Oct 10, 2015

Settling In: The first few weeks

The last day of Tokyo Orientation was traveling to our new homes. There were about 14 of us heading to Kobe together, and we would join 100+ other JET ALTs already living and working in Kobe City.

Travel day was exhausting. Still jet-lagged we flew from Haneda to Kobe airport, and got shuffled to the Kobe Education Center. We had lunch, signed a bunch of paperwork and our contracts, and finally got introduced to one of out OTE's who would take us to our apartments.

An OTE is an "Official Teacher of English". Most other JETs use the term JTE, or "Japanese Teacher of English" but because of Kobe's high rate of foreigners and non-Japanese, the city uses this term instead. The OTE that met me is fully Japanese, but she has really good English as she had lived/studied in America before. 

The few days following are called "Neighborhood Days". Sempai JETs who live in the same area as us newbies take us around and get us set up with basic things like phones and banks and getting us registered as residents of Kobe. We toured 'Sannomiya', the heart and center of the action in Kobe, and visited the earthquake museum and learned the importance of the Great Hanshin Earthquake to the people of Kobe.

On the weekend we went to the Kobe Hanabi Matsuri, or Fireworks festival. It was really amazing. You would rarely see a firework display so amazing in Canada.

 The following week we visited a JHS and got acquainted with what an "average" school day is like. Then we attended the annual Job Training seminars our Board of Education require all current Kobe JETs to participate in, which were actually quite informative. At the seminars, our supervisor from the Guidance Division in the Board of Education invited some of us to go to Koshien Stadium that weekend.

Koshien Stadium is the home of the Hanshin Tigers, a huge and highly popular baseball team in Japan. But we didn't go to see them. Rather, we went to see a game of the High School baseball championships - annually held at Koshien and a very important event for many (baseball itself is taken very seriously here..)

After that, we were thrown into English Summer school, which is hosted by JETs and Kobe Gaidai University every summer for Junior High School students. It was fun, but exhausting. Three days plus a prep day jam-packed with games and talking with students. But it really was fun to interact with students finally, as up until that point, many of us had not gotten the opportunity to do so yet.

That weekend was a big weekend, as a bunch of Vancouver JETs were coming into Kobe for the weekend. We ended up going to Osaka all night on Saturday. We went to Dontonbori, explored around, went to an Izakaya, a gay club (which was wicked fun), and explored even more till dawn. It was an amazing night I can't really put into words. 

You would think it would be hard to keep going, drinking for 12 hours through the night, but it was insanely fun and well worth it. It only really hit us on the train home at 6am...

The next day we just chilled around Kobe, explored the city and found the European district. I'm really happy to have friends like these here, and I'm so happy we were able to meet and have been able to keep in touch, even though were still all only a couple months in.

After that weekend, we had Japanese classes, and I started into my first few days at work.

The next thing I knew, it was the end of the month already... August was so jam packed full of an insane number of things, its sometimes hard to keep it all straight in my head. The month felt like it was about 4x as long as it actually was, but it also felt like it was over so quickly because I was so busy and doing so much. 

While August was very "OMG I'm in Japan?! Lets do EVERYTHING", September was a month of adjustment and coming to terms with daily life here, and settling into work, while still trying to enjoy as much as I can and keep busy.

But those are thoughts for another time.