07 August 2010

A busy moving-in Saturday

We promise better theme-oriented posts later but for now I thought I'd give you some more scattered scenes from "A day in the life of a teacher moving into Fukuoka International School."

Kumi is the FIS equivalent of Paul from APIS, hero of our Korea days, and she has been doing yeoman's work these last weeks moving all the faculty in. Back at APIS, the school took out long leases at different apartments around the neighborhood (or "dong" - which is the Korean word for "neighborhood," I kid you not) and moved teachers into the apartments as their contracts dictated. FIS is different, as each teacher shops for his or her own apartment and takes out his or her own lease. This is great in the sense that teachers can have more control over their layouts and locations, but really difficult for Kumi. She has to find out teacher preferences, find appropriate and foreigner-friendly listings, schedule viewings, make offers, negotiate rates, and sign contracts, all in a matter of days. And did I mention that Japanese apartments don't come with any appliances?

Justin and I chose back in March or so to pick up the lease of a former FIS teacher, actually the woman who held the same high school history post I'm taking. We feel kind of guilty about how leisurely and inexpensive this has made our move-in. We paid the teacher a lump sum for the major appliances and furniture in the apartment, which was much less than the replacement value, and which did not begin to touch the miscellaneous things we've since discovered, like the speakers, iPod dock, power strips, toaster, detergent, and jar of Nutella. (What? Justin likes Nutella.)

Today we tagged along with Kumi and the other teachers to the electronics store because we decided we wanted to add a blender and a computer monitor (for Slingbox TV viewing) to our embarrassment of riches. Thanks to Kumi's masterful negotiations, the price of the blender was reduced by about ten dollars, nearly half the price, and twenty dollars came off the computer screen. Oh, and they sold us the audio cable we needed for the speakers at about 1.30 off, which was kind of funny.

We had lunch at the mall food court next door - Korean food! Well, we always said that Korea has several really good meals, just not enough variety to eat for six months straight. And we had a Mister Donut, which Pittsburgh readers may remember from its failed attempted US expansion during Justin's childhood (they were vanquished by Dunkin).

After that... there was some unpacking to do, and some sorting, and some school planning, but it's a coastal 95 degree day and we just came from twelve months in Scotland. Clearly the right choice was to join fellow teacher Matt and his wife Ashley at the beach. A short ten-fifteen minute bike ride and massive applications of SPF 50 later, and we were in the water. The ocean here is so warm that after you've been in for a bit you have to get out and let the air on your skin cool you down. There is also a schizophrenic attitude towards tanning: some people are toasted golden brown and lying out in the sun, while others swim with shirts on over their bathing suits. It was a novel experience for Justin and me not to be the pastiest people on a beach. I'm honestly not sure this has ever happened before.

This evening we went to the grocery store and ended up in the middle of a street fair with some weird petting zoo going on, of which I think Justin took some pictures for later. The groceries are generally quite expensive here, particularly produce of any kind. Bananas are reasonable at around 95 cents a bunch, but everything else is quite high. Partly that's because we're used to UK prices on produce, which has come down significantly thanks to the EU trade zone, and partly it's because we've been away from the US and its inflation for so long that we've completely lost track of what things "should" even cost there anymore. Is $2 reasonable for maybe 1/3 of a cup of blueberries? Is 75 cents reasonable for a kiwi? I don't know. But I do know that the okra looks inexpensive, and so did a giant turnip, so it's off to Allrecipes.com to find something to make with those!

05 August 2010

Some move-in thoughts

Moving in has gone beyond smoothly here. The school has put us and the other new teachers up at a hotel (the Hotel Twins Momochi) while we move in, and the room is tiny (typical for Japan) but very clean and, most importantly, with excellent air conditioning. For your own reference, the yellow P1, P2, P3, and P4 buttons on the hotel television remote (the most prominent buttons) do NOT take you to presets, but rather, to dirty movies. I am seriously hoping those two seconds don't show up on the school's bill for the room.

Our new apartment is small, but we're pretty much used to that, and the more we sit in it, the better it feels. The small size is encouraging us to think critically about how much junk we really need, and about organizing and storing it in the most efficient and aesthetic way. We started inventorying the stuff left by the last teacher (and the teacher before her, I think, from the Canadian currency) on Tuesday and choosing what to keep and what to give away to other teachers. To our utter amazement, our shipment showed up today. All but one of our twelve boxes is now unpacked in the new apartment, and I'm boggled by how much clothing I own even after getting rid of three bags to charity shops in Edinburgh.

We have had... let's see, maybe eight meals now? And really, no complaints! I am not completely clear on dates after Monday, when we had cold buckwheat noodles, which we used to have in Korea as well, and tasted great on a hot day. Monday's dinner was ramen (salty soy for me, spicy for Justin). We've had sushi at a great little neighborhood place, owned by an awesome older couple who felt it their duty to teach us sushi vocabulary by pointing at things and enunciating them - at the soy sauce, MU-RA-SA-KI; for picked ginger, GA-RI (see, I was paying attention!). There are two different fast-food burger joints nearby, the most important distinction being that Lotteria's fries taste just like McDonald's', and Mos Burger's fries are like Wendy's'. Today we had "sumo soup," which does not contain actual sumo but rather is, in larger portions, the preferred food of sumo for weight gain. I had this soup when I went to Tokyo with the APIS (Korean school) 8th grade, and loved it, and Justin feels the same way, but we figure we'd better restrain ourselves lest we inadvertently end up fit for nothing but sumo.

Which shouldn't be a problem with all the BIKING we've been doing! I haven't been on a bike since I lived in New Haven five years ago and, although my legs aren't thrilled with the change, I'm really enjoying it. On a bike, our apartment is less than five minutes from the school, with a lovely ride over the river footbridge (pictured in the previous post). We have seen multiple cranes on the river (birds, not construction equipment), old dudes fishing, and tonight, a marvelous sunset. We haven't gotten to the beach yet but it's next on our list. Not twenty minutes by bicycle! Good thing I bought a suit before we left the UK!

In other words, Justin and I are just delighted with everything so far. We have traveled enough to know that we're in the honeymoon phase of culture shock (the others, if you're interested, are rejection, regression, acceptance, and the ever-amusing reverse culture shock), but we are optimistic that Fukuoka is going to be a great place to live.

04 August 2010

Evening in Fukuoka

Just a teaser: a few pics from the new cell phone. The top photo is of the little river in our neighborhood, between the apartment and the school. The bottom is the view from our front door.

Safely in Fukuoka!

Nana and I arrived safely and on time Monday morning, and everything's been going smoothly since then. Even the weather is cooperating--blisteringly hot, of course, but so far not much rain!

Expect a longer post sometime later this week, once we have internet set up at the apartment.