I am finally in my apartment in Kobe! I’m so excited that I finally have a place to call home. Even though my predecessor sent me pictures of what it would look like, I had pieced it in my mind a little differently. It’s about the size I expected (REALLY small), but it has everything I could possible need. I am super lucky to have air conditioning, too! I just had a senior JET pop in with a welcome package, and right from the front door she exclaimed, “OH, you have AC!” So I’m already feeling pretty lucky.
We left for the Haneda airport in Tokyo at around 9:00 this morning (it was supposed to be 8:45, but guess who held up the group because she forgot her suit in the hotel room closet and then took the slow elevator back down to the lobby?). I learned that flying is much cheaper than taking a train (25,000 yen), and much faster than taking a bus (8 hours), which is good to know for future travels to Tokyo. I of course slept the entire flight to Kobe, waking up just in time to catch our decent into the airport. Holy crap, this city is beautiful! It’s on a port so I could see so many boats, but the mountains are also right there, and it is so green! Very similar to Seattle. We had to drive through this little area called Port Island, which felt very industrial. We passed an Ikea, which was familiar and I made a mental note to remember where it was in case I ever had a hankering for some Swedish meatballs and poorly constructed furniture.
Our first stop was to the KEC, the Kobe Education Center, where I have a feeling we will be going to a lot. It is our official contracting organization (or “organisation,” as the fancy-pants people with non-American accents spell it). It took FOREVER to get all the paperwork done, and I started getting really antsy. We had to fill out stuff for our bank accounts, our visas, beneficiaries, and tax information. When we were finally done with paperwork and pretending to process the overwhelming amount of information that was thrown at us concerning the upcoming weeks, I got to meet my OTE, who is basically my sensei, my guru, my in-case-of-emergency-break-glass axe that will be taking care of me at my base school. All the OTEs came to the KEC to pick up their charges and take them to their apartments and help then set up their utilities. I have the luck of being one of the first to bow and say “Hajimemashite” to my OTE. His name is Kobayashi-Sensei, and he is the most ridiculously adorable little man ever.
Kobayashi-Sensei is equal parts revered maharishi and Toadstool come to life, and I say that with the utmost respect. The belted khaki pants pulled just a few inches higher than they should be, the tucked in black polo shirt, the carefully combed dark hair, and the way he blinks hard when he’s trying to think of the right word just screams of my dad, I and I immediately love him and want to give him a giant hug. He earns another mental hug from me when, in the cab after struggling to get my hundreds of pounds of baggage into the boot of the taxi, he breaks into Tony Bennett’s “I Left my Heart in San Francisco” when I tell him where I am from. We have a pretty easy conversation during the 20 minute+ ride to Gakuentoshi, much of which was taken over by our shared love of baseball and his explanation of how loved Ichiro is in Kobe. As we bump along in the taxi, the busy city center opened up to amazingly green rolling hills that sloped down to the bay. I was amazed that I was in Japan; if I didn’t know better, I’d say we were driving up the West Coast. As we approached Gakuen, I was again in awe of how many trees there were, and pulling into the apartment complex I was struck by how similar the road looked to San Ramon’s Bollinger exit. It was nuts!
Now I am here, more than ready to unpack (also way more than ready to replace this blue daisy-covered duvet with something more subtle). We have a lot to do, and I know there is a LOT more I will have to say.
I am not quite ready to say “home sweet home,” but at the very least I can say “studio sweet studio.”