June 28, 2007

A month left...

Man time is flying. I haven't posted in a while because I've been out seeing friends and getting lots of stuff done around the house and in preparation of the trip. It's really kind of crazy that I'll be gone in about 4 weeks! I'm not sure if it's fully sunk in yet.

I keep trying to imagine what my life might be like over in Japan, but I haven't been very successful. Though I'm asking lots of questions and getting lots of answers from people who are over there now, it just doesn't seem to be enough to give me an idea of how it will be for me and how I will react to it all.

I'm afraid it may be a little while before I post again as I have a friend in town on Friday and Saturday. Alana is my friend from the French dorm at UGA who is also going to be in Japan on the JET Programme. She is coming in to go to the JET Q & A session on Saturday. I might get a post off on Sunday about what we learn, but then I'll be heading out of town on Monday for a week to Pennsylvania to visit my extended family and help out my parents with their new home up there.

Even though I know I've done a lot already to prepare for the trip, I'm afraid it's still going to be a mad dash to get everything squared away those last weeks once I return from Pennsylvania.

June 22, 2007

Iwo Jima - Iwo To

So apparently, the name of the island wasn't always Iwo Jima. Apparently, when the Japanese military removed the locals and took charge they saw the name which had two different possible pronunciations and thought it was Iwo Jima. And it stuck, until now. Due to complaints by the inhabitants and descendants who returned to the island, the Japanese government is officially returning to the original name - Iwo To. This is due in no small part to its real and symbolic importance in history, the famous picture and the recent films based on the fighting that took place on the island.

It seems like a reasonable change, seeing as the officials made the mistake, but American veterans are upset over it. I'm not sure I understand their point of view, but then again, I wasn't there and I didn't have to fight to defend our country.

June 20, 2007

Next steps

So I turned in my visa application yesterday. Funny story actually. I turned it in along with a couple other things, my FBI background check and a copy of an IRS form. Apparently, the other two forms needed to go to another person. So, they were given back to me and the woman directed to another window. This really nice Japanese guy came up and was very talkative and took my forms and let me know that he would get them to the JET coordinator. Apparently, he was the coordinator until 2003. Well I handed him the forms and he gave me a parking validation and I left. I am pulling out of the parking deck when he comes running up to my car. I totally forgot that I needed to turn in two copies of my visa application and passport photo. Luckily, I had made a second copy for my own records and passport photos always come in pairs. And when I had left, I looked at the official checklist and sure enough it said that I need two copies. I can't believe I forgot that. And I can't believe that the guy came out to catch me. That was totally cool of him.

Well, anyway, I am pretty much set for Japan. I just turned in that stuff and I sent a reply to the travel agency and so that's pretty much it. I'll be leaving in about 6 weeks. And the more I look at where I'll be working and living, I realize that I have a very good placement. It's going to be great! Woohoo!!!

June 17, 2007

Information Packet from Mitoyo!!!

I'm soooo excited now. I just got the info pack from the school board this morning. I actually yelled out loud when I realized what it was. It has a letter from the superintendent, a handbook, a general description, a sample contract, a map of the city, and some city information.

I'm about to start going through it. I'll let you know specifics and interesting points once I've gone through it all.


June 16, 2007

Travel Arrangements

Well I got an email last night from the travel company that will arranging our travel agenda. I'm very excited about that. Looking for flights online really isn't fun when you have certain dates of travel and you want it to be cheap. And then the thought of spending so much money just to get to a place. But JET covers the cost of travel to and from Japan and for the flight there at least, they have a travel company take care of everyone's arrangements. All I have to do is fill out a half-sheet form and email it back in with my name and departure city and that's about it.

One more step that makes it seem even closer!

(I'm not looking forward to the hellishly long flight, though.)

June 15, 2007

Learning Japanese

So I'm trying to be productive this summer. I've been doing some spring cleaning and working out and such. I've also been focusing on learning some Japanese before I get there. It's not necessary to know Japanese for the program, officially. But I've been told and I've read in several places that it's a good idea to come over with at least some basic sayings and also, if possible, the ability to read the kana. Kana are a certain type of their writing symbols. They have two types of kana and two other types of writing - kanji and romaji.

I'm pretty excited because I finally have one type of kana memorized now - hiragana. I started way back in November and last week I was able to finally get all of them memorized. Now I can read aloud (and sound like a kindergartner while I'm doing it). I started some classes back in October, but that was just to learn speaking basics, not any of the writing. But on my own, I started to learn the symbols. But then mid-terms came around and the classes ended and I stopped practicing Japanese for a while. Then about 2 months ago I started memorizing the symbols again and managed to keep going through finals time and now I'm done with hiragana.

The other set of kana is called katakana. Now, here's the crazy part - hiragana and katakana are two sets of symbols that represent the SAME sounds!!! The only difference is that hiragana are used to write words of Japanese origin and katakana are used to write words of foreign origin. That's the only difference. They are kind of like an alphabet except with an alphabet, each symbol represent a single sound (for the most part). Kana are called syllabaries because each symbol represents a syllable. So か represents /ka/ and さ represents /sa/. They don't have symbols for /k/ or /s/. (They do have a symbol for /a/, あ, because that's a vowel and a vowel can be a syllable by itself.) Having 5 vowel sounds and about 8 basic consonant sounds, it works out to 46 different symbols. Then they have two small symbols you can add to the regular ones to alter the syllable, usually to make a /ta/ into a /da/ or a /ho/ into a /po/ or /bo/. THEEEENNNN, you can combine some of the syllables with the 3 different 'y' syllables - /ya/ や, /yu/ ゆ, /yo/ よ - to make new syllables. So really, there are like a 100 different possibilities for combinations. Oh and that's just one syllabary. Don't forget there's a whole nother syllabary for the exact same sounds, just different symbols. (カ instead of か and サ instead of さ)

Needless to say it's a daunting task, but I'm taking my time. Like I said, I just finished with hiragana, and now, I'm working on katakana, the one for foreign words (which, now I heard, is actually more important to learn first). Anyway, I have about 10 of the symbols memorized for katakana - only 36 more to go. And you might think, well if they have all that, what the heck are romaji and kanji for, the ones I mentioned before? Well Japanese borrowed its writing largely from Chinese writing. Kanji are symbols that represent ideas rather than sounds. Sort of like hieroglyphics. So when you see kanji, you should just know the word and therefore how to say it - no sounding it out. Why, you might ask, do you have kanji AND kana? Well, I don't know. You can actually write anything you want using only kana. It's just that historically, they've used kanji to represent their ideas. The hiragana are mainly used for small words like prepositions and particles that don't add much meaning. And the katakana are for foreign words. So to read a newspaper, you really have to know all three ways of writing. I read somewhere that it takes Japanese people about 9 years in school to get to where they can read and write proficiently in all three. And then there are romaji. These are roman letters (our alphabet) used to write Japanese words. They aren't used a lot in Japan apparently, but help western foreigners when they start out learning Japanese. So you can see 'sayoonara' and know basically how to say it rather then being asked to read さよおなら right off the bat.

Anyway, departure date is getting closer and I'm getting more and more excited.

June 13, 2007

I'm gonna miss ya'll

... a whole heck of a lot.

Packing List

So what do I pack? I know I've got a bit of time, but when you get down to it, I'm pretty limited on suitcase space - only one big one and one carry-on plus a laptop bag. This is not limited on the plane but on the bus from the airport to the hotel for orientation. Anything beyond that has to be shipped separately to my new home at my expense and I'm not sure I want to do that. So I've got some prioritizing to do, I guess.

June 8, 2007

Getting Connected

I'm starting to get in touch with future and current JETs via various websites and message boards. It's making it more exciting to talk with people who are actually there. I'm feeling a bit less anxious to hear things about the place I'll be going to. It seems like the JETs are pretty active on the island and in the prefecture. They are starting up an ultimate frisbee league and I think some people get together to play soccer occasionally. So in the beginning months when I still can't speak Japanese and the newness factor has worn off, I will have things to do to keep from going crazy or locking myself away in my apartment.

I've actually been in touch with a guy who is one town over from the one I will be in. He has said some very complimentary things about Kagawa. He said the mountains are nice and he and another JET will go off exploring and hiking. Sounds like something I would like to do. When I was out in Arizona to visit my sister, I went hiking on Camelback Mountain. It was pretty amazing. Maybe I'll find some places like that in Japan.

Well, my FBI background check came in - no arrest record (except for the pimpin' charge - who knew the FBI was a playa hater). So I've got to pass that along to the consulate along with a copy of my IRS proof of US residence form (that means I don't have to pay Japanese taxes!). Then, I've got to RSVP for a Q and A session they are having for new JETs in Atlanta. And I think that's it for a little bit.

Supposedly, the school district is going to contact me directly with their information and a contract that I have to sign and send back. Also, the JET who I'm replacing should be getting in touch with me as well to give me the low-down on the situation. Once I know where I'll be, I then have to apply for the work visa. And at some point a travel agent is going to contact me to get the air travel all squared away. The school district will be covering travel costs. And then I'm off to J-Land. I'm getting pumped about this!

(I have to apologize for the playa joke - major cheese. It was for the kids.)

June 7, 2007

Staying in Touch

Well school is out for the summer and I have about 2 months until I leave for Japan. (Check out the nifty countdown clock I added! Yeah I’m a dork, but ya’ll already knew that.)

Well anyway, I tried to make sure that everyone got my contact information before I left school, but I forgot about my seniors. They were already gone by the time I had everything set up. If you’re friends with one of the recent graduates, pass along my blog address and my email to them. You can find my email address on the profile page for my blog. Here it is if you can’t find it on the profile page. I’ll be using that from now on including in Japan.

The school already cancelled my email account for them, so don’t bother with that address anymore. This means that I lost a lot of addresses that I had stored with it. I actually just sent out a mass email to everyone I had an email address for. If you didn’t get it, that means I don’t have your email address now (either it was deleted with the school account, or I never had it). So if you want to be sure I have your address, send an email along.

I haven't been very successful in the past with staying in touch over time and distance, but I'm trying to set everything up before I go, seeing as how I have 2 months of freedom until my departure date. While, I plan on keeping up with email, I decided that this here blog would be the best way for keeping everyone informed of what I'm doing over in Japan. I know that I haven't been writing much of late, but I plan on writing 3 or 4 times per week until I leave and almost every day while I'm in Japan to chronicle my experiences. If you have a thought on something I write in the blog, feel free to leave a comment for me. If you just want to say “Hey Jad” or give me your email address or webpage, please send an email along and I’ll be sure to get it.

Also, I’m moderating the comments. That means that your comment won’t appear right away, but usually within a day or so.

Thanks everyone for the supportive emails that I’ve gotten so far.