Friday, June 2, 2017

10 Things You Will Do On JET

Ahoy readers!

Another long absence caused by adulting, making cosplays, and doing hood rat stuff with my friends. I'm currently transitioning between jobs and planning for upcoming cons, so not much has been going on in my writing world. It's sad...I miss my characters so much!

But, this is also an exciting time for anyone embarking on the JET Program. For those of you not in the know, JET is a program where candidates teach English for 1-5 years in Japan. It's been almost 2 years since I've come home from JET, but the memories are still as strong and as fond as ever. Now that I know a few other people who are heading out, I decided to put together a little list of things that someone on JET will experience*

*note: JET is famous for the Every Situation is Different (ESID) philosophy. You may or may not experience these things exactly, but there's a pretty strong chance you will ;) 

1. You will compare Japan to your home country.

my biggest problem was that the nearest Popeyes was in Seoul...

You will make this comparison A LOT. Some of it will be due to making self-introduction lessons and to answer questions that students and curious coworkers may have about your place of origin, but you'll be making little mental notes along the way as well. 

"Oh, neat. We don't have recycle bins in front the convenience stores at home." 

"Man, the streets in my country are much wider than Japan's." 

"Oh, look! Old people burn their trash in my country's rural areas, too!" 

Your comparisons will come in goods and bads, favoring both your homes throughout the journey. The best part is that JET is primarily an exchange program, so you're encouraged to find the differences and similarities between Japan and your country and to share what you find!

2. You will have your ego stroked by your Japanese friends.
my twin, y'all~ 

Being a foreigner in Japan, especially in the inaka (countryside) comes with its own personal brand of ego inflation. Nearly every JET will get told how beautiful/handsome they are or how great their Japanese is. Also, your chopsticks skills are apparently on fl33k~ 
You're the new kid in town and, for the most part, everyone from students to parents to the friendly neighborhood Granny will want to be your friend.  

And you know what? It can be a great thing! 

People can be so hard on themselves, and the self-esteem can really take a hit whilst adjusting to life in a foreign country. So, maybe your little conversation with the local convenience store clerk wasn't elaborate, but you can still feel good about being complimented on your pronunciation of pointo ka-do. And maybe I don't sing just like Olivia Newton-John, but it sure put a smile on my face!

3. You will become a master of packing.
every JET makes this post

     With the vacation days, the stellar public transport, and the numerous long weekends, JET program is the best time to go exploring! From personal trips to AJET-sponsored tours, you'll be bombarded with opportunities to see what all of Japan has to offer. That will include plenty of chances to cram 5 days' worth of clothing into a rucksack for easier train-hopping. It would be a shame not to try and see all of Japan!

4. You will have a favorite conbini.
Choose wisely...

     And you will fight to the death for it. While this usually depends on the closest convenience store to your apartment, you'll get awfully attached to that particular brand. I've gotten into heated debates over whether Seven-Eleven or Lawsons fried chicken was the best (Lawsons,) and who has the best sandwiches (Lawsons egg salad sandwich is bae.) 

Keep in mind that each conbini has its own special perks and try them all! At the end of the night, whichever one has a clean bathroom and  walking beer was my favorite! Just Lawsons all the way!

5. You will relive your university days.
24 is the new 18

I swear the bachelor's degree requirement is simply to make sure you can handle the nightlife in Japan. JET is full of parties. Whether it be with other JETs or attending enkai with your co-workers,there will be plenty of opportunities to drink and be merry. 

Be careful, though. Japan has this custom where you can't pour your own drink; someone else has to top you off when you want more. Being the foreigner at work parties means that everyone wants to make sure you're well watered at all times. The beer will flow freely at these events, and there's usually second, third, and fourth rounds after the main event, so make sure you hydrate and eat! And it's also okay to politely decline that 9th round of whiskey from your principal!

Japan is also infamous for its nomihoudai at bars and izakaya. You'll pay a fee (normally no more than $40) to drink for about 2 hours. Some people like to take this as a race, and before you know it, you've downed those 9 whiskeys once again! (But don't worry, your favorite conbini will have some delicious food to sop up the alcohol and lull you back to sleep!)

6. You will know at least a little bit about a popular anime.
So. Many. One Piece campagins! 
Japan is the land of anime, after all! Even if your coworkers and friends aren't fans of these popular cartoons anymore, teaching students will have you up-to-date with the latest TV shows. 

Maybe some of you are already fans of One Piece or Shingeki no Kyojin , but the last anime I watched before JET was Rock Lee no Seishun Full Power Ninden so I was a little behind the times.

A lot of students will see you as the cool, young sensei and will express disappointment when you don't know the name of that popular basketball anime on TV (seriously...all I know is that it's got "Basket" in the title.) So you'll get a lecture whether you want it or not, but it'll result in you being closer to your students. And who knows? Maybe you'll get a new favorite show out of it too!

7.  You will treat nomi/tabehoudai as a challenge.
this x12

While buffets are few and far between, Japan has this wonderful concept of timed all-you-can-eat-and-drink courses. This is usually in yakiniku places, where you'll pay $40-60 bucks for 90-120 minutes of literally all table side DIY grilling you can shove down your gullet. While service is prompt and that time frame is more than long enough for a sensible meal, every JET feels the pressure to reach the high score of beef tongue consumed and beers drank. The good news is that you'll be doing it with a bunch of other people, and the meat sweats are always worth it.

8. You will have a favorite onigiri. 
tuna/mayo please! 

The humble rice ball should be Japan's national dish. They're cheap, plentiful across the country, and come stuffed with many savory, and sometimes sweet, options. Craving sour plum? There's an onigiri for that. Want fried chicken and mayonnaise squished between fluffy rice? There's an onigiri for that, too! Choosing a favorite rice snack can be a tricky thing, though, as some of the better options are seasonal. It's good to stick with a regular as go-to fuel. I still get cravings for the tuna and mayo!

9. You will be spoiled.
100 yen per plate...that's $1 for two pieces of sushi...

With the salary, subsidized rent, and ample amount of free time, JET is a time to live the high life. That can include an array of things, but the two biggest ones that stuck with me are the sushi and the shink. 

From conveyor belt to conbini the sushi will be cheap and fresh beyond comparison. Even growing up along the Gulf Coast in a culinary capital didn't prepare me for how mind-blowing Japanese sushi really is! I'll shell out quite a few more bucks for the same sushi experience in New Orleans that I had for 1300 yen in Japan.
oh, Nozomi-chan, how I miss you <3 

The shinkansen or bullet train is another one of Japan's luxuries that aren't prevalent elsewhere. Though expensive, it'll get you across the country quickly in the spacious convenience of a luxury train car. Who needs airport security and stuffy planes when you can splurge on the shink?

10. You will have an amazing experience.
I miss them every day! 

 JET, as with many programs abroad, will have its ups and downs. Transitioning to life in a new country where the customs and the language are vastly different is no easy task. You'll have your homesick days, but you'll have many more wonderful days with your students, co-workers, and new friends. 

Japan is opening its doors. Go on and explore!