My First Week in Tamana

My first week in Tamana was an absolute blur of places, people, names and food! (So much food, help me I’m getting so fat!) I was with my host family for two nights and we somehow managed to cram in so much in that time.

The first night, after the little eikaiwa, we had a cheese and wine party which was AMAZING. I’d said my favourite food was cheese and my host family went all out to provide me with what I love. We had a bit to drink and talked about what would be happening in Tamana over the next few weeks. The big thing everyone was excited about was hanabi taikai (fireworks festival) which was on Friday. I mentioned that I’d worn kimono before and loved it, so my host mum dug out a yukata and asked if I wanted to wear it to the festival. Of course I said yes, and so we had a dress up session to make sure it would fit. Shockingly, the length and width of the yukata was fine, the only thing that needed tweaking was the length of the obi to fit around my waist (shame, shaaame on me!) I was surprised the yukata fit in the length and around my waist because the yukata had originally belonged to my host mum when she was in high school, and then both her daughters had worn it at various times, and they are all very petite ladies in the best Japanese style. Luckily they’re quite flexible pieces of clothing! Once we’d worked out that it would fit, we were sent to bed because it was very late and I had to go to work the next day, bright and early!

The next day, my host father dropped me at work which was very kind of him. He walked me to the right area of the BOE just to make sure I didn’t get lost which was probably a good idea. I’m not sure exactly what we did on our BOE days, but most of them are a mist of Japanese study, form filling, trips to get bank accounts and phones, and talking to the other ALTs. I consider myself lucky that in Tamana we have 6 ALTs at our BOE. Each ALT has a Junior High and either one or a selection of elementary schools. It’s really nice that there is always someone to talk to about work or just life in general and the senpai ALTs have been really helpful about translating and talking us through the hundreds of forms we have had to fill in. As it was my first “official” work day I wasn’t sure what we’d have for lunch, so my host mum made me a bento. It was so delicious and she even wrote my name in katakana on the omurice! I ❤ her a lot.

That evening my host family collected me and first we went to do some purikura and then we headed back to my host family’s house. My host mum is an expert at making matcha and has done it at the annual iris festival in Tamana. She gave me a quick lesson which was really interesting (I was pretty bad at it..) and then we all went out for sushi (yay!) The restaurant was called Edo Sushi but I have no idea where it is because I was driven there and it is down an absolute maze of back alleys in central Tamana. Google might help me find it again in the future I suppose. The food was fantastic and there was no much of it. I think it’s definitely one for me to try and visit again. My host father shocked me by eating his entire tempura prawn – head and all! It sounded far too crunchy for me…

After we had sushi, my two host sisters and I went to a local onsen. Tamana is famous for its hot springs and while it might sound odd to go to an onsen while the weather is sweltering, there is nothing more relaxing than a hot bath. I have onsen’d plenty of times before so I am not at all bothered by the concept, but I know it can take some people plenty of getting used to. The onsen was a private onsen and it had three baths, two outside and one inside. We sat and talked for a while before getting out and sorting ourselves out. Earlier, we’d bought some beautiful cakes from a local cake shop so we had those as a midnight snack and then headed to bed. We slept really well that night!

File_000 (5).jpeg
These are real peaches, glazed, stuffed with cream on sponge cake bases!! THIS IS WHY I AM FAT.

The day after was the day of the fireworks festival and also the day I would go to my new apartment (I’ll do a separate post about that later). After a mad day at the BOE heading back and forwards to my new place to get the gas working and (more importantly) the air con fitted, I was picked up by my host mum, given the yukata and then kindly driven back to my house. Luckily my apartment is within very easy walking distance of the fireworks festival, so I wasn’t bothered about getting home afterwards. My host mum started to dress me for the festival, and then the doorbell rang. This of course filled me with panic but luckily I had my host mum for moral support. It turned out the gas man was back with a new piece of hosing for my gas hob because the other one was old and broken. This meant I should be able to cook over the weekend (hurray!). After he was done we finished getting dressed and my host mum dropped me off at the local cafe where I was meeting some of the other ALTs from Tamana-gun (like a district). It was nice to meet more people and I’ve hung out with them a lot since because they are all wonderful people.

After a meal we went to the fireworks festival which was spectacular. I have no decent pictures really, I was too busy trying to hold my beer and my lightbulb drink and my fan. It was really hot but it wasn’t too bad in the yukata. I had my first experience of someone trying to measure my height by reversing into me. I maintain I won – he had about 2 inches of bleach blonde hair on the top of his head which definitely doesn’t count!

After the fireworks festival I wandered home. I had been a little worried in case I forgot the route, but it’s actually very straightforward so no problems were had. I think my favourite part of the entire night was watching the little children stare at me in yukata. They were so cute in their own outfits and when we said “konnichiwa!” their eyes would get even rounder. The fireworks were magnificent and my favourite part was when they played Beauty and the Beast music while golden fireworks rained down.

The next two days were the weekend and were mostly spent in a sweaty mess as I cleaned the apartment, went food shopping, went cleaning supply shopping, went towel shopping.. You name it and I bought it! I didn’t have a car at this point (and still don’t.. Fingers crossed for Monday..) so everything had to be lugged back by hand. It’s character building I’m sure. I really wanted to do a deep clean to prevent bugs getting in and causing me problems, and so that I only really needed to do a top up clean every week. So far so good on the cleaning front.. My host family kindly came and drove me to a supermarket so I could get some heavier things like rice and pots and pans, and afterwards I went out for dinner with my host sister. We had okonomiyaki which was deeelicious and is one of my favourite foods. My host mum had come by a voucher for free beer (yay!) which I got to use because my host sister isn’t old enough to drink yet.

Altogether a very busy first few days in Tamana but very productive ones!

Advertisements

Coming to Kumamoto

Our time in Tokyo was short lived as on the third day we all split up and headed to our prefectures. Kumamoto left relatively early in the morning which meant I had to get up relatively early, which meant that everyone else in my room also had to get up early (sorry guys!) I actually woke up at 2am and couldn’t get back to sleep – we’d apparently had a small earthquake which may have had something to do with it. Probably because of being exhausted, I felt surprisingly emotional at breakfast as I’d got used to spending my time with my lovely roommates and leaving them to spend all my time with folks unknown was a bit daunting. Luckily the melon plates helped, and after stuffing myself I went to meet up with the other Kumamoto folks in the big hall. The hall had signs all around the edges for the different prefectures and it was odd to see people lining up and leaving in streams behind their signs. Everyone looked like they were somewhere on a scale between excited and petrified as they introduced themselves to the other people who would be flying out with them. I felt lucky to have previously met Yasmin in London and throughout the Tokyo orientation as it gave me a friend to talk to while we waited. Eventually we were ready to go, and we followed our sign out through the hotel and onto our bus to Haneda.

Kumamoto is about 6.5 hours from Tokyo by train, so Kumamoto JETs fly to their placement because the flight is only 1 hour and a half and reasonably priced (often cheaper than the train). We were bussed to Haneda and checked in with ruthless efficiency. It was seriously weird to those of us used to UK or American airports to be waved through with full water bottles and liquids, security for internal flights seems very relaxed. We grabbed some coffee and waited for our flight. On the bus to the airport, Laura and Johnny had told us that we would be heading straight from the airport to our CO (after being fed) and we’d need to have our aisatsu (greetings) ready to go. This meant that any time we were waiting and even on the plane, all you could hear around you were “hajimemashite’s” and “yoroshikuonegaishimasu’s”.

We boarded the plane which actually had a lot of room on it and we were all sat in the tail (yay – super bumpy ride incoming). I was sat next to another JET going to Tamana (Ginger Snap is his alias here) so we were able to get to know each other a bit on the flight which was nice. We came down (very bumpily) into Kumamoto and collected our baggage without incident. We then headed through the gates into the crowd to meet our supervisors and senpai JETs.

File_000 (13).jpeg
The cutest greeting sign that was waiting for me! Thanks El Presidente for your hard work!

We were met at the airport by two supervisors and two senpai JETs (Rainbow Sunshine and El Presidente – they wanted aliases and chose their own..). I think my brain was starting to stop working because of being awake for a LONG time and the stress of flying so my introductions were basically “Hi..stutter stammer…death..”. We went for lunch at a really nice vegan place in the city (Ginger Snap is vegan) and talked about a lot of things to do with Tamana, Kumamoto and JET. I had some sort of pasta salad which was delicious but very spicy, so that shut me up for a bit.

After lunch we headed back to Tamana to the Board of Education where we would do our formal introductions to our “big boss” then would meet our homestays and do a couple of other jobs. I have to say that my formal introduction to our boss was an absolute shambles. I think I nearly cried with the stress and definitely messed up all my Japanese. Ginger Snap was a lot more composed and managed to carry the situation very well, but I like to think the experience at least gave me a baseline to work up from! Luckily he’s a very nice man and was very kind about my appalling Japanese and nerves and decided not to immediately fire me. I also nearly managed to flash him as one of the buttons on my shirt came undone immediately before meeting him but thankfully my Rainbow Sunshine and El Presidente JETs came to the rescue and made sure I was appropriately dressed!

We then got a chance to meet Ojiichan and White Black Thunder (two more ALTs who wanted to choose their own aliases). After our meetings we went home with our homestays. Mine was an absolute delight and I had the best few days with them. That evening I actually went to a little eikaiwa which my homestay sister attends with her friends. That was a lot of fun and the lady running the eikaiwa actually gave me a gift of a beautiful hand painted Japanese style fan, covered in irises which are the famous flower in Tamana. I was past the tiredness by this point so I didn’t notice the time and we actually went to bed at about 11:30, which is quite a long time to be awake considering I was up at 2am, but I was having a lot of fun! It was really nice and reassuring to be surrounded by friendly people my first night in Tamana and I’m very grateful to my host family for looking after me so well.

File_000 (14).jpeg
My wonderful host family. There aren’t enough arigatou’s for the help they have given me!

Tokyo Orientation

Tokyo Orientation started pretty much the second we disembarked from the plane. While taking a second to collect myself in the bathroom, myself and some of the lovely Scottish people got a little behind the main group and had to be rounded up by a lady with a sign. We didn’t quite realise that the whole group were waiting for us either – or we’d have walked a little faster!

That’s my first Tokyo Orientation Top TIP! Either go to the bathroom just before you land, or go to the very first bathroom you see in the airport. You won’t have a chance to do much else until you get into your hotel room.

After being rounded up, we were shuttled through immigration. My previous experiences in Narita have involved quite long queues, so I was pleasantly surprised at the speed at which we were shuttled through. They take fingerprints and pictures, and then you are moved to a desk where your zairyu (residence) card is completed.

After that, you head through to baggage collection. I’d done some serious packing hacks for the plane involving three coats and stuffing extra clothing into the pockets, so I really wanted to get the coats into my bigger bag to be shipped down to Tamana without me having to carry them! All the blogs I had previously read had suggested that I wouldn’t be given any time at this point, but I actually found I had more than enough time to repack my luggage to my satisfaction. After repacking, I walked through customs with no trouble as I wasn’t bringing any medication in so didn’t need to go through the yakkei shounin (or however you spell that customs form..).

Following the chain of purple people, I headed outside to the buses. It was a really painless process to send off my larger bag to my prefecture, and get the smaller of my suitcases onto the bus.

We were bussed to the hotel through the bottom half of Tokyo over the Rainbow Bridge and past Odaiba. It was beautiful and after our super long flight we were all really happy to see some of the sights.

When we got to the hotel we had a short briefing followed by collecting our name badges, our JET bags with our documents in, and our room keys. This was the thing I was a little concerned about because I knew we would be sharing rooms with other people, but I wasn’t sure who. Would they be on my flight or would they be total randoms from other places in the world who I’d have to live with? Luckily, my two roommates were Ami and Sophie (remember them?) so we were all on the same plane and we’d hung out previously which was really nice. I was on an earlier bus to them, so I made it to the room first! And gave myself the smallest bed because I’m a lovely person XD All the beds were full doubles though so it wasn’t that much of a sacrifice. I also put the kettle on because I am a good friend and British to the core! We were all going to need a cup of tea after that trip.

We slightly unpacked and then Sophie and I headed off to find a konbini (convenience store) for a snack because I couldn’t face any more airplane food and had rejected my final meal on the plane as it made me feel sick. I bought some chocolate brownie ice cream and some jelly for a delicious first meal back in Japan. We headed back to our room which had a glorious view of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building and collapsed into bed. We had to be up for breakfast by 7:00 after all, and it was now about 23:30.

Day One

Tokyo Orientation was all a bit of a blur but the most important thing they tell you is that you MUST remember a suit jacket for the Welcome Ceremony. Luckily we all managed to do that and so were permitted to enter the huge hall to take our places with the other new JETs.

File_000 (5).jpeg

File_000 (6).jpeg

My stomach had not been pleased with me after all the plane food, and the jet lag was kicking in a bit too. The best description of it was like a wave, you’d be at the top and feel great, then suddenly you’d come crashing down and find you’d zoned out for the last ten minutes and had no idea what was going on, before heading back up again. Another top tip that I found for this was to actually use the breaks. It might be tempting to sit down and relax, but if you get up, go to the loo or get some water which they hand out between sessions, you feel better. I also made sure I took my complementary room water with me to the session so that I drank enough throughout the day.

The workshops on the first day ranged from formal introductions to various CLAIR staff members, Team Teaching demos by current JETS and JTES, Professionalism and Manners and more. We also got fed lunch which I don’t remember being too exciting but it was at least plentiful. Most irritatingly for the UK JETs was the lack of tea as there was only coffee on offer after the meal.

Once the day was over we had a short time to relax which we used to head back up to the room to drop off our paperwork from the day before heading down to the Welcome Reception. This was an event where we could meet other people heading to our prefectures, eat and drink. I met a lot of people but the most memorable part for me was probably the sweep I did of all the long tables to try and clear up any remaining puddings! The chiffon cake was delicious and I wanted all of it. Much to Sophie’s annoyance I also managed to snag a brownie despite her trawling around the hall looking for them. We then headed back up to our room to change again and headed out into Tokyo with a selection of UK JETs to do some karaoke. #sleepisfortheweak

 

Day Two

File_000 (7)

Day Two started bright and early with breakfast at 7:30ish. We were pros at this buffet lark so for me it was straight to the melon plate and the tea! I think I may have also had chips for breakfast on Day Two. I needed the salt..

Day Two comprised of classes from the British Council on how to teach various aspects of English. Most of the classes were interactive which was nice, but it was easy to drift off as most of us were still pretty jet lagged.

After the main workshops we were released to our prefectures where we met our PAs (Prefectural Advisors) for the first time. It was scary and exciting all at once to meet people you’d been emailing from the other side of the world. Luckily the Kumamoto PAs are very nice people who seemed to understand how shell shocked we all were and made sure to give us all the information in paper form (and cookies!). We were gently given the news we’d have to leave the hotel early in the morning so I had to be eating breakfast at 7am. I just counted my lucky stars I wasn’t in the group who had to leave at 6:30 and have a special restaurant opened for them! I think that might have been Sendai. After we were instructed, we had some photos taken and we were dismissed. The PAs were heading out to dinner with anyone who wanted to join them, but UK JETs had an invite to the British Embassy and how often do you get to go to the British Embassy for a reception? Well I mean we’d been twice in the last two weeks but that’s a bit unusual!

File_000 (8).jpeg
Yay for Kumamon – the cutest mascot in Japan! And yay for cookies!

We headed off to get changed and met back up in the lobby of the hotel with the other UK JETs who were going. Tokyo then decided to really help us out and absolutely chucked it down with rain. We were going to use the metro but just getting to the metro had most of us totally soaked! Luckily the Embassy is really close to the station, so we scurried in and were able to dry off with the help of some wine.

The reception was interesting, we had presentations on various things and the Ambassador spoke to us. We also had a display of taiko drumming from the Embassy taiko team, and we were fed which is always a bonus. When the reception was over we then headed back to the hotel and I started to pack as I had to be up super early the next morning.

 

 

 

 

We’re off!

Land of the Rising Sun, here we come!

Bright and early on Saturday 29th July, my brother and I left Cornwall in our hire car. We were going to drive to Heathrow, then my brother would get the tube back to his apartment in London, and I would get on a plane to the other side of the world. It still didn’t feel real as we sped out of Cornwall, and looking back on it, it still doesn’t seem that I quite grasped what was in store for me. We made excellent time despite my Father’s doom mongering, and made it to Heathrow by 10:30. My flight was at 16:00 and we were meeting at 12:45, so we had loads of time. We sat down and got a drink, and then my brother left me to get his tube. I felt a bit sad waving goodbye to him as he went down in the lift and left me to my people watching.

File_000.jpeg
He was clearly devastated to leave me.

I spotted some folk from the London orientation including Sophie (more on her later too!) and Eric, and we had a good chat while we waited for the representatives from Miki Travel to show up. They appeared early (hurray!) and we got our stickers, our baggage tags and our passports and tickets back from them. We checked in with Qatar airlines, and I breathed a sigh of relief as my (potentially a littttttle overweight bags) disappeared off to the plane.

Our flight was with Qatar airlines via Doha, so we knew we were in for a seriously long haul trip. This meant I wanted gin, preferably in a bucket! Sophie, Eric and I got through security without too much incident, and found the nearest bar. I had an enormous gin and tonic while we waited and talked excitedly about what we were doing. We also met a lot of other JETs who were going to be flying with us. I think there were about 24 on our flight. Ami also appeared (remember her from London orientation!)

File_000 (1).jpeg
Gin! I love you, never leave me…

We boarded our plane and were pretty shocked at what we found. A gentlemen was being restrained in the back seat of the plane by a selection of suited heavies. The restrained chap was screaming his head off constantly and very loudly. In the current climate, this did not reassure any of us who were slightly more nervous fliers and we made our way to our seats with some trepidation. Ami and I were sat next to each other which was a blessing as we weren’t the greatest fliers and it was nice to have someone to share concerns with as we took off. Before we took off, one of the suited heavies from the back of the plane came down to tell us that the reason the restrained man was screaming was because he was being deported from the UK, and didn’t want to go. While it was reassuring to hear that we weren’t in imminent danger of being blown up, the screaming didn’t stop until we were in the sky and it was still very unnerving. In the event, no one died, and we made it to Qatar in good time.

File_000 (3).jpeg
Proof that I am the undefeated Spider Solitaire champion of Qatar Airlines.

In Qatar, we did our transfer and met up with the Scottish contingent who had come in on a different Qatar airlines flight. Now we were all together, we sat and waited for our next flight to Tokyo. This flight was the long one – nearly 10 hours all together, which following on from our previous 7 hour flight and 2 hour wait did not make any of us very happy.

File_000 (2).jpeg
Top bants.

Luckily I had an aisle seat so I could at least get up and stretch whenever I wanted to, and I was in an aisle with Sophie and Eric which made for interesting conversation when we weren’t supposed to be sleeping. Nothing too exciting happened and then all of a sudden, we were landing! We’d survived our giant journey and we’d made it to Japan!

London Pre-departure Orientation

London Pre-Departure Orientation was a big marker in terms of my JET departure countdown. This was the point where I’d be handing over my passport and finally getting my hands on those important travel details which might actually make me feel like I was going to leave the country!

 

I decided to travel down to London the night before. I really don’t trust the trains in the UK, and there are cheaper deals if you’re happy to travel outside of rush hour. I left the office at normal time on the afternoon of Wednesday 12th, and headed down to London. I arrived in good time and managed to navigate across the tube to Queen Mary’s University where we’d be staying. I was a bit surprised when I actually got onto the campus, because there seemed to be hundreds of people in different coloured tracksuits all over the place. It was like I’d wandered into the Olympics! I later found out that there were some para-athletic championships going on in London and the athletes were staying on the same campus as us. I found the security office so that I could check in, and after waiting for Mauritius to finish complaining about the lack of water in their rooms, I received my key and instructions on how to find my room. As I was leaving, I heard the security guard say “oh and you’re in the same flat” to another chap, and that’s how I met Chris from Ireland! It was nice to have some company as we went to try and find our flat, and to have someone to talk to about all things JET. The accommodation they provide at Queen Mary is basically student flats, so everyone gets their own room in a shared flat, with a kitchen. Each flat has it’s own en suite which is tiny but perfectly functional.

 

I woke bright and early on Thursday morning having decided to go for a run before breakfast. I find running really relaxing (I know, it’s weird) but I wanted to start the day feeling relaxed rather than super hyped up. I decided to head up the canal to Victoria Park and investigate up there. It was a beautiful morning to run, and I saw a lot of lovely dogs on my way which is another good reason to run. I was a bit annoyed with myself when I got home, because I’d been on pace to absolutely smash my 10k PR, but I stopped at 9.5k and didn’t realise until I’d showered! The rage….

File_000 (2)

After a quick shower, it was time to get dressed and head off to breakfast. The breakfast is included in the room price and it’s very good value for London. It was then off to the opening of the orientation where we received our flight details and travel information. Bye bye passport! It was still quite early, so I sat outside with new friends before heading in and being “orientated”. We had a selection of interesting talks throughout the day before we got a break for lunch. There are a few interesting cafes on site so I headed off to the nearest one with girl friends Laura, Ami (she will reappear in later posts!) and Sara. Then we had more talks and we were done for the day. After all my excursions I was exhausted and headed off to a Sainsbury’s local for a gourmet dinner! Sometimes at these events it feels like there’s a lot of pressure to make new friends and to talk to people so it’s important to take some time out to recover. Not to mention that while it was great to meet London JETs, some people at London you may never see again (or at least only in passing in the Keio Plaza!).

 

The next day we were up early, packed and checked out after breakfast. We had a whole day of Japanese classes so Chris and I headed our separate ways with many “good lucks!”. I was in the intermediate class, so went to find that. It was an interesting class but my Japanese felt rusty so I was a bit ‘rabbit in the headlights’ to start with! At lunch, I bought a sandwich and sat with another new friend Sarah by the riverbank.

When classes finished, it was off to the Embassy for the reception. I was sort of adopted by the Scottish contingent which was a very symbiotic relationship as I knew the route on the tube and they gave me friends! We got to the Embassy in enough time to eat some dinner at the local Pret which was a good idea as there was about to be a LOT of champagne. The reception was good fun. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but there was lots of alcohol flowing, some toasts and speeches, and some excellent sushi (even for a vegetarian like me!) I was sad that I couldn’t stay very long, but I at least got to meet and thank the lady who interviewed me. That felt like a really nice conclusion to the application side of JET and almost like I was closing a door on that section of life. After a few short hours I had to roll to Kings Cross to catch the last train back to the frozen north, ready for my Goodbye Party the next day.

Packing.. endless packing

There’s nothing much to update on at the moment other than the endless waiting and packing that comes along with being accepted for a job abroad several months before one actually departs.

I thought I’d put down a few of the things that have helped me when I’ve been packing up my life.. just in case they help anyone else!

  • Inventorise! I didn’t think I needed to do this but once I did suddenly I had a much clearer idea of where things were going. I marked my furniture and bigger belongings with stay, give away or bin and I was then able to draw up a timeline to work out when I needed to sort things out by.
  • Be ruthless. I am unashamed to say that I am quite the hoarder, particularly of clothing. There was no time or space to be sentimental so I did a big wardrobe clear out back in March to sort my winter things, and then again in June. Anything I hadn’t worn in the last 6 months or last season went. There were no ifs or buts. Some things I could give to my Mum or my friends, but a lot of clothes went to the car boot and the charity shops. On the plus side, this gave me more space to buy new things!
  • Little and often. Don’t leave all the jobs to the last minute. Pack up a little every night and it will soon be done.
  • Don’t pack too heavy. Something I failed at miserably the first time around. Especially when I put my entire Shakespeare and Classics collection into one box… which I then couldn’t lift…

 

In other exciting news I’ve been speaking to my predecessor today about buying his car. I’m going to be very pleased to have transport sorted so soon after I arrive. I love having a car for the freedom it gives you to go anywhere, anytime you want!

JET: The Interview

14/12/2016. A normal day like any other. I had a day off work for a little pre-Christmas holiday and I was in Leeds to meet some friends for lunch. After getting totally lost, we managed to find each other in a Pret, and had sat down with our sandwiches. After a while I checked my phone and noticed an email notification had come in. I quickly checked it expecting my normal spam from Booking.com or Fat Face, but instead I read:

“Dear Ms Jenifer Vosper
It is our pleasure to invite you to interview for the position of Assistant Language Teacher on the 2017 Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme.”

I think I froze, then shrieked a bit. Luckily I had some friends to tell immediately as I felt like I was going to burst with the news. I read the email about ten times, made sure I replied and started thinking about how I was going to get to London for the interview.

 

11/01/2016. The Day of the Interview

I’d got the train down to London the night before because I don’t trust the transport system in the country not to go to shit when I need it most! I stayed in a little hotel near Paddington station because it was the closest and cheapest I could find to the Embassy. My interview wasn’t until the afternoon so I had most of the day to entertain myself in London.

I decided that since I was training for a marathon, the first thing I would do that morning was run 14 miles around Hyde Park. This was kind of a good idea in that it stopped my brain from churning over potential interview questions and it gave me an outlet for my nervous energy. On the flip side, running 14 miles is quite a lot. I got back in good time to shower and check out the hotel, but I was already pretty tired by the time I left the hotel and I still had a few hours to kill. Luckily it wasn’t raining, so I went back to Hyde Park and explored a bit. I had a meal in the Italian Gardens Cafe on the north side of the park which was really nice, and people watched (dog watched!) a bit.

I then walked down to Buckingham Palace (finding the Embassy on the way) and then sat in a little cafe until about half an hour before my interview. I made sure I was still looking presentable in the cafe bathroom, then headed over to the Embassy.

At the Embassy I handed over my print out of the interview email and my passport and had my overnight bag scanned by the security team who were really nice.

I then checked in at reception and was ushered to the left through some glass doors into a large room which looked very odd with only two sofas and a table in it. I imagine they normally use this room for receptions and things which is why it didn’t have any furniture in it other than the sofas and the huge chandeliers!

I was still early so I expected to wait, but it wasn’t long before I was joined by another girl who had an interview and we were then gathered up and escorted upstairs. Our escorts were JET alumni who did their best to make us feel at ease but I definitely felt too on edge to do anything other than make polite conversation. We were led into a side room and given a short test of our English skills. It..wasn’t hard. Easy spelling mistakes and the odd bit of grammar to correct. We then had the opportunity to chat with our escorts before we were led to our interview rooms to wait.

The interviewee before me came out and the escorts asked her how she thought she’d done. She sort of had a look of shell shock so I wasn’t feeling too great about the process by the time I was called in.

My interviewers were two ladies, an English lady and a Japanese lady. They were very friendly and tried really hard to put me at ease which I appreciated. I didn’t get any unexpected questions really, things like “What do you like most about Japan?” and “Why do you want to do JET?” were questions I already had answers too. I got myself in a bit of a knot when asked what my favourite British value was.. I came back with “Integrity” but then I decided that was probably a global value and cue a waffling speech about integrity… if anything I guess it showed I have a large vocabulary!

There was one question which they apologised for before they said it, saying that it was quite personal. I braced myself for something horrific, but really they were just commenting on my hair. At the time I had half brown, half pink dip dye and I knew they were probably going to say something about it. They asked how I would feel if a headteacher at a school told me it was inappropriate to have. I told them I was intending to get it cut off before going anyway and that seemed to satisfy them. I miss my pink hair but it’s not worth the stress of being judged or even just thinking you’re being judged when you start a new job in a different country.

me
I miss my pink hair

My favourite question was probably “How will you find getting up in the morning for work everyday? Will you struggle?”. I pointed out I’ve managed it for 6 years in this country and they sort of laughed.

We finished with a short Japanese conversation. I put that I’d been studying it and at this point I do confess that I sort of panicked. I think my day wandering (and running) around London had caught up to me and my brain was exhausted. We got through a few phrases about food before I bailed out with a “Sumimasen, wakarimasen…” At least I apologised in Japanese!

I left the room and tried not to burst into tears in front of the escorts from relief that it was over! I thought I’d done the best I could but I wasn’t confident in the result. At the very least, I told myself it was good interview practice. I made my way back to Kings Cross (I WALKED THE ENTIRE WAY WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME). I had a huge meal at the Italian place in Kings Cross along with a large G&T before getting the train back to the North.

All that was left to do was wait for the results….