Tag Archives: travel

Walking with Ghosts: A glimpse of Hiroshima and Miyajima

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November 2011

Growing up in the States, I learned all about World War II and the A-bomb from a particular perspective. History exists based on how it’s written. American’s write it one way just as every other nation has their on take on the events. Going to Hiroshima was my chance to finally get a hold on the other perspective of the A-bomb first hand. Though I was as interested in what the city had become as much as what it had been.

Another time travel post, sorry. My classes are thinning out so I finally have time during my free periods to hash out the details of these experiences with a clear head. Or clearer. I’ve been having some troubles with my body acting up but that can wait till another post.

I love the way foreigners pronounce Hiroshima, when it’s done incorrectly. It always makes me giggle. I called my mom to tell her I was going on this trip and said Hiroshima the proper way (hee row shee ma – phonetic!) and she had no clue what I was talking about until I said it with an American accent. I certainly don’t expect people to know all about Japanese pronunciation. I’ve been listening to stuff in Japanese since I was 12. I think I have a little bit of a head start besides the whole living in Japan thing. It’s just interesting how these things stick after all this time.

Where was I… Ah so we headed out super early before the sun and made our way down the highways towards Hiroshima. I am proud to say I drove both ways AND only got lost once. Couldn’t have done it without my trusty navi unit – NicoNico aka my friend Nicole. There we were, driving down the big highways in a tiny little K-car with yellow plates (more powerful cars get white plates). I can’t wait to drive at 65 mph on a regular basis again. In a car that doesn’t feel like a tuna can. The driving here can be painfully slow and dangerous because of all the mountains.

When we got to the outskirts of Hiroshima, we made a turn off into the inaka in search of Nicole’s great aunt. After a little hunting in the wilds, we found the temple her family ‘owns’ up on a hill. Nicole’s grandmother had recently passed away and we brought Nicole to the temple to pay her respects to her grandmother’s sister and family. A bonus was to see the temple, of course. Her great aunt was really sweet and friendly even with us being absolute foreigners in both nationality and understanding. Anna was with us and she speaks Japanese and looks Chinese but is from Singapore. Nicole is half Okinawan and half Japanese and can understand conversational Japanese but deep down she’s full blooded American-Hawaiian to me^^. And then there’s me. An obvious foreigner and not the greatest with the language. But she welcomed us like long lost grand babies.

After sitting around talking and giving the letter and gifts to the great aunt (I think she was nearly 100 years old but didn’t look near that old), we were shown the grave site where Nicole’s ancestors were buried. It was inspiring. Then we headed back down the hill and thought we were done but there was one more thing to do… ring the evening bell. Here’s the video Nicole took. I might be a goof but I was really honored to have had that experience. The original bell had been taken during the war to melt down for weapons or whatever but after the war they got a new one. I don’t remember the whole complex story behind it, there was a lot going on to take in at one time.

We said our goodbyes as the sun set on us and made our way into Hiroshima… a slow way. Tons of traffic. The city is set in a half circle of mountains. This barrier is all that kept the fallout of the bomb from spreading to the surrounding towns. Because of that, there aren’t a ton of ways to get into the city. Hence the heavy traffic I assume. After we made it to the island part of the city with the museum, we found our huge hotel and got settled in. The service was friendly as ever in Japan and they even spoke English! Yay for big cities. Our room had 2 beds and pull out sofa. It was very clean and the front desk was helpful with our questions about where to eat and such.

We arrived in time to catch dinner somewhere so we headed out. Several of the places were closed but we found a popular Italian place across from the museum. It was surprisingly good and I laughed out loud when they handed the Japanese menu to Nicole and the English menu to me. Nicole looks Japanese so I can understand that but what was so funny was when I asked her if she wanted my English menu. The menus were all written in Italian plus one other language and I know enough Italian to order food. The funny part is when Nicole glances at the menu and goes “What ya mean? There’s English on here.” I started cracking up and made her actually read it and she starts laughing and face palms while passing me the menu. I think the waiters got a little weird-ed out by how hard we were laughing but whatever. I was a little drunk from a glass of wine and the leftovers of motion sickness pills so I went right to sleep when we got back to the hotel.

 

He had birds all over him!! Nicole just had to have a picture so to be polite, we took a sneaky tourist shot.

Since Saturday was shaping up to be a nice day, we decided to find our way to Miyajima. This island is still rather sacred and it used to be that no one was allowed to die or give birth on the island. Now it’s a tourist spot with hotels, restaurants, food vendors, a rope way to the near top of Mt. Misen and of course lots of deer. The photos might describe it better than I can. On our way there we wandered the grounds of the Peace Park.

Nicole and Anna actually made it to the top of the mountain but I was dizzy and weary from the 10 plus hour drive the day before as well as all the walking that day so I waited for them at the love temple. I already did Fuji, I didn’t need to prove anything haha.

 

Just hanging out. Totally unafraid of people.

To the rope-way!

Typical beautiful natural surroundings found in Japan. I guess it was typical for us, being from the countryside. That’s Anna on the left and Nicole on the right.

 

The rope-way! I would ride that all day around that mountain. Beautiful.

They always make it look so easy on the map…

 

The girls went on ahead without me. I was pooped. And watching people at the love temple was very entertaining.

The paddle thing was huge. Near this was the fried oyster place. They were delicious. I’ve never been one to enjoy that genre of seafood but I decided it was stupid of me not to try something that was so popular and famous there. I’m glad I did.

Then we caught the sunset on our way out. Beautiful. The deer were even being cute.

We waddled our way back to the ferry to take us to the mainland. Anna and I fell asleep on each other. The mainland train then took us all the way back around to the shopping district and we went in search of a good okonomiyaki bar. We found one. It was fantastic, highly recommended. I really don’t know if I like Osaka style better than Hiroshima, though. They were both amazing. I felt bad but I couldn’t finish mine… it was starting to burn on the grill, I had taken so long to eat it. One thing I have not acquired is the Japanese way of shoveling down food. I like to take my time.

Somewhere in this madness we found a spectacular okonomiyaki place. I’m lucky to always have such resourceful friends.

A pseudo indoor mall street thing.

The only building left standing after the bomb dropped. It’s so haunting. A constant reminder.

Nicole posing in front of the museum. Everyone cries in there. Everyone.

Saturday was quite gloomy so we decided to go to the museum. I didn’t bring my camera due to the rain. The museum… is an experience every human being should have. I can’t begin to express how impacting  it was on me and everyone around me. Certainly there are some things left out or slightly altered to betray Japan in a more favorable light (just as we do in the US). But there was also some surprising admissions of guilt. I highly recommend reading up on your WWII knowledge before walking through it (from many sides if possible) as it helps give perspective. The over sentiment was most definitely anti-war all around.

We then wandered to a nearby mall center to wander around the omiyage (souviner) places. Some very delicious stuff. I found a place that sold the hard candy balls that are nostalgic of the pre-WWII era in Hiroshima. So many flavors. I bought bags and bags of them and took them back for my teachers… and me. We ate at a kinda whatever place in the mall and then did snack night with drinks at the hotel room.

The last day out was gloomy again. The beautiful Saturday we had at Miyajima was turning out to be extremely lucky. Anna really wanted to see the castle in the center of the city… but we were tired and it was rainy and… it was time to go. So we drove by it on our way out and made our long trek back home. I drove most of the way back (I get motion sick so it’s better if I drive) but Nicole took over at some point. I was so tired.

The moral of this trip for me was to be in the moment. Don’t blink! And if it’s raining out, bring the plastic cover for the camera!

With love- M

 

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Fujisan: Mount o’ Oxymorons

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August 25 2011

Few things in my life would I consider both awesome and awful at the same time. It seems as though most of these special moments have taken place during my adventures in Japan. Climbing the famous Mount Fuji is no exception.

First is the kids version with easy photo presentation and then I give the lowdown on how it went down. For info on climbing Fuji, google it. Or go here or here. For a full photo collection, go here.

Winding along the coast of Himi.

It’s not a town unless it has pachinko.

Biggest Godzilla statue I’ve seen yet.

Then into the mountains.

A cute rest stop for couples. You’re supposed to put a lock on the fence to signify your hearts being locked together forever I suppose.

This couple meant serious business.

We stayed the night at a friend of Craig’s place. He was rather awesome and ironically his name was Joel (the same as my boyfriend) so of course I assumed he would be awesome from the start haha. The three of us curled up on Joel’s floor and sort of slept. Yay Leo Palace. We received breakfast in bed the next morning with apples, pears, and nuts. Joel offered more and more but we thought it best if we were off.

We drove through the town on the northern side of Fujisan but I didn’t take any pictures due to the gloomy nature of the day. It was raining and we were set to climb a mountain. We took our time wandering around and eventually sat down for luch at a Cafe Gasteau. Not recommended. Coco’s Restaurant is much better thought some folks seem to really like Gasteau.

Almost there…

Welcome to Cloud-parking.

And there she is.

A beautiful artist’s rendition complete with English subtitles.

A couple prayers before I head to my impending doom.

As the sun sets on our climb, maybe 2 or so hours in.

One of the rest points.

Those crazy kids. And yes, it is that cold up there in August.

Don’t give up!!

There she blows!

So close I can taste it… The tori gate is the entrance to the top of the mountain.

Butt shot.

The colors Duke! The colorsss. Everyone was wearing lots of layers and in a multitude of rainbow assortments. Not typical fair in Japan. They tend to like their neutrals. Oh and here you can see people with the walking sticks. I bought one, of course, and am so happy I did. It was totally worth it and I even got it stamped with the base camp symbols and the summit symbols.

They’re still coming!

Here’s the story: We started off together, kind of bungee-chord-ing between eachother. Craig would bound off, Anna would pull steadily ahead of me, and I would drag along until Craig stopped to rest and we’d all come together again for a few moments before starting the next leg.

I was (am) not in shape. I don’t know that I’ve ever been very athletic in any capacity. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy physical activity in that way, I just find it a bit more trying than some people. That in mind, I did not take offense when those two didn’t wait for me. In fact, I think we all enjoyed the alone time as we climbed. It meant you didn’t have to keep pace with anyone, worry about whether you’re pushing them too hard or vice verse. Oh, and yes there was some actual rock climbing, not trail trail walking. I almost fell to my death a few times…I don’t recommend a heavy non-hiking backpack for something like that. Very top heavy.

At some point during the evening, after about 4 hours of climbing, we decided it was time to rest. The next rest station we came to, we inquired about staying and it was a bit more expensive than we had thought and was for the entire night, not a few hours like we wanted.

The next station felt like hours away and was really a struggle for me. This place also was all night but was a little cheaper for some reason. They told us that the next station was the one we wanted, the one that let you sleep for a few hours and didn’t charge for the whole night. Craig and Anna were exhausted also but were considering continuing the climb but I reasoned that by the time we got there, we’d only have 3 or less hours to sleep because our pace was so slow right now from being so tired.

We stayed and it was worth it. I pulled my beanie over my eyes, put earplugs in and knocked out for almost 4 hours. We began climbing again around 1am (I don’t remember the exact times of anything). Craig took off before Anna and I even had our boots on. We couldn’t blame him though with all the folks now pouring up the trail. It was packed. Anna and I just fell into line in the middle of some tour group and tried not to get in the way.

Following those tour guides was the best. They have awesome pacing and even though they look like they’re going really slow, they never stop moving. At this point, everyone was in the zone. Just one foot in front of the other. The best way seemed to be walking like a duck so you didn’t slip on the rocks.

After some time of my silly waddling, I came across Craig hunched over on a rock to the side of the trail. Evidently he’d felt sick when he woke up but thought he could push through it since we were almost to the top. But we weren’t actually almost to the top… the last bit is the steepest and is packed with tired folks so it’s the slowest. I passed him my pepto bottle and advised that he ate something but he refused. I headed on and stopped to wait for him at the next station. He walked over, sat down on the bench next to me and promptly stood back up to go throw up over the side of the mountain. Yuck. Don’t test altitude sickness, it will win. I think he ate a little something and took some more pepto before starting on again, very slowly this time.

I pulled on ahead of him and struggled on up to the top where I hoped to find Anna. I learned later that she had walked around the whole crater, she just couldn’t stop walking lol. I had myself some hot chocolate in a hut and tried to warm up. Got my stamp on my walking stick and then decided to go ahead and start walking down. My phone was on the verge of death and I tried calling her once but reception up there is unreliable. Craig actually found me then and we headed down until we hear from Anna and stopped for a food break to wait for her to catch up.

The way down was crazy difficult. I wore my Five-finger gloves (Vibrams). Great idea for the climb, bad for the descent. Poor Anna’s toes were hurting bad from her new hiking shoes but Craig took off with his long legs. I stayed with Anna for as long as I could but towards the end I had to take off also because it hurt less to just leap down the trail. Rocks, so many rocks. OH! And I was harrassed by an older man that I think was slightly handicapped and wouldn’t take “Leave me alone” as an answer. He kept trying to have a conversation with me, completely ignoring Anna, and kept walking backwards or sideways, constantly getting in my way and slowing me down. It was weird. We lost him eventually…

I made it, waited for Anna to catch up and we called Craig who was asleep in his car. We took off our gear, agreed that this had been both the best and worst experiences of our lives and left in a hurry.

And it was the most awesome and awful experience of my life. Never again. A wise man climbs Fujisan once. A fool, twice. I’m stickin’ to it. I hope everyone gets to have something like that in their lives.

Thank you to Craig and Anna for joining me in that crusade.

With love – M

To Anan and back

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A short trip to see Nathalie’s town and get stuck in a typhoon.

Again, long over due. This little adventure happened back in mid July. Better late than never! With all these typhoons we’re getting right now, I can’t help but be remind of this trip. The trip was planned to be me traveling to Osaka and then to Tokushima and finally Anan on Saturday and return on Tuesday since I was able to get an extra day off after the holiday.

I started out on an early Thunderbird (that’s the super train in these parts) and made a quick changeover in Osaka to a bus. While I was waiting in line to buy a ticket, a nice fatherly man started making random chitchat with me using surprisingly good English. After I got my ticket I took a minute to gather my stuff together and he caught up with me to make the conversation more official. As it turns out, he was a JTE (that’s Japanese Teacher of English) for many years at a highschool way up in the mountains a few hours from Osaka. He was traveling alone and made it very clear that he prefers it that way.

Being curious I asked why and he said that he had never found a companion that didn’t make traveling irritating. His wife especially drove him mad and even his best friend was too much trouble. He said he prefers the alone time because it makes it much easier to interact with foreigners he runs into along the way. I absolutely understood this because being such a person, I prefer not to be suddenly surrounded by tourists interested in practicing their English for extended periods of time. It’s much nicer one on one and not so confusing.

He was super nice. Asked if I wanted to get a cup of coffee but unfortunately I don’t drink coffee and said I just needed to eat a fast lunch instead. He then offered to show me to the nearest food area so I could grab something before getting on my bus. I already new the area really well from my last Osaka trip but it was kind nonetheless. We parted but as I was sitting in the little cafe eating my sandwich, who should round the corner but my little friend eager as a beaver to squeeze in some more English before I left. He had some interesting philosophies on the differences between western foreigners thought processes and those native to Japan. I wanted to agree that my folks, Americans, were not living sustainable or at all in tune with our natural environment on a daily basis… but certain things kept coming into my head about whaling, personal freedoms, and the unfortunate downside to constantly following the “wa” system (see my older post) that I decided it best if I kept my mouth shut. Smile and nod. It’s the “wa” system in action. Maybe he would’ve benefited by my counter-idea, who knows.

Finally I made my way to the bus and was given the only seat with an empty seat next to eat. Praise Jesus or whoever. It was perfect because my bum is a little more than typical Japanese standard… just a little heh. I probably saw the most scenery of Shikoku on that bus ride out of my whole trip. The mountain formations were really interesting. I should have snapped some photos but I only had my phone cam and it’s not the best with motion. I’ll try to paint you a mental image: you know those huge paintings in Chinese restaurants and buffets? The ones with the little fishing boat gliding on the water with huge odd looking mountains all around that look impossible they’re so slender? Those are what I saw. Take a mountain, shave away the outside until it’s almost a cylinder from top to bottom.

After meeting up with Nathalie and getting my rental bike, we dropped my stuff at her place and headed for dinner. Dinner was a 5k bike ride away at the nearest super kaitenzushi. We were so bushed by the time we got there. Red faced and frothing at the mouth. This was summer in Japan mind you with the humidity that comes just before a big typhoon. We stuffed ourselves and before it got too dark and buggy we headed back for conbini ice cream and lots of sleep.

The next day, Nat’s friend took us around for a little sightseeing in Tokushima City, the closest big city to Anan. She had a car. It was lovely. First was food. Real udon, my first time.

The strange statue outside the noodle shop.

Some mountain top viewing of the city.

The next day was by train and foot, back to the city for some wandering before the storm hit too hard. There was Awa Odori stuff everywhere.

 

Delicious foodstuffs.

Nat being herself at the train station. We got off too early. Boo.

But the waiting presented a photo-op of some Totoro graffiti.

And the morning after was my giant bowl of oatmeal and banana courtesy of Nat.

Then the ridiculousness began. The typhoon hit on Tuesday, the day I was to head home. I had work on Wednesday morning and an important party for a JTE I didn’t want to miss in the evening. We tried to find out what was what with the trains and it seemed things were fine so we bundled up, wrapped my stuff in plastic, and headed out on the bikes… through a typhoon. Eventually we were just walking the bikes because the wind was so hard it would’ve toppled us and the rain stung our faces too badly. We then returned the bike in town and walked to the station. The bike man looked super surprised to see us.

I went in, got my ticket and hopped on the next train to Tokushima.

Once there, I ran to the bus terminal and asked about a ticket to Osaka. No tickets, no buses. What about later? I asked. Nope. And tomorrow? Don’t know yet, maybe yes maybe no. Depends on the storm. Crap.

I made some frantic texts and calls to Nat and my supervisors. There was more talking involved than I think was necessary with my company but eventually they got the concept that there was no way I was going to be able to leave Shikoku until the following day if I was lucky. And Nat’s wonderful friend with a car was so wonderful and picked me up from the station after only a few hours waiting. I was concerned about getting a hotel room because of all the other travelers stranded there. One girl sitting next to me with her mom was calling all the local hotels to find a room that wasn’t ridiculously expensive for the night. I think she found a place at the Toyoko Inn just as I was leaving. I looked back at her as I got up to leave and she gave me a slow nod to say she would be okay. Yay for not needing words sometimes.

The next day there was some seriously anxious waiting involved at the train station while they got things up and running again. It was a nice little trip, excitement and anxiety. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Shikoku another time. After all was said and done, I made it home to Nanao by 10pm and Nicole picked my exhausted self up. I was done with traveling for a while after that… oh wait… one week later was the Tokyo trip. What was I thinking?!

With love – M

Conversation test and expected stresses

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Oh the dreaded Interac conversation test. Japanese language proficiency call is probably a better description. My caller was adorable, as most I’m sure are. We had a little hick-up because I missed her first call (8:30pm my time) by a couple seconds and then when she said she’d call back, her son was sick and she had to stay home. But we worked it out and she was able to call me back last night thankfully.

I felt a little bad because I highly doubt I’m fluent enough to be considered for the extra money they offer (5000 yen per month). My goal was simply to get my feet wet with a real Japanese person I had never met before.  I surprised myself and did really well as far as understanding everything she said. A few of the sentences I just couldn’t respond to due to my low level of grammer and vocab. I mean, I only had a year and we didn’t even finish the first Genki book.

Now, don’t think I went into it unprepared. I absolutely studied my head off. My buddy Nathalie was great and helped me practice formulating some simple sentences like the all important “mouichido itte kudasai” or “could you say that again please”. She also gave me some questions she might ask, tho she ended up only asking of them, it was still really helpful just to practice listening skills. The best bit was a facebook link she sent me of a discussion she found about the calls.

“It’s not that hard. I had one.
They do start off pretty easily with very basic Japanese and eventually move into the more difficult levels of Japanese.

I can’t remember the whole conversation, but this is a good example of what to expect:
Firstly, she asked what my name was after introducing herself.

She asked me how the weather was where I live after that.
For how long did I study Japanese and where.
What I did yesterday, today, and what would I do tomorrow.
If I had ever been to Kyoto.
What my favorite Japanese food is, and where I go for it.
What I want to do in Japan.

There were more, but those should give you an idea.
At the end, we had some small talk in English for a couple minutes. She asked me if this was the first time I had spoken to a Japanese person on the phone.

That’s a pretty basic rundown– though the last questions were very difficult. Such as what interesting news I had read in a newspaper. Don’t worry– it’s not a big problem. You’ll do fine. :)”

This was the absolutely most helpful post for me. The caller asked almost all of these questions. In addition she asked when my birthday was and some other questions in response to answers I had given to the above mentioned questions. These were obviously harder because I had to think on the spot. But I survived. I’m really proud of myself for not stuttering and understanding all she was asking. Hopefully my sentence making skills will improve as my exposure to more Japanese people sky-rockets.

One last note:

Stress is starting to take it’s toll. The late night calls, lots of researching and reading, and studying the language have been my daily companions. But I also am working my part-time job during the day as well as finishing up my lingering personal projects (like getting as many kanzashi and painting done as possible). It’s all tumbling together in what feels like a giant snowball of doom.

BUT it’s all kind of awesome, too. I’ve had the opportunity to really perform in my job, assisting and doing a lot of duties in place of my boss who unfortunately has had to step aside for little bit.  I’ve been able to get experience in administrative duties as well as interviewing and event planning. And don’t even get me started on how much I love swimming around on google earth in Japan and reading other ALT’s blogs or surfing websites about the area around my placement in Shika.

It’s just something I want clear to any prospective ALT’s out there. If you don’t like stress, this job is not for you. However, if you thrive on the unplanned, the unknown, and the all around awesome that is traveling abroad, climb aboard, my friend.

With love – M

Jet vs. Interac… FIGHT!

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Round 1: The Process

In my mind, this fight scenario is indicative of the fight between government-run and private run companies in Japan at present. I’m not much for politics in my own backyard, let alone a foreign nation but I can understand the importance of this battle. From what I gather, the recent political switch over that happened recently has sent Japan in a more private direction. Basically, the government will be made smaller, its many sub-company’s made private like the post offices and so on.

What does any of this have to do with JET and Interac? Everything. As I have viewed thus far, JET has been the reigning giant when it comes to the placement of ALT’s (Assistant Language Teachers). There are several factors that feed this such as being the best paid ALT job out there (for someone with no experience, new to the country, etc.) and loads of assistance from the company, both financial as well as psychological. It is, by far the most recommended, well funded, stable ALT placement company.

So why would anyone bother with Interac? Because if JET’s doors were any tighter to squeeze through, they’d be making diamonds from coal in there. The first and second times I applied to JET (2008 and 2009), the process began as early as late August/early September. I was informed of whether I was coming for an interview around December and then the actual interview was in the heart of NYC in mid February. THEN I waited another couple of months to find out I was put on the Alternate list (basically, if you’re on an alternate list, they want you but there just isn’t enough room on the short list for everyone). The application process alone is demanding. Attention to details, concise but informative answers, and getting that app in as early as possible is what’s going to get the win. The interview… I usually do well in those situations and I don’t think that I did poorly but I’m not a teacher. I have loads of experience working with children but not with pretend teaching with 3 stern interviewers. But they want the best of the best so I don’t blame them. Thankfully, for any new applicants they have now shortened the process by at least a month or so and I believe their eventual goal is to make it almost completely online based, like Interac. For now, expect to give them EVERYTHING up front in the application. There is no real back and forth. They evaluate everyone at one time and if you don’t measure up on paper first, they don’t even bother talking to you.

Like I explained in the previous post, Interac’s process was quick, to the point and fairly painless. Many of the questions and paper documents needed for visa and other things are not requested until the interview process is underway. And the interview doesn’t happen until you’re first screened over the phone by a recruiter after you’ve submitted the application online. I feel that these steps create a much less stressful experience. Much less time is wasted in this way. Something like this:

Applicant: “Hi, I’m interested in this position. Here is my resume and reference list.”  1 day to a couple of weeks pass

Recruiter: “Hi, you meet our basic requirements. I will now ask a series of questions to ensure you are competent…. Congratulations! You have passed the initial screening. Let’s setup an interview date.”  Several days to several weeks pass

Applicant: “I have come to this professional interview, prepared to perform under pressure for a video interview (to be sent to Japanese clients), interact with fellow applicants in a group setting, and interview privately. I conduct myself formally, expressively, and with confidence.” 3-4 weeks pass

Recruiter: “Congratulations once again! Here is your letter of an offer of employment. This is your estimated start date (either early April or July).”

I actually enjoyed the interview itself because it’s a group process all except for the 30 minute private interview at the end. It took all day for me since I opted to go next to last… because I’m such a nice person. Nearly 10 hours, not including drive time which was a hike. Still worth it. I hope I’ll get to meet some of my cohorts again at the orientation. All good people. It was almost comical because we all agreed that every single one of us there was good choice. Everyone had different strengths and weaknesses and we seemed to compliment each other very well.

In summary of the processes, JET can take anywhere from 11 to 16 months to finally get placed where as Interac takes a minimum of 6 and a max of 10 months to place. For Round 1, my winner is undoubtedly Interac. Stay tuned next time for Round 2: Placement.

With love – M

T-50 days and counting

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Well… around 50 days. Whatever. It’ll be nice when I actually know my start date.

Excuse me, let me back up.

First, a little history: Back when I was a wee little tyke, I was exposed to lots of foreign art thanks to my grandparents. Two of them had traveled in Japan and the Philippines for the military following WWII. My subconscious became very fond of all things East Asian in nature and I would seek them out without realizing it. Historical art, crafts, food, candies, anime, kodo, whatever I could get my grubby little hands on. In highschool I heard about this magical little program that took kids out of college and flew them to the otherside of the world just to teach English in Japan. This program was/is the JET Program.

At the time, I was very much into art and had decided that was the direction I would head. I was ‘practical’ and did graphic design instead of fine art, however, thinking that somehow this would help me get to Japan. I honestly thought there was no way in hell I’d make into JET.

Along comes Elementary Japanese classes at a neighboring college my junior year. Tanaka-sensei was awesome. There are bad teachers, satisfactory teachers, good or great teachers, and then there are awesome teachers. She made this crazy reachable for me.  She advised me to apply for JET the following August. I was not in disbelief for very long. Instilling confidence was something she did very well.

I made it past the long process, past the interview stage and into the wretchedly painful “Alternate” basket. I waited and waited for that phone call or email in vain. But I am no mere schmuck to be put down after one attempt! Surely next time, I’m a sure-win! Surely not. Due to issues getting a doctors appointment late in the game, my application probably hit their doorstep right before they shut the doors and received little more than a skim read. Alas, that was enough for me. Time to move on into to real world.

Hark! What’s this? An old application I never finished with Interac back when I was weighing my options to get to Japan. Before, they were not at all appetizing but now… what the heck?! Why not? I’ve got nothing to lose. And I didn’t. I pwned that application for all it was worth. I got a call the very next day and was invited to their group interview in New York the following Saturday. ZING! I’ll discuss that process in a later post.

Weeks later, I was offered employment. Just recently I got my call about my placement and am currently awaiting my drop date. I feel like I’m in the aircorps or something.

I am PUMPED. Everyone’s saying they’re so happy and excited for me, excited to come visit me over there, and so on. I don’t think anyone’s as excited as I am. Achin’ for some adventure, I am. Not that I won’t miss home and everyone in it! Stop talkin’ crazy talk! But I don’t want to be 40 something down the road and SNAP one day because I never got this bug out of my system.

This has been the basic long lead up to the inception of this blog. As things progress I intend to throw in plenty of juicy links, information on applying, things to watch out for, situations I have avoided, people to make contact with, blah blah blah. Just pay attention and search for stuff in the side bar. I hope to have a photo page up with links to web albums and other things chronicling my adventures in the far east. Thanks for tuning in.

With love – M