Saturday, 31 May 2008

A Forest of Bloodseeking Ironwood

The FAQ is up!

Ignore the ramifications of the title of this entry. FYI, bloodseeking ironwood is very Beowulfy, and is another way of saying "spears that desire to draw the blood of the enemies of those whose hands they are being wielded by." Personified weapons are, by convention, very Norse; but the extent of descriptiveness of the weapons and armour in the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf tend to outdo anything in post-modern literature. Long live the Danes!

Timotheos maþelode sunu Joel:
"Hwaet! Take up ye burnished, gold-adorned, mail-coat, crafted by the conjoining of individual rings by a master blacksmith, that gaily gleams like the dawning of the morning sun when its resplendent fingers of irridescent light shine across the best of houses and the iron-banded mead-hall, filled with the strong, wine-smelling wooden benches whose strength of craft permit them to seat the burliest of old and young warriors both, the likes of which are common both near and far, as the distant seas separate this fair land from the boundaries of the next."



Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Last update: 31 May

What is JET?
JET, the Japan Teaching and Exchange programme exists to see foreigners go into Japan to further international relations between Japan and the home countries of those foreigners. The teaching side of JET is just one part of it. You can find more information at the Official Site.

What are ALT, JTE and CIR?
ALT stands for Assistant Language Teacher. This will be my position in Japan. An ALT is a native English speaker who works alongside a JTE. JTE stands for Japanese Teacher of English - a Japanese school teacher who takes English lessons in Japanese schools. CIR stands for Coordinator for International Relations. They are fluent Japanese speakers from other countries who work for an international branch of the government (such as the Board of Education for schools in a district who cater to ALTs).

What is this blog about?
This blog began as a record of my preparation for going to Japan to teach as an ALT. It records every step, from interest in teaching English overseas to being accepted and preparing to leave for Japan. It will continue to be a record of my arrival in Japan, adjustment to life in a foreign culture and my experiences as I learn Japanese, interact with Japanese students and explore many facets of Japanese life.

Ok, so why JET?
Go to the website and you will better understand why I chose this particular programme. Not only does the support while you are in Japan sound exactly what a frail foreigner needs, but because it is backed so solidly by the Japanese government, once accepted, you are guaranteed to find yourself placed in a school somewhere in Japan ready to become an ALT.

I want to join the JET programme. Where do I start?
So you're interested in going to Japan to teach. A good place to start would be the FAQ of the official homepage of JET; if you're a Kiwi like me, the NZ Jet homepage might be better. You could also start at the beginning of this blog and read the first few entries, as they explain in detail exactly what I did to get where I am today. The only two requirements to becoming an ALT in Japan are an enthusiastic approach to going to Japan to assistant teach, and making sure that you have at least a three year bachelor's degree from a tertiary institution (or will have completed it before you leave, like me).

Do I need a qualification for teaching English or a degree that focuses on English?
No, and no. You don't need an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) qualification to teach as an ALT in Japan. Because this is a position that requires you to assist your JTE(s) you don't need any teaching time under your belt; nor do you need to be qualified as an English teacher. In the same vein, you do not need to have an English (or Japanese) based degree in order to apply or be accepted into JET. I just happen to have got a CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults) a few years back in the interests of eventually pursuing my dream of becoming an English teacher to foreign language speakers. And I just happen to have (almost) got an English Literature degree - simply because I have always appreciated literature and felt that this field of study fit me best. IMO, study what you want to study.

What's so great about Japan? Don't people make more money in other countries?
I don't know how true the money side of it is because, personally, I'm not in it for the money - and I can say that the other JETs I've spoken to have as much passion for experiencing Japan as me, rather than being fiscally focused. I've enjoyed interacting with international students for a good portion of my life. Both my parents were English teachers to students of other languages for a few years and continue to be high school teachers here in New Zealand. You could say that teaching is in my blood (my grandfather was also a school teacher), and therefore it is one vocation I would like to eventually pursue in all its fulness. However, I have had a keen interest in Japan for a long time and see this as my best opportunity to pursue my current dreams. If you want a better glimpse of my reasoning behind choosing JET, read my first post.

An explanation of the links:
  • Japanese Language - This is a direct link to a good language resource. It is not imperative that you learn Japanese before going over, but it sure will help a lot to be prepared with at least a little bit of the language.
  • Daniel's English Teaching Tips - Read this entry for a better understanding of why this link exists.
  • Dave's ESL Café - I have infrequently checked this site since first getting my ESOL qualification in 2003. It is a large community of English teachers to students of foreign languages and frequently posts current job vacancies for teaching English in many foreign countries.
  • Embassy of Japan in New Zealand - for all those Kiwis that want an official doorway to Japan. These are the people that you will get your visa, etc through. However, JET handles everything, so you may never have to visit this parent site.
  • Japan-Zone - firstly, see this post. Check this site out if you want to be better prepared for going over to Japan long-term.
  • Jet Christian Fellowship - what do you do if you go to Japan and can't find a Christian church? This website has links and is the offical website of all Christian JETs. Read my post for when I added this link.
  • JET Programme New Zealand - The Kiwi version of the JET website.
  • My Old Blog - the title says it all. It is no longer updated, but there are over 180 entries there, documenting a past portion of my life. I will do much more frequent updates (possibly even daily ones) here on the Japan Journey blog once I am settled in Japan. It will double as a personal blog once that part of my life kicks off.
  • Victoria University Wellington - my choice of tertiary study institutions. If you want to study in New Zealand, the best place is the major university of our fabulous capital city. Call me biased, but Vic was a great place to study.
Please forward any other questions that you have to geckomayhem [at] gmail [dot] com. I'll do my best to see that they are answered, and possibly even condensed and added to this FAQ. Expect my own additions to the FAQ as things are brought to my attention and as I venture to Japan and begin the next stage of my journey.


Worshipping in Japan

After asking about churches in Japan, I was forwarded a little information; including this link, which I have added to the sidebar :)

It's good to know that there is already a network in place for Christians on the JET programme. I guess it stands to reason, and it is probably something that I should have looked up before now. But sometimes you just don't think about stuff like this.

I knew there was nothing to worry about in terms of finding a Sunday fellowship. Apparently there is an AoG* about 40 mins from where I will most likely be posted. Also, in the cities that are not quite so nearby, there are likely to be spirit-filled churches that may be nice to visit on occasion. After all, one can't be expected to travel for hours just to worship amidst fellow believers - wait, isn't that what they do in Africa, India and all those third world places? Then again, I don't think that my mission in Japan is to spend Sundays traipsing around the countryside spying out several sanctuaries to satiate my spirit :p

I intend to put up an FAQ-type blog post and link to it in its own box on the sidebar. That way, as this blog receives more attention, people will immediately be able to see what steps I took to get where I am; without backtracking and trying to locate all the informative posts at the start of the journey ^^

That's it for this cold Saturday mid-day. I'll get to work on putting together that FAQ after I get my Beowulf essay done :o


*Assemblies of God church

Friday, 30 May 2008

A Surprising Response

Hamish Beaton, author of that book I mentioned, Under the Osakan Sun (which incidentally I have now finished reading completely), left a comment on my last post. It's great to know that my Blog is being so widely stumbled upon - at least, I hope that more than two people have discovered it and taken interest. I know that I can't foresee the future, but I really do hope that this Blog will be an inspiration to other Kiwis - and other English speakers worldwide - to go over and teach in Japan.

I can't know anything that will happen over there, but I will no doubt reflect on such posts as this in a year's time and reminisce over the mixed feelings of anticipation and excitement that go with waiting to go over and start a new leg of your life journey.

On another note, read this BBC news article. It's enough to make Schapelle Corby cry :p

That's it from me, for now. I really must get this Beowulf essay done '^^


Thursday, 29 May 2008

First Contact

I received an email today from a CIR who works for the Board of Education in Shimanto. I found out that Shimanto cho is actually a new city that has been made up of three towns: Towa, Taisho and Kubakawa. I am purportedly more than likely going to end up in Towa village; but no matter whereabouts in Shimanto I will be placed, the area is very rural and should give me a great opportunity to meet some hardcore oldschool Japanese country folk who will no doubt be very friendly and interested in meeting the newest foreigner ><

I've sent off an email to contact the ALT who is currently placed in Towa, in the hopes that I can garner some firsthand information about what to expect and possibly get an idea of his experiences there. The guy is also a Kiwi but as yet I don't know where exactly he is from (oh, please not Auckland! :p).

The more I find out, the more real this becomes. The day is approaching fast that I leave this life behind and start anew in Japan. I will post again once I have made contact with the last ALT and if anything interesting comes up. I've got to get through an essay, two exams and pawn off my junk still ^^

I am over halfway through Under the Osakan Sun, too. So far it has been a great read and I would recommend it to anyone, whether they have an interest in Japan or not. Even my 17-year old brother who doesn't even read books started reading it and got through at least the first chapter before I snatched it back (j/k about the snatching part :p).



Friday, 23 May 2008

Shimanto it is

I found out today whereabouts in Japan I am going to spend my year commencing 30/31 July (after three days in Tokyo, as I've mentioned before, I think):

Shimanto-cho (city) in Kochi-ken (prefecture). It's on the smallest island of Japan. I'm glad it probably won't be a very big city. I'm excited about the prospect of being in a place where no one speaks English and I will be more encouraged to learn the language and be involved in the community to whatever extent. It's good to finally know where I will be living, working and making friends!


Saturday, 17 May 2008

Osakan Lies

One final thing. Well, two actually.

Firstly, I wanted to mention one of the games that we played. Dan had us each write three questions on a slip of paper. We were asked to write two true statements and one lie about ourselves, then read all three to a person. If they guessed the lie, they got a point. If they guessed wrong, you got a point. If you guessed their lie you got a point, but if you guessed wrong, they got the point. Each person did this with five different people, meaning a maximum of ten points. I think I did pretty well with seven points ^^

These were my questions:
  • I like ice cream
  • I have three brothers
  • I am 25 years old
I was surprised at how many people thought that the middle one was my lie ><

It seems that once students understand how this game works, it can be a lot of fun. Especially if some were to choose rather outrageous lies :o

The second thing I wanted to mention was a book that people mentioned this weekend. I'm actually quite interested in getting my hands on a copy of it. Whether I will before going or not, I can't say; but I would like to try and read it before going, as it sounds pretty cool. It's called Under the Osakan Sun. It is a novel written by a Kiwi bloke, Hamish Beaton, who spent three years (that magic number again) teaching English in Japan through JET, and covers his experiences while there. As I said, it sounds pretty cool, and I'd really like to read it so I can recommend it to people firsthand.


Two months to goooo!

Wow, I have a fair amount to write, considering how much of my weekend so far was spent on the Majestic Centre's 18th Floor.

Yesterday morning I had a Japanese oral test for JAPA111. I failed miserably at the ten questions in part one - it's not that I didn't understand what was being asked; I was just unable to voice coherent responses in time. Sometimes my brain doesn't want to function at high speeds :/ WTB 15,000 rpm BDD (brain disk drive) O.O

The second part of the oral test went ok, I think. I had practised (over and over) what I was going to say. Once I started, I kept at a reasonable pace (not too fast, but not dragging sentences out, either), and only stopped three or four times to try and remember what came next, as planned.

All in all, I think it was a very trying start to the day. I've been somewhat complacent with this Japanese paper, as I'm not terribly fussed whether I pass it or not. It's a sad attitude, I know, but I really want to expend as much effort as I can in doing well in the two papers that count towards this final part of my degree. The real Japanese learning starts when I set foot on Japanese soil ><

Friday afternoon, through evening, was spent at the Japan Information and Cultural Centre. We had a Q&A session throughout the afternoon, where we were given documentation, booklets and the like. Everything was covered, from what happens when we gather together to leave Wellington (there are 23 other JET applicants who are going over from here, not all of whom were at yesterday's or today's sessions), to the three days spent in Tokyo before we are dispersed to our respective prefectures, amidst the hundreds of other JET participants from around the world.

IRD spoke to us about tax and student loans and we had to fill in forms for the travel agent. In case anyone is wondering, JET, through the Japanese government, pays all travel and hotel expenses. Once you have reached your designated prefecture and city / town, having a little money available would be helpful, as you don't know how much of a bond you will have to pay, or how much rent in advance. However, the first month after you arrive, you will not be teaching, so will have a good chance to make friends and cajole money out of them (just kidding :p).

As far as placement is concerned: we still don't know where we are going! So, stop asking me ><

We also covered various teaching situations and heard about life in Japan as an ALT - or even as a foreigner in general. What really stuck in my mind are the following little things: firstly, when arriving at Narita airport in July, you will be met with sticky, uncomfortable heat, which will last somewhat throughout the rest of the Summer (I much prefer heat to cold). Secondly, shops don't use EFTPOS. I'm not kidding! Apparently people carry physical money around with them :o And they use paper money (as well as coins), which means that it can be torn easily (I guess). Which reminds me: I will try and remember to take over a $20 note to try and get students to rip it in half - good times :p Thirdly... well, there are a lot of things from both today and yesterday that I took from the sessions ;)

After the Q&A time with three ex-JET people (all three of whom spent a full three years teaching English in Japan, which is my intention - but, I'll see how the first year goes ^^), we had a break before a short reception, where we were able to mix with each other, eat fabulous Japanese food, and talk to a few of the JET / embassy staff.

Today was pretty full-on. With a ten o'clock start, we learned and practised basic Japanese. Fuke-sensei teaches Japanese at St Margaret's in Thorndon, and was a very enthusiastic, humourous and engaging teacher. We all enjoyed the sessions that she took (and got somewhat carried away with at times, sharing various anecdotes to keep us all engaged, and, at times, laughing in our seats). The DVD snippets that we saw were interesting - and had a couple of kawaii cartoon characters ^.^ I hope I will get a chance to ride the bullet train (shinkansen) at some point, despite its horrendous price ($140 Tokyo to Osaka, apparently).

The Japanese learning and practice lasted through the day. I had subway during our lunch break. It was good to get out.

After a short break at the end of the afternoon, we had a time of learning about some games, introducing ourselves as ALTs to our class, and the importance of having good rapport with JTEs (Japanese Teachers of Engrish; no matter what you personally think of them). Daniel Hrstich, who was one of the ex-JETs from yesterday, took us all through a few games. He actually runs a website that contains a lot of cool, insightful stuff. I've added to my links (labelled "Daniel's English Teaching Tips").

After having a bit of fun with those games, another ex-JET gave an example of a pretty indepth introduction, complete with photos and props. So yeah, it pays to have some imagery on the old micro drive (which you can print out and EXPAND rather cheaply once in Japan) and maybe a kiwi bird toy and something "All Blacky" to engage the students that you introduce yourself to that much more.

Finally, a young Scottish lady who had recently married the Japanese PE teacher in one of her schools, did tag-team teaching with her new husband. They showed us a good example of an ALT interacting with the JTE to engage the class and take an English lesson (Chinese whispers, anyone?).

All in all, 'twas a long couple of days, but I'm highly glad that I came away even more excited about going over than I was before this weekend. Don't listen to the horror stories but be positive about anything that you set your mind to doing.

I am going to Japan on 27 July 2008 and all that stands in my way is finishing my degree on time. However, worrying about such time constraints is just extra work. And since I'm a lazy Kiwi, I don't want that added burden of stress :p



Thursday, 1 May 2008

I added a new link:

I was thinking today about what I would do with my cell-phone when I go over in July. Well, this site answers such questions: from visas to long-distance travel to etiquette. Now all I gotta really worry about is my seeming inability to learn kanji ><

/sigh I'll get there eventually. It's all just so foreign to a reader of English to try and memorise such ideograms. Spoken language isn't any easier, mind you; but I will get the hang of it once I'm immersed, I guess. Here, studying Japanese is proving to be quite a chore - especially since I don't put the time in to try and learn everything that I should be learning. My degree comes first!

Also, it is now May, which means that in just a couple of weeks I have this Q&A session in town. That should prove to be an interesting shuumatsu (weekend) ^^