what I've gone to Japan on a program called either the JET Program or the JET Programme, depending on which brand of English you subscribe to. The Jet Program allows native speakers of English all over the world to living and work in Japan for 1-3 years as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT). Each ALT is paid approx 3,600,000 YEN per year. Depending on the exchange rate that's usually around $31,000. Oh did I mention that is tax free? So this is what I take home. Not impressed? multiply what you actually take home on your check times either 24 or 26 depending on how often you are paid. I was making less at my tech computer job. Strange.

Plus you get ample time off, reimbursed for most work related travel, you are very close to cool countries in SE Asia and Australia, and it's really cool.


why There are so many reason why I did this, mainly because I felt like my life and my job was a big treadmill. No matter how much effort I put out, I never really got anywhere. So I figured I might as well try this and see if I am in the wrong career to begin with. It's an amazing opportunity that will open so many new doors when (if) I return. Maybe I'll get there and hate my job, then the only difference would be I hate my job, in Japan. I've put up with an awful lot so they'd have to beat me everyday for me to hate it (knock on wood).

The application process starts in September and I made my final decision when they laid off someone at work who I thought really did a good job. I realized they had no loyalty and decided to start opening some options for me. I thought of bartending school and then moving to the Keys, or finding something to do in Vegas, or staying in Atlanta but finding a totally different career path.

Then 9/11 came and I decided I rather be out of the big target country and in a neutral out of the way place.

Ironically now North Korea is threatening to bomb Japan. Who knew, just can't win.


when The program (well it's really a job) starts August 1st, 2002 and lasts for at least one year. I can apply to renew for up to 3 or 4 years total. 4 years is a long time, but by that time you can renegotiate so many times you can end up with a sweet contract. We'll see. 
 

where
I'll have an apartment in Fukushima city just North of Tokyo. It's about 2 hours by bullet train or 4 hours by bus. My exact location will be:
 
Japan  
Tohoku
Fukushima Ken
Naka Dori
Fukushima Shi
Noda Machi
Maple YH
Country
Region (like South East, Mid West, West Coast)
Smaller than State, Bigger than a County (also called Prefecture)
Mid third of Prefecture another region type area (dori is 'area')
Large City like Atlanta (shi is 'city')
Smaller area like Buckhead or Midtown (machi is like 'area')
Apartment building


Pronounciations:
Fukushima - foo koo she ma
Tohoku - toe hoe ku
Naka Dori - na ka do dee  (the 'r' is very soft like a 'd' almost)
Noda Machi - no da  mah chee


how The application process for JET is semi-complicated. Only because they make it that way. It takes about 9 months to fully get accepted and there are several steps in between. I'll go over them briefly here.

Application - I had to fill out this long application, have two people write reference letters, get a physical, write an essay on why I want to do it, gather all my transcripts from every school I attended, and then wait. This was in September.


Interview - Finally in Feb they told me I was accepted to get an interview. There was no way to prepare for the JET interview as the main purpose is really to find your breaking point and how you react. They hit me at different angles with worst case scenarios. One interviewer actually said some people stand up and say "I don't need this job, I don't so you can kiss off". Doubt she got in. The interview was early March I think.


Short List - didn't really get this part, but it is typical Japanese. It said "Congratulations you are on the short list for acceptance, this almost always happens". The three statuses are supposed to be accepted, alternate, rejected. So apparently the short list was a new thing in between accepted and alternate. I knew people who were flat out accepted and some that were alternates. -3 points for vagueness. This came in mid May (although they said it would come mid April).


Placement - Finally in early June I was emailed and told I would be in Fukushima Ken as a prefectural JET. Which means I would be employed by the BOE as opposed to one specific school. Not sure of the up side or down side of this yet, though I hear prefectural JETs get more time off. Woo Hoo.


Final details - My predecessor emailed me as did my new supervisor around mid June. David was the guy in my place now who I would be replacing. He said everything there was pretty cool and I gave him a list of 1.5 million questions. He answered them all and I had no worries about the transfer.


living I have a small, but decently sized, apartment in the city. It's about a 10 minute walk to the station, a 30 minute walk to my base school, and a 15 minute walk to all the bars and cool restaurants in the city. 

The apartment itself has two rooms each with 6 tatami mats. Each room is about 8 feet wide by 10-12 feet long. There is a remote controlled Air Conditioned/Heater and two overhead lights. There is a big kitchen, as well as a shower/tub room and a toilet room. I have a washer but have to hang my clothes out to dry.

 Pictures


daily life My weekday life varies each day of the week, but here are the basics:
Mon, Wed, Thur Tues Fri
wake up at 7
if walking leave at 7:45
if riding leave by 8:10
If leaving after 8:10 can't go the Soneda Crossing way or I hit the 15 minute trains and am late. Might take bus in winter.

Get to school by 8:20 and supervisor has my daily schedule. Usually teach 3 classes. I am an integral part of the classes here and it feels good.

After school I usually help a student with her speech contest practice, help 3 other students with a college entrance essay, watch the sports practice and wonder why I don't bring a change of clothes to walk around the track, or just leave at 4:15.

After school I usually walk through the station and rent a movie if I have money, or eat dinner, or get dinner at the $1 store, or meet friends for dinner. Or I walk straight home.

At home I either watch a movie, or type on the computer, or read a book.

wake up 6:30am
leave apt by 7:05
catch 7:34 train to Hobara
get to Hobara station at 7:55
walk to the school (17 min)
school starts 8:30


usually have 2 classes where I tell what I did over the weekend then sit down and listen to the teacher teach English in Japanese.

During the breaks I study Japanese. 


After Hobara I help "interview" three students who want to get in to a college next year. Might be the only three at this school who want to go to college after High School.

Then I ride the train back and go home. It's an $8.80 round trip train ride. I get reimbursed after a month. For some reason I get reimbursed $10.40.

wake up 6:30am
leave apt by 7:05
catch 7:31 train to Adachi
get to Adachi station at 7:59
walk to the school (23 min)
school starts 8:30


Usually have 4 classes, sometimes 3 back to back. Here I am a human tape recorder. Repeating over and over.

During the breaks I study Japanese. 

After school I come straight home.

Then I ride the train back and go home. It's an $8 round trip train ride. I get reimbursed after a month.

 


food When I have money I eat out about 3 times a week and eat home the rest, unless I am meeting friends on the weekend, then obviously I eat out.

My favorite restaurants are two sushi kaitens (conveyors), a fried meat place, three curry rice places, a really bizarre Malaysian type place, and sadly McDonald's.

 Pictures will come soon.


job I work three days a week at Higashi High School and then travel once a week to Hobara HS, and once a week to Adachi HS. I have two other visits to Fukushima Boys school which is supposed to be one of the very best.

The job for the most part consists of me either acting as an assistant teacher and speaking English a lot, or acting as a Human Tape recorder and repeating sentences over and over. I am usually in 2-4 classes a day and might stay after to assist with extra activities. A native speaker can really help students learn.

While at school I say Hello or What's up to every student I pass. I try to get them to talk to me about anything. I gave them an email address and maybe %1 have written me, but at least it's not zero. I feel a good connection between my base school students and me. I try to act in between a teacher and a student. I'll help them along when they need it and tell them to be quiet as well.


friends I have a number of friends in the area and will gradually add their pictures. Some of the friendships will be lifelong and some will end the second we part. That's usually the case though.