The Literal Jet Coaster

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When they said JET would be like a roller coaster…they were not lying.

It’s been very up and down for me the past month or so.  I’ve gone through a roller coaster of emotions and situations and right now, I’m just stressing so much about it.

So here’s what’s been going on.

1.) I got one email from my supervisor saying they were some sending me some papers.  I should confirm when I got them.

2.) Those papers came in the mail last Monday while I was in Bowling Green hanging out with a a friend.  I was so excited to look at them because I was sure all of my answers would be in those papers.  Surely I’d get a nice package of information about Yamanashi along with my contract, my pred’s name, and where I’d be living, right?

3.) Nope.

4.) I did get my contract and some very general information about being an ALT.  But the only useful information in that packet was that my accommodation would be approximately 20 minutes away from my school.

5.) After a week of asking my friends and find asking the girl I thought might be my pred, I’ve found out the following things:

  • Most likely my potential pred is my actual pred.  There are only two people leaving from there, a guy and a girl.  At first, the guy was my pred. But now SHE’s my pred.  But it’s still not confirmed until she gets the documentation.
  • The guy lives in a house, and the girl lives in an apartment.  The guy’s landlady is giving the house to her daughter after he moves out.  Meaning they have to find a new apartment for the incoming JET.
  • I am not getting my pred’s apartment.
  • According to my friends, the BOE is slowly moving JETs to teacher housing, meaning everyone stays in the same building.  There’s one open apartment next to one of my friends, but it’s northeast of where I thought I would be and a good 10-20 minutes farther away from my schools.
  • I will probably be getting this apartment.
  • NOTHING COMES WITH THIS APARTMENT BECAUSE IT’S NEW.  As in, probably not even a washing machine or a fridge or TV or anything.
  • My pred has been charged with moving her stuff to the new apartment, as in, whatever I choose to buy from her, she will have to move it to the new apartment before she leaves.  The same goes for the guy.  He has to move the stuff from his house to HER apartment.
  • Because HIS successor is taking HER apartment.
  • The whole reason for this shuffle is because the house is being taken.  Also, my pred’s apartment would actually be closer to guy’s schools whereas my potential apartment would be way farther away.
  • Basically, putting us this way means it’s an equal commute for both of us.

6.) My pred wants $4000 for all of her stuff, including her car.  I…I just cannot…

7.) I seriously can’t.  I cannot afford that.  I asked her how much just car would be, and she said $3000.  I can’t even afford that.  She’s trying to tell me that it’ll be hard to find a car in that area in good condition that doesn’t need the insurance or shakken updated soon.  But according to my two friends, you can find a decent car for cheaper than that.  If I paid $3000, it would be over 36,0000 yen.  It would work out in HER favor.

8.) Also, I don’t feel like the rest of her stuff is worth $1000.  My friends say I can replace everything for $500.

9.) My pred wants to know ASAP if I want anything, though.  On one hand, I get it.  She only has a month to sell all of her stuff.  On the other hand, REALLY?  There’s no way I can afford that.

So, this situation isn’t ideal.  I haven’t heard a single thing since I got those papers and have had to be proactive myself and find this information out.  I’ve found out that sometimes that’s what you have to do on JET.

On the brighter side, my friends are helping me a lot.  I feel kind of bad hitting them with so many questions, but this kind of stuff requires help.  And they get it.  They were in the same position a year or so ago.  My friend who I will probably be moving next to said I could borrow some stuff from her until I can buy my own stuff.  Which is SUPER nice of her, and she seriously doesn’t have to do that.  At least one of my friends will be close by.

Plus, even though I have to buy a lot of stuff myself, I’m kind of looking forward to it.  I want to go shopping for home stuff and set up my own apartment.  Buying my pred’s stuff would be easier, but it wouldn’t feel like it was MINE.

This whole experience has been frustrating, but it’s taught me how I want to be when I leave JET.  I want to be a good pred.  I want to be proactive and leave my successor with a crap-ton of information.  I want to talk to them and answer any tiny little questions they’ll have.  I want to be fair about what I’ll leave for them.

I think that’s part of why I chose this username.  I want to be “that girl” on JET.  The girl that cares…maybe a little too much. ^_^

Being a Whiny Little S***

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Okay, take two.

Yes, you guys just escape a whiny rant about how I haven’t heard anything from my CO yet.  I wrote it all out, and the whole time, I knew what I was writing sounded whiny and pathetic.  I mean, there are way worse things going on in the world right now than me having to wait for information.

But when you keep seeing Facebook posts and tumblr entries about people getting Skype calls from their JTE’s or receiving their magical, glittery package of wonderful information, it’s super hard not to be impatient.

Not to mention, I got kinda chewed out but not really by a current JET for not being “inclusive” in our Facebook group and not acknowledging everyone is a JET.  I know that. I’m not stupid.  It just hurt when that JET was like “be inclusive and don’t assume everyone is a JET.”  It’s that kind of thing that makes me want to avoid people.

This is starting to turn into another rant.  I just want to maintain perspective, and I think that’s really important when you’re going through the whole JET acceptance process.  The unofficial slogan of “Every Situation is Different” is absolutely, 100% true.  That’s why you should take everything said with a grain of salt.  Some people will hear from their contracting organizations before others.  Some current JETs might be kind of jerky and try to be negative before you even get there.

But it’s important to take a step back and realize that your situation will be different.  No one can guarantee it will be good, but it won’t be the same as anyone else’s experience.

This is all part of my experience.  It’ll be something I can tell to the new JET’s next year when they start being whiny little shits like me, complaining about not hearing anything.

“Hey, don’t feel bad.  It took me awhile to hear from my CO, too.  But it’s coming, I promise.  You definitely will get there.”

Ohisashiburi! Updates on Life

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Yooooooooooooo!

It’s been awhile since I posted on this blog.  It’s been a month, I guess, since I found out my JET placement.  I can’t say I’ve been busy.  Well, I was for awhile.  I had to move out of the Academy and move back home.  All of the residential staff had to move out regardless of whether or not we’re staying.  The Academy’s expanding, and they’re renovating the building.  So I spent the week after graduation cleaning my wing and packing up the last five years of my life.

It was hard.  I won’t say it wasn’t.  I mean, at first it wasn’t a big deal.  It was mostly annoying that I had so much stuff and didn’t know what to do with it.  But then, the day I moved out, I was finishing cleaning up and suddenly felt overwhelmed with sadness.  I was leaving my second home.  For good.  I can’t say I never will work for Gatton again, but I may never work for them again.  I may never live there again.  I may never even live in Bowling Green again.

It’s also been a little hard transitioning to being at home and not having that second home in BG.  That’s normal, though.  I’m trying to focus on being here and soaking up my last bits of living in Kentucky for awhile.

So, some updates on JET stuff.  I sent in the last of my paperwork to Nashville and got contacted via email by my supervisor.  He seems nice, but he didn’t say much.  It was mostly a welcome email with “we’ll send you a packet of information soon!” stuff.  Other people I know from Nashville or even just the Interwebz are already getting their contracts and info and figuring out their preds, and I’m over here listening to the crickets chirp.

I also signed up to be a blogger on The JET Coaster website!  So I’ll be writing more “official” posts for their websites about preparing for JET and my overall JET experience.

In a couple of weeks, I’m going to the Nashville consulate’s Q and A session which is an all-day thing and starts early in the morning.  Still trying to figure out how I can not have to get up super early in the morning to go to that.

I’ve been researching Yamanashi and looking at lots of pictures.  Trying to get some people to give me more information.  I’ll be honest, I’m a little nervous about the Yamanashi JETs. They’re talking about the welcome party in the September, and there was mention of an overnight camping trip and getting rowdy.  I’m generally an introverted hermit when it comes to social situations, so that sounds like my nightmare.

this is my nightmareBut seriously, I hate being in places where I can’t leave if I want to.

On the other hand, I’m pretty stoked to be going to Yamanashi because there seems to be some pretty cool stuff there.  There’s a huge sunflower field in my city.  There’s a sakura TREE HOUSE for viewing cherry blossoms and tea ceremonies. How awesome is that?!  You can see Mt. Fuji from pretty much anywhere.  They’re famous for peaches and grapes (both of which I love).  Also, I keep seeing pictures of various ramen that people are posting, and it’s just making me want ALL the ramen.

But I am worried about buying a car.  Because I have limited funds.

Okay, I promise to be a better writer next time. I’m feeling kind of funky-brained right now.

Yamanashi, Here I Come!

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So it’s been a few days since I found out, but I got my placement this past week!

hokuto
Ladies and gentlemen, I will be a proud citizen of Hokuto-shi in Yamanashi prefecture.

Yamanashi was my second choice placement, so I’m pretty stoked to get somewhere I actually wanted to go.  Also, my friends Sara and Geneva both live there and are on JET, so we’ll get to be fellow Yamanashians.  Sara said I may even be living in the same teacher housing where she lives.  Um, AWESOME.

I’ve been doing research on Hokuto-shi, and there’s some seriously awesome things there.  Like a huge sunflower field, a gorgeous forest (which calls itself Beautiful Forest, btdubs), and lots of cool festivals.  Not to mention, it won’t be as unbearably hot as the rest of Japan during the summer due to being near mountains.  Apparently, people have summer houses in the Japanese alps.  Who knew?

I haven’t heard from my Contracting Organization or predecessor yet.  They may not have decided where I’ll be hired.  But I do know that only two people in Hokuto-shi are leaving.  So I will either be getting a decent one-person apartment near a good friend or my very own two-bedroom house.  Either way, STOKED.

So you incoming JETs, have you gotten your placements yet?  What are some cool things about that place?  Let me know in the comments!

Just Dropping In…

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A quick post/rant about a recurring theme in my life right now.

People saying, “I bet when you go to Japan, you’ll find a Japanese guy and get married” or some variation thereof.

CAN’T I JUST GO TO JAPAN AND HAVE THE EXPERIENCE OF LIVING AND WORKING THERE WITHOUT THE CULTURAL EXPECTATION TO GET MARRIED AND POP OUT KIDS?

This has been a PSA.

Something I Never Worried About Before

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My name.

Those of you who happen to read this are probably in Japan or know Japanese or going on JET or some combo of these.  You know how Japanese is pronounced, right?

I’ve known all along how my name is pronounced.

Laura Huff is pronounced
ローラ ハーフ or rohra hahfu.

Here’s the problem, though.  It’s something I just started to encounter during my last trip to Japan.

Currently, there’s a model/talento named Rola.  Here’s a picture of her:

rolaShe frequently appears on variety shows and displays a child-like demeanor.  She’s often imitated because she’s kind of ridiculous on TV.  Last time I was in Japan, someone said she was “ditzy.”

Rola is also half-Japanese, and we know how half-Japanese people are sometimes looked at as a marvel in the entertainment world.

So here’s my problem.  If you haven’t noticed already.  Her name is also pronounced ローラ.  But here’s the worse part.  My last name is pronounced ハーフ, which is the same term for someone who is half-Japanese.  Rola is half-Japanese.

Do you see where I’m going with this yet?

MY NAME IS FODDER FOR SO MANY JAPANESE JOKES.

Now, it may not happen that much.  It may even just be marked upon without it becoming a big deal.  And if so, I’ll just laugh, agree with the weird coincidence and move on.

But.

BUT.

I’ve never had to worry about this before.

Anyone else worried about people mispronouncing or maybe making a joke of their name?

That’s Right…ALL THE TEA.

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alltheteaI cannot stop myself from watching Japan apartment tour videos or random videos about DAISO.

I just watched two DAISO videos from gimmeaflakeman on YouTube, and it just makes me want to go buy EVERYTHING at DAISO.  In the food video, I saw the bottles of apple tea and just went bonkers.

Because apple tea.

Seriously, though.  I don’t know about other countries, but in America, we don’t have just apple-flavored tea.  Usually it’s apple-cinnamon tea, which is nice in the fall because of the spices and warm flavor.  But I enjoy just apple-flavored tea which I tried for the first time somewhere in Aomori.  I believe I was leaving Aomori on my way to Sapporo when I saw a vending machine that had apple tea.

If you know anything about Aomori, you know it’s famous for apples.  And yes, they have a LOT of apple products in Aomori.  Try their apple juice once, and all other apple juices will pale in comparison.

So when I saw apple tea, I got really excited.  I’d never had apple-flavored tea before.  It was FANTASTIC.  I was sad to leave northern Japan because the apple tea slowly began to fade from the vending machines.

Seeing these videos makes me even more excited for Japan.  I thought waiting for to hear about an interview was bad.  Then waiting for the result was worse.  But this is driving me crazy.  Because I know I’m going, but I don’t know where.  It could be anywhere in all of Japan.

I’ve been thinking about what’s going to be awesome about living in Japan, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

1.) Cheap Japanese food

My Japanese friend Nana, who is graduating from WKU, has to return to Japan in May because he contract with the school is up.  So she’s been buying omiyage for her friends and family, and one night we met up to look for omiyage and go eat terrible American conveyor-belt sushi.

We talked about what we’re both looking forward to doing when we get there.  Food was a big thing.  Japanese food is SO expensive in America, especially around here where there isn’t a huge Japanese population.  In Japan, you can buy a family-size box of curry for a hundred yen or so (roughly a $1 or $2).  Here, a family-size box of curry costs me $5 at the Asian grocery store.  And they’re actually cheap!

Also 100yen kaitzenzushi (conveyor-belt sushi).  It sounds sketchy, but I’ve been to 100yen sushi, and it’s really nice.

2.) DAISO

Because who doesn’t love cheap and cute crap you probably don’t need but actually do need because it’s ONLY 100 YEN???!!!

I’ve been to DAISO in San Francisco and a few around Japan.  I always want to buy EVERYTHING.  And I will get to do so because I’ll have to buy things for my apartment.  DAISO literally has EVERYTHING except clothing and appliances.  It’s like a Dollar General Store mixed with a Dollar Tree except the quality of the goods is a lot better and cuter.

I love Japan because they think of really practical things that we should have here but don’t.  Like stainless steel “soap” for washing the onion smell off your hands after chopping onions.  We do this but don’t have a little round metal “soap” for it even though it would be really convenient.

DAISO, DAISO, MY KINGDOM FOR A DAISO.

3.) Apple tea.

Because America doesn’t know how to properly tea.  And yes, I meant that noun as a verb.

I’m planning to send my mom some apple tea once I get there.  It’s ridiculously expensive on Rakuten, and I can buy it cheap in Japan and ship it back here along with other things for probably the same price.

4.) Having my own kitchen.

This one isn’t Japan-specific, but moving to Japan and having my own apartment will be nice simply because I will have a kitchen.  Even it’s small, it’s still a kitchen, and it’s still an improvement over what I have now.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I have one room and bathroom because I live in a residence hall on campus.  We have one kitchen upstairs that’s shared by the entire building.

It will be so nice to have my own little kitchen that I can use and actually cook on and not have to go up two flights of stairs every time I want to use it.  Also buying things for the kitchen will feel so great.

5.) Japanese Language Immersion

I’m a good listener and can understand a lot of Japanese; however, I’m not so good at the talking part.  Living in Japan is going to force me to use Japanese probably on a daily basis.  Whether it will be talking or reading, I’ll be learning so much more and feel a lot more confident in my abilities.

Or not.

6.) All the Toma Things.

I will admit this.  My favorite Japanese actor is Ikuta Toma.  He’s incredibly pretty and a terrific actor.

I’m super excited to just be in the same country as him.

7.) Being Near Friends

We have this wonderful thing called the Internet now, so keeping touch with friends isn’t as hard as it used to be.  That being said, I do miss my friends who are living in Japan right now and will be really happy to see them again.  Having them nearby (or at least in the same country) will be nice, too.  I know if I ever need anything, they’ll be there to help.

And also to go to…

8.) KARAOKE!

I’m a boss at karaoke.  Just saying.

The first time I went, I sang ELLEGARDEN songs with this random dude I had just met that day who was a friend of my friend.  It was awesome.

Then I got serious and sang “Hanamizuki” by Hitoto Yo and everyone was floored.  That’s the song I break out when I want to impress Japanese people, haha.

Karaoke in Japan is so much fun, especially with Japanese people because they know how to do it right.

There are other things, but those are my main ones right now.  I’ll make a list of things I’ll miss about America, too.  Mostly family and friends, but some other stuff will probably pop up in the next few months.

Until then, for any incoming JETs also waiting on their placements, how are you guys feeling?  Excited?  Nervous?  Leave me a comment!

All You JET Ladies, Put Ya Hands Up! Whoa oh ohhhh…

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Awhile back, I joined the JET Ladies Facebook group on the recommendation of someone from one of the other JET groups, and I’m so thankful I did.

Most of the posts revolve around where you can find lady-specific items or doctors in a certain area–VERY IMPORTANT–but there are occasionally posts about someone’s struggle with sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior from students.  It’s really interesting and helpful to see how other people respond to those situations.

I’ll be honest here.  Until recently, I haven’t thought much about those situations.  Of course, I prepared my answer for the interview.  It was something along the lines of “Talk to my supervisor blah blah ginger.”

But yesterday, a current JET friend of mine posted on Facebook about elementary school students calling her “debu” which is the word for “fat” with a negative connotation.  I started looking up similar situations because this may happen to me at some point, and I’m not sure how I’d respond.

I completely feel that children’s behavior should be corrected, but what how hard is it to speak up to the JTE or your supervisor or principal about a situation?  What if something happens outside the school?  What if going to the police doesn’t help?  What if…? What if…? What if…?

I’m getting worried about situations that may not even happen.

But let’s be honest here.  The world is different for women than it is for men.  Men do afford a certain privilege because they happened to have been born men.  They don’t always face the same situations and hardships that a woman would.  And knowing Japan, women are expected to behave a certain way and not cause a fuss.  You may have a stalker, but do you really want to make a big fuss over someone paying you too much attention?  That’s the kind of feeling I may face over there.

It worries me, but something I read on a post in the JET Ladies group helped me put things in perspective.

Someone said that we are not Japanese. I know, SHOCKING, right?  Yes, we may be living and working in Japan, speak Japanese, and may even be married to a Japanese citizen.

DAKEDO

We, ourselves, are not Japanese.  We need to speak up if something is wrong.  Part of our collective job is to be the “non-Japanese person.”  That may sound racist, but it’s true.  Our job is to be a cultural ambassador and explain our respective cultures to Japanese kids (and even adults).  I realize how important this is even while I’m still in America.  I have a Japanese friend who speaks near-fluent English and has lived here for two years, but she still doesn’t understand some concepts of American culture.  She asks me about them, and I try to explain as best as I can.

It’s okay that we’re not Japanese.  It’s okay that she’s not American.  It’s about making ourselves understood.  As respectfully as possible, of course.

When I get to Japan and have to deal with it on a daily basis, I may feel differently. It will be a challenge.  It’s good to know I’ll have friends there, Japanese and non-Japanese alike.

I will just try to deal with it the best that I can.

They Stole It From Us!

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gollumThey stole it, Precious!

They stole my identity!

So back in December, my health insurance company, that I have through my current employer, was hacked.  My employer sent out lots of emails about the situation, but since I hadn’t noticed anything weird about my health insurance, I just ignored it.

Skip to about three weeks ago.  I received a letter from the IRS in the mail stating that they had received my tax return and that they had to look into some of the information I sent them before processing my refund.

Only problem was that I hadn’t filed my taxes yet.

That night, I tried to file online, only to be rejected because my taxes had “already been filed.”  But how could this be?! Why would someone want to file my taxes?

I also noticed there were two charges on my bank account to an online tax preparation service that I had never ever used before.  It took me a little digging, but I finally discovered the problem had come from the health insurance company hack.  Other people where I work had had similar problems and were unable to file their taxes.

Yesterday, I finally got through to the IRS Identity Theft division where a very nice lady talked me through what I needed to do by the tax deadline, which was today.  I had to send a packet of information with an Identity Theft Affidavit to the IRS, but it might take four months of more for them to investigate my claim.  Basically, I have NO CLUE when I will be getting my tax refund.

And this SUCKS.  Because I did nothing wrong.

Also, this situation affects me more than it normally would because I’m preparing to go on JET in a few months.  I may not be able to get my tax exemption form because you have to give your tax information for 2014.  My coordinator, however, reassured me that people go on JET without the form and have it sent later.  Worst-case scenario, I’ll have to pay Japanese taxes that first year.  Not ideal, especially since I still have bills here to pay.

My tax refund was supposed to go into my savings account as JET Prep Money minus a few hundred to buy myself a new laptop.  So that’s complicated.

On the bright side, I will get my severance package from my employer, and I’ll be able to cash out all of those vacation days and sick days that I’ve accumulated over the past five years.  I just want enough money to take with me to get everything set up and buy house stuff and food until I start getting paid.

This is a nice segue into what I’m thinking about right now: JET APARTMENTS.

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos of people’s apartment tours and checking out blogs for pictures.  I can’t wait to find out my placement so I can talk to my predecessor and figure out what my housing situation will be like.

Maybe because I’ve had to live in one room with just a bathroom for five years that I’m super excited to be getting a place where I can have a bathroom with a tub and a kitchen.  Even if it’s a small kitchen, IT WILL STILL BE MY OWN KITCHEN.

Seriously, though.  I live in a residence hall, and we have a kitchen on the 4th floor.  Meaning if I want to cook, I have to schlep my stuff up two flights of stairs (I’m on the 2nd floor) and hope that no one else is using it.  It’s a pain if I forget something.  My room itself is somewhat bigger than a normal dorm room (we have super-tall ceilings, too), and I have my own bathroom that has a toilet and shower.  My sink is in my room itself and was made for roommates to share.  Overall, it’s not bad and has been okay since I started working there.  But I’m at the point in my life where I need a kitchen and preferably TWO rooms.

So, really, no matter what setup I get on JET, I’m going to be really excited.  I’m a person who, even if I don’t like a place at first, can make myself at home really quickly.

Other than this stuff, there’s not much on the JET front besides getting in my last paperwork before June.  I have a physical coming up (getting it in before I can’t use my work health insurance anymore), and I need to get started on getting an international driving permit.  I may wait until I hear about my placement, but it’s worth starting the process just in case.

Oh, and I’m working a new J-drama called Algernon ni Hanabata wo 2015. It’s a Japanese version of the story Flowers for Algernon.  I finished my first drama, Ouroboros, as a translator/subtitler just the other day.

At least this will keep me busy while I wait on JET…

The True Cost of JET…For Me, Anyway

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Last summer, I had lunch with a friend of mine who got accepted to JET.

“I didn’t realize how expensive it actually is to do all this,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean I’ve had to pay for a lot of stuff already before I’ve even started packing.”

I dismissed her words thinking, It can’t be THAT much.  And perhaps it’s not for some people, but I am a poor person.  So I want to keep track of how much I’ve spent just for JET so far so that others might get an idea of the cost breakdown before you leave.  It’s not something I hear about a lot among forums.

Application (Pre-Interview)
Priority Mailer — $20 (overnight shipping to Washington D.C.)

InterviewFriend’s timeshare rental — $30 (she gave me a discount)
Gas to Nashville — $20
Parking Structure at Consulate — $3
Passport photos for interview voucher — $12
Black Blazer — $0.99 (I found it at Goodwill and it was absolutely perfect)
Professional-Looking Dress — $40
New Tights — $6
Black Heels — $22

JET Short-List
Passport photos for Reply Form — $8
FBI Background Check — $18
Fingerprinting at UPS Store — $4
Two Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelopes — $11.50

Upcoming Expenses
Passport Photos for Visa — $8
Tax Form 6166 — $85
Physical — $40 (I’m using my health insurance at work while I still can)

I’ll be adding to this list since I’ve have to get stuff to take with me like toiletries, omiyage, new tights, indoor shoes, etc.