Sunday, September 8, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole

On the final day of the JET Orientation, my friends and I met up for our last breakfast together before we were shipped off to our future homes. As an Okinawa JET, we had to rendezvous early to catch a plane from Haneda Airport to Naha International Airport. This was my first time at Haneda Airport. We formed a line to check-in as we were given our boarding passes. During security, I started to feel a little uneasy because security had to scan my bag twice. I think it was because of my knitting needles, but they didn't ask to open my bag and after five minutes of waiting, I was told I could go ahead.

I promise, I'm just trying to make scarves!

Our Japan Airlines (JAL) plane was small, but Disney themed in honor of Tokyo Disney's 30th anniversary. Therefore, the plane was decorated with the whole Disney cast. The flight was ridiculously short, but I spent the time chatting with fellow JETs and a flight attendant who spoke perfect English. Once we landed, I immediately noticed the lack of air conditioning as I was slapped in the face with intense heat. This isn't your typical beach heat. This was hot and stagnant air. Luckily, I decided on a dapper business smart attire of khakis and a button-up shirt, but I felt really bad for the Oki JETs in suits.

The guy in the suit totally regretting his decision to wear that
After baggage claim, I walked into the greeting area where I was greeted by two Ginoza JETs and my Ginoza Board of Education supervisor holding a large welcome sign.  It was nice and slightly overwhelming to greet them, hop into the car and make small talk while feeling like a deer caught in headlights.

 Afterwards, we drove to the BOE for a welcoming ceremony where I gave my welcome speech.  I also signed my apartment papers and set up gas, water and electricity in my new apartment. However, I was told before hand that I would be staying at a local bed and breakfast until I purchased basic living needs for my apartment (see website here). I was at the BOE for about 3 hours until they drove me to the bed and breakfast where I met Nakama-san (a.k.a. obasan; "grandma") and her daughter.

The bed and breakfast was a traditional Ryūkyū style house with wooden floors, a veranda, paper doors, and hurricane-proof everything. I was greeted by the daughter who was an English teacher on maternity leave. She helped me with my things and set up in one of the rooms. This was the first time complete alone. I thought I was going to cry as I lied on the tatami floor in front of the air conditioning unit.  My moment of reflection was cut short when obasan came by and opened the doors to my room, plopped down, and struck up a conversation. She brought some Okinawan donuts, known as aandagi, that she made for me. I instantly felt better. I had originally thought that that I was just staying in one of the rooms, but it turned out that I had the entire house to myself. Obasan came back again during the night to take me to watch Eisa practice. Eisa is Okinawa's traditional dance using drums and a sanshin (similar to the shamisen).

A Traditional Ryūkyū home to myself
The next days were a complete whirlwind of errands with different people from the board of education:
  1. Stamp (inkan) Registration
  2. Completing my Residency Card
  3. Opening a bank account to Ryūkyū Bank (RyūKin)
  4. Buying a cellphone (au IPhone)
  5. Aeon (a.k.a. Jusco; like a Japanese Walmart) and recycle shops for appliances
    1. Fridge
    2. Microwave
    3. Rice Cooker
    4. Washer
    5. Stove top
  6. Nitori (think Japanese Ikea)
Because I didn't have the car, I was only expect to go to the board of education instead of my schools and, of course, I got to leave early. So far Okinawa has proved to be very laid back! They even have a concept like "Cuban Time" known as 「沖縄 タイム」or  "Okinawa Time," where people always run late. I think I'm going to love it here!

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