July 26, 2007.
Tomorrow I head south to Atlanta for stage one of JET indoctrination. With four hours, I imagine they will have sufficient time to prevent a majority of us from inadvertently checking ourselves as luggage, and also explain that do's and don'ts of emergency exit rows. Then again, the last time I was in Japan I threw up in a Mr. Donut. As such I have proven track record of failing to functional competently in simple situations: I deserve this orientation.
The day after tomorrow (English needs a word for this concept) the Atlanta members of the first wave of 2007 JETs (deviously labeled to as Group A) are unleashed on Tokyo. Once we arrive we will be herded by an elite militia of volunteers until we mail our baggage to our various placements, and are firmly escorted to our buses. Then our "Every Situation Is Different" education begins as half of us get dropped into an inferior hotel, and are randomly assigned a variable number of roommates depending on our zodiac sign and blood type.
The long and short of it is that I have already formulated a completely wrong preconception of what the next five days will be like. This is the most direct path to failure, so I intend to spend the next twelve or so hours forgetting everything I know (I already forget the PIN number for my debit card yesterday when I was standing in line at the grocery store ("Um.. can I run this as a credit card instead?" "Let me see your license." mutual glares are exchanged), so I think I am on track for success).
On a completely related topic I have spent most of the day packing. As any seasoned traveler knows, it doesn't matter if you pack early or if you pack late: you're going to fuck up either way. Its better to pack late though, because you'll be filled with a sense of accomplishment that will help bolster your spirits when you realize that it isn't winter in Japan, you forget your 6166 tax form , and your handcrafted omiyage were ruined by TSA workers who were pissed off trying to reseal your overstuffed luggage.
While packing it turned out that I don't actually own anything. I own a few electronics, and some clothing. This made packing fairly easy, although I wanted to bring more clothes and more... shoes. How can I possibly survive with only two pairs of dress shoes (black and brown), a pair of indoor shoes, and a pair of running shoes? What about my casual-dress shoes? What about my basketball shoes? My cleats for ultimate frisbee? And my old pair of running shoes for cleaning up and pretending they are new shoes if I go to the gym? And a pair of sandals?I can't buy these things in Japan. Do I really want to spend $50 shipping shoes? Isn't there some internal watchdog organization that monitors for decisions that shockingly awful? I have been caught in a devious trap. Fuck.
I am being placed in north Gifu prefecture. I was able to find my placement on Google maps... and I also know its in the mountains. And its going to be a cold winter. And it has a Nobel prize winning physics facility. As they say: forewarned is forearmed. And thus I am defeated.
To make a slight concession to the truth, I requested a rural placement. At that point I didn't really care where I was placed. Now? Now I still don't really have much of an opinion about it. I am looking forward to arriving at the city (i.e. legal agglomeration of four villages), seeing what its like, getting my ass kicked and crying alone in my apartment: all the normal moving stuff. My predecessor seemed to really enjoy his placement (unasked question: "Predecessor-san, why are you leaving?"), so I have high hopes.
I am really looking forward to heading down to Atlanta and meeting some of my fellow JETs. It is a new beginning, and new beginnings are what keep life interesting. They are when your subtle changes that occur over years are finally acknowledged because the people around you don't remember your freshmen year when you were a total recluse... or your sophomore year when you vomited in Mr. Donut... or your junior year when you were a total recluse... or your senior year when you were a tota... anyway, moving on.
I spent most of the day sending out feelers (feelings?) to people I wish I communicated with more. Moving on to a new set of circumstances it is easy to sever relations through inaction, but the easy way always loses.