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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Maybe Jet Lagged, Definitely Backlogged

Too much has already happened and in an effort to not fall further behind I'll do my best to quickly hit the major plot points of my first couple of days as a JET participant

The place where all journeys begin

I arrived at LAX sometime before 1PM and found a ridiculously long line that could only belong to our flight on Singapore airlines. I saw some familiar faces as I made my way to the tail end of it, which seemed daunting at first, but moved at a very brisk pace largely due to the coordinated efforts of all the JET program people involved.

After checking in my bags (which were thankfully not overweight) I sat down with my family on the upper floor of the terminal where all the food courts are. They got up to get something to eat. I told them I didn't want anything, probably because I was full of anticipation more than anything else. I watched the table while they were away and that left me ample time to stare out into the sea of people who were destined for anywhere but the place we all stood.

I'm a fan of people watching in general. But there was something altogether different about the way I was looking on at the activities below. Today I wasn't mindlessly viewing random people. I was thinking.

As I paused and leaned over the railing I saw many things.

People reuniting. Families saying goodbye. Friends embracing. Lovers kissing. Farewells. Long time no sees. Excitement. Tears.

Everything that had once seemed mundane before had suddenly become magnified. Today was different. Today I was one of those people. As I looked on, I felt as though I were a part of something bigger than the program even. Whatever it was, I was glad that I felt it. Airports fascinate me for reasons such as these.

Skipping ahead a bit to the flight, I sat in the middle seat (which normally would be the pits) next to another JET named Matt Frazier. Matt is a super awesome guy who if memory serves me correctly flew in from Kansas City to Denver to have his interview and come time to leave the country he made the same journey once more: Kansas City to Denver then Denver to Los Angeles and naturally LA to Narita. He told me there were 40 people at the Denver Bon Voyage meeting, which adds up to the other numbers I had heard floating about in the weeks leading up to departing. Apparently there were 138 people accepted from LA, but the total number of people leaving from LAX was going to be 178. So there you go. Matt and I talked for a long time during the flight about all kinds of stuff. Hopefully we'll get a chance to hang out sometime when we're all traveling.

Not too many JETs in our section of the plane

Here's an example of how first class I am: We were given this zipper pouch before takeoff and Matt and I looked puzzled. What was inside we wondered. I unzipped it and discovered a couple of items.

Mysterious complimentary zipper pouch

Okay, the first thing I did was try to stick them on my hands. I admit it! And I thought to myself: These are the stupidest gloves ever! For shame.
Hah! Socks! I get it now!

 So I dug deeper into the bag, and this time I knew exactly what I was pulling out. A toothbrush and quite possibly the smallest tube of toothpaste ever. 

For when you need to scrub on the go!

After a while Matt decided to watch a movie, and I saw they had some games. As soon as I saw Earthworm Jim 2, I knew exactly what I would be doing for an hour or so. Or so I thought. It was buggy, slow, and after the first level it thanked me for trying the game. IT WAS A DEMO! DEMOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

It would've made my day had they not been demos
So after we land and get all our luggage sorted out we decided to walk outside for a bit to enjoy the incredibly hot and humid summer Japan has on offer. 

On a humorous side note: My predecessor's name was Ian, Mitsuko's was Kyle. My two roommates were named Ian and Kyle respectively. 

That night as Brianna, Ian, and I rode the elevator down we ran into my new buddy, Morgen, who looked super burned out that night and just wanted to catch some sleep. Poor guy. There was a mix up with luggage so had to take care of that. 

You can't see it in this picture, but this is me holding up an Ajitsuke Tamago in front of the Lawson sign, which was located about 3 minutes or so from the hotel. Ajitsuke Tamago how I've missed you!
I'll bring you another one when I visit Keiko-san! I promise!

Ajitsuke Tamago in all its glory

So we all went to sleep horribly that night, despite our best efforts. Oh well, at least tomorrow was only going to be back to back meetings. Meetings all day. All day long meetings.

The orientation book was nicely designed at least

 I couldn't help but shake the feelings of how important and seriously Japan treated our arrival when I walked into the main room where we had our preliminary keynotes. It was impressive to say the least.

That's not the 25th year of the program. It's the 25th year in Japan Emperor Years.

After all the meetings we went out again that night to see Akihabara. Even though most of it was closed by the time we got there it was still pretty cool. I'll have to go again though, during the day when we go on a trip to Tokyo apropos of any official plans. 

Here's some more pictures for you:

A little inside shot of the Yamanote Subway Line
Ian flexing his guns.

A karaoke place

After the next day's meetings we went out again for our last hangout as a group before we'd split up and sent all over the country. That night we were: Brianna (radiantly smiling too), Morgen (the visible gentleman in plaid); and behind them, Yeelly, Therese, Euan. We went out to Harajuku, and walked from there to Shibuya, had some food and drinks at an Izakaya, visited some wacky arcades, and ended the night with a ramen shop.

I wish we were all closer together. But we do get to visit all kinds of other places now

Here's my dinner that night.

We all squeezed together in there and enjoyed each others company

The next morning we were all set to depart to our various locations. I was shipped off to Tottori airport, where I was picked up by my supervisor Tanioka-san, a super nice guy, and another BOE member named Iwafune-san. We talked the whole ride back as they were super relieved that I could speak Japanese to them.

So that was the first couple of days in a really fast overview. I'll try to post as much as I can as soon as things settle down.

I know there's more story to tell, but this will just have to do for now! I think my next post will pick up with Tanioka-san and the first day(s) in Kotoura-cho.

Also, I mostly took videos of all the places I went to so I'll have to make a quick video later that highlights all of that.

Until then!


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