Thursday, November 23, 2006

My First Week in Nagoya

I have went MIA for the past week as I’ve been settling in. Here is an update on my week. After I get used to this life, I will start writing about how things are different here. There is much to tell so if this update bores you to tears, just wait, there are a lot of really interesting stories that I want to share later!

Day 1 - First Day of work

Today, 3 AIESECers took me to meet the company that I will be working for while I am in Japan. Despite being with 3 local people, we still ended up getting a little bit lost. Either they just have a really bad sense of direction, or the roads here are just hard to navigate. The funny thing is, I think one of them had a GPS system on their phone.

Anyways, other than that, the company meet and greet was great. I work at Toyota Technological Institute but I work for a company called Trimatiz. Mr. Maeda is my boss and I will mostly be working with him. I’m not really sure if I have co-workers yet. I’ve me some people, but I don’t know if they actually work for the company that I work for, or if they’re just other people from the institute.

Today, I didn’t actually work. Mr. Maeda and the AIESECers helped me to get my foreign registration card, a bank account and cell phone. There was a lot of running around and translation being done. I am so grateful for all the help that I got. Especially since I still don’t know the city at all nor the language. Every document was in Japanese.

Also, in Japan, everyone has a name stamp and I needed one to open a bank account. I had to go to a convenience store and randomly pick out one since I don’t have a Japanese name. I picked sheep tree, I thought there couldn’t be anything wrong with that one, but it’s too late now if it’s got a bad connotation.

I was sooo tired after the day, but so happy to get all this done and over with.

Day 2 – Exhibition

Mr. Maeda took me to a technological exhibition. It would have been really interesting, if it wasn’t all in Japanese! We were in Sakae, a really popular place in Nagoya so Mr.Maeda ended up taking me around to site-see. There is this really cool monument called “Oasis 21”. Someone at the exhibition told me it symbolized the Earth being a water star. At the top, there is a pond of water and every hour, music would play and there would be a water show. Beneath it, two stories below, there are shops surrounding a concert hall. The place is just amazing.

Other points of interest, there is the Nagoya TV tower and there are lots of expensive shops like Coach and Louis Vitton and high end department stores. Lots of resturants and karaoke places.

Actually, after the exhibition, Mr. Maeda took me out for some Japanese food and drinks. I had some fruit Sake and it tasted like Sprite. Yum. Then we went for some karaoke. Mr. Maeda is a light hearted person and I think he likes to enjoy life. He travels quite a bit and is eager to learn English. Also, he’s teaching me Japanese and he’ll be bringing me to his business travels around Japan so I’ll hopefully get to see a lot. I feel really lucky to be working with Mr. Maeda and having the opportunity to live in Japan.

Day 3 – At the office

I was introduced to a device that Mr. Maeda is working on at the moment. I don’t really know what the purpose of it is but I got to sit in a sound proof room listening to the Sound of Music Soundtrack. The rest of the time, Mr. Maeda told me to use the internet and at the end of the day, I got my first lesson on Japanese.

Lunch was a little bit more interesting. Mr. Maeda took me to a Mazda dealership because he is getting a new car and needs to change the ownership of his old car. It was quite an interesting experience. We got served coffee while Mr. Maeda was getting information and at the end of it, he got a gift, which he gave to me. It was a mug with towels, nothing outrageous but I thought it was such a nice gesture. Not only that, when we were pulling out of the parking lot, the man who Mr. Maeda was talking to, actually got out onto the street to stop the traffic so that we could safely get out. I was definitely impressed by this but I think it’s customary for the Japanese to go out of their way to please each other.

After work, I attempted grocery shopping. For the first half hour, I was just too overwhelmed by everything. Back in Calgary, I rarely go grocery shopping and when I do, I get lots of junk food or sometimes, things for a simple lunch. My first thought was, what am I doing here? Maybe I can just eat at the convenience store but then I saw a box of cereal and I convinced myself that it couldn’t be that hard. I started simple though. I went for some ham, cheese, lettuce, bread, cereal and milk since I don’t know how to use the gas stove at home yet. It took me awhile to figure out what was cheese and what was margarine since they were places next to each other. Then, it took me awhile to figure out what milk to get. There were a lot of brands with lots of numbers on them but I resorted to the only thing that I could read... “low fat milk” was written on only one of the cartons so I thought that was safe. Also, instead of chocolate milk, there is coffee milk and there’s quite a lot of it. In my opinion – gross!

I have to comment though, that groceries are uber expensive. I think I could have saved more money eating at the convenience store. For 6 slices of thick bread it was about $2. And it’s mostly white bread, very hard to find whole wheat, or anything healthy. My tiny box of cereal which can probably serve me 4 or 5 times was about $4.20. Oh well. I was really happy to eat the cereal, it’s like my new comfort food.

Day 4 – Thanksgiving National Holiday

I didn’t have to work today so I went shopping! Not a good idea since I haven’t got paid yet but nonetheless, it was fun! I bought a pair of black knee high stiletto boots. I see lots of girls wearing them here and I love them. I also got myself a wool sweater that had deer on them. It reminds me of the sweaters that Liz’s grandma knits.

There was also a welcome party for the new interns in Nagoya today. George is the other intern from AIESEC in Nagoya City University and he is from England. I am also and intern for this university local. There is Sayana from Russia and she is an intern for AIESEC in Nagoya University, a different local. During this welcome party, there was a presentation on 9 types of trips that we as a local can choose to go on. They’re things like visiting the oldest Castle in Japan, going to the hot springs, going to Kyoto, going to watch a baseball game etc. I’m excited to do some site-seeing.

For dinner, we had “Nabe”. It’s like what I know as hot pot. There’s a pot with soup base in the centre of the table and you throw in all the meat and vegetables in it to cook. Then, when everything is cooked, everyone digs right in and grabs food from the pot into their bowls. I learned that you can’t be shy or what you want to eat will be gone before you can get to it! It was very delicious and fun. Of course, there was drinking too and it doesn’t take a lot for the students here to get tipsy. I didn’t see anyone get too drunk though. There are some people who do not drink at all though, mostly the girls.

Oh yah, I don't know why people here have the day off. Someone told me it was because it was thanksgiving, but talking to the people back home, they pointed out that thanksgiving is an american holiday. So, who knows!

Day 5 – Normal Day

I think I’m starting to get used to life here a bit. I wake up in the mornings now and find myself tangled in my blankets and my mat has shifted. That’s when I know I’m getting comfortable, it takes more time to make my bed but it’s something I never do back in Calgary. Living with a stranger I feel like I need to be a little more orderly. I know my room is starting to get a bit messy but I think some new furniture will help.

Today my room mate has a day off and we’re going to go have dinner together after I’m done work. I’m really looking forward to it. My very first room mate and so far, everything has been great!



Welcome Party at Nagoya City University (includes picture of AIESEC office)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Safe and Sound in Nagoya

After a 13 hour flight to Taipei from Vancouver, then another 2 hours from Taipei to Nagoya, I am finally here and settling in. AIESEC in Japan, Nagoya City University came to the airport last night to greet me. I feel bad because most of them took the train and it's over an hour train ride to get to the airport. Otherwise, it was great to see everyone. I really appreciate them taking me to my host family and answering my questions about how to do the simplest things in Japan. I had to ask my room mate how to use the toilet and the bath. Oh and by the way, my toilet water doesn't spin, it just comes out and down in one big splash.

Some other things that I've noticed is that the cars here are really clean. Maybe I'm the only person in Calgary who doesn't wash their car but here, everything is shiny and new. Also, when people park in a parking lot, they always back into the stalls. I recognise some cars that we have in North America but there are a lot here that we don't have back home. And some of the colors are really cool. Like pearly pastel colors. I'll take some pictures later.

Today I got the day all to myself. My room mate, Satoko, works all day (2 jobs) and I think the AIESECers are busy. So I went exploring. There's a nice park behind my apartment that I intend to explore further. I also found another park that was really beautiful and it almost made me cry when I saw it. Maybe it was too much like a dream than a reality. You have to understand, I have not been to many places in my life. This is my first international experience.

Aside from the parks and seeing what the streets were like, I attempted some shopping. I found a 100 Yen store, equivalent to our dollar stores and got some things to organize my junk with. I also did a bit of grocery shopping and I got lunch from a convenience store. I thought that was the less overwhelming choice for now. They have lots of interesting looking things that I can't wait to try out.

So far, I don't think I've experienced any culture shock or homesickness. I'm sure it'll hit me sometime soon. Everything is okay so far. This is also my first time living on my own, so there's a lot that I am going through at the same time. I do love my new room. It's so uncluttered but we'll see how long that will last. I start my new job tomorrow. I still have no idea what to expect but I'm really happy to know that an AIESECer will be taking me to my first day of work by bus. That relieves quite a bit of stress for me.

There are about a million things I want to point out but I just can't think of them right now. Things are really different here but at the same time, I don't feel out of place yet. Maybe it's because I look like everyone else here or I haven't had the chance to talk to any japanese people. I do have to say, it is still a bit of a struggle talking to the people who do know English, I have to talk slower and keep things simple.

Oh yah, I did almost get hit by a car today. The intersections here are kind of funny. I have been making a conscious effort to look right for cars but because of the angle of the streets, you kind of have to look behind to the right and if you're just not paying attention, things might not be pretty. I think I might have angered a few drivers today.

Some pictures of my first day:

Thursday, November 16, 2006

In Limbo

I am currently in Vancouver visiting some friends before I go off and move to Japan. For the first time in my life, I am feeling homesick because I realize that after Vancouver, I will not be going home. The feeling is just too weird.

Despite that, I did have some good moments while in Vancouver. I got to see some raccoons which I've never seen before... maybe at the zoo but that's not the same as having them peering at you on the side of the car. I got to spend some time with AIESEC UBC and SFU. Thanks Jen for hosting me and taking me everywhere! You're the best.

Also it was raining so much on the first day that I got here. It kind of dampened my mood since I had to limit my sightseeing. But I survived. It reminds me of the summer that Calgary got so rainy that it flooded everywhere and our watersystem got all backed up. Yup, murky water in every toilet and I'm 100% sure it's not human waste.