JET Programme

3 Month update!

And what a crazy three months it has been. I’ve loved every moment of it!

So where to start.

The first two weeks in Japan was all orientations and getting set up for our apartments. I had two wonderful women helping me get organized with my phone, groceries and some appliances. I’m still in contact with the one lady and have gone to karaoke with her and her kids (who both blew me away with how amazing they can sing in English).

I was given permission from nurse mom to take my cast off a couple days earlier (like August 12th instead of August 14th) but I still used it to help build up some muscle. Unfortunately I got a little too excited and over exerted myself so I was back to resting for a few days x.x But it only took me about 3 weeks to being completely crutch and cast free!

I started physiotherapy on September 4th (2 months after breaking my ankle) and it’s been crazy how fast I’ve recovered! I started with a range of motion of a total of 37 degrees from how much I could point my foot up and down. I’m now at a whopping 52 degrees which would probably be more if I didn’t have a screw *cough* 6 screws *cough* in the way. I can also stand on one foot and go onto my tip toes so that’s a huge accomplishment.

My school has been amazing. Although it was really funny as my supervisor at my contracting organization didn’t tell my school about my broken ankle until the DAY BEFORE I was supposed to be meeting my principal and vice principal.

Also within my first month I had survived two missile attacks and a typhoon and a few earthquakes.

But I love my school. My teachers are all so unique and the kids are adorable and sassy. My first time eating lunch with one of my grade 6 classes, the kids were asking what different things were called in English. The problem with that is a lot of Japanese words have the same pronunciation just different kanji (Chinese character). So they had asked what “kami” was in English since it could mean hair, paper or God. So my teacher asked them which kami and pointed to his head and said, “this kami?” and without missing a beat the kid replied, “not that kami, you don’t have any kami (hair).” It was fantastic XD

Speaking of lunch, Japanese lunches are on a whole other level. Like seriously delicious. And the school is planning on doing a Canadian themed lunch every month or so (which I’m so stoked for poutine). And the lovely dietitian teacher takes the time to highlight which lunches have milk or milk products in them so I know what days to bring something from home.

My vice principal is the most animated person I’ve ever met and he is always so friendly and willing to help out even though he is probably the busiest person I’ve ever met. He definitely deserves a vacation.

My principal is also very nice and is very interested by what everyone is doing which I think is actually a good thing. I can’t remember a single principal from when I was in elementary or high school because they were just never around. She does her best to talk to me which I think is great.

Since I’ve started at my school I’ve definitely noticed more and more teachers and staff speaking English which has been amazing.¬† Even teachers and staff who don’t have to teach English or interact any way in English have been trying their best ūüôā Now when I arrive or leave they say hello and good bye. The dietitian teacher who sits beside me even will try small sentences! And one of my male teachers who never uses any English at all wrote me a note completely in English (and the grammar was perfect).

It’s been a roller coaster of adjusting, but I love it. I love Japan and I love my life!

More to come later ūüôā

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JET Programme

Update time! I’m in Japan… with a broken ankle

Well the last month has been an incredible blast of business, excitement, and unexpected bumps. Hence the lack of anything for the last little while.

The biggest bump? I lost a fight with a 3 pound dog, 3 stairs, and a blanket and broke my ankle in two places. I had surgery on July 4th and have more metal than bone in my ankle right now. That adventure is a story all on it’s own.

But I had my farewell party completely drugged up, missed my sister’s bachelorette party due to nausea from said drugs, and was a bridesmaid in a wedding for my best friend. Just the month before I left again will be another story.

BUT

I made it to Japan. Yes I have a cast. I’m currently in Tokyo at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku. We arrived on July 30th (Sunday) at Narita airport and had to drive to our hotel (another 2 hours). By the time we arrived everyone was exhausted and ready to crash. I was even more cranky because of how far I had to walk on crutches. As soon as I got to my hotel room at around 8 or so and crashed hard. Of course, as expected, I woke up around 3 am (my usual Japan jet lag wake up time). Our first day of orientation involved lots of talking, yawning, and uncomfortable pulling down of suit skirts (crutches suck). Yesterday we finished our second day of orientation and today we will be heading to our respective prefectures and cities to begin our lives in Japan.

I promise to update more once things settle down a little bit ūüėõ

JET Programme

JET Programme- The Final Countdown

Sometimes life gets so hectic and I think I’ve never been so exhausted until the next big¬†thing happens.¬† And that next big thing is now. This morning I was so exhausted dragging myself out of bed that I was nauseous and ready to cry thinking about going to work.

And I actually like my job.

To put this in perspective, I am taking an intensive French course (5 days a week, 3 hours a day) for the last 6 weeks while working 30+ hours a week while also having an online course to do as well. On top of that I’m in the process of moving my boyfriend to¬†Vancouver and trying to pack for moving to Japan at the same time. I haven’t had a full day off in the last 4/5 weeks.

But as of yesterday, we sent all of his belongings and furniture with the moving company and all that is left is to clean the apartment- which would be a lot easier if it had actually been cleaned between the last tenant and him. So after work today, hopefully we will have the entire apartment scrubbed clean and then tomorrow after work we can just relax.

I only have 6 days left with him, and that includes the 3 days it will take us to get him to Vancouver, the two days I’m at orientation, and the day I fly home. Everything is so bittersweet and I’m literally at 2 opposite ends of the spectrum of emotions. It’s so draining. On one hand I am super excited for both of us finally getting what we’ve worked so hard for. On the other, I’m also very sad because we will no longer be together as we’ve decided not to do a long distance relationship¬†since I have no plans on coming back to Canada and he has no desire to move to Japan.

Then I have 2ish weeks in my city before I take another road trip this time with my mom, back to BC and having to say goodbye to her before leaving for Japan (thank you sister for getting married in Feb. and giving me a great reason to come back for a visit).

It’s crunch time and I still haven’t heard from my Board of Education (who actually is hiring me) or my predecessor. I have so much to do and only 4 weeks left in my city and¬†less than 6 weeks left in the country.

And with everything happening, it still doesn’t feel real that I’m finally moving to Japan. I don’t suppose it will until I am on the plane to Japan.

 

JET Programme

JET Programme — Part 5 — Placement!

Well it finally happened. I’m no longer waiting in JET limbo. Last night I received my placement in Japan and found out what city I would be living in.

Drum roll, ladies and gents.

As of July 29th 2017 I will be employed by the Board of Education for Takasaki-shi (city), Gunma-ken (prefecture).  I had never heard of Takasaki before so I had to do a quick google search to figure out where the heck I was going.

Takasaki_8

My heart almost dropped as at first, when the map was zoomed¬†the little place marker looked like it was in Tokyo, literally the one place I asked not to be placed. After I zoomed in though I realized I was outside of Tokyo. Only an hour an about 20 minutes to the center of Tokyo. After I got over the initial “Jesus Christ they put me in the one place I asked not to be” I began to dig deeper (well as deep as googling Takasaki can get you) into the city. The city is known for being the origin of the Daruma doll, cabbage, and something called konnyaku which is some type of root vegetable.

 

It is basically the flattest part of Japan and is dead center in the middle of the entire country. There is even¬†a city in Gunma that has a belly button festival where people paint their stomachs and dance around, so I mean that’s pretty cool. It’s no penis festival though.

On my application I had requested Hyogo prefecture or Kansai, but I’d left the third preference blank. I’d kind of hoped that I’d get close to those places since most of my Japanese friends live there. I was shocked and slightly nervous about not being placed somewhere familiar. Since I’d never heard of Takasaki I automatically assumed I’d been placed in a super tiny city with no trains or buses. I was wrong though! Not only is there trains and buses, but there are two bullet train routes that pass through!

The city merges with the capital city of Gunma, Maebashi. From central Takasaki, it takes 20 minutes to the nearest Costco (thank all the kami), and there is so much to do in the city. And when I get bored, I can just hop on the train and visit Tokyo. It really is the perfect situation — a not too overwhelmingly large city and near an overwhelmingly large city.

I’m very excited to start my new life in Japan! Hopefully in the next little while my predecessor will contact me and I will start to fit the final pieces together.

Only 10 weeks and 1 day!

 

Japan

Lost in Japan — Part 5 — Don’t Get Kidnapped

Okay, so I’ve travelled quite a bit and some of those places –Thailand, Mexico, United States–¬†are pretty not so safe. But I’ve never come across any harm or anything. I’ve been to Japan twice, and have had someone try to separate me from my group or get me to go with them a total of 4 times. Keep in mind, I wrestled for 3 1/2 years and most of these people I could hip toss into oblivion, and I was never in any real danger (you’ll see why later).

This first story some people might have read already in the post about Osaka. I was with my mother and our tour guide in the red light district in Osaka. Our tour guide was explaining something to my mom and I had wandered to the next shop over, still pretty close to them. An old man came up to me, put his arm around my shoulders and started pulling me away while repeating “kirei, kirei” (pretty, pretty) over and over. I pulled away as our tour guide beat him with her bag telling him to go away. This guy was ancient. I could walk faster than he could run. But either way, Megan = 1, Old man =0.

The next story was when I was studying in Kobe. My class (all three of us) and our teacher and one of the schools administrators took us to Kyoto for a day trip. We were at the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). I was hiding in the shade because it was freaking hot out and the rest of the group was pushing through the tourists taking pictures of the temple. A little old lady (seriously) came up beside me and grabbed my sweaty hand and started pulling on it. “Come, come,” she told me. I asked her in Japanese where but she just smiled and kept pulling. So, with the help of my moistness, I slid my hand from hers, said sumimasen (excuse me, sorry), and walked back to my group. I didn’t see her the rest of our time at the temple. Megan = 2, Old woman = 0

The third time was when me and my friend were walking around Sannomiya station in Kobe. It was later than we’d stayed out before (only like 10 or so), and this is when the bars and clubs¬†start opening and trying to bring customers into their shops. I had spotted ahead of us a group of guys who belonged to a host club doing some advertising (they stand outside and compliment you until you come into their club). **For those who don’t know what a host club is** A host club is a place where men get all dressed up and you pay outrageous prices to drink with them while they compliment you. And as awful and weird as it sounds, I still want to experience it at least once. ** Anyways, these super attractive guys were standing outside handing out pamphlets to people passing by. As foreigners we didn’t typically get any fliers since¬†the¬†flier handers¬†assumed we couldn’t read them. Well, instead of just handing us a flier, the group of guys (maybe like 6 or 7 of them) formed a chain and kind of circled around me, separating me from my friend. Then they started to shuffle towards the door of the club, while calling me pretty girl and other words I couldn’t understand or hear. But before we got too far I ducked between two of the guys, shouted at them that I was only 19¬†(drinking age is 20) and walked away with my friend. Megan = 3, Host boys = -6

The fourth time was during my last visit to Japan (2016). I was on the bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo by myself. I had to sit next to someone as it was the weekend and lots of people travel to Tokyo on the weekend. The man I was sitting next to had kept to himself almost the entire trip (2 hours).¬† There was only half an hour left when he started talking to me — asking me the general questions like “do you speak Japanese?” “why did you come to Japan?” “where are you from?” which is about 95% of the questions I’m asked in Japan. Then the train made an announcement saying that we would be arriving in Tokyo in ten minutes and to grab your luggage from the back (which I had to do). It was also at this point that this man, with his putrid breath and rank B.O. leaned over and asked me if I had a boyfriend. I told him I did, and he told me that it was okay and he had a wife and kids. He followed this up by telling me that there was a love hotel near the station and asked if I’d go with him. I went from polite and friendly, to complete bitch mode in 2.1 seconds. I didn’t know how to say hell no, and I’d only been taught how to decline nicely so I told him I was too busy and meeting a friend. He told me then that he’d be quick (barf). I stood up and told him I had to get my bags. I found a train guard and told him about the creepy, strange man sitting next to me and asked him to help me get off the train safely. The guard went and got the bags I’d left in my seat and told me to wait until the end to get off. As the creepy man walked past me, he flashed his phone at me. On it was a generic picture of a blonde, Caucasian woman that slightly resembled me. He whispered to me that the woman in the picture is his “ideal type” (I actually just about puked on him this time). The guard told him to keep moving, and after the train had emptied walked me off the platform. He left me at the gates and I looked for the nearest white people. I found a girl and her boyfriend (I assume) and asked if I could walk with them a little ways. They agreed and after about 5 minutes, I said goodbye and left to find my next train. Thankfully I never ran into the creepy gaijin (foreigner)¬†hunter again. Megan = 4, Married gaijin hunter = barf

Bonus story!

The first time I studied abroad in Japan in 2013, there was a guy who liked to find me in the halls and cafeteria at the university and come up to me and claim loudly in broken English that I was his Canadian girlfriend. Didn’t get almost¬†kidnapped, but definitely had to be creative in finding ways to avoid him.

JET Programme

Lost in Japan — Part 4 — Study Abroad in Kobe

I absolutely love Kobe. Maybe it is because Kobe was my first introduction to life in Japan, maybe it is because of my spectacular study abroad program, or maybe it’s because most of my Japanese friends live there.

Kobe is known more for being a business city, since it is home to a fairly major port and was one of the first cities to start trading with Western countries after the reopening of Japan’s borders.¬† It offers tourist attractions without being overcrowded by tourists like Tokyo, Kyoto,¬†and Osaka.

I lived briefly in Kobe for 3 weeks, in an international students dorm. It was summer so there weren’t a lot of people living in the dorm. I think I met 3 other people there and one was our Dorm Resident Assistant.¬†I wasn’t a fan of our dorms, but it worked for the 3 weeks we were there. My biggest issue was the lack of internet. If you wanted internet, you had to sign a 3 month contract and it was insanely expensive. At the time, portable wifi boxes weren’t very popular so I couldn’t even rent one for my trip. Although to be fair, I probably didn’t even know they were a thing at that point.

My school,¬†Kobe City University of Foreign Studies,¬†was a public school lacking extra funds,¬†and so¬†they also lacked wifi (Update, they have wifi now). Our teacher, Shibata-sensei, was so friendly and the school did what they could to make us feel comfortable. I had to write an exam for a class back in Canada and they provided someone to sit with me while I wrote it. The school was clean and way nicer than my university in Canada. Buying lunch at school was actually affordable (120 yen ($1.20) curry rice!) compared to the $7 dollar bare bone salad my university offers.¬† There was an outdoor pool, tennis courts, archery field, and so much more and we had access to it all. We were also partnered with Japanese student mentors, who would take us shopping and just hang out with us in our free time. There were only 2 other study abroad students — another girl from the same university as me and a 30+ year old guy from Switzerland. All of our mentors were female, and showed more interest in the other girl and I (the Switzerland guy made them a little uncomfortable). My mentor was super sweet, but was also in the middle of her finals so she was quite busy. It was okay though, as everyone just hung out together and she joined in when she could. Her English was pretty good, and she really forced me to speak in Japanese and helped bring my confidence in speaking Japanese up.

The school set up a lot of interesting cultural things to do, such as kendo lessons from the schools club, a cruise¬†on a boat¬†around Kobe’s harbor, and a trip to Kyoto for some more temple and shrine hopping. We also were able to participate in a weekend homestay, which I will save for another blog.

The classes were really nice, and focused on our abilities (considering there were only 3 students, it wasn’t hard to do). I got really good at conjugating verbs that summer (bring it te form).

Unfortunately the summer program did not award any credits at my home university, but for those who cannot afford a full semester abroad, I’d still¬†recommend even going for a summer program. I learned a lot, did a lot, and met some incredible people who, 4 years later, I’m still in contact with.

 

 

Japan · JET Programme

JET Limbo — All the Feels

I’ve officially entered JET Limbo- that time where you can’t really plan or prepare too much because you still don’t know where you are exactly going, all your forms have been submitted, and you just feel stuck.

I guess I’m kind of lucky though, as I have 6 weeks of classes left to help me kill some time and keep me distracted. But I only have 10 weeks before I leave. God, that feels weird to say.

Day to day, I’ve kind of become numb to my feelings about moving half way around the world. I think that it’s because every time I do think about moving, I’m overwhelmed by too many emotions and all I want to do is cry.¬† I’m just kind of maneuvering on autopilot.

Now don’t get me wrong — I’m so freaking excited to be moving. I’ve spent so long dreaming about living in Japan and imagining what my schools might be like, that sometimes everything feels like a dream.

But I’m also terrified. You don’t appreciate how simple life is until you’re facing a whole new way of life. I’ve done extensive research as to the differences between Canada and Japan’s different systems– medical, insurance, government, etc. Heck, adults have a hard enough time dealing with these things in their home countries where they speak the language. I’m terrified to leave the simple behind. I’m also kind of excited, because it will really challenge my Japanese skills, but that won’t come until I’ve settled a bit.

There isn’t much that I’m upset about leaving (apart from family and friends). My city isn’t anything spectacular, I’m not leaving a job I’d consider for my career, and my relationship with my boyfriend would be over the end of June/July anyways (he’s moving to Vancouver, I’m moving to Japan).

I think the most difficult thing about moving abroad, is having to leave your friends and family. I’m super close with my mom and sisters, and I know I’ll be able to Skype them (heck, I’ll probably even talk to them more when I’m in Japan than I do now), but Skype can’t replace a hug from your mom when you’re having a really bad day.

I always feel bad when I bring up Japan around those I’m closest too. My mom always tears up when I talk about Japan, even though she is also the one who encouraged me to follow my dreams and is just as excited as I am.¬† My friends are the same way, they tell me how excited they are but I can still tell they are sad.

I think JET Limbo really forces you to think about what you are giving up, because you still don’t really know what you’ll be getting at the other end. All I want is to be able to pack and plan and prepare myself for my new life in Japan. I want a tangible location to tie myself to, while I slowly give up my old life in Canada.