Saturday 4 December 2010

A few hints with the JET programme application

So just want to let you know what I think the JET programme is looking for in people. Of course, this is only my opinion, but it seems a lot of people who become ALTs share it.

First, a little about me. That way you can understand that the application is not all about your English skill :) All these things I put in my application.

I have a Bachelor or Science in Computer Science (New Zealand). I have had experience travelling overseas. In particular, I've been to India and helped in orphanages with a mission group. I helped in my church's kids programme by looking after about 100 kids. I've done Karate and Juijitsu. I love adventure, outdoors, and that sort of stuff.

From my interview I felt they were looking for people that had the endurance to hang in there despite difficulties. In fact, many of the questions during the interview directly addressed how I would handle in the event of the housing being below-par and that fact there aren't many churches in Japan. I told them that it couldn't be worse than the conditions in India, and that I would find a church (which I have). They don't want anyone bailing out because it cost so much to send another ALT here!

In my opinion, your character is very important to get across in the application. In fact, I didn't feel that my English was up to par (as maybe evident), but I made it here :) I'll list the things that I think are important to get across for your application:

  • Firstly, you have some skill in using English (supported by something)
  • Choose your referees carefully. Get across things such as work experience, clubs, voluntary projects, etc. I had a reference from the voluntary organisation I worked with, my church's kids pastor, and from place I was working at the time.
  • Get across you personality and qualities of perseverance ;)
  • Talk about your free time activities, clubs, hobbies, etc.
Ok, that's the ones I want to highlight the most. I could go over all the basic ones, but they ask you directly in the application anyway. I just want to get across that it isn't all about your English skill. Your English skill is important, but just don't forget all the other aspects. If you make it to the interview stage they might do a little quiz on English, but they'll also try and assess your character with different questions.

Anyway, that's enough. Everyone has something to offer, no matter your personality. Find out what that is and sell it to them on the way :)

Wednesday 17 November 2010

My first month living in Nagsaki on the JET programme

It has been some time since my last post ;)

I just want to let everyone know what to expect of the first month here. I pretty much want to convey: "Don't worry, be happy :)". You can get a bit tense coming into this foreign situation (haha get it?), but in reality everything becomes clear as you go along. I always felt a small bit lost, but that is just a part of the adventure right? Accept it and enjoy. Now... onwards!

So you finally made it to your prefecture! If your like me, you will arrive in the middle of the week (Wednesday), afternoon, during summer (August). When I first arrived my supervisor was waiting to pick me up (with a big welcome sign!). First, I was taken out to lunch! Then, I went directly to my main school to meet everyone. The whole time I was wearing a suit in about 32 degrees Celsius. To be honest, I could have gotten away with something cooler, but it wasn't terrible. After the office visit I was taken to my apartment and shown around, before finally being left alone to relax.

The atmosphere for the 1st month was really relaxing for me (and most of the other JETs I know). If you arrive in August you'll be right in the middle of Summer break, and most of the teacher may not even be in the office. This is great because you may get to meet people slowly. A few things that'll happen in the first month are:

  • Sports day. My High School holds their annual Sports day in August. This is great to get involved in.
  • Enkai - You may have a formal party held to celebrate your arrival. As for me, the night after I arrived I had an okonomiyaki party with my supervisor and another sensei. It wasn't for another month till my formal Enkai.
  • Work - You'll be mostly working on your self-introduction. I did mine completely using powerpoint. You need to figure out what's available to you.
  • Clubs - there are many clubs going on during the summer break - check them out.
  • Students - there are many students simply hanging around school - meet them! The English club came to visit me everyday :)
  • Setup - setting yourself up in Japan. Your supervisor will help you get a bank account, cellphone, internet, etc. Get on to the internet as soon as possible, this can take the longest to setup.
In the first month I didn't have much work to do apart from my self-introduction. So if you find a similar situation with lots of free time, then simply just make yourself known around the school.

So these are really just the formal things, there is so much more to do in your city/town/island. Make sure you get out and about in your first weekend! Tackle the interesting things like taking the bus/train/etc. Quicker you figure out your city/town the better.

Enough for now ;)


Wednesday 10 November 2010

Takikomi gohan - Japanese dinner recipe

So this is a really nice and simple recipe. This is because you pretty much just chuck everything together into a rice cooker. The end result is great Japanese tasting rice with chicken, and seasonal vegetables. Very cheap, very easy.

Ingredients (cooking for one)
Chicken meat 
Dashi  (出し、だし) - soup base. This is the fundamental to Japanese cooking. It is the base to the soup we'll make. It is generally made from kelp and shavings from dried fish.
Soy sauce (Shouyu、しょうゆ、醤油)
Mirin (みりん 味醂; ほんみりん、alcohol present 本味醂; salt & alcohol しおみりん;  new mirin - no alcohol but same taste: しんみりん, 新味醂) -sweet cooking rice wine
Sake (酒)-rice wine

Directions:  Boil enough water for the rice cooker in a saucepan. Add the dashi to the water to create the soup. Remove Dashi flakes if they're present. Add mirin, sake, and soy sauce to the taste. You only need a small amount of mirin and sake, don't get carried away! Maybe a bit more Soy sauce than the mirin/sake, but add according to taste.
Pour the soup into the rice cooker with the (washed) rice. Add the meat and seasonal vegetables (e.g. carrot, mushrooms, etc). Start the rice cooker! 

If you don't have a rice cooker, i'm sure you could just cook it all in the saucepan you used to create the soup base.

Once done, check the meat is cooked. Cook longer if needed.
I cooked this last night, sooo good! おいしい! It took 50 minutes in my rice cooker which is standard when I cook rice. It may not take this long, but I trust my rice cooker ;)


Monday 25 October 2010

What to bring with you to Japan - Jet Programme

So, I don't want to mess around ;) Lets just get a list of what you will need and will not need to take with you (and why).

  • Toothpaste - from what I've heard toothpaste here is not as effective as it lacks fluoride (something that is very common in western toothpaste). I took a huge tube with me. I'm just starting to run out after 3 months. Might want to get 2 or more ;)   I've heard you might be able to find toothpaste with fluoride in it if you search. The Kanji may be "弗化物" or  "フッ化物".
  • Shoes - In general you will need indoor shoes to wear in the office, sports shoes for active events, some fancy dress shoes, and outside shoes. Indoor shoes can just be slippers, or some sort of slip-ons (depending on your school of course). Dress shoes are just for those more formal events that may come up.
     If you have large feet, bring many pairs of shoes. I'm size 12US and it can be pretty hard to find shoes. I did however find some my size in one store. I haven't seen any shoes that go above 31cm in Japan, but who knows maybe one day.
  • Deodorant - I believe western deodorant has a stronger feeling. Many people think that Japanese people don't sweat, that is not true! Just visit in summer and you'll understand that everyone sweats haha ;) 
  • Clothes - I wouldn't really worry too much about clothes, they have various sizes available here. If you are worried then bring some extra, but I haven't meet many people that have had problems with clothes.  There are also stores here for bigger people to buy from. Bring at least 1 suit for those formal occasions (like Tokyo).
  • Books - bring along those English/Russian/Chinese books that you want to read. Obviously this is Japan, they read Japanese, so the selection will not be as great here. 
Ok, enough for now. I never really missed anything that greatly. I only wish I brought a bit more toothpaste and a New Zealand power board so I could hook up all my electronics at once.

Leave a comment if your interested in something particular. 

Sunday 24 October 2010

Remember all that tricky Kanji - a few helpful hints for free

Hi there,

Memorizing Kanji can be quite difficult, so I'll give you a few tips. These are things
I do to quickly memorize the Kanji i'm studying. It is pretty much based on making
sense of the Kanji compounds (different characters it is made up from) and the actual meaning.

So there are quite a few neat books that cover remembering Kanji, for example:
Remembering the Kanji
I never read this book, but I've been recommended it by many good people.

However, if you are cheap like me you can get some help for free. This is pretty much done with the use of a website or two. The basic idea is to make a story or someway of remembering how the Kanji is made up. To do this you can search for your Kanji using these two sites:

Kanji Networks, this website will give you the history and actual meaning of a bunch of Kanji. Just search for your kanji and you'll be given a nice explanation about it.

Denshi Jisho, this is a great website to lookup Kanji. This one doesn't give as much info about the meaning & history, but it will link to the compounds of the Kanji. In general KN is a better website for finding the history and the make-up of different Kanji.

So, simply search for that Kanji your studying and find a way to remember it by making a story (if needed) about the make-up of the kanji.

For example, vegetable is 菜, this is made up from 3 smaller compounds 艸 (grass/plant), 爪 (pick-up), and tree 木 . KN will tell you that the last 2 together mean 采 "pick (fruit)". Making a story to remember these isn't to hard is it?

Anyway, small hint. I found it really useful to memorize how to write that kanji.

Also, once you start remembering some of the compounds of kanji you'll be begin seeing it in other kanji, making it that much easier :)

Good luck!

Sunday 17 October 2010

Living in Nagasaki (with the JET programme)

First of all, if you're moving to Nagasaki with the JET programme your lucky ;)
Nagasaki is a great city that is full of history and has a laid back feel to it. There is plenty to do, and it is not far from other great places like Fukuoka and Unzen.

You will find most of the life in Nagasaki is gathered around the shopping malls and the shopping arcade.
In Nagasaki there are 3 large malls: one in Ohato (near the wharf and sea side park), another called Amu Plaza (at Nagasaki station, Nagasaki eki-mae 長崎駅前), and the last one CocoWalk ココウォーク (in Mori-machi, not far from the Nagasaki Peace Museum). There is also a shopping arcade at Hamano-machi 浜の町.

Although, shopping is not the only thing to do here, and there are quite a few other places to visit. Sea side park is a nice ... sea side park... this is a great place to visit at anytime. Nagasaki also has a China town called Shinchi 新地 (Kanji pretty much means New Ground or vacant ground, if your interested...) which is a great place to visit. Close to China town there is Glover garden. Glover garden is old western-style buildings left by settlers. Glover himself, I believe, came from Scotland. Also, most importantly, don't forget to check out the night view of Nagasaki from Mt Inasa 稲佐山. So much more to do here....

Now, more about what's like to be a JET in Nagasaki. There is a great bunch of JET friends here that near meet every week, so you won't be alone. It is especially great to have some of those more knowledgeable of Nagasaki show us around to the all-you-can-eat restaurants. Make sure you're not a stranger when you arrive! (You will have a chance at the Nagasaki orientation to meet people).

Housing - I haven't heard any horror stories of terrible apartments here. In my case, I love my apartment. Two rooms (Tatami floor), kitchen, storage room, toilet & shower room. I think it is normal to get a few bugs. I had a few cockroaches come and visit me before summer was out. Nothing to worry about, just keep your place smell free and the beasts will stay away ;)

Anyway enough! Got any questions? Leave a comment!

Monday 11 October 2010

Becoming an ALT with the JET program - First days in Tokyo

Hey there,

So you've signed up for JET and you're finally on the way to Tokyo. Let me try and fill you in with the major events of the first few days.

First, you will be driven by bus to Keio Plaza in Shinjuku. First things first, go to the JET registration area and receive the ton of reading material. I would advise you to look through the schedule for the coming days, just so you don't get too lost (which should be very hard to do). If you are lucky you will arrive a bit earlier so you can rest and take a look around. Also, Keio Plaza has a swimming pool, so check it out if you're into that. If you have the time, go for a walk and get used to the immense heat you will be working in for the next month. Temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius are normal in Tokyo.

Your first event will be a large meeting with all the new JETs together. The seating will be divided into prefectures, so you will be seated with people living close to your placement. It is a good idea to get to know these people. It is a lot more fun making mistakes with others than all by yourself ;-)  You will then have the introduction speech, and a bit about the coming days.

The first day will be over pretty soon. In my case, we found we were not provided Dinner for the first night. This may be normal. Don't worry, this just means it is time to go out and try some Japanese food! There are many restaurants nearby. Or if your really lazy, or somewhat sick, you can find a convenience store down stairs. It will provide you a decent meal.

Ok, so the first few days consist of many Seminars led by some of the more senior JET members. It's a good idea to mark what ones you will attend on your schedule, though I know some that missed a majority. In my opinion, try to be at the main meetings and those you find helpful (e.g. about teaching, and your position). The Japanese language seminar can be skipped if you don't want to go over the very basics yet again. How much can you really learn in 50 minutes anyway? If you are completely fresh to the language go ahead, otherwise, it may be of no benefit. You may find free-time if you don't need to attend a seminar. You are suppose to attend them (because it is your job), however, these days are really full on and some down time may be preferred.

During these seminars, etc, you may have an invite from your countries Embassy. Go! Some Embassies will lay out a nice meal for you. You may also get a chance to travel somewhere other than the Hotel.

Anyway, enough for now. Any questions?

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Becoming an ALT with the JET program - First hours in Japan with JET

Welll.... I finally got around to summing up my first few weeks as a JET programme participant.

A little about me first: I'm from New Zealand. I applied for the JET program in late 2009 and left for Japan in late 2010.
I am currently posted in Nagasaki city, Nagasaki prefecture.

Ok, so down to what happens in your first week in Japan! 
You will be flown in from all over the world and finally converge in Shinjuku, Tokyo ("Shinjuku Incident" anyone? I haven't watched it... want to). You will be in Tokyo for about 3 days. In this time you're suppose to do your best and learn about life as a JET.

Ok, so that is the general idea of the first week. Now, before anything else... a warning. In your first hour after getting off the plane you will go through security and then be ushered quickly to the awaiting buses. You should get past security fine, I can't give advice about this ;)  However, before being ushered onto the bus you can send your additional luggage ahead of you to your school. Be careful of this! If you want to send some onward, fine, all is good. However, some people were lead to sending their only check-on luggage ahead. They didn't have much to wear in Tokyo ;) In my experience, I was just told to line up with my 1 check-in item in the line to send luggage onward. After realising what the line was about I went straight for the bus with my 1 carry-on and 1 check-in and got on. This was perhaps the only confusing thing for us, because everybody just told us to get into the luggage sending line. If you want your luggage with you in Tokyo (your allowed 1 carry-on, 1 check-in and also a laptop), then make sure it makes it on the bus! Otherwise, if you have a few check-in luggage bags, send some forward.

Ok, so that was just a little glitch, but I did see some that went without all their gear for those first few days. However, in general Tokyo is very well organised and you never felt lost at any point. Don't worry about Tokyo! Tokyo is like a safe bubble, very organised.

Ok enough for now, more about Tokyo later.

Friday 3 September 2010

First post!

Hi Everybody!

I've recently come to Nagasaki, Japan.
This is a blog i'm starting so I can show the world some things about Japan (from a foreign perspective).
What is it like to move to Japan, how do the buses work, etc, etc...
Also, hopefully I'll have some helpful information for people thinking about teaching English in Japan, specifically with JET.