On the morning of the last day of my prefecture orientation, I met my supervisor. We had a little ceremony to conclude the orientation, and then we were off to our new homes. I live about as far south as you can get in Fukui, so our drive was a long one. By the time I got to my new town, it was already three o’clock.
First we went to City Hall to fill out a bunch of papers and get the key to my apartment. I was placed in the Teachers’ Dormitory. Despite the name, it’s not actually a dormitory. It’s simply an apartment building, owned by the city, where teachers can live for a cheap price. With the key in hand, my supervisor took me to my new apartment.
My apartment was as bare as could be. The only thing in there was a bed frame with a nasty old mattress. After lugging my three suitcases up the stairs to my apartment, we were off to go meet the principal and any other teacher who happened to be at the school. (Oh yes, after I had broken a serious sweat hauling up my luggage in dress suit and blazer, I was off to make my first impression to everyone I’d be working with. *insert excessive eye roll*)
Once I had made my introductions and picked up a few welcome gifts from the teachers, it was time to get my cell phone. This was the longest ordeal I have ever experienced. I’m not even sure how long this took, except that it took HOURS. The whole process was grueling. I ended having to pay upfront for my new iPhone, which I was definitely not expecting, and I had to leave a $500 deposit. What exactly the deposit was for, I have no idea. It’s basically just something they do to foreigners as it happened to my friend too (but hers was $800). When I finally walked out of the store, I was $1500 poorer…but at least I had a cell phone…right?
After that my supervisor took me grocery shopping, which was an awkward experience for two reasons. One, my brain had reached its limit and was refusing to work anymore so I mainly just wondered the store aimlessly. Two, I didn’t have a fridge to put my food in or any cooking utensils so what exactly was I supposed to buy?
We got back to my apartment around 7:30pm. I was ready to just pass out, but my supervisor wanted to do some last minute checks to make sure everything in my apartment was functioning properly. This led to her discovering that my gas stove wasn’t working. She enlisted the help of a friend who was, like me, a resident of the Teachers’ Dormitory. Between the two of them…nothing got figured out. After half an hour of futile attempts to get my stove to turn on they were ready to give up. I had been ready for them to give up 5 minutes after they had started.
The only thing I cared about was if I could shower with warm water, which I was informed I could. After that I insisted I didn’t care that the stove was broken, bringing up that I wouldn’t be using it anyway since I didn’t have anything to cook with. After repeating myself multiple times, my supervisor finally decided to give up and call City Hall about it in the morning.
By now it was past 8:00pm. My supervisor said her goodbyes and apologized for not being able to bring her mini fridge over now as it was so late. I simply nodded my head and tried to herd her out the door. I needed my alone time badly. I had been up and at it since 6:00am and I was officially exhausted.
Closing my door, I grabbed one of the futons I had been gifted and threw it over the filthy mattress. I laid down on the futon in silence, letting all the facts of the day absorb in.
- I was placed in a town where I was not only the only JET, but also the only ALT.
- The closest JETs lived two towns away from me.
- I had just spent almost half the money I had come with on the first day.
- I needed to a refrigerator, mattress, and washer as soon as possible.
- I still needed to buy a car.
- I didn’t get paid for another month.
As I remembered the milk and yogurt that were undoubtedly beginning to spoil in the heat of my apartment, I started to cry. It wasn’t the pretty, quiet tears that roll down your cheeks when the dog dies in the movie. It was the ugly, loud sobs that burst out your chest when you realize you don’t know what the eff you just got yourself into. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was having a breakdown.
I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me. Aside from the whole situation blindsiding me, I couldn’t believe that I was actually freaking out and crying about it. I felt incredibly foolish and angry at myself for bawling like a child when this wasn’t my first rodeo. Of course, these feelings only made me cry more.
So I called my parents and let it all out. My mom listened to me vent and said just the right things to sooth me. My dad reminded me that I was never alone and he would always help me out of any situation I felt was over my head. And then, even God sent some encouragement my way in the form of a text from one of the JETs who was starting his third year in Japan.
He introduced himself and welcomed me to the Southern Fukui ALT family. He was inviting me to hangout with him and the other newbie JETs the next day. He was offering to take us furniture shopping.
And just like that my day did a 180. I no longer felt alone, isolated, or overwhelmed. I remembered that I was out on an adventure and no journey came without its ups and downs. At the end of the day, everything would work itself out.