A Day at Akeno Junior High School

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Ohisashiburi!

Yeah, I haven’t posted in a long time and yet there are over 1,000 views for this blog???

I figured maybe some of you out there are looking up JET blogs because you’re in application process and maybe just had your interview and are looking for things to get excited about like I was at this time last year.

So, I thought I’d start posting more and begin with this look into my daily life at my junior high school in Akeno, Hokuto City, Yamanashi prefecture.

This is my school, photo courtesy of the school homepage (which, I’m sorry, looks like something from 2001).  It’s a super nice school inside with lots of wood everywhere.  Okay, here’s my day-in-the-life.

6:30-7:30     Wake up and shower, get dressed, dry hair, apply the minimal-est of makeup (I just don’t like wearing much), maybe grab a bite to eat and head out the door.  Lately, since it’s cold, I set the timer on my kerosene heater to turn on 15 minutes before I get home.

7:35-8:10     I try to get to school by 8:10, when the first bell rings.  I have to be present for the 8:15 staff meeting.

8:15-8:20     Morning staff meeting.  We all say ohayou gozaimasu and kouchou-sensei (the principal), kyoutou-sensei (vice-principal), and F-sensei (the head teacher/curriculum guy) give everyone any announcements for the day.  Then other teachers can share stuff if they need to.

8:30-8:40 Homeroom.  All of the grades have homeroom which I haven’t gone to, so I’m not sure what all they do but I assume it’s sharing announcements about the day and upcoming stuff.  I usually take this time to do my prep work for class.

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This is my school schedule that I translated when I first started.  As you can see, we have first through fourth periods starting 8:45 and going until 12:35 with ten minutes between each class.  I’m usually starving by lunch time.

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This is next week’s schedule.  I’m hoping there’s nothing too private on here.  The schedule generally stays the same every week.  Yes, this looks insane, but it’s actually not.  Starting from the left, we have the dates and days of the week, including Saturday and Sunday (not shown) because a lot of events happen during the weekend like competitions and practices and such.

The next column is any changes in the schedule and why the times are changed or if something is happening during the school day.  I try to keep up with this because sometimes fifth and sixth periods are shorter because the school day is shorter.  But I rarely have class after lunch, so it’s not something I constantly worry about.

The middle column is the most important with the daily class schedules.  It changes every day, yet every week is pretty much the same.  I’m at junior high on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, hence why every grade has English on those days.  I circled my classes (I do this every time I get a schedule) so I can see when I have them.  Surprisingly, next Tuesday, the ni-nensei (8th graders) don’t have English because something is going on.

EDIT: I started this post on Friday and I came in to work today to find a new schedule on my desk for this week.  The ni-nensei are back to having English on Tuesday, just at a different time.

The last column is any big events going on like someone will be gone to a conference or PTA meetings or things that don’t affect the schedule but will be happening.

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This is the san-nensei (9th grade) classroom.  All of the classrooms look like this.  We actually have two classrooms for each grade, but because we have less than 40 students per grade, we have one class per grade.  That means we have roughly 35 or more kids in each grade.  It’s exhausting!

I usually put my stuff on that little teacher’s desk in left corner of the room and generally stand there during class when I’m not doing something.

Here’s how English class goes.

I, my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English), and the part-time JTE all come in to class.  We have aisatsu (greetings) where the kids stand up, bow, and say hello to all of us.  For some reason, the san-nensei (third years) don’t say hello until I say hello whereas the other two grades greet us all by name first.  Maybe this is what they’ve been used to?

Next we do a warm up.  My JTE has a worksheet where the students fill out how they are, the day’s weather, and the date.  When I first started, that’s all the students would do, but then my JTE started having me write questions for them to answer.  Before the end of the semester, we transitioned to having answers, and the students had to make up questions.  Now we have conversations and they have to write what the next part of the conversation could be.  It’s good to have because it gets them thinking and creating their own sentences.  The more they do this, the more they’ll learn.

So after the students write down their answers, we’ll ask for volunteers and write their answers on the board, then have everyone repeat the answers (reading practice!).

Then it’s time for actual class!  This depends entirely on what page we are on in the book.

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We used the Sunshine textbook series.  This is the san-nensei textbook.  I’ve heard this may change for the next school year…or we might just get a new version of this book.

So, usually in English class, we read the passages, my JTE translates them and explains the nouns and verbs and other things.  We practice reading and practice the vocabulary, and the students sometimes have to make their own conversations and sentences.  We have such large classes that they usually have to do pair work with their desk buddies.  We rarely have them do group work because it takes awhile for them to focus.  They’re middle schoolers, after all.  When they answer a question, too, I help hand out participation points in the form of stickers or stamps.  I try to find fun ones that they like or make silly ones that make the students laugh.

When the bell rings, we do aisatsu again and say “bye” or “see you.”  In between classes is when I can talk to the kids, but honestly, it’s difficult sometimes because a.) I have to speak in Japanese and my speaking ability is…meh, and b.) I don’t want to make the kids have more English time when they’re supposed to be getting ready for the next class which often means starting their homework ten minutes before.

However, my first years love speaking English with me, so we usually have a five-minute impromptu English exchange after class.  I’m hoping to start an English talking time during afternoon break with this next school year.

So what do I do during downtime?  After all, I don’t have classes every period.  Some things I do:

  • study Japanese/complete my JET Japanese coursework
  • make stickers to hand out during class for participation points
  • write down stuff to get done that day
  • write the warm-ups for each grade (I wait until the day of class to do these)
  • plan lessons for elementary school and make materials
  • make stuff for my English bulletin board
  • write letters to students who write to me
  • occasionally tutor some of the special needs students in English
  • translate drama subtitles (just being honest here)

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4:30 – Quitting time!  Normally I don’t have to stay past 4:30 because I don’t have that much work.  The few times I had to stay over were during speech contest time when I was helping my students with their speeches.  Occasionally I stay over ten or fifteen minutes if I’m finishing something.  No one minds, but I never feel comfortable leaving before 4:30 unless kyoutou-sensei or kouchou-sensei says I can leave early.

Some of you out there might be wondering about clubs and stuff.  Well, coming in mid-year is hard because the clubs have been established and they’re doing competitions and things once second semester starts.  I’m hoping to do some stuff with the volleyball club in the next school year since my JTE is also the club adviser.

We’re a very small school, so we don’t have many clubs.  The students also have a lot of stuff to do.  Like a lot.  Like it’s sometimes ridiculous what all they have to do in addition to studying.  But that’s often the way it goes in middle school.  As much as I would like to start an English club, there just may not be a lot of interest and the school may not want me to add on to what the students are already doing.  I think this is an ESID situation where you should feel out how your school is, what they want you to do, etc.  And if you’re interested in going to a club or starting a club, you can always ask!  The worst they can say is no, and it will show that you want to be more involved in with your school.

For elementary school, it’s been a little different.  I’m not always there when they have club time, but when I am, I try to go to club time and do stuff with the kids.  At first, I was invited by the teachers, but now I do it myself.  Again, I’m planning to get more involved in the club activities and maybe even ask about starting a once-a-month English club at one of my elementary schools.

But that’s my general school life so far.  At the moment, I don’t do much besides helping to teach English, but the school year is almost over.  A new one will begin, and I hope to start some new things and get more involved in my schools in general.

Thanks for joining me for this post!  I’ll try to keep this updated more often from now on.

Jaa ne!

Some Thoughts About Middle School and Relationships

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Lately, I’ve been feeling nostalgic.  Maybe it’s working in an actual middle school and trying to unclog fifteen years worth of memories to remember what it felt like to be that age.

Honestly, middle school was terrible.  Is it ever good for anyone?  That’s the time when kids become terrible because they’re trying to be cool and going through all of the hormonal changes, which just makes them all terrible people for a few years.  I was bullied in seventh grade but things got a little better in eighth grade.  Then I was free to go to high school, yay!

Eighth grade was probably my defining year.  I changed a lot that year and went from being obsessed with Titanic to being obsessed with Harry Potter…and Beanie Babies, but I don’t talk about that.  The summer between my eighth and ninth grade year was the first time I ever became seriously obsessed over a boy.

Nobody really knows this.  I honestly don’t think I ever told anyone outside of the Internet that existed at that time.  For some reason, at the beginning of that summer, I became obsessed with a young Canadian actor named Ben Cook.  It makes me laugh really hard now because things are so different and I’m different.  If any of you grew up in the late 90’s/early 2000’s and are from Canada or watched Fox Family a lot, then you know what I’m talking about.

I’m not sure what happened, even to this day, that made me so obsessed with him.  I watched a kind of crappy adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Men that had him in it, and it hit me like WOW.  Who was this adorable ruffian with eyes like the sea after a storm?  The Internet sucked in terms of information back then, but I did my best, darn it, to find out everything I could about him.

And that summer was sort of…wasted.  I mean, I was 14 years old.  I had just got out of the prison of middle school and didn’t want to think about high school just yet.  I was going through all of the early teen emotions and Lizzie McGuire just GOT what I was going through, you know?  I became a slave to my emotions.  I sat around, dreaming about this random boy and what would happen if he somehow moved to Kentucky and we became friends and then something more…

Yes, that’s exactly what happened.  I am not making any of this up, and writing this now, I really wish I was because it’s sort of embarrassing.  Ben, if you’re out there reading this, you had a huge fan back in the day.  I’m so sorry.

Getting back to now, I’ve been nostalgic, thinking back to that time, listening to music I listened to back then.  There was one song I loved (it was a country song because I listened to a lot of country back then) called “Grow Young With You” by Coley McCabe featuring Andy Griggs.  I think it was on the Where the Heart Is soundtrack.  WHY DO I KNOW THESE THINGS?  This particular song defines that point in my life.  All of those feelings came flooding back when I listened to it on YouTube just now.  I felt like a 9th grader all over again.

Back then, I dreamed of finding a cute, nice, funny boy that would somehow appear and we’d become friends and then gradually it would become more before sharing our first kiss one day in the rain.  I dreamed of countless times, and of course, it didn’t happen.  I wrote a lot of one page love stories back then.

I think part of me still wants that.  I think that’s why relationships are hard for me.  That’s why “dating” and the concept of it is hard for me.  Because I’m still waiting for that cute, nice, funny boy to appear so we can become friends and then more than friends and have our first kiss in the rain.

But on the other hand, I’m not.  I’m not waiting around for a boy like I did back then.  I’m not waiting for adventure to find me, I’m seeking it.  I’m here in a country that, fifteen years ago, I knew almost nothing about.  Middle School Laura would probably freak out if she knew I was here and be all, “Japan?  Why Japan???  Are you into Pokemon now??????”

Having a love interest isn’t as important to me now as it was back then.

What’s important is that I’m here, doing something.

The Little Things Keep Me Sane

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It’s been another while since I’ve posted (or maybe not, I’m not really sure).  But life continues on here in the mountains of Yamanashi.  September is almost over, and I’m coming off a long holiday called Silver Week.

I haven’t really been that busy up until the past week.  The weekend before last was the middle school’s culture festival and sports day.  I made the mistake of showing up to culture day in my sports day gear and all but begged the principal to let me go home and change.  He and the vice-principal both told me my clothes were fine, but I was not about to be in front of parents looking like that.

Still, Culture Day went very well, and I got to see the stage plays on which all three classes have been working very hard.  Plus, they put out their art projects and essays and things they’ve built and it amazes me what these kids are capable of.  These are the kids that, if they were taught maybe a few more critical thinking skills, could do amazing things and go anywhere they wanted to go.

Then we had sports day, and that was super fun to watch.  The kids got so into it!  Instead of pitting each year against the others, the school divided everyone into four color teams, which seemed much more fair.  I was also asked to run in the PTA Relay Race where the vice-principal purposely told us not to win (even now I don’t know if he was joking or not).

The best part of the whole experience, for me, was seeing the kids outside of class.  I got to see them as people, not just as students.  And some of them actually talked to me!  It’s getting better with every day, even though most of the time I feel awkward about…everything.

Last Friday night was my welcome party/the party to celebrate the school festival being over.  I think I made a pretty good impression with my Japanese speech, but then, people had been drinking, too.  Overall, I hope they can accept me as part of the school.  It’s still early days, but I’m hopeful.

Saturday was sports day at one of my elementary schools, and it was fun to watch, but it was probably one of the worst days I’ve had here so far.  Simply because I was treated like a guest.  I wanted to help in some way, but there wasn’t anything for me to do.  Then we went to the after-party dinner (and I wasn’t feeling up to it), where I had a pretty good time.  I think everyone realized that I wanted to help and wanted to be part of that school, too.

One reason I didn’t want to be out on Saturday night was that Sunday I had to get up early to catch a train to Osaka.  I kind of wish now I hadn’t gone.  I think I was overly tired plus I don’t like traveling in small groups.  I prefer to travel alone or with a large group.  Despite that, I got to see my wonderful Nashville JET friends Megan, Logan, and Sabrina.  I hung out with Megan and her husband Josh and we went to Osaka Castle and Dotombori.  Sabrina said she may come to Yamanashi in October for the Paul Rusch Festival, and I really hope she does!

After we got back from Osaka, I needed time and space to myself, so I spent all of yesterday’s day off at home.  I never left the house once.  I did a ton of laundry, made some food, Skyped with my parents, watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for the thousandth time, and just enjoyed the quiet and the rain.

But today I am back at school, and the kids have tests all day.  I get to help with the listening portions of the exam but otherwise, I am desk-warming all day.  Still, when I came in, the school nurse told me the girl that’s usually in her office asked about me yesterday.  She wants to talk more.  The students are gradually warming to me and talking me a little more.  I’m fine at the elementary school, but here it’s a little more complicated since the kids are in that weird stage of the beginning of adolescence.

I had a student smile at me today before their English exam.  Some students have taken to saying “hello, hello” just randomly.  It’s these little things that I’m holding on to.  Despite any problems I have with friends or just in Japan in general, I feel like the kids make it worth it.  Maybe it’s that I worked at the Academy for five years and know what it’s like to be more than just a teacher.  The small accomplishments of a kid telling you about something they did yesterday or even just asking you about something are wonderful.

So if any future JETs out there are reading this and feeling like maybe they’re not making a difference or feeling like they’re useless, try to hold on to the small things.  Remember, ultimately, you’re here for the kids.  They may not love English, but maybe you can help them enjoy it in some way or at least give them someone to talk to about random things.  Consider each time they talk to you a win.  Consider every smile a win.  Consider every time a kid’s like “Oh, THAT’S what it means in English,” that’s a win.

The little things keep me sane.

When Culture Shock ATTACKS

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It’s Monday, and I’m back at my middle school.

This morning when I came in, all of the kids were outside practicing for the upcoming sports day.  Which may or may not be this weekend along with the cultural festival.  I need to ask kyoutou-sensei.

Regardless, we have the school cultural festival this weekend, and everyone is going crazy trying to get ready for it.  Me?  Well, I honestly have no idea what to do besides sit here whenever I’m not in class.  Mostly I’m trying to stay out of the way because everyone seems to know what to do, and I don’t know how or if I can help.  Maybe on Saturday, they’ll be like “Laura, can you do this?” and I’ll be like “I’m on it.”

All of this reminds me of being at Gatton and all of the activities we used to do.  It was tough my first year because I had no idea what I was doing, but after five years I was pretty confident in how to plan and execute an activity.  So I’m thinking if I am here next year, I’ll know what to do ahead of time and maybe can ask what I can help with.

I’m feeling more shy at the middle school than at my elementary schools.  Today, especially, I just feel drained.  We had the YETI (Yamanashi English Teachers International) welcome BBQ on Saturday, and that was really fun.  It was good seeing my other fellow incoming JETs and meeting other people, too.  I met some people I had only talked to online before, so that was cool.  Afterwards, we all had a big karaoke party in Kofu and sang terrible songs.  It was a lot of fun.

But then, me and Karla (fellow Hokuto-ite) tried to leave early and missed our train so we had to wait for the last train.  I didn’t get home until about 12:45am.  Yesterday, I stayed at home and chilled.  I ended up napping for three hours which threw off my sleep schedule, so last night I stayed up later and didn’t sleep as well.

Culture Shock is slowly attacking me.  But it’s also not much different from the usual “I’ve been working a whole month, holy crap, when does it end???” adjustment I always have to make at the beginning of every school year.

It’s little things, too.  Just like I’ll randomly miss going shopping at Kroger or sitting on my couch at home.  Or even just the convenience of having everything in English.  There are times I just don’t want to Nihongo.  Or rather, times I want to understand everything so I don’t miss anything.

But none of this means I’m ready to turn tail and run.  It’s been challenging sometimes, but I am having fun.  I miss my friends and family a lot, but I’m thankful we have Facebook and Skype and all of the lovely social media to keep us in touch.

I think, even though I’m experiencing some culture shock, it’s been slow and steady and mixed with the general stuff of getting used to a new year and a new routine.  I’m sure it’ll get better in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, I’m already booking my flight home for winter break.  Yes, I’m already thinking about it because right now flights are super cheap so I need to get on that ASAP.  I’m pretty sure our school is open even on Christmas, but I am definitely taking vacation days if I can.

About half an hour until my ONLY class of the day.  Yes, I have ONE class today because of cultural festival practice.  Oh, well, them’s the breaks.

Just Another Day at the Chuugakkou

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おひさしぶり!

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated.  Well, since before I left, actually.  I’ll give everyone the Cliffnotes version of what’s happened in the month since I came to Japan.

  • I said goodbye to my family and my friend Sue (who kindly drove me to Nashville for Pre-Departure Orientation with as few tears as possible.
  • Had a fun time at Pre-Departure talking with everyone whom I’d only talked to over Facebook and the Internet before.
  • We had a super nice dinner at the Consul-General’s house. Super nice.
  • Only the way to the hotel, we got lost in Nashville and our bus ended up stranded somewhere downtown.  Thankfully, we had resourceful people with us who called taxi vans to take us to the hotel.
  • Departure was exhausting.  For me, the flight to Japan was probably my worst yet.  I don’t know what it was, but I was just on edge the whole time.
  • But I got to Japan!
  • And CLAIR (that runs JET) made getting through the airport super easy.

Tokyo Orientation

  • I roomed with two people from Nashville (yay!)
  • Orientation was pretty good, in my opinion.  Things have changed, apparently, since CLAIR now runs orientation.  But overall, I found it helpful.  It wasn’t much different than any other staff training I’ve had.
  • The last night there, I went out with my Nashville peeps, and we had a super fun time.
  • I found an Ouroboros shooting location purely by accident and went super fangirl until we left.
  • Had to say goodbye for now to everyone. *sniffle*
  • Departed for Yamanashi with the other JETs.

I feel like JET is divided into two major phases: everything that happens before you get to your placement and everything that happens afterward.  When you get to your placement, that’s when your life in Japan really begins.

I’ll write more details later or maybe even finally make videos, but for now, let’s skip to today.

Right now, I’m at my main school, the junior high school.  And I just had the most awkward lunch with the first years.  It was 不器用(ぶきよう)to say the least.  They barely said a word to me.  I asked them if my predecessor had ever eaten lunch with them.  They said no.  So now I’m rethinking eating with the students.  At least for now.  Maybe when the new school year starts and I get a fresh batch of kids from the elementary school that will know me, then I’ll eat lunch with them.

So what happens at school?  I get to school around 8:00am and look at any papers are on my desk and translate some stuff to see if it’s relevant to me.  Then at 8:15, we have a short staff meeting.  It’s all in proper Japanese, so I can only understand a bit of it, but my vice-principal aka kyouto-sensei speaks English, so either he or my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) tell me if anything is going on.  Like today, my JTE asked me if I could come to the welcome party in September.

After that, my schedule changes daily.  But thankfully, this school seems on top of it.  I have the schedule for the rest of the year, but since people have unexpected meetings that come up, the schedule usually changes.  That’s okay with me.  As long as I know which class I’m with on what day.

Today was my first real day of class (not counting my self-intro classes last week).  I’ll be honest.  I’m a glorified tape recorder.  I’m the Pronouncer of All That Is English.  But I don’t really mind.  It’s not my job to “teach” per se.  I’m the assistant.  We also have another assistant who is Japanese and speaks some English and is super sweet (she just got back from Kentucky, too!) because we have large classes at this school.  My job is to assist with whatever the English teacher needs me to do.  Am I really needed…? Meh, probably not.  But I’m here if someone needs me.

Plus, there are some kids in class that are REALLY good at English.  Even the noisy ones are usually the ones who try and are good at English.  There’s this one kid in the third year class who always knows the answer and tries hard and always has a better answer than what’s required.  I’m already fiercely protective of him.  I hope he goes on to learn ALL the English.

Right now, I don’t have any classes.  I’m at my desk, desk-warming and writing this blog.  I have junior high again tomorrow.  On Wednesdays, I go to the elementary school beside this school.  Then on Thursdays, I go to another elementary school.  Honestly, my Thursday school is my favorite so far because they are precious baby cinnamon rolls too good for this world and have NOT mistaken me for my predecessor.  Plus the teachers are super awesome and sweet and the principal aka kouchou-sensei always has food for us for morning break.  Because he is awesome…and I usually don’t get to eat breakfast so this is awesome.

Here in awhile, I’ll go into the nurse’s office because the nurse here is super sweet and speaks some English.  I usually go to chat and help this one little first year girl with English one-on-one.  It’s fun, and I actually feel like I’m helping someone.

It’s still early days yet.  The kids will get used to me.  Plus, they’re in junior high.  That’s the WORST age.  They all want to be cool, but they’re not.  I honestly don’t think having high school students would have been any better for me.

Anyway, until next time!

Well…

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So I’m sitting in my room, and it’s 1:35am…and it occurs to me that, much like 10th Doctor…

…I don’t want to go.

But, also like 10th Doctor, it’s not truly saying goodbye.  It’s regenerating into another person.  The same person yet different at the same time.

I’ve been milliseconds away from tears the past couple of days saying goodbye to the kids, my aunt, and my grandma.  And tomorrow, I’m going to ugly cry as I say goodbye to my parents.

Of course, it’s not really “goodbye.”  We have Skype–which we finally got to completely work on the computer tonight so we can hear AND see each other!–and Facebook.  And I’m planning to come home for Christmas break when I figure out when that is.

But it’s goodbye in person.  It’ll be awhile before I can hug them.  That’s gonna be tough sometimes.

It also occurs to me, sitting here, that I do want to go.  I want to go for Younger Me’s sake.  See, several years ago when I was still in college, I had horrible social anxiety.  I would go to class and occasionally go hang out with a friend (the few I had), but otherwise I would sit in my dorm room watching TV and hanging out on the Internet, wondering why I couldn’t make myself get out and be a little bit more social.  I wanted to be social.  I just didn’t know how.  I wanted to do things and travel.  I wanted to be different than I was…but it was hard.

After I graduated, I got a full-time job at Gatton, and that helped me be more social.  It made me get out of comfort zone on so many levels.  It helped me talk to people and better communicate with them.  I realized that I while I loved my students and working with them, I wanted to go to Japan.

Now I have that opportunity.  I have something about which some people dream and work toward.  And I know that if I didn’t take this opportunity, I would definitely regret it.

So, while I am sad for the moment, I know it won’t be forever.  Life isn’t one continuous thing forever and then we die.  It’s a bunch of little phases that connect together.  This is a new phase, and when it’s over, I want to look back on it and think, “Wow, I had an awesome time.  That was a great experience, and I’m really glad I did it.”

Younger Me, we did it.

It’s Crunch Time

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I seriously almost forgot I still have this blog.  And here I am wanting to make a YouTube channel, too.  I don’t even know what’s wrong with me.

Oh yeah, I do.

I’M GOING TO JAPAN SOON.

communitypanic

itcrowdfire

Those were the most accurate representations of how I feel right now.

I think many other people are feeling this way, but everyone’s sort of keeping it to themselves while I’m over here like “I’m panicking, are you panicking? You’re not panicking? WHY AREN’T YOU PANICKING?” when they really are.

Okay, okay.  I’m not full-on PANICKING or anything.  But I am having emotions and feels and things I don’t want to deal with, and yet I have to deal with them.  Strangely, I’m not that worried about what will happen once I get there.  I’m more feeling like I’m not sure if I want this part of my life to be over yet.  As someone once said, all change involves pain.  Big changes sometimes involve big pain.

I just keep trying to remind myself that I am planning to come home for winter break, and I may decide not to stay another year.  I feel this approach works.  This is how I’ve been living my life since I graduated high school, and it’s worked out so far for me.

So, updates on JET stuff.

– I bought a crap ton of omiyage on Monday for my principals, vice-principals, and teachers.  Almost everything is edible.  If that’s one thing JET teaches you, it’s BUY EDIBLE OMIYAGE.  I also went to a local state park where there’s a gift shop and found some cool stuff I can give as gifts or show my students.

When I told the lady who runs the gift shop my purpose for buying things, she proceeded to load me down with some pamphlets, booklets, and coloring books about southern Kentucky.

See, children, southern Kentucky is different than northern Kentucky.  When I said this, the lady looked at me and said, “I know, right?”  Good to know someone is on the same wavelength.

– Bought everything else I needed i.e. toiletries to keep me good for a couple of months.  I’m one of these people that has weird toiletry needs like enamel toothpaste and special shampoo because I have a form of dermatitis on my scalp that affects mostly older men and babies.

JETlings, don’t be afraid to bring your own stuff for awhile.  Especially if you really need it.  I’m hoping while I’m using up what I have, I can find suitable alternatives for most things.

And if not, I’ll be living an hour away from Costco.

– Forgot indoor shoes.  I’m just going to buy a new pair of black flats.  I wear black flats for everything.  Got to go Thursday and get these.

– My parents will be using my old laptop with a working webcam on it, so I replaced the casing on it.  That was FUN.  I’m not even being sarcastic.  I didn’t realize that some things actually plugged into the case itself, so it was kind of fun taking it all apart and very carefully replacing everything and the screws.

The broken case is gone, but the software remains a mess.  Something to do tomorrow.

– State background check came in.  So I am cleared for landing…in Japan.

– My friend/JET sempai/new neighbor Geneva told me today that my new apartment is being cleaned out today.  THEY ARE PREPARING FOR MY ARRIVAL.

– I decided to buy some stuff from my predecessor.  I’m buying her bike (which is red and super cute and I’m really excited about it), kitchen stuff that includes rice cooker and oven, a 27-inch monitor (makeshift TV), and electric heater for $270.  I was going to buy her desk, too, but the girl moving into her apartment asked for it first.  That’s okay, I can live without a desk for awhile.

Now I just have to pay her…somehow…Paypal?  Haha, I don’t have money.

money

A few more days.  I really cannot think about it.  Denial is my friend.

But it’s nice knowing there’s a huge group of people all over the world that are having these same emotions.  And all the current JETs are like “Babies, ya’ll need to calm down.”

Future JETlings, please know that it’s okay to feel this way.  It’s okay to be super excited and ready for this new adventure.  It’s okay to be freaking out and hyperventilating and pulling the covers of your bed over your head to block out the world.  Eventually, though, we have to get on that plane and go to the new places in our lives.  And it’s going to be okay.  After all, we’re going on an adventure…

adventure

I’m Pretty But Tough, Like a Diamond…Or Beef Jerky in a Ballgown…

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Updated the blog to seem more LEGIT.

Wurd.

For realsies, though, I added a sidebar with some social media links, a tag cloud, an Instagram feed thingie…

I’m turning into a BLOGGER.

Ahem, anyway.  Some updates in JET-land.  I have two weeks until Pre-Departure Oriententation, and, well, leaving.  I am trying not to freak out and to be excited and remember all of the reasons I want to go Japan, but sometimes I can’t help it.  The freak out creeps in around the edges like a shadow.  It comes to me at night before I go to sleep and makes me sad.

I think this is normal.  A lot of people go through this.  It’s a huge life change.  I think I’d be going through the same thing if I had to move to another state in America, which would have been my backup plan if I hadn’t gotten into JET.

My advice to current and future JETs is, if you start feeling this way, try to remember all of the awesome things you love about Japan.  I made a list this morning of everything I’ll be able to do and see and experience.  It was actually pretty helpful.

I talked to my pred, and she understands about not being able to afford her car.  I don’t think she’s happy about it (I guess I wouldn’t be, either), but she does understand.  It’s also harder on both of us that I’m not getting her apartment.  So if she wants to sell anything to me, she’ll have to move it to the new apartment.  She’s still up in the air about that.

I’ve bought pretty much everything I need to take with me to Japan.  Still have omiyage and a pair of indoor shoes to get, but otherwise, I’m good.

My state background check went through, so I’m cleared to go!

I actually got another email from my supervisor last night telling me I have an apartment in northern Hokuto (which I knew, thanks to Geneva) and that he was sending me a schedule for when I arrive in Hokuto.  An actual SCHEDULE.

According to the schedule, the first day, I’ll go get registered at City Hall and get my hanko (personal seal you use for paperwork, etc.), open my bank account, and get a cellphone.  Then it’s off to meet the Superintendent for the Board of Education.  Finally, I get to go to my apartment…but that’s it…so I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do for sleeping.  Hoping Geneva, who is my neighbor, friend, and official JET sempai will help me with that.  The next day, I’m supposed to visit my schools and probably meet the principals.

Geneva said she’s supposed to take me and the other new girl to some places around Yamanashi, so that’s exciting! I really want to see the sunflower field in Hokuto, walk the streets of Kiyosato, go hiking through the Beautiful Forest, and just see as much as possible.

14 days…

*breathes* I can do this…

Note to self: buy new flumpool single at Tower Records in Tokyo

JET Ready, JET Set, GO! Series: The JET Application

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Couldn’t resist the title.

First of all, I changed up the look of my blog so I could include a picture of a sunflower field from Yamanashi.  I’m sure the look will change again once I get to Japan.

But I thought I would start talking about the whole JET application process and how my own experience went.  This will be the first entry in a series I’m starting call “JET Ready, JET Set, Go!” where I’ll talk about applying to JET from the application all the way to getting to your placement (which I have yet to do).

Continue reading

Four Weeks and Counting…*starts hyperventilating*

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Okay, so.

Oh my gosh.

I’ve got four weeks left.  I can’t even put a number on it right now. Any time I think about it, I start freaking out inside.  It’s only going to get worse.

I know things will be fine.  They will be fine.  But there’s so much to do, and I’m going to miss my bed and my parents and America (even if it is a crappy nation sometimes).

So I finally got pretty much all of my information now.  It’s always right after I get super stressed out about it that I finally hear stuff.  So yay, I guess?  My potential predecessor is actually my predecessor.  It’s confirmed that I’m taking over for her and have three schools–two elementary and one junior high school.  I know the names of the schools and also that one elementary school is right next to the junior high school.  It’ll be at least a half hour commute every day.

The apartment I thought I was getting next to my friend Sara, aka my pred’s apartment, will not actually be mine.  This isn’t confirmed, but my pred heard that the other JET coming in with me will have her apartment.  So I’ll probably get the empty apartment next to my friend Geneva, which is more north in Kiyosato.

I’m actually kind of excited about this.  Basically, I’ll be getting a new apartment that probably will be furnished with a fridge, washing machine, and stove.  So those won’t have to be bought.  Everything else will have to be bought.

My pred wants to sell all of her stuff, but I can’t afford it.  Plus, I don’t want to buy everything.  I want to get my own stuff and make the apartment my own.  That way it can feel more like home.  Geneva also said I could borrow some things until I get my own.

You know, when I first applied for JET, I wanted Saitama so I would be so near my friends and would have to be more independent.  But now I’m really glad I’m near them.  It’ll make the transition a lot easier.  Plus, Geneva and I are probably going to split Internet. BONUS!

I’m also talking to the English-speaking mechanic in Yamanashi about buying a car.  He’s been very helpful, and he sent me some car options in my price range.  There’s one that’s around $1100 and doesn’t need insurance renewal until next October.  It’s a smaller car, but it’ll be something I can get around in.  We’ll see what the options are when I get there.

Not much else to report on this end.  Started buying stickers for my students this weekend.  I’ve got to work on omiyage and the rest of the stuff I need before I leave.

Plus, I still haven’t finished subbing Algernon.  I’m such a procrastinator…