Going to Chiba City. August 1, 2012.
On Wednesday morning, everyone left the hotel for their respective prefectures. All the Chiba people clambered onto the bus for the hour and a half ride to Chiba City, where we would meet our contracting organizations.
I sat with Cameron, someone I’d met at the first prefecture meeting on Monday. We had discovered that we had a lot in common—we both swim, like Northern California better than Southern, prefer cats over dogs, and probably a few other trivial things that just made us feel happy to find in common with someone.
When we arrived in the Chiba City hotel, where we would meet our supervisors at a ceremony, Enoguchi-san and Yoshimura-san were there right away, along with two Americans who I would find out were Nate and Victor. Enoguchi recognized me right away.
Enoguchi: “Ah! Megan!”
Me: ? “Um… Yes?”
And then a few seconds later, I realized who he was. I felt super awkward, so for a second, I didn’t even stand up to shake his hand until I realized that that was the proper thing to do. |D Oops.
The ceremony was simple—the new ALTs sat down in two rows of chairs opposite of the contracting organizations, and one by one, we stood up and shook hands with our supervisors. Then we took pictures with everyone (which I will post later).
Yoshimura-san drove Mike, Jeff, and me to Minamiboso. At lunch, Victor and Nate both ordered these huge bowls of rice and tonkatsu. Victor told us that someone once said that Nate “eats like a fat kid,” but I think Nate got his revenge for that remark when he finished his entire bucket of food. Victor had to force his food down to beat Nate or something, and he still didn’t finish, I think.
And later that day, he got sick. |D So Nate won that one.
After lunch, we went to city hall. We met our CIR, Kim, who had just moved to Minamiboso from Asahi (a city up north in Chiba prefecture; she was an ALT there, but now she’s a CIR). Then we met the mayor of Minamiboso City. We all sat in a big meeting room, and I was really nervous. I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying, for the most part, and I had no idea what was going on or what was expected of us.
We had been told at orientation to be prepared to introduce ourselves in Japanese to pretty much everyone, so I actually did prepare, but when someone (I think it was Yoshimura-san) began to introduce me and motioned for me to stand up, I had no idea what to do. Kim mouthed “self-introduction” at me, so I stumbled through it. But I really had no idea what I was supposed to say. I totally blanked. I kept looking at Kim for prompting, and I had no idea when to stop talking. I didn’t say that much, though.
Finally Kim said, “You can be done.”
So that was a flop, and Jeff and Mike didn’t suffer through their first jikoshoukai as badly as I did. I wish I hadn’t gone first…
Then Enoguchi drove us to our respective houses/apartments. Because city hall is right across the street from my middle school, and my house is about two blocks away from the middle school, Enoguchi dropped me off first. He and Victor showed me how to use my laundry machine, how to turn on the hot water, how to use the air conditioner, and then they walked me to the nearby Odoya so I could buy groceries.
After that, everyone left, and I wandered around my apartment. Okay, well it’s, like, four rooms, so when I say I “wandered,” what I really mean is that I opened everything to see what was inside. But that’s a story for another entry.
Getting everything set up
On Thursday and Friday, Enoguchi took Mike, Jeff, and me to Chiba Bank, Tomono Motors, and some cell phone shops. Nate and Ebony, another ALT, came with us for translation assistance and advice.
We had quite a few problems with setting things up, because we didn’t have our resident cards yet. Japan just changed their system for foreigners living in Japan. Before, foreigners had to have gaijin cards, but now, supposedly to make things easier, we just have to have resident cards.
We didn’t have any trouble at Tomono Motors, because all we had to do was change the name on our car registration (at least for Jeff and me) and pay insurance and name change fees. We did not need our resident cards for that.
The bank gave us a little trouble, but Enoguchi worked it out somehow. He seemed kind of annoyed, but we managed to set up bank accounts. While we were there, I exchanged the rest of my American dollars. The exchange rate at that bank was only a little better than the one at Union Bank in Torrance. I got 75 yen to a dollar.
At the cell phone store though, we were told that we could not get cell phones without our resident cards. And actually, now that I think of it, I do not remember even showing them my card when I did manage to get a cell phone on Monday. But maybe I did, and it was such a small thing that I forgot.
Getting Phones: A Trial
(August 6, 2012)
There are three phone services in Japan: Softbank, AU, and Docomo (in order of rising price). I decided on Softbank, since it was the cheapest. Ebony said it was also the one that had the worst service in our area, but to be honest, I’m used to having terrible service. |D I usually find a way to work around it. Using a landline, for example. Victor had called me a few times on my landline to set up some meet-ups (stories for another entry), so I knew it worked.
But it would definitely help to have a cell phone, especially a smart phone, in a foreign country. My mom told me to get an Android, and I did want to avoid Apple products. (I don’t have anything in particular against them, except I don’t think they are very user-friendly, as least for me as a user. I like to actually be able to… use my devices? I’m under the impression that Apple products are for people who don’t know how to use computers… But maybe that’s not true. I’m probably just not used to the Apple OS.)
So I picked out a cheap smart phone that was pretty cute.
I didn’t very much like the ads for it (a bunch of people eating ice cream… it looked dumb), but the phone looked usable.
I admitted to Ebony that all of the phones looked the same to me. Seriously—they were just alien technology at that point, and they all looked exactly alike. Square. Touch screen. Very few buttons (where are my buttons?!).
When Enoguchi and I talked to the salesperson, though, she said that the iPhone would technically be cheaper right now, because they were having a deal on it. The phone itself would be more expensive, but the monthly cell phone plan would be cheaper. With the two-year contract for paying off the phone and the cell phone bill, I would be paying about 2000 yen less every month.
As much trouble as I have with Apple products, I had to admit that this seemed like a better deal.
“HAHAHAHA, EL YOU FOOL,” laughed the Universe.
We set everything up, signed all the paperwork, and then the saleswoman looked confused all of a sudden.
Apparently, they have also recently changed that system. It used to be that they could just take money out of your bank account every month for the payment, like pretty much every other bill that I’m going to pay. Instead, now you have to have a credit card that they can bill instead.
I don’t have a credit card. :(
So my option was to open a credit card with my bank (which had already closed for the day), or go pull 50,000 yen out of the ATM to buy the phone and walk away with it that day.
I had no idea what to do. Have a phone now, or wait a few weeks until my credit card was ready. Wait until my credit card was ready, or spend $600 in one fell swoop on an iPhone.
I banged my head on the desk a few times, but eventually I decided to just buy the gorram phone.
I was freaking out a little, because not even my laptop cost that much and I don’t—and have never—owned anything that expensive. I don’t think I’ve even spent that much money all in one go before. It was fucking scary.
I was worried that after buying the phone, I wouldn’t have enough for food and bills and fun for the next month, until my paycheck, but when I told Nate how much I had in the Chiba Bank account, he said I would be totally fine.
So I bit the bullet and forked over the cash for the iPhone.
I have mixed feelings about the phone itself. Buying it is over—there’s nothing I can do about that now, and I’m fine with it. But as far as how it actually works… I feel like I can’t actually do anything with it. It’s not very easy to adjust the settings that I actually care about. I’m still messing around with it, so maybe I’ll eventually figure it out, but the formatting of it is rather… I’ll say “strange,” as in unfamiliar. Maybe it’s fine and I’m just retarded about technology. I don’t think so, though. I can navigate my PC just fine.
Funfact that I think my mom will enjoy: I named my iPhone “elPhone.” :D
So far the elPhone has been rather useful—I was able to reply to some blog comments while I was on the train, and we looked up some train schedules yesterday on it. I Skyped with my parents on Thursday morning on it (accidentally; they called me when I was getting ready for work). I’m getting used to the touch screen. Typing is hard… But I’ll get used to it.
And as for finishing off the apartment…
It was weird not having internet for a week and a half. I watched a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs, and some Japanese TV.
The way my internet actually got set up is an amusing, and sort of embarrassing, story.
See, my bathroom drain got clogged.
What? What does that have to do with the internet? You’ll see.
On Sunday night, I took a shower. Not for the first time in the house, but maybe I should tell you now: Japanese showers are strange. I’m still not sure if I’m using it correctly. But I feel like I’m conserving water, at least, and that’s nice.
As I was showering, I looked down to see that the water wasn’t draining away. And worse—the drain in the floor that the water went into wasn’t draining either. The floor was flooded.
With dirty water. Gross.
I finished showering quickly and examined the floor drain, but it was hard to see through the soapy and dirty water. The drain cover had floated off.
Ugh. Gross. I walked away from it to think, and over the next hour, it slowly drained away. I thought maybe it got backed up because I also did laundry at the same time as my shower, and maybe the laundry water used that drain, too.
But the next day, the same thing happened. So there was definitely something wrong. Finally, on Tuesday, I brought it up to one of the JTEs at work, and she offered to help. She called Enoguchi’s office and asked if he could help, and he came by the school to pick me up. We went back to my house together and he took a look at the drain.
Turns out, the filter was clogged. He pretty much just pulled the filter off and—WHOOSH—the water disappeared. Enoguchi cleaned the filter for me and put it back in place, and he even wiped the floor a little. I felt so bad and embarrassed, but he was very helpful and understanding.
He asked if I needed help with anything else that I didn’t understand about the house. I showed him some mail I’d gotten that I believed was about my internet. I couldn’t read it, though, so I didn’t know how to set it up. So Enoguchi helped me set up my internet.
And that is how, on the seventh of August, I finally connected to the internet.
Cast of Characters
Cameron as… a new ALT, who will be in Sosa. We bonded at the first prefectural meeting over liking cats better than dogs (among other things, but I don’t remember them now).
Yoshimura as… my supervisor. He works for the BOE.
Enoguchi as… someone awesome who saves my life.
Nate as… a really really helpful dude.
Kim as… a new CIR in Minamiboso. She is originally from Ohio. She worked as an ALT in Asahi last year, but now she has transferred to Minamiboso to work as a CIR.
Ebony as… also a very very helpful person. She is an ALT in Maruyama. She’s from New York.
CIR: “Coordinator for International Relations.” Another job position you can get through the JET Program. As far as I can tell, a lot of ALTs become CIRs after a few years (sometimes one year) in Japan. CIRs work for the city contracting organization, not the Board of Education.
Jikoshoukai: Japanese for “self-introduction.”
Odoya: Japanese grocery store. The one near my house is VERY SMALL, but there’s a larger one… somewhere… else… Anyway, I’ve seen a Super Odoya—it was across the street from the cell phone shop I went to.
JTE: “Japanese Teacher of English.” They are Japanese teachers at the schools I’ll be teaching at, and I’ll be working with them in the classroom.
iPhone: Alien technology. When you use it, you feel like the Jetsons.