Since I interviewed for this job waaay back in May of last year, you can probably imagine how unreal and intangible this feels. Especially since I was initially going to start in August and got pushed back to March. Which got pushed back again (sort of) to April.

But now, as I'm gathering all these legal documents and am starting to get emails on a weekly basis, it's finally starting to sink in. Plus, my coworkers comment on it daily. They're all really excited for me and ask how many days I have left or remind me when I have an unpleasant task that I'm only there for another month, and so on and so forth. I also get emails and facebook messages from friends and family wishing me luck and wanting to know the latest news.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it finally feels like I really am going back to Japan. To teach English. This has been one of my life goals since at least early high school. And it's just really, really exciting. :)

In other news, I've acquired my International Driver's Permit. It was so quick and easy to do, too. There was a AAA office fairly close by (about 15-20 minutes), so I drove over there on Monday. All I had to do, since I'd taken my passport pictures at Walmart after work one day, was fill out one piece of paper and pay $15, and now I'm allowed to drive not only in Japan, but hundreds of different countries, should I feel the urge. For the next year, at least. Which is pretty cool. The whole process took maybe ten minutes, and the majority of that was because I was being super careful while filling out the one, single-sided form. (And it was all just basic, name, DOB, address, etc.) The lady who issued it was super nice and said I got an A for filling it out perfectly. Heh.

And I was lazy and didn't post the inside, too, but it has my info and a picture inside. Very official.

I've also set up my TB test, which will be next Friday. They get to stick me with needles. Yay. >_> Hopefully that'll go smoothly. I'll sure I'll get an interesting story out of that.

But once that is done, that's all of my official work that needs to be done before I leave. All that's left after that is packing and work and more packing and more work.


Amazingly, I've already gotten my visa! It reached the consulate Tuesday, and must've been processed right away in order for it to get back to me today, Saturday. Awesome.

It's very pretty, I have to say. That's not a great picture, but you get the idea. That's a page in my passport (which I'm also very glad to have back). My CoE was also stapled to the opposite page.

So things are continuing to move right along. We went shopping the other day for some clothes, and I am stocked for all the bottoms I need, now I just have to make sure I have tops. I think I'm good, I just need to sort out what I'm bringing and if I overlooked anything.

All that's left of officially business is my TB test and my International Driver's Permit. I'm planning to do my IDP on Monday, which is my day off work, and then just the TB test! And packing! Lots of packing.
Today, after a long and difficult process, I got my plane tickets. Thanks to my Dad's frequent flier miles, the grand total was only about $150. Not bad, right? And many many thanks to my parents for footing that bill.

But it did take about an hour of messing around with flights and times and airlines. Turns out April 4, the date I'm supposed to arrive, is Easter this year. Yeah.

In the end, here's my itinerary:

Day, Date

Departure City and Time Arrival City and Time

Sat, 03APR10

(MCI) 7:30AM
(IAH) 9:30AM

Sat, 03APR10

(IAH) 10:50AM
(NRT) 2:20PM (04APR)

So the tickets are bought. My visa app is in the mail, I have all the passport pictures I need so I can turn in my drivers license app next week, and I have the number for the doctor for my TB test. Things are moving right along.
And just as I was finally calming down enough to go to sleep, I got another email notification. Turns out I got sent the wrong date:

I know that you received information from the Recruiting and Placement Dept.
in the Tokyo office asking you to arrive in Japan in the fourth week of
March. Unfortunately, Tokyo had not received updated assignment information
from our office and so the specifc date that you were given was incorrect. I
bear full responsibility for this error and apologise for the confusing
information that you have received.

Due to the later starting dates of the Hitachi City and Iwate Prefectural
Board of Education contracts, you will be receiving special training in
Hitachi and thus should purchase tickets to arrive at NARITA INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT on APRIL 4 (Sunday), NOT March 22. Please proceed to make
reservations to arrive on April 4.

As you will be catching a bus from the airport to and travelling directly
from the airport to Hitachi, please try to arrive as early as you can on
April 4. The last bus leaves Narita Airport at 8:45PM, so if you have no
choice in flights it shouldn't be a problem.

So the new date to count down to is April 4th!

glitter -

Good news! I finally got my arrival date! Drumroll please....

glitter -

Yep, I'll be in Japan on March 22, 2010. I'm really excited about this.

Today was a productive day, because I also mailed my visa application to the Consulate in Chicago. It should get there around Tuesday, and they said it only takes a day or so to process it. So I'll probably get it back early week after next. Cross your fingers and knock on wood and hope and pray that nothing happens en route, because it has my CoE and my passport in it, and nothing is allowed to happen to either one of those, ok? Ok.

Also, I discovered that I have to take yet more passport pictures. This time for my international driving permit. I still have one left over from the visa app, but I need two for this app. *sigh* Guess I'll do that again tomorrow. I wonder if they kept the ones they took from before...

Mine arrived today! As you can see, it's very official-looking, no? So now that I have this, it means I can get my visa application in. The consulate in Kansas City shut down in 2004, so I have to do mine with the Chicago consulate by mail. I need to take yet another passport-sized photo (I wish I'd just gotten like, 15 copies the first time I went), fill out a bit of paperwork, make copies of everything, and then I can send that off. I'm going to try to get all of that done tomorrow before I go into work (since I don't work until 3pm, that should be quite do-able). I also need to call the consulate and make sure I do everything right this first time.

I've also begun making lists of things I need to get done before I leave, along with things I still need to buy. I've searched online, and I think I have all the basic stuff taken care off, like toothpaste and deodorant and things like that that are harder to get the good kind of in Japan. I always feel like I'm forgetting something, though. I'll make a final list of everything I end up taking and post it, so you can see. I trying to take as little as possible, but we'll see how I fare.

City: Hitachi City 日立市
Prefecture: Ibaraki 茨城県
Population: 195,844 (as of 2008)

City Symbols
Tree: Japanese zelkova

Flower: Sakura

Bird: Japanese Cormarant

According to good ol' Wikipedia:

"The name Hitachi is well known throughout the world due to Hitachi company founded in the city in 1910 by Odaira Namihei. Today, Hitachi company is one of the world's largest manufacturing and consumer electronics companies.

Being a predominantly industrial city Hitachi was badly damaged in World War II and very few older buildings now remain in the downtown area. However the city is not without interesting local sites.

Like many Japanese cities, many of the public spaces are dedicated to symbolising the struggle for peace in the post-war world. It is in this spirit that one must consider Heiwa Dori (Peace Street), Hitachi's prettiest street. Every April there is a major procession down the broad tree-lined boulevard to celebrate the arrival of the cherry blossom season (Sakura Matsuri). Giant colourful floats called furyumono are carried by the local people.

Hitachi also has a small zoo on the nearby Mount Kamine."

I'll be working at both the elementary and junior high school level, but I don't know how many schools yet. At least two, and up to five. I'll also have a car. Yes, I will be driving in Japan. Also, it's only a couple hours north of Tokyo, which is also really cool.

And now, for some photos:

I'm so excited!
Things are really moving now, and I owe y'all an update.

First, and most importantly, I know my placement! I'll be in Hitachi City, in the Ibaraki prefecture. (I'll do a post with more information about that later). It was a bit of an ordeal to get my placement, let me tell you.

Interac called me on Wednesday (1/27) with my placement. The catch? I was at work and couldn't answer my phone, so they just left a message saying they'd call back the next day. ANGUISH. The next day came, and I took my lunch at the time they said they'd call so I would be able to answer without a problem. No call. I thought maybe they'd call Friday, and I checked my phone obsessively during the call-back time. Still no luck. And as it was the weekend, I didn't expect one Friday or Saturday, and probably not Sunday either, but I had my fingers crossed.

And then, Sunday came, and so did the call. Around 8pm, and I nearly missed it because I didn't have my ringer on. (Bless you, vibrate.) So I officially got my placement offer on Sunday 1/31. I of course immediately googled it and told my parents and announced it on Facebook and all that jazz. I still need to make a few calls.

Additionally, my Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) has cleared on the Japan side, so they're sending that to me in the next couple of weeks. I then get to send that on the consulate (I'll go through Denver, I believe, since the Kansas City one no longer exists) and that'll give me my visa so I can work.

I also got my Orientation packet and some FAQs and other cultural information today in one big fat email. It's finally starting to hit that I am, in fact, moving to Japan with an actual job.

The next step is finding out my arrival date and then just getting everything ready to go! Less than two months to go!