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Friday, July 26, 2013

JET Buddies And The Revolving Door Of Friendship

More from the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme Forum where a person feels a bit sad about the ever-changing line-up of people on the programme in their prefecture.... what they call "The Revolving Door Of Friendship".

Check out the original commentary HERE.

For those not interested, here's the nickel-tour... they feel sad that:

1) when they first arrive in an area, there is already an established clique of JETs, and it's tough to make friends;

2) When some of them leave after the first year, it's easier to make friends with them... plus there are new AETs (assistant English teachers coming in);

3) In your third-year, most of your friends have already gone home... and what should I do?

They feel kind of down.

Look... I've been there and done that. I was a JET between 1990-1993 in a small city called Ohtawara-shi in Tochigi-ken. My town is famous for... I don't know... me. Sorry... Matthew, too. But... mostly me.

But here's the thing... people are upset that they are losing their JET friends... and other people write in to offer advice... well... may I chime in?

People - why did you go to Japan? Was it to make friends with foreigners... or to make friends with foreigners who are Japanese?

I miss my buddy Matthew and his Japanese-American wife Takako and their two kids! But, we remain in contact almost every day - despite being five hours apart, we are seconds close thanks to social media - something that only existed back in our time in Japan when you left someone a message on their answering machine.

I miss my ol girlfriend Ashley... I was depressed (not clinically) when she left after our second year to bigger and better things - and because I'm not a complete prick, I wish her much success and happiness. She has more grey hair than me, though.

I miss my buddy Jeff who married a Japanese woman and stayed in Japan and then fell off the face of the Earth. I bet his father-in-law finally killed him by making him eat Japanese food for the first time.

I miss Nicholas and Chris and Colin and Kristine and Jimmy-Jive and Gasoline and Tim and Mona and a whole mess of others.

But... you have to think that everyone enters your life for a period of time for a particular reason... and when that reason or time is fulfilled, be thankful... move on. They have enriched your life and hopefully, you enriched theirs.

But seriously... I understand that when you first arrive it's tough to make friends when the clique pre-exists.

Still... even though some were 500 kilometers away, I would talk for hours on the phone with Kristine... or Ashley nearby... or Matthew when he would pop over with beer.

In my second year... I was aware how people like Catherine (Gasoline) and Mary treated me - and I wanted to make sure the newbies felt as I did... so I went down to Tokyo uninvited and met them. I made them feel welcome. I bought beer, drank with them, told tales, jokes and I probably also scouted out which women I wanted to sleep with. I'm being honest here. And I did. Because I could.

But... I opened myself up to any and all JETs. They would call me - not mention any problems or concerns... but I would tell stories and amuse them, and dammit, put people at ease.

In my third year, I was becoming more independent of JET, but still went down to Tokyo to meet the newcomers, drink with the new boys and flirt with the new girls. And I did again. Because I still could. Apparently I can't any more.

As the veteran, I helped them acclimatize to Japan - providing advice and an ear for their concerns. They bent my ear constantly, and did so for the first couple of months, at which time I had slept with a few of the women, and everyone else just kind of spent the rest of their time discovering Japan for themselves.

I could only give advice... and that advice always involved telling them they had to experience things for themselves in Japan. My life in Japan won't happen to them - hopefully theirs will be even more interesting and fun than mine.

But to the JETs asking how to survive friendship depletion or part of a revolving door... when your buddies leave home... simply make new friends. Change is good.

The answer was there for them all along... cliques were already in place and it was tough to make new friends... so... now that you are the veteran, ensure that there are no cliques.

I will admit that in my neck of the woods - NO ONE renewed in the north end of Tochigi-ken, so all of us in 1990 were rookies. We were the clique that year.

As such... when some people left the next year, I ensured that the newbies could enter our clique... and did so again in the third year on a more prefectural stage...

What's stopping you from helping out the newbies?

I went to Tokyo and stayed down there on my own yen and dime. Granted... I did crash in the rooms of a lot of people... but I did what I did for the benefit of all the newcomers and my insatiable sexual appetite for female flesh no matter what country it's from.

Whatever... go... get out of your comfort zone. By my third year in Japan, although an unofficial leader of JETs in our prefecture (province), I was more comfortable with life in Japan and had Japanese girlfriends and friends and probably got more out of the Japanese experience that I ever would have thought possible in years one and two.

Get out of the rut. Go... try. The ever-repeating mantra...

Andrew Joseph
In the telephone card photograph above, James Jimmy Jive Dalton (Stoney Creek, Ont.) and Colin McKay (Calgary, Alberta) and myself (Toronto) in the process of growing my hair in my second year in Japan, and their first.. They are visiting Ohtawara and myself. The three of us are pointing to each other in the classic "I'm With Stupid" and "Stupid's With Me" stance.
Although I saw Colin many a time after I first left Japan, I didn't see him again when 1994 began. James... never saw him after August of 1993.
I wonder how each are doing.

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