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Posts Tagged ‘The JET Program’

No, it’s not creepy taking pictures at an osen… Well, maybe a little. Just do it quickly!

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 24, 2010

October 9, 2010

All Pictures

Yard work in the early morning

You want me to cut the grass with a… what? Scythe?

Last Monday I got a letter in the mail in Japanese. All I could understand on the page was 7:00am Saturday, October 9th. From this little information I knew what the letter was all about.

Yard work. More precisely community yard work. The people in my apartment block get together once a month to cut the grass, rake, and tidy up our little part of Oita. If you can’t make it or don’t want to clean, you will be charged 1500JPY.

Doing things the hard way.

We checked in a little before 7:00am and got a scythe each. Yup, we cut grass by hand here in Oita! There is a weed wacker, but only one. So the rest of us have to go the low tech route.

You grab a fist full of grass with one gloved hand and swing the scythe over with the other. It would be hard work, but we have very little actual grass around our apartment. It’s more like small strips of lawn here and there.

After work we gathered together for a little community chat. All the announcements were lost on the American tenants, but we tried to look interested anyways. The whole thing from start to finish took 45 minutes.

Talking strategy

AJET Sports Day

The following Monday was Sports Day here in Japan and so the Oita chapter of AJET planned a Sports Day celebration for the JETs and friends of JETs in the area. We went to a park in Beppu near the main train station.

In case you are unfamiliar with AJET, let me tell you what it is. They are a group of voluntarily JETs who plan activities for English teachers in a given town, city, prefecture. They help combat boredom and get us foreigners to socialize.

The day started out with Capture the Flag and progressed to other sports games like Kick Ball, and Multi-legged Races. One game we played called Vegetable Face Off, which had us pit two people against each other to see who could embody the essence of a given vegetable more. I still think I was cheated on my eggplant impersonation!

Sitting in hot water with friends

I really want a picture. Will it seem creepy if I whip out my camera?

To end our day of sports, we all when to Kitahama Termas Onsen. It is one of a few co-ed onsens in town. Most onsens require bathers to be completely naked so therefore the sexes are separated. These type of onsens are also isolated and have no view.

When an onsen is more public with ocean front views, people have to wear swim suits. Since bathers are already dressed, they might as well mingle with other sexes.

Sitting in a hot tub after a day of sports is a beautiful thing. There were pools with  different temperatures of water. We kept going from really hot to cold to warm to really hot. It was amazing!

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 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.)

Beppu Park
(大分県別府市野口原)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°17’13.1″N 131°29’15.8″E

By Car –

  • Drive to Beppu by way of route 10 which is also route 52 through downtown Beppu.
  • Turn onto route 32 which will take you right up to Beppu Station. Turn with the road and it will take you under the train tracks.
  • Once you pass the underpass, take a right at the first non-one-way street.
  • Go straight and then turn left at the light.
  • Continue straight until you see the sign for the park.
  • Parking is across the street from the park.

By Public Transportation –

  • Go to Beppu Station.
  • Exit through the west end of the station.
  •  Keep walking along that main road and you will reach the park.

Website:

Cost:

  • The park is free but there are small charges for parking and use of some of the sport facilities

Hours:

  • 9:00 to 17:00
  • Running track at night    17:00 to 21:00
  • Softball field at night        18:00 to 22:00

Notes:

It’s a big park that’s great for picnicking, frisbi-ing, soccering, or any other ~ing that one would or could do outdoors without getting arrested.

(I’m not sure if barbecuing is alowed…)


Kitahama Termas Onsen
(北浜温泉/テルマス)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°17’09.5″N 131°30’18.5″E

By Car –

  • Drive to Beppu at way of route 10 which is also route 52 through downtown Beppu.
  • It’s along route 10/52 and across the street from a pachinko parlor; what isn’t in Japan? The nearby landmarks near would be Beppu Central Hostipal and a short swimmable section of beach.

By Public Transportation –

  • Go to Beppu Station.
  • Exit through the east end of the station.
  • Head east until you reach route 10.
  • Then go north on route 10 until you pass Beppu Central Hospital.
  • Cross the street and look out for the osen.

Address:

11-1, Kyo Beppu

or

別府市京町11-1

Phone:

  • 0977-24-4126

Websites:

Cost:

  • Adult – 500JPY
  • Kids – 250JPY
  • You can bring your own towel, razor, or what have you, or you can rent them.
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and soap are free.
  • Parking is free

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 22:00
  • Admittance ends at 21:00

Notes:

  • This is a co-ed onsen, so you must wear a swimsuit when you go outdoors. You can go naked in the gender segregated areas.
  • Every now and then they change the gender of the locker rooms. So don’t head off to change in one direction that was the lady’s area the last time you came.
  • You will need to have a 100 yen coin to put your shoes in a small locker in the main lobby. Everyone must have their own locker and you will get your coin back when you retrieve your shoes.
  • Give your shoe locker key to the front desk clerk and he or she will give you a corresponding key to the lockers in the gender segregated area. Put your stuff in that locker.
  • Take a shower. Put on your swim suit and head outdoors.
  • There is also a sauna and a bucket of freezing cold water that you can torture yourself with.

Map:


 

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Posted in Beppu 市, Japan, Kyūshū, Oita 県, Oita 市 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Take Your Personality with You When You Leave the Train*

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 18, 2010

July 29-31, 2010

All Pictures

fun on an @

Demelza is coming!

Did I ever tell you about DD? I’ve known her for years. We met in the first grade and have been in the same class from then until 10th grade. You know her. Or at least you know some of her work. She used to edit this blog, in her spare time.

The last time I saw her was back in… 1996. I was on spring break from high school and flew back to St. Croix to see my mom. We went kayaking and swimming one day and had a great time. Unfortunately, I can’t find any of the pictures we took back then.

She came up to see me for a weekend. It’s funny, but when you have a good friend that you haven’t seen in a long time and then you meet that friend again, it’s like the time and distance melts away. I felt like I had last seen her a few days ago. And she looks great! Other than her being taller than she was the last time I saw her, she looks the same.

I wonder what skin care product she uses…

Free Metromover

Bienvenidos a Miami

Since I had to drive into Miami to pick Demelza up, I thought Mark and I could see some of the sights downtown. We parked by Bayfront Park and walked around. Then we saw the Metromover trolleying around above our heads.

We had already paid for 2 hours and had more than an hour left. We hopped on the mover to see where it would take us. The Metro Mover is completely free and there is no driver; it’s all automated.

We got off at the Freedom Tower. There was a torture exhibition there, but I didn’t feel like paying the entry fee. So, we got back on the free mover and returned to our car. Our next stop was South Beach.

South Beach in Miami

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for a swim. It took us 20 minutes just to find parking. We walked along the shore for about 10 minutes then headed back to the car, then to the airport to pick Demelza up.

dinner at a diplomat’s house

It’s in the eyes; yes, the eyes.

The JET Programme hosted a pre-departure orientation at the Japanese consul’s home. It was actually the orientation for group B which was leaving the next day. I am in Group C, but I am the only one in group C. So rather than having me go solo at group C’s orientation I was invited to the earlier one.

Miami’s Japanese Consul General and me

It was splendid. I got to meet some of the teachers who would be in my area. One of them would turn out to live in the same building that I will be moving into. I met the Consul General and had a great dinner. There was only one thing wrong.

Mark eating Indian food at the Japanese Consul General’s home in Miami

Demelza was in town for only a few days and this orientation took half a day of my time. I was allowed two guests, but they had to be strictly family and significant others only. Mark, my boyfriend could come as my significant other, but Demelza could not.

My mother, the stubborn woman she is, would not let me go to the orientation without Demelza. “You can’t just leave her at home after she came all the way here to see you!” So Demelza came. I wasn’t going to mention anything about who she was to anyone there. I’d never seen any of these people before and most of them, I would never see again.

my “half-sister” and me

Everything was going great until a lady, one of the JET’s mom, asked, “How are you two related?” I stood there just blankly staring at the woman. I’m not a very good liar. She continued, “I just know you two are related. Are you cousins?”

“We’re half-sisters,” Demelza spoke up. “Yes. Half-sisters,” I repeated with a cordial smile. “Half-sisters,” I said once again to make sure the lady believed me. “I knew it!” the lady said, “I could see it in the eyes; yes, the eyes…”

The Miami JETs

She left, no doubt to brag about her astounding ability to spot relatives. Demelza turned to me and whispered, “I practiced that on the ride over here in case someone asked. I hope I was convincing enough.”

“We love public transportation!”

Traveling With the Masses to See the Fishes

Mark and I had been using my mom’s mini van to get around. But this day she needed her van. Staying at home all day didn’t seem like any fun, so we opted for public transportation. Our destination? The Miami Seaquarium!

I was excited. I had never used public transportation in Miami before. Outside the US, I’m all about buses and subways. In the states, I  either have or borrow a car.

The buses in Miami come with free wi-fi.

I looked online and the cheapest option for us was to get a 5USD day pass. We could have gotten an EasyCard, but since it would only be used for one day, the EasyTicket was the better choice. Online there is a list of places where the EasyCards and EasyTickets can be purchase. The one nearest us was at a Sedano’s grocer.

The next day my mom dropped us off at the bus stop. I felt like I was 12 again. All that was needed was for my mom to kiss me goodbye, tell me what time I had to be back, and to warn me not to talk to shady looking characters.

Mark is cool today.

We had no trouble getting to and from the Seaquarium, partly because as we were waiting for our bus in Homestead we overheard a conversation. There was a guy in a distinct blue shirt and he was telling his friend that he was going to Dadeland South Metro Station. That’s was our first stop. So we just got off when he did.

To our surprise, he and his uncommon shirt was on our return bus. It was raining outside and in the darkness of night we couldn’t see out the bus. But, we knew we had reached our destination when Mr. Blue-Shirt made his way to the back door of the bus. He, without knowing it, helped us get off at the right stop once again.

Mark getting friendly with a stingray

The Seaquarium was great. We made a point to see every show that was offered. It took us 3 hours to get there by bus, so we weren’t going home without seeing everything!

Demelza and I after being splashed by dolphins

That’s how Floridians roll.

Here is a little insight on the behavior of Floridians. Floridians love to be in control of the weather. Take a Floridian up north, no matter what time of year, and he or she will complain about how cold it is. Put that same Floridian back in Florida and he/she will breath a sigh relief for surviving the cold then proceed to turn the AC to max power.

I haven’t gotten to the truly astounding part yet. When the Floridian has cooled down, the knob on the AC will not be changed. Instead the Floridian will search in a purse or backpack for an “emergency” sweater and put it on. If you ever see a person driving around in their car in the summer with a sweater on, that person is most likely a Floridian.

I am now a Floridian. The Seaquarium is outdoors except for a few cafeterias. It was very hot. The day started out with us making sure to sit in the non-splash zone at shows. Then towards mid-day I wanted to stand right next to the water so that I could be splashed. I needed to cool down and the dolphins did not disappoint.

All Pictures

* The Metro Rail announcement as I heard it.


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Bayfront Park

How to get there:

By Public Transportation –

For driving directions click the link on “How to get there”.

Address:

1075 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, Florida 33132

Phone:

  • 305-358-7550

Website

Cost:

  • The park is free to enter.
  • Events might have entry fees.
  • You have to pay for parking.

Hours:

  • sunrise to sunset

Notes:

  • You have to pay for parking.
  • There are many public parking spots across the road from the park.
    • It cost 6USD for the first 2 hours and 3USD for every hour after that.

Freedom Tower

How to get there:

Address:

600 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33132

Phone: 

  • (305) 237-3010

Website

e-mail:

  • truth@freedomtowermiamimural.com
  • freedom@freedomtowermiami.org

Cost:

It depends on the event

Hours:

  • Tu-Su 12:00-19:00

Notes:

  • You can park along Bayfront Park and walk or take the Metro Mover to the tower.
  • Events

South Beach

How to get there:

  • 25°47’41.2″N 80°07’32.2″W

There is no address but here is what Wikipedia has to say about its location:

“It is the area south of Indian Creek and encompasses roughly the southernmost 23 blocks of the main barrier island that separates the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay.”

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Free, but the restaurants and bars here are a bit over priced.

Hours:

  • You can’t close a beach this big!

Notes:


Miami Seaquarium

How to get there:

  • 25°44’03.4″N 80°09’53.2″W

Address:

4400 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, Fl 33149

Phone: 

  • (305) 361-5705

Website

Cost:

  • 3-9           28.95 USD + tax
  • Adult      39.95 USD + tax
  • Parking  8.00 USD
  • Buy online and save 2.00USD
  • There is a 50% discount with an IATAN ID card.
  • If you are driving, please remember that there is a 1.50USD cash toll fee to get on to the Rickenbacker Causeway.

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 18:00 Everyday
  • Last show starts at 14:30
  • Ticket Booth closes at 18:30

Notes:

  • This is one of the places in Florida where you can swim with dolphins.
    • The fee is about 90USD. Check out the Seaquarium’s website for the details.
  • You may want to bring your own lunch; it is allowed. The food here is not that good and grossly overpriced.
  • If your bring your own water bottle you can fill it up for free at any of the many water fountains around the Seaquarium. Otherwise, purchase one bottle from a machine (3USD) then refill that at the water fountains.

Map:






Posted in Florida, Miami, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

So Why Do You Want to Join the JET Program?

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 28, 2010

February 24, 2010

All Pictures

Asakusa Temple in Tokyo, Japan

The Japanese Embassy, Guam

The picture above is of one of my students and me at the Asakusa Temple in Tokyo. At the time this picture was taken I was living in Japan and I was really skinny. I worked for a company called GEOS and I was having a good time; not a great time, but a good time.

I had friends, but most of them work for the JET Programme. I have to say that I was quite jealous of them. They had a huge social network. They knew people in other towns that they didn’t have to serendipitously meet on a subway or anything. They also had Japanese coworkers that they hung out with.

My own coworkers at GEOS seemed tired and over worked, but only because they were. They mostly lived far away. None of them lasted very long at GEOS. By my 4th month of working at GEOS, I was the most senior member at the eikaiwa. I had to rely on casually meeting people on trains or in grocery stores or making friends through my students. (Most of my students were around my age or older.)

Lucky for me, I had one really nice student and he had many foreign friends. He would invite me to go with him anytime these friends were having a party. Many of them were in the JET Programme. I am still friends with a few of them today.

One of my fellow English teachers in Seoul, South Korea

Stay Away from the Channel

Then I moved to South Korea and worked for English Channel. When I worked there the company was okay. They always paid me on time, though I did have to check all my pay stubs to make sure they gave me all my overtime. If I did get paid the wrong amount, it was easily and quickly fixed and I would get the rest of my money in the next pay check. I really had very few complaints.

However, as my contract was nearing to an end, things started to change. There was a new manager and new people in charge at the head office. The new people in charge gave me the impression that since I wasn’t resigning, it wasn’t worth the effort for them to be polite to me.

When I didn’t get the end-of-the-contract bonus that I was supposed to get one month after my last day, I e-mail Mike, the new guy in charge of Human Resources. His response was literally to only say, “That sucks,” and not offer to help me. I did get my money after e-mailing Bob, the guy that used to be in charge of HR.

So, when I decided to go back to South Korea, I didn’t trust English Channel enough to resign with them.  I started to look for a different company. It’s a good thing too. I heard from my old co-workers that English Channel stopped paying the pensions and health insurance for many of its employees; this is illegal. There were also been many times when teachers were not paid on time. Sometimes, the Korean employees did not get paid at all.

I just want to make a note that not all English Channels are the same. It’s like a chain company and they do not all have the same management. The one I worked for, was not a chain, though. It was run by, Kenny, the president of English channel. I’m sure it won’t be long before this company goes bankrupt.

Dea Gin Girls’ High School in Seoul, South Korea

SMOE!!

That’s when I found SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education). They place ESL teachers in public schools in Seoul and it is modeled after the JET Programme. I enjoyed my time teaching at Dae Jin Girls’ High School. I was finally able to just teach English without hearing about how the school was losing money.

One of my 2nd grade classes (That 2nd grade of High school = 11th grade in the US)

No one tried to pressure me into working on Saturdays, to sell books, or more classes. I just taught English lessons. And my co-teachers were great, Mrs. Kim and Mrs. Oh! I also enjoyed teaching the English teachers and other co-workers.

They taught me so much about Korea. Whenever they saw me planning a trip, they would give me advice on things to do there. Many times Mrs. Kim or Mrs. Oh made reservations for me since I do not speak Korean very well.

So now I would like to live in Japan one more time. This time I want to work in a public school like I did in Seoul, so I applied to the JET Programme. I was given an interview at the Japanese Embassy in Guam. I think the interview went well. Hopefully, I will hear back from them in April.

The interviews for the JET Program are notorious for being rough. There are blog entries out there from interviewers who say that their fellow interviewers delight in tormenting prospective teachers. I was expecting the worst, but my interviewers all were very nice.

I’ve noticed that Guam is filled with nice, friendly people who are quick to offer help with directions or to drive you around to take pictures of Point Udall.

If you do need to stay in Guam, especially if you have an interview for the JET Program, I recommend The Tamuning Plaza Hotel. It is not fancy, in fact it’s a bit old. But the rooms are huge and the staff is very helpful. It’s about 2 blocks away from the ITC building where the Japanese embassy is. The room rates are pretty good, and you can rent a car from them for about $50 a day. (The room rates are better when you book it through hostelworld.com.)  Since you rent the car from the hotel, you can rent it on days you need a car and just walk to the beach when you don’t need to drive.

The hotel is near Agana Beach. It’s a great beach for kids because the water is shallow even far out. But, it’s not that great for tall swimmers.

Because I’m in a bit of a nostalgic mood, here is a picture of the little Japanese town I used to live in. It’s called Tōgane (pronounced Toe-ga-nay) in Chiba Prefecture. There isn’t much going on there; just onion and rice fields. It was a great place to live.

The old neighborhood in Japan

All Pictures.


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Guam

How to Get There:

From Bangkok –

  • The best airline that I found to get to Guam from Bangkok was Philippines Airline.
  • There’s a long stop over in Manila’s airport. (I will blog about the Ninoy Aquino’s shenanigans later.)

Guam has one commercial airport, the Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport. It’s near Hagatna.

You pretty much have to fly into Guam. There are not boats, and trains are just ridiculous.

Websites:

Notes:

  • Guam is a territory of the United States. This means that if you are American, you do not need a passport to travel to Guam.
  • If you are not an American, then you will need the same visa to enter Guam that you would need to get into the continental United States.
  • The people of Guam are United States citizens, just at a better climate.
  • You can only us US dollars here.
  • I recommend renting a car unless you are with a tour group.
  • Although Guam is a small island, it is not anywhere small enough to just walk around.
  • The beaches here are great.
    • When you go to any beach in Guam, DO NOT go out to the breakers. They look pretty, but do not leave the calm water. The current out there is very strong and many tourists have died. There are also many coral reefs. Corral can be very sharp and you don’t want to be pushed into corral by strong waves.
  • There are 2 military bases on the island.
  • Forget about seeing Point Udall. Just forget it!

Umatac Bay

How to get there:

  • 13°17’54.8″N 144°39’48.3″E
  • This is on Route 2 in Umatac.
  • It’s just about the only part of Route 2 in Umatac that’s near the ocean.

Address:

2, Umatac, Guam 96915, Mariana Islands

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • The monument is out in the open and can be accessed at any time.

Notes:

  • This is the spot where Magellan landed and started off the burning and pillaging of the Chamorro villages. Soon after the conquistadors would show up by way of Miguel López de Legazpi.
  • The land would be taken away and claimed in the name of Spain’s King and Queen no Chamorro had ever seen. Later the Guamese would be converted to Christianity, because they needed to learn how to be civilized.
  • Miguel López de Legazpi would then move onto The Philippines. Mark and I would run into him again in Manila.

Fort Soledad
(Fort Nuestra Señora de la Soledad)

How to get there:

  • 13°17’42.4″N 144°39’36.1″E
  • Once you’ve found the Umatac Bay, you can see the fort.
  • Just follow Route 2 past the Spanish Bridge if you’re heading south.
  • If you’re heading North, it’s before the Spanish bridge.

Cost:

  • Free

Notes


Two Lovers Point

How to get there:

  • 13°32’09.5″N 144°48’05.2″E
  • Take Route 1 in Tamuning to Route 34.

Address:

Two Lover’s Point, Tumon Bay, Guam, USA

Phone:

  • 671-647-4107

Website

Cost:

  • 3USD per person

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 20:00

Notes:

The Story of Two Lovers

There once was a Chamorro chief, who had a lovely, charming, and intelligent daughter. She was so lovely and charming that a Spanish captain fell in love with her and asked her father for her hand in marriage. The chief, seeing this as an opportunity to make peace between the two peoples thought it a great idea and said, “Sure. Why not?”

The daughter, being young and beautiful, wasn’t interested in the old crusty Spaniard. She preferred a hot, young Chamorro guy who liked to watch sunsets while saying profound things. Unfortunately, his family was not in the same tax bracket as the chief’s family.

The chief told his daughter to forget about the handsome guy who was actually the right age for her and to think about the positive aspects of marrying the old Spanish captain. The dad and the Spaniard went ahead with the wedding plans and they both got all excited when the big day came.

Right before the wedding the bride-to-be went for a walk. She walked all the way up to what is now known as Lovers Point to be with the guy her dad didn’t feel was good enough for her. Eventually, her father, the Spaniard, and many wedding guests found the lovers. Her father tried to order her to get back to the wedding, but she wasn’t listening.

The young lovers tied their long shiny hair together in a tight knot. They held each other and kissed one last time. Then they jumped.

It was a long way down. There’s a lot of pointy coral down there.

Map:

Posted in Chiba 県, Guam, Honshū, Japan, Tamuning, Tokyo 都, Tōgane 市, Umatac, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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