A Travellerspoint blog

Hey Conductor! Does this Train go to Texas?

I'd heard stories about how packed the trains in Tokyo were. But I assumed that would be other trains. Not mine.

Boy was I disappointed.

The morning ride was cramped I got on and got just enough inside the door to be able to grab one of the ceilinggrips. And then we were off. The plus side of that trip is that I was ale to practice my kanji skills. (The map was in both kanji and romanji [Roman characters] so I could match a pronunciation to a character.)

I found the school only by relying on Google maps. Even after it had navigated me there, I still couldn't find it, and ended up asking a woman nearby if she knew where it was. She more or less told me to look up.

At school, I took a placement test. There was no kanji on the test, so that should have helped me. Even so, I managed to screw up some questions fairly completely. And I did badly on the oral part of the examination. It was in a room with 19 other people doing the same thing, and about another 30 waiting. [Several different programs were combined for the testing.] I couldn't hear the questions, and sometimes they were so abstract I didn't know how to answer them. (Indistinct muttering. My confused face. 'Money... what... do you think?' 'Umm...' 'That's fine.' Big x through number of the question.) I'll know what level I got into tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes.

After that was orientations. School orientation, homestay orientation, and my specific program orientation. There were also a lot of forms to fill out, including an honor-code-like-one. Chinese students, Korean students, and students who can read Japanese need to show up at least 80% of the time. Students who can only read English need to show up at least 85%. (One of statements had the 80% written out in Arabic numerals, except for the English translation which said 85.)

After that, the teacher giving the orientation brought us to the place we leave from for Saturday trips. And then we were free to go eat lunch. I ate with three other students- a Mira and two Maxes. American Max spoke Japanese very well, and had been in Japan previously, so he was useful when eating.

In the interest of not getting lost the next day, we went from lunch back to the school, then from school back to the train station. Whatever route I took this morning was far more complicated then it needs to be. There's only one turn required after leaving the station, and it's right after a big building with a clock on the side. So hopefully tomorrow morning will be less stressful than today.

The train ride back was much more spacious than the train ride out. I even got a seat! (Turns out they're not just illusions that exhausted commuters hallucinate.) I also learned through conversation that I have a far easier commute then most other people. I literally turn three from leaving my house to reaching the station, and then it's a straight commute without any transfers.

Because of those things, the commute shouldn't be too bad. Tiring, perhaps, but manageable. And as for school, I'll know more later. For all of the orientations, I have very little idea what the actual classes or excursions will be like. The classes appear to be immersion (there was a clause about not speaking English) but I'm not sure if it will apply to the activities as we'll. I guess I'll find out soon.

Posted by Soseki 00:57 Comments (0)

Step by Step

Small steps. That's the key.

For now, it's an accomplishment just to be able to make it to a street with stores on it and back. So, when I reach said street, I look around a little. But I don't turn onto any new streets. I don't pull out a map. Instead, I linger around for a bit, then turn around and go back.

And one of the things I did to get to that street was go down a steep hill. So of course, I need to go up it to get back. But, apart from one misturned street, it's a straight walk back. And, able to get from a house to a store, it's now time to plan the next move.

With enough small steps, I won't get lost.

Posted by Soseki 20:34 Comments (0)


First Impressions

I was disoriented from the time I stepped off the plane. It wasn't that I was on Chicago time, though that would have been bad enough. For some reason, I was on Greenwich Mean Time, and was convinced it was about nine in the morning as I got off the plane. That made the fact that I only had two hours of light before it was dark outside even worse.

Habits I need to kill quickly: trying to read every Japanese sign and trying to eavesdrop on every Japanese conversation. While possible in the US, it would quickly drive me crazy here. Not to mention make me late for everything.

After getting through customs and immigration (at least, I think that's what I got through) and getting my bag I went outside to the waiting area. Fortunately, finding someone from the program was easy. Then it was a taxi for a while, and then I was at the house.

My host mother showed me to my room, I got about half an hour to relax, then went downstairs for dinner. Dinner taught me tons of useful things like that it's possible to eat soup with chopsticks and that there are non-sea food kinds of Japanese food like egg chicken.

After dinner my host mother tried to tell me... something. I wish I knew what. All I really got out of it was that they have cool faucets. Then she started talking about tomorrow and and Monday and I understood the words, but not the context to understand what she was talking about. So that was fun.

So was setting up wireless. Given fifteen minutes alone with a computer with a wireless connection I could have gotten it working. Trying to explain what I was doing in Japanese just complicated matters. (So did the absurdly long random numbers they had as their key.)

Seriously, though, it's... a challenge. A good one, I think. I might even be ready for strings of rapid Japanese with a bit more sleep and a bit less jet lag. If not, I have a month to get used to it.

Posted by Soseki 05:34 Comments (0)

Last sight of Chicago

O'Hare is s lot bigger than I was expecting. Probably because the last couple of places I've had time to kill had more shops before security. Though at least Atlanta almost had a Seattle's Best Coffee. From what I can tell, all O'Hare had was a lot of Starbucks. (DC didn't even have those.) I didn't have any, though.

O'Hare's big, Starbucks has Internet, even if O'Hare doesn't... so far so good.

Posted by Soseki 10:47 Comments (1)

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