her the money that she eventually broke out her near-perfect English to offer me chopsticks.  I did finally muster an arigato gozaimasu (thank you very much) as we finished the exchange.   Those small key words – for excuse me, thank you, hello, I’m sorry – are starting to come to my tongue a bit more naturally.  For the first day or two, I kept wanting to say gracias to people.  The day after my trip to the market, I went out with a group of fellow trainees on a mission to find a nearby restaurant for lunch.  Along our street, we encountered a few adorable young school kids, who stopped and stared at us in bemused wonder.  One trainee said hello to them, and we were met with a chorus of perfect English hellos as we passed by.
I have not experienced much jet lag, which is super.  I got such lousy sleep the night before leaving, and so little on the plane, that I was able to squeeze out a mostly full night’s sleep the first night.  However, each morning, for some reason, I open my eyes around 4 or 5am, and it is a struggle to get back to sleep for another few hours.  I’m not sure why this is, because at home it would be some random point in the mid afternoon – not an especially wakeful time for me for any particular reason.  Each of these mornings, early in the morning, like clockwork, there has been a tiny little earthquake.  Having lived in LA, they are nothing I haven’t felt before, and are the kind that you don’t even bother getting out of bed for.  Thus far, no real aftershocks from the April 11th quake.

2 responses to “Arrival

  1. Yay — glad things are going well. And glad to hear you’re getting out and exploring! I can’t wait to read more updates!

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