My flight was booked for the second day after I received my visa, so Thursday turned into a fast-paced flurry of preparation. I showed my car, sold it, bought all the remaining things I needed, cancelled insurance, set travel notifications, and more. The evening I spent with my family and neighbors 🙂 You know, the important people.
That night I stayed up late worrying that my Yakkan Shoumei would not arrive in time since my date of departure only allowed one business day for it to be done, but around 1:30 AM the email came. This gave me a sort of second wind and I stayed up until almost 4AM packing and cleaning. When I got up the next morning I felt sick to my stomach: I was involuntarily nervous and sad to be selfishly leaving my family. In her infinite wisdom, my mom told me that you have be a little bit selfish to go do the things you want to do, and that only a fool wouldn’t be nervous to go do what I’m doing.
The hardest part of the whole departure was definitely saying goodbye, first to my Dad and sister at home, then to my Mom at the airport. Just as predicted it was a teary mess, but we’ve all come a long way since I made a similar departure to France in 2011. I am a much more seasoned traveler, I have Hunter with me, and communication technology has vastly improved over the past four years. I’ve been able to find free wifi easily so far, so it’s been easy to keep in touch.
On to the long, long day of traveling. The quick two hour flight from Norfolk to Chicago was a snap, but the almost 13 hour flight from Chicago to Tokyo was rough. Hunter and I wound up sandwiched between two other people, both of whom were somehow able to sleep for almost the entire flight, so I wasn’t able to get up and move around nearly as much as I wanted to. I’m not sore now, thank goodness, but I was very uncomfortable on the flight. (If you make a flight to Asia I recommend getting to the airport early to make sure you have an aisle seat, are in an exit row, or splurge for Business/ First Class.) For whatever reason there weren’t individual screens on the back of the seats to distract us, so we had to cross our fingers and hope that something good would come on the one big monitor mounted a few rows ahead of us. Since we left several days earlier than anticipated I did not get to take my cooler bag on a trial run, so I totally winged it with my Humira. I couldn’t find a wireless thermometer to monitor the temperature, but it stayed cold or cool the entire day so I’m not going to sweat it. A big bag of snacks provided by my neighbors was the best thing that we packed!
Despite being exhausted, we were ecstatic to get off the plane in Tokyo. Our first contact with Japan and four hour layover flew by, and we nodded through our one hour and some change flight to Osaka. Still not done from there, we tried to arrange/ catch a shuttle from the airport to our hotel, but couldn’t find it to save our lives. Price be damned, we took a taxi so we could just get there and finally be done. Our room was tiny, but I’ve probably never been so happy to be in a hotel. I woke up at 6AM Virginia time on Friday and didn’t get to sleep until midnight Osaka time the next day. I think it was almost 25 hours of travel. As if to help make up for that and to welcome us to Japan, there were two kimono-type robes laid out for us on our bed to sleep in. I was thrilled. We stayed up long enough to put them on and then passed out.
Our first full day in Japan began with more traveling! We caught a shuttle from our hotel back to Kansai International Airport, got some food, and then hopped a bus to Umeda station. From Umeda we took the metro four stops to get to our airbnb room. Up until this point we were feeling pretty suave. We had managed to navigate ourselves around the city and purchased various tickets to do so with minimal difficulty. Then we bungled the directions and got lost. And it started raining. What should have been a less than ten minute walk took over an hour.
Strangers saved the day today, though! While we were puzzling over our maps in the rain, one man on a bicycle circled around us and gave us his umbrella and a big smile. I couldn’t say anything other than thank you before he pedaled off. Later, when we thought we were finally close to our destination, another man stopped and asked if we needed help. When we showed him the address he told us to follow him and lead us across the city right to where we needed to be. I was so touched and grateful and humbled. What kind people! I wish that I could have thanked them better somehow. I don’t even have the words now.
After crashing at our bnb for a little while, we ventured out to get some food. The place we found was some sort of tapas-like, meat on a stick joint. It looked awesome and most of the food we chose was really good too. We were given a menu with English after we ordered. Hunter got chicken skin and quail eggs! XD The chicken meatballs I ordered were delicious.
That brings you all up to date. I woke up around 5AM this morning and have been diligently recording my first days. In a few hours we go straight to orientation at the Osaka English Village and will finally get to meet our fellow teachers and get some details. Very excited! Cross your fingers and wish us luck 🙂