3. Shuttle Busses

December 2, 2007. Filed under writing 33

Its easy to find the transitional periods in your life: look for places where you only have time to reflect when driving or riding somewhere.

Sometimes this makes me wonder if pre-modern lives were more thoughtful simply by virtue of spending more time going places and less time frantically crossing off entries on todo lists. This is probably a standard case of the modern longing for the unknowable past, but I ask loudly into the empty space in my mind: how many great poets found magic in a long journey by foot, and how many have recovered that magic while answering email?

I'll never know the answer to that question, but I am fairly confident that foot travel is more condusive to poetry than being awkwardly packed into a complementary bus shuttle as it heads toward the Atlanta airport.

Physically the bus is at a comfortable limit, but its hard to breathe with the exhausting brashness dripping from each utterance from one fellow rider. His, apparently, heroic disregard for civility emboldens two of his new companions, and a powerblock forms, dominating a twenty minute bus shuttle. Given our impending descent into the unknown, the bravado feels slightly arbitrary and entirely unnecessary.

I wish I was still asleep. But, I exploded into joyous wakefulness at 4:30 when my roommate's alarm went off, and I've been at the fulcrum of exhaustion and excitement ever since.

The conference last night was... a conference. Not terriably much else can be said about it. I accidentally won an orientation 'get to know each other' game, and am the proud owner of a piece of cloth that is apparently used for carrying objects from one room to another. Thank you for this brilliant gift, but evoluton has already provided me with a rather versitle solution to that particular problem, the vernacular for this mighty tool is a pair of goddamn hands.

I look around and wonder if my inward ranting has expressed itself in any unintentional motions. It is a callback to an eerie feeling I often get when I abruptly become aware of myelf in a movie theatre and wonder if I have caught myself in the midst of movement.

The only other detail I can offer about the conference itself was that they had far too few tables and chairs at the dinner reception afterward. To balance that organizational failure, the food wasn't bad. Although, event planners often stock receptions with a wider beverage selection than sweet tea and lemonade. Just saying.

One subject I can wander through for a while is the people I have met, observed, spoken with, tried to impress, tried to not seem like I was trying to impress, and everything else that happens when you meet a hundred new faces in the course of an evening.

In general, I would say we are a disheveled group. In this world of infinite internet supplied opinions, many have already had the joy and happy expectations about their new job beaten out of them. Am I one of those? Hard to know. Really though, I think its that fewer of us are disillusioned and angry than it appears, its an illusion perpetrated by the loud and vocal discontents with their caustic angst about a job they have never experienced and spent four months applying for. These brash swaggering Americans are going to descend upon Japan at the same time I do, and they will leave scorch marks across Japan about the conception of what it means to be an American. Preserved in their cocky disrepect for others by a confluence of schools, families and government that has--much like the no fire policy of the forestry services--created a firestorm through preventative micromanagement. Now they have ripened into logs, begging to be thrown on the fire of sterotype.

Fortunately, the dose of angry commentary doesn't do the group justice. The kindling I have just complained about represent a large faction in one group of JETs, but I have already broken down these new faces into four groups. I'll share these divisions with you now, although I'm afraid these arbitrary groups are more useful as mental bins for rough categorical sorting, rather than percise scalpels forged by an experiended architect of distinctions. Regardless, lets look at these four garbage bags I have opened to discard other JETs into while I tidy up my recent memories.

In these four groups, each has an unique motivation that has brought its members to the JET Program. The most dislikable group is the "I'm doing it for me, and only me, and--by the way--go screw yourself" section. People who have an intense pressing need for others to know that they don't really give a damn about them, those people. I've already complained about them though, so I'll give that line of thought a rest.

The next group is composed of people who have attained a somewhat questionable form of enlightenment, and after pointing their prayer mats towards Tokyo five times a day for most of their lives, are finally fulfilling a second pillar of their faith by taking a pillgramage to Japan. With the unquestionable faith of the secretly unconvinced, they prostletize the unbelievers with disjoint facts, long-winded plot regailing, and standard issue social awkwardness. There are fewer of these than I expected, but they make themselves known.

The third group consists of professional teachers and those who aspire to become professional teachers. Your standard Education crowd. These are the people who you meet and say "Wow, you may actually be qualified to be here." (The next thought, probably unvoiced is usually "Because, I have no idea what the hell I am getting into.") The response is either smug or a crestfallen "Well, you'd think that would be the case..." Arrogance or self-doubt. On the scale of vices, I think I'd take the later.

The final group is, if each group is intended to have one motivating factor, perhaps better considered an anti-group. Group four is for the confused: the people who have somehow managed to spend months, money, and energy applying to the JET Program, have passed through three layers of selection, and have agreed to participate in the JET Program, but still can't give a convincing explanation of why they are sitting on a shuttle bus, and are a brief hop, skip and a jump away from Japan.

This is by far the largest group of JETs, and happens to be the garbage bag I fling myself into.