Friday, August 14, 2009

Knocking on Heaven's Door

My 5 year old nephew Yekerta is leaving school. As he waves goodbye to the guard he stops to show him the picture he’s just drawn.
“This is for my auntie Dana, she’s going away.”
“Oh, how nice, where is she going?” the guard asks.
“To heaven.”

And so it is, to heaven I go.

The flight is full, somehow I manage a window seat, i pass out and wake up with 600 other newly hired JETs. For the most part the energy is good, anticipation mixed with nerves, spiced with excitement, wonder and a good measure of fatigue.

All the bowing makes me quite loopy, it’s that or the night at Locked Up in a prison cell drinking sugary cocktails and beers out of test tubes and beakers served by zombies and girls dressed up like Japanese fantasy anime characters…Only in heaven.

It turns out I don’t speak any Japanese, and somehow everyone else does. Surprise! My brain, precious thing that it is, offers up French phrases and even some of the words I learned in Laos come back, but any of the few Japanese expressions I thought I had seem to have gotten lost or maybe they've been packed in my suit case. Whatever the case, I’m pretty worthless.

They made us wear suits to orientation in Tokyo, and strongly suggested that we wear them to work, at least for the first few weeks. Lets get one thing clear a suit does not make me feel any smarter or more professional, really they make me feel like an imposter, a sweaty imposter.

Its balls hot in Tokyo and its balls hot and humid in Okinawa. Apparently working as a bartender before going to Japan is not good preperation, at least not in preparing a wardrobe. Where I was once referred to as the ‘conservative’ one at the bar, my “teacher shirts” seem to be missing the appropriate and necessary sleeves required here to prevent the students from understanding how our arms are attached to our bodies. Silly slutty American shoulders.