I hope your life has been recently filled with positivity and excitement. How are you guys doing? Today, I am writing about my progress and an update into my life on the Jet Programme of 2018
For anyone just tuning into my blog, I was chosen as a Toronto Jet Programme Candidate of 2018. I have been here for about 4 months and it definitely has been a roller coaster without the presence of Canada’s Wonderland (How I wish to go again).
Topics for today’s discussion will include the pros and cons I have found. Please be careful to note if there are bad times I am being honest about it not to complain, but to reflect. So let’s get to it, and hey for the first time I will put a table of contents.
My JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English)
When I initially was placed in a Junior High School Japanese school, I honestly had no clue what to expect. I didn’t understand the teaching style, the teachers at times, the traditions, the Sports Festival and let’s be honest the language in general. All of the teachers at the school I am working at are extremely good people in my opinion, and just because they don’t exactly know how to interact with me at times does not make me think of them any less. However, I feel that I have many blessings in these four stone stone walls of a school with a squat toilet. My JTEs are all individually great and different people, in fact one even has a hair-cut that makes her look like Sheena Ringo 「二時間だけのヴァカンス」. One goes around to every class with me so I believe we have the most opportunities to talk, one helped me with all of my immigration documents and such, while the last one teaches class and instills proper discipline among his students. The good thing is, with my broken Japanese we can all communicate rather easily. Even if we cannot, we know how to use the resources to pull together the grammar and syntax involved to understand one another. It’s fantastic.
Subnote: I believe I was placed in a Japanese JHS because it suits my Japanese level as a learner quite well. I entered the school being able to say a few simple phrases and key points, but honestly, I was not able to express myself as clearly as I wanted to (Still cannot). Perhaps, if I got placed into a SHS the students would mock me for the level my Japanese is at. It may have been a bit more difficult to gain their respect or maintain it, with me speaking like a Japanese kid. Even now the occasional strange Japanese phrase comes out of my mouth and it may confuse the heck out of my students, but I get better day by day and my Japanese expression will one day reach where I want it to be. I have often seen in Youtube vloggers videos that they cannot understand the grammar lessons in class, and when they are brought into those classes they do nothing – it is a waste of time for them. Well, I pay attention in those classes and with my knowledge of the language, I can understand the notes. If I don’t, I normally go and ask a JTE or my other teacher friends in town why this grammar point can be translated in such a way. So, I don’t know how it ended up this way; but, being placed in a Junior High School was a blessing in disguise.
Ever since I was a kid, I really desired to visit the fantastic world of Japan. It looked so perfect through all of the anime and music I listened to, so I became like many foreigners who originally gained their affinity for Japan through various elements of pop culture. Segwaying into university, I was able to study Japanese in the environment of the classroom, and now that the classroom stage of my learning is over. About two months after arriving in Japan, I really have never let a day pass without being thankful of how enriching the classroom environment was for learning Japanese. Here are some of the joys of learning in the classroom. You never had to worry about saying things wrong, forgetting your polite forms here and there wasn’t a problem, your Kanji only consisted of those 120 characters you learned in the first year. After moving to Japan, I had the opportunity to make my childhood dreams come true while gaining work experience as an adult. When I graduated from university, like many I still did not have a concrete plan of where my life was taking me. Little did I know that following my dream would actually help me solve this ordeal. I have yet to edge out this solid resolute plan, but being in Japan has given me the proper environment and state of mind to contemplate my honest expectations of life.
The second joy of having come to Japan as a dream is that it has built a will within me that is difficult to shatter. I worked very hard to come to Japan, in fact I wasn’t even accepted the year right after I graduated (one day I’ll write about this). Now that I’m actually here, I’m facing more challenges than I ever imagined. When they spoke about homesickness and culture shock during the JET Orientation meetings, in my mind I thought, “I’ve been to Japan before, this will be a synch.” Then I got here, stayed up a few nights, thought too much and kept it pushing. It’s not easy living here at times, it definitely did a hit on my self-esteem although I don’t tend to show it much. Though, I grow more confident and mature (in my opinion) every day. I’ve heard once that if you are a confident person, you will shine no matter how dark the room is. I’m not sure I believe that statement works in all cases anymore, but I do believe that my glimmer is beginning to shine once again.
My JET Family
*Skip this part if you don’t want to read about my fellow ALTs – It’s long and there’s a TLDR on the bottom*
Seldom do we receive a group of care-givers so diverse in personality and yet so high in compassion. My fellow JET ALTs and CIR are such great people who have left a lasting impression of being reliable within my eyes. So, I’m not going to name them, but I will describe them based on a dessert I see them as.
Jelly-filled Donut (No I’m not calling you fat) – This individual has a strong sense of who they are as a person. They don’t give up on what they believe in and they take great pride in getting the job done. Many nights I have spoken to them and been consoled with a very strong “Get your **** together Yannick,” style of talk. Which we all need at times. So I believe this person has a very strong outside, but is filled with many joys on the inside.
Ice-box Cake – The layers you see on the outside is what you’re going to get on the inside. Very straight to the point, they will tell it like it is with no remorse or consideration of the future outcome. Layers built from experience and a very intense flavour when you initially look at it, but they are always sweet. For some reason, I believe I can relate extremely well to this person and despite being able to see a good depiction of the outside I believe there’s more than meets the eye.
Tiramisu – Layers of experience and intelligence held together by great solitude. They are extremely calm and observant, they provide the right amount of rich advice with the bitter feedback you don’t want to hear. Always good for a party, but requires much preparation to prepare. Much do I think I could learn from an occasional outing of just us, but that’s for another time.
Birthday Cake – Hello there, are you ready for a party! Although they may not seem like it, this individual really is a fantastic addition to any Final Fantasy party and will never seem to fall off the roller coaster which is Japan. They remind me of what being in love with their favourite things is like and like a birthday cake, always colourful and warm in personality.
Black Forest Cake – Always sweet and sophisticated this delicacy. Very classic and classy all in one. They are very knowledgable about many issues, and provides the right answer in the black and white English format I am used to. Don’t try to change this cake’s recipe though, or your in for a big surprise.
TLDR: So these are the mentor personalities that I have grown to know and love within my JET city-wide community. I will do my fellow newcomers later, but these people have treated me with respect and offered their hand of friendship to me with no collateral. We get together often and they provide a great source of advice and touchstone to reality when things feel as if they are too overwhelming in Japan. Each one of them has individual traits I wish to emulate and by watching them I grow every day. I even would say I got into a rough patch with one of them, but I’m so glad when it comes to friends – sometimes arguments make your relationship that much stronger.
Being the first occasion that I have ever moved approximately more than 500 km away from my hometown, of course, I packed as much as I possibly could inside of my suitcase. It still wasn’t enough. Besides not having my daily face products which I am used to, your supplies of whatever nice things you always like and bought run out eventually. Furthermore, it would cost an arm and a leg to import your favourite facial products from the abnormal beauty shop. Also, there are just some things that you cannot take with you – your favourite mall, your favourite park, your parents. Moving far away from home is a bother sometimes when the whole world seems to alter right before your eyes.
So, I didn’t move to a huge city such as Tokyo or Osaka. Though I am only an hour from a big city and only two from Osaka or Kobe. When I visited Kyoto recently, it had been so long since I had seen a high volume of foreigners, that I was taken aback. I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that I live in the Inaka (Countryside Japan) for work and alongside moving it has been a fantastic opportunity to grow as a person.
I often believed that when you’re moving, all of your past is brought along with you. For example, if you read my last blog post (Here it is) you know that I’ve felt a disconnect between my Canadian traditional self and the daily living style of the Japanese. I believe somethings were left behind in Canada, alongside my self-security. Sometimes I feel very vulnerable while learning this new culture, when I try to adapt it seems there’s a consistent conflict between whether something is worth learning, should I adapt or perhaps maybe I should just forget this habit. I’ll give you an example of something that I’ve learned to adapt – holding the door behind you. As Canadians we are always holding the door for the people behind us and I believe that it is an extremely polite mannerism, but there is a slightly different way to execute it here in Japan. In Japan, if you hold the door while someone is a few steps (1-2m) behind you – OR WORSE IF YOU LEAVE IT OPEN – they may sometimes break into a brisk walk, similar to a sprint, because you have on purposely left a door open (If it is the staff door, oh boy….) for them. They will get to that door ASAP, and instead of being a polite gesture you have now just forced someone to rush. So I have come up with a rule that if you are not about 4 steps behind me, that door is being shut. Adaptation is important, but there are some habits that I have completely dropped or left behind. I wonder what it will be like when I have to pick them up again in Canada. The main point is, when moving on the JET Programme be prepared for all sorts of challenges and difficulties which will involve a variety of strategies to solve.
Why can’t we be friends?
I must say that after 4 months I have yet to actually make Japanese friends around my own age within the Inaka. My teachers are my work colleagues and very nice, but seldom do I see them on the weekends. Perhaps, I am not checking out the right places or walking under the right bridges. I remember being able to bond with people very easily throughout university, but maybe this is a workforce thing rather than just a Japan thing. I honestly have no touchstone being 24 and just entering, would anyone be able to tell me? I first thought it could be because when I speak Japanese I’m not able to express myself clearly and succinctly, but it could also be the difference in culture. Perhaps, the Japanese take more time to warm up to other people (especially foreigners) than in Western cultures. Another guess would be that maybe I was just used to University life where everyone was around my age and in similar states of life. Luckily, I have the JET community within my region, but it would be nice to make a Japanese friend wouldn’t it? Sometimes I feel lonely when I cannot get along with the community similar to the way I did in Canada, of course I can get along with my fellow foreigner friends, although should that be enough? Is that really enough for me? When I was a kid, I often thought loneliness comes from only having no one around you, but in this short time I believe that my definition of it has changed. I don’t have any anesthesia for this pondering or an obsessive desire to make Native Japanese friends, but it would be nice. Ahh well, only time will tell.
In conclusion, the JET Programme has been an emotional roller coaster. It really is similar to the figure that they showed in the JET P-Dot Orientation week. I have been blessed with so many growing experiences and difficult decisions put in front of me that sometimes I become overwhelmed. However, with the support of my friends, family and community I believe I can pull through. One time, someone told me a story about a nomad leaving his kingdom and having difficulty because the new empire he moved to did not match his ideals. The person asked me, if the nomad would only be happy if he returned to his own kingdom? Personally, I cannot see the answer to the story yet; but, I’m definitely on a closer path to finding out. Thanks Ice-Box Cake.