Travel Journal of my Time in Japan

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September 2, 2002

Welcome Party
I've been in Nagaoka for a week now and I'm enjoying it very much. The people are VERY friendly! There was a welcome party for me/farewell party for Ryan on Wednesday night. There were about fifty people there, and everyone wanted to talk. I barely ate or drank anything. After that was the `second party` at a nearby bar. I imagine there was also a `third party` but I was done - I needed to make it an early night because the next day was my first day teaching alone. This photo to the right was taken at the 'second party' - I'm not sure why the photo was taken at an angle... hmmm. Anyway, I guess these girls will be my students. The girl in the red sweater is Rie (pronounced ree-aye), I didn't get clear on the name of the other two girls. I was lucky to get Rie's. By the way, that's the menu on the chalkboard behind us.

Teaching
Teaching is going well. I'm still bringing work home to plan lessons, but I'll be caught up soon. The students are very understanding, and I'm feeling pretty comfortable up in front of the class. I still make mistakes, but so far, so good. I'm learning a ton about English grammar!

My Apartment
My apartment is nearly set up the way I'd like it. Before me were two male teachers in the apartment. Not to be TOO stereotypical, but the place needed a big cleaning. (Many students have commented that I'm their first female teacher. These are people who have been studying for three or more years!) Today I've been shopping for little things for the apartment - little storage baskets, contact paper for the shelves, a small frying pan for eggs, etc. Mom, you know I love you, but it's nice having my own place again. And Japanese apartments are so practical. it's a beautiful thing. I have very comfortable tatami mats on the floors of my bedroom and living room. I have rice paper windows (over the glass as well), you know the kind that slide. Oh, and the doors slide too. I need curtains though because I keep getting woken up by the bright sun. It really is a joke how large my apartment is, compared to the other teachers I've met. It's crazy - Conor and I laugh about it all the time. (His is the same size as mine.)

The weather has been very hot, so hot that I've been a little leery riding my bicycle up into the mountains today. I'm going to wait until it cools off. Everyone here tells me that should be very soon. When I say hot, I mean 95 degrees F, plus it's so humid. It's a little draining to be sweating all the time, but not a big deal. Yes, I have my bicycle now. It's a rickety clanking bicycle, but it works! Got me to and from the grocery store yesterday. I hope it lasts the year though. I want to exercise more because in the spring I want to climb Mount Fuji and that means I need to be in better shape aerobically.

I am 177 cm tall
Oh, by the way, I have discovered that I am 177 cm tall. The Japanese don't use feet and inches. My height has been a topic of conversation now and again. I startled one student when I turned to face her unexpectedly, she was sitting in her chair and I was towering over her. Poor thing, she jumped a mile! And then we laughed about it. That's a good example of how friendly the people are here, quick to laugh and smile. I'm so glad I'm not in Tokyo, I don't think I would have liked it there nearly as much.

Eating Lunch Outside
This is a fountain in the downtown area. I sit and eat my lunch here as often as I can. I think the Japanese find it very strange to see me doing that. I'm not sure why.

Thanks to those of you who emailed me - it's difficult to reply because I only get one half hour at a time on this public computer. In fact, my time is almost up now and I have up upload this to the website! Cheers!

on to September 6, 2002

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