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Yookoso! (Tadaima)

July 22, 2009

(Originally Published 30/08/2007)

I cracked my eyes open as the plane slowly rolled backwards. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t force myself to fall asleep. It was the middle of the day, the kid behind me was screaming and kicking my seat, and I was totally excited because I was finally on my way back to Japan!

The plane was delayed briefly as a man in a brightly colored worksuit ran around to pick up plastic bags that were blowing all over the runway. My stomach did a funny little roll as the wheels of the plane left the ground and I realized that I wouldn’t be back in Oregon for a year. Flying over the NW industrial district, I looked down to see a lot full of wind turbine blades, waiting to be loaded onto trucks and shipped to eastern Oregon. We passed over Forest Grove and I looked down and could see my school, the sakery, and Hagg Lake. It gives a new perspective to a town when you see it from high above. We continued climbing and before I knew it we were passing over Newport and then all that was left was clouds and ocean. It was a long five hours to Honolulu and my knees complained excessively as I attempted to remove my carcass from my seat. We had ten minutes in the Honolulu airport – just enough time to run to the bathroom (on shaky legs) and then frantically search for our new gate. The television screens with gate information were blank and we didn’t see anyone to ask so we walked up and down the corridor until we found some other screens. It turned out our new gate was right next to the one we just got off of. So, we raced back down there and got in just as the back of the line was disappearing down the tunnel. As we were standing in the tunnel, waiting to board, I felt very tall all of a sudden. It was then that I realized that everyone around me was Japanese. That’s when it really hit me that I was going to be in Japan before the day was over. It was another long, cramped flight to KIX but I did get to watch Spiderman 3 and Shrek the Third (neither of which lived up to their predecessors). We flew on into the never-ending sunset and finally, just as darkness surrounded us, I was able to see Japan. “Hmmm, Osaka looks kind of smaller than I remembered,” I thought as I looked down at the patch of lights below. It took me a moment to realize I was still 40,000 feet up in the sky! We landed and I could hardly contain my excitement as we taxied down the runway. Japanese firetrucks, whee!!!

It was a long and grueling process to get through customs and immigration but we finally made it out. It was now 5:00AM (Oregon time) and I hadn’t slept since 7:00AM the previous day. We went through the doors towards the bus terminal and there was Ryosuke and his mom waiting for us! Yay! We talked for awhile, trying to figure out what to do, and then Ryosuke’s mom went to get the car because she wanted to see whether we could fit all the luggage and everybody in. We did and it was a crazy drive through Osaka as Ryosuke’s mom sped along, weaving in and out of traffic and talking to herself frantically under her breath the whole time as she implored the other drivers not to hit her or to get out of her way.

We arrived at the Seminar House finally and it was a chaotic goodbye to everyone as I was grabbed by one group of helpful people and shepherded off to my room and Willy was grabbed by another group and taken to Seminar House 2. Ryosuke and his mom disappeared in the ensuing ruckus.

My roommate was asleep when I got to my room and I felt a little bad for waking him up. His name is Lee Hyoheung and he is from South Korea. Lee is really nice and is very interested in learning languages and travelling. I took a shower and collapsed but only slept for a couple of hours before I was wide awake again.

Stores don’t open until at least 9:00AM (usually 10) and I was kind of wondering what I would do for breakfast the next day. Luckily, Lee is an awesome roommate and shared some bread and milk with me that he had in our fridge. We walked to school and when we were halfway there it started dumping rain on us! This actually felt really good because it’s been hot and humid the whole time that I’ve been here and I was tired of being sweaty. We got completely soaked. We spent a lot of time in meetings the first day, listening to people read the sheets that they had given us in the orientation packets almost word for word and then answer a bunch of questions that they had just covered. I’ve paid all my fees and submitted my proof of insurance and I get to register for classes later this morning.

Everyone I’ve talked to who’s been here before cries out in dismay when I tell them I’m in Seminar House 4. I ask them what’s wrong with it and all I ever get is “It’s not Seminar House 1!” I love my dorm! It’s really swank. The kitchen, dining room, lounge, and computer lab are all really clean and modern. My room is really nice and big and I’ve got plenty of storage space in my closet and over my desk. The showers are really nice and the toilets are crazy! There’s so many gadgets and these toilets do more than I want to imagine. I can’t imagine why anyone would want heated seats though in weather like this.

The neighborhood is really cool and I’ve spent some time with Willy exploring it a bit. I have no idea how Japanese people get around without getting lost. There are no street names and streets don’t run in a grid pattern, they’re just willy-nilly all over the place. Everywhere I go I feel like I’m going to get run over by some crazy bus or motorcycle because the roads are really narrow and people just kind of drive all over the place. There are lots of convenience stores around here and I’ve had a good time exploring them. I went to Bikkuri Ramen (Surprise Ramen!) last night and it was really cool. Willy and I got so much food and it was cheap! Vending machines are everywhere and they’re really affordable too.

All my classmates seem really nice too. We’re all here because we love Japan and we want to learn.

I’ve got to go register for classes now, whee!!!!

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