On the way to Japan!
Well, we’re here!!!
I’m sitting here at the Engineering Sciences building at Nagoya University (なごやだいがく) right now as I start this to be published later when I actually have internet access – Jen is up getting things started in her new office, I’ve met the new boss, fellow post-docs, and have gotten a little larger lay of the land. Now that you know th end of the story so far, here’s how we got to that point:
In the weeks coming up to the move we took care of a bunch of things; I ended my time at Trek, started massive amounts of donating, selling, packing up stuff to store, tried to learn bits and pieces of Japanese, coordinated new living areas, arranged more flights, hotel rooms, printed out maps, took inventory of stuff, packed even more – and somewhere amongst all that kept sanity, took a trip to Penn State & Baltimore, visited friends in Stevens Point, got to say goodbye to a good amount of friends in Madison (although we didn’t get to see everyone, and wished we had more time!) and stayed excited about this whole marriage thing that we’ve successfully pulled off for over 2 months now ;D!
The actual day of flying out was something else. Jen and I etched carried two checked-bags, averaging out to be about 46lbs each. I got a sweet new carry-on from Tom Bihn, Jen used her fantastic Ogio backpack that I picked up for her at EAA this year, and I had a small personal item which held a lot of gear as well. All in all I had ~130lbs total and Jen had more than her bodyweight as well. Figured we wouldn’t have to carry all this stuff long so we’d be just fine. (I’ll get to that later.)
We left our hotel Monday morning and drove to my parents’ house as they were to drive us to Chicago. This worked out swell, except for by the time we hit Janesville I had realized that I left my overloaded-carry-on in the garage back at home. A quick call to my brother and a stop bout halfway back and we were back heading to ORD – still on time much thanks to the amazing thunderstorm-driving-abilities of my father. It wasn’t a very long goodbye at the airport – I somehow kept it together* and after a quick stop through security (I love that Priority Access Line) we were awaiting out turn to head onto the 777 to take us to Tokyo/Narita Intl Airport.
*I shall go into greater detail this fact and it’s significance in a later , probably home-sick-laden post.
13 hours on the plane. Probably the driest plane I have been on so far, but I’ve been on bumpier. Flying that far West is a little bit of a shock to the senses. We left Chicago at 1:10pm on Monday the 26th. The entire flight was in full sunshine because of this. Artificial signals during flight seemed to tell you when to sleep – lights going dark, temperature brought up, service stops, and every single window closed in the airplane as well. You could tell when something was about to happen – the air temperature seemed to cool down a bit, and suddenly there were carts up and down the isle. When. Arrived in Narita it was roughly 4pm – on Tuesday the 27th. Oh yay! International date line! I think that fact screwed with my mind the most.
Japanese immigration went smoothly, as did customs. Our comical amount of luggage fit nicely into a handy airport cart, we re-checked our bags for the transfer flight to Nagoya and then it started settling in that I’m in an actual foreign country. Sure, there was a little more rice than I’m used to in the in-flight meals, and they served sushi with it as well, but seeing all the signs in a mix of Hiragana/Katakana and Kanji with the English equivalents (if any) under is taking just a slight getting used to. All in all it’s actually VERY cool. Not being able to understand the language and everything really makes you rely on other skills of reading/understanding which I think is fantastic.
Jen was here last Feburary which is why she got invited to her position here in the theoretical astrophysics department. This helped a bit since we already had an understanding of the public transportation system a bit. Our train & subway trip to the hotel had just a small hiccup or two (who puts a map on the wall with North facing down, seriously? If you’ve studied cartography you’ll understand my feelings here!) but after a short … 1 kilometer walk to our hotel, we were set or the night. We had been up for 24 straight hours at this point, and I then got to spend a wonderful rest-filled night in the absolute smallest hotel room I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of it – but I hear tonight’s will be just about the same. (edit – posted photos from hotel from Wed evening.
Carrying this much baggage over any distance that’s measured in kilometers (as let’s not forget walking thorugh the subway and train stations too, then up stairs when no lifts are available!) isn’t the most fun and while my shoulders hate me, my hands are slightly blistered, hip flexors are making their presence known, and lower back could use a bit of heat – the journey was just that. A journey.
In a sense, that’s what all of this is. It’s one big journey – one to a foreign land, one of a new beginning, a test of strength both for Jen and I and how we can handle new & different situations, and one of self-exploration. Drop yourself into a place where you can’t speak, you can’t read, and some of the customs/taboos you have only a basic understanding of and then you get a wonderful melting pot of excitement that will really come to define you over time.
Today’s walk to our new hotel was a 2km walk through the city. I do think I’ve explored our test of strength a good amount so far, I also think we’ve passed that with above-average rankings. Tomorrow we venture forth to get our alien registration cards, our new (permeant) accommodations, hopefully bank accounts, mobile phone accounts, etc.
This city seems fairly amazing so far. I’m already queuing up topics as I’m amazed at the commuter cycling culture, the vending machines, small shops, food and the fact that in this country – having a “man purse” is not only accepted, but is actually the norm.
I think I’ve found a good home for the next few years.
Till next time! じゃ、また！