Saturday, December 20, 2008

on my way to fuji

shinkansen experience: i sit alone on the bullet train. a group of japanese women are giggling a couple rows behind me. the grey floor is spotless and my seat appears as if it has been empty for the past month. i look out the window & see tiny houses, tall buildings, patches of green & a few perfectly shaped graveyards, no bigger than a parking space. in the distance is the pacific ocean and beyond that lie mountains. my heart races when i think about seeing mount fuji for the first time.  my mind wanders into disbelief of my current setting: fuji, japan? impossible! never before would i have thought my life's path would lead me here. i am so grateful for each life experience i've had, for they have molded me into who i am. i am eager to find what japan will teach me, & how this mountainous island will shape me into a better person. suddenly, i am brought back to reality as the train jolts at the fuji train station. i quickly gather my things & spot my manager through the window looking for me. i am here. i am thankful.  

lost & found

Last night I visited the convenient store down the street. CVS has nothing on this place! It has everything from cute little boxed lunches to cell phone charms & any kind of fruit drink one could imagine. I decided it might be a wise thing to buy a phone card & let my family know of my safe arrival. When I approached the cash register, two men greeted me with simultaneous bows & percussive words I only wished to understand. I asked, "phone cardu?" & clumsily bought the card. A little while later, I went to take out the card from my bag only to realize it was no where to be found. I retraced my steps, which lead me back to the convenient store.  As I approached the counter, a grey headed man no taller than myself (possibly the manager) recognized me, handed me the phone card & bashfully said, "phone cardu! I sorry. i so sorry!" while bowing multiple times. I tried to communicate it wasn't his fault & I forgot to put my purchase in my bag, but it was no use. He insisted on taking the blame. This single moment gave me a glimpse of how polite and respectful the people of japan are. they are quick to claim their own mistakes, rather than point fingers or make an excuse. This characteristic puts my nerves at ease, for I know the kind and thoughtful people of Japan will take care of me and in some way, remind me of family. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

t minus 16 days

suiyobi. wednesday. 

I feel rather accomplished.  I just crossed off another item on my 'to do before japan' list (the item I just cross off: create a blog). This makes me incredibly happy, not simply because I love crossing things off unnecessary lists, but because it means I am that much closer to Japan. 

Today, according to my journal, I have two weeks, two days left until I cross over the Pacific and start my life as an ESL teacher.  Only sixteen days until I trade in my jeans for suits and pantyhose. Sixteen more days of typical questions posed by friends of my parents & other random acquaintances, "Are you nervous? You're going all alone? How are you going to teach if you don't know how to speak Japanese? Aren't you scared? For sure you'll be surrounded by other Americans...wait, no? Of course you'll fly home once or Christmas alone? I can't imagine...?!!" And sixteen more days/nights of questions from my friends, "Leah Bell, how often can we skype? What's the time difference again--eight hours? What? Thirteen!? Do you have to wear those robe things, what are they called again? So, if you only know how to say 'goodbye' & 'fart' in Japanese; how are you going to order beer?! Are you going to be happy?" And, my favorite so far, "When you come back to America, are you going to be mad if I tell you that you smell like chinese food?"  Thankfully, I only have sixteen more days of my ambiguous answers, "Yes, I'm really excited. Well, I'm not quite sure...I guess I'll find out when I get there...But, I'm really excited."

Sixteen more days of convincing myself and others that the word, 'excited' will satisfy their plausible questions.  The truth is: I don't know how I'll buy soap or apples at the grocery store. I don't know how I'll teach eager Japanese students irregular verb conjugations. I don't know if I'll avoid loneliness by creating an imaginary American friend to go on adventures with (if this happens, I will fervently record the details in a blog, no worries).  However, what I do know, is for the next sixteen days of my life, I will impatiently wait for an amazing journey ahead.  Until then, I will stay occupied by crossing off items on my 'to do before Japan' list and will overuse the word 'excited' when asked a completely legitimate question.