year old me had many ideas about what I wanted for the future. Some included
wanting to be a paleontologist or astronaut, discovering new species of the
saurian or alien kind. Others were as mundane as wanting to be an ice cream
truck driver because I liked the music. That was before I discovered how creepy
that tinny music could be. Yikes.
One of the dreams that stuck around for longer (than my two week dream of selling ice cream, for example) was being a horse rider. Didn’t matter if it was as a rodeo rider, rancher, racer or jumper. I just wanted to ride horses. My aunt let me ride her horse a few times and my grandparents bought me cowgirl outfits when we went to see rodeo rides. My friends encouraged this by taking me riding for their birthday parties. Even if actually owning a horse or taking riding lessons wasn’t possible, I took every chance I could get to interact with horses.
you can imagine how excited I got when I was told that there would a horse
festival in Kikuma on October 20th.
Hey everyone! I’m Christian and I am from the small country of Trinidad and Tobago (/ˈtrɪnɪdæd … təˈbeɪɡoʊ/). For those who don’t know, it’s actually a country in the Caribbean archipelago that comprises of two main islands, Trinidad… and… you guessed it… Tobago. I hail from the larger sister island, Trinidad but from a very small, rural village called Manzanilla (a name of Spanish origins but the pronunciation has been anglicized). Trinidad and Tobago is fairly known in the Western hemisphere, however, halfway across the world in Japan, especially in a Prefecture such as Ehime, my country is barely known to the locals, or so it may seem.
A year ago, I was told that three of my five schools would be in the islands, and I would have to take the ferry or the kousoku, the express boat, to the islands and then find my way to school. That was how my journey to Nakajima and Nuwajima began.
When I first applied to JET, the question of “What sort of person becomes a JET?” was not at the forefront of my mind, but I certainly had an image. The image I had, of a young, straight out of university, genki American or British person, was certainly reinforced the sorts of people who appoint themselves representatives of the programme on social media.
A fundamental part of this blog is, and always has been, reviews. Shaping our own experiences in such a way that others can get something out of them is a powerful way to communicate with audiences, and when that experience is something someone else can also take part in, a review is the most direct way to express that. Nowadays, the pop culture idea of what a review is still has this idea of being connected to a star rating or a number out of 100, but the reviews I’ve seen published in the last year are nothing like that. Take Joshua Hill’s review of his experience at Matsuyama castle, or Niall Magee’s experiences with VR in Tokyo. Both are very different ways of approaching very different materials, but both are essentially reviews.
In her poem “Nothing Lasts,” American poet
Jane Hirshfield writes: ” ‘Nothing lasts’—/ how bitterly the thought
attends each loss. / “‘Nothing lasts’ – / a promise also of consolation.”
While Hirshfield may have not been speaking
about the JET program, her words are applicable here. There are good and bad
days in the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program. There are things, people,
and moments that you love as much as there things, people, and moments that you
detest. You can be bitter that it doesn’t last. You can also be relieved.
As I reestablish my life in America, I am
reflecting on Hirshfield’s words, and considering all the things I miss and
don’t miss about JET. Here’s what I collected:
As an elementary school ALT, I’ve played many roles. I have been the tape-recorder: reading dialogue from a script as the children fidget and try to match pictures to numbers based on what I’m saying. I have been the planner. I have prepared materials and designed lessons. I have adjusted things between classes and addressed problems that came up unexpectedly. I have been a kind of class pet: little children literally climbing on me, pulling at my hair, shouting for my attention, comparing hand and foot sizes, marvelling at my non-brown eyes and occasionally trying for that elusive kancho – and that’s where I draw the line.
Every three years, a contemporary art festival draws thousands of Japanese tourists and foreign visitors into the sparsely populated islands resting in the sea between Honshu and Shikoku. The Setouchi Triennale, also known as the Setouchi International Art Festival, began just nine years ago in 2010, but it has already garnered acclaim as a top destination in the contemporary art world and as one of the most unique events to take place in Japan. Whether you’re an art lover or an island adventurer (or both!), the Setouchi Triennale offers something for every kind of Shikoku explorer. As JETs in Ehime, we are extremely lucky that the Setouchi Triennale happens in our backyard. Here’s a short guide to the festival, general background and visiting information, and a brief snippet on one of my favorite islands of the area.
A few weeks before leaving for Japan, I found out from my predecessor that I would be teaching in five high schools within the Nanyo B region and two special needs schools. Now, I already expected that there would be quite a bit of travel involved in the position since it’s not uncommon for ALTs to have more than one school but teaching in a special needs school wasn’t something I was ever prepared for—hence the panic. While my degree provided a short course on special education, I only had theories and no hands-on training in an environment with special needs learners.