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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Back To Work JET

Hello JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme participants.

I hope you are all quite happy and well and excited. You guys have all made it to Japan and have spent the past month becoming aclimatized to your new surroundings.

Some of you are in a big city, others in a small city more akin to a town back home while others in really in what will become known as do-itaka... the boonies.


You are in Japan... some of you are are away from home for the first time ever and are now thrust into this alien culture.

To be perfectly honest, Japan can seem like an alien culture, but after a while, you might find that it's not. The people there may not speak your language... may not get your stupid jokes... may not understand a dam word you are saying... and neither do you of them... it's why this should all be quite exciting.

It's perfectly okay to be homesick... to miss your friends... to miss your parents... but you know what? If they were worth having in the first place they will all still be waiting for when your contract is up, whether that's in one year, two- or three.

I don't mean to tell you your business, but absorb as much as you can of the culture and people as you can. It will all be over sooner than you realize.

In Japan... you are special. Less so when you leave.

When I came back home to Toronto back in 1993, it was Japan this and Japan that, and I must have driven everyone crazy with my damn bowing - you wait... you will... and you will even catch yourself doing it while on the phone talking to Grandma.

But now... 20 years later - almost - there are two others that I know in my current workplace of who were in Japan at around the same time as me. Two others whom I talk with on a daily basis. How weird is that? They weren't on the JET Programme, but they were there... one of them was there for five years and still speaks Japanese fare more fluently than I ever did. Michael frequently passes along story ideas to me - like the recent blog on Candid Godzilla photos.

But do you see what I mean about being 'less special'? Yes, you are still special... but there are a whole mess of others who have had the chance to go to Japan as well. That great big world is a whole lot smaller.

But that's all cool. Every single one of you in Japan right now - you English teachers or bartenders or travelers will all have the same, but completely different experience from each other.

We've all been lost in Japan... my first experience involved me being leered at by a transvestite, saved from being run-over by a car because I looked the wrong way (thank you Kristine South), and saw just how nice the Japanese people can be when a complete stranger took the entire lost group back to our hotel - a full 40-minute walk out of his way.

I've traveled two hours to the mountains by train when I wanted to go the other way to the beach.

I've traveled three hours lost in the rice fields between my town and the next trying to see the JET (Ashley) who would become my girlfriend and the source of so much joy and pain for me.

And all of this was within a couple of months of arriving in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken. (Go ahead and look for the old blog articles at the beginning... and then look for any with a Rock and Roll title... those are all personal blogs, my diary, if you will).

Getting lost will happen to you, as well. I hope. Because without failing sometimes, the story lacks adventure and becomes dull.    

For many of you who have just arrived in Japan, this week is your first time in a classroom... and you aren't really sure what will happen.

I'm not going to tell you. It will spoil the surprise... the adventure.

Just go in with a smile, an open mind and a willingness to adapt. Be active in your community, both home and at work and JET. Oh yeah... and try and be yourself... not what you think everyone expects you to be.

That's how have an adventure.

Good luck. Now get to school and tell everyone all about yourself in a self-introduction. I had to do it over 70 times the first couple of months... and 20 more times the second year, and 20 more the third. Just remember that  whatever you tell them will be remembered and spread around. You can re-make yourself into a GOD... that's a Gaijin (foreigner) On Display.

Got questions or need some advice? I will do my best to provide them for you.

Andrew "AET Cowboy" Joseph
PS: Really... that was what the folks at the various Education Ministry's called me... and it wasn't derogatory. It was a sign of admiration and respect.


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