The Circle of Life for an ALT

A couple months ago I got an email from a friend in her final year at Mount Allison who had informed me she was applying to the JET Programme (and was looking for tips on application to JET as well as a timeline for what to expect and when). I was so excited to be able to provide this information, as I remember asking my friend who had graduated the year before me and was on the JET Programme at the time (and actually still is!) to help me, and was so grateful when she did. Today I got an email from the girl who had applied, saying she had successfully passed the application stage, and was scheduled for an interview! I was so excited for her! It brings back all my memories from my application process which I have decided (for memory’s sake) to write down and share here.

As most of you know, I applied to the JET Programme on a whim. I had no idea what I was going to do after university. I had always said (even before starting university), that the moment I graduated I was going exploring. I was leaving Canada and heading somewhere new. I hadn’t known where or how, but I knew I would. Unfortunately, due to my poor planning skills, I had found myself in my final year with no direction in life. Fortunately, I have awesome friends. Danica & Nick were applying for the JET Programme, and had encouraged me to apply as well. I managed to scrounge together an application in time for the deadline, and sent it off. I remember getting the phone call at the end of January to schedule an interview and I was so excited!

As the interview day approached, I had done little to prepare. I remember sitting at mom’s dining room table literally hours before the interview and thinking, “maybe I should look up news stuff related to Japan” – yeah, smart. I probably spent more time deciding what I was going to wear than what I was going to actually say (and when I say I probably spent more time, I mean I definitely did). I briefly googled “Japan” and then headed off to my interview. Did I ponder “What is the JET Programme looking for in an ALT?” or “What would make me a good ALT?” or even “Describe exactly what would make me qualified or ideal for the position of an ALT”?? No, I didn’t really bother thinking about that. Well, believe me when I tell you I was as unprepared for that interview as I could have been. Fortunately, I had a “whatever will be will be” mentality, which had led me to not prepare at all and not feel stressed about it. This may sound strange, but the day I sent off my application I had a gut feeling that I would be in Japan in a year’s time. I could just feel it in my bones. I hadn’t told anyone this (except my mother) at the time, due to the fact that makes me sound like a crazy person, but that is honestly the reason I didn’t really prepare for the interview and went into it with a “well, if I am supposed to go, I’ll go and if I’m not, I won’t” sort of mentality. I am not advising anyone who wishes to go apply to the JET Programme to also have that mentality. But I did.

Anyway, despite the feeling that I would be accepted into the programme, my interview went awful. (At this time my mentality basically changed to a “well, I guess that wasn’t meant to be” mentality.) I immediately went to the liquor store for some beers to ease the pain. I remember literally answering “I don’t know” to several of the interviewer’s questions. Once they even said “can’t you think of anything to say?” and I again replied “I don’t think I can, I don’t know”… Awkward. Regardless of my horrible answers and my complete lack of knowledge on anything Japan or education related, I was smiley, happy, and grateful for the opportunity. I really tried to let that show in the interview. Despite me clearly bombing, I think what they ultimately took away from the interview was that I was calm, happy, and easy going person, who despite obvious embarrassing moments, can keep calm and carry on. (This actually does come in as my most useful skill on the JET Programme, as embarrassment comes in daily doses and one must simply grin and bear it all. And not take it personally, otherwise you’ll fall apart.)

One fine day, Amy and I were home alone and had order a delicious pizza from Joey’s for dinner. Oh god how I miss delicious Joey’s pizza and garlic fingers. I was eating a scrumptious bite while checking my email. There, in my inbox, was my acceptance letter. I remember reading it and rereading it; then saying, “Amy…. AMY”. She had no idea what was going on and I was just screaming. “I THINK I GOT INTO THE JET PROGRAMME”. I immediately made the appropriate calls to family and texts to friends and the rest is history.

Now, almost 6 months later to the day I left, I sit here at my desk at my office in Japan, with my re-contracting form signed on the dotted line; another year in Japan. I feel this is the circle of life for the ALT. Helping aspiring ALTs from your home country (go team Canada), while also remaining in contact with your older ALTs. I still keep in contact with the ALT who helped me, and I hope that I will remain in contact with any new ALTs I can help as I sign up for my second year in Japan.

Best of luck with your interview, and I hope to see you here in Japan soon!

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My Weekend: Photo Journal

Yakiniku in JapanYakiniku – They bring you raw meat and you cook it yourself. An expensive treat, which we saved for pay day, but absolutely delicious!

Yakiniku in Japan. Cooking chicken innardsYakiniku – Some chicken intestines and a bit of beef!

Matsuyama at Night
Heading to the nightlife part of the city after a delicious dinner.Mario Kart Arcade Japan
No night is complete without a game of Mario Kart in the arcade! So much fun!

Hello 2012

Happy New Year!

I have returned to my little apartment here in rural Japan, after a lovely (albeit cold) two weeks in Canada. I loved seeing my family and getting a little break from life here in Japan, which can be overwhelming at times.

I arrived at my apartment at about 9:30 am on Saturday morning. I was greeted by an abundance of overdue bills in my mailbox (oops) but also by a lovely postcard from Tara and a package from Seonaid! How surprisingly lovely! Hungry and slightly jet lagged, I immediately showered and then made myself a snack; bread & Nutella with hot chocolate (thanks G&G). I changed into a last minute gift from Nana (slipper socks) and crawled into bed with my new heating pad (which I have used multiple times now, so thanks Mom!), and thinking how Raven would absolutely die here, without inside heat (haha)! I opened my computer and put on a movie, thanks to my present from Dad, an external harddrive filled with shows! As you can tell, all my Christmas gifts are coming in useful.

It’s 6 am now, and I am wide awake; a side effect of the jet lag which always seems to have me in bed before 8pm and up before the sun. Just wanted to post a quick update and say how wonderful it was to see everyone over the holidays. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see Amy, despite her also being in Ontario at the time, and missed Erika in the airport by mere hours!

That’s all for now, may I formally say Happy New Year to everyone and may 2012 bring you all the best!

Superstitions in Japan

Friday the 13th! A superstitious day for those of us with a Western upbringing, but a day as any other to the Japanese. I wanted to discuss this superstition with my kids during lessons, so I did a bit of research on it’s history beforehand.

According to (un)reliable sources (read: Wikipedia), 13 is considered an unlucky number for various reasons, primarily because it is irregular. It is one more than twelve, and twelve is considered the number of completeness. There are 12 months in a year, 12 hours on a clock, 12 Olympic gods, 12 Apostles of Jesus, etc etc. A myth surrounds the number 13 based on the Last Supper, in which Jesus dined with his 12 Apostles before his death. This myth states that if 13 people are seated at a table, one will meet an untimely death.

Friday is also considered to be the unluckiest of days. Again, our Christian heritage plays a role: Jesus was crucified on Friday. Friday also brings to mind events such as Black Friday – the stock market crash.

But, this isn’t a blog on Western society (- although living outside of it really does force me to organize my thoughts/views/opinions/etc on our own ways as well as research/understand/explain our lifestyle to others, which ultimately leads to a better, more complete understanding, I think. A post for another time?). So without further ado, here are some superstitions found in Japanese culture.

Although 13 is not considered an unlucky number in Japan, the numbers 4 and 9 are. Four, pronounced shi in Japanese, is a sound found in the word for death. The number nine, ku, rhymes with the Japanese word for pain, and is therefore also unlucky. The number 24 is also unlucky because number two, ni, and four together mean double death (ni shi). It is rare to see these numbers on a Japanese sport jersey. These numbers are also absent from many hospitals.

We are all familiar with “step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back”, a rhyme sung while skipping down the sidewalks in our youth. Similarly, it is unlucky in Japan to step on the boarders of tatami floor mats. It is also (randomly) considered unlucky to eat fried eel and melon at the same time (I know what you’re thinking … I guess you will have to think of something else to eat for dinner tonight).

Until next time