Welcome to the Neighbourhood

Well after the week of training it was finally time to head to my home city of Otsu, in Shiga prefecture. It was a very busy week with moving in and I had to get all sorts of things sorting like buying things for my apartment and getting a cell phone. My apartment is small but I quite like it. It is just enough space for me right now. We’ll see how I feel about it in a few months.

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I really like the neighbourhood that I am in as well. It is very much residential and like a suburb but it’s quieter than some places. I am also a very quick walk to trains and groceries. Also, to one of my schools. I am hoping that won’t be too much of a problem if kids find out where I live.

In my first week I did a little bit of sightseeing around my neighbourhood and Otsu but I mostly took it easy and worked on making my apartment home. I did go down and check out the lake briefly though.

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I also made a late afternoon visit to Omi Jingu shrine. It was very cool and I was nearly the only person there at the time. I look forward to going back there in the summer because they have a cool festival that involves horses and archery that I want to check out.

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One Weekend in Tokyo: Go!

Alright, now that I am settled into my apartment in Japan (more on that at a later date) I am ready to start writing about all of my Japan adventures so far. The best place to start is where we left off and in the last post I was talking about arriving in Tokyo. I was there for three nights and two days and I did my best to make them as full as possible.

Saturday morning was grey and gloomy, oh and raining. Not the most picturesque start to my adventures in Japan but it was still fairly warm compared to Calgary in March and so I armed myself with an umbrella from the lobby and headed out into the rain to explore Tokyo.

 

The hotel I was staying at was in the northern part of a neighborhood called Asakusa which is home to some of Tokyo’s famous temples and shrines. It was about a 20 minute walk in the rain to my destination and I stumbled upon the shrine without even realizing it. The rain certainly made my experience at the shrine an interesting and unique one. I’m happy that it didn’t keep me indoors that day, though I did feel considerably damp for the whole time it was raining as it was fairly humid too.

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The Senso-ji Temple Complex is quite large and is home to Asakusa Shrine (a Shinto Shrine) as well as the Buddhist temple. One of the main features of the Temple are the gateways with the giant red paper lanterns. There is also a pagoda and various other buildings and gardens.

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Outside of the temple complex are mazes of shopping streets and stalls filled with everything from souvenirs to food and more. Many, but not all, of the streets were covered as well which was a nice break from the rain.

The rain decided to let up just as I was getting onto the train for Akihabara. Akihabara is Tokyo’s electric town and is famous for it’s brightly lit signs and buildings. It is home to electronics stores, maid cafes, and all things anime and geeky that you could think of from Japan. I loved it. There was SO much to see including several arcades and all kinds of stores. Definitely the place to be if you are in to any of the geeky things that Japan offers.

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After a few hours of wandering around Akihabara, all with an added umbrella because of the earlier rain, I decided to head off to Shibuya. One of the new Digimon Adventure Tri movies had come out the weekend before and like the dork that I am, I wanted to see it in the theater if I could. And I did! I got to see my movie and check out the famous scramble crossing and Hachiko statue. I called it quits after that though and made the long trek back to the hotel.

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I had big plans on Sunday to head back to the Shibuya and Shinjuku area for the day but at this point my feet were hating me and jet lag was catching up with me and so instead I checked out a Shinto Shrine that was near my hotel’s train station and then made my way back to Akihabara and wandered around there some more. I spent some money on crane games and those vending machines that give you a toy or something inside a little plastic ball that back home only kids care about (here they are huge and everywhere).

The next morning I was packing up and out of the hotel by 10am. After a quick and cheap breakfast at Denny’s, yup they are even in Japan, I was heading off to a larger train station to catch the Shinkansen bullet train to the city where Interac training would take place.

It was a quick two days in Tokyo and I didn’t get to see half of what there is to see there but I had a blast for what it was. I do not regret coming the few days early and starting my trip off with a bang. It’s going to be a while until I’m back in Tokyo after all, since I am actually pretty far away down here in Shiga. That’s okay though because Kyoto is just next door.

Books

I am a lover of books. A collector of books. Unless I really dislike it I will always think in the back of my mind, but what if I want to read it someday. For fiction books I don’t really mind this because I will read them again, several times usually. My university textbooks however are another matter. I managed to make it through seven years of university and I have seven years worth of textbooks to my name.

There are a few reasons why I kept so many of my textbooks, most of which I never ended up cracking the cover of in the course. One reason was that I might really want to read them one day, they tended to be on topics I enjoyed at least a little bit. Another reason was that I couldn’t bring myself to sell back a 90-150 dollar textbook for 2 dollars. That wasn’t worth it to me, I would rather add it to my library. Ah yes, my library, my other reason for keeping so many textbooks. I don’t actually have a library, I have a few bookshelves that are quite overflowing already. However, I have always dreamed of having a library. I have always wanted my own little library one day. I cozy place that is filled with all sorts of books. So, why not keep my old textbooks and add them to my library one day?

The reality of going to Japan has changed things. I have a lot of stuff and a lot of it can’t go with my. My library starter pack can not go with me and honestly I wouldn’t want to take it. I’ll most likely be living in a room the size of my current living room or so and believe me when I say that my stuff just won’t all fit. So I have to say goodbye to the idea of a library for now and say goodbye to at least a good chunk of those textbooks because I need all the money I can get. I sorted through two boxes of books the other day which held most of the textbooks from my first four years of university, not even all of them. I used my university’s book buyback app and anything that was worth anything, even 2 dollars, I will be selling back here soon. It’s not that I don’t want the books but I certainly don’t need them right now.

The books is just one part of figuring out what to do with all my stuff as I plan this move to Japan. What things will stay and what will go? I have a lot of things that I bought because I had no inkling that Japan was in my immediate future. Now that I know it really is I am starting the slow but sure journey of getting there.

As an update about Interac, I received an email on October 2nd. This email was not much different than the original offer of employment I received. They asked for confirmation again as well as my preferred start date and confirmed the documents that they had already received. I have two documents left to sent, a signed copy of the offer of employment and the certificate of eligibility form. I plan on making a quick check about my passport before I send these in but otherwise things are progressing. Slowly for sure, but they are moving forward. I have a feeling that once January hits things will begin to happen very fast.

Progress and money concerns.

I thought I would make a bit of an update post as far as how everything is going so far. On the Interac front it has been quiet ever since I sent off my paperwork around the end of July. As far as I am aware it was received, deemed acceptable by the American branch and sent off to Japan. From the emails I received I won’t be hearing much of anything again until October 1st or so.

In the meantime my main worry and concern has been money. For those who might not know Interac asks that you bring over the equivalent of around 5000 dollars in yen for your various startup costs, not including your flight and etc. This is quite a bit of money and I’ve been quite concerned because of not having more than a part-time job that was content with fluctuating my hours to a pretty big degree. I’ve been on the job hunt since I started interviewing with Interac for that reason. Happily I finally landed a full-time job at a place that I really think that I will enjoy. The next few weeks will be busy while I transition but hopefully after that I will be busy making money.

Why am I so worried about this 5000? It seems like it wouldn’t be that hard to save up but in reality I’d like to have around 7000-9000 saved at least before I go. The reasons? Well for one there is still a flight to consider and things like work clothes and etc. I also have a student line of credit that will need paying off and I’d like to have a little set aside back here so that I don’t have to immediately worry over sending money home. All that considered I intend to be a very, very frugal person for the next few months.

Start the countdown!

That’s right folks! Start the countdown because I will be going to Japan next spring. I received an email with an offer of employment from Interac at around midnight last night, not even a day after I’d been informed that my information had been released to the Japan office. I sent an email accepting it this morning. It doesn’t quite feel real yet and I have a strong feeling it won’t until I do something like buy a one way plane ticket or possibly get on the plane. Anyways, March is a long time off and I have plenty to do in the meantime. Namely find a way of making at least $5000 before March. Other things I need to work on are getting my passport renewed, getting any documents ready, and obviously working on my Japanese. I wonder if my old Japanese sensei will let me TA again…. Probably not.

I will try to keep this blog updated semi-routinely as things progress with getting the paperwork in this fall and any other preparations that I am making for Japan. This is happening! Like really truly happening!

My JET Experience

This blog will mainly be about my experience with Interac(if everything goes well at least) but I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about my experience applying to JET as well. When you are looking at teaching English in Japan JET is pretty much your first stop. They are well known, funded by the government and they are pretty much the sweetest deal you could get when you make comparisons. These things tend to make JET the first choice and a few years ago when I was finishing my first degree it was certainly mine.

I was in my final year of my degree when I embarked upon applying for JET. I became aware of the program when they gave a presentation to my university’s anime club. You would think that wouldn’t be a big thing but that little presentation ended up shaping the next few years of my life. I had no idea what I wanted to do after university and the presentation allowed me to ask myself a very simple but important question. Would I like teaching? After thinking about it I decided I would and I made JET my goal for when I finished my degree.

The application process itself is a lengthy one. You start off by having to submit a lengthy online application as well as mailing off quite a bit of it to your country’s main JET office, at least that was the way it was when I applied. I remember the day I mailed off my application actually because it was November and it was freezing cold as I walked home from the Shopper’s where I’d mailed it off. Anyways, once it’s mailed off you are now into what makes up most of JET’s application process. Waiting. Lot’s and lots of waiting. Thankfully I was still busy with all of my courses at the time and so it was not as bad as it could have been. Eventually January will roll around and the obsessive email checking will begin. Having technology on us all the time is horrible when it comes to things like this because man do you actually check like all the time. At some point though you will receive that email and in my case it was a happy one, I’d made it to the interview stage. I received my email right before a class and I’m pretty sure I just sat there with a silly grin the whole damn time.

Once you have made it to the interview stage you have just under a month to prepare. In my case this meant studying possible questions like crazy and investing in a suit to wear for the interview. A fairly close friend of mine, who was a fellow teacher’s assistant for Japanese classes, had also managed to score an interview along with a friend of hers and so the weekend before our interviews we got together for a few hours to essentially grill ourselves on the interview questions. The one thing I never really put much time or thought into preparing for was the demo lesson part of the interview and it was that which I’m sure brought about my downfall in the end. That day of preparation was a really great experience though and if you are applying for JET then I would advise to find other people to get together and practice with because it really will help in the end. Practice with as many fellow JET hopefuls as you can before those interviews but once you or your friends have had your interview don’t talk about them until you are all done. Why? Well this is part of what happened to me. My friend had her interview the day before me. She had the same panel of people as I did(there were two or three different panels I believe) and she told us all about it. All of the questions, what she did for her demo lesson, all of it. When it came time for my interview this ended up screwing me over a little bit as all I could think of when it came to the demo lesson was what she had said and so I really did a terrible job. I remember being on the train home and thinking of all of these other, better things I could have done but hindsight is 20/20, yeah?

After the interview all there is is more, you guessed it, waiting. Sometime around early to mid April you will get your answer. There are three possibilities at this point: No, Shortlisted, and Alternate. I was put on the alternate list, as was my friend. If you are shortlisted then you are in, you are off to Japan come August. If you are on the wait list then you are only going if someone turns down JET. Some years a lot of alternates get upgraded to the shortlist, not my year. My friend was lucky enough to get upgraded fairly quickly but I never got that call.

That in a nutshell was my JET experience. I made it a lot farther than some do but I never quite got there. While JET is certainly something I would consider applying for again I am just not willing to wait so long for an answer. In comparison my experience with Interac so far has been nothing but speedy. If you managed to stick through this whole jumbled post than I commend you. I’m not all that good at organizing my thoughts sometimes but I’m trying.

Till Next Time!

Hello there World!

Not that I think the world is reading this or anything. Cause they probably won’t be. If I’m lucky this will be something that friends and family and perhaps a few weird people who enjoy reading people’s blogs(like say me) will discover. I’ll try to keep this pretty short and sweet. I first started to read blogs when I looked in to going to Japan to teach English. I wanted to hear from people who were actually there. I found that I enjoyed reading about their lives and adventures. Blogging was something I decided I wanted to do if I ever went abroad because not only would it be a way to connect with friends and family but maybe someone out there would find it fun to read.

That’s is what brings us to here and now. I’m not overseas yet, not even close really, and maybe this blog will never get much further than this but I want to give it a try. I am currently in the process of interviewing for Interac Japan to go and teach English next March. What’s that? That’s ages away you’re saying? Yeah it kind of is but I figured I would start writing now while everything is fresh in my mind. If anything now is the best time to start writing something like this because I’ve finally reached the end of the road-map you could say. As of June 9th I will have graduated, again, and finally I will no longer have school on the horizon. It’s terrifying. I honestly have no idea what I am doing really and it scares the crap out of me. I have no clue what I really want to be doing with my life. I am just intending to keep pushing forward and figuring it out as I go.

A little while ago my best friend posted her yearbook entry from grade 12, I asked her to show me what mine was because I never picked up the yearbook for that year. One of the questions we were asked, in those obligatory graduating comments, was what we saw ourselves doing in ten years. I smiled when I saw mine.

Out living my life! I can’t say what I will be doing but it will be great!

I haven’t changed much really. I still don’t know what I want to be doing but whatever it is I want to enjoy it. Life is here for us to enjoy after all.