Monday, June 28, 2010

bfg on feeling important

Rosemary and Caroline, my best friends are twins... the parents always said I was the triplet they never had. Ah! See, we all pretty much share a birthday and were all three in intensive care at the same hospital! They were premature and I was more than 2 weeks late, so fat that the doctors suspected I was diabetic.

Birthdays then have always been a special occasion for us. I will always remember my favourite gift: a shredder. Rosemary never understood  but only important people have shredders and I am a very important person.

Well, this weekend I shred away 5 garbage bags worth of paper. Feels good! The place is starting to look spiffy and clean; the bf and I are not stepping on each others toes - or boxes - any longer.

Last week, I received my Welcome Package from Shizuoka School Board! I was so happy - it was hard to believe it had actually, finally arrived. The contract was pretty clear being in both Japanese and  English - I was surprised about the section for females... did you know you can call in sick for your menstrual cramps in Japan? GOD! These people are just so advanced it is not funny! Thank you for recognizing...

I got 20 days of vacation and almost 50% of my apartment paid for so that was, again, nice. My predessesor told me that but there is no garantee the organization will carry over the terms and conditions. I was also worried that they would be subtracting key money from my first pay but this is not the case either... All in all status: very happy.

The tour guide and travel map they gave me was another bonus. If anything, I was able to tempt the bf with photos and guided tour plans to come and visit me... maybe even stay a year with me if I stay for longer? Who knows!

My package also included a letter from my Prefectural Advisor (a JET who takes care of JETs in the Shizuoka area, organizes activities and bails you out in times of trouble like when your apartment lights on fire or something), the head of the Shizuoka School Board, and my predecessor. There was also a pamphlet for JETs on specifics on what to bring from home for Shizuoka... nice to know that I can get peanut butter there.

I think here is a good time to mention why I choose Shizuoka-ken as my first choice (fyi: on the JET application there is place to select three). The best thing to do in any situation is ask around; if you are buying a house, choosing a brand of paint or deciding what university to go to the absolute solid way of making the best choice for your self is to ASK AROUND. So I asked several people on JET, my Japanese students and my teachers, the most influentital one being my thesis advisor for obvious reasons.

Of course, I listed the things I could not live without: wanted to be able to travel around Japan facile; wanted to be close to a University and Culture Centre where I can be active and make Japanese friends my age not to mention perhaps use the library facilities for research on my thesis; live in a place where there are few foreigners; mild winter; not far from a major centre where there was more of a chance to find clothes for a female fat giant. And someplace that provided me with a cultural and historical vibe of Japan everyday (so museums were very important to me).

The fact that I actually got my first choice is so rare - I am still in a state of disbelief. But a part of that has to do with me being strategic about everything, and NOT choosing Tokyo or Kyoto as my main choices.  The demand for that is so high INTERNATIONALLY that the chances are slim; its best to take a place, with a little research, that is more realistic and, frankly, best suited for your day-to-day needs. I suspect that most people choose Tokyo because it is the one place they actually KNOW of in Japan. A little research and time can really make you realize just how diverse a place the tiny islands of Japan are.

One piece of advice I wish I had was to research Sister Cities. In Montreal, Hiroshima is our sister city and four people were placed in the city and surroundings. In fact, during my interview they asked several questions about the sister city and even said that Hiroshima always has specific requests for JETs from Montreal. Anyways, something to consider especially around interview time.

MP, my advisor, suggested Shizuoka-ken since it was at the very centre of Japan ideal for domestic traveling. A trip to Tokyo is less than 50 mins and to Osaka less than 2 hours - how can I beat that? It is the capital of tea and wasabi and because it is by the Pacific (OMG! I can't believe it! That fact alone fucks with my head :) it is known for its fresh fish and fine cuisine (did someone say, copious amounts of sushi?). Tokugawa Ieyasu retired to Shizuoka so there are several palaces and museums. There are mountain hot springs which the city people go to during New Years - there was an article on it that my student Aki brought to me while I was still in lumbo on my choice. And, best of all, my apartment has an awesome view of Mount Fuji which I should be climbing with other JETs on August 15th.

So... wanna come visit?!

PS: I know I am supposed to post my Orientation notes. I have 1/3 typed up and now am unable to fnd my notebook. Please have sympathy for the clutter. I will find it! And finish.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

bfg with more on Orientation

My humble movie - the first after my iPhoto workshop yesterday. The next post should be on "what to expect" at an Orientation in detail. One thing though  - prepare for an exhausting but worthwhile weekend. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

bfg on Orientering

I have said this before, but it always amazes me that people in the past have actually discouraged me from joining the JET Programme. Many of them openly said that they avoided JET when deciding to leave for Japan to teach preferring to go with an agency. I think this weekend proves exactly why I am oh so happy I did not listen to these fools who blow more than farts out of their ass.

This past weekend, the Japanese Consulate here in Japan hosted an Orientation Weekend. All of Saturday and Sunday was spent with JET Alumni who shared their knowledge and experience so that we can prepare for departure.

Don't get me wrong - the idea of getting to McGill's Thomson House at 9am on a Saturday in business attire is not how I would prefer to spend most weekends. Especially when said place is nestled away at the top of what should be an illegal steep hill and it just happens to be 32 degrees Celcius in Montreal. The bf was kind enough to escort me to through Mont-Royal so the walk was beneficial in that I took lots of pictures of the scenery and Sasha the dog. Can't forget about her.

Once inside though it was down to business. Armed with Name tags, I was able to introduce myself to all those I had not met during Japanese language class and chatter away about placement and luggage colours. Quickly we were encouraged to settle in our seats as presentation after presentation given by Alum went on.

And boy did they cover it all: what to pack (or better yet, what NOT to), how to deal with relationships while on JET, Grocery Shopping and Cooking in Japan, what to expect when living in the countryside (inaka), a Reality Check of our expectations and lessons to remember, how to deal with Culture Shock, how to Team Teach (meaning how to work with the Japanese English Teacher), how to lesson plan, advice on money and taxes. By God! They even had a Problem Solving scenario exercise where in small groups we strategized on how to cope with issues that have actually occurred to JETs in the past.

Luckily, I was equipped with a beloved Moleskin and was able to take notes. I honestly highly recommend it even if it means being the only fool scribbling away furiously. Not only can I send out copious notes to dear Ashley in Ontario who doesn't have her Orientation until July but you have to remember that the seminars are speaking in general terms. They present to you several possibilities that you or your peers can be faced with; it really is a case-by-case scenario. So, always ready to colour code, the purple V5 Pilot in hand was devoted to questions I wanted to go over with Melissa my predecessor. Just to give you an idea, on Friday she had responded to all of my 20 questions and I felt ready to conquor! Now I have about 50 new questions and she is nice enough to SKYPE with me though it means a 6am wake-up. The things I do for love.

For any prospective JETs who are considering not going to their Orientation, if you "know" Japan so well you don't think you need to go well then just do it to bond with the gang. Which with the karaoke event on Saturday evening, we did!

You can see by the few pics below that there was lots of song searching, duck lips and eye bulging as we belted out the tunes. But the carefree sing-along (well, it was really yelling but...) to old school tunes while sharing a glass does, for one reason or another, create camaraderie. And these guys will have my back: when your suitcase wheels break off and there isn't a hope in hell, you think the little Japanese man will be helping me? No! Most likely its Guillaume or Andre or whoever else I was lucky enough to belt out Bohemian Rhapsody with.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

bfg on hickeys and dis-ease

It has been some time since I posted but for an entire week I have been the home of some extensive bacterial bodies. Oh yes, I was sick and had the works ladies and gents: sore throat, sinus congestion, headaches, drowsiness and just that all-around miserable "woe-is-me" attitude that begs for attention and apple juice.

So far I have been three weeks off of work and it has been a busy time. Before Sickness knocked on my door I was on top of things: spending time with the nephew, reading for thesis, organizing home. Last week though I had to give up precious Luca time and now I am totally behind on my reading. URG! I hate myself right now.

Concerning Beloved Nephew, next week will probably be my last babysitting session. It makes me sad! but it can not be helped. Being behind on thesis means I need, must, am obliged by blood and law to focus on my goal: complete my Master's by December. Don't get me wrong, I will totally be seeing my family in July but not for 7 hours of playtime. There is one benefit from this... not seeing my grandma who lives downstairs from my sister. Right now, Nonnina is ridiculously mad at me and it looks like she won't get over this before I go. It saddens me especially since even before her passionate tirade against moi, one of my major concerns about leaving was her passing away. Nonnina is eighty-two years old after all so even though a world without her sausages and constant reminders that I have rotten ovaries is unimaginable, it will happen. And if it would happen in Japan well, for lack of a better way to write this, it would suck ass. So leaving on not-so-great terms with her doesn't sit well with me but in certain ways this drama, not just from her but a few others who have unfortunately preferred to wallow in their preconceived conclusions rather than in communicating, is one of the things I am happy to get away from. Lately, I haven't been able to shack off this sense of being under constant attack, not exactly sure why, and Japan where the only people I know are Miyamoto Musashi, my thesis advisor and some old students I tutored will be a definite reprieve from this stress.

I was not completly useless while sick. I finally bought a beautiful MacBook Pro 13" which I am typing away on now. Her name is Jingu, after the Japanese legendary Empress of Korean decent who led Japan into a new cultural wave of art and military success not to mention one of those chicks whose awesomeness was so massive they (ah-huh male historians) had to write about her.

The switch from PC to MAC should not go without mention. It has been difficult! All my short keys need to be relearned, all the names are off and though I love the fact that there is no Temporary Files folder that deletes when I Shut Down it hasn't sunk in yet and I often have a panic attack thinking I lost all the files I downloaded from my email but have not moved. I did something pretty nerdy though and purchased a year's worth of One To One Sessions with Apple. This is a service for $100 where, as often as I like during the year, I can be privatly tutored by an Apple Representative IN PERSON. Do you realize how amazing that is? Already, I have had three hours of tutoring and Monday not only do I get a private lesson on the Safari browser but will also partake in a 90 minute workshop on iPhoto. In this way, I have been hyper productive in getting to know Jingu so that in Japan I won't have problems. Oh! Best of all I still get this service in Japan - so how awesome is that?

I also bought my Camera Mishima (Lumix FH20 if you must know) and have been having fun with the bf's dog, Sasha, using her as my main model. It was the natural choice given that she is always around and I can count on her to listen to my pose commands. I plan on using my shots to practice iPhoto and iMovie on Jingu - not wasteful since I can totally see the bf devote a digital frame to this.

I will be using Mishima all this weekend since I will be spending the all of Saturday and Sunday at JET Orientation! Held at McGill's Thompson House, the Japanese Consulate hosts two days of lectures, workshops and Q&As for us departing JETs to help us prepare for living and working in Japan. Another example of just how impressed I have been with the organization since the beginning of this entire experience.

And with that comes the oh-so-juicy news...  I HAVE BEEN EMAILED BY MY PREDECESSOR Melissa M. Predecessor is the current teacher at the school I will be replacing. Can you believe it? Even now I am tearing up because no longer is it "some school somewhere in Shizuoka". Instead, its A school with AN apartment that is a twenty minute bike ride for each other. I am posting a map here that points out my apartment, recommended gym and conbini (convenience store), library and, best of all, Shizuoka University which is moments away from my school and very close to home. This will totally come in handy for my thesis!
View Shizuoka City in a larger map

The big relief is that my apartment is going to be partially subsidized - the school will be paying me a little less than half of my rent. This leave me with about $375 CND per month to pay - nothing unreasonable at all. I am still waiting for photos but it seems to be a cozy 2 1/2 from Melissa's description. This is a major concern for myself and most JETs for though we all have the same salary    whether or not our accommodations are paid for in part or full is up to the school we are contracted to. So you can understand the relief. It seems that most people in Shizuoka are actually housed in school/government complexes but since I will be situated to the South of Shizuoka City - which, did I mention, is right by the ocean? - where there are fewer JETs and government workers in general, I will be in a small apartment complex. God, even as I write this I am squealing with excitement.

July is filling up slowly. My SF Gals are making dinner before I go, I will be having coffee with some of my peers in Grad school, am hoping to get a Cousin Gathering at Bofinger, another gathering with my Japanese language class, Tiziana, my beloved roommate from Italy, will be leaving on the 8th, and of course am trying to pack in some dinner dates with the bf. Not to mention he and I are totally loving the hickeys on True Blood - talk about Grade-A TV.  I have said two Japan good-byes already - my friend Marisa went off to Middlebury College for the entire summer and I was able to see Robert J. Sawyer while he was in Montreal for a reading at Indigo. So the day is creeping ever closer and as the details come in it is become harder and harder to fathom that I am leaving. Soon the labels for these blogposts will go from "departure" to "Year1" and I am ever so anxious for that moment to arrive.

I promise to blog this weekend with details on Orientation. I have my notebook and Camera Mishima all ready for action. Am pretty certain the info will be very helpful for past and future JETs not to mention a great way for me to revise and process all the information.

bfg needs to go to bed!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

bfg on ipadding

So I am writing this on the new iPad. Oh boy! She is a beauty, I am not gonna lie. She feels heavenly in my lap and I am actually able to type as quickly as on my laptop. Lovely!

The only problem is I have to charge it not to mention write this in HTML code instead; the Baby is not bloggeer compatible. Yet.

The first move to the bf's went well. Besides too much eating out, things are going well. We were finally able to agree on the bookshelf arrangement in the bedroom. Once that was done and the books unpacked it has been easy breezy. It is a little crazy how I have spent so much time here but the site if my hardcover Robert jordan's by my Puka slippers next to the dog's water dish... It makes it so real. Sometimes I am jerked by the realization and that soon enough I will be going through this yet again just times one gazillion millions.

This week has many to-dos but soon I will be devoting most of my time to reading for the thesis. Joy! But I can not bring all these books so the reading needs to get done. And as much ss I love my topic - Japanese Nationalism - i need to focus on getting it done. Gotts be lean and mean and not drown myself in details like I always do.

I will be babysitting Favorite Person ( ie. Nephew Luca)every Wednesday. It breaks my heart to think that when I return to him i will be a stranger. Well, he will be receiving many gifts by post that is for surer.

For now, the focus is on my big electronic purchases like the laptop, camera, video recorder... And no the iPad is not coming with me since it will act as Serogate at home in my absence. Now that the excitement is dying off I am starting to not want to leave. Oh don't get me wrong I want to go with every bone in my body. It is just that i want to bring major parts of home with me: Antonio, my slippers, poutine, he'll even the dog. And though I am even more thrilled at the prospect of living cat-free for a year I can't imagine watching the next season of Dexter without extensive debates.

So the plan is to count my blessings - unlike other Jets who have to work until the end I have two months to take my fill and drink up Montreal. And though I may not be able to watch Dexter with the bf, we have True Blood to look forward to.