I’ll be in Japan in one day! How very exciting… In light of my rushing mode, I just have a few bullets of thought:

- The future brings what it brings.
- I believe that there’s a reason for everything.
- I don’t think it’s good to just brush things off.
- Learn · Love · Live

Stay tuned next week (or until whenever I have internet again) for my initial experiences in Japan!

今週の写真: やった! Yay! I finally learned how to ride…


今週の漢字: 思い出

Lately, memories have been on my mind. Maybe it’s because recently I have finished with my identification as a student, and maybe it’s because I am leaving next Saturday. I am not saddened by these memories nor am I dwelling on them. It has been more of an associative exercise than it has been just sitting around reminiscing. For example, when it is a really hot day I start thinking about Miami, or when I look at an object I am reminded of any experiences associated with the object. It has been an act that I do frequently these days.

There was a time when I thought that people don’t change much. However, I have come to mold this into the thought that people don’t usually change much in a small time frame. When I have looked at many of my memories (no matter how distorted) from the good to bad, I noticed how much I have changed. There have been moments when people stated their beliefs on the ability of great change in people. Although I am generally open about the many ideas in the world, I do not recall a time when I have heard any reasons behind the views different from mine on people and change. I suppose change may also be all relative. It seems that many instances where one who keeps in close contact with another feels that each person does not change much, if any. Perhaps this is due to both people changing together and even the influence that one has on the other.

My thoughts do not end here. As much as I am aware of the present, I am currently referring to the past and reforming opinions and beliefs. This all led to thoughts on the future. What will I be doing?? How will my time be on the JET Program?? Where will I go afterwards?? Will I try to stay in Japan longer than intended??

Stay tuned next week for part two of my thoughts before leaving!

今週の写真: As I have been organizing my files on my computer, I came across my favorite picture. I hope you enjoy its absurdity as much as I do.


今週の漢字: 慣(れる)

Many new JETs wonder how they’ll adapt to the culture of Japan. I’ve seen a number of these said JETs frequently asking questions. Sometimes I think it goes too far from asking about how it works to get the bare necessities to asking about how the toilet flushes. Okay, I lie about the toilet question, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone were to ask about it. It seems for some people, there are never enough answers to satisfy their insecurities and curiosities. Then, there are those who seem to have no questions and are happy to just jump into the unknown.

I like the middle, although I admit that I swing closer to infinite questions. I’m sure there will be lots of unfamiliar situations that I will experience despite the questions that I have, but I’m fine with that. I don’t stress out thinking about questions to ask people who lived in Japan or current JETs on everything about everyday life. I love planning for vacations, but if there’s something unexpected, I usually wouldn’t mind. Of course this is different from a vacation, but I like to know a bit about the schedule so I’m not surprised to find out a packed or lack of class schedule.

I hope to hang out with people every week or every other week. However, I am not going to drink. I wonder what kind of effect this will have on my co-workers and supervisor. My predecessor informed me that although there are JETs who don’t drink alcohol, I will probably be doing a lot of explaining on my non-alcoholic preferences. The best tip I’ve heard so far is to use the wonderful technique of diversion. So when they try to give me sake, I am planning on saying, “すみませんが、ビールを飲みません。でも、お茶が大好きです!(sumimasen ga, biiru o nomimasen. demo, ocha ga daisuki desu!)” So, translating, I’m hoping to say that I don’t drink beer, but I love tea. I imagine I’ll post about how it goes.

Stay tuned next week for part one of my thoughts before leaving!

今週の写真: I’ve been taking pictures of things I would like to show my students, so for this week, here’s my house.


今週の漢字: 荷物

What should I pack?? That’s the question that concerns many JETs. As with moving into a college dorm as a freshman, it ranges from people packing as light as one outfit to people bringing everything they own plus whatever they buy along the way. As for me, I am in the middle closer to the light side. Well, that’s what I’d like to think. I am a packrat (to an extent) so I do end up acquiring lots of stuff. I may only bring about a fifth of all my things, but I usually return with my luggage filled with the new stuff.

I am trying to figure out what I should bring with me to Japan. Obviously, I’ll be bringing some of my clothes with me. However, this post is focused more on what other things to pack. In relation to last week’s post, I’ll be packing whatever omiyage I bought here. It has been recommended that I bring a few books on English grammar, which I have already set aside. Of course, these books are not textbooks as that would take up too much room. I have set aside a number of DVDs and video games that I stored in CD wallets. I tried so hard to narrow down from my collection of DVDs, video games, and CDs. I first had so many, but I was able to pick my top choices. Oh, I hope I don’t have to be put in that position ever again. The reason why I am bringing many of these discs of entertainment is because I am anticipating that I’ll have people over at my apartment, so I would like to provide some American entertainment in addition to whatever I get in Japan. Other things I am planning to bring include: plays, yearbooks (recommended by my predecessor for showing American culture), playing cards, books on Japan and Japanese, and a few computer accessories like my external hard drive and webcam. I hope it’s not too much. I wouldn’t want to be like those who horde everything.

I want to have enough stuff with me to show different aspects of American culture. Of course, this is in addition to representing America. In many ways, as a JET, I have a duel role as ambassador. However, shouldn’t I also mold to fit in with the Japanese culture and customs as the old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do??” Because I am going to Japan to share the American culture and identifying myself as an American, I cannot fully follow the Japanese way of life. There’s this push and pull action, and I wonder how much of either direction I’ll face.

During the optional pre-departure orientation, the last scenario presented was about a few JETs who got drunk tainting the face of the program as well as the countries represented by the involved JETs. No wonder why some people view Americans (or even other countries’ citizens) as loud, obnoxious, and rude. Unfortunately, it takes only one person to really tarnish a name. So, if I was in a similar situation, I feel that it’s best to try to take control of the situation and use the favorite tactic of diversion. Hopefully, the JETs would eventually wear themselves out. As you see, it seems diversion is a very effective solution to a lot of situations and in many ways it is a tactic that seems to be used often by some Japanese people in sticky situations. I look forward to finding this balance as with the search for balance in life.

Stay tuned next week for more common pre-departure stresses for new JETs and thoughts on alcohol in Japan!

今週の写真: I saw the movie Ratatouille twice this past week. Doesn’t it show how much I loved it?! For those who haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. If you like Disney Pixar, you definitely should watch it. Ce film est très magnifique! Alors, voilà une image du film.

Source: Salon Magazine's review of Ratatouille


今週の漢字: お土産

I have learned that in the Japanese culture, one who is away buys gifts to give to people back where the person dwells. Here in America, if I do not buy any souvenirs for people back at home, it isn’t considered offensive or rude. However, the lack of souvenir buying and giving is considered very rude in Japan. JETs usually do not know the school or even the place where they will be working. I don’t think there is a new JET who leaves from an area of Japan (if the JET were in Japan) only to return to the same location. So, this idea of a souvenir shouldn’t apply right?? Well, somehow it may still apply. That’s because the JET is going to Japan from a foreign country, a play very different from Japan. Plus, the Japanese culture is very community oriented and thus, a very gift giving culture. This is where a lot of stress for JETs comes from. Common thoughts include:
What should I bring??
How many should I bring??
How much should I spend??
When should I give it??
Who should I give gifts to??

In some ways, I share this stress with other JETs. My predecessor informed me that teachers aren’t expecting anything, but if I do, it would be highly appreciated. So, I am wondering what I should be getting. I already ruled out clothing because that would probably be a pain. I heard that the sizes in Japan are generally smaller than in America. I also ruled out alcohol because I think that would be annoying to haul with me, and I wouldn’t want the one receiving the present to invite me to drink. Therefore, I have opted for key chains, mugs, baseball caps, and picture frames. If I spot something else or get what I deem a good suggestion, I’ll consider it. The other day I was at the Times Square M&M World, and I spotted an ugly tie. For some reason I was really tempted to get it for the school’s principal, but I think that is just too cruel. As much as anyone can love chocolate, I wonder if a man in such a society would wear such a tie to school or other functions. It would be very disrespectful. Now, if the tie was actually made out of chocolate, then that’s a different story.

I find that there are two different kinds of respect. This isn’t fully fleshed out, so bear with me. In a vertical society such as Japan there is a hierarchy, and people need to treat each other with respect in terms of treating better those in a higher position. The second kind deals with a horizontal society such as the United States where people give respect to each other in terms of accepting or tolerating individual uniqueness. There is some of the hierarchical respect found in America too, but it isn’t as strong as vertical societies.

One of the situations that was reenacted during the optional orientation’s cross-cultural activity involved a drunk male supervisor making advances toward a female JET. In this case, my table brought up our favorite tactic of diversion, which seems to be a good answer for many situations. However, I wanted to use this as a look into the differences between the two types of societies. If this happened in a horizontal society, the female JET could probably yell or threaten her supervisor. My previous definitions of respect are not black and white. There is a grey area like in many things. In Japan, it does not mean that people of higher authority have less respect for the people in lower positions, but there is a loyalty that the lower people must show. Therefore, in the Japanese culture, to talk back would be very disrespectful. Is there a right or wrong type of society?? I don’t think so. I just find this all very fascinating.

Stay tuned next week for more common pre-departure stresses for new JETs and thoughts on the role of a JET as an ambassador!

今週の写真: This week I spent a lot of time in NYC. So, here’s a photo of my sisters and I “stayin’ alive” at the Times Square M&M World.