November 28th, 2016
The Ehime AJET Scholarship Committee opened applications for the 2017 Scholarship on 28th November 2016. Any high school student in to prefecture is eligible to apply, and we rely on the help and cooperation of high school ALTs and JTEs to make the project successful. The deadline is 10th February 2017 (Friday).
Please contact the committee if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted in: Uncategorized
November 1st, 2016
Big Mistake, but a Lucky Break
Canyoning is difficult. Don’t let anyone fool you: you will not emerge unscathed. Now, that’s a rather dramatic way of saying you’ll probably get knocked around a bit amidst the climbing, jumping, and sliding that it requires, but I would be remiss to sell it short.
I had only been in Japan a few weeks when some friends and I decided to go canyoning, and, having just got here, I couldn’t afford to have anything take me out of commission. With that in mind, it seems only natural that I would completely tear my ACL . Accounts of how it happened vary depending on who you ask. One version holds that a horde of wild monkeys attacked our party, forcing me to valiantly fight them off, injuring my knee with a particularly fierce kick. Others say all I did was push off of a rock the wrong way toward the beginning of the course. Who can say which version is correct?
It was definitely the monkeys.
After an MRI, I was told by my doctor — a phenomenal woman who knew a decent amount of medical English — that I would need surgery if I didn’t want to have problems walking for the rest of my life. In addition to surgery, I would be kept in the hospital for a month while I recovered and went to physical therapy to train up my leg. Honestly, I was relieved upon hearing this diagnosis, because before that, I had been laboring under the impression that I would be recovering for nine months. Still, the idea of being laid up in the hospital for a month was a daunting one. As an American, I’m used to short hospital stays and high hospital bills. Luckily, with the aid of my friends, coworkers, and family, I was given a small horde of distractions, supplies, and snacks to keep me sane. The hospital required that I bring a few things like a set of chopsticks, and a toothbrush and toothpaste. However, I also ended up bringing plenty of things that the hospital could have provided for a small fee. I wore my own clothes out of a suitcase, used laundry detergent from home to wash my clothes in the hospital’s washing machine, and used my own shampoo and towels in the shower. In hindsight, this was entirely too much.
One of the biggest concerns, of course, was the language gap. I have a number of friends with good Japanese ability, but they couldn’t be around all the time. This, while a frequent source of frustration, turned out to not be the obstacle I had thought it would. My assault on the Japanese language proved to be better than nothing in many cases, though people stopped complimenting my language skills and started complimenting my chopstick skills rather quickly.
In the frequent cases where language failed on both sides, there was never a time where the hospital staff gave up on me. One, or both of us would pull up a translation app or they would start drawing pictures to help me understand. It helped that I was constantly doing research on my phone so I would know what to expect for things like my MRI or my operation, but the thing that meant the most to me was the fact that they always made sure I knew what was happening. I was a foreign woman who was hurt and alone, but never once did they leave me in exasperation or just shrug and hope I would figure it out.
You may be thinking “Well that’s their job, so I would hope they made sure you understood,” but I’m sure a majority of you reading this know just how frustrating it is when you can’t communicate. As foreigners, we all struggle with a variation of this every single day, and many times it’s within the realm of things we can manage. It’s those times that really test you, your patience, and your resolve that made me really appreciate the lengths the staff went to keep me in the loop.
The procedure itself was pretty straight forward. They created a bridge for a new ACL to grow and patched everything up. It was as I was coming off of anesthesia that I was most frustrated with the language gap. My language, once sweet, had turned foul and my tears ran constantly. The moment I remember most clearly was me angrily huffing “Nihongo wa muzukashii!” through an oxygen mask, and having a nurse respond in a soft, kind voice
“Iie. Eigo wa muzukashii.”
I now have a titanium bolt keeping things in place, but it was the slick new brace that I received that inspired the name “robo ashi.” (If I’m honest, I also refer to it this way because I don’t know how to say “injured leg” in Japanese.) Thankfully, I am on the mend, with my dependence on crutches ending rather soon. My friends, family, and coworkers have all continued to go above and beyond to make sure I can do my job and live my life. Despite the lingering issues that will plague me for a while more, my extended summer vacation didn’t disrupt my life as much as I feared it would.
For many reasons, I was lucky with how these events played out. I could have been further up the course when I was injured. I could have had no one around to help translate. I could have gotten injured during one of the busiest times at school. Still, accidents happen, and wild monkey hordes roam free. I couldn’t imagine going through this experience without the support that I received, so I wanted to pay it forward. Should you ever find yourself facing an extended stay in the hospital, here is some wisdom that may prove useful to you.
1. Seriously, you do not need to bring everything from home. Bring chopsticks/ fork and spoon, toothbrush/ toothpaste, face washing materials, and conditioner/ special hair products if you need them, but most everything can be cheaply provided for you.
2. You will most likely be in a room with three other roommates. Make peace with them, and do your best to find a gossip buddy. You will need the allies.
3. Don’t eat all of your snacks at once. Hospital food is like school lunch, but with more eggplant and cold wet spinach. Friends and coworkers will bring you snacks often enough, but you should still ration.
4. You will accumulate stuff. Everyone brings you something to do, and all of it needs a place among your possessions. Figure out where you want to put it all, and figure out how to pack it all up. There is always a chance that you will be moved to a new room.
5. Stay connected. Rent a pocket wifi if you want internet, but stay in contact with the outside world. It’s easy to get discouraged, or to feel alone and lonely when the world is out there, spinning without you. It is imperative that you remember that it’s just for a little while.
Of course, every case is different. By no means should anyone assume that my account is typical for everyone, but if we’re lucky, my losing battle with my own coordination may help someone down the road. In the meantime, I’ll continue to attempt to impress my kids with my new “robo ashi” and work hard to get back to 100 percent.
Posted in: The Mikan
October 5th, 2016
Mikans and Money: The Ehime AJET Scholarship
I feel I am very lucky to come from the UK. I have always taken for granted how close I am to other European countries and the ample opportunities to travel and work abroad (not so much anymore — I’m still pissed off about the whole Brexit thing). Since my first journey outside of the UK at the age of 6 months, various family holidays, school trips, and travels with friends have taken me to approximately 20 countries around the world, and I have had the opportunity to encounter festivals, events, languages, cuisines, and cultures that I certainly would not have if I’d stayed home in my quiet corner of the English countryside.
I never realized how much I took this for granted until I came to Ehime, where a surprising number of people have never traveled outside the country, let alone to another continent. Students especially, with summer holidays that seem to consist of going to school six times a week for club activities, miss out on invaluable opportunities to experience people and places outside of Japan. We, as ALTs and CIRs, benefit in so many ways from being immersed in a culture different from our own, and the AJET scholarship allows us to give our students that same chance to experience the world.
Started in 2015 by former Matsuno JET Eriko Stronach, the scholarship provides one high school student in the prefecture the chance to study abroad during the summer. Applicants research and select their own programs from a list provided by the committee. This flexibility allows students to become fully involved with their study abroad experience from the outset — they can choose the details such as how long they wish to stay away (usually between 1-3 weeks), which English-speaking country they want to visit (Canada is currently top of the polls), and even things like the classes they take and whether to stay in dorms or with a host family. The scholarship fund’s yearly goal is 200,000 yen, and the committee holds a variety of fundraising events throughout the year in collaboration with Ehime AJET. Fundraisers include activities as varied as a Matsuyama Scavenger Hunt, a Hawaiian Luau in Uwajima, Girl Scout cookies sales, and pub quizzes. AJET has also been invited to open stands at local international events, providing opportunities to raise money for the scholarship fund as well as awareness for the cause. Without the support of these local organizations, like ICIEA in Imabari and Uwajima`s Hawaiian Festival, the scholarship would not be as successful as it is now.
The scholarship has been awarded to two students since its establishment. Both Akihito (2015) and Narumi (2016) travelled to Toronto for their chosen programs, and while they studied at different institutions and stayed in different areas of the city with different host families, their written reflections share many commonalities. They both, for example, experienced some trepidation prior to their first long-haul flight. They both had misgivings about their English proficiency and how they would be able to communicate in an English-speaking country. And they both admirably overcame their concerns and fears, actively participating in their classes and communicating with their host families and new friends from all over the world. They both also expressed a noticeable improvement in their listening skills, even after just a week. One of the highlights for Narumi was being able to help a family of tourists who were lost in the station.
For the scholarship recipients, studying abroad is an opportunity to explore more than just language and culture. As an aspiring engineer, Akihito found that the city of Toronto opened his eyes to new, innovative designs he had never seen before in Japan (he specifically mentions traffic lights and handrails. It’s always the little things that make an impression, right?!) The experience was more than a study abroad program; it became, in his words, “fuel that will drive my future.”
Posted in: The Mikan
July 27th, 2016
365 Days in Japan
One of my last memories of England before coming to Japan was sitting quietly with my parents, eating poached eggs at an airport cafe and looking bemusedly at my suitcase. We’d just wrapped the suitcase in clingfilm at an overpriced machine to keep my worldly possessions safe inside. At this point, the centre of the suitcase finally buckled under the pressure of the plastic wrap and contorted into an hourglass shape. The suitcase was red, and I smiled at the thought that I would be lugging around something very Jessica Rabbit-esque to my first graduate job. Maybe I should have interpreted it as a portent of the time trials to come, and not just the Mario Kart variety.
The Japanese time-warping began with the wrangling of time zones over Skype. When it’s midday in your hometown and dusk in your Japanese apartment, you get a twisty perception of the present. One thing that comes hand in hand with the navigation of these geographical hours is a new world of possibility. Sometimes in Japan I feel like some sort of freckly, amateur David Tennant, able to see all of these threads of potential stretching out into the distance. It’s a nice feeling. It’s not to say that being in Japan is completely pain-free — I often think about how time would be passing at home — but having so much possibility for travel, career, and life at my fingertips is something I feel very grateful for.
As well as all of the time-hopping, Japan also seems to affect the passage of time in other ways. At work sometimes time drags its heels, but on the whole it skips along as merrily as an Ichinensei playing Onigoko. Outside of the classroom, there are sometimes distinct moments where time seems to stop.
Last month, surrounded by the pine mountains, I performed a traditional drumming dance at a firefly festival with the students from one of my rural schools. I ate yakiniku leaning on the bridge as the sun stretched down and I saw fireflies glow in the valley below for the very first time. After the show we crouched down to hear congratulations from our Principal, still in our yukata and head-dresses, when I was snapped out of the reverie by the explosions of the fireworks starting. Hours after the children’s excited squealing had died down and I was back at my apartment again, I still felt the happy glow of that moment and of a good day well spent.
A lot of people voice their opinions on how to foster your time here. Sometimes, people seem to suggest that your time in Japan is some sort of rare orchid: “Don’t let your time run wild. Cultivate it, nurture it, give it a taste of the world’s nutrients, and take it back home to display it proudly.” At other times, people suggest that your Japanese time is like some sort of bohemian puppy: “Let your time run about and discover things for itself; sniff at every opportunity and time will nudge you in the right direction.” Depending on the tone that people use, the phrase I hear regularly (“21? You’re so young!”) takes on characteristics from either the orchid or puppy schools of thought. There’s something to be said for a combination of both approaches, though. You have to find the right balance between a pragmatic and a free-spirited approach to being in Japan. Although I am very familiar with that perennially inquired and still unanswered question of “How long will you stay in Japan?” the best advice I have received is to just take that decision one year at a time.
When I came to Japan I struggled (and definitely still do) with all of the things I don’t know, but I’ve already learned a lot, and I’ve now got a better understanding that part of the challenge and joy of being here is being able to embrace the inexperience in our Japanese experience.
I don’t know what the future will hold yet. Like that voluptuous, plastic-wrapped suitcase, time here is sometimes difficult to maneuver and can take on some unexpected characteristics, but I do believe it’s packed with a lot of promise. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in: The Mikan
July 20th, 2016
Hello JETs new and old.
The current guidebook on the front page has been outdated for a while, so now we present to you the new guidebook. We hope it is a useful resource to you, worked on each year by the PAs and RAs all around Ehime.
If you find anything that needs adding to the book, or have further questions, please email the PAs at email@example.com
Posted in: Uncategorized