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Preparing for JET: Packing, Expectations, and More

Hello, dear Green Beans!

Oh wait. I’m the Green Bean. Well, from now on, so are you!

I realize that I’ve been slacking a little terribly on my blog posting schedule. Every time I say I’m going to be more regular about blog posting, I’m not. BUT, in my own defense, I’ve been a little preoccupied with grading over 300 speeches, so….sorry, but also not really. ちょっとごめんなさい。

Today, I’d like to address all my new peeps who have been accepted into the JET Program and are heading over here in just about a month! Congrats! おめでとうございます!Pull out your poppers and party hats and kazoos, because an awesome journey (figuratively, not literally–ain’t gonna lie, airplane is terribly not muy bien) lies ahead.

For those of you heading over here, I’m sure you’ve got a thousand things running through your heads right now. When should I pack? What should I pack? What do I do once I get there? What if my bag is too heavy? What will my placement be like? Can I move into my house as soon as I get to my placement? So, let’s chat about it. Hopefully, y’all have got good predecessors who don’t leave everything to your imagination. But, for those of you who don’t, hopefully I can shed some light on the situation for you.

Let’s chat about:

Packing

Departure day

Orientation

The first few days at your placement

By the way, am I annoying you by not getting to the point, like those food bloggers who write their life stories before the recipe when all you really care about is the recipe? Sorry ‘bout that no I’m really not. Let’s get started!

Packing   

When to pack: Honestly, now. A month before departure might sound like all eternity, but it’s really not for such a big move. You’ll be busy hanging with people, saying goodbyes, visiting relatives, figuring out what to do with your stuff that you’re not taking with you…Save yourself the suffering and some of the stress and start early, and just pack little by little, or sort your things into take/don’t take piles, or make a shopping list for what you need later.

What to pack your stuff inYou are allowed two checked bags under 50 pounds (I think 23 kilograms, if you’re not in the US), a carry-on, and a personal item. I recommend that you get quality, lightweight bags that are somewhere between carry-on size and gargantuan. The bigger the bag, the more likely it is to be overweight, so take that into consideration when choosing a bag. If you don’t already have suitcases, start looking now!

Be one of those crazy shoppers who who murders the other customers at bargain sales. Scope out the Sunday sale ads in the newspapers. Quality doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. For fear of my old suitcases falling part (they were too big, anyhow), I went to Macy’s, Dillard’s, Sears, and JC Penny in the great luggage quest of 2016. Do your research! Brands, best price, warranty, you name it. I ended up finding the best deal at Macy’s during two separate 1-day sales–60% off one suitcase, 70% off for the other, for two different, similarly sized Samsonite soft shell suitcases. I also recommend that one your bags is NOT a garment bag. You can only fit one or two outfits in a garment bag, and it’s just so much wasted space. If you’re worried about your suits, just fold them neatly and steam them in the shower at orientation (there’s also an ironing room at the hotel).

How to packUse one suitcase for your orientation things and pack enough clothes/necessities to get you through at least a week after orientation. Use another big suitcase for clothes and things you don’t need immediately, and your carry on for other assorted things, like books or shoes, that won’t contribute to your weight limits (because there are no weight limits on the carry-ons). Your personal item (probably a backpack) should be used for important documents, entertainment, and your laptop. For the big suitcases, pack things inside of things. Socks inside of shoes, shoes inside of purses, you get the idea. Vacuum bags are also great for things like t-shirts that you don’t need right away and that can easily be steamed or ironed later. I also recommend buying a luggage scale. They’re maybe 20 bucks at Target, and just clip onto your suitcase so you can painfully give yourself an unintentional leg workout as you lift your suitcase to weigh it. Very handy for last minute suitcase weighing.

What to pack:

(1) What you should pack

  • 1 or 2 suits
  • passport (duh)
  • phone, laptop, chargers
  • deodorant (Japanese deodorant is not very strong)
  • OTC medicine (Japanese medicines are much weaker than American ones–after a visit, I brought back Tylenol, Ibuprofen, special dandruff shampoo, magnesium supplements, and the brand of vitamins I like.  
  • Feminine hygiene products (If you’re a woman; they are very hit or miss here, and tampons are virtually impossible to find)
  • Bras (again, if you’re a woman; Japanese women and foreign women are simply not built the same, plus their sizes are much smaller.
  • shoes (for women larger than a size 8, men with larger than average feet, sorry for not knowing the actual sizes but I’m not a dude and I have pipsqueak tiny feet, so I don’t know)
  • clothes (If you’re a larger woman or man. Tall and larger men have difficulties here, larger women have issues. I’m about a size 12 in US women’s sizes, and I can’t really fit into any women’s clothes here, but can fit men’s large or XL clothes. Bring plenty if you’re worried about whether you will be able to find clothes, if you’re smaller, it probably won’t be much of an issue)
  • things to use in the classroom (flags, stickers, pictures, anything to get them interested. Use your own discretion on this one, I brought a small mountain of stickers with me and only just got a chance to use them now, nearly a year later)
  • Omiyage (something small from home that you can give to the other teachers upon arrival)
  • Photos from home (for both decoration and self-introduction purposes)

(2) What you SHOULD NOT pack

  • Bicycles
  • Pasta (one ALT once brought a whole suitcase of nothing but pasta)
  • Art supplies
  • Books (unless there’s a certain book you’re married to)
  • Your PS4 (do you really want to spend your time in Japan just playing video games?)
  • TVs
  • Things that you rarely use
  • Bedding
  • Other foods that aren’t pasta
  • Pianos/guitars
  • Your best friend smuggled in your suitcase
  • Your cats or dogs
  • All however many seasons of your favorite TV show on DVD
  • Rocks
  • School supplies (notebooks, pencils, etc–you can buy that here, and invariably a much cuter version of it, too)
  • Adapters (most small electronics like cell phones and laptops will work fine; I brought an adapter which resulted in me frying all of the electricity in my apartment for a day about a week after I moved in)

 

Departure Day

Ah, the day of reckoning! The day your life will change forever as you head off to Japan, AKA Land of the Rising Sun, AKA these people were not joking why the heck is the sun fully up at 4 a.m.??

Start your day by waking up early. Eat a good breakfast. Enjoy the last remnants of American food goodness before you head off to washoku land. Triple check your packing list. If your consulate already gave you your passport back, don’t forget it. Get yourself to the airport and you’re good to go.

I highly suggest bringing at least one family member of friend with you because (A), it’s a very emotional day and you’ll probably want to say goodbye unless you’re just totally cold and heartless, and (B), you’ll need someone to take back your luggage scale, if you brought one, or someone to take back all the crap that’s making your bag too heavy. You will have the opportunity to weigh your bags on the airport scale while you’re waiting in line at group check-in, so take advantage of that opportunity to avoid the overweight fees, which you are responsible for should your bags be overweight.

After you check in, you should just be allowed to go straight through security. If any of your bags have locks on them, keep the keys handy, because they might ask you to open them (they were suspicious of my oddly heavy book, mardi gras bead,  and video game filled carry-on, and asked me to open mine). You can then just go wait at the terminal. Even though I arrived at the airport three hours early, after group check in, I only ended up waiting about an hour to board the plane when all was said and done. Make friends while you’re waiting! Even if these people aren’t going to the same prefecture as you, they will be your roommates at orientation, plus it’s nice to have people to talk to on the plane. I still talk to one of my orientation roomies!

Also as a side note, you do NOT have to wear your suit on the plane. You can wear whatever the heck you want, so get comfortable. I wore sweatpants, a t-shirt, and my Super Mario Bros. Vans slip ons.

Orientation

When you land, you will immediately be herded into the JET group. If you need to pee, do it before you get off the plane, because there won’t be time later. You will then go straight into the special JET immigration line, where you get your residence card, AKA the most important piece of plastic you will have in Japan. Then, you will get your bags (you will have to carry them ALL by yourself, so keep that in mind when packing), go through customs, go through a tunnel of people with JET signs who will direct you to the buses, give the bags you’re not taking with you to the JET people outside of the buses, actually board the bus, and off you go to the hotel. It takes about 1 ½ hours to get to the hotel. When you get to the hotel, you will check in , drop off your stuff, and you will be free to explore Tokyo as you please. **side note 1: you will have at least one, if not two roommates, during Tokyo orientation (I had two) 

Real orientation starts the next day, and you MUST wear your suit, otherwise they reserve the right to not let you into orientation. They take attendance, which they pass on to your BOE so they know you were there, so you can’t skip anything. You will be fed breakfast and lunch each day, and dinner on one day, but the vegan/vegetarian options are a little slim pickings, so bring protein bars with you if you need to. I found that the orientation panels were pretty useless, but you still have to go. The first day is panels for everyone, the second day splits you into ES/JHS/SHS and you get to meet your prefecture people as well. You will depart for your placement on the third day. DON’T BE LATE or face the wrath of your CIR and BOE. Apparently the year before me, people were late, people were throwing up on the bus from partying too hard the night before…don’t be one of those people.

How you get to your placement largely depends on where you’re going. You might take the train, shinkansen, or even another plane depending on how far away you’re going. Hokkaido or Okinawa? Probably another plane. Main island (Honshu)? probably shinkansen or bus. Shikoku or Kyuushu? Could be either. Hyogo took us by shinkansen to Osaka, then from Osaka we took a bus to Middle ‘O Nowhere Hyogo, where go-betweens and vice principals from ALL the SHS schools were waiting for their ALTs. My predecessor came as an added bonus. We had to drive another hour or so after that to get to Kobe, where I’m placed.

 

First Few Days of Placement

After you get picked up by your school, you will probably immediately go to your base school. On this day, if not a suit, then you should at least wear something nice. I wore a suit, and I died a little from the heat, and then my school people were like, “Why are you wearing a suit? It’s so hot!” When I got to my school, we temporarily brought my bags to the office, and I met the office staff, then I went upstairs and met the teachers who weren’t on summer vacation and my principal. Be prepared to do a short self introduction in Japanese immediately upon entry into the teacher room. My predecessor stayed with me for a little while to help get me settled and gave me a tour of the school. She then gave me the solid advice of, “It’s okay to have nothing to do.” I was at least able to email home to tell them I arrived safely at my placement. I got picked up around 5 to go to my host family’s house, because I couldn’t move in to my apartment immediately due to overlap from me and my predecessor. Don’t be surprised if you can’t immediately move in, either. Boy, I sure do like the word “immediately.” The first week was rather uneventful since my predecessor was packing and I was getting settled, but at least on one afternoon my predecessor and neighbor were able to take me out of school for the afternoon to show my around my neighborhood.

By the end of the first week or two, hopefully someone will have taken you to the ward office to get your documents and health insurance stuff, to your rental agency to sign your apartment lease and pay for the house insurance and the like (I didn’t have to pay key money, but I did have to pay for fire insurance), and to get your bank, phone and internet set up. If they haven’t, then just ask.  Your school might want you to go with a certain bank, but do your research for internet and phone, especially. The three main providers are Docomo, AU, and Softbank, but I went with the lesser known Y! Mobile because it was literally a tenth of the cost of the other providers.

Final Words of Wisdom

Just don’t have any expectations. If you do have super high expectations, you will probably be severely disappointed. To keep an element of surprise, my predecessor didn’t send me any pictures of the apartment as a whole, so I was sorely disappointed by its hobbit hole size upon arrival. Better to have no expectations and be pleasantly surprised rather than all the expectations and be unpleasantly surprised. And prepare to be unprepared. You can think you’re doing everything right and still not know how to tackle a certain situation once you get here. Just breathe, and take it one day at a time.

I hope that this helped! If anyone has any questions, or if anyone is actually coming to Hyogo, please hit me up! Can’t wait to hopefully meet some of you, and good luck as you prepare for the next chapter of your life!

Peace Out,

-Erin

The Bad and the Better

Hola amigos,

‘Tis Ern, your Greenest of Beans, here once again. Today I’d like to discuss some the feels I’ve been having lately. All the feels.

Four days ago or so, I was in a very pessimistic mood and wrote the most cynical, anger-infused piece of writing that has ever been spawned from my fingertips. I titled it, “Dear Japan.” It was essentially a four page letter detailing everything that I hate about living in Japan with not a speck of positively shining through. I was angry. I had a breakdown at school revolving some royal garbage that my Board of Education is throwing at me. I wanted to vent my feelings about how frustrating life is when everything you do is micromanaged by your workplace to an absurd level of nitpicky-ness. Is that a word? Probably not. I don’t care.

Of course, I am not going to post that entry onto this site. It was written in a severe moment of weakness. I don’t want to focus on the bad, but on the better.

When I first got to Japan, I did not experience culture shock the same way that most people do. Most people have a honeymoon phase that lasts a few weeks, couple months at best. Then when seasonal affective disorder kicks in around winter, that’s when the culture shock and bad feels start creepin’ up on ya. I was kind of…prolonged with my culture shock.

I experienced five months of heaven, followed by five months of hell. Five months of day, five months of night. It is my sincere hope that perhaps my culture shock just occurs in five month intervals and that soon I will be back in the upswing and all will be right with the world. Like a sine wave that oscillates up and down, down and up. Except I was never very good at math after Algebra II in high school so I could be spitting out total BS about sine waves right now, but frankly I’m too lazy to bother looking it up.

I’ve had a rough time since Christmas. Not going home made me experience a lot of sadness and a lot of homesickness. It was the first Christmas I’d ever missed, and I was jealous that so many people I knew were going home to see their families and I wasn’t. I started having  chest pains, which made me feel very withdrawn. I didn’t want to do anything or see anyone for a really long time. Then I got sick. Then I went home for my surgery, and I had lots of time to see my family, friends who visited me when I was too weak to move around, and my animals. My Sweet Potato, Buddha, Elvis, Dave, even Yuki was actually sort of nice to me. But getting a taste of home made it really difficult for me to  force myself to get on the plane back, in addition to the probably irrational fear of blood clots.

Between not feeling 100% better and getting harassed by my school so much about not having appropriate documentation for my surgery, I’ve been feeling even more down in the dumps. Being scolded by your workplace on a near daily basis for something that truly is not your fault, that they approved in the first place, is extremely soul-crushing. But, I want to do everything I can to make my experience better. Focus on the positive instead of the negative. I want to make my night become day.

I want to remind myself about the reasons why I came here in the first place. I wanted to get Japanese students out of their small bubble and remind them that a whole other world out there exists. I wanted to show them something new. Help them improve their English so maybe they can see the rest of the world. I wanted to experience what Japan has to offer. I wanted to broaden my personal horizons, to push myself to do something that not many people can say they’ve done in their lifetimes. This is my one shot, my one opportunity to truly immerse myself in another culture (I can’t say I’ll be moving abroad again based on how homesick I’ve gotten), and I want to embrace it while I can. When you’re in a whole other world on the opposite end of the earth, sometimes it’s easy to be pessimistic instead of embracing the reality that’s right in front of you.

So, off come my blinders. I’m going to open my eyes to the good things all around me. It won’t be easy. I may want to give up at times. But I am going to do my best to push through it til the end.

I want to remind myself of how I felt two years ago and one year ago. Two years ago, I received my first notification from JET after my first time applying. I had just wrapped up work at the kennel where I was working, and opened the email before I went home. It was a rejection letter. Not even alternate-listed. And I was so upset. I kind of stared blankly at the screen of my phone, trembled a little, and tears started flowing everywhere. It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. I felt so worthless. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, I did what I could to improve myself and try again. Then, one year ago, at the end of last April, I had just received news that I’d be going to Japan after my two years of work trying to get here. I was driving to my volunteer ESL classes, and checked my phone at a stoplight for the time, and saw that I had an email notification from JET. Then the light turned green, and I had to wait until I pulled into the parking lot to read the email. I didn’t know if I wanted to read it in case it was bad news because we were having a party in class that night. My heart was about to pound of my chest. But I took the plunge. I opened it. And it was good news. I cried again, but that time, it was happy tears that were cascading down my face. I called my dad. I called my sisters. I think I called another friend, if I’m not mistaken. That whole night was filled with euphoric calls and text messages to friends that I’d be going to Japan in a few months’ time. I didn’t even have to say the words to bosses at work the next day. A “guess what?” coming from my lips was all it took for one of them to day, “damn it.”

I was so happy, and so excited, and I don’t want to forget that feeling just because I’ve been experiencing some turbulence, some bumps in the road. If you know me, you’ll know that I think that literal turbulence is the most terrifying thing in the world. I freeze. I panic. I pray to God to let me live even for the smallest bump as I think the plane will come crashing down. There’s just something about airplanes, probably the fact that giant metal tubes are not meant to be soaring through the air, that always freaks me out. But it always turns out okay. That’s all my recent experiences have been: a little bit of turbulence. It’s scary in the moment, and it leaves me frightened and on edge for a while after it stops, but that’s just it. It always stops. It always gets better.

So here is to hopefully smoothing out my turbulence. I need to remind myself that I’m not the only one feeling frustrated. A few days ago, I posted on Facebook that I didn’t know the secret to happiness here because I’ve been unhappy for so long. I got a flood of comments and messages from other people saying that they were in the exact same boat right along with me, and even managed to arrange a few meetups out of it. I don’t regret that post. I like my choices. I didn’t post it for attention, but literally just to get advice for how to make my situation better. Even if it was posted in an extreme moment of weakness, it helped me understand that I’m really not alone. It helped me get suggestions for how to take life by the reins and make the most out of it.

I want to try to think of something positive, no matter how big or how small, every day until I leave. Whether it’s being able to see the mountains across the ocean on a really clear day. Whether it’s the beautiful sunset behind Awaji Island. Whether it’s buying a shark house for my hamster. Whether it’s simply acknowledging that I’m not doing too shabby since I am living in a foreign country, living by myself, paying my own rent, my own cell phone bill, my own electricity bills, water bills, gym fees, and truly adulting without outside assistance. I’m doing the thing. It might not be the same thing as everyone else, and it might mean that all my peers have a head start on me when I get back to the states. But for now, I’m doing what I can.

On that note, I also want to find an outlet for whenever I’m feeling down. At home, I always painted, so I want to do that more. Some people turn to YouTube, but I’ve always hated cameras in any form, so I won’t do that. Writing is my medium. It’s therapeutic for me, and I think I’m good at it and that I truly have a voice (or so I’ve been told by many people) when I write, so I really want to start posting more regularly on this site whenever I feel like something is bottled up. Given that I have a small following of strangers who read this blog, I’d say my writing must not be too shabby. Hi, strangers! If you’re reading this right now, I’m very grateful for your presence and readership! Spread the word to any friends who might like my blog! I’ve also had a life epiphany in the last few days that really should have been more obvious to me.

Animals. Animals are the one thing in my life that have always been there and have always given me comfort, which is why I think that I’ve been having a particularly difficult time. Missing my own animals is a huge part of it for sure, but I miss working with animals, being around them all the time. I miss Sad Lilly, the dog I fell in love with and fixed at my old job. Sad Lilly, who even though I haven’t seen for well over a year now, I still love like my own. I miss my Whalerus Bear, also at my old job. Whalerus Bear is part Whale, part Walrus, and part Polar Bear, if you’re wondering where the name came from. I miss seeing dogs, helping dogs, making them feel better. I want to actually go down to ARK, Animal Refuge Kansai, sometime soon, to volunteer my services.

As for my future career, it’s definitely something that’s been on my mind. The JET program is not a career; it’s an experience. And while I’ve flip-flopped on my career many times, I hate to say I’m still uncertain. I’ve had a very hard time making a decision as the most indecisive person in the world. So the two options I’ve come up with are (A) Attempt to get a master’s degree, possibly a second bachelor’s first because my undergraduate grades don’t appear to be good enough to get into any grad programs, and then continue to study English. Option (B) Go to vet tech school in Louisiana where it would be dirt cheap, and start a career in that field before half of my life has been wasted. 

So, I think I have a plan. Sort of. It helps me have even a vague end in sight that will make this experience less miserable. It gives me perfectly viable career options that I can start working toward as soon as I get back to US. It won’t be easy either, but I want to try. Having a plan has already made me feel much happier.

Apologies. This was very long-winded. But I am starting to feel okay. And I think things will be okay. And I wanted to let you know that everything will be okay.

The bad will become better.

Until next time,

またね!

-Erin 「エリン」

Green Bean’s Great Adventure: Surgery Time

Bonjour, mon amies!

As I mentioned in my last post, due to some unfortunate things happening inside my body, it was discovered that I needed surgery to have my uncooperative gallbladder delicately ripped out of my insides.

In part due to language barriers, in part due to failure to previously disclose the nature of medical procedures I was receiving in Japan, and in part due to simply wanting my mommy, I decided to reject the advice of the Japanese surgeon, much to his shock, and high-tail it back home to the US to have my surgery done there.

The Japanese hospital wanted to keep me for SIX DAYS in that cesspool of disease. One day before, five after. No, thank you. First of all, I would be much more comfortable in my own home, and second, again–breeding ground for something worse. I went home with a cold the first time I was hospitalized for my gallbladder.

So, after my Tokyo trip, I made a third trip back to Tokyo within the span of a single week, caught a plane, and went back to the great American homeland, beating my visiting American friends back home.

I had a pre-op visit the first Monday when I went back, and then had to get an ultrasound and bloodwork done the next day to confirm the diagnosis, which of course I already knew, but the American surgeon didn’t. He was very nice about it though. The nurse who did my ultrasound, in her words, “Oh yeah, you have gallstones alright, but you didn’t hear it from me.”

My actual surgery wasn’t for another week after my first visit, and the surgeon was kind enough to squeeze me in ASAP because of my situation.

Given that I hadn’t had surgery for about fifteen years prior, naturally I was pretty nervous about going under anesthesia. But on the day of, the anesthesiologist was very kind and very reassuring. It took the nurses three tries and a fancy doctor toy to find a good vein for my IV. Then I said temporary goodbye to my parents and was wheeled into the OR.

The last thing I remember was being moved from my bed onto what I guess was the operating table. Then nothing. Don’t even remember them putting the mask on my face and asking me to count backwards.

Next thing I knew, I was groggily waking up and a nurse was trying to get me to swallow some huge pill even though I kept trying to tell her that I didn’t think I could.

I did.

Another hour of grogginess passed by, and I was semi-consciously wheeled back into one of the little rooms where I started off.

 

There was an older dude next to me on the other side of the curtain who just would not wake up.

“MR. (I forgot his name, let’s call him Jones) JONES, WAKE UP.”

“Uhnhhhh.”

“MR JONES. Your procedure is done. Time to wake up.”

“Arghhhnnnnnnn.”

I overheard the nurses saying that his procedure was only five minutes.

Then my mom and dad came back. Or maybe they came back before that. I was really out of it. I also had to pee really bad, so a nurse and my mom helped me out. Holy crap did it hurt to get up.

I think about an hour or so later they set me free. The drive back home was very painful. Then I got home and slept thanks to my happy meds (a.k.a. percocet). I slept a lot.

The first two days were probably the worst; I was taking my pain meds pretty much every four hours on the dot. Moving in any direction or any which way hurt like crazy. The worst was standing up. I couldn’t even sleep horizontally or do anything horizontally, so I sat in a recliner chair on our couch and built a pillow fort around myself to keep Miz Potato from jumping on me, or the cats from stepping on me. And by the cats, I really mean just Dave. Because he is a turd. It mostly worked, except little Tater Tot thought she was oh so sneaky when I’d get up to go to the bathroom, only to come back and find her parked in my spot.

I also had to use a large umbrella like a makeshift cane the first several days to help me get leverage to get up by myself and then walk around since I walked at the pace of a sad shuffling turtle for at least the first three or four days.

Oh, I almost forgot the great cockroach fiasco of 2017! On night 2, not one, not two, but THREE cockroaches crept through the gaps in the fireplace and made their way into the living room, after another cockroach had already crawled on my poor mom’s face in the wee hours of the morning. Two were killed. One went free. So with my mom’s help, I made my way upstairs and propped myself upright on my pillows to go to sleep.

I didn’t go outside until about six days after, when I went on a walk around the block, but apparently that was a bad idea since I hurt much worse the next day. Of my four surgical incisions, the one on my navel (where they actually pull out the gallbladder) hurt the worst, and that incision stayed unhappy for several days after that walk.

The rest of the time was very uneventful. I watched a LOT of HGTV. I know I’m getting older when HGTV is now my preferred television channel of choice. Or maybe it just has something to do with the fact that I apparently really like interior decoration, given that I’ve literally spent months fixing up my teeny tiny fixer-upper apartment into a pleasant, habitable space.

I had my follow-up visit two weeks after surgery and was cleared to travel, even though I was deathly afraid of getting on the plane thanks to my mom instilling the fear of blood clots into my brain. Then I hurt like crazy on the actual plane ride; legs hurt, arms hurt, back hurt, hand hurt, chest hurt…way too much hurt.

I had the weekend to recuperate from the flight, then went back to school to find out that my team teaching for my new ichinensei won’t even start until May 25. And to find out that my Board of Education is royally peeved at me. My doctor’s note was not up to their standards and I got yelled at for not giving them two notes instead of one. Then I got yelled at for being gone too long and “not reading my contract” (JERKFACES I DID READ IT AND I SAW THAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE GONE FOR 20 CONSECUTIVE DAYS AND YOU’RE THE ONES WHO TOLD ME NO IT WAS REALLY 20 SCHOOL DAYS), got yelled at more for not following directions, and got threatened with receiving a bad teacher evaluation. Because. I. got. Sick. BECAUSE I GOT FREAKING SICK!!!! I WOULD REALLY REALLY LIKE TO USE A MORE COLORFUL WORD HERE BUT FOR THE SAKE OF FUTURE EMPLOYERS EVER FINDING THIS BLOG I WILL NOT!!! Also what the hell?? I wouldn’t be at school on weekends anyway, so why in bloody hell should weekends count?!

Japanese logic:  “She’s been out sick for more than 20 days, therefore she’s a bad teacher.” “Illness is for the weak, fools!”

So. Stupid. My brain cannot handle the level of stupidity. Yeah, surgery took longer in the US, but first of all, y’all said it was okay, and second, put yourselves in my shoes, jerks, and you probably wouldn’t want a foreigner cutting into you without knowing what was going on, either.

The BOE disaster still hasn’t been sorted out, but I’m praying that it does. And if not, screw it.

Living abroad has been much more taxing on my mental health (and physical health, too) than I had originally anticipated.

That is the end of my surgical adventure. Perhaps I’ll make a shorter post with mostly just Disney trip photos/Tokyo trip photos in the days to come. But until next time,

またね!
-Erin 「エリン」

Mind Toot #2

Good day, y’all!

 

As I mentioned in my previous albeit slightly less happy post, I’ve been up to a whole smorgasbord of whatnots and going-ons during the past few months or so. In no particular order, I will regurgitate my life for you in Mind Toot #2. Let’s hop to it!

 

    1. I read English Karuta cards for all of the Ichinensei over the loudspeaker
      1. It was kind of a last minute decision. “Karuta,” and the version that I played, called hyakuni-isshu, is a card game commonly played in Japan. The students are expected to memorize a hundred old Japanese haikus.  In the game, a moderator will read the whole poem, but the cards in front of them will have only the second half printed on them. If they have memorized the whole poem, they can scope out the card based on the second half of the poem and claim it for keeps.
      2. Because it was too cold in the gym to do regular Karuta on the scheduled day, we instead used that time, for a reason still unbeknownst to me, to do English Karuta. I was given about fifty of these poems translated into English and read each one three times over the intercom. I was downstairs reading the cards and not in the rooms with the students, but I heard that the kiddos really seemed to enjoy the challenge.

 

  • I also read Japanese Karuta cards.

 

      1. To be more accurate I read a single Karuta card. The classical Japanese teacher was kind enough to dig out a pretty simple card for me to read, and I read it in the weird sing-songy voice without fail!
      2. Unfortunately the kids were a little distracted because at the same time, a teacher decided to jump off of the stage in the gym instead of going down the stairs after he handed me the microphone and fell on his behind. Oops.

 

  • I bought a hamster!

 

      1. I’m a bad ALT. I’ve technically broken my contract by buying an animal that I’m not allowed to have. Contract states that ALTs are not allowed to have pets. I say it’s a stupid rule.
      2. I got sad after Christmas and realized I was not designed to live without a pet. And I’ve already taken care of hamsters before, so I know what I’m doing, more or less.
      3. So I bought one. I went to a store that takes very good care of it’s animals. Housed properly, lots of toys in their cages, lots of quality merchandise available, complete with store recommended products.
      4. Kudos to the staff for not letting me actually buy the hamster until they explained everything to me about how to take care of it. A lot of American stores would not do the same.
      5. Of course, because my Japanese is so abysmal, the staff had to hunt down the single employee in the store who (hallelujah!) spoke fluent English.
      6. And so I bought the necessities the day before, and bought the hamster the next day, on New Year’s Eve.
      7. I named him Deku after the main character of Boku no Hero Academia. I told my students about him and they thought it was hilarious.IMG_1349IMG_1357IMG_1347

 

  • I built the most bomb house for my hamster ever.

 

      1. Just look at it. Beautiful, ain’t it?IMG_1346
      2. I had to make several trips to the hardware store because I kept buying the wrong crap. (Trip 1-bought drill and realized that the el cheapo drill I bought did not come with drill bits or that it needed a drill bit. Trip 2–bought bolts and screws but didn’t get the right size because apparently I can’t measure. Trip 3–bought right size screws, wire cutters, and wire mesh because I somehow forgot all that too. #winning #notreally #whyIamIusinghashtagsIreallyhatethem)
      3. I know not only know what a drill bit is, I also know how to attach it to my power drill and use it!
      4. Yes I own a power drill now.
      5. I also own lots of other tools that I needed that I will probably never use again. Maybe I’ll use the hammer and screwdriver, but probably not much else.
      6. Hamster house is complete with three levels. The main cage is built out of clear plastic storage bins that I bought for 400 yen each. Screwed the lids of the bins to the bottom of the bin above it. Cut holes and installed plastic hamster tubes for travel from bin to bin. Complete with litter box, food bowl and water bottle, built-in shelves for climbing, a suspended acorn toy, and several tiny huts for him to sleep in. Oh, and I attached a separate tunnel box on the left for added enjoyment.

 

  • I sliced my middle finger open while building the hamster house and bled everywhere!

 

      1. The stupid part is that it wasn’t even when I was building the actual cage. It was when I used my excruciatingly sharp utility knife to smartly cut open the plastic on a piece of decorative tape because I was too lazy to get up and walk TWO FEET across the room to get a pair of much safer scissors.
      2. I bled for about twenty minutes and it looked relatively deep, so for a sec there I thought I would have to go back to the hospital even though I had just been there two days before.
      3. Even though it had difficulty closing up, it did eventually heal. All’s well that ends well, right? Maybe?

 

  • I taught my students how to play Settlers of Catan.

 

      1. Because who doesn’t love Catan? It’s my new favorite board game. It truly brings out the worst in people.

 

  • Bought a cool bookshelf unit.

 

      1. Spices up the place, I think. And I put it together ALL BY MYSELF. Really digging this whole DIY thing.IMG_1249

 

  • Also bought a wardrobe.

 

      1. Thanks to Ryoko for helping me buy it and Yoshi for waiting for it in my apartment while I was still trapped in the hospital against my will.

 

  • Did some Hobbit Hole fung-shui.

 

      1. You know, moved things here and there. I am trying to solve all my storage solutions with the wardrobe and using the closet for actual storage. Gotta get rid of the stupid table in my bathroom first, though…

 

  • I did get rid of the table in my bathroom and the desk I never use!

 

      1. Thanks again, Ryoko and Yoshi for helping me out with that! Got a whopping 200 yen for my bathroom table when I sold it at the secondhand store. But then had to pay 600 yen to get rid of my other table they wouldn’t take? Oh well. Useless tables are gone now.

 

  • Saw a totally random Kabuki street performance.

 

      1. On my way back from the hardware store I took a shortcut through the shopping mall to get to the station. And what was there but random Kabuki? Oh Japan. Gotta love the random street performances.

 

  • Saw a graduation.

 

      1. My first group of third year students graduated last week. Scratch that. a long time ago. I wrote this post months ago.
      2. I was terribly sad about it and almost cried because I liked them and actually knew ALL of their names, not just the troublemakers.
      3. It was very different from an American graduation. The underclassmen were forced to attend as well. Parents sat in the back with the absolute worst view. Teachers sat at the sides. Students wore their normal school uniforms, which I guess is kinda special for my school since my high school is one of those fabled “uniform optional” schools that most of the time you only see in manga. Students didn’t individually get the diplomas. A representative collected a symbolic one. Nor did they walk across the stage. Just said “hai” when their names were called. They did a little tribute to their teachers at the end which was actually pretty sweet.
      4. And I forgot to bring my hiragana copy of the school song even though I really wanted to sing it.
      5. And I desperately had to pee the whole time even though I specifically took measures beforehand knowing that it would probably happen to prevent myself from having to desperately pee the whole time. So I was a little distracted and instead of enjoying the moment, spent every second thinking, “DEAR GOD WHEN WILL THIS END I NEED TO PEE SO BAD!!”
      6. Next year, I just won’t be allowed to drink a single drop of anything before graduation. Maybe even the day before. YAYYYY DEHYDRATION!!!
  • Went to Himeji Castle with a math teacher in my section
    1. Kunimasa-sensei was kind enough to drive me there and back. We saw the castle (which has a lot of stairs?), the gardens, and even went to a tea ceremony after!IMG_1323IMG_1321

 

  • I painted some stuff.

 

      1. These are the products of my week long social media leave of absence. Enjoy.
      2. IMG_1341IMG_1336IMG_1339

 

  • I killed myself off in a lesson for the second time this year for the sake of entertaining my students.

 

      1. I wanted to end the school year with a bang, so I concocted a “murder mystery” style game for my last lesson with my first year students. I took some elements from the internet, some from the CLUE game, and adapted the rest to fit my needs for a 40 students class.
      2. I killed myself off and told the students that they had to solve my murder.
      3. They had even more fun because I gave them really goofy character names. For example, Hello Kitty, Pikachu, PikoTaro, Taylor Swift, Izuku Midoriya, Ciel Phantomhive, Doraemon, Michael Jackson, Anpanman, and Morty Smith, among others.
      4. They had fun because I wore a Japanese-style ghost headband the whole time.
      5. In one class, when they found out that “Peter Pan” had killed me, “Peter Pan” came up to me and bowed to me in apology for his character’s actions.

 

  • I joined a gym!

 

      1. I’ve finally managed to drag my lazy self out from under my kotatsu and exercise.
      2. I also think it’s hilarious that joining a gym is more difficult that going to the doctor. I am now fully capable of going to the doctor by myself as I have gone three times now sans assistance. Yet how many attempts did it take to sign up for my gym membership?
      3. THREE. THREE FRIGGIN’ TIMES. Let me explain how.
        1. On day one, I was told to come back on Friday because they were having a promotion starting on Friday. Three months at half off, which is a significant discount given the hefty price tag of Japanese gyms. Full price is $100/month. I figured heck, I could wait two days for such a great discount. I like saving money. I’m stingy.
        2. So I went back on Friday. I tried to communicate that I wanted to join. But between my Japanglish the Japanglish of 4 different Japanese staff members, they couldn’t explain everything to me. They said they wouldn’t let me sign the contract unless I understood EVERYTHING. And then told me to come back with a Japanese friend. Come on man, what if I didn’t have any Japanese friends? Would I have been royally screwed?
        3. So I then semi-desperately asked my friend/first-week Japanese host, Junko, to help me out. Thankfully, we had already had plans that weekend, so she took me to the gym afterward.
        4. Junko went with me on Saturday. Even with her assistance, it still took about two hours to sign up. TWO HOURS!! First they had to explain. Then we filled out the form. Then we didn’t press the pen on the carbon copy and had to do it again.
        5. THEN finally I got a tour of the gym, but had to wait to use it until Monday when I had an introductory course/orientation.
        6. After all the struggle, at least it was worth it, because this gym is ritzy y’all. Onsen in the bathing area. Hair dryers provided. A pool. A sauna. Massage chairs. Three studios for classes. Lockers with bracelet keys so you never have to worry about bringing a lock. Fancy key things that you put into the machines that log all the calories you’ve burned for the day. Swanky I tell you. So swanky.
        7. Only downsides are that I stick out like a sore thumb because to my knowledge I am one of only two foreigners and that because Japan, you have to take off your shoes every three seconds. No shoes in the locker room. No shoes in the stretching area. No shoes at the massage chairs. Where am I allowed to wear my shoes???

 

  • I got a new air-conditioner.

 

      1. My old aircon died about three or four weeks ago a while ago. I went a week without doing anything hoping the cold wouldn’t be a big deal. It was. So I told my school about it. A guy came a week later. All I understood from said repair guy was that something was old and needed replacing. Repair people came back two weeks later. Little did I know, they ended up replacing the whole thing. I was worried that it would cost me a small fortune. Turns out the landlord is covering the entire cost! So now I have a magical aircon that is I swear ten times more powerful than the old one and TALKS when you turn it on and press the buttons and I didn’t have to pay a single yen for it. Hahahahaha.
      2. IMG_1368
        The most amazing thing ever

 

  • Bought a ton of different KitKat flavors to mail to my friends back home.

 

      1. Pumpkin, strawberry, ginger, green tea (matcha), raspberry nut, regular raspberry, sake, Kobe pudding, strawberry cheesecake, purple sweet potato…it goes on and on and on.

 

  • Remembered what would have been Ruby’s birthday and death day.

 

      1. I got sad. I loved my baby. Why did those days have to be only five days apart??

 

  • Celebrated a Potato-versary.

 

      1. One year of having a little Potato in our lives! Such a wonderful little spud she is!IMG_1258

 

  • Tried the Sakura frappuccino at starbucks.

 

      1. It was sooooo good y’all. You don’t know what you’re missing. Next on the list: the American cherry pie frappuccino when I get back to Japan. 

        IMG_1352
        Yummy sugar overload

 

  • Visited a cat cafe.

 

      1. It was about time. My favorite was named Momiji. He reminded me of Buddha. Kept licking my hand the whole time. Pretty tuxedo cat.
      2. The rest of the cats pretty much ignored my until I purchased a cup of treats. Then they were all suddenly my best friend, except for the grumpus munchkin cat who was apparently having a bad day.
        IMG_1329
        Grumpy on the bottom level wouldn’t come out

        IMG_1328
        My buddy Momiji!

 

  • Went to Sapporo.

 

      1. I wish I had been able to continue my whole trip and go to Hakodate and Aomori as well. But it was a pretty snowy and magical three days in Sapporo, at least. I saw the Sapporo Clock Tower which was more like an old church than anything else, the old Sapporo government building, the TV tower, Hokkaido Shrine…It was my magical winter wonderland.
      2. IMG_1297
        The Sapporo beer museum
        IMG_1296
        Random American style diner
        IMG_1295
        Torii gate at Hokkaido Shrine
        IMG_1294
        Don’t know what this was, but it was pretty
        IMG_1292
        Odori-koen at night
        IMG_1291
        Snow for daysssss
        IMG_1290
        The old Sapporo government building

        IMG_1289

        IMG_1288
        The Sapporo Clock Tower

        IMG_1287

 

  • Helped an old man who had fallen and couldn’t get up.

 

      1. Like in those commercials, you know? Life Alert? Something like that? I didn’t realize he was a person at first. Then a car came and the headlights revealed that he was. Did the car stop? No. When I asked a stranger for help, did she stop? No. Jerk. After a few minutes of trying to communicate with this old man, a man and his young son came along and responded to my pleas for help. This kind stranger helped me get the old man back on his feet, and then walked him home. Thank you kind stranger!

 

  • I had to take out the two cartilage ear piercings that I loved so much.

 

      1. Because I became a semi frequent flyer at the hospital, I ended up back there because I had a suspected sinus infection. To diagnose what ended up only being an ear infection and not a sinus infection, they did a CT scan of my head, and I had to take ALL of my earrings out. I managed to salvage five. But one of the ear lobe ones was terribly not in the right direction, so I decided to let that heal up and pierce it again later even though I could get it back in. But the cartilage ones, I couldn’t even find the holes because the angles were so messed up.
      2. Now I have bumps from the scar tissue on my ear.
      3. At least the bright side is that I can now sleep comfortably on my left side for the first time in a year? But there goes about $140 in piercing costs and a lot of pain, time and effort trying to get them to heal.

 

  • MADE IT INTO THE DOUBLE DIGITS ON WANIKANI!!

 

      1. Level 12, fools!! Out of the “pleasant” levels and into the “painful” ones!! THE NEXT STEP TO LITERACY!!!

 

  • Had a lovely time in Tokyo with Sara and Marco!

 

      1. My lovely American friends came for a two week visit to ye ole land of the rising sun for a two week vacation, and I got to spend about a week with them in Tokyo. Due to some unfortunate communication issues, I ended up doing a lot of back and forth travelling to and from Tokyo (my school told me I could have a whole week off for spring bring, then when I went to confirm with them they changed their minds and said I had to be there for the Monday and Friday of that week even though I literally did nothing and there was no reason for me to be there). SO I took a night bus on a Thursday and I went to Tokyo for a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and took the shinkansen back to Kobe on Sunday night, then the next day took another night bus back to Tokyo to spend two days in Disneyland and Disney Sea.
      2. I was a Disney virgin and it was just as magical as I was hoping it would be. I wish I could have done the Tower of Terror but I was worried that it would upset my ailing gallbladder.
      3. I had to sneak food in on day 2 because I basically just ate a salad and a couple of fruit cups on Day 1.
      4. People at Disneyland are really into popcorn? Like lots of flavors of popcorn? Tomato herb, caramel, white chocolate, curry…kinda weird given that the only place I’ve been able to find popcorn at is Costco.
      5. They had an ENTIRE STORE dedicated to Winnie the Pooh, which I love, and it took every ounce of self restraint and reminding myself that I’m poor and have no money now between airplane tickets and hospital bills to only come out with some Winnie the Pooh ears and a new cell phone strap.

 

  • I came home to the US of A for surgery, but more on that later…

Finally, enjoy some random pictures.

IMG_1274IMG_1269IMG_1391IMG_1390IMG_1387IMG_1385IMG_1383IMG_1371IMG_1350IMG_1331IMG_1332IMG_1327IMG_1326IMG_1325

 

 

I think that’s about it? Hopefully I’ve gotten you all up to speed now. If you care. Maybe you don’t. I dunno. But until next time,

 

またね!
エリン (Erin)

Hospitalized in Japan

Hiya, friends,

While I assure you that Mind Toot #2 is written and on it’s way, I want to address the most current happenings (A) while they are fresh in my mind and (B) because uploading the pictures to Mind Toot #2 is going to take forever and a half and this is easier at the moment because I have all of two pictures to share with you.

As you can tell by the title of this post, yes, I had me a little hospital stay in Japan. After months of phantom pains/illnesses, something very much real happened to my poor gaijin body!

So…what happened, you ask?

Oooohhhhh I shall tell you what happened.

On the late evening of one Tuesday, March 21st 2017, around 11 pm or so, I began to have some of the most excruciating stomach pains of my life. At the time, I thought I knew the cause–in attempt to be able to allow myself to experience Japanese cuisine to the fullest, I ate a small piece of meat. Le gasp! Naturally, seeing that I never eat meat, I assumed that this started wreaking havoc on my digestive system.

Then I threw up. A lot. I mean a lot a lot. Like nine or ten times. With each time providing little to no relief. After a while I tried to force myself to keep throwing up, because sick logic dictated that if keep throwing up, eventually I will feel better.

That was not the case. Eventually I threw up all that there was to throw up and ended up just dry heaving.

Then I tried everything else. I tried camping out in a sad huddle on my tiny bathroom floor in case I needed to puke my guts out again. I tried a heat pack. I tried an ice pack. I tried contorting myself into every position imaginable trying to find just an ounce of relief. I found one very bizarre position that ever so slightly alleviated the pain and managed to doze off. When I woke up, I thought a couple of hours had passed. When I glanced at the clock, however, I was rudely informed that only 20 minutes had passed.

20 MINUTES??? THAT’S ALL??? NO FREAKING WAY!!!!!!! Were the only thoughts ringing throughout my head.

It was about one or two in the morning at this point, and I desperately tried to contort myself into some more weird positions. I tried drinking ginger tea. With permission from my neighbor I broke into his apartment to steal some of his Tums. Threw all that up, too. At approximately 3 a.m. Japan time, I texted my wonderful mommy (Hi, Mom!) for Dr. Mom’s medical consultation, and due to my severe pain, she suggested I go to the hospital. So I gathered my crap and left.

I live between two hospitals. I usually go to the one down the hill because I already have an info card with them and it’s easier. But in my agony I wasn’t sure if I could make it down the very steep hill, so I instead went in the other direction down the less steep hill. Upon arrival, I couldn’t figure out how to get in because the doors were locked, lights off, and I couldn’t find an emergency entrance. So I ended up backtracking and walking another fifteen minutes or so to the other hospital. In hindsight, I really should’ve called an ambulance in case I passed out or something but….eh. It worked out.

Upon arriving that hospital #2, I also couldn’t figure out how to get in. I found an ambulance entrance that had no other signs. Couldn’t see a doorbell. Sat down on the curb and cried for a few minutes while I texted my mom again. Then I called the hospital. Had to call twice because the first time the guy didn’t really understand what I wanted. The second time, I just plainly said in Japanese, “I am sorry, I am a foreigner. MY JAPANESE IS NOT GOOD. MY STOMACH REALLY, REALLY HURTS! I AM OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW. YES, RIGHT NOW. PLEASE OPEN THE DOOR.”

Thank God this actually worked, as a guy came, opened the door, let me in, gave me paperwork and then ended up filling it out for me because I was in too much pain to fill it out myself plus I couldn’t read most of it.

Thankfully nobody else was actually at the emergency room in that moment either and they were immediately able to do a CT scan on my stomach.

Not thankfully the nurses (two of them) literally took over an hour to find a vein that was good enough for an IV, and after many painful attempts and much yelling of “PLEASE STOP IT HURTS.” on my end, they FINALLY found one in my left hand. Then they had a very large needle attached to a very large syringe that I had to make them explain to me because they were about to jam it into my shoulder without telling me what it was. It was pain medicine. It didn’t help.

After about another hour or so of waiting and the nurses probably thinking I was crazy from all the rolling around I was doing on my bed, the doctor, Takeuchi-sensei, brought me to a consultation room, showed me the CT scan pictures, and (in English, thankfully) informed me that no, my stomachache was not from eating meat, but was from the presence of gallstones in my gallbladder!

Gallstones! Freaking gallstones!

I am only 24 years old! I am too young for this crap!

 

He also informed me that my spleen, for whatever reason, was slightly enlarged, and I proceeded to tell him that I had family history of this since my mom had had her gallbladder out when I was a kid.

He then told me that I needed to be hospitalized for a few days because I might need surgery but he wasn’t sure yet.

UGHghghhghUghhghghghgghghghghghghggh is really the only thing I was thinking at that point due to my annoyance at this diagnosis, lack of sleep, and pain.

It was approximately 7 a.m. at this point, and they took me upstairs to bring me to a room. First they brought me to a room with lots of SUPER old people (I mean looked like they were dead old), and maybe the obviously uncomfortable look on my face made them change my room, but they came back about five minutes later and moved me to a slightly smaller room with only two other occupants, who while also old, didn’t look catatonic like the other people did.

I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to call on my cell phone, so I ended up emailing two of the English teachers at my school, and thank God one of them found my email. I apparently managed to doze off for at least a little while, and at 8:20 a.m., one of the teachers and my vice principal came to see what was going on. They spoke with the doctor, explained everything to my poor confused self, and I gave them my key to get some stuff from my house for me. Thankfully my house has a combination lock on the mailbox so I can just leave the key there and anyone who needs to get in can just enter the code and grab the key, so I had them leave they key since my friend Ryoko (thank you Ryoko!!) also needed to break in there to feed my hamster for me.

They left, I went back to sleep, and a couple hours later, one of the other English teachers that I work with popped in to visit. It made me very happy that he cared enough to come visit.

All I really wanted to do on Wednesday was sleep, but unfortunately I kept getting interrupted. First they took me to do an MRI of my gallbladder. Then they took me to have the most insane looking IV put into my arm, called a PICC line apparently. I didn’t take a picture of my actual arm, but it looked something like this:

PICC line

Essentially, they injected my arm with local anesthetic, put this tube in my vein that I later found out went all the way from the entry point mid-arm all the way into my chest, and then sutured it into my skin.

Then my co-teacher and vice principal came back, then another friend…it was quite exhausting. I was hooked up to an IV and a steady stream of antibiotics for the majority of my stay. Thursday was not quite as eventful…No testing that I remember, but I had a lot of trouble staying awake that day. I affectionately (or not so affectionately) named my IV pole Naruto. Partly because it spins around in circles like a whirlpool, partly because Naruto has fighting spirit, which I needed at the time.

Friday was by far the least eventful day. I finally was able to stay awake for the whole day, so I just read more of my book. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that I literally did not eat for two days. They needed to fast me for something or another, so I did not eat from Tuesday night until Thursday night. When I did finally get fed, it was very soupy, simple food–rice porridge, miso, and the like. Sometimes some vegetable mash. It honestly resembled baby food. But maybe because of my stupid gallbladder, maybe because my stomach had shrunk, that was really all I had the appetite for anyway. Bland is good right now.

Good ‘ol Naruto was supposed to get removed on Saturday morning, but ended up coming out on Friday night instead. I thought that maybe it was leaking fluid into my arm because I noticed that my right hand was starting to look kind of bruised and swollen and felt kind of funny. When I told the nurse, they found a different doctor that was not my doctor and removed it. I made the mistake of looking before it was completely out when I thought they were done and it was not pretty. The next day though, Dr. Mom so kindly informed me that it was probably just restricted blood flow from the IV line…oops. Either way, I was glad to be rid of Naruto. It’s annoying being attached to a pole.

IMG_1398
The end damage to my right arm–lots of little suture marks
IMG_1403
My right hand is turning into a giant bruise. Looks like I punched something. My knuckles on my index and middle finger are turning the most interesting shade of reddish-purple.

So on Saturday, discharge day finally arrived. They did a second MRI on my head since I was complaining of headaches, but nothing sinister showed up (Even though it doesn’t answer the questions of why I’m getting them or how I can fix them 😦  ) . Then we waited for a very long time. Did not end up leaving until about three in the afternoon. The school people who waited with me were very patient.

Takeuchi-sensei told me that they’re just going to dissolve the stones with oral medication for now, but should it happen again, I’ll probably need surgery, so I have to see a surgeon in two days for a consultation. And when all was said and done, I was out about $650 of un-budgeted expenses. Yikes.

While the hospital stay was slightly traumatic (it’s beyond frustrating being trapped inside a hospital and having your blood pressure checked and skin poked every few hours when you can’t communicate well and have no clue what’s going on), I am glad to have a diagnosis and glad that for the moment, I am feeling much better. Minus the mystery headaches.

I finally came back to work today, and of course, since news spreads through the grapevine like wildfire, everyone who has seen me today has asked how I am now. One of the teachers who drove me home on Saturday, who is knowledgeable about anime, was kind enough to bring me a Naruto figurine to replace the “Naruto” that I left behind at the hospital.

Other than getting weird looks when I try to choke down my nasty Chinese herb medicine crap every four hours or so (tastes like a weird combo of mugicha and black coffee and berries), it has been okay so far. And hopefully it will continue to be okay, and hopefully I can still go to Tokyo to see Sara and Marco (!!!) in a few days as planned.

So….if anyone was ever wondering what it’s like to be trapped in a hospital in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language…ain’t gonna lie, kinda frightening. But I am alive, well enough, and that’s all that really matters.

Until next time, friends,

またね!

エリン (Erin)

My Demons

Good day, friends. Good day.

For the first time in a long time, I can honestly say “good day” and mean it, for the most part. I got a beautiful new air conditioning unit installed today to warm up my frozen, icy soul that had frosted over during the past four weeks when my old crusty A/C unit died, so that alone makes it a pretty darn good day in my book.

As I sit under my toasty, cozy kotatsu writing this, in a newly feng-shuid room with only a little bit of mess on the floor instead of a lot of mess on the floor, I realize that it has been an absurd amount of time since I have posted anything bearing any resemblance to what constitutes a normal blog post. Yeah, sure, I’ve written a handful of JET program stuff for all of the JET hopefuls out there (hang on, little sprouts, you’ve only got a month or less of waiting to go–hard to believe that was me one year ago. Soon you can be a fully fledged Green Bean like me! Do green beans sprout? Is that how it works? I don’t even know, man.), but have you noticed that since pre-Christmas, I haven’t written a single damned thing about my personal life and the other happenings and bygones of my life? No? You haven’t, you say? Well, if you answered yes, (A) that makes my poor, fragile soul Oh So Sad, but (B) I really don’t blame you because I have more or less for the past two and half months become a hermit-otaku-shut-in who hides in the inner recesses of my Hobbit Hole and only emerges for daily responsibilities (you know, like my job. Kinda sorta just a little important ) and to go on the hunt for sustenance (gotta eat, you know).  

A series of unfortunate events is, unfortunately (yes, I did that on purpose, 5 points [to Gryffindor!] for anyone who got that reference), the root behind why I have gone off the radar, off the grid, under my rock, whichever label you choose to slap onto my leave of absence from blogging. That Series of Unfortunate Events that unfortunately happened right around the Yuletide season put a damper on my mood and left me in a rather unpleasant state, both physically and emotionally, which has lasted right around until this point. So, for a few minutes, let me take you back to the beginning  to fully explain what happened, since I’m sure you’re dying to know. If you’re not dying to know, and don’t really care, then you can just skip a little bit until the happy stuff comes along. I promise there will be happy stuff. This isn’t a sad, depressed rambling. There is a point, my friends! A grand point! A wonderful message awaits! But, first I have to walk you through the dark before the dawn. That’s just how it goes.

JET PROSPECTS–I DON’T KNOW YOU, BUT IF YOU WANT A REALISTIC PERSPECTIVE ON CULTURE SHOCK AND WHAT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU WHEN YOU ARE IN A LAND THAT IS FAR, FAR AWAY, A PERSPECTIVE THAT SHOWS SOMETHING THAT IS OTHER THAN UNICORNS AND RAINBOWS AND PONIES AND SUNSHINE, IT MAY BE IN YOUR BEST INTEREST TO READ THIS NOW AND TO BRACE YOURSELVES FOR THE POSSIBILITY. NOBODY WANTS TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE UNPLEASANTRIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE MAGICAL MARSHMALLOW SNOWFLAKE WONDERLAND THAT IS JAPAN, BUT BELIEVE YOU ME, IT IS NOT ALL HUNKY DORY DANDY ALL THE TIME.

Ahem. So, let’s begin, shall we?

In the beginning, there was a naive twenty-something named Erin/Green Bean/Ern/Bob/Eob/Snowflake who lived in the previously unknown circle of hell known as “New Orleans, Louisiana.” This naive twenty-something decided to semi-foolishly, semi-not, do something drastically outside her comfort zone. Erin was but a young Bean Sprout at the time. Full of optimism, full of a desire to experience life to the fullest and go somewhere different, do something different. In her epic quest to make a change, the young Bean Sprout decided to apply for the JET program, and upon her second trial of the epic quest, finally succeeded in slaying the Boss Monster called Interviews and it’s minion, Application. Erin’s Health Points had been drastically drained from her long, turbulent battle with the Boss Monster, but upon victory, she claimed the Heart Piece left behind upon the Boss Monster’s defeat, recovered her life force, and happily watched the Ending Credits of the game roll along the screen as the naturally happy ending was displayed in the background.

Oh, wait a sec–was that how it went?

NOOOOOPPPPEEEEE.

*Ahem*, Sorry for that little misunderstanding folks, let’s get back to the real story.

Upon the slaying of the Boss Monster, Erin did in fact recover her life force and temporarily have a happy ending. But, when the ending credits finally finished rolling, a premonition of something sinister flashed, a warning of what was yet to come. It was–le gasp–a preview of the sequel game! The preview showed hints of things even more dire, even more sinister than the original Boss Monster! The young Bean Sprout quivered in fear at the idea of having even more monsters to slay, even more battles to be won! But, she unsheathed her mighty blade and trudged along, bracing herself for the journey ahead.

Like all quest games, at first, the journey was easy. No task was too far out of reach. The Bean Sprout completed mini-quest after mini-quest, slaying the smaller monsters, gathering items, and achieving tiny win after tiny win. Slay the beast known as buying furniture? Check. Slay the monster called “giving a speech in front of a thousand people?” Check. Slay the beast called, “navigating the wonky train system/why in the freaking hell are there four different train lines/companies in one city?” Check. The Bean Sprout gained a false sense of confidence. The Bean Sprout felt invincible.

However, unbeknownst to the Bean Sprout, this newfound confidence would not last. The confidence lulled the Bean Sprout into a false sense of security that would ultimately shatter into a billion teensy tiny itty bitty little pieces, only for a monster to swallow them, regurgitate them, and drop them into the sea, where they would then be eaten by many microorganisms, never to be seen again. Ah, the circle of life.

All is going well, so the Bean Sprout thought. I can best any challenge that comes my way! With that false sense of security and optimism, the Bean Sprout gathered her tools and mustered her courage, ready to face the first Boss: Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country.

Being the first Boss, the first real trial since coming to the foreign land far, far away, the Bean Sprout believed that Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country wouldn’t be all that difficult to conquer. Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country’s minion, Homesickness, hadn’t reared it’s ugly head yet, so the Bean Sprout thought that surely this Boss would be eliminated at her own hand. And so the Bean Sprout thought, Why use a strategy guide when you’ve already got all the tools for survival, right?

WRONG AGAIN.

Because she believed that she didn’t need a strategy guide, that she could just wing it, the Bean Sprout went into battle horrendously unprepared. She had no support members. Nobody to cast recovery magic. No melee fighters or distance fighters to aid her. She was all alone. Oh so alone. She had no company, nor did she bring enough potions to adequately restore her life force. Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country relentlessly attacked, again and again, until alas, the Sprout could take it no more. The Sprout ran out of moves. Then the Sprout fainted. The Sprout failed.  The sad sounds of failure played in the background as “Start Again?” displayed on the screen.

Dismayed by her own failure, the Sprout decided she wouldn’t dwell on her failure and her sadness. The Sprout decided to take a vacation. So, going solo, plans made, the Sprout set off for the even farther away land called, “Hokkaido,” the great wintry North beyond the invisible hypothetical wall (the ocean) that lay between the mainland and the great beyond. The Sprout set off, ready to start a new side quest to take her mind off of her humiliating defeat! For nine days, the Sprout hoped to find relief for her sad heart and enjoy the frosty wonderland that she had so dreamed of visiting.

Little did she know before, however, the Sprout’s new side quest would not go as planned. The Sprout’s heart physically ached hour after hour, day by day. Was her heart broken? Had Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country wounded her more than she had initially thought? Had Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country cast a time magic spell that was destined to slowly drain away her life force? Sadly, the answer was yes.

Now, the Sprout, wounded and alone, found herself in an even more foreign, foreign land. She knew no one. She knew nothing. She had no knowledge of her new surroundings, and all alone, she was frightened. She knew not what to do, so in a worried fit, she sought consult with the nearest healer who was able to speak her mother tongue.

The Sprout explained the situation to the healer, who then subjected the Sprout to a series of tests. The Sprout felt alone and afraid. However, many hours later, the healer divulged to the Sprout that he did not understand her plight. He could see nothing wrong with the Sprout’s fragile heart.

Dismayed upon hearing no real answers, and concerned that her heart ached in a place where she knew nothing and no one, the Sprout sadly packed her bags, cancelled the remaining six days of her vacation, and with her head hung low, returned to her Hobbit Hole.

Upon her return, the Sprout sought counsel with another healer, who agreed with the first; he could find nothing wrong.

Discouraged, and dismayed, the Sprout withered. Each passing day felt like her heart was literally breaking. No matter what she did, her ailing heart never ceased to ache. Her aching heart made her grow weary. Things she once enjoyed now seemed unpleasant. People she once routinely spoke to grew distant at her own hand. Life as she knew it had changed.

The change was gradual. First days would go by. Then weeks, all the while she hadn’t noticed how much time had truly passed. She spent more and more time in her Hobbit Hole instead of enjoying the land far, far away which she had originally sought to experience.

One day, her heart suddenly stopped aching. Could this be the end?  The Sprout thought. Sadly, it wasn’t. The monster had transformed into an even more formidable foe, and a new monster, a demon in the form of Headaches gripped the young Sprout’s soul in it’s place. Every day, it clung tighter and tighter, slowly driving the Sprout mad by her own thoughts. Her mind became toxic; the once safe haven was teeming with the venom of the demon. The Sprout’s thoughts gradually became darker and darker, and life was not as enjoyable as it had previously been.

However, weeks later, the Sprout had epiphany. She was letting her demons control her, letting them wrap their arms around her neck. She couldn’t let these demons control her. Why should she? She set out to a land far, far away to enjoy that land far, far away. To learn about new things. To experience new things. None of which she was doing at the moment. So, the Sprout brandished all of her greatest weapons, mustered up every ounce of courage she had left–and began to fight the demons that were controlling her. Let me go, I’m not finished yet! The Sprout thought.

To this day, the Sprout’s enemy has still not been vanquished–fight as she may, the demons still cling on, though their grasp loosens a little with each second that passes her by.

The Sprout may not have her Happy Ending Without A Sequel Of Bad Things To Come yet, but it is in her future. One day, she will vanquish her demons once and for all. And their will be no sequel game where the demons come back.

Finis.

I hope you enjoyed that little tale, folks. Writing is someone of a coping mechanism for me. I like it. And I like to believe that I’m a little bit good at it. Meh, maybe I’m not, but even if I’m not just let me live in my fantasy world, dang nabbit!

So, if you’re super dense and for some reason could not follow my story and all of video game references: In a nutshell, I got super sad around Christmas because Christmas is my holiday, yo, and usually I get super pumped about Christmas but I foolishly decided to tough out the winter season because I’m too big of a wuss to get back on the friggin’ airplane to America. To distract myself from my sadness of not being home, I went to Hokkaido because (A) who doesn’t love Hokkaido? It’s a magical winter wonderland? And (B) it’s the place I originally wanted to live before I was placed in Kobe against my will and I wanted to visit it at least once. BUT…my chest started hurting the day before Chrismas, maybe even the day before that, and continued to hurt even when I was in Hokkaido, and granted I was not in the best shape, so I got very concerned because a lot of really important things are in your chest, you know? I didn’t know which important thing it was or if it was important at all, so I landed myself in the hospital in Sapporo, a city where I know literally zero people. And going to the hospital is stressful enough without adding foreign country and language barrier to the mix. Sooooo the doctors did all these tests and everything came back negative and they chalked it up to anxiety even though I didn’t consciously feel that anxious at the time, so confused and with no answers and with a chest that was still hurting, I didn’t feel comfortable staying in Sapporo alone and packed up my crap, bought some souvenirs from the train station and went back home. And by home I mean Kobe. Not home home.

I had a relatively decent new year all things considered, but the aching chest literally went on for ALL OF JANUARY until it magically and suddenly stopped right smack at the beginning of February only for headaches to rear their ugly head in the place of the chest pains. And I don’t mean your generic dull achey headaches where you can pop a couple of ibuprofen and be good. I mean the most crippling headaches of my life. It literally felt like someone was jabbing my eye socket with an icepick. Repeat this about six times a day, with headaches switching sides frequently. Every little ache or pain started to set my anxiety meter through the roof and panic attacks became a regular occurrence. If you’ve never had a panic attack before, you literally feel like you are going to die right then and there. I have never more frequently  convinced myself of the fact that I was dying than I have in the past two months. 

It’s not like I consciously feel stressed or anxious all the time. On most days it’s more of a homesickness that anything else. I miss being able to see my family, and  nothing can replace being able to hug my cats and my Tater Tot. I feel like I am betraying Buddha, my favorite (yes, I am a bad mom and I have a very clear favorite among my babies) by being away from him. And from what I hear from my family, he’s not terribly happy about this arrangement. I keep hearing stories about how he pees in front of the fireplace when he doesn’t get enough attention, and him not getting enough attention is a foreign concept to me since I smothered him with attention when I was home. And I hear about how terrible and how stupid my dumb little Dave is, and terrible as he is, I miss his dumb face. My poor Dave’s sweet, dumb face. And I miss my sweet, innocent little Elvis Bo who can do wrong. Really I feel like missing my animals is the biggest problem. I was not designed to live without them!

A couple of weeks ago, I had finally had enough. I realized that I needed to do something about this to stop myself from spiraling completely out of control. So I started cutting the junk food out of my diet. I finally joined the gym. I am trying to consciously rid myself of toxic thoughts and I have banned myself from looking at WebMD. For the record, unless you just have a physical thing like a sprain and just want to know how to take care of it, don’t ever look at WebMD. Because WebMD’s answer to everything is cancer. And I’m pretty sure that I don’t have that. Just a hunch. Needless to say when you’re constantly in a state of agitation and panic, believing that you might have cancer isn’t so hard.

Slowly but surely, things have started to be looking up. My chest pains, while still present, are much less frequent than they were before. Just in a few days this week, the headaches have been reduced as well. I am trying to put myself on a positive path and do what I set out to do when I came here–enjoy Japan.

In Japanese, there is a word called “Akuma” which essentially means a demon or a devil. It is a trope that is frequently found throughout anime and manga. But it applies here. I let my akuma, my demons, get the better of me. I let myself get into a very toxic, negative spiral, and I am trying my damnedest to dig myself out of it. The thing about anxiety, or stress, or panic, or whatever I have, is that you don’t always realize what exactly is happening. Stuff just happens, it goes on, and you feel miserable. For me my breaking point happened when my head was hurting so much that I was popping ibuprofen and aspirin like candy.

I think I am feeling better. And I want to make it my mission to see the beauty even in the most negative of situations. At the end of the day, I am in Japan. Japan, y’all!!! It has been a turbulent, crazy ride, but it’s a ride that I want to enjoy to the fullest. I don’t want to be holding on to the safety bars like a terrified child the whole time; I want to let my hands fly free in the breeze and make a super goofy face that gets captured for all to see on the ride photos at the end of the trip.

From here on out, no more living my life in black and white, hiding in the shadows of my own mind. I want to live my life in SCREAMING COLOR. I want to be FREE. I want to feel liberated, energized, crazy, and euphoric! I want every second, and every day to count. I want to experience as much as I can, see as much as I can, and learn as much as I can while I am here. Because as great as it would be to stay here forever, I know that I can’t. I already know that I’m not one of those people that is going to live in Japan forever, even after JET. I love Japan, but it’s not my home. It will always hold a special place in my heart, but my heart tells me that eventually, I need to go back to America. I have cats to retrieve from my parents. A Potato to hug. An education to get. So I need to make every second count while I am here.

On that note, I’m sorry if this post was kind of a downer. I hope that the story at least made the atmosphere a little brighter up in here.

While I have been hermiting for a large chunk of the past couple of months, I haven’t exclusively been hermiting, so I will write another post within the next couple of days or so chronicling what I’ve been up to. Let Mind Toot #2 happen. 

But, in the meantime, have a good evening/day/morning whatever time it is where you are, everyone. 

Peace out, my little Bean Sprouts.

またね。
-Erin

JET Program Interviews, Part 2: The Big, Bad, Day-of (and oodles upon oodles of questions for your noodle)

Hello again, Dear JET Program prospects!

So, I’ve already told you about the JET Program Application and SOP and I’ve already given you a basic overview of how to prepare for the JET Program interview.

Perhaps some of you are thinking, “Fiddlesticks. What is she doing back here? She already told us about how not to screw up everything, didn’t she? Essays? Application? The interview? WHAT’S LEFT, DANG-NABBIT?!?”

Well, my young grasshoppers, the answer is simple: there’s oodles left for you to work on. As my new favorite, stolen-from-a-major-American-home-improvement-store-chain motto suggests, Never Stop Improving. Ever. EVER.

So, while I gave you what I believe to be a quite thorough account of how not to adequately ruin your life within a thirty minute time interval or before that thirty minute time interval even commences, I’ve got some more general information to help prepare you for doomsday even more!

Because believe me, the closer you get to the day of fate, the more you will inevitably panic and forget everything I ever told you about in the first place.

Shall we?


Picture yourselves hand in hand with me as we all form this giant ring of people frolicking and skipping through a magical field of flowers, rainbows, unicorns, that cool yet semi-creepy dragon-dog-grandpa from “The Never Ending Story,” and sunshine.


 

This is the mindset that you want to have going into this interview. No matter what is short-circuiting happening in your brain on the day of your interview, you have to stay calm and positive, because the interview is basically one giant test of:

  1. Following directions
  2. Being consistent (marry your application. Print out both the application and your SOP. Sleep with it. Carry it around in one of those baby slings. Tuck it in at night. Know your application like the back of your hand and you’ll be a golden goose)
  3. Being honest
  4. How well you handle pressure
  5. How happy and friendly you are! 😀
  6. And finally, how prepared (or unprepared) you are. D:

So, leading off from my last point, I want to help you prepare. I have compiled from the Big Bad Interwebs a list of possible interview questions that people have been asked in the past (thank you, internet!/nobody sue me please) along with what questions I was asked (that I still remember) from my first two interviews. As I mentioned in my previous post, this list is NOT all-inclusive and the interviewers CAN AND WILL ask you questions that are not on this list or any other list that you might stumble upon!

The possible questions are largely chunked into what I perceive to be five main groups:

  1. Questions about your teaching experience/international experience/qualifications
  2. Personal/get-to-know-you questions and culture shock questions
  3. “What if…” questions (classroom management/how you would react in certain situations)
  4. Japanese culture/general knowledge base/trivia questions
  5. Some kind of teaching/role-playing demonstration

 


Here are some of the questions that I personally recall being asked (mostly from my second interview):

Q: Please confirm your name, age, hometown, and university/major.

Q: We see that you applied for the JET Program last year, but were ultimately rejected. How did that make you feel, and what have you done in the past year since your rejection?

Q: We see that you are a vegan. Do you understand the difficulties of being vegetarian, let alone vegan, in Japan?

Q: What would you do if a coworker or a Japanese friend invited you to their home and didn’t know that you were vegan?

Q: If you could bring three things that you think best reflect your hometown and upbringing, what three things would they be and why?

Q: We see that you’ve traveled to France before. Please tell us about your experience.

Q: We see that you chose Hokkaido, Aomori, and Nagano as your top three placement choices. How would you feel if you were accepted into the JET Program, but did not get placed in any of your top three locations?

Q: If you had the opportunity to teach your future students about one event in American history, which event would you choose and why?

Q: How would you teach it?

Q: How would you handle homesickness?

Q: As a foreigner, you will receive a lot of unwanted attention from strangers. How do you anticipate dealing with that attention?

Q: What kinds of negative experiences, if any, do you anticipate having while in Japan?

Q: How do you handle stress?

Q: Do you have a support network in place to help you handle stress?

Q: Please tell us about how your previous work experience will help you during your time on the JET Program.

Q: We are going to ask you some simple questions in Japanese. Please answer them to the best of your ability. (Out of the mountains or the ocean, which do prefer? Why?)


AAaaaaannddd, here are the questions that I compiled from the O’ Great Internets and some of my own questions that I used to prepare for my interviews:

Qualifications and General Questions:

Q: Why do you think you are a good candidate for our program?

Q: What makes someone a good ALT? What have you done that demonstrates these qualities?

Q: How will you represent your home country while in Japan? How will you represent it at school? In the broader community?

Q: Is there anything that could bring you down while living in Japan? How would you handle difficult times or situations in Japan?

Q: What would you do for games and lessons in Japan? What examples can you give?

Q: If your students have very low level English ability, how will you communicate with them? How will you teach them?

Q: How would you contribute to international understanding?

Q: What kind of special talents or abilities would you bring to the program or your students?

Q: Why should we hire you?

Q: What makes you different from other applicants?

Q: Why didn’t you study abroad?

Q: Why are you interested in Japan?

Q: Why did you choose the _______ region/________ prefecture?

Q: Why didn’t you indicate a specific placement choice?

Q: Why don’t you teach English in another country?

Q: What do you like to do with your free time?/ What are your hobbies?

Q: Why are your grades poor (if applicable)?

Culture (shock):

Q: What kind of negative experiences do you anticipate having and how do you plan to deal with them?

Q: How do you handle conflicts with your friends?

Q: If you were at a work-sponsored drinking party and a fellow teacher tried to grope you, how would you handle it? What if it was the principal?

Q: What would you do if you were expected to serve tea to the men during the morning meetings?

Q: What would you say if a student asked you why America bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Q: What if a student or teacher asks you why America is such a violent country?

Q: How would you handle situations of prejudice against other ethnicities?

Education Issues:

Q: What kind of teaching experience do you have?

Q: In what ways do you expect education in Japan will be different from education in America?

Q: How will you present your home country to the Japanese people that you meet?

Q: Suppose there is an important event at one of your schools on a weekend that you had pre-arranged plans. Your principal asks if you can cancel your plans and come to the event. What would you do?

Q: Tell us three things that you would like to tell your future students and other ALTs about your home country.

Q: If you could bring only three things to show Japanese students to represent your home country/state, what would they be and why would you bring them?

Q: Paint us three pictures: three distinctly Western things that you could describe to students without having a common language.

Q: Name the three most important people in American history.

Q: What if your JTE only uses you for a, “human tape recorder”?

Q: How would you get students interested, especially if they have no reason to learn English?

Classroom Management:

Q: There is a loud, obnoxious boy in your class who isn’t doing the assignment you have given. What do you do?

Q: You are teaching a lesson and the Japanese team teacher makes a mistake. What do you do?

Q: What will you say if a student asks you about drug use?

Q: Would you ever strike a student? What if the teacher you are teaching with struck a student in front of you?

Q: What would you do if you are teaching a class and there is one student in the back of the room sleeping? Reading a comic? Talking on a cell phone?

Q: What would you do if a student spit or cursed at you?

Q: What would you do if you were in the right classroom when the bell rang, but your team teacher is not there?

Personal Questions and General Knowledge Base

Q: What do you know about Japan?

Q: What Japanese movies do you like?

Q: What Japanese foods do you like?

Q: What are your hobbies?

Q: Who is the governor of your home state?

Q: Who are the president and vice-president of your home country?

Q: Who is the Prime Minister of Japan?

Q: Name five famous places in Japan.

Q: What are the important issues facing our world today?

Q: What are some current important events in Japan?

Q: What holiday is your favorite and why?

Q: Do you like karaoke?

Q: Name five famous authors of your home country.

Q: Name the major islands (or cities) of Japan.

Q: Name three famous Japanese people.

Q: What do you know about the political system in Japan?

Q: What are some issues facing Japanese-American relations?

Q: What do you know about Japan’s current financial crisis?

Q: What is the name of the current governing party in Japan?

Q: Name three Japanese historians.

Q: What research have you done about Japanese culture since applying to the program?

Q: (If you’ve applied more than once) What experiences have you had since your last interview? How did you handle rejection/being put  on the alternate list? How did you feel about your rejection, and how have you grown as a person in the past year? How have you improved yourself?

Veganism/Vegetarianism in Japan

Q: How long have you been vegan/vegetarian?

Q: What kind of foods do you typically eat?

Q: Are you aware of the difficulties of being vegetarian, let alone vegan, in Japan?

Q: How do you intend to find and prepare food that is safe for you to consume while you are in Japan?

Q: What will you eat if you were to go out with a group of friends or coworkers?

Q: What would you do if you a fellow teacher/Japanese friend offered you food/made you food and you were unable to eat it?
I hope that this has helped some of you! I highly suggest (1) doing some more googling of your own, because honestly I don’t remember where I found some of these questions in the first place, and (2) having an answer prepared for every last one of these possible questions. And, of course, write down your own questions that you think the interviewers could ask you and prepare for those as well. Anything is fair game, and it is better to be over prepared than under prepared!

Additionally, when you take photos for your interview voucher, I highly suggest getting them done professionally and not doing them yourself with your home printer, even on photo paper. I think I did that my first year and it did not look good at all. Wear something nice from neck-up at least, and go to somewhere like FedEx that offers passport photos as a service.

Finally, make sure to have your travel plans pre-arranged (if your consulate is in a different city), get a good night’s sleep beforehand, and last but not least, breathe. Just breathe (Anna Nalick 2 a.m./breathe, anyone?)

 

Good luck everyone, and maybe I’ll see some of you over here in Japan in a few months! Feel free to shoot me a message or comment if you have any questions.

Good day to you all,
-Erin

JET Program: Interview Do’s and Don’ts (the unofficial guide to success)

Hello again, friends!

Several months ago, I wrote a blog post about Do’s and Don’ts for the JET Program Application and Essay (link here).

With interview notifications just over the horizon, here is my part 2 on tackling the JET Program applications: Do’s and Don’ts for the JET Program Interview!

First of all, if you are selected for an interview, congratulations! You are one step closer to being accepted into the JET Program! But, unfortunately the flip side to that happy news is, “EEK! CRAP! THE INTERVIEW! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?? FIDDLESTICKS!!!” Fear not, friends. You can do it!

I interviewed for the JET Program twice–once in 2015 and once in 2016. The first time, I screwed up terribly and was ultimately rejected from the program. Oh how my heart snapped in two when I got the rejection email.. The second time, I was short-listed! I could just tell you the things to do well that will help you land that coveted short-list spot, but I feel that it would also be beneficial to you to hear what went wrong from my first interview so y’all good folks don’t go messing up the way I did. Unless you’re Mr./Ms./Anything-in-between Smooth, the interview is really not an experience that you’d want to go through twice (probably the most stress-inducing thirty minutes of my life…).

 

Now that I’ve properly terrified you, let’s get started!

**SHORT DISCLAIMER**–> This probably goes without saying, but as mentioned in the title, this is an UNOFFICIAL resource to help you out. Success is not guaranteed. This is just a diary of sorts of MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES that I figured could help you all out. So please, if any of you follow this guide and ultimately don’t get in, first of all, my condolences, second, it is not my fault. So please don’t throw a law suit my way. Just sayin’.

 

About the interview:

First of all, the interviews typically take place in early February, and you’ll be notified about whether you got the interview maybe 2, 3 weeks beforehand in mid-January. That’s not a whole lot of time to prepare. Also, before I tell you about what to do/not to do, I think it would be in your best interest to know the format of the interview. For some reason, before I did my first interview in 2015, I was under the impression that “panel interview” meant that there would be several interviewers along with several interviewees in the room at the same time. Maybe because I did actually have a job interview like that once, and it was very strange (And one of the questions that they asked was, “If you were a shoe, what kind of shoe would you be and why?”) But alas, it was not like that. The panel interview consists of (usually) three interviewers, in my experience two Japanese people and one former ALT, and you. Just you. No other interviewees in the room. For 25-30 minutes. This idea can be daunting at first, but I promise it’s not quite as bad as it sounds, if you play your cards right. That being said, let’s jump into what not to do.

 

Don’ts for the JET Program Interviews:

  1. Look sloppy. This ain’t some random job. If I were interviewing for my kennel job again, yeah, I probably could’ve gotten away with some khakis and a short sleeve button-up or something. But this is way more important. You need to be dressed to the nines, not looking like you’re going for a Sunday outing to Applebees.
  2. Wear too much perfume/jewelry/makeup. This one’s mostly for ladies. But guys too. Too much of anything is kind of a no-no in Japan, and this interview will be very much Japan-style. If you like to wear lots of makeup, tone it down to the bare minimum. Facial piercings? Definitely take them out. I had four ear piercings at my second interview, and still took out the older ones so I only had one pair in each ear. It’s not worth costing you the position to leave piercings in. And if you have to have piercings, you can always get them after your interview. I got four more piercings after my interview for a grand total of eight and nobody at my school has cared so far…
  3. Have weirdly colored hair. I had to dye a blonde streak in my hair back to brown precisely for my interview. Maybe you could chance it, but I honestly wouldn’t do anything that doesn’t look like a natural color. Not worth the risk, in my opinion. And NO, green is NOT considered a natural color because it’s the color of grass, if any of you were wondering.
  4. Look disoriented. The deer in headlights look isn’t going to assure your interviewers that you’d be good with a group of children or teenagers. How can you handle a classroom of 40 if you can’t even handle an interview panel of three people? Don’t be that person who looks like this:Image result for deer in headlights look
  5. Mumble. I have a habit of doing this, so I had to work extra hard to not do it. They look for people who can speak clearly and confidently, so mumbling won’t help your case either, even if they do know you’re nervous. “My name is mumblemumblemumble and I’m from mumblemumblemumble,” isn’t going to show them anything outstanding about you.
  6. Focus too much on the Japanese portion of the interview and not enough on the actual interview questions. I saw a dude studying his Genki book in the lobby of the consulate after my interview and wish I had stopped to say, “Hey man, it’s too late at this point. Roll with what you’ve got and focus on the interview instead.” I definitely made this mistake the first time around, but it’s really not what you should be focusing on. Remember that you don’t need any Japanese ability at all to participate on the JET program! None whatsoever! DIDDLY DAMN SQUAT! 😀
  7. Forget your interview voucher. I haven’t personally forgotten mine, but word on the street is that they won’t let you interview if you don’t have your interview voucher, so please quadruple check before you leave your city/house/apartment/hotel/friend’s house/box on the corner/dorm room/etc. that you do indeed have it with you.
  8. Be oddly stubborn or defensive. For me, my problem with Interview #1 revolved around my diet. I was vegan at the time and believe me, they asked about it in the interview. Actually, it was the very first thing they asked me, and they spent a good  five precious minutes of my 30 minute interview on this one STUPID question. The two Japanese people were nice about it, but the former ALT was a total b**** which made me want to be really stubborn with my beliefs and answers. Don’t do that. Don’t be like me. They told me something to the effect of, “We see you are a vegan. It is difficult, I’d say pretty much impossible, to be vegetarian, let alone vegan in Japan.” To which my response was, “Well, I plan on only buying fruits and vegetables for myself, and I’m very good at bringing extra food with me and planning ahead in case something unexpected comes up…” To which they replied, “But what if you go to somebody’s house and they offer you food that isn’t vegan? What if your coworkers invited you out after work last minute,” etc., etc. Basically I kept defending my position about how I didn’t want to change no matter what and they kept giving me random scenarios and we kept going in circles over the same thing. It did not work. To top it all off, former ALT already was glaring at me like a demon five minutes into the interview. Don’t incur the wrath of the demon ALT interviewers!!
  9. Don’t over-share information about yourself. I’m not trying to be controversial here, but by this, I mean anything eccentric about you that the JET Program might find off putting. Especially if you are not asked about it. If you are asked about your hobbies or interests, keep in mind that interesting and unique hobbies are fine within reason, but despite the wild atmosphere of Tokyo, many other parts of Japan can still be very conservative. I am not trying to imply that any hobbies or qualities or characteristics are wrong; I think it’s A-OK to be who you are and do whatever makes you happy. But, unless something has shaped or altered you in a significant way and you think that sharing those experiences may help, just be wary of how Japanese natives might perceive you when you interview. Not all people are of the “variety is the spice of life” mindset. For example, if your favorite thing to do in your spare time is to go to the club and get smashed, probably better that you omit that information because they might see you as wild and irresponsible, even if you aren’t. If you adamantly believe that you are an honest-to-goodness vampire, better not to share that either, because they might be concerned about what parents and students would think. Bottom line–if for no better reason not to overshare, you only have 30 minutes at best to shamelessly sell yourself and make yourself seem as appealing as possible. Use those 30 minutes to highlight the most important qualities about yourself. If they don’t ask you about it, odds are it’s not important for them to know for you to get the job, so focus on what they do ask you about and your qualities and experiences that will without a doubt help you. Will telling them about how you are a vampire help your case? No. Will telling them about your outgoing personality, your previous work experience, how you handle difficult situations, and community involvement help? Heck yeah it will.

 

Have a better idea of what not to do now? Were you planning on doing all of these things during your interview? I hope I’ve turned you away from some of those questionable interview scenarios. Now, on a more cheery note, let’s move on the things that you absolutely should do during your JET Program interview. 

 

Do’s for the JET Program Interviews:

    1. Arrive on time/a little early. Many of you will be travelling from different cities to your nearest consulate. I personally advise travelling to your consulate the day before and staying with a friend or at a hotel. This basically guarantees that unless you forget to set your alarm clock, there’s no way you can be late. And if you’re late, you lose your interview slot, end of story. I also recommend getting to the consulate half an hour to an hour early. This gives you time to scope out future friends or competition, get *some* of the nerves out your system, and ask the former ALT in the waiting area about their life on the JET Program.
    2. Wear a suit. ABSOLUTELY WEAR A SUIT. For men, this means full suit, jacket and tie. Preferably a neutral tie and not one with ducks or superman plastered all over it. Nice shoes. Professional look. Beards nicely trimmed. Ladies, you can wear either a skirt and jacket or pants and a jacket. If you go the skirt route, I would advise you to wear pantyhose underneath. Apparently heels look more professional even though they hurt like hell. And whatever shirt you wear, no boobs. No boobs should be showing at all, not even a little bit. And honestly I wouldn’t go too crazy on the colors either, stick with black or navy for the suit and white or some other neutral color for the shirt underneath. The more boring and indistinguishable you look from everyone else, the better. And if you want to wear a business dress instead, I wouldn’t. Made that mistake once already. My Japanese teacher in college, who formerly served as an interviewer for the JET program, failed to inform me during my first interview that I needed to wear a suit. Upon my listing this as a possible reason why I didn’t get in the first time, her response was, “Oh. Didn’t I tell you to wear a suit?” NO, SENSEI. NO YOU DID NOT TELL ME TO WEAR A SUIT.
    3. Wear very little jewelry and makeup. This goes parallel to item number 2 in the first list, but yeah, looking professional means wearing only the bare minimum makeup (sorry ladies who like to go all out every day with bold eyeliner and brightly colored lipsticks), little to no jewelry (the standard ear piercings, maybe a watch is fine), and no weirdly colored hair. A natural color like dyed blonde or red you could get away with, but no greens, blues, or purples. “But grapes are natural and they’re purple!” Just go away. Leave me alone. I don’t want to talk to you anymore.
    4. Prepare beforehand. Prepare, prepare, prepare. I cannot emphasize this enough. For my first interview, I spent way too much time focusing on the Japanese and not enough time focusing on actual content of the interview, so I was asked some questions that I was definitely not prepared for. Of course, you can prepare as much as possible and still be asked questions that you are unprepared for, but the more information you gather now, the better off you’ll be in the long run. Nothing is more satisfying than when they’ve asked you a question you’ve rehearsed a dozen times and you’re like “WAIT!! I KNOW THIS ONE!!”
    5. Practice with another person. You can also prepare as much as you can, feel like you’ve totally got it nailed, and then fumble because you didn’t actually practice speaking for your interview. Unless you’re the most suave, confident, well-spoken interviewee out there and are fantastic at being thrown curveballs and answering in an awesome way, I highly recommend practicing with another human being. YES, a human. Not a monkey, not your dog, not a robot, not the pillow that you make out with at night. Sometimes people phrase questions differently than you expect, or keep some elements of a question but change others, and listening and speaking with a person helps you prepare for that. I practiced my first interview with my dad, and I practiced for my second interview with the kennel supervisor at my job. Practicing with my supervisor helped a lot because although she was also my friend, she wasn’t so biased that she was just going to tell me I did great no matter how bad my answers were. She gave it to me straight and really made my mock interview feel very real, something which absolutely helped prepare me for the real deal and something which I still appreciate even now that I’m in Japan. She didn’t just read the questions exactly as I had written them; she altered the questions to suit her own style of speaking, asked me follow-up questions, and responded in a natural way.  She also threw some questions my way which weren’t even on the list of possible questions that I gave her, which helped me tackle how to handle the “deer in headlights” situation.
    6. Be flexible. This is related to the “Don’t be stubborn/defensive” point in the “don’ts” section above. Even if you have a certain idea in your head, just be flexible with them. When they asked me about being vegan the second time around, my answer was, “Yes, I am aware that being vegan would be very difficult in Japan. Although I still plan on being vegan during my own time, I am willing to be flexible when I am with others. I understand that there will be unexpected situations where I will be offered food, and I would not want to offend anyone by not eating it, especially if I were invited to someone’s home. Additionally, I would feel like I was missing out on a cultural experience if I were to stay vegan while in Japan, so I would definitely be willing to be flexible so that I can experience all that Japan has to offer.” They liked this answer MUCH better than the first year’s answer. Even if it’s not related to dietary restrictions, just work with them if they ask you a question you have strong feelings toward. For example, if they ask you if you’d be heartbroken if you don’t get one of your three placement choices (they asked me this, too), don’t tell them that. Tell them you’d be grateful for the opportunity regardless of where you’re placed, because odds are that you won’t get one of your three choices anyway. Hell, I sure didn’t. I asked for rural Hokkaido or Aomori (north) and got extremely urban south (Kobe) instead (How the JET program does placements is a bit of a mystery).
    7. Be prepared for any question. I know this sounds kind of stupid, like, “How can I be prepared to be unprepared?”, but my point here is just not to expect them to stick to the list of questions that you found on the internet. Those lists are lists like the one I am doing right now–they are the experiences of people who have previously interviewed, nothing more and nothing less and by no means are they all-inclusive of what the interviewers might ask you. They can and they will ask you questions that are not on those lists, so brace yourselves now for the fact that it will happen. If it helps, have your practice interviewer make up some questions on the spot just to practice getting the nerves and jitters out of your system. 
    8. Have a possible game or lesson idea ready to go. There is a myth in the JET program online community that being asked the fabled, “teaching demonstration” question is an indicator of whether they’ll recommend you to Tokyo or not. I was not asked the teaching demonstration question during my first interview, and lo and behold I did not get in. I was (sort of) asked the teaching demonstration question during my second interview and I did get in. They may or may not ask you this no matter how much they do or don’t like you, but in case they do ask you about lessons, have a lesson or game idea ready to go that you can apply to anything. Absolutely anything. Here’s how it went down with me: In my second interview, they first asked me, “If you could teach any one point about American history to your Japanese students, what would it be and why?” My response to this was, “I would teach them about the American Revolution, because I think it was the most important turning point in America’s history that demonstrates how we earned our freedom, and it helped mold us into the country we are today.” To this response, stone-cold b**** former ALT interviewer turns to me and asks, “Okay. HOW WOULD YOU TEACH IT?” (Imagine an angry tone and a smirk on her face that just reeks of the, “MWAHAHAHA!” stereotypical evil laugh) I panicked for about half a second here until I realized, wait! WAIT! WAIT! I do have a game I could use, here! I’ve done it a thousand times with my adult classes! So I told her, “I do this game that my adult students really love where I give them a page of information. I divide them into groups of four. One person is the scribe, and one is the reader who has to scan the article for information and tell the scribe the answer. When I ask a question, the first group to write the correct answer on the plastic plate and hold it up gets a point.” B**** interviewer seemed very taken aback that I had such a detailed answer to her question off the top of my head. The two Japanese people were smiling and looked very impressed.  I know that this was a very lengthy answer, but the takeaway point is to have a lesson idea that you can literally apply to any material ready to go. Whether they ultimately do or don’t ask you this, it is always better to be safe than sorry, and the more detailed, the better. It probably won’t look very good if they ask you how you would teach colors to a group of elementary school students and all you can say is, “Uhhhh *points to board* this is blue. This is yellow. Cool, right?”
    9. Speak clearly. This probably goes without saying, but make sure you are loud and clear, because that’s how you’ll need to be in the classroom. If you’re sick (like I was for round 2), apologize at the beginning of the interview if your voice is a little hoarse/raspy/quiet/whatever.
    10. Inform the interviewers of anything strange that might happen during your interview. Akin to item 9 above, anything that you know about that the interviewers might perceive as you not paying attention, just tell them at the beginning of your interview. I had a nasty cold for interview 2 and had to tell them (A) “I’m sorry, I would normally shake your hand but I’m feeling a little under the weather and I don’t want to spread my illness.” and (B) “My voice is a little hoarse, so please tell me if you need me to repeat anything for you and I’ll speak as loudly as I can.” Aaaand (C) “My ears are a little blocked and I’m having some difficulty hearing today, so I apologize if I ask you to repeat anything.” Ideally, you won’t  be sick, but if you are, better for them to know at the beginning and understand the situation rather than mistake you asking them to repeat something as you not paying attention or a quiet voice for nervousness.
    11. Ask the interviewers questions! At the very end of the interview, the interviewers will ask you if you have any questions for them. PLEASE prepare some questions beforehand!! Pretty please!! If you don’t ask them any questions, it could come off as being either overly confident or uninterested in the program. It could make you seem like JET is just one out of a whole bunch of things you’re applying for just ‘cuz. It makes you boring. Asking good questions could make the difference between an interviewer recommending you to Tokyo or not. My suggestion is to have three questions ready to go (not too many, not too little). These questions can be directed at the former ALT, the Japanese interviewers, or all three. Asking something, at least, will help show your interest and commitment to the program. I think I asked questions to the effect of, “what was the most challenging part about being an ALT for you,” “What was the most rewarding part about being an ALT,” “How did you handle dealing with stress or homesickness,” and “Is there anything that you regret about your time on the JET program/what was your most enjoyable experience while in Japan?” The questions are totally up to you, and try to ask things that will actually impact your life or affect you in some way while you are on the program, should you get in.
    12. Smile! Smile, smile, smile! SMIIIIIILLLLEEEEE!!! Smile until your face falls off and then some! Just keep on smiling. Smiley smiley smile smile smiiiillleeee! 😀
    13. (For people who have interviewed more than once) Tell them what you’ve done to improve yourself since your last interview. They definitely did ask me about my first interview during my second one. I think it was the second question they asked me after they wasted time on my vegan-ness. They asked me how I handled the rejection and how I felt about it then. I told them about how at first, I was devastated, but didn’t just sit around feeling sorry for myself until the second application cycle came around. I told them that I talked to my Japanese teacher about what could have gone wrong the first time, and how we explored together about options for me to improve. And I told them about how I did exactly those things. About how I started volunteer teaching to adults after my full-time job for three hours three nights a week. About how I was invited to be the only teacher for my level the following semester. About how much I loved my students and loved learning about their lives and getting to know them as people. Showing your improvement and personal growth will show them how badly you want the position, how dedicated and resilient you are for trying again in the face of rejection, and the lengths that you are willing to go to get a position as an ALT. It’s about commitment, people! Pretend that you are proposing to the JET program and that you will be happily engaged in limbo until April when you find out your interview results, when you hopefully will tie the knot with JET instead of getting left at the altar!

 

 

 

Well, prospective JET friends, I really hope that this helped you. As someone who both failed and succeeded with the JET Program interviews, I really hope my perspective from both sides of the coin helps you in some way as you prepare for your interviews. If anyone has any questions or wants to talk about interviews some more, hit me up and I’d be glad to chat. I know the interviews aren’t until February, but hey, never hurts to prepare! Good luck!

 

P.S. To those of you who read this whole thing, you are champions. My posts tend to be novels so reward yourself for struggling through seven pages of this nonsense! Huzzah!

P.P.S. After your interview is over, try to find something to occupy yourself. If your current job involves a lot of mental work, great. If you’re in school and that’s distracting enough, great. If your job involves no mental thought whatsoever like mine did, find a hobby to distract you. About two weeks after you will probably start to feel the anxiety. What could I have done differently? Did I do anything wrong? Do they hate me? Do they love me? Did stone-cold b**** remember me? Just do anything that involves concentration. For me, I went around my office asking people if they wanted paintings for their houses. I cranked out six paintings while I was waiting to hear back, and it was very stress relieving. You could start knitting, crocheting, learn an instrument, whatever. Just distract yourself. Friends don’t always work, either because they enjoy asking questions and whether you’ve heard back yet or not.

P.P.P.S. You can do it! Good luck, my friends!

P.P.P.P.S. If you are ultimately not selected for an interview, please do not be discouraged. Maybe it just isn’t the right time. The JET Program gets thousands and thousands of applications each year, of which they take very few. It is extremely competitive. There is always next year, and always room for improvement!

 

-Erin

 

Mind Toot #1

今日はみんなさん!

Hello and good day to you all!

久しぶりですね?(Long time no see) Now that I’m actually starting to remember some Japanese I’m trying to use more of it.

So, today’s post is going to be similar to the last one–in no particular order, I am going to spit out the oh-so-important and oh-so-not-important innermost thoughts that are swirling around all over this random and eclectic brain of mine. That being said, because posts like this will most likely be a series of posts (because I’m dumb and can’t just focus on one thing), I’ve decided to give them a name. I wanted to go with “mind farts” because of the explosive nature of these thoughts exiting my head, but upon further discussion from my lovely 友達 (friends), Niamh and Betsy, we have decided to instead lean in favor of “mind toots.” Inside joke. Don’t ask. I mean you can, but I can’t guarantee that it will make any sense to you. So, without further ado, let’s begin Mind Toot #1!

  1. Election blues
    • I’m sure this one goes without saying. I am sad. Terribly sad and frustrated about what happened with the election. I spent all day on November 9th (yes, 9th, because I’m in the future, remember) parked in front of my computer watching the votes coming in in real time. I told everyone not to expect anything from me that day. Not to bother me with anything extra. And that if they saw me at any point crying and huddled in the fetal position underneath my desk, it was because He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named won the election. I went in to the election thinking, “There’s no way in hell that Trump can win, right?” But then the votes starting trickling in. More and more crimson started flooding across the US map on my computer screen. Everyone in the teacher room was watching. Trump was ahead most of the morning. Then, as I went to class afer lunch during fifth period, I had the election up on the computer monitor, and Clinton had the lead. Then fifth period ended and Trump won Florida. Then I went to English Club, and when I came back to the teacher room, as soon as I walked in everybody looked at me with the “we really pity you” look as everyone had video footage titled “Trump Wins US Election: President Trump” flashed across their computer screens. blehgh *shivers all over* “President Trump.” I hate the sound of it. I hate his stupid little face and beady eyes mocking me every time I see a photo of him in the paper.
    • It really says a lot about Americans if we were willing to vote for the most bigoted person in our country as our leader, one who, to make matters worse, has no political experience whatsoever and can’t even control his own Twitter account, let alone the whole country. I hope that he won’t run our poor country into the ground, but I’m not holding my breath for that.
    • I drew America’s grave on a piece of paper and taped it to my desk. “アメリカは死んだ。”
    • I’m pretty sure all of the American ALTs drank ourselves into oblivion on election night.
    • I was so upset that the next day, my daily chat question for my sannensei was, “Do you think it should be mandatory for people of legal age to vote?”
  2. Cultural “oopsies”
    • I knew that the day would come when I would commit a terrible cultural faux-pas, and what do you know, that day has finally come. And it was in direct relation to a question I was asked during my interviews (both times I interviewed) for the JET Program. The “As a vegan, what would you do when somebody offers you food that you can’t eat” question. Now, at this point, the English department and my whole aisle/section in the teacher room know that I don’t eat meat and really don’t like eating dairy. Particularly meat, given how horrible I felt the last time I accidentally ate something that I didn’t know was made of meat broth and not vegetable broth until after the fact.
    • So, what happened here was that nearly four months ago when I got here, I gave all of the teachers omiyage from America, a.k.a the eighty or so little Tabasco bottles that I brought with me. I had naturally completely forgotten about it because it was ages ago.
    • For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call the teacher involved “Across-from-me-sensei,” because his desk is the one opposite mine in the next aisle, so they face each other.
    • So, a couple of weeks ago after school (keep in mind Across-from-me-sensei had all day to do this), right as I’m leaving, Across-from-me-sensei ambushes me in the hallway. At first I thought I imagined my name as I heard a faint, “Erin-san” ring in the hallway behind me, because it was so quiet. Then he says it again and there he is. I was a little surprised because he’s a chemistry teacher and tends not to talk to me that much. He started talking to me in Japanese, at which point I was like “Oh crap I only understand a little of what you’re saying.” He was saying stuff like, “You give me present.” and I was internally like what? present? When? For what? I easily get confused when people use the present tense and not the past because sometimes that little change really makes all the difference.
    • At that point, an English teacher walked by (who we’ll call Bucket-hat-sensei, because he always wears a bucket hat” walked by. “Bucket-hat-sensei! Help me!” I whispered to him as he walked by. So he translated for me, and got the message across that back in July/August, I gave Across-from-me-sensei a gift, and I was liek Oh yeah, the omiyage! I forgot about it! Bucket-hat-sensei told me that Across-from-me-sensei wanted to give me gift in exchange, but then started reading off all of the ingredients Chicken, pork, shrimp, crab or something like that–all of the things that will make me violently ill if I try to eat it. “Is it ok?” He asked.
    • At that point I was internally combusting and going “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” because I knew that Bucket-hat-sensei knew from my welcome party that I was a vegetarian. I also didn’t want to waste perfectly good food that I would end up either throwing away or giving to someone else. So I asked him to tell Across-from-me-sensei that this would make me sick. He said something to the effect of, “Oh, I guess I got the wrong thing. But more for me” But then I felt really bad, and I didn’t know how seriously Japanese people take gift-giving until after the fact. So, upon going to Kyoto two days later, I got him an “I’m sorry I’m a stupid, jerk foreigner” omiyage and spent an hour crafting an apology, and I think we’re cool now.
    • Lesson unfortunately learned at the expense of Across-from-me-sensei.
  3. Kyoto Round 2/My friend stalked a Geisha!
    • I went to Kyoto for the second time last Sunday. I went with my friend to see the fall leaves, because Kyoto is supposed to have some of the best fall colors. We didn’t want to wait any longer in case the leaves were gone by this week. Thankfully Kyoto is only about an hour away from downtown.
    • First, we went to Kiyomizudera, a very famous temple in Kyoto. It seemed to have a lot of smaller sub-temples and shrines near it. The building was beautiful and raised up on these stilt-like things. At the top, you could see the pretty mountain fall colors, but if you looked down, you could get an overview of the city. I wish I had gotten more pictures, but unfortunately, both my phone ran out of memory AND the memory card on my point-and-shoot camera (my Nikon coolpix) that I brought SPECIFICALLY in case my phone ran out of memory also decided to crap out on me because the memory card stopped working right. So I didn’t get as many photos as I would have liked. There was this thing in the main temple where you went downstairs into a pitch-black room, and had to feel your away around by holding onto these beads along the wall. Eventually, you ran into a dome-thing that you were supposed to touch and make a wish. The “womb” is what they called it. Pretty weird stuff. I also did something called a “love walk” or something like that, where, with my eyes closed, I had to walk from one stone to another so that my romantic dreams will apparently come true. But because I had assistance ( my friend telling me where to go to not run into people), apparently it means that I can’t find my true love without someone else’s help. We’ll see.
    • We also went to Ginkakuji, a “national treasure” of Japan. It was basically a small-ish temple with a short trail that went up a mountain. We saw some deer in the distance on the mountain!
    • We did the “Philosopher’ s Walk,” a walkway near a canal and we saw CATS!! Lots of cats!!!
    • We finally made our way to Gion, this big main street with a lot of souvenir shops. There was a festival of some sort at the temple/shrine/thing across from it, so I got some taiyaki and a sweet thing with a strawberry on it. Also stopped to get omiyage for my section. It was making our way to this area that my friend essentially decided to chase the Geisha, who I think got creeped out and ended up getting in a cab with the person she was walking with.
  4. School Arts Festival
    • My school had an arts festival a couple of weekends ago! I got to see my students dance with dance club, I saw the chorus club perform, and I bought a ticket for tea ceremony club and learned the proper way to drink tea and appreciate the artwork on tea cups. I also bought some cute handiwork from some of my students in the art club!
    • I got to do an ikebana arrangement for all the students and parents to see and enjoy!
  5. WaniKani level 6!
    • making my way up in the kanji world! Only 44 more levels to go! I will be literate one day!
  6. Recontracting
    • Don’t remember if I mentioned this in my last blog post and I’m too lazy to check. But I signed my contract to stay a second year. Huzzah!
  7. Thanksgiving/Christmas Decorating
    • I started my Christmas decorating early, along with the rest of Japan. Last week I bought my Christmas tree and decorations and put it up. I’m not done decorating yet, though. Never enough Christmas!
    • Thanksgiving is today! My friends and I are going to get thanksgiving dinner after school today!
    • img_1224
      My Sweet little Christmas tree that could. Ignore the fact that two branches fell off during assembly and that I accidentally decapitated it while moving it two days ago. What you get when you only pay $19 for Christmas tree. 
  8. Kansai-ben
    • I’m learning kansai-ben (the kansai-area dialact)! So far I know “sabui,” which is cold (normal word is “samui”) and “wakarahen,” which is normally “wakaranai.” 今日はさぶいね?I also learned “suimasen” instead of “sumimasen” which basically means excuse me/sorry/something to that effect. 
  9. Awaji Conference
    • We had a skill development conference on Thursday and Friday of last week in Awaji (EDIT-several Thursdays ago since it took forever to post this), the island just to the south of my house connected to us by the big pretty bridge. It was sorta useful, I guess. If nothing else, it got me out of school for a couple of days and I got to see a lot of the other ALTs in Hyogo that live farther away. Spent some nice evenings with my neighbor and the other ALTs at his school who stayed at his place.
    • The only downside to Awaji was the bus. We kind of dawdled a bit getting there on Friday morning because we stopped for coffee and missed the bus we were supposed to get on. The next bus ended up being full, so me and two other ALTs (thanks to the graciousness of the bus driver who allowed us to get on the bus anyway because we were desperate) ended up crouching akwardly at the front of the bus. I was contorted into some strange position resembling “the thinker” for a good fifteen minutes until we got there. I couldn’t feel my legs when I got off the bus.
  10. The Quest for Spicy Food
    • I’ve been on the hunt for good spicy food for ages since I got to Japan. Nothing is spicy enough. I miss jambalaya. Curry isn’t spicy enough. We went to a Nepalese restaurant near my house after Awaji day 1 and I finally found spicy food that meets my expectations and makes me want to cry! It was so wonderful! Everyone kept asking me if I can handle spicy food, but they forget that I hail from the land of endless spicy food…
  11. Settlers of Catan: Japanese Edition!
    • It’s the same as regular Settlers of Catan, except the cards are teeny tiny, written in Japanese, and instead of wooden blocks, the pieces are made of plastic and are fancy and realistic looking, so they’re not nearly as much fun  to play with when it’s not your turn and you’re bored. You can’t stack them up and make piles out of them.
    • For those of you who don’t know the game, you basically build settlements and roads and crap and trade sheep, bricks, and rocks and wood, and it looks like this:
  12. No More 雪祭り for Me 😦
    • Yesterday was a sad day for me. I had to tell the people running the trip to the yuki matsuri (snow festival) in Hokkaido that I can’t go. I’ve been dying to go to this festival ever since I saw it in my National Geographic Japan guidebook. But alas, I have no school holidays and I have three ichinensei classes that I can’t get out of, so perhaps next year…
  13. First Japanese Movie Theater Experience
    • Yesterday my friends and I went to a Japanese movie theater (eigakan) for the first time! We saw Kimi no Na wa (君の名は), Your Name. It’s been getting a lot of hype as the only anime movie to earn as much as a Ghibli movie, or something like that, so I really wanted to see it. It was good, but I have a feeling that even if I spoke perfect Japanese or the movie was in English, I still would have been confused by the plot. But the theater itself was really nice! They charge you an arm and a leg for a ticket (aout 18 dollars), but the food is reasonably priced, so I guess it evens out in the end.
  14. I miss my cats. Terribly.
  15. I also miss my Sweet Potato, my Spoiled Spud, my Sack O’ Tatoes, my Tater Tot…
  16. Meeting the “ALT Mom” of 垂水 (Tarumi)
    • Sunday (several Sundays ago) was the birthday of Ryoko-san, the “ALT mom” of my neighborhood, so my neigbor kindly invited me out to finally meet her for her birthday. I don’t know how I went so long without meeting her, but she’s so sweet and I was so happy to meet her at long last!
  17. Costco!
    • ALT Mom took us to Costco, where I realized that I do not have enough space in my Hobbit Hole for anything sold at Costco. I left with a fancy power strip, a gallon of popcorn kernels, and four ears of regular corn. What does that say about me, exactly?
  18. Gotta Catch ‘Em All
    • I found a loophole in the video game buying system. Japanese DS games don’t work on American DSs and vice versa because they are region locked. BUT!!! BUT!!!!!!!!!!!!! I made an amazing discovery! My 3DS connects to the internet. I have the internet. Because I bought my 3DS in America, it connects to ENGLISH internet and is connected to THE ENGLISH Nintendo E-shop. All I have to do to purchase games is (1) Open my 3DS (2) Go to the Nintendo E-shop (3) Add funds with my debit card and (4) download the game of my choice.
    • So I bought the new Pokemon Game that came out last week, Pokemon Sun. And I can’t put it down.
    • It might have been a mistake but I don’t even care. Who cares that I got my Pokemon to level 30 in only four days? I don’t have a problem. I swear I don’t. Not at all.
    • Not.
    • At.
    • All.
  19. Home Improvements, Round….4? 5? I don’t even know any more, man.
    • I gave up counting how many home improvements I’ve made, but I made even more over last weeked. When I went to the furniture store to pick out my El Cheapo Christmas tree on Saturday, I also made off with new bedsheets–a dark red futon cover and a red and black plaid comforter cover to spruce up my otherwise quite boring white bedsheets with a myseterious blood stain on them.  My house is apparently now red and black themed and everything matches quite nicely. I love it so much!!!

      img_1223
      How many red things can you count in this picture?
    • I also bought a floor chair at Cainz today. Yay for back support while sitting at my toasty kotatsu on the floor.
    • AND I played Apartment Tetris. The rolly-cart-thing by the kitchen window got moved behind the mirror. The dresser that was originally in the closet that got moved next to the TV got moved where the rolly-cart-thingy was. The small desk went where the dresser was by the TV. I dismantled my big table and now it’s hanging out in the bathroom. And two downtown trips later, I came home with three bookcases and made this!
      img_1249
      Y’ALL THERE IS SO MUCH MORE SPACE IN MY HOBBIT HOLE NOW I LOVE IT!!

      I really need to be the new mascot for Lowe’s or something when I get back to the states. Really embracing the whole “never stop improving” lifestyle here.

    • I LOVE MY HOBBIT HOLE!!!!
  20. No third year classes??
    • I found out two days ago that I won’t have my third year student classes at all next term. I’ll only have eight classes and will have so much free time and will be bored out of my mind.
    • Addition to point A: since writing Point A, Exams have happened. Because I have no exams, I have nothing to do. Because I have nothing to do, I sit at my desk and lesson plan for next term. Oh wait, I already lesson planned for ALL OF NEXT TERM. So I can print out all of the actual materials for next term. OH WAIT, I DID THAT TOO. There’s gotta be something for poor part-time ALT Ern to do, right? Hahahahahahahahahahaha. Hahaha. Ha…….ha.
  21. So bored at work.
    • See item 20 above.
    • at least when I’m bored out of my mind because I already did all the things, I can stare deeply into the soul of my Japanese textbook as we form a quite intimate relationship. We’re going steady now.
  22. Nobody ever let me do the planning for a trip. Ever. Nuff said.
    • I keep saying I’m going to go on the Great Hokkaido Excursion of 2016-2017, but have I booked plane tickets yet? Nope. Hotel Rooms? Nuh-uh. Planned anything specific? Kinda-sorta? Have any kinds of expectations, hopes or dreams for this trip other than the expectation that snow will in fact be there by simple virtue of the fact that I am going to Hokkaido? Nopity-nope-nope-nope. All that’s come out of this theoretical trip is apparently the development of my amazing skills for creating new words (see nopity-nope-nope above)
    • ADDENDUM TO THE ABOVE STATEMENT: Since originally writing this, I have managed to half-plan a trip! I booked a plane to Hokkaido! I booked hotel rooms! So far my itinerary is Sapporo, Hakodate, and Aomori, but 90% sure I will also add Iwate and Akita prefectures in there as well. Now I just need to figure out how I will get myself home…
  23. I did my Christmas card shopping today and somebody (in America) is getting a hilarious yet mildly inappropriate Christmas card this year.
    • Perhaps I’ll buy a dartboard and throw darts blindfolded to decide who.
    • *insert evil laugh here*
    • Whoever I end up sending it to better appreciate it’s glory.
    • You’ll know when you get it if it’s the inappropriate card.
  24. Host family fun
    • Finally met with my host family again last weekend for the first time in ages! Had a lovely lunch with them last weekend, and spent some time with Shinji-san and Max today!
  25. I may have gone a little overboard with “extensive reading” in my desire to become literate in another language.

    img_1237
    And by extensive reading I mean manga. Lots of manga. 
  26. Kobe Luminarie
    1. We went to the Kobe Luminarie on Saturday! It’s a big light structure memorial for the 1995 earthquake that happened here. img_1239img_1241img_1244img_1245
  27. I’m dumb
    • Last but not least, to anyone that I ever offend with my cultural ignorance or plain stupidity and inability to at times keep my mouth shut, I’m sorry. Sometimes I don’t know when to shut up or how to appropriately respond to things because I am awkward and terrible and socially inept. 本当にごめんなさい。

Well, that’s about all for now, folks. I hope that you enjoyed Mind Toot #1, and I hope even more that you start cracking up laughing whenever you read the phrase “Mind Toot.” I know I do. I’m writing this post at work because I’m done lesson planning and I’m bored out of my mind and I’m snickering to myself as I write this and the other teachers already think I’m weird enough. May someone else think the same of you. Yay for weird!

Until next time,

またね!

エリン (Erin)

Updates and Outtakes and Stuff that Breaks…(I am a mess)

今日は, dear family, friends, and whoever (meaning the random following of strangers that for whatever reason decided to follow this blog-hello new friends!) ! Maybe I should say good morning? Evening? I don’t know, can’t do time zones, man.

So first, it’s been just over three months since I came to Japan. Three months! That’s insane! That’s a third of the amount of time it takes for a human to incubate in the womb! The amount of time during a school’s summer vacation! Twelve times the maximum lifespan of a piece of cardboard or a box in my house until my dumb cat Dave finds it and eats it! (Dave, you’re a poop.)

And second, it’s been just under one month since I last posted something. What is wrong with me? I’ve spent a third of my time here not documenting anything *sigh*

Well, in no particular order, here’s what’s been going on for the past month that I’ve apparently been failing at terribly…

  1. The Eye Doctor
    • So it’s been approximately 10 years since I’ve last been to an eye doctor. The first time I went was when I was fourteen or fifteen and my mom (you know I love you) forced me into going just to make sure my eyes were okay. They were. I don’t like people messing with my eyes. I can’t even watch people put contacts in. But a few weeks ago, right before my rafting trip, the burning, redness, and itchiness in my left eye got so bad that my teachers thought that I had pink eye. They not so subtly hinted that they wanted me to go to the eye doctor.
    • Thankfully there is an eye doctor only a three minute walk from my house. But I hate how dependent I have to be on other people. Had to take my superviser along with me to act as translator and he was not so helpful with the translations. Bottom line is that I’m apparently allergic to some unknown plant that isn’t in Louisiana and they gave me a series of three different eye drops to do four times a day. I am not the master of eye stuff. I’d rather not go back to the doctor in Japan.
  2. Kobe Animal Kingdom
    • …was awesome! I went with my friend Ashley and we quite actually spent five hours there. Birds flew onto us. We stuck our feet into a pond with fish that nibbled at your feet. Among the crazy animals I befriended a cavalier named Suzuran-chan! I touched a kangaroo! I fed a red panda! It was five hours of heaven.
    •  

  3. White Water Rafting in Shikoku
    • …was also awesome! It was a two-day, overnight trip to Shikoku, an island to the south of me that’s one of the four main islands in Japan. We road tripped about three hours from my neighborhood in a very cramped and tiny Japanese car, driving through Awaji island, over the Naruto whirlpools, and through Tokushima and Kochi prefectures. Met some awesome new people and had a blast rafting!  Our guides kept trying to purposely flip the boats, I at one point stood at the front of the boat while everyone else spun the boat and tried to knock me down (only lasted about 7 seconds), and I jumped off of not one, but two scary cliffs! The first one was probably about four meters tall, the second 8 meters tall. About twenty feet tall. At many points the other boats tried to splash each other and we all started spontaneously singing Queen songs.
    • rimg3818img_5922img_5827img_5815img_5766img_5555img_5624img_5626img_5762
      img_5541
      Our transportation reminded me quite a bit of the Mystery Machine.
      file_0094
      Found this little guy at the guest house we stayed at.
      file_006
      View from the guest house

      file_0081file_0072file_0053-copy

    • File_000 (1).jpeg
    • file_0011-copy
      We stopped for a rest in Awaji and got free Awaji onions!

      file_0021-copy
      The view of Kobe from Awaji island, the opposite side of the bridge from where I live. We’re looking at my house across the water!
  4. School Slavery
    • I’ve been slaving away for the past month drawing these pictures for my first year students’ oral exam. We’ve been practicing storytelling with pictures and comic strips in preparation for their standardized tests all term. We wanted to do this for the exam, but ran out of material. So my JTEs asked me to draw some original material. 8 new stories and pictures. Which was fine, because I thought they’d be in back and white like the ones we practiced with. Two weeks later, my JTE asks me to color them, too. Which would have been nice to know in the beginning. I ended up coloring them on my laptop because my JTE only had 8 different colors of colored pencils, none of which looked like natural colors that could resemble any kind of skin tone or hair color. I ended up getting paid to be a cartoonist for the better part of the last two weeks. Every time a teacher passed my desk (which is unfortunately at the end of the aisle where everyone can see), they’d give me funny looks or stop and ask what I was doing. It’s like come on guys, I’m not coloring just for the sake of having arts and crafts time at work! I’d post the end results, but can’t have students accidentally finding it, can we?
  5. The End of an Era (Speech Contests)
    • Also spent every waking moment of much of the past two months preparing my two ichinensei for the speech contest. A couple of weeks ago it finally happened. They did their best, and I was so incredibly proud of them! Unfortunately, they didn’t place (there were only five prizes, and the international school, of which every child who participated had an English speaking parent that they referenced in their speech, swept first through third prize), but I am proud of them regardless, and one of them even wants to try again next year.
  6. I found Tetsujin!
    • Testsujin is like the symbol of rebirth and strength for Kobe. I finally found him on my way to the speech contest.

      file_0006-copy
      For scale, look at the bicycles near his feet. And the buildings. Pretty dang big. 
  7. A spider made its home in the creepy alleyway that I use to get home and now I’m afraid to ever go there again

    file_0012-copy
    You can kind of see his web near the sun, but it’s literally all the way across the creepy alley and they spider is huge and I’m terrified. On a side note, it seems that my students are more scared of cockroaches than spiders. In what world should that be the case? Spiders are devil spawn. Cockroaches are just ugly. 
  8. I got this awesome hat in the mail

    file_0024-copy
    You know, to celebrate “I LIKE SPORTS!” but without actually knowing anything about the sport or why I like that team. “YEAH, SPORTS!!!”
  9. I stumbled upon this random but awesome autumn festival, akimatsuri (秋祭り)

    file_0035-copy
    I think they were praying for the harvest or something? I just wanted to go to the drug store and this was happening right outside my house. Really cool. 
  10. Home Improvement
    • Ever since I moved in, I’ve been obsessed with making home improvements. Alisha, I don’t know how you lived in this apartment with as little furnishings as you did for so long. I’ve basically been constantly rearraning everything and sprucing things up because I have a problem.
    • I stacked microwave on top of my mini-fridge, my toaster oven on top of my microwave and stacked my water pitcher and kettle on top of the toaster oven. The dish drain got moved to my food shelf.
    •  

      I bought a new blender (because no offense Alisha the one you left me was kind of crap by my standards and couldn’t even break up a piece of a frozen banana and smelled like burning rubber whenever I tried to turn it on), and now the blender, coffee pot, and sugar and coffee containers are on my counter with plenty of space to spare.

    •  

      I bought two biger trash cans with lids (to keep the fruit flies out) and moved them to the food shelf.

    •  

      I bought a bigger shower shelf.

    •  

      I finally found the one spot in the apartment where photos will stick and built me a nice photo wall

    •  

      I bought sticky hooks and attached them to the very top of the wall to hang my LED lights up so they wouldn’t get caught in the windows anymore.

    •  

      I bought tension rods and hangers to dry my laundry outside so I actually have room for a chair on my balcony now.

  11. Recontracting
    • My superviser gave me my form to recontract for a second year and I literally signed “yes” right after he gave it to me. Finally got around to giving it back to him last week.
  12. I won something from those annoying stuffed animal claw arcade games that nobody every wins at!

    file_0041-copy
    VICTORY IS MINE (1,500 or so yen later…)
  13. The Fire Table (Kotatsu)
    • I bought a kotatsu! It’s quite literally a fire-table. It’s like a square-shaped coffee tale that has a heater built into it on the bottom. The top, hard surface of the table lifts up, and you’re supposed to put a blanket under it, which traps the heat under the table and keeps your legs and feet nice and toasty. I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS TABLE, as much as it is humanly possible for a person to love a table. file_0014-copy
  14. My closet broke!
    • file_003-copy
      This happened a week ago and I still haven’t fixed it. 
  15. Delivery people that can’t do their job properly
    • There’s a magical thing called Cash On Delivery (COD) for Japanese Amazon and a few other things, probably. If you don’t want to use a credit card, you order the item and then give the delivery guy cash when he come to your door. If they miss you, they keep trying to re-deliver the item up to four times, and on the fourth missed attempt, they just send the item back. Pretty great, right? Except trying to figure out what time the guy/gal is going to come deliver yo’ stuff. Which is precisely why for this particular item (the kotatsu), I scheduled a delivery window of 6pm to 9 pm so you know, I would NOT be in school and could definitely make myself be at home to pay for the table. BUT. BUT!!!!! THESE STUPID, MORONIC, IDIOT, BAKA-delivery people APPARENTLY THOUGHT THAT THE DELIVERY WINDOW WAS NOT IMPORTANT! I get home at 4:38 from school, notice a missed all from a weird number (the delivery people) on my phone. Open my mailbox. What is in the mailbox? A MISSED DELIVERY SLIP. AN HOUR AND A HALF BEFORE MY WINDOW EVEN STARTS. I go upstairs, blood starting to boil at this point. I open the door. Guess what’s not blinking? Not alerting me of a missed visitor? MY CREEPER DOORBELL WHICH FLASHES OBNOXIOUSLY AND TAKES STALKER PHOTOS OF THE PEOPLE WHO RING MY DOORBELL. THEY DIDN’T EVEN GO UPSTAIRS TO MY DOOR TO TRY TO DELIVER IT. My blood was at that point beyond just boiling and was completely spilling over the sides of my hypothetical pot. I then proceeded to spent about an hour googling how to make an online account for this delivery service because my last phone call in Japanese for my couch delivery was a total disaster, and finally rescheduled the delivery for the next day between 12 and 2. Thankfully they came right smack in the middle of this day’s window, but when I take a Friday off, I generally don’t like spending it waiting all morning for a delivery that should have been made the previous day when I could have been out doing other things.
  16. A Halloween party!
    • This was the same day as the off-day I took waiting on the kotatsu, and I spent much of it debating whether I wanted to actually go. I did, and ended up using my cat Mardi Gras mask as a costume because I’m lazy, and had more fun than I thought I would. This international bar that the party was at wasn’t really doing the “bar” thing right (They had a one-by-one line), but it was still fun. This random middle aged guy (that my friend had actually met at Costco the previous week, though this guy, who we will call Not-Costco, did not remember until an hour later) started talking to us, and then Not-Costco bought us martinis (too strong for me personally) and awkwardly talked with us for the next hour. Then Not-Costco went on his merry way and two Japanese guys swooped in and started talking to us. We exchanged Line IDs. Then a different Japanese guy came over. Then the original two swooped in again when he left. Apparently we screamed, “random dudes come talk to us!” for some reason?
  17. My laptop broke!
    • Upon coming home from Halloween party, I open my laptop to find this:file_0023-copy
    • After a full 24 hours of struggle with no immediate solution and several people’s help (Josh, Adam, Rebecca, wonderful Neighbor Steve who fixed it for good–THANK YOU EVERYONE), I kinda-sorta-not really fixed it. Basically, my computer kept looping back to this screen-the “infinite automatic repair loop,” and no matter which option I chose I could not access my desktop. Magical, knowledgable Steve worked his magic and helped me reset my computer, which was the only thing that worked. My documents were salvaged, but all of my apps, settings, extra programs, games, music are gone. Microsoft Office also won’t let me download Office on this laptop without upgrading to  Home membership for $99 because my tablet is now conveniently classified as a PC and I am only allowed to have one PC on the personal plan. YAY. -_-
  18. I hit my head on a frying pan.
  19. Diallo’s visit
    • My friend from middle school, who conveniently started JET as a CIR the same year as me, came to visit and we had a lovey day of eating vegetarian food, going up the obsevation deck by city hall, and going to Kobe Animal Kingdom (round 2 for me)! Thank you for visiting, Diallo! 🙂
  20. Christmas Plans
    • I don’t want to get on an overseas airplane for a VERY long time. I physically did not handle the flight over here well. I felt sick. I ached everywhere. I was super dehydrated the whole time no matter how much I drank. I only managed to sleep for one hour out of the fourteen hours of that flight. I spent most of the time staring at the flight map screen wondering, “Are we out of Texas yet?” “Are we out of Nevada yet?” “Are we out of California yet?” “Are we out of the U.S. yet?” “Are we at least halfway over the Pacific yet?” “PLEASE GOD ARE WE ALMOST THERE YET?”
    • Needless to say, I want to wait until a sufficient amount of time has passed before I try to go home. Maybe next summer I’ll give it a whirl. Maybe. But in lieu of going home for Christmas, and since apparently all of my friends who are staying will be occupied with parents/boyfriends/girlfriends/whoever, I decided I’m just gonna go somewhere. I can’t go to the Snow Festival in February because I don’t have any holidays lined up that week, so I’m going to go on the Great Northern Japanese Excursion for Christmas instead. Hokkaido, Aomori, and whatever else I can hit up in a two week period.

Phew. I think that’s all. I will try my best to not wait a whole month to post the next time something happens. I should really try to aim for short and sweet more frequently instead of novels once in a blue moon. But until next time everyone, and I hope you have a good evening! Morning? Whatever?

またね!

-Erin