“So Leh we make ah memory…

do sometin’
That new tuh meh,
Make sometin’ that we could share,
Post it up inside ah here…”

                                                                               Machel Montano Ft. Tarrus Riley, 2016

By Apphia Pereira

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Memory yuh say? So said, so done. Several in fact!

As I embarked on a journey into a world of drastically different cultures, I was ready and enthralled with my upcoming prospects.

My name is Apphia Pereira, some call me Phee or Pheefi, and I come from the beautiful Twin Island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Coming to Japan has always been a G.O.A.L of mine and honestly, the timing, though at one point I may have thought was too late, is one that I can now appreciate. I applied after a really difficult year and I did not get any of my three choices but I also ticked the no preference box because I did not particularly care where I was placed. I was just looking for adventure and fulfillment. I honestly didn’t mind experiencing what the rural life had to offer.

However, when I received my placement, I was so confused. Where is this town? I even asked my Japanese friends who all had no clue. Researching this town was so difficult and even their website had little to offer (they have since brought in advisors to rectify this issue).

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I lived in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, and got placed in Matsuno-cho, the smallest town in the Ehime prefecture on the island of Shikoku. Matsuno has approximately 4300 people, and Ehime has the same population as our Twin Island State. It is a valley town and very “inaka” or countryside.

At first, I was afraid and worried. Would I like it here? My fears were immediately put at ease when upon arriving I experienced a warm reception. Though my supervisors didn’t speak much English, they brought along a translator who was definitely an excellent introduction to Matsuno’s warmth. He even turned out to be a past principal of the school I was placed at. His curiosity about my culture and history was what I have continued to experience since my arrival in this quaint town.

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Welcome to Shikoku! I honestly think I have a bias about my current placement. I think it is the most picturesque and serene of the islands of Japan. As it turns out I’m not the only one! Shikoku was the only place in Japan to make it into Lonely Planet’s July web feature “Best in Asia Pacific” for 2019, ranking in at number 2 and when asked Japanese people describe it in one word – beautiful. A perfect blend of inaka and city, this island’s got it all!

Upon arriving here, I first experienced the Japanese Obon Festival in both my town and the neighbouring town of Kihoku. I have since, in 5 months, visited at least 30 districts, towns and/or cities for site-seeing, gatherings or festivals with old friends and new, who were basically pre-chosen due to our placements but who have since become family. Big up, Nanyo A for being the best pre-chosen family EVER! They are spontaneous and energetic; they constantly try to be inclusive and present.

Ehime feels like home to me and I’ve only been here for 5 months. I have found so many similarities, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, with my country. I have found a few people, both Japanese and JETS who knew or have heard of Trinidad and Tobago. Some JETs even share Caribbean heritage and new bonds are immediately formed over these roots. While these are in the minority, and the majority of people have never heard of, seen or met someone from my country, everyone is intrigued and usually has a question or more to ask.

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I teach one school- Matsuno Junior High School- that has its own website where you can see and follow some of my adventures with the awesome student body. The Students are slowly warming up to my very extra personality and even attempt conversations in English with me. My co-workers are all older but are inquisitive and willing to teach and learn with me. I also have an “Eikaiwa” where I teach older members of my community Conversational English. It is here, I first felt the love and warmth from my community the most. Everyone took me under their wings as though I were their own and though I am their teacher, they continue to teach me the Japanese way of life. I even have a Japanese Obaachan.

Let’s talk Matsuno-cho; this is a small but vibrant town. They have taken it upon themselves, in an effort to attract visitors, to improve the town’s natural attractions and continue to strive to better engage the wider population with fun and interesting activities. With the beautiful Hiromi River running throughout Matsuno, a beautiful Recreation Centre including a small aquarium with fish and fauna from Shikoku (even large fish from the Amazon river) and a glass blowing atelier where you can have a hands-on experience in creating your own work, the Nametoko Gorge and its famous Poppo Onsen which is literally on top the Train Station; Matsuno’s natural beauty can be truly appreciated. I have yet to do some of the activities in my town but I do plan to stay here for some time. I have recently found out that there is even a school for foreigners to learn Japanese in preparation for living in Japan.

Also, it gets super cold here as it’s a Valley town. As someone from the Caribbean, I really have been struggling to keep up with the consistently fluctuating temperatures. Save Me!! But like the song said I’ve made “ah memory”; many memories, adventures galore and I’ve been slowly working on that self-development. I have even been “posting it up inside ah here” and sharing these experiences with my fellowmen and the world.

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Apphia Pereira is a first-year Jet who loves to describe herself as a small island girl. She is an Attorney at law who considers herself an Artist with an Entrepreneurial spirit. She loves being in the open air, bingeing series and keeping mentally active.

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