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Sunday, February 26, 2012


Every once in a while someone asks why I am in Japan. Sometimes that question is worded nicely and I provide a non-retaliatory answer.

I'm going to take you back to 1989 - my second year of journalism school at Humber College in Toronto. While many in my class are university grads looking for some sort of career that a university degree in philosophy, political science or history simply can not guarantee, others are right out of high school. Despite the differing levels in education and age, we are all fairly driven individuals who want to go into journalism as newspaper reporters, television anchors or news jockeys on the radio. Magazine writing if we have to... and blogging - the Internet as we know it had not yet been invented.

In a future blog, I will explain how I actually got into Humber College, but for now, let me introduce you all to one Stephanie Lovie.

When I first met her in 1988, I walked into a newspaper journalism class, spied my two new friends Scott Bujeya and John Hobel, sat near them and began chatting - stopping slack-jawed as a vision of loveliness glided into the room with angels dropping rose petals over her as the long version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly played over the school's loudspeakers.

Standing 5'-6", 135lbs of solidness, hair bobbed in a light brown color, sexy, slinky, six freckles on her nose and her face, a smile that could melt butter with two canines that poked out giving her a feline appearance.
Her legs - oh my... she was a figure skater in her youth and had thighs as muscular and as large as my own - and even today in 2012, mine look mighty - and small tight calves.  All in all, a sexy little cat woman. Meow.

Intelligent, charming, sometimes bitchy and she liked me.

All in all, a perfect recipe for a virginal Andrew looking to get off the snide.... or just to get off.

One day in 1989 - that aforementioned second year at Humber, I'm driving her home along the 401 Highway and onto Highway 427 - just before the exit to my house. Today, I'm dropping her off at the subway nearby - though I would have dropped her home in downtown Toronto if I didn't have a couple of piano lessons to teach.

Yup... I supplemented my school income by teaching piano to seven kids, and baby-sitting six of them when required. Not that type of baby-sitting I wanted with Stephanie in my car, but a guy's gotta do what he's gotta do.

I'm wearing a shirt she picked out for me at a fancy men's shop... damn thing cost me $150, but when the woman you want to be your girlfriend suggests something like that, you hang the cost. It was a fine looking shirt. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, she and I were still only friends. We'd kissed a few times, gone to dinner a few more, but it never went beyond that. Sucked.  

In my white 1986 Mazda 323, she sudden;y pipes in that she is thinking of applying to go to Japan.

What? Where the hell did that come from? 

So, I ask her why.

She tells me that she has always wanted to go there since she was a little girl... her parents, when they were alive, had read her a book on the magical land, and she has, since then, thought of the place as a real dream come true.


She told me about something called JET and how they would select her to go and teach English there.

JET? All I could think of was the musical West Side Story. "What's JET?"

The Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme, she told me in a hurried breath... as I drove past the highway exit explaining that I would catch the next exit instead.

Afforded the extra minute of time, I learned that via this program, one could get hired on to teach a school for a year up to three years...

All I heard was JET Programme and her telling me she wanted to go as my thoughts raced to me applying and spending a magical year with Stephanie in Japan. 

So... apparently I had two weeks left to apply for this JET thing. I told my parents about it after I finished my music teaching - my mom, ever the helpful soul, said she would look it up for me tomorrow at work.   

The next evening, my mother had been over to the Japanese Embassy in Toronto and had picked up the necessary forms for me... I carefully filled them out, got some transcripts over the next week, and mailed everything off.

Stephanie was quite candid in talking to me more about the JET Programme and about her love of Japan over the next several weeks... but, in the same week that Stephanie was hired on full time at the The Brampton Times daily newspaper where we were both interning on Thursday and Friday's... I got a letter informing me I had an interview.

I also was told by the Toronto Star summer internship program that I also had an interview... one day after the other. 

Needless to say, a full-time job with a newspaper is what was important to her, as I continued with journalism school, my internship - seeing her there full time was very frustrating for me and actually got me fired from there a couple of weeks later... I was the first intern from our school to ever get fired from his internship, by the way...but it didn't matter.

As they told me they were letting me go, I told them it was okay. I had just been hired on to work at the Toronto Star and also got hired on by the JET Programme. I said both loud enough so Stephanie could hear it as I walked out the door. That smug look she had turned into a scowl as I grinned at her knowing that losing my internship or not being hired on full-time was really no big deal for me.

Stephanie, by the way, was the one who said she was going to apply for the Toronto Star internship, and I thought okay, I'll try too - just to be with her.

So, yes... I got both jobs I only wanted because I thought it would get me closer to Stephanie, but instead, I got both jobs I really didn't want that drove me farther away from her.

My loss of virginity would have to wait.

The Brampton Times, by the way, after being in business for over 100 years folded about three weeks after Stephanie was hired. 

Once again... my life took a strange turn thanks to a woman.  

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Oh... I did write about her briefly here, a couple of years ago - long before most of you began reading about the rise and decline of a Canadian Gaijin in Japan: HERE.

Somewhere thanking Stephanie for the heads up,
Andrew Joseph
That photo up above? That's the exit I took to gain that extra minute of conversation with Stephanie to learn about the JET Programme.
Maybe someday I'll tell you more about how I got to Japan by telling you how I got into the Humber College Journalism program. It's a damn fine school, by the way.
Today's blog title is by Iron Butterfly, and was originally known as: In The Garden of Eden, but the religious connotation was a little much, so they changed it to the nonsensical title we all know and love. I love this album!Check out The Simpson's version below it, too!


  1. Dude, that's a serious case of sods law.
    But it's odd how many times I've heard of people coming to Japan because of a girl. Another Gaijin I know said he came here because of a past girlfriend who was Japanese and he's loved Japan (or Japanese girls?) ever since.

  2. $150 for a shirt!? You're nuts... Well, at least you took her advice for going to Japan... So, maybe you're even... Sort of

  3. It was a great shirt... my favorite until I started working out and added 12 inches to my chest... she had good taste... just not men.
    But, you can see my pattern of following women... this time it was good.