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Q & A with L

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What kind of questions should I expect at the interview?

Why do I need another teacher with me at MY English Club?

What should I bring as gifts?

What are monthly expenditures?/How much can I save?

What kind of shoes should I bring?

Japanese Generosity

Pen Pal Advice

Culture Shock

What are prices like in Aomori?

What should I buy from my predecessor?

E-mail me

Aside from the usual: Why do you want to go to Japan? Why do you want to go on the JET Program(me) specifically? What would you do if...? How do you think you'll be able to handle (so-and-so) aspect of Japan and why? and giving a model lesson or self-introduction and Japanese language/culture evaluation, there is something ELSE you may wish to consider.

Many people in Los Angeles, CA, USA came out of the interviewing room as white as a ghost. They were asked questions they never thought they'd be asked in an interview. If this was an interview for "just any job" in the States, they wouldn't have been. But the job you are applying for touches every part of your life. And, it follows rules you might not be used to. So, don't be surprised if you are asked questions that may seem unexpected or even offensive. You will probably be asked a lot worse by your students or even by other teachers.

I can see where this is a touchy subject, but asking about your physical endowments (whatever that may entail), or your personal life is a realistic question for the position to which you are applying. *THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO ANSWER THE QUESTION* Did everyone get that? Chances are that since you are likely to be asked this type of question in Japan, the interviewers will want to see how you will react. You can calmly explain *why* you find the question offensive- joke about it... whatever *YOU* would do. Remember, this job is much, much more than just your professional life- that's why it's so great!

BTW: I always find that an enigmatic smile with some elusive answer will get you very far... (Yes, your students will be testing you as much as the interviewers are)

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I guess it was not 'allowed' for the gaijin to be the teacher responsible for kids as we are not official staff members.

I just want to point out something that I think Mr. X is aware of, but that may be misconstrued. It isn't the fact that we are the gaijin. Stated simply, in most schools, a full-time teacher must be in charge of any club- be it kendo, ping-pong, ikebana or an English club. Usually, these teachers do not coach the club- they just take care of the massive amounts of paperwork that go into having an "official" club. At the moment, my English club is "unofficial." Meaning, I have meetings when and where I want and I basically run the show. I am considering making it official for the new school year. This means that we need over a certain number of students (I think 5- not a problem for my 70 student membership), a full-time Japanese staff member (as ALTs, we are a "special" position- you may even have to be "teinin"- or affiliated with a specific "gakunen" or year in school... basically a homeroom teacher ... in order to be in charge of a club- but I'm not sure... It may depend on the school), and a schedule for the whole semester of all of the projected meeting dates with rooms. To boot, there is a ton of nasty paperwork involved in this that I am happy to have a Japanese teacher do. In return, we get a budget, rights to the same publicity and resources that are granted the official clubs and we get to be more of an integral part of the school. This means that students of the English club might be able to miss an Ikebana club meeting if the times conflict. At the moment, students cannot miss an "official" club meeting for an English club meeting. Note that becoming part of the system constricts your freedom a little (surprise-surprise!) so if we wanted to meet off-campus, we either have to do a monstrous amount of paperwork and all kinds of logistic things OR we could just happen to meet as friends with nothing having to do with the English Club, here we just happen to unofficially do things that might SEEM like what we do in the English Club, but different. Get it?

So, to conclude, as Mr. X says, "While we keep saying that you should get out there to enjoy your experience, you will run into bureaucracy and difficulties because of your status with the school." However, this bureaucracy also has its advantages if you choose to work with it. We are still in the unique position of having the ability to CHOOSE between being part of the bureaucracy or not. It really isn't fair that we should be able to dance on the line between the two- but hey life's not fair and I figure that as long as we don't abuse the privilege... we can use it to *everyone's* advantage (not just our own). Such is the case, I think, with an English club.

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Omiyage

I found the same bottle I bought for my boss at 7-11 on sale for $10 cheaper!

Same happened to me. Unless you have a local specialty, don't bother with alcohol.

American coffee (pre-ground), small bags of candies, beef jerky, peanuts,

I recommend against the American Coffee- you can get it here, and most Japanese (quite to the contrary of what most of us are told and given the impression of by their gracious thank-you's) do NOT like flavored coffees. Bring local candies from where you are from- not just hard candies or chocolates. Boring- they can get it, they get heavy, etc. Same goes for beef jerky, which doesn't keep very well, and peanuts.

My rec's: Bring things that are small and individually wrapped if possible. It's not the size or quality that counts, but just the fact that you give *Something*. Big hits for me: Small sample jars of local jams and honeys. Find out if your hometown has a specialty and if there is anyway to bring it or it's spirit to Japan. For example: If you live near the Grand Canyon (AKA the same state), bring little bags of dirt nicely wrapped. What about stones in nice little boxes? Pins go over especially well for me (in my case of the US flag- they love them). Coffee cups with your city/town/state on them are good for teachers. T-shirts, although expensive, can be good for close friends. I bought a guidebook with lots of pictures for someone (I'll probably give it to my supervisor). Bring postcards of your hometown. If you can get enough- students will love them. Stickers are good. Try to get them with something unique to your hometown/interests/etc. You can buy stickers here.

Are you getting the picture? Bring things you can't get in Japan and that tell them something about You! If you think you can- you could just bake cookies here! We make brownies in our rice cooker. They're delicious! I made a basket of pancake mix, a small jar of maple syrup and jam for my female supervisor. She said it was great to have US-American pancakes at last! In retrospect, I should have skipped on the maple syrup- you can get that at any big supermarket here. But the pancake mix was good. Even though it's soo easy to make, it was nice for her to have it all ready to just add milk and eggs... and it was cute.

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Monthly budget

A rough explanation of my monthly budget in Aomori:

Take home (after taxes) Y260,000
Rent (subsidized: ESID) Y8000
Utilities (Local phone,gas, etc) Y30,000
Car Y20,000
Food/Enkais (I love food) Y50,000
Japanese Lessons/Dance/Aikido/Skiing Y20,000
Home to loans, bills, etc. Y100,000


I often have extra left-overs in my bank account and I just let it bankroll until I want to go on Vacation or to buy some new appliance. I'm not frugal by any means. At home, I also put away US$300/month for when I return to the US, in lieu of medical insurance. One JET up here wrote an article on putting away US$300 towards retirement and not touching it until you retire. It turns into a nice, healthy sum of money that way!

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Shoes

It seems somewhat odd to put on a suit, tie etc., and then shuffle about in a pair of red plastic slippers 10 sizes too small.

Let me take this moment to recommend that everyone, especially ALTs, consider buying indoor shoes in your home countries if you have average (for a westerner) to large sized feet. These "slippers" can really be any kind of normal shoe, some men wear loafers, most women wear some sort of heeled shoe or nice flats. They are often much more comfortable and manageable than those plastic slippers they provide- very important if you spend most of your days on your feet teaching, playing games, or whatever. In fact, when I think about it, I spend 8 hours in my "slippers" and maybe less than 8 hours in my street shoes each day. You may want 2 pair of sports shoes, too (inside and outside)... something I had never really considered before. For CIRs, some offices wear slippers around the office during the winter. I think it's because of all the rain/snow that might get tracked in. Not all offices do so.

What are big feet? I wear a US size 7 (Japanese 24-24.5)and I'm pretty much the largest ladies' shoe I can find. LL Bean is a good bet. I recommend bringing 2 or 3 pairs of shoes and buying what you need through the mail when you get your 2 or 3 paycheck. I'd say: Dress, sports and inside shoes. Maybe indoor sports shoes. If you have special interests: mountain climbing, soccer, hiking, dance, etc- you might want to bring those. Travel light. You can always order what you need or have it sent to you. Just my $0.02

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My friend was given a car (free but without shaken). I've heard of a number of other examples of JETs being treated with similar generosity . . . though of course one can't count on anything . . .

True- my supervisor gave me her car , and I had to buy new tires for it and get shakken, but it was better than paying US$1000.00 for the 10-year-old heap of metal that my predecessor tried to sell me. Since the car was Japanese-owned, it was in prime condition.

When we first got here, we also kept asking around if people knew of a way to get a cheap VCR. My fiancé's supervisor said he had an old VCR, but that it was *really* old and he wasn't sure how well it would work. We thought this would be perfect, considering the Japanese concept of "old" in most cases... He brought over the OLDEST piece of machinery I think I've ever seen! It was HUGE and HEAVY and I think it had a small creature running inside of it to generate power. We never actually did get it to work and eventually hid it in the back of a closet because I think it may have been afraid of the daylight... actually, it was really an eyesore- and a pretty pointless one at that. I mean, it wasn't like we were going to *impress* anyone who came over by the fact that "OOOOOOOOOh... we collect ancient electronics from the Jomon period..."

So, now we have since bought a new VCR for all of Y20,000 and now we have inherited the burden of the old VCR because we don't want to offend him by giving it back and we can't very well throw it away since it isn't ours... Although I'm thinking that we may accidentally lose it in a few months when we do our spring cleaning... heh-heh-heh

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Does anyone out there have any experience setting up pen pal exchanges? I'm thinking of checking out school Internet sites

Ok- my best suggestions:
1. Check out Lenore's Home Page . In my 96 and 97 summaries I talk about how I started the pen pals we have and the problems I encountered on the way. There is also ePals : a web page totally devoted to classes interested in having pen pals. NOTE! You do *not* have to do it by e-mail to use this service. Just say in the description area what your situation is and what your preference is...

2. Go to ePals' home page. Look up other schools or post your own.

3. Subscribe to the listserv detailed below. Let me know how it goes. Good luck!

IECC Intercultural E-Mail Classroom Connections (K-12)

IECC is intended for teachers seeking partner classrooms for international and cross-cultural electronic mail exchanges. This list is geared specifically to the primary and secondary levels (K-12). This list is *not* for discussion or for people seeking individual penpals.

To subscribe or unsubscribe to the IECC mailing list, send a message containing the word "subscribe" or "unsubscribe" to: iecc-request@stolaf.edu

Once you have subscribed, we welcome your request for a K-12 partner classroom. In your request to IECC@STOLAF.EDU, please use a descriptive subject, for example: "Seeking Spanish-speaking 9th-grade classroom" or "Looking for 12 6th-grade students in Pakistan" In the body of your message, be sure to include information about your classroom and preferences for a partner classroom, including:
* who you are, where you are
* how many students you have
* how many students you would like to connect with
* when you would like to connect
* other special interests
* desired country/culture (area within a country if appropriate)
* desired language

If you wish to subscribe to the DIGEST version of IECC, send a message containing the word "subscribe" to: IECC-DIGEST-REQUEST@STOLAF.EDU
You may also wish to look through past contributions to the IECC mailing list. See the "ARCHIVE OF PAST POSTINGS" section below for further information. =============================================================================== You may also be interested in the related IECC mailing lists:
IECC-HE for teachers seeking classroom partnerships in Higher Education
IECC-PROJECTS for teachers seeking partners for an e-mail project
IECC-SURVEYS for student requests for assistance with projects, surveys and questionnaires IECC-DISCUSSION for discussing strategies for using e-mail in an educational setting

You may subscribe to these by sending a message containing the word "subscribe" to IECC-HE-REQUEST@STOLAF.EDU
IECC-PROJECTS-REQUEST@STOLAF.EDU
IECC-SURVEYS-REQUEST@STOLAF.EDU
or
IECC-DISCUSSION-REQUEST@STOLAF.EDU

Good luck! There is also a file called "Pen Pal Advice" available from TESL. This should be enough to get you started. Let me know if you ever need anything.

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Culture Shock

I only just very recently have been able to pull myself out of the drudges of the worst culture shock I've ever experienced in the 40 something countries I've been to. One important thing to note is that culture shock does NOT often happen when you first get to Japan. In fact, it rarely does. It hits every person at a different time and in a different way. It seems to me that most JETs experience great culture shock towards the end of their first year.

The most important thing in dealing with culture shock, of course is to first recognize that you are experiencing Culture Shock. In my case, I was able at that point, to explain to my Japanese friends and co-workers that I was having a hard time and I didn't mean to sound mean, offensive or distant, but that I just needed some time to work some things out on my work. This way I didn't burn any bridges. Call it insurance.

I made a list of the things I wanted to take with me from Japan. In other words, what is important to me. For me, I wanted to be able to do Aikido and to speak Japanese. I made a list of some things I would do everyday to achieve these goals. That way, when I was particularly down, I had a default list of things to do without thinking, that way I didn't feel so bad at the end of the day. I started writing in my journal more regularly and I exercised (in the for of Aikido). This helped me keep the "big picture" in mind while I was trapped in the recesses of my mind. And it made sure that I didn't end up sulking all day long.

In all of the living abroad workshops that I had given before coming to Japan, I always told people to get involved with the sports they like right away and to keep doing them. Or if there was an art or hobby they were interested in, to do that. I must admit that I didn't often follow my own advice. However, when I gave myself a sketchy routine to follow, where I had some time to myself everyday to do nothing, watch TV, etc., that included exercise, lotsa sleep, eating right, an "outlet" (such as a favorite sport or hobby) and writing in a journal, it helped me get back to normal pretty quickly.

I can't tell you when it will happen, how bad it will happen, nor how long it will last, but these are my best words of advice for dealing with culture shock- and this time, from personal experience! Above all, make time for yourself and the things that are important to you. It's the best time to do the things you've been procrastinating!

It has also been pointed out by some that it is very important to build a strong support group. The only thing worse than Culture Shock is Culture Shock when you 're on your own.

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TYPICAL PRICES OF THINGS IN AOMORI

Disclaimer: This is just a guide- just a guide- just a guide- just a guide... If you find it for a different price it's not my fault- not my fault- not my fault. Get the picture?

This is provided with the intention of letting you know the standard and/or reasonable price of commonly purchased items at new and used stores, respectively. Using this, I hope to give you an idea of what prices are reasonable if and/or when your predecessor offers to sell you something if you are replacing someone. You will hopefully both have been informed of the prices published in this article and will be able to negotiate accordingly. Please be aware that you are not required to agree to buy anything before you've seen it. Please also keep in mind the position of the person you are replacing and if you do agree to buy something for a fixed price, keep your end of the bargain. Many times it is possible to work out an arrangement in which you send them the money after you get your first paycheck, but that needs to be arranged between the two of you. These are mostly big ticket items. Our predecessor offered to sell us her used spices for Y100/each. So as far as the small-ticket items, you'll have to use your best judgment (the spices for Y100/ea. are a little silly).

Also, this is meant as a guide, not the final word. Not all items can be found in every used ("Recycling") store, so you may need to look around a little for the exact item you want. The "typical" prices listed are for mid-range quality items. Of course, the best items will be more expensive and you can always get them cheaper if you really look. I have also tried to provide a "bargain" price for those who are happier buying something new that works, but isn't anything special. This "bargain price" is for the stripped-down, lowest model I found without shopping around. All prices listed are in Japanese yen.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

* Information not available at the time of writing

Item

New

Bargain

Used

acoustic guitar

20,000

*

10,000

air conditioning unit

80,000

65,000

*

automatic coffee maker

5,000

*

*

bicycle

15,000

13,000

*

blender

4,000

1,000

*

bread machine

20,000

10,000

*

camcorder

30,000

20,000

camcorder- Hi 8

100,000

90,000

50,000

car (7-10 years old) with shakken

N/A

N/A

100,000

car (7-10 years old) without shakken

N/A

N/A

50,000

computer monitor

50,000

40,000

*

dishes- bowls/glasses/cups/etc.

200

100

100

dishes- plates

800

500

100

dryer

50,000

*

*

electric blanket

5,000

*

*

floor chairs

3,000

N/A

*

food processor

10,000

6,000

*

golf clubs

*

*

120,000

heated rug

10,000

5,000

2,000

hot plate

4,000

2,000

*

hot water warmer (electric, not a thermos)

10,000

6,000

5,000

iron

3,000

1,000

*

kotatsu (with blankets)

5,000

2,000

*

large space heater

50,000

35,000

20,000

lights/lamps

2,000

1,000

*

microwave + conventional oven

50,000

40,000

20,000

microwave oven

15,000

8,000

*

phone

5,000

2,000

*

phone with a cordless extension

15,000

10,000

*

piano/organ

*

*

150,000

refrigerator with freezer

35,000

20,000

10,000

rice cooker

10,000

5,000

5,000

shelves/ drawers

2,000

1,000

*

skis (with boots, bindings, poles)

30,000

20,000

*

stereo system (CD Player, Dual Cassette, Tuner, Speakers, Equalizer)

20,000

10,000

10,000

toaster oven

5,000

2,500

*

TV- large screen (about 24 inches)

60,000

45,000

20,000

TV-small screen (about 14 inches)

30,000

15,000

2,000

vacuum cleaner

15,000

8,000

*

VCR

20,000

15,000

vented heater

150,000

N/A

*

washing machine

30,000

25,000

*

washing machine- automatic

50,000

40,000

20,000

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email meLenore De Asis (lenore_is@yahoo.com)

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