April 4th, 2009

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Info Dump Time Nyaow

So... An update. A loooong update. It's not that I've been busy, exactly, although at times I have been, more that there have been lots of, er, changes. For lack of a better word.

So, obviously, went picture-taking on Sunday, Monday. Everybody saw those.

Can't remember everything I did on Tuesday, did laundry (Monday, too). Went to Sensou-ji, used my first few 5-yen coins. Decided a long time ago not to ever spend those, but save them for temples (for good luck), but not sure if I'll keep to that. Don't think I'll visit temples nearly often enough to use them up, now that they'll more or less be constantly generated by me spending little bits of money all the time. At any rate, the first one sacrificed to the temple donation god was for my dad -- first one will always be for my dad -- the rest for me. Did my own sort of not-really-praying praying, I guess. For luck. There's something to be said for rituals, even without any real sort of faith.

Anyway... Wednesday, moved into the dorm. Which were when things started to get... Interesting. Found out my room number had changed by one, despite the paperwork on everything that was actually IN my room (like the receipt/delivery slip for the TV, the fridge, whatever) was the number I was given earlier. Which ultimately probably doesn't matter (although if you see this, Dusty, and do send any of the labels I filled out, take note. B210. Just in case).

Was defeated by my bed (took a while to figure out how to get the, uh, fitted sheet on). Was defeated by the shower the next morning (didn't really figure it out until I was done, after alternately freezing and boiling my ass off), along with the whole "packed my towel in the other suitcase" thing so had to go without for a day while it was delivered across Tokyo by the shipping company. None of that was really a big deal, though.

What was a bit more unexpected was the language barrier. Well, not entirely unexpected, but more not quite adequately imagined. I really had no idea what was going on for a couple days (still don't, entirely), and couldn't really communicate with the dorm manager or anything. That was what really bothered me -- I was suddenly completely isolated and a bit overwhelmed (not quite so easy to just hop on a train here and be somewhere else, either -- takes close to an hour to get all the way to school, and more than half that is before I hid the Yamanote line). It's receding pretty quickly, but the first day or so... Well. I wasn't entirely kidding when I posted that on the first of April.

Other stuff... Had a few other minor interesting moments, like finding out the room only had three plugs -- and my power strip couldn't use any of them because of the grounding pin. But I did some shopping (didn't have any trouble there, Akihabara had all the bits and pieces I needed -- and a fine collection of various photography supplies that I couldn't pack for various reasons), and I got myself a few things at the Seibu department store as well (school supplies, slippers, coathangers -- most of which I expected to need to get. Slippers were a surprise -- no shoes inside the dorm -- but easy enough to deal with). Also, the bag I got Seibu is doubling as my laundry bag right now... I forgot to bring a real one, but fortunately, a couple friends are visiting soon and will bring one along (one of them got me my Visa, more or less, since she works at the Consulate-General in Denver. :)

Also, spotted an Office Depot in Akihabara, too, but turns out it was going out of business, and they'd already been pretty much stripped. The department store had a decent enough selection of things I needed, though. I'd hoped I'd maybe hit the jackpot with possibly hard-to-find office/school supplies with the Office Depot, but no such luck. I'll survive well enough on the Japanese version, no doubt, I'm quickly figuring out where to go to buy what.

Did find out I'm going to need to buy more shoes, somehow. I think I'm going to try and join, the, er, Japanese equivalent of the ultimate club. And none of the shoes I brought are suitable for that. (And maybe Aikido, too?)

Thursday was orientation day at Sophia. Which was, ah... Orienting, I suppose. Got a ton of paper to go through, much of it useful and orienting, some of it less so. Got my computer account set up (did the wireless setup the next day, which didn't go entirely smoothly, but it's probably fine). Found out school starts a week later than I'd thought, almost, on the 13th, not the 8th. Dunno why some of the early paperwork I got said the 8th, but they had some interesting time misprints in general (like having the placement test starting at 10PM, which it obviously wasn't). Got my student ID. And my student commuter pass later, added to my Suica card -- it's a pretty slick process, took care of it all at one station, even though it goes through two railway companies. It was a really expensive day, though, because while every trip I now take into Tokyo is now half-free (at least as far as JR, and free all the way if I continue to Sophia), I had to pay for it up front. Six month's worth will pay for itself in about two months (depending how often I go into Tokyo -- well, go into the center of Tokyo).

Friday, though... Well, that was a bit of a disaster. I don't know how the placement test went, but I kind of have a bad feeling about it. I was already pretty nervous -- I really don't want to end up in the rudimentary beginner Japanese class -- and it didn't help that the JR system had melted down that morning due to an accident, making me late to the test (fortunately not too late, since I had given myself a half-hour cushion). I ended up bailing on JR from Ikebukuro, and rerouted via Tokyo Metro, which was also not running on time, but at least wasn't completely shut down.

After that, went and got my gaijin card (well, won't actually get it until, ah, the 28th, but got paperwork proving I'd registered), got my insurance card (man, the national insurance is affordable here, why can't we have anything nice like it in America? And nobody would mistake Japan for one of those evil socialist utopias) so that was better.

Of course, they were apparently confused about a 37-year-old guy having a student visa at Sophia, because I got a call Friday night (damn, they work crazy hours) wanting to confirm my birth year. I guess I can understand that, because I was seemingly the oldest guy in the room at the welcome party Friday night that didn't teach something or other. But, still had fun hanging out (and having, er, rush hour adventures) with a cool German fellow I met there and bumped into again on the way home (hence rush hour), and I know that at least one guy who was taking the placement test and intending to take the intensive track was older than me (chatted with him afterwards -- he actually lives in Tokyo already. Be cool if we managed to get placed in the same level, but we'll see).

And, well... I guess I'm sort of settling in.

The bad news? All the Japanese intensive classes will put me right in the middle of the Tokyo morning rush hour. Yay.
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Yen to the dollar just finally broke 100. And I discovered this while browsing on my shiny new iPhone.

Traveling somewhere new in Tokyo + Google Maps + GPS in your hand = WIN.
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