I have discovered that it is entirely possible to think and feel two completely different things in the same moment.
1) “What have I got myself into!?” accompanied by the desire to either curl up in a dark corner and cry, or jump on the nearest and soonest plane to something – anything – familiar.
2) The notion of how much I have accomplished so far and a fierce sense of determination to not only survive the next 7 months, but impress the socks off my boss and learn enough Japanese to conduct myself in a normal conversation.
My day today was filled with the sensation of containing both these mindsets in my head.
The most frustrating thing I’ve found so far is the inability to communicate. I like to talk. I like to be a part of the action that’s taking place around me. However - it has also hit me how important being able to communicate with words, or very few words, is. I am slowly (half-life of chromium slowly) learning Japanese, but I do my best to use the few words that I have. Hand motions and pictures are also infinitely useful. I think that the ability to communicate so easily is something we often take for granted – I know I do, at least. I never realized how essential and desirable it is.
I successfully used the train by myself to meet my boss at Yao station, this morning. We travelled from there to register me as an alien (yes, I am green and I will definitely suck your brains out and cattle prod you), and open a bank account (yay!). I get a pretty green ATM card that I can use at any ATM in the country, for free (take note, Canada - free). Next we travelled to Sumitomo Precision Products. Fortunately, I had worn business-wear because it was my first day at work, but nobody told me that I would be in a lunch business meeting and meet some important people! I met the Manager and General Manager of Sumitomo, two students working with them, and the President of Functional Fluids (FF). We had lunch (my first official Japanese lunch), for which I took all the clues on how to eat politely I could get from everyone else. Surprisingly, there were only one or two things that I didn’t quite like, but nothing that made me want to gag. There was a leg of something with many suction cups on it (all about a half to one centimeter in diameter), which took an interesting trip around my mouth. All in all, everything was ‘oishii’ (delicious). Then we proceeded to a small project room and I got to help build the graphite trays for a heat exchanger. I ended up cutting wire lengths for the two students and trying to use my minimal Japanese to communicate. The President of FF spoke some English and she was very nice to me. Then we got a tour of the plant and factory at Sumitomo. I was beyond impressed! Sumitomo makes a variety of products from landing gear for airplanes (F-2 support fighter, T-4 trainer, etc), propellers (eg. P-3C anti-submarine patrol plane, etc), a variety of other heat-related systems for aircrafts; heat exchangers used around the world (eg. Shinkansen (bullet trains) cooling systems); ozone generators; semiconductors; motion sensors – this includes 3-axis accelerometers and vibrating structure gyroscopes, used in projects such as anti-lock braking systems, mobile dish antennas, bipedal robots, radio-controlled helicopters, and those little electronic puppies that you can buy for your children. It was quite amazing to see some of the parts being put together and how they progressed throughout the factory. I believe I managed to make it through the afternoon without being rude or making a fool of myself. Then we went to Osaka Gas – where I will be working. I was introduced to many people and was able to use my carefully practiced Japanese introduction. I also noticed something very neat and kind of amusing about the Japanese people. You bow a lot – when you say hello, goodbye, sorry, thank you, etc. If I bow, they bowed. And if I bowed again (trying to be super polite), they bowed again. I caught myself wondering how many times they would bow if I kept bowing. Bad Stephanie. They were all very nice and friendly, though. I got my work uniform which consists of pants and a jacket, and some nice new safety shoes. I get a desk and a computer and for the last hour or so used it to start learning about heat pumps, heat exchangers, and write down the Laws of Thermodynamics (heaven forbid, I have forgotten. But I will be needing them, so I thought it best to brush up on them). I stayed a little late because Takemori-san was still working and I had no idea how to get home from where we were. At 6:30 we left and took a shuttle to the train station. Takemori-san rode 2 trains with me then gave me instructions on how to get home. I left praying I wouldn’t get lost, because that would be a terrible mess. I did make it home safely, however, and ventured into the cafeteria where the cafeteria lady showed me how to get my supper (you would think that would be easy, but it’s not). And here I am! I should probably go to the supamaketo (supermarket) and buy some tabemono (food) for asa gohan (breakfast), but it’s dark and samui (cold) and I don’t feel like it, so I’m having noodles in a cup for asa gohan! :) And that’s a wrap on Day 2 of a so-far-successful Japanese adventure.