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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

When You're A JET!

I've never had anyone say they want to be like me - except my son who said he wanted to be a writer - and I convinced him otherwise that he shouldn't because, well, just because.

However, aside from the writer aspect, I think a lot more people could do worse than to aspire to be like myself.

For example - go to Japan and become an assistant English teacher. I did, and it changed me for what I believe is for the positive. I also got laid - and then some.

Sex aside (and sometimes in front, behind, on top and underneath - it depends on the moment… in fact, I recall… uh, never mind), I had a pretty damn good time in Japan.

… not necessarily as an AET - though it wasn't horrible - but it was the only way I was ever going to go to Japan, as I really didn't want to go to Japan.

And yet… I stayed for three years. I would have stayed longer, but my fiancĂ©e wouldn't stiff the overlord wishes of her father, and so, out of work, out of love, and out of options, I left Japan. But I didn't want to.

So yeah… Japan was cool, lots of fun, it helped me grow, I had a great time, made lots of money, and 22 years after leaving, I'm still writing about the place.

Did I mention the sex? Hey, I know sex isn't for everyone… I mean, what ever the hell it was that worked for me, may not work for anyone else.

Now what the heck was my point?

Something to do with aardvarks? No… no… that would be ridiculous.

Oh yeah, yeah, right-right-right… the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

Well… applying to JET is open right now!!!! It's been open for a couple of weeks, actually…

But whatever… you have plenty of time. I got my stuff together in about eight days because I like to procrastinate. Or I used to.

Can you join?

First off...

JET Programme participating countries as of July 1, 2015:

  • Argentina;
  • Australia;
  • Barbados;
  • Belgium;
  • Brazil;
  • Canada;
  • China;
  • Egypt;
  • Fiji;
  • Finland - where's your neighbors on this list?;
  • France;
  • Germany;
  • Ghana;
  • Indonesia;
  • Ireland;
  • Italy;
  • Jamaica;
  • Kenya;
  • Latvia - where Doctor Doom is from? Oh. Sorry. That was Latveria;
  • Malaysia;
  • Mongolia;
  • Netherlands;
  • New Zealand;
  • Palau - 21,000 people in this paradise, and some of you left it?!;
  • Peru;
  • Philippines;
  • Russia;
  • Saint Lucia;
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines;
  • Samoa;
  • Singapore;
  • South Africa;
  • South Korea;
  • Spain;
  • Switzerland;
  • Thailand;
  • Tonga;
  • Trinidad and Tobago (I've never met anyone from Tobago - ever);
  • Turkey;
  • United Kingdom;
  • United States;
  • Uzbekistan;
  • Vietnam.
Holy crap!!!! This is great. I was part of the second wave of AETs on the JET Programme, and we only had Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians, Brits and Americans. That's it! It was easy to sleep through that - but nowadays… I would have to bring my A-game to sleep with at least one female representative of all the countries in JET. And a few more boxes of condoms.

I don't know if I could have done it back then, but it would have been fun trying. Ask anyone. I am very trying.

Perhaps things vary from country to country—I'll let you check on that later—but in Canada, the 2016 JET Programme application deadline is: Monday, November 30, 2015.

That's six weeks away… plenty of time… maybe I should to this blog a few weeks later…

Anyhow… how do you know if you even possess the qualifications to qualify for the JET Programme?

The basics haven't changed from Day 1 of the program - here's what the Canadian JET website says:
  • You need to be a Canadian citizen;
  • Have at least a BA university degree;
  • Have excellent language skills.
I would suppose that nationality thing is important.

Wow… the language skills part is kind of arbitrary, isn't it?

By the way… the Canadian JET website notes that people who possess a dual nationality with Japan, must denounce their Japanese nationality before accepting a position on the program. Rrrrrrright. Think long and hard about that one. Later on, should you want to reapply for Japanese citizenship - it's a looooning and miserable road to travel… and you still might not get it, even though you once had it.

Regarding language skills - accents are perfectly fine… an accent should not interfere with your language skills… unless you are difficult for the average English speaker to understand.

I've got Scots beside me at work who are perfectly understandable - except when they get excited about something like soccer hooliganism or haggis… and then all bets are off as to what the hell they are saying. It ain't English. The two Scots, by the way, are from two different cities and have two different accents - and sometimes they don't understand each other. I nod and smile a lot.

Additional requirements, at least according to the Canadian JET website are:

  • Be interested in Japan;
  • Be both mentally and physically healthy;
  • Have the ability to adapt to living and working in Japan;
  • Have a desire to proactively maintain relations with Japan;
  • Agree to obey all Japanese laws.
I love those additional qualifications... it takes a bit of soul searching. Like, everyone who ended up in Japan on JET was interested in Japan, right?

Not me. No interest at all. If you read the very first line (two sentences) I ever wrote for this blog HERE, you'll know I wasn't interested in Japan any more than I was interested in Switzerland or Egypt... actually, I wanted to go to Egypt to see the pyramids, and Switzerland because I wanted to screw Heidi while rolling around in some sort of fondue. But Japan? No. It had never even entered my mind.

Healthy - sure... I was ... but really... when it comes to mentally healthy... how does anyone know? And what if they have meds?

An ability to live and work in Japan? How do you know? No one knows until they get there and experience Japan for what it is! I had only ever lived at home and had my mom cook my meals for me... laundry... I was spoiled... and yet... my ability to live and work and survive and thrive in Japan was pretty damn high!!!

You should have a desire to proactively maintain relations with Japan. I guess that means you need to try and make friends. No problem! I fit in with the jocks, nerds, geeks and freaks. It was those so-called normal people that was always difficult. Relations? The screwing around thing is too easy. Let's just say that I'm still maintaining relations with Japan via this blog - 25 years after I first stepped onto Japanese tarmac.
My relationship with Japan isn't as close as say my friend Matthew's, but I did give it a very good shot. I would suppose, however, that once in Japan, you should get out and meet and talk with people.

Obey all Japanese laws? Yeah, you should. The police can hold you indefinitely without charging you. I broke into a museum once, broke into a taxidermy exhibit at a hotel, was publicly intoxicated (frequently), and I think I stole a Canadian flag.

Now... this behavior will get you kicked out of the Programme should you be caught.

The museum - I didn't take anything - myself and some Japanese folks (maintaining relations) others just went in the backdoor (add joke here) and walked around the place and left. We had tried to pay and get in through the regular means but the museum wasn't letting any new people in despite it being open for an additional 45 minutes more. I was also some 500 kilometers from home and the odds of me being back in the area again turned out be zero.

Taxidermy exhibit? Read about that HERE.

Public intoxication - everyone walking anywhere in Japan after 11PM was publicly intoxicated.

The Canadian flag... actually, that wasn't me... that was ... never mind. I might want to eat turkey with him someday. Someone taller than myself was able to grab one of the many multiples of flags from many different countries waving as decorative streamers after some festival ended.

If you have read this blog, you know I have been very mature and very immature. I write about what I did, culling memories from a diary I kept - and shudder at my stupidity or marvel at my genius from a perch many years removed.

Japan... should you care to challenge yourself... is rife with opportunity. If I was you, I'd give it a shot.

And, should JET not be your bag, perhaps because of age restrictions (see HERE), you can always go and teach in a private language school or just go for a few weeks and see the place.

The Japan experience is completely different for everybody who goes. Some have a great time. Some are lonely. Some just take it for what it is... life.

Andrew Joseph

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