(Originally written: August 2, 2013)
Last week was an emotional roller coaster of packing, saying goodbyes to my closest friends and family, packing, buying more omiyage/clothes/shoes, packing, and re-packing.
A tip for future JETs: don’t procrastinate and leave all of your packing to the last week like I did. I didn’t finish Packing Attempt #1 until 2pm on the day of my departure to Halifax. When I weighed my bags, my larger suitcase was underweight and my smaller suitcase was overweight – cue panicked switching of all packed content from one suitcase to the other. Good thing I didn’t have to be at the airport until 5pm… right?!
I didn’t actually get to the airport until closer to 6pm, but that was OK because my flight was delayed by an hour. I instead spent the extra time in the airport with my mom, dad, aunt, uncle, and Nan. Saying goodbye was hard, but was really nice that I got to spend so much time with them before leaving!
I arrived in Halifax at 9:30pm local time and headed across a skywalk to my hotel, the ALT Hotel (how appropriate!). My room was really nice and very modern! The bed was so comfortable, but I still had a lot of trouble falling and staying asleep that night; it was close to 2am before I could fall asleep, and I was up again at 3:30am. Ugh. I gave up at 4:15am and proceeded to get ready to leave for Montreal.
I met up with the six other Atlantic Canadian JETs at the airport. We chatted over Tim Horton’s, then it was off through security and to our gate for our 6am boarding time! The gate attendant came over to us a few minutes before boarding and asked to see our boarding passes; before we knew what had happened, four of us were upgraded to Business Class(!). I was one of the lucky four and ended up in 1A – a single seat with an incredible amount of leg room. Flying in business class was quite the experience; between the hot towels, constant drinks, hot breakfast, and everything else, there was no time to take a nap on the short flight! We arrived in Montreal not long after 7am local time and headed to our hotel, the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure.
Fortunately, this was the same hotel where Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO) was being held. We freshened up in our rooms, then headed down to Orientation for a delicious breakfast buffet where we met all of the Montreal JETs. There was a lot of information given to us during PDO, and we also got our Yakkan Shoumei certificates (yay, mine went through!), passports, visas, baggage tags, and arrival cards, all within an hour and a half. Phew.
We had a well-deserved hour’s break, so I went back to my room and messaged my parents before the bus left for the Farewell Cocktail at the Consul General’s residence. The exhaustion was starting to kick in as we drove through the streets of the expensive Montreal neighbourhood where the Consul General lives, but I found a second wind once we arrived at his house. We socialized with the Consul General, JETAA Quebec/Atlantic members, Consulate staff, and other prominent JET guests while eating delicious finger foods and drinking wines and beers. It was a lovely afternoon! I was selected as the Atlantic JET representative to give the closing speech at the end, and although I was nervous at first, it went quite well and I was very happy!
The Montreal and Atlantic JETs went their separate ways upon arriving at the hotel – the Montreal’ers to (presumably) finish packing and the Atlantics to sight-see around Montreal. Our Programme Coordinator, a Consulate staff member, and an alumni JET met with us at 6pm and together we went out for supper at a Vietnamese restaurant. It was my first time having Vietnamese, but it was delicious! We then went on a short walking tour, passed the Notre Dame Basilica and through Old Montreal, before heading back to our hotel.
Now, I’m exhausted. I think we will all have a solid night’s sleep tonight! Tomorrow is the day we leave for Japan… I can’t believe it!!