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Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Summer Vacation

I’m back in Japan after a 3-week sojourn in my home country. I was, quite honestly, a little bit nervous about going back after having been gone for a year, considering I’d never been away that long, but I realized almost immediately upon stepping off the plane in Toronto that I really had nothing to worry about. It was like putting on an old, familiar shoe – just as one of my friends had already told me. She also mentioned that the shoe didn’t quite fit as well as you remembered, another point on which she was correct. I think the feeling has more to do with growing up than being in a foreign country, but I also admit that I saw things back home in a new light because of my time in Japan. I’m not going to rule it out completely as a factor in the vague out-of-place feelings I experienced.

A big part of it, of course, is that I’m seeing my home in a more objective light than I ever have. I noticed this in not only my family and friends (having been away from them for a while), but my own culture, language, and the daily life of Canadians. I now have another standard with which to compare them to. They were still amazing and I love them, but until you’ve experienced living in another culture I guess it’s just simply not something you think about.

Coming back, I packed two heavy suitcases full of new clothes and souvenirs, and I still had to leave some stuff behind for the mail. I was greeted instantly by the oppressive heat. It’s almost too easy to forget about it in the cooler, fresher air of Canada, but stepping out the doors of Osaka Itami Airport was like stepping into a sauna.  Everyone was walking about with fans and faces shiny with sweat. Although it was hard to have just said goodbye to Canada and come back to this, the kindness of the people here quickly warmed me up again. I was charmed anew by the clouds of fireworks seen from the train, and the clusters of girls in Yukata, colorful and femenine, with little delicate accessories jingling and swaying with each movement. And when I caught my first glimpses of Shikoku’s lush green mountains and misty valleys, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d returned home. What a strange feeling, to go from home to home, both familiar and foreign in different ways.

It’s not raining now, but this is the first time it’s let up since I arrived yesterday. Last night, the thunder woke me up several times, one deafening crash in particular scared me into sitting straight up in bed. I think the mountains magnify the sound. It stormed away all night long. My JTE informed me that it’s the tail end of typhoons passing nearby.

There hasn’t been much fanfare since I got back. A lot of people are simply not here, I guess on paid leave or summer vacation. Some were excited to see me, others appeared to have barely noticed that I’d even been gone. I can’t help but wonder if some of the teachers notice my boyfriend coming and going and look down on me for it. I don’t care about that so much anymore, because quite frankly he means more to me than they do, but that doesn’t mean I want them thinking poorly of me, either. No one has yet noticed that I cut my hair short while I was home. They did evidently enjoy the Coffee Crisp that I brought back for them, but haven’t yet broken into the Tim Horton’s coffee or Smarties. I have also only seen a handful of students since I arrived, which seems strange. They are around, doing their club activities, but the school seems extra quiet and empty compared to the usual hustle and bustle that goes on during the year.

Already I’m scrabbling for things to do. I’ll be glad when there is a routine and something for me to occupy myself with again.

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Re-entry permits

PassportLet me tell you a little story about re-entry permits.

Once upon a time, there was an ALT living in Kochi, and an ALT living in Fukuoka. These two ALTs were the dearest of friends. One day, they decided it would be a grand adventure to travel to South Korea, since it was so very close to Japan. They booked their tickets, packed their bags, and the Kochi ALT was whisked to Fukuoka on a Shinkansen train.

The two ALTs knew, because they had been told by the Authorities, that they would need a magical sticker inside their passport that would let them get back into Japan. Without this sticker, the Authorities would devour them whole! So they knew it was very important to get one. However, getting the stickers was quite a journey! First, they had to climb over the Language Barrier and get a special money stamp to pay for the magical sticker (because regular money is, of course, no good when purchasing magical items!). Next, they had to navigate the labrintine corridors of the Fukuoka International Terminal, where grinning flight attendants and short-skirted secretaries confused them.

But they did not lose their way! At last, they found the Immigration Bureau, where they might exchange their Special Stamps for the magical sticker.

There was upon the door a sign. It read:

Closed for winter holidays.

Our two heroes let out a cry of dismay. They had been fooled! They had been foiled! They were at a loss! They scrambled back toward the grinning flight attendants and pleaded their plight, begging for mercy, that they be allowed to travel on the flying machine to shining South Korea. The flight attendants informed them that it would not be an easy task. They would have to go before the Immigration Official of the Inner Immigration Bureau, a privalege only granted once in a life-time for those who dare partake it. Should they meet the Official’s approval, they might board the flying machine. If not, they would be sent back defeated, and the grinning flight attendants would keep their hard-earned money.

Terrified, there was nothing to be done but wait for the appointed day. The two entered the Inner Sanctum with a guide, trembling behind him. The Official collected their Special Stamps and all of the Important Papers they had on them and disappeared into the shadows. They stood with bated breath on the gray-carpeted floors, awaiting their judgement.

At last, after an interminable amount of time, the Official emerged.

“Here. I shall grant you access to the flying machine this once. But you can never come here again!”

Shivering with relief and joy, the two took their papers, now affixed with the magical stamps, and proceeded unscathed through the security gates. Joy and wonder! They were going to Seoul.

The end.

Epilogue:

The moral of this story is…do everything as far in advance as possible and don’t even bother trying during holidays.

P.S. I didn’t even include the part about being unable to get money out of my ATM because my bank had suspended ATM service for the holidays. Yeah. Make sense of that one, will you.

This story cropped up because after AT LAST bashing through the infamous Language Barrier and getting the official “OK” for my trip home, I remembered that I would need a re-entry permit once more. The plan had been to buy a multiple re-entry in Fukuoka, but since we had to get ours from the special office inside the security gates, we were only allowed to get the single re-entry (and it really was a “once in a lifetime” venture).

Getting the permit this time required me to drive to the Immigration Office in Kochi city, which closes at four, which means I had to go back to the Language Barrier and circumnavigate it AGAIN in order to make sure it would not affect my summer vacation days if I took a few hours paid leave to go to the city.

It turned out all right in the end. I took off in the afternoon because I had no class and N-sensei was away anyway. After too much traffic and too many missed turns, I managed to locate the place where the tram line ends. I first wandered into a narrow-halled, dark office building where I was redirected by a kind-looking lady with a bob hair-do and a clip board to the correct building – a big ugly white one across the road.

The immigration office itself was extremely bland looking. The door stuck a little when I opened it, so I had to shove it. The man sitting behind the desk looked slightly less than exhuberant. He took my CAREFULLY assembled papers, gaijin card, passport, and revenue stamp obligingly and, hardly changing his expression, asked me to wait while he worked his magic.

The whole process took about 10 minutes. All that stress and hassle for such a simple procedure. Now I finally have the magical “multiple re-entry” permit. And my flight is all paid for.

After a whole year, I can finally say that I am officially going back home for 3 delicious weeks next month.

If you need to get a re-entry permit in Japan, I found this site extremely helpful.

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And it’s really expensive to get there.

 I’m in the process of booking a flight home for summer vacation…and I’m stressing big time. First, I have to get permission for the days off from my supervisor at the school, N-sensei. Then, I have to make sure there isn’t anything going on at the Board of Education, and get permission from my supervisor, K-san, there. The BOE supervisor is really busy, so he’s hard to get hold of. In the few days since I last checked my ticket, the price has already increased by 3 man (¥30, 000 or about $300). That’s a bloody lot. I panicked a bit when I read that, so I urged my JTE to contact him. Permission was granted but there is one more little glitch…the trip requires 14 days of paid leave and I currently only have 11. However, my new contract will come into effect at the end of July, at which time I should receive 10 more days of paid leave for next year. I’m not sure that either supervisor is aware of this. I had attempted to explain initially, but I’m not sure I got my point across.

 SO I’m just going to hope it works out. I don’t see why it should be a problem, since the new contract will come into effect just days after I leave, but you never know. Japanese bureaucracy can be funny sometimes, and I can’t always predict what Japanese people will think. Basically, I’m feeling very jittery and stressed at the moment. I’m having a hard time focusing on work just now. If you can call it work. I have had only one class today and I don’t even have Elective English next week, so I have virtually nothing to do.

 In the future, I’m going to make sure I book EVEN MORE in advance. Let this be a lesson to anyone else traveling overseas as well…BOOK EARLY!!

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Getting There

G’mornin’ all! And by morning I mean afternoon.

I’ve just sent off all my documents to my recruiter in Seoul, so in a short time I should have my visa issuance number. Then that gets sent off to the consulate in Montreal, and then I board a plane! The contract I have is to teach kindergarten, which I am sure will be quite the adventure. I had an interview for a job developing ESL tests and materials, but it was pretty much a desk job staring at a computer screen all day while editing English grammar. Let’s think about this for a moment. Sit at a desk, or run around with 3-5 year olds? Which one sounds more like Kimchi? Bring on the colouring and singing and dancing!

I’m finding it very interesting to shop for clothes for Seoul. While I am small enough to fit into Korean clothing, I will need some clothes to get me started, as well as some building pieces. So far I’ve got some basics like slacks, capris, skirts, dressy t-shirts and a few little jackets and tops, as well as some heels, new comfy flat shoes, sneakers and such. I’ve also been picking up Canadian paraphernalia wherever I can get it (there hasn’t been a dollar store passed that I haven’t checked out).

I’m spending pretty much every weekend going off somewhere to visit friends – Halifax, the valley, etc – before I head off and disappear for a year. I’m sure it’s driving my parents crazy, but they get to see me all through the week. So there!

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Proud to be Canadian

I know that it’s totally lame, but I had to do it. In case you were wondering – yes, it IS very poorly sewn.

Canada flag patch I sewed onto my purse/mini-backpack.

Also, a photo of all the omiyage/Canada paraphernalia I have thus far collected

Isn’t that exciting?! To those of you who don’t know, I will try to explain what ‘omiyage‘ is, to the best of my knowledge. They are small gifts, typically souvenir gifts, that you give to friends and coworkers as a gesture of appreciation or thoughtfulness if you have been away or, in my case, if you are coming into a new place. Particularly for a JET, these gifts can be an important gesture to show appreciation for the work certain people have put into arranging for your stay in Japan. Nicer gifts are generally reserved for those higher up in the ranks, such as principals and supervisors. The gifts I give in Japan may not strictly be omiyage, but they are something like it.

I keep hoping that I’m done sending things to JET, but it seems there is always something else. I need to get my Certificate of Health redone, for example, because my physician left something blank instead of indicating “no, she doesn’t have any of these problems.” Bureaucracy can be frustrating at times. I shall likely continue to stress out until I have been in my home prefecture for at least a week.

In happier news, the first panel comic thingie will be ready soon – that is to say, Kimchi has sent me a script and I need only get my butt in gear and draw the strip.  I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat!

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Preparation!

Preparation for Japan is not only physical, such as making endless lists and constantly re-evaluating your wardrobe choices, but it’s also psychological.  I ask myself questions like, how will I deal with culture shock?  What will it be like driving on the other side of the road?  Just how hot does it get? But perhaps most importantly, what am I going to do when I run into one of these babies in my apartment?!?!

According to some Japanese folklore, these creatures spilled out of hell itself when the earth split apart during the great Kanto earthquake and if you don’t burn them, one of their fellows will come for you seeking vengeance.  Although apparently the owner of this hand does not seem to concerned.

Mukade

Yikes, Japan.  Seriously, Yikes.

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Kimchi’s Test

Hoia, this is Kimchi! Having mastered the art of glaring at my computer, I’ve figured out (so far) how this thing works. Huzzah!

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