It has been 6 days since landing in Japan, and 4 since arriving in my new home city, Onomichi. I finally feel like my feet have touched the ground and jet lag is thankfully far behind me. So much has happened in the past 6 days that I just don’t know where to start! Though I think the best for now is to start at Tokyo Orientation.
So on Sunday, the 27th July, 24 new South African JET’s landed in Tokyo after an incredibly long flight (about 17 hours total flying time). Feeling groggy and somewhat disoriented, we made our way to immigration passport control only to find someone standing there with a huge ‘JET Programme’ sign, gesturing us to follow him. Leaving the long queue behind us, we followed him to our own private immigration control where we swiftly had our passport and visa processed, received our residence card, and were sent on our way to luggage collection. By the time I got to the carousel, my two pieces of luggage were already waiting for me, having been taken off the carousel by airport staff. The next step was customs, which I was a bit worried about (who wouldn’t?) as the last time I went through Japanese customs I was asked a tonne of questions. This time round was disturbingly different. As soon as the customs man saw I had a ‘JET Programme’ sticker on my shirt, he merely glanced at my passport, and the only question that was asked was “Teaching, ne?”. And I’m like yes, and he waved me on. I glided through and didn’t look back. Best experience of going through customs ever!
And it didn’t stop there. As soon as I walked through into the arrivals hall, there was a person in blue and white (reminded me of a smurf) holding a ‘JET Programme’ sign, who I approached and was warmly greeted. A few questions were asked regarding my flight and if all was okay in terms of luggage and I was quickly sent on to the next smurf who was waiting about 10 metres ahead. Once all of us Saffers were present, we followed another smurf through the airport to the outside where we hit a wall of heat and humidity and immediately my jeans felt like they had shrunk and were now clinging to my legs for dear life. Though after being stuck inside planes and airports for over 24 hours it was actually quite invigorating and a nice ‘wake up’ being in the sauna-like atmosphere.
From there on out we were ushered, guided, and basically hand-held by numerous smurfs who were only too happy to help and before we knew it we were on the air-conditioned bus to the hotel where the rest of the smurf village were waiting for us with big smiles and even more signs and directions. It was such a relief not having to think. You could be just how you felt, a zombie. A happy zombie who was only needing two things, a shower and a comfy bed (though some brains would be nice as well). And by the powers of Grayskull that was fulfilled almost immediately. Not the brain part mind you. 😉
That was all on the Sunday, and on Monday and Tuesday we had the actual orientation with about 700 other new JET’s which came from all over the world, including America, Australia, Ireland, Jamaica and Canada. The two days were filled with events and various seminars – I won’t delve into those because I think talking about them could become quite boring, but do know that the majority of them were quite interesting, though obviously there are always the few dead boring ones that need to balance out the whole orientation. Of course one the highlights was meeting people from Hiroshima prefecture and getting to know them at the prefecture event, and of course exploring Shinjuku at night was quite a lot of fun 🙂
I was such a gaijin (foreigner) in Tokyo and got so excited when I entered my first conbini (convenience store), where I headed straight for the milk tea (similar to condensed milk tea from Malaysia) onigiri (rice balls with various fillings) and ice-cream. Thankfully my one roommate, Kelly, knows quite a bit of Japanese and was the perfect translator when trying to work out which onigiri had what filling. I went for the ‘sea chicken’ which is the direct hirigana translation for tuna.
Anyway, it was a long 3 days, and on Wednesday, the Hiroshima JET’s flew down to the prefecture, where I met my supervisor and discovered the humidity was much higher than Tokyo. So for the first 2 days here in Onomichi it has been quite tough to handle in terms of the weather. However, I have done and seen so much in such a small amount of time (mainly thanks to my predecessor who is hanging around until the end of August) but that is for another post. 😉