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One World in One Lifetime

The Best Campsite

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 3, 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Tamagawa Campsite
(田万川キャンプ場)
(Tamagawa Kyanpujō)

near

Tamagawa Onsen
(田万川温泉憩いの湯 )
(Tamagawa Onsen’ikoinoyu)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°39’09.7″N 131°39’44.3″E

Address:

Campsite: 〒759-3112 山口県萩市江崎

Onsen:

1740-1 Shimotama
Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture 759-3112

Phone:

  • Campsite: 08387-2-1150
  • Onsen: 08387-2-0370

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Campsite:
    • 1,000 JYN/ Night / Tent
  • Onsen
    • ¥ 410 / adult
    • ¥ 200-100 / kids

Hours:

  • Campsite:
    • 8: 30 ~ 19: 00
  • Onsen:
    • Closed Mondays
    • 10: 00 ~21: 00 (last admittance 20: 30)

Notes:

  • To check-in at the campsite, go to the front desk of the onsen.
  • This campsite is near or part of Yutori Park Tamagawa.
  • There are no tents to rent.
  • There is also RV camping for ¥ 1,000 per day.
  • I’m not sure it there are showers on the camp grounds, but there is that onsen nearby.

Senjojiki Plateau Campground
(千畳敷高原キャンプ場)
(Senjōjiki Kōgen Kyanpuba)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates: 34°24’51.2″N 131°05’26.6″E

Address:

Country Kitchen Yubinbango759-4402
Yamaguchi Prefecture Nagato Hioki in 1138-1

Phone:

  • 0837-37-3824

Websites:

Cost:

  •      1-5 people:  500 yen / night
  •   6-10 people:  800 yen / night
  • 11-30 people: 1,200 yen / night
  • 31-50 people: 1,800 yen / night
  • 51-70 people: 2,500 yen / night
  • 71 or more people:  3,000 yen / night
  • day camp is free

Hours: (Country Kitchen’s hour’s)

  • 11:00~17:00
  • Closed on Thursdays

Notes:

  • To check-in the camp ground, go to the coffee shop, Country Kitchen. It’s at the top of the hill.
  • Staying at the campsite gives you a discount at the coffee shop. But, I’m not sure what this discount is. I think it might be 100 yen off a waffle or something.
  • There are no showers at the campsite itself. 
    • There is an onsen nearby (Kiwado Hot Spring/ 黄波戸温泉).
    • Directions
    • Coordinates: 34°23’46.2″N 131°07’55.3″E
    • ¥ 400 – adults
    • Closed Mondays
      • 10:00 to 21:00 (May-August)
      • 10:00 to 20:00 (September to April)
    • A small towel comes with the entrance fee, but you might want to bring your own regular sized towel.
    • Phone: 0837-37-4320
  • During the holidays, all the toilet paper gets used up by day campers. You should bring some TP of your own for the evenings.

Map:


It rained all night.

Should I stay or should I go?

When we woke up this morning we had the choice of taking it easy and spending another night here or spending the day driving south to Yamaguchi and spending two nights there. When these options were presented, the ladies and I had just returned from using the bathroom. This bathroom had evidence that someone in the camp was very sick… We wanted to leave.

Breakfast for 6 on a rainy morning

The rain was supposed to stop around noon. We would take a chance and leave in the early afternoon. Even though that seemed like a long shot, it was worth it to pack up a dry tent instead of a wet one.

In the mean time we made breakfast, ate it, and did dishes. Then the plan was to go to the onsen to take showers and then take down the tents that would hopefully be dry by then. But then it stopped raining and the sun came out earlier than expected.

The new plan was to put as many things in the sun so that it could get dried out. Then someone decided to just take down their fly. And then someone decided to just flip over their tent. Then someone decided to just take down their poles. And the next thing I knew we spent an hour drying every thing out and taking down the tents and packing the cars.

So then we went to the onsen, showered, and left town.

Oh wow!

We drove for half a day and ended at this wonderful campsite. Roland had saved the best for last.

We were all glad we didn’t choose to stay 2 nights at that other campsite.

All Pictures

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Nagato 市, Yamaguchi 県 | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

We Bring the Rain

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 26, 2015

Sunday May 3, 2015

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Izumo-taisha
(出雲大社)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°24’07.3″N 132°41’07.8″E

Address:

〒699-0701
島根県出雲市大社町杵築東195 出雲大社社務所内

195 Kitsukihigashi, Taisha-machi, Izumo-shi, Shimane-ken
699-0701

Phone:

  • +81 0853-53-3100

Websites:

e-mail:

  • sengu@izumooyashiro.or.jp

Cost:

  • Entrance – free
  • If you can get ¥45 worth of coins to stick in or on the straw rope (the rope in the photo above), you will have good luck.

Hours:

  • Always open

Notes:

  • This is a temple for the god of marriage.
  • When you pray at this temple, you should clap 4 times instead of the normal 2 times; 2 claps for you and 2 claps for your love or future love.
  • No one knows how old this temple is, but it’s pretty old.
    • Some think it’s the oldest shrine in Japan.
    • There is record of its existence way back in the early  700s.

Iwami silver mine
(石見銀山)
(Ishimi Ginzan)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°06’18.5″N 132°26’19.5″E
  • There is nowhere near the mine to park. You have to park your car near Oda Bus Center.
    • Take the bus to Omori-Daikansho-Ato bus stop. (250yen)
  • If you are going by train, you can get a bus at Oda-shi station to Omori-Daikansho-Ato bus stop.
  • Once at Omori-Daikansho-Ato bus stop, the mine is a mere 45 minute walk… up hill.
    • There is a bike rental place where you can rent regular and electric bikes.
    • There are also bike taxis, where you ride and pay someone else to do the pedaling.

Address:

〒694-0305 Shimane Prefecture, Oda, Omoricho, イ1597−3

Phone:

  • 0854-89-0183

Websites:

Cost:

  • 410 yen
  • 50% off with a foreign passport or ARC card.

Hours:

  • 9:00 to 17:00 (until 16:00 from December to February)

Notes:


Tamagawa Campsite
(田万川キャンプ場)
(Tamagawa Kyanpujō)

near

Tamagawa Onsen
(田万川温泉憩いの湯 )
(Tamagawa Onsen’ikoinoyu)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°39’09.7″N 131°39’44.3″E

Address:

Campsite: 〒759-3112 山口県萩市江崎

Onsen:

1740-1 Shimotama
Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture 759-3112

Phone:

  • Campsite: 08387-2-1150
  • Onsen: 08387-2-0370

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Campsite:
    • 1,000 JYN/ Night / Tent
  • Onsen
    • ¥ 410 / adult
    • ¥ 200-100 / kids

Hours:

  • Campsite:
    • 8: 30 ~ 19: 00
  • Onsen:
    • Closed Mondays
    • 10: 00 ~21: 00 (last admittance 20: 30)

Notes:

  • To check-in at the campsite, go to the front desk of the onsen.
  • This campsite is near or part of Yutori Park Tamagawa.
  • There are no tents to rent.
  • There is also RV camping for ¥ 1,000 per day.
  • I’m not sure it there are showers on the camp grounds, but there is that onsen nearby.

Map:


We all know who caused the rain.

Rain

It seems like whenever we camp too near to Hiroshima Prefecture it rains. Sometimes it stops raining for a few hours, but then someone gets bitten by a snake. We don’t mean for any of this to happen. We really have no idea how to stop the rain from following us other than by not camping within a 30 mile radius of Hiroshima prefecture.

We all tried to make it a good day despite the rain.

More Rain

We first went to the Izumo-Taisha shrine in Shimane prefecture. Mark and I had been there before. It’s not that far from our apartment in Miyoshi.

We followed our friends as they took tons of photos. They really liked the shrine but, I think they would have enjoyed it a bit more if the rain would have just stopped.

It’s raining? Let’s go to Starbucks.

It’s Raining… Still

I mentioned that the Starbucks across the street was the nearest Starbucks to my home. “You live that close to this shrine?” someone asked.

“No. I live about 1.5 hours away.”

As we passed by the coffee shop we noticed that there was a cookie themed drink on special. We had to try it. We all sat upstairs, out of the rain, and enjoyed the view of the entrance to the shrine, while consuming a whole day’s worth of calories in the form of one coffee based drink.

“It’s just another 45 minutes of walking up this hill and we’ll be there!”

Rain Won’t Stop Us!

The rain had not stopped by the time we got to the area where the old silver mine was. I say “area” because there was no way to drive anywhere near it. We had to find a bus station, take an overly crowded bus to somewhere closer to the mine, then walk up hill for about 45 minutes.

There were bikes to rent, but not everyone in our group wanted to ride bikes in the rain. There were also taxi-bicycles to hire. But, there were none to be found when we were at the bottom of the hill. We found 3 of them at the top, but they were waiting for the people who had hired them. Our timing was all wrong.

The rain might have stopped, but it’s still drippy in here.

So we walked to the top with our own 2 feet, or rather 12 feet. The mine was good in that it wasn’t raining (though, most cave-like things tend to be dank and drippy), we all got a %50 off foreigner discount, and we were now headed down hill.

Just typical minors

I was really hoping to see some silver, or silver rock. You know, an example of what silver minors looked for when mining. But there was no such thing. There were only drawings of the horrible conditions that minors had to deal with when mining.

It stopped raining for a whole 20 minutes!

We headed towards the next campsite with the plan that if it were still raining, we would try to rent a cabin somewhere. Where? I don’t know. There were no cabins anywhere near this campsite that we knew of.

It didn’t matter anyway. When we got to the  Campsite, the rain had stopped. We raced to get our tents up. Because this campsite was so crowded, we chose not to stay more than one night. In our rush to set up camp, we unpacked only what we needed for one overnight stay.

Once all the tents where up, the rain started again. This meant that grilling dinner was out of the question. We got some food from the nearest konbini, and ate next to many of the camper’s drying clothes and camping gear under the shelter of one of the few pavilions at the campsite.

Then we stayed up until midnight in one of our tents playing nerd games where we had to find killers, wizards, and good men.

All Pictures

Posted in Hagi 市, Izumo 市, Japan, Shimane 県, Yamaguchi 県, Ōda 市 | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Garden Garden Bridge

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 19, 2015

Saturday, May 2, 2015

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

 


Hoshikami Star Park
(星上山スターパーク)
(Hoshikamiyama Star Park)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°23’14.5″N 133°07’55.6″E

Address:

星上山スターパーク
〒690-2102
島根県松江市八雲町東岩坂3050−3

Phone:

  • 0852-54-2450

Websites:

e-mail

Cost:

  • For Camping per night:
    • 300 Yen per person +
    • 510 per tent
    • and an additional 300 per night for use of the kitchen
  • Bungalow one night basic charge 6500 yen
  • 100 per non-timed shower

Hours:

  • Reception: 9:00~18:00
  • Check-in 15: 00 ~ Check out 10: 00

Notes:

  • Reservations are needed to stay at this campsite. Call before you go.

Adachi Museum of Art
(足立美術館)
(Adachi Bijutsukan)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°22’47.6″N 133°11’38.8″E
  • There is a free shuttle from JR Yasugi Station, JR Yonago Station, Tamatsukuri Spa, Kaike Spa and ANA Hotel Yonago.

Address:

320 Furukawa-cho, Yasugi, Shimane, 692-0064, JAPAN

Phone:

  • ( +81 )0854-28-7111

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • 2,300yen
    • Bring your passport or ARC for a 50% foreigner discount
  • They accept Visa, Master Card, American Express, Diners and JCB.
  • It’s 500 Yen for audio devices that offer information in Japanese, English or Mandarin.
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • April-September: 9:00-17:30
  • October-March: 9:00-17:00

Videos:

Notes:

  • It takes about 2 hours to see the whole museum.
  • Do not leave the museum until you are sure that you’ve seen the whole thing. Re-entry is not allowed.
  • Don’t shop at the first gift shop, until you’ve seen the second gift shop.
  • Photos are not allowed inside the museum. You can, however, take photos of the gardens.
  • You are not allowed in the gardens; you can only look at the gardens.

Yuushien garden
(由志園)
(Yushien)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°29’26.3″N 133°10’31.7″E

Address:

1260-2 Hanyu, Yatsuka-cho, Matsue-shi, Shimane-ken

Phone:

  • 0852-76-2255

Websites:

Cost:

  • 600yen
    • Bring your passport or ARC for a 50% foreigner discount
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • 8:30 – 17:30

Notes:

  • Every year around the end of April and the beginning of May there is a Peony Festival.

Ejima Bridge
(江島大橋)
(Ejima Ohashi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°31’08.5″N 133°11’59.3″E

Phone:

  • 0859-42-3706 (Sakai Port)

Websites:

 

Cost:

  • Free
  • There is an area where you can park for free for a short time.
    • This parking area is on the Shimane side of the bridge.
    • This would give you enough time to take several photos of the bridge.

Hours:

  • always avaible

Videos:

Notes:

Map:


Yesterday’s liqueur becomes today’s breakfast treats.

Starting Off Every Morning

Mark and I are early risers. We don’t mean to wake up with the sun every damn holiday morning, we’re just cursed with this ability. We have the hardest time getting up in time for work, but we have seen just about every sunrise of every holiday and weekend for the past 3 years. Maybe this is a sign of old age.

We could have gone through everyone’s stuff, if we weren’t so lazy.

In our party, we were always the first up. We would quietly sit around, watch the sun come up, while reading e-books or listening to audio-books. Mark would start boiling some water and make us some coffee. It would be 2 or 3 hours until Freda and Roland emerged from their tent. In the mean time we would relax and lounge about the camp.

The garden makes Mark rethink his whole life.

Roland’s Flower Quest

This morning, as Roland announce the day’s schedule, he made a plea for us to not see him as a person who only thinks about gardens. He wanted us to believe that it was a mere coincidence that today’s (and yesterday’s) itinerary was so garden heavy. He tried to assure us that after today there would not be so many gardens in our lives.

Is that a new macro lens!?

I didn’t buy it for one second. Roland had recently bought a new fancy-shmanchy camera along with a few changeable lenses for it. After spending about 10 minutes at the Adachi Museum of Art, our first garden of the day, we knew why we had come. Roland was going to take a picture of every flower, rock, and blade of grass!

It’s easier just to steal Roland’s photos.

Not only did Roland have a better camera than any of us, he took photos that no one thought to take. At first I started to mimic his photo-taking. I would crouch down where Roland had just been, to get a similar picture for myself. But then I would look at his photo and compare it to mine. There was no contest; his was clearly better.

There is something a little cruel about a garden you cannot go into.

When we got to the museum Mark and I expected to be bored the whole time. We aren’t art loving people. We like art, but we don’t love it. It helped a lot that the 2,300 yen entrance fee was sliced in half after we showed our ARC cards. We were only going to pay half as much to be tormented by art.

But the museum was much more than art. At the Adachi Museum there was art you could look at, but not take photos of, and a garden you could take photos of, but not enter. I loved the garden. And, at the very least, it gave me something to photograph as a keepsake of this experience.

The museum, the art portion of it, goes on and on and on. Every time we thought we had gotten to the end of it, someone in our group would discover another floor, passageway, bridge, or whole other section.

I bought a postcard in the gift shop before realizing that we were only halfway through. I wish I had known, because I liked the pictures in the second half of the museum better, and would have much preferred a postcard of one of them.

I’m sure Roland’s photo of these flowers don’t have that bar in it.

Next we drove to Daikon island to check out their Peony Festival. Before this trip I had no idea what a peony was, much less that there are many types of them. I don’t really know that much about flowers. I can distinguish sunflowers, tulips, and maybe carnations. I thought I could tell a rose from a non-rose, but I mistook a bunch of roses at the festival for peonies, so…

Mark is more than happy to pose for any and everyone!

This was a garden done right. It more than made up for our not being able to walk in the earlier garden. Here we felt free to walk up to and pose with the many flowers. I even got several sniffs in. This place smelt so good. It gave me an idea of what those Glade Plug-in people are trying to do. But, the garden was 10 times better than any Plug-in.

Mark loves the drapey flowers.

Just be aware that, with this many flowers around, there are many bees. No one got stung. Most bees have the attitude that if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone. They are not unlike tired people on the subway after work that way.

Lots of photopportunities!!

At one point during the garden, Freda and I sat down waiting for all the guys to take their obligatory 200 photos. We found an ice cream vendor in the garden and hoped that they had peony flavored ice cream. (You can usually count on tourist sites in Japan to have a themed ice cream flavor.) But, this time the choices were yogurt, matcha, or honey.

“Hey, it’s a few blocks away from here!”

On our way back to the parking lot we found this poster. Since the bridge it advertised wasn’t too far away, we went to check it out.

Half those people are on the bridge just to be on the bridge.

We stopped to take photos of it, then we drove across the bridge just to drive across the bridge. It looks a lot scarier than it really is. When you’re on the bridge, it’s no big thing.

Let’s end this with one of Roland’s photos.

All Pictures

Posted in Daikon Island, Honshū, Japan, Matsue 市, Shimane 県, Yasugi 市 | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Summer Clothes

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 12, 2015

Friday May 1, 2015

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to askwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Hoshikami Star Park
(星上山スターパーク)
(Hoshikamiyama Star Park)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°23’14.5″N 133°07’55.6″E

Address:

星上山スターパーク
〒690-2102
島根県松江市八雲町東岩坂3050−3

Phone:

  • 0852-54-2450

Websites:

e-mail

Cost:

  • For Camping per night:
    • 300 Yen per person +
    • 510 per tent
    • and an additional 300 per night for use of the kitchen
  • Bungalow one night basic charge 6500 yen
  • 100 per non-timed shower

Hours:

  • Reception: 9:00~18:00
  • Check-in 15: 00 ~ Check out 10: 00

Notes:

  • Reservations are needed to stay at this campsite. Call before you go.

Uniqlo uniqlo
(ユニクロ)
(YOU-nee-klo)

How to get there:

  • There are many in Japan, throughout Asia, Europe, and a few in North America.

Address:

Headquarters:

Midtown Tower, Akasaka
9-chome, Minato, Tokyo,Japan

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Moderately priced clothing
  • Things go on sale all the time
  • There are 500yen ($5) t-shirt shelves.

Hours:

  • about 11:00-21:00 depending on the location

Videos:

Notes:

  • In the store, sizes for adults start from XS and go to XL.
  • If you go online you can get adults sizes up to XXL.
  • Japanese sizes are one size up from US sizes.
    • If you wear M in the US, you wear L in Japan.
    • XS -> S, S -> M, L -> XL and so on…
    • This is true for both men and women sizes.
    • I don’t know about kids’ clothes.

Map:


Let’s spend the day driving!

It’s summer already?

This day we spent mostly driving from the east coast of Chūgoku to the west coast. It didn’t take all day, it just felt like it did. Japan has a lot of mountains and to get anywhere here, you have to drive around one or two of them at least.

The South Africans in full Uniqlo gear.

But before we went any wear, we stopped to get some new clothes. Everyone guessed wrong about what the weather would be like on this trip. Mark and I thought this early May weather would bring cold winds. We brought extra blankets, jeans, and long sleeve t-shirts.

The South Africans, living on Kyushu, thought that summer had already started. They packed shorts, light t-shirts, and one light blanket.

We were all wrong. It was hot during the day, making Mark and I miserable, and cold at night freezing Freda and Roland. The only thing to do was to go shopping. Mark and I would get some summer clothes and our friends would get some fleece pajamas. Since there was a Uniqlo nearby – there is nowhere in Japan where there isn’t a Uniqlo nearby – we went there.

Uniqlo is a clothing store much like Old Navy in the states. The clothes are not too expensive and not too flashy. It’s a great place to buy cardigans, jeans, khakis, and t-shirts. (There are a couple Old Navy stores here in Japan, but they are all in the big cities like Tokyo or Kobe.)

A lot of stores in Japan have a distinct feel to it, of who shops there. Like there are some stores that give off a kindergarten teacher vibe, or an adult who still dresses like a 6-year-old vibe. Uniqlo doesn’t have that. It has a more normal person type of vibe.

Mark’s Campbell Soup shirt and pants from Uniqlo

I’ve gone to Uniqlo with Mark a couple times. He has bought jeans, shirts, and even suit jackets there. I had never looked for anything for myself though. I’m 5’9″ and I am not super skinny, so I never thought I would find anything to fit me. And to be honest, I felt very uncomfortable just being at the store. In my head. everyone is looking at me wondering what this big hulking foreigner is doing looking at clothes that is clearly too small for her.

And for most stores that would be true. …Not the people judging me, the part about the clothes being clearly too small for me. Uniqlo, it turns out, carries larger sizes. At home in the US, I’m a size L. Here, I’m an XL. Most stores don’t have XL for women, with Uniqlo being one of the few exceptions.

Mark and I are now crazy for ¥500 shirts.

Not only did I find clothes in my size, they were on sale! I even got some summer business shirts for work. Of course all the shirts and blouses are short-sleeved. My arms are too long for winter attire. But, I fit into Unqlo’s summer shirts just fine.

Now, several weeks after this trip, every time Mark or I pass a Uniqlo, we pop in to look through their ¥500 shirts. UT shirts (Uniqlo T-shirts), I like!

Once again, I did nothing to put up any of these tents or tarps.

After getting to Uniqlo and finding most of the stuff we wanted on sale, we bought more stuff than we should have. Then we went to the onsen for showers, put on our new clothes, and headed for the next campsite.

All Pictures

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Back in Okayama

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 5, 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

 


Sunagawa Park
(砂川 キャンプ場)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°42’11.1″N 133°45’22.7″E

Address:

〒719-1105
岡山県総社市黒尾792

Phone:

  • 0866-92-1118

Websites:

Cost:

  • 1,000 JPY per tent for night camping
  • 500 JPY per tent for day camping
  • Parking is free

Hours:

  • Open year round except for Dec. 29 – Jan. 3
  • Night camping 14:00 ~ 10:00
  • Day camping 10:00 ~ 17:00

Notes:

  • There is a persimmon grove where you can buy fruit in the fall.
  • Take your trash home with you.
  • You need to make reservations before hand.
  • There is a water slide that you (if you’re super skinny) and your kids can use in the summer.
  • There are showers, but they seem to never be unlocked.
  • The toilets and non-flush and, depending where your camping spot it, a long walk from your tent.

Zō no Yu Onsen
(蔵のゆ)
(Hot water of Kura)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°36’36.4″N 133°46’44.2″E

Address:

121-1 Ojima Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture 710-0047

Phone:

  • 086-435-9722

Websites:

Cost:

  • 410 yen – onsen 
  • 750 yen – onsen and sauna

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 0:00

Notes:

  • There is a ramen shop in the lobby area.
  • Bring a towel.
  • Shampoo and body wash are provided.

Okayama Castle
(岡山城)
(Okayama-jō)

&

Korakuen Garden
(後楽園)
(Kōraku-en)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34° 39′ 54.65″ N, 133° 56′ 9.79″ E

Address:

2-chome Marunouchi, Okayama-shi, Okayama

Phone:

  • Castle: +81 86-225-2096
  • Garden: +81 86-272-1148

Websites:

Cost:

  • Castle – 300 yen
  • Garden – 400 yen
  • Castle & Garden – 560
  • Prices vary when there are special exhibits.
  • Parking is near the Garden. It costs 100 Yen/ hour.

Hours:

  • 9:00 ~ 17:30
  • last entry is at 17:00
  • close Dec 29 – 31

Downloads:

Notes:

  • Parking is near the Garden. It costs 100 Yen/ hour. (This is amazingly cheap for city parking!)

Kurashiki
(倉敷市)
(Kurashiki-shi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°35’45.7″N 133°46’16.8″E

Address:

1 Chuo, Kurashiki City, Okayama

Phone:

  • 086-426-3411 (Sightseeing Department)

Websites:

Notes:

  • This town makes a lot of denim.
  • Kurashiki has a preserved Edo Period (1603-1867) canal area.
  • There lots of shops in the historical district.
  • There is also a pricey hotel in the Ivy Square area.

Map:


“If we were to have showers, this is where we would have put one of them.”

We have them, we just don’t like unlocking them

When Mark and I stayed at this campsite the year before, we saw that there were showers. We did not use them since they were all locked. It was mid-fall at the time, and we thought that that was the reason the showers were locked. (This sort of thing happens in Japan; the campsite is available year round, but some facilities like the showers are only unlocked from May to September.) So when our friend picked this campsite we gave no objections.

Bathing option number 2…

Roland stopped one of the campsite caretakers to ask what time the showers would be unlocked. He gave us a look that showed his disdain for uppity city-folk, then gave us directions for some sketchy onsen over yonder. I know I was in Japan, but at that moment I felt like I was in the American deep south. Then the caretaker walked away mumbling to himself and chewing on a straw of hay. (Okay, there was no hay…)

We couldn’t find the onsen the strange caretaker told us about, but we managed to find a nice inexpensive one not too far from where we were. We got in and showered, even taking some time to soak for a few brief minutes before going to meet the South African friends of our South African friends.

My delicate little flower… Mark.

Mark and I had already seen everything that Okayama had to offer. We lived there for a whole 7 months. So, we really didn’t care what we saw that day. We were just happy to hang out with our old nerdy friends. I don’t know if this is their, or our, or both couple’s last year here in Japan. During the whole trip there was an ominous feeling of an end of an era.

We’ll always have Okayama.

 

We all made hypothetical plans to meet up in some country or another to do one more camping trip, but who knows if that will actually happen. This is how life is for a wandering ex-pat. You make great friends, but everyone knows that one day you or they or both will move away, and you might see them rarely, if ever.

Roland never stopped taking photos.

We walked through the gardens and passed the castle. We never went into the castle itself, choosing instead to take photos of it from the garden. The best part of most Japanese castles are the photos of it from the outside.

Guess where I got most of the great photos of this trip.

With nothing left to do in Okayama city, we headed to Kurashiki’s historic area. We walked along the canal. Our friends caught up with their friends and the six of us, 3 couples, moved through this romantic area.

“Is this organic denim soft serve?”

This town makes denim. Apparently, it is famous for it. There are many denim shops in the history area and one of them sells everything denim; from jeans and hats, to burgers and ice cream. Yup, ice cream!

You can clearly see in the photo above a cone of denim ice cream, a denim burger, denim Chinese dumplings, and denim meat buns, which are all sold out. Mark and I could not pass up a chance to try denim soft serve ice cream. The denim burger, we could pass on; quite easily.

Tastes like the Gap…

The ice cream was actually flavored with the taste of the plain marble sodas that are common here in Japan. It was okay.

That evening all 6 of us when back to the campsite for a grilled dinner. Only 4 of us spent the night at the camp grounds. The other two would join us at the next campsite. They had not done much camping before and this was their first camping trip in Japan. We would show them the rope.

classic ring toss

All Pictures

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Kurashiki 市, Okayama 県, Okayama 市, Sōja 市 | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Camping Extravaganza

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 29, 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

 


Sunagawa Park
(砂川 キャンプ場)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°42’11.1″N 133°45’22.7″E

Address:

〒719-1105
岡山県総社市黒尾792

Phone:

  • 0866-92-1118

Websites:

Cost:

  • 1,000 JPY per tent for night camping
  • 500 JPY per tent for day camping
  • Parking is free

Hours:

  • Open year round except for Dec. 29 – Jan. 3
  • Night camping 14:00 ~ 10:00
  • Day camping 10:00 ~ 17:00

Notes:

  • There is a persimmon grove where you can buy fruit in the fall.
  • Take your trash home with you.
  • You need to make reservations before hand.
  • There is a water slide that you (if you’re super skinny) and your kids can use in the summer.
  • There are showers, but they seem to never be unlocked.
  • The toilets and non-flush and, depending where your camping spot it, a long walk from your tent.

Map:


Not only do I enjoy not planning trips, but I also enjoy not helping to put up the tents.

Roland did ALL the planning.

I love traveling and therefore I like planning trips. But guess what I love even more than planning trips… Not planning trips.

It’s tedious work that requires several hours of research just to set one day’s itinerary. It’s even worse here in Japan, were many tourist spots have no or very little information online. Many websites are just a picture of the attraction and a phone number to call for information. (Don’t even get me started on finding information in English!)

I can communicate somewhat with my limited Japanese, a dictionary, and a quick game of charades. But, that only works in person. On the phone, things don’t usually work out for me. I avoid calling non-English speakers at all costs.

He planned the whole trip and cleaned and gutted this fish too!

So when our friends from South Africa invited us to their Golden Week Camping Extravaganza that Roland planned, we happily joined. Roland planned the trip, made all the reservations, found the locations to all the spots and the best ways to get there. If he and his wife ever do an around-the-world-tour and they invited us, we would be fools not to go!

Pineapple and Ham kebabs

Potluck… or rather Grill Luck

Normally, when we camp with the South Africans, we organize our meals. This cuts down on wasted food, wasted time, trash, and dirty dishes. But, since Freda and Roland were driving all the way up from Kyushu, we weren’t sure if they would get there in time for the first dinner.

Mark and I stopped at a grocery store near the campsite and picked up whatever caught our eye. Among the vast array of items we got were a pineapple, shrimp, a fish, and a lime. The South Africans seemed to have done likewise. They brought a ham, a medley of vegetables, and some sweet potatoes.

Delicious camp grilling on smoky grills

Everything just seemed to oddly go well together. I took it as a good omen for things to come. The next day we would meet some other campers and the 6 of us would have a great time camping, traveling, and playing nerd games together.

All Pictures

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Okayama 県, Sōja 市 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Job 5: The JET Programme

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 22, 2015

August 2010 – August 2013

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

The teachers’ office in Korea. On my desk, the most important thing for me to finish is my apple.

The JETs: July ~ November 2009

I actually started working on my JET Programme application about 6 months before they started accepting them. I knew it would be a long and hard process. While in Japan working for GEOS, I met some JETs and one of them worked for SMOE just like I did. She gave me several pointers on applying; the most important one was to start early.

While I waited for the 2009 applications to be put on the JET website, I got many of the documents I knew I needed. I asked many co-workers for references. I ordered several copies of my college transcripts. I started writing my why-do-you-want-to-work-for-the-JET-Programme essay.

Once the application was available, in November 2009, I put everything together. It was the thickness of a booklet. Then I took 6 days to read everything over and over again. It had to be perfect. I mailed the application within a week of downloading it, along with all the other documents that were asked for.

Guam sunshine

I was in Korea when I applied. I had no intention of flying all the way back to Miami for the interview. (For the JET Programme one has to be interviewed in one’s own country.) The plan was for Mark and I to bum around Thailand for some time then do the interview in Guam, the closest US city with a Japanese consulate.

Compare my desk in Thailand to the one above from Korea.

February 2010

Once you’ve passed stage one of the application process, you get about a week or two of notice before your interview. You are given a time and date to be at the Japanese embassy you chose in your application. Luckily for me, my interview coincided with some Thai or public school holiday. I brought Mark with me and we only had to ask for one day off and no one asked for a reason.

My boss and supervisor must have assumed that we were heading to the beach or something. Most people who apply to the JET Programme get rejected. I didn’t want to burn any bridges unless I had to. If I didn’t get into the JET Programme Mark and I were going to stay in Thailand for at least a year. If I did get in, we would have left right before the new job started. But, you already know how this Thai job ended.

I have no idea what my future holds; I’m just enjoying life.

April 2010

Mark and I were on vacation on Koh Tao when I got an email from the Japanese embassy in Guam. They were sorry to inform me that I had not been given a position with the JET Programme. I was to be reassured, that this was not the end however. I had been placed on the list of alternates. I would be called if someone dropped out for some reason.

I took that as a rejection. It was like being first runner-up at a beauty pageant. Sure if Miss America cannot fulfill her duties, you get the job. But, what are the chances of that?

One should never go camping without wi-fi

July 2010

After quitting our jobs in Thailand, Mark and I went to the states. We visited family and friends. We joined my brother, Malcolm, on a month-long camping-around-the-country trip. We just happened to be at a campground that had wi-fi when I checked my email one day.

I found out just in time that I had been updated from an alternate to a JET. Since I was no longer in Thailand I would be processed by the Miami consul instead of the one in Guam. I was in the C group, which was the last group to leave for Japan that summer.

I had to get back to Miami for some paperwork and pre-departure prep by the end of July.

The 2009 Miami JETs

I was to later find out that I was the only person in group C from Miami. So, instead of awkwardly throwing a party and holding meetings just for me, I was invited to join group B. They would leave the day after the dinner at the consul’s home. I would stay in the US until it was time for group C to go.

on the JET bus at Narita Airport

August 2009

In Tokyo I met up with other group C people in other cities and countries. We spent 2 nights in Tokyo for orientation. Groups A and B have a week-long orientation, but groups C gets to Japan after the school year begins. Our orientation is the abridged version, which is nice.

This is the last time many of us will wear a suit.

The Japanese government put us up in a swanky hotel across the street from the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. I listened to speeches, lectures, and hear lots of advice on life in Japan. We were told about what we needed for our cars (JETs must have optional as well as mandatory car insurance) and our healthcare plan was explained to us (JETs get additional health insurance).

We were in meetings from dawn until dusk and we never left the hotel. Well, once we did go out for a late dinner. I didn’t really want to eat, I just wanted to get out of he building.

Practicing new vocabulary

By the end of August I was in Japan and working in 2 high schools. A few weeks after that, Mark joined me. He later got a job teaching at a private pre-school.

I worked for the JET Programme for 3 years and I loved it. If I had any kind of problem there was someone there to help me; from my supervisors at my schools, to my JET representative or the head of the Oita Prefecture board of Education.

Multi-legged race

I could also count on AJET to keep me entertained on many weekends. They planned many sports days, camping trips, or dinners at restaurants around town.

My job a the JET Programme is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

one of the math teachers at the school festival

My advice on working in the JET Programme:

  • Don’t buy any of the books they sell at orientation. Most likely some teacher before you bought an earlier version of that book and it is already sitting at your desk. If not, you probably won’t need it.
  • Look online for lesson plans. There are tons of websites out there that are absolutely free. Don’t pay for anything.
  • Ask if there are any teachers’ apartments in your town and if you can get an apartment there. The apartments might be older, but the rent is ridiculously cheap. I lived in one for 3 years and paid about $120 a month in rent.
  • Socialize as much as possible. Make friends with other JETs, your Japanese co-workers, your neighbors, anyone. Sign up for cooking classes, piano lessons, knitting circles, anything. When homesickness hits, you will need a support group to run to.
  • Before you buy anything pricey, browse at the recycle centers. That is where you can find used goods for a fraction of the cost.
  • Daiso has good stuff.
  • Look for local produce shops where fruits and vegetables are cheaper than in grocery stores. These places tend to not be open everyday.
  • If you are going to buy a car, buy a used kei car from a dealership near your home.
  • Keep a suit jacket and/ or make-up in your car. No one will every tell you when it’s photo day until it’s too late.
  • Always have an extra generic topic lesson and several vocabulary games ready to go at a moments notice.

Rabbit and Turtle are great students.

The next post should be about the job I currently have, but since I still work there, I will not write about it. I will post Job 6 entry as soon as I leave this job.

Posted in Japan | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Job 4: BFITS

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 15, 2015

December 2009 – May 2010

Thailand
(ราชอาณาจักรไทย)
(Ratcha Anachak Thai)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to Thailand. But, you will need a visa to stay longer than 1 month or if you been to Thailand for at least 3 months already in the past 12 months.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Thai embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not say anything negative about the king or anyone in the Royal family. And definitely do not write anything bad about the king or royal family. This offence could land you in jail. You don’t want to go to Thai jail.
  • Don’t use the city ferries in Bangkok during the peak hours. They fill those things past capacity and sometimes they sink. Use them during non-peak hours when they are not crowded.
  • Never eat female horseshoe crabs in Thailand. The roe of the horseshoe crab has tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is toxic to humans. It makes people very sick and some people have even died as a result.

We’re poor, but we can still afford our own pool.

Working for the government through a company

I already have an entry on the basics of how I got my job in Thailand. So, let me give you a brief re-cap here. Mark and I got to Thailand and sent out lots of emails answering job ads. Neither of us got any replies, though.

There was one particular job that I found in the classifies of a Bangkok newspaper. I really wanted the job and they seemed like they needed someone right away. But still, no one replied to my email.

The ad in the newspaper gave the company’s address and it was a couple blocks from our hostel. So, Mark and I put on our business attire, took our resumes, reference letters, copies of our diplomas, and other documents and knocked on BFITS‘ door.

This is how we got to work some days.

We sat in the office of a guy ready to interview us. “Mr. Boss” seemed very happy to see us. A math teacher had just quit a few days earlier and an English teacher was on the verge of quitting. He had been trying to call the Human Resources department to get them to put an ad in the paper for a new math teacher, but they had yet to reply to any of the messages he left them.

Clearly they had put the ad for a math teacher in the paper, because that was the ad I saw. But HR must not know how or care nothing about answering emails. They never answered a single email while I worked there. If I needed anything, I had to call the person I needed help from on their private cell phone. (If you are lucky enough to get the private cell phone number of someone who works in HR at BFITS, don’t loose it, or abuse it!)

There’s very little desk space left on my desk.

Long story short, I got the job and started that Friday. Mark’s job, at the same company but a different school, started 2 weeks later. We got a nice apartment and settled into our new lives in Bangkok.

The job itself was okay. It was just a lot of work, for not that much pay. I was working 10 times as hard as I did when I worked at a high school in Korea. If I were making more money while working harder, it would not have been so bad. But jobs in Thailand generally don’t pay that much.

(I lived quite well while I was in Thailand, because in baht I made decent money. I made half of what I did in Korea when comparing both the baht and the won to the US dollar. In Korea I made enough money to live well and send money home to pay off student loans. In Thailand I just made enough money to live well.)

I taught 7th through 9th grade math; two 9th grade classes, three 8th grade classes, and three 7th grade classes. I taught each class 4 times a week. After each lesson I gave homework, after which I graded and handed back the next day. Every two weeks or so, there was a test, after which I graded and handed back the next time we would meet for class.

I went from teaching 1 lesson 20~24 times a week to teaching 12 lessons 2~3 times a week. But it was just middle school math; no biggie. The hard part was the endless grading. Just look at my desk in the photo above. There are 4 towers of homework and tests to grade!

Ain’t no party like a BFITS party!

But I was still willing to do this tiring job for a lot less pay for at least a year, just to live in Thailand for a while. I liked the company. (Just look at the band they hired for their year end party!)

The problems started after my first test. Parents complained when their kids’ failed.

It was not a lot of kids that failed; just the students that did no homework. What no one bothered to tell me was that the last teacher, the one who had quit, used to grade on a curve. These students were used to doing nothing and passing their test anyway.

First off, I’ve never heard of grading on a curve in middle school. That sort of thing should only start in college when the coursework actually gets hard. If you start grading on a curve for pre-algebra, you’re just setting these kids up to fail in life.

No one wants to get a phone call from their supervisor on the weekend.

I first heard about the complaints when my supervisor called me one weekend. Mr. Supervisor told me that I just cannot fail any of my students. I liked Mr. Supervisor. I feel like under different circumstances we would have been very good friends. But during this phone call he seriously contradicted himself and left me confused.

I was told not to just hand out grades. I had to give good tests and lots of homework and give the students the scored they earned. My tests could not be too easy but, I was to never ever, never ever ever, fail a student.

I was told that on Monday Mr. Boss was going to come to my school to deal with me. He was going to fix the problem I made. I had angered rich parents and that was a big no-no.

On Monday Mr. Boss looked through my lessons which were in a Power Point file. And he saw all the homework I gave the kids. There was nothing on the test that was not covered in the lessons and practiced in the homework.

In fact there were a few questions on the test that were straight out of the homework. There were a couple problems that we worked out together as a class, and I thought I would just throw 2 of them on the test as a confidence booster. Mr. Boss seemed to really like that.

Seeing that I did my job well and exactly like how he thought I should, Mr. Boss met with the parents. He defended me and my teaching methods to them, telling them to get used to it or find some other English program for their kids to join.

I needed to relax in my pool after such a stressful day at work.

He stuck around after the meeting to tell me to not change a thing. Then he proceeded to go through my co-workers lessons, tests, and exams. Most of them were applauded for doing good jobs, but a few were given warnings that their tests were too easy or they should give more homework.

A few days later I got another call from Mr. Supervisor. He told me about the heaps of praise I got from Mr. Boss and that I should continue to do what I was doing before. But he warned that this should never happen again. Then for some “unrelated reason” he asked for my teacher pass-code. He needed to check something concerning my students’ scores.

He never came out and said it, but I had a feeling that he was just going to straight up give some kids a passing grade since I would not. We played this game many times. But I was never certain exactly what Mr. Supervisor had done.

How could they have even eked out a D?

It wasn’t until the school year ended and we had a meeting down at the BFITS headquarters, that I found out that all my students had passed. I sat there wondering how that could be possible. I had a few students that never turned in any homework, never passed a single test, and flunked the exam. How could they have passed?

Even with all this, I still liked my job. I worked hard, got paid little, and had parents complaining that I didn’t just pass their kids, but I still liked my job.

In the end, I left for a number of reasons. I had a non-grade-related disagreement with Mr. Supervisor. I needed to do what was best for me and he needed to do what was best for his job. Since what was best for him wasn’t anything near to being what was best for me, I quit.

The view from our kitchen

Besides, Bangkok was in political turmoil. Just about everyday some building was going up in smoke. I never felt unsafe, as long as I stayed away from the protests, but I wanted to get out of Thailand just the same.

I would still recommend BFITS to anyone thinking about moving to Thailand if he or she didn’t have a job in mind already. But I would also give this advice. “Don’t work in Thailand if you need to send money home for any reason.”

 

Posted in Bangkok, Thailand | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Job 3: SMOE

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 8, 2015

September 2008 – August 2009

South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


A dancing lesson given during the SMOE orientation

A Government Job

I really enjoyed living in Korea. I wanted to go back there, but I had to find a new company to work for. I did not trust English Channel anymore. I considered myself lucky for getting out when I did and with all the money owed to me.

My brother and me in Mongolia

Mongolia

I was on a long trip and did not have much time to job search until I got stuck in Mongolia. The day my brother, mother, and I were to fly out of Ulanbataar, there was a sand storm. Our flight kept getting delayed.

There was also a problem with my Russian visa. The expiration date for my visa to Russia was soon approaching, and I was still in Mongolia. I took to the internet at a cafe to see what I could do about it. There was nothing to be done.

The problem sorted itself out in the end. It also gave me time on the internet to do some job hunting. I kept an e-version of all the documents I needed, so when I found a job ad for SMOE, I applied right away. I hoped that I would get the job, but at the time I had other things to worry about.

SMOE, or the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, puts native English speakers in English classes in the public schools in Seoul. SMOE is not a company, but an office in the Korean government.

I felt that working for the government would be better than working for a company. I would not have to worry about not being paid on time or the company going bankrupt. I could just concentrate on doing a good job.

Sight seeing in Finland

Finland

We spent a few days in Russia then moved on to Finland. When we were checking in to our hostel there my mom’s cell phone rang. Since she had an international sim card in her phone, I gave SMOE her phone number to use to contact me.

I was told that my resume sparked their interest. They asked me a few questions which I seemed to answer to their satisfaction. I was told that someone would call me later for an interview. I was to stay near the phone until then.

Train stations: the next best things to airports

France

A few countries after that, we were at a train station in Paris waiting for the Euro-star to London. We had a 30-minute wait ahead of us when a lady from SMOE called. The timing could not have been more perfect.

I ran to a quiet area and the interview started. It felt like a very informal chat. I think the interviewer was just checking to make sure I was not a creep or crazy person. At the end of the phone called, the lady told me that, although she could not tell me officially yet, I pretty much had the job.

I think that getting a job with SMOE back then was easier than it is today. There were several people I met at SMOE that I was surprised could get any job, much less one working with children. One guy missed a whole morning of meetings at orientation because he drank too much the night before and was passed out in a stairwell. For the week or orientation everyone was supposed to abstain from alcohol.

a field trip during SMOE orientation

USA

It took several months for me to get back to Korea. In the United States, it took 2 months for me to get my paperwork done. The Korean government had just changed the laws concerned with foreign workers and even the people at the Korean embassy weren’t too sure what to do.

I had to get 2 types of background checks. I had to visit doctors to get x-rays and blood tests. After which, I had to get an apostille from the Korean consulate in Georgia. I had no idea what an apostille was, and I’m still not completely sure.

One of the many benefits of working for the government is that they paid to fly me to Korea. Both GEOS and English Channel made me pay for my flight then reimbursed the cost after I had worked for 6 months or so. SMOE, and later the JET Programme, paid for my ticket up front.

Of course both SMOE and the JET Programme waited until the day before I flew to email me the ticket. (I had the flight itinerary a few weeks in advance, just not an actual ticket.)

Orientation Lectures

Korea

When I got back to Seoul, I spent my first 3 weeks living with a co-worker. My apartment was not yet ready, so one of the English teachers volunteered to have me stay at her place. I hung out with her and her family. I felt completely welcomed and had a great time.

I taught classes my first week at work. The second week I had orientation. At first I was expecting it to be like the useless meetings GEOS made me go to, but it was much, much better than that.

Late night snacks

First, they sent us off to stay are the Hyundai Learning Center which is a really nice place. It looked pretty new when I was there; new dorm rooms, new gym, new laundry-o-mats. The center also had free wi-fi, a gym, and basketball and tennis courts outside, and plenty of congregating areas as well as a convenience store in the basement.

There were only a few rules: 1. Don’t leave the campus and 2. no alcohol. Many people had a problem with the rules. They felt as though they were being treated like babies. But for only one week, for your job? Come on!

Some of the presentations and lectures were boring. If you had ever taught English before there was very little new information here; a good refresher course though. But for me, the orientation was not really about learning a bunch of methods for teaching; I already knew that. It was about meeting new people who would help me survive the year in Korea.

I did take notes when I heard something interesting or new. But, mostly I collected friends. I Facebook friended people I liked, lived near me, or shared several interests with me. There were almost 200 new teachers at the orientation, so there were plenty of people to choose from.

(There were 200 people at my orientation, which was orientation B of the second hiring period of the year. SMOE hired a lot of native English speakers.)

Did I mention that SMOE orientation came with Korean food at every meal?

Many people did not like the food they served at orientation. They were new to the country and were not yet used to Korean food. I liked most of what was served to me about 80% of the time. Other than fish soup and spam, I’ll eat pretty much any type of Korean food.

No body wanted to eat Mr. Spamears.

The night they first served octopus was quite entertaining. Many westerners don’t eat octopus; squid sure, but not octopus. There is just something disturbing about purple meat. It took me a while before I could eat it without having to talk myself into it first.

Spam night was not a big hit either.

Doing my weekly radio show at my high school

I enjoyed working at a high school in Seoul. I felt more immersed in Korean culture since I had more Korean coworkers. I mostly taught kids, but I had 2 classes where I taught the English teachers and 2 were I taught the non-English teachers. I trusted many of my co-workers and went to them when I needed advice or help. And they did the same with me.

My students presenting their skit

I loved teaching these girls. (I taught at an all girl high school.) They were funny, witty, and creative. You know how most high school girls are. There were a couple of bad eggs, but most of them were mostly charming, most of the time.

Making new friends at SMOE Orientation

But I think the biggest difference with working with SMOE over a company, is that SMOE is a lot bigger than any of the companies in Seoul. They hired more foreign teachers than the hagwons. The many people I met at orientation, made a huge difference for me throughout the year.

I thought that I was okay with having just a few friends, namely my 6 or so co-workers and the 3 friends I made at the English Channel training. But I made more friends after one week at SMOE’s orientation then I did during the past year.

Not only that, but I made friends with their friends and their friends’ friends. With SMOE my social net kept getting broader and broader. I had my core close friends, but many other people I would meet up with once in a while.

I like to make my friends hike!

 

 

Posted in Seoul, South Korea | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Job 2: English Channel

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 1, 2015

April 2007 – April 2008

South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


One of my co-workers at EC and me

Why not Korea?

The next overseas Job I got was at English Channel. This is another company that has since gone out of business.

I enjoyed teaching English in Japan and wanted to try it in a new country. After a year in the ESL teaching industry, I knew what I liked and didn’t like. I liked teaching adults. I hated teaching little kids.

There is a huge difference in the behavior of children who have started school and those who have not. School aged kids have a higher maturity level and, since they’ve been to school, they have already learned how to control themselves in a classroom setting.

Some people love teaching babies and toddlers because they are so cute. But, if I have to wear a suit to work, I would prefer not to be thrown up or peed on. Besides, I hate singing and dancing. (I’ll do it if I have to, but I will never like it.)

I really got into hiking my first year in Korea.

So when I found the website for English Channel that said they only teach adults, I knew that I would like working for them. I just made sure that the pay, health insurance, and other benefits of the job met my criteria.

Jobs in Korea have different benefits than jobs in Japan. They both provide you with national health care and basic training. They both find you an apartment. But in Japan, you have to pay the rent. In Korea your boss pays the rent.

In both Japan and Korea you have to pay into the national pension. In Korea you get all of your pension back when you leave the country, if you are from the right country. In Japan, you only get the first 3 year’s work worth of pension that you put in.

Me on some mountain

So after taking a few months off to travel and visit friends and family back home, I emailed English Channel and scheduled an interview. I asked for the interviewer to call me after 18:00 my time on a Wednesday.

I woke up at 5:00 on a Tuesday when my cell phone rang. It was Mr. Webster at English Channel. I sat up in bed trying to sound awake. He asked if he had called me at the correct time. “No,” I said. Then I pretended that being called at 5 in the morning was no problem. “I was already up… um, organizing stuff.”

He started the interview. He asked questions and I answered them, quite well I must add. I was fast asleep 15 minutes before and sitting in bed in my pajamas, but I was killing this interview. At the end of the phone call I was told that I would be hired.

I just had to do some paperwork, which I did. Then I sent my passport to the Korean consulate in Georgia to get a visa. Within 2 weeks I was in Seoul.

I wore this everyday.

They did training and orientation for 3 days near one of their branches in Gangnam. There were 6 of us and we would all be sent to different schools around Seoul. I kept in regular contact with 3 of them until they left Korea. (I traveled with one of them to Thailand.)

There were many things about English Channel that I loved. The first being the coat. Most people hated wearing the lab coat but I loved it.

English Channel never called itself a school; it was a language clinic. It was very gimmicky, but I guess we were supposed to be doctors, nurses, or scientists… I don’t know.

But wearing the coat meant I never had to iron my shirt. Hell, I could wear the same shirt all week and no one would know. In the winter I wore long woolen shirts under my lab coat and in the summer I wore a tank top. That’s right; I wore a spaghetti strap tank top to work on hot days. No one would know; you only saw a small triangle of my shirt anyway.

I just made sure that my pants were ironed or my skirt was long enough. Then, I wore the same un-ironed shirts every week.

Another mountain

Life was great at English Channel. I liked my co-workers and would hang out or take trips with them often. The managers we had were all at least tolerable; even the one who didn’t seem to like foreigners much. And, the job was easy.

There were no lessons to plan. The books they used came in lesson form already. There was no paperwork for me to do. I would even get a bonus during the months I taught many classes.

There were also no meetings to attend. The only mandatory gatherings we had were branch sponsored dinners we had to go to every 3 months and the big Christmas company-wide dinner. We had to dress up for the Christmas dinner at a swanky restaurant in a posh hotel and sit through many boring speeches, but then we all got to eat as much free 5 star food we wanted. It was by far, the best free meal I ever had!

The only downside to the job was working on 2 Saturdays a month. But I could live with that.

another random mountain

Things were going so well, I started thinking about signing up for another year at English Channel. I had an around-the-world trip planned, but I was hoping to return to Korea and English Channel when that was done. But, during my last few months we got a new manager. He thought we could make more money by changing a few things.

The company stood out from the rest of the English schools in Korea because it was the only one that offered one-on-one classes. Students could have lessons go as fast or slowly as they needed. They could also feel safe to make mistakes, because it was just them and the teacher in the class.

The new manager thought, that we could double our profits if we put 2 or 3 students in a class instead of just one. We tried it, and within a month many students left. I could see the results quickly. Chatty students clammed up when they were no longer the only student.

It was a disaster.

Fun at the beach.

At the end of April 2008, my contract was up and I left for my trip. Within the first month of leaving English Channel, I was supposed to get my end of the contract bonus. But when I checked my bank account, there was no deposit from English Channel.

I sent an email to the new personnel guy at the head office. I told him that I had yet to receive the year-end bonus. I got an email back from him a few days later where he basically told me that life was tough and that I should not be such a whiner.

I had never really dealt with this new guy before, but I had heard my co-workers complain about what a jerk he was. Rather than get into it with him again, I emailed the personnel guy that Mr. Jerk had replaced. Mr. Webster was the man who interviewed me and he was the guy I turned to.

I sent him a copy of the email Mr. Jerk sent me and asked him what he thought I should do about it. He told me not to worry and that he would take care of it. Within a week I had my money.

Somewhere in Korea

Later I heard from the co-workers I left behind that Mr. Webster got frustrated with the horrible changes the company was making and he quit his job. After that English channel stopped paying its employees on time. Then they stopped paying the Korean staff all together.

One of the native English teachers found out that English Channel stopped paying into the employee’s pensions and health insurance. Everyone I knew at English Channel left. The last I heard they shut down many of their branches. I think there are none left.

 

Posted in Seoul, South Korea | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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