Sunday, January 12, 2014

Good Things Come to Those That Wait...

     Imagine being serenaded by Enya while you eat your breakfast and watch the wind blow the snow off the trees and mountain tops. An easy thing to imagine isn't it? Something that you'd like to experience every morning, right? Well that's what my life has been for the past three days. I guess I should back up and explain why that angelic voice of Enya's has been singing to me over my coffee.

     I finally made it to Japan! After months of delay because of visa issues I still have yet to figure out and a flight cancellation after that really fun blizzard that came through the Midwest, I have finally touched down on this big island nation. I have to admit, I didn't think it would ever come. After rebooking my flight with Delta following a three hour wait with their customer service line, I was headed to Tokyo by way of LAX. The thought of an eleven hour flight was a little daunting, but watching four movies and sleeping a lot proved to be quite pleasant. Now that I've conquered that flight I feel like I can pretty much do anything. 
Almost to the Narita Airport...didn't even get to finish 300 before we landed
      After I landed and got off the plane, I thought I would freshen up before the four hour drive that I faced up to Kiyosato and where I would be living for the next year....bad idea. I should have just waited until I got through immigration and had a chance to put all of my paperwork away because in my infinite wisdom I decided on the plane that my back pocket was a good place to put my passport and customs paperwork and of course it ended up in the toilet. I've had near misses with cell phones, but this was my first experience in this country, you'd think I'd have been a little bit more careful. Welcome to Japan! 

     So after I made it through immigration and customs unscathed, albeit with some sqiushy paperwork, I was met by my boss, Mr. Okemoto. He was nice enough to have made the trip to the Narita airport to pick me and my year's worth of luggage up. Once in the van I was greeted by the lyrical stylings of One Direction on the radio, so I couldn't have been more comforted. Wanting to see all the sights along the way kept me up for most of the ride until we passed through Tokyo and then the habit I inherited from my dad of being able to fall asleep anywhere, any time kicked in and I was out cold until we stopped at a rest stop and I had the most luxurious bathroom experience of my life and this was a rest stop! Heated toilet seats, so many buttons that I didn't even know what they did, individual rooms as stalls, flushing sounds if you wanted to cover up, ahem, was AWESOME. 

     Nothing else really eventful happened after I arrived at KEEP. They were putting me up in the hotel on property, Seisen Ryo because of what I thought was because I was getting in so late and they wanted me to experience all of KEEP. Turns out they were worried I was too tall for the bed they had for me in the dorm they had setup for me, so I got to stay a few extra days at Seisen Ryo. Not that I am complaining...look at the place! 

View of Seisen Ryo coming down from the main road

Main entrance going to the lobby

Fireplace in the lobby that I sat next to and read The Japan Times' articles about earthquakes, Godzilla and the NFL playoffs...not kidding

Front desk where I met lots of workers eager to practice their English with me!

Looking down into the lobby, where I sit right now writing this!

The next morning, I woke up early knowing I wanted time to look around and appreciate where I was before I had to meet people for breakfast at eight. It was still dark out when I woke up, so I decided to make use of the tea set in my room just because it was there. Wouldn't you? It was just sitting there all precious.

An electric tea kettle is a must when I get back to the states

     So while I enjoyed my tea, the sun started to come up and I got my first real look at where I would be living for the next year. I honestly have to say it gave me goosebumps and I smiled like a loon.

Sun rising over the Yatsugatake Mountains on my first full day in Japan
     This brings me back to Enya. I went down to breakfast to meet my supervisor, Makoto Urakabe, a board member from KEEP and Mr. Okemoto again. It was the most peaceful breakfast ever. The entire dining room looked out over the mountains and if I didn't know any better, I would have assumed the same storm that delayed my departure in Indy, hit Kiyosato as well because they had just gotten a foot of snow just days before I arrived, so everything was snow covered and glittering. They also had Enya's greatest hits on repeat which made me feel like the bacon and eggs I was eating was actually healthy and not clogging my arteries. I wasn't quite ready to jump into a full on Japanese breakfast on my first morning.

Seeing this compensates for the new age folk music playing

     Knowing that I would be a little jet lagged, the day planned was fairly easy. We were visiting all of the sites on KEEP's property. We started off at the main office, moved on to the nursery school which proved little kids everywhere fight over the last toy or in this case sled, went to the nature center and dormouse museum, farm shop where we had lunch, dairy barn which smelled exactly the Indiana State Fair, the church St. Andrew's, the discovery center where they host most of the programs for children, the Jersey Hut which is where they have the infamous ice cream everyone talks about [I have not indulged yet, but have had the yogurt and it's delish], the camp site office, the Paul Rusch Memorial Center and American Football Hall of Fame [he is the founder of KEEP and the one that brought American Football to Japan. They also have his home opened up as a museum that you can walk through] and the old Seisen Ryo building that houses my office and many others. The first two months or so are going to be me rotating around to the different places at KEEP so I can become familiarized with every aspect of it before I go to my permanent station in the International Relations office. I am really excited about all they have planned for me and can't wait to start! When I am working at the hotel, they want me speaking nothing but English to the employees to make them become better speakers and enhance the experience for the more Americans they hope to bring in, which is another aspect they want me to help with. Pulling from my hospitality background, they want me to help market the property to more groups internationally and hopefully bring in more people outside of just the groups that come in for the programming they put on. There's so much they want me to do and I am so ready for it all to begin! 

This is right when you walk out of my office. That's Mt. big deal or anything

Found this in the American Football Hall of Fame...Have yet to find out the significance of Notre Dame in Japan, but it's on my to do list

     My second full day in Japan consisted of getting my new car! I named her Inu, which means dog in Japanese. Mr. Okemoto brought her to me and drove me and my new car to the shopping center about fifteen minutes away. He made sure to point out the shopping center, the hospital, the drug store and a place where I could buy cheap booze in bulk...he is a man of few words, but he uses the right ones! On the way back to Kiyosato, he decided to have me drive. Did I mention in Japan they drive on the other side of the road and the other side of the car? So far I have only gotten into the passenger seat once, but I don't know how long it will take to stop using the wipers as my indicator.  After that nerve wracking experience we had lunch at the local microbrewery for a much needed brewsky. The area I am living it is known for it's superior water for brewing beer, making sake and distilling whiskey, so I am thinking I am going to take advantage of that little perk. I promised a friend the first time I saw a pizza on a menu I would try it out for him and I can't complain! After that I was on my own for the evening. I tried to get back to the shopping center to just look around on my own. It ended up taking two hours instead of the fifteen minutes it took the first time. I wrote it off as time to explore and practice my driving, not getting lost.

My little pet...She's a Toyota Vitz

The "Yellow Bridge" that I cross to go into town to shop

More of the view on the drive into town

So many choices...I went with the dunkel

Pizza and beer...real adventurous I know 

     Later that evening, I decided I needed to bite the bullet and experience these hot springs everyone raves about. There is one attached to the hotel and am told it is a great way to relieve jet lag. Why I was so hesitant about it was because I had read about these bathing experiences and the whole ritual to them, you must shower and scrub down BEFORE you get into the hot spring...and because you bathe nude with strangers. I figured on my last night staying at the hotel I had to do it. I do have to say it was one of the most relaxing things ever, almost as great as the heated toilet seats, and I came back to my room and slept like a baby that had been slipped Benadryl in their bottle. I told myself that this whole time I am here in Japan I just have to let go of all reservations and try everything the Japanese way, no matter how weird or uncomfortable it may seem because it is going to pay off in the end. 

My skin felt all silky smooth after

Please excuse the missing 'H' in hot. 
     This morning was when I had to move out of Seisen Ryo and into my dorm with the new bed and raised lamp in the middle of the room that I ran into the other day. I haven't really moved in much yet, but it is coming along. Once I do, I will give you a tour. After I dropped my things off at the dorm and donned my Colts gear for the playoff game against our archenemies, I drove down the road to St. Andrew's to attend mass [we're fourteen hours ahead of Indianapolis, so an 8:15pm game on Saturday in Indy was a 10:15am game on Sunday here]. I was introduced to the priest and his family, he has three kids that I like to think are my new friends, and a few other parishioners and was given a few things in English to attempt to follow along. It is a small congregation, maybe 20 people at service, so I thought I might be able to sit off by myself and flounder along in the all Japanese service in the privacy of my own mat. That was not the case. Right before the service started a lady sat down right next to me and started to introduce herself. Her name was Reiko and spoke fabulous English. Her and I started talking about how she used to live and work in Toyko and when she retired her and her husband moved to Oizumi, the town over and she started coming to St. Andrew's. She was my saving grace showing me where we were in the service book and what to do during communion and the peace. Luckily, it pretty much flows the same as church at home. Now I just need learn the few key words. Amen is the same so I can usually figure out where we are based on that. Today felt for the first time like I was apart of the community because I did something completely on my own without anyone from work helping me along. I like to think I also made my first friends, too. Reiko even gave me her number! Hopefully this Sunday ritual will bring some continuity to this year that seems like it is going to be a whirlwind of activity. 

My church away from home-St. Andrew's in Kiyosato

Those rocks were brought up from the river valley below KEEP to build the church
My new friends, the priest's kids, picking up the cushions after the service. It is a traditional Japanese service on the tatmi mat. It's pretty much hell on people who have bad knees or ankles or myself, but I shall persevere 

The hymns for today

     So now that brings us to right now where I am sitting and writing this in the lobby of Seisen Ryo because I can't figure out the Japanese words on the wifi router to get the password. Tomorrow I have off and will probably spend it setting up my dorm room. Tuesday starts the real work. I am starting at the Paul Rusch Memorial Center and will be working on translating works. To say I am buzzing with excitement would be an understatement. It could be the espresso I just had from the vending machine [it comes out piping hot!] or could be the possibility for great things during the year to come! 

     If you've made it this far in this post, you now know that I am here, safe and settling in. I don't know how long that will last with shorter door frames and lights to run into, smaller steps to fall up and cars that are backwards, but for now I am alive and loving life!!!

1 comment :

  1. Thanks Charlotte, loved the update. Keep them coming. We are praying for you daily here at Christ Church Cathedral.