Unbeaten Paths: Chuyo 20202021

Edited by Jordan Rocke

Welcome to Unbeaten Paths 2020/21 pt 2, covering the central region of Chuyo! Once again, thank you very much to everyone who took the time to submit their introductions, and if there are any incoming folks who would like to be included, I am always happy to add you in!

Prefectural:

Minnelli Ramos (Matsuyama)

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Destiny’s Game

When people think of destiny, they relate it with religion or to a higher being. Probably, my belief that everything in my life is a game of destiny has something to do with my spiritual or religious beliefs too, or is just simply a product of how I was brought up and the influence of the people around me.

I was born and raised in the Philippines —the only country in Asia where the majority of people are Christians. This fact means that all my life, it was inculcated in me that things happen to people for a reason and all of those will help us reach our purpose in life. I am not sure and I don’t want to assume that it’s the same for all religions or beliefs, but that’s how it is for us. I do not consider myself as a strongly religious person but, somehow, I feel like I have proven the existence of destiny many times in my journey as an educator and in this roller coaster ride I sought known as the JET program.

To start with, I did not plan on becoming a teacher, not until after I finished my course. There’s a very long story behind this but the point is that I deem destiny to be the main thing responsible for this. From there onwards, everything that I have experienced seems to be preparing me for this grand plan, which is JET. My exposure to students of different nationalities in the Philippines, my one year instructor life in Vietnam, and even my online teaching stint during this pandemic season —all of them were equally relevant in my pursuance of JET.

Who would have thought that my dream of living in Japan has a chance to come true? A stronger sense to bask in Japan’s glory, beyond the world of anime, happened when my sister moved there for work. Although she has long been back home, the curiosity in me was never satiated. I know I have to experience life there myself.

Who would have thought that the JET program —which is not that popular in the Philippines yet— would pave the way for my dream to live in Japan? It is undeniable that more and more Filipinos have been trying their best to get into the program. However, it is also without a doubt that it is still foreign to some.

Who would have thought that I would come across this program thru social media after more than a year of having deactivated my Facebook account? For this and everything else, I give credit to destiny.

I consider my JET journey a bittersweet game of destiny though since covid-19 has been blocking my way to Japan for some time now. However, just like what my friends have been telling me and after much contemplation, I now believe that this delay also happens because of a greater purpose. Whatever that is, I am very much willing to wait for things to unfold and I trust that one day, someday, I will just be in awe of destiny’s brilliance.

Ryan Okazaki (Matsuyama)

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What’s up everyone! My name is Ryan and I’m one of the ALTs coming to Matsuyama. I’m so excited to start this JET journey once it is safe to do so. Until then, here’s more about me:

I was born and raised in Southern California and currently live 15 minutes down the street from the original Disneyland! (On a good day you can see the fireworks in the distance.) Some of my hobbies/interests include music, writing, food, anime, badminton, astrology, nature, and quality time with friends, family, and my two Huskies. I graduated from UC San Diego with a bachelor’s in Ethnic Studies and have since worked in non-profit community organizing, local politics, and hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurants.

I am a third generation Japanese-Filipino-American meaning my grandparents immigrated to America from Kumamoto, Japan and Manila, Philippines. Growing up around them, I became very interested in learning more about their lives and my ancestral homelands. I’m especially looking forward to visiting Kumamoto and travelling around Asia on my days off.

Upon arrival in Matsuyama I will be teaching junior high and high school students as the first ever JET ALT at their school. Although it will be challenging without a predecessor, I hope to use my skills and experiences to make English education engaging and relevant to today’s times. I can’t wait to get to know my school, coworkers, and students!

In the meantime, you can catch me working at a ramen shop serving Mexican-Japanese fusion food or working my way through all 720 episodes of Naruto. Take care and see you in Japan sometime soon!

Joshua Coady (Matsuyama)

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Greetings from Canada! My name is Joshua Coady and I’m from a small island on the East coast of Canada called Newfoundland. It’s really cold for most of the year and our Winters are really long. It’s not all bad though, especially if you like outdoor activities. There is so much wilderness and fun things to do outside throughout the year, such as snowmobiling and hiking. If you dislike the cold though it can be pretty rough. Personally I’m more partial to warmer weather, so I spend most of my time during the winter inside cozying up to the fireplace.

I grew up playing Nintendo games and reading manga, so I’ve always been a bit of a nerd at heart. As a kid I even wanted to move to Japan to work for Nintendo. Playing my Gameboy and reading Shonen Jump definitely led to my current interest in Japan, so I still have a soft spot for those memories. These days I would say my feelings for Japan are a lot more complicated and harder to pin down. It’s hard to answer why I’m interested in living in Japan because there are so many things that have influenced me to do so. When I studied at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, I knew for sure that I wanted to work in Japan after my studies though. There is so much to learn by living in Japan so I cannot wait to begin the next chapter of my life there. I would love to share some of my Canadian experiences with people as I learn more, so I hope to meet lots of people and get to know them. Though I must admit, I don’t know very much about hockey nor is my French very good. Still, I can share my love for poutine and teach you all the ways to say “sorry”!

Kumakogen Town

David Broughton

Hello! My name is David Broughton, or デイビッド ブロウトン。How do you do? I was born and raised in the state of Michigan, but I have a heart for the “wild west” of Colorado where I studied International Affairs and graduated from college in 2020. Some of my favorite hobbies include literature, outdoor activities, gaming, and of course Japanese language and culture! My family has mixed origins, which include African American, French and British ethnicities, and because of that, I have a passion for history, culture, and food. One thing I really look forward to participating in as a JET ALT is building bridges between American and Japanese culture and fostering relationships through creating fun experiences with others. I hope to become involved in the Ehime community, learn more about Japanese rural culture and I hope to create lasting memories from fun experiences with those around me. My favorite hobbies are cooking, hiking and gaming!

Feel free to add me on Line! @ crash799

Insta: Dbro0sdd

Iyo City

Carl Sotomil

Carl

Keep on Walking

As I wait for my departure from the middle of the Canadian Prairies to the mountainous, seaside city of Iyo, I always remind myself to keep walking no matter if it is a nice, warm sunny day or 3 feet of snow is falling. I am not totally sure what awaits me when I get there, but in the meantime I have started to make strides on learning Japanese, signing up for a driving road test just in case, and learning a little bit more about my new home through Google Street View or begging to my brother to use his powerful gaming PC to fly over the city with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. 

Honestly, I was not sure exactly sure why I chose to come to Japan to experience another culture. When I was a young boy from the Philippines, I remember watching “Japan Video Topics” on NBN Channel 4 at 8pm, but I did not seem interested in Japanese technology’s way of peeling a potato with a laser or a room that was built on mechanical platforms. I was not interested in Japanese anime back then (aside from Doraemon) and I did not develop my appreciation of Japanese music until 2016. My parents were more involved with Japanese people though. My father, who was a construction supply contractor, landed a huge contract from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in supplying windows to schools across parts of the Philippines. With that contract comes wealth and my parents decided that if the family were to stay in the Philippines their children would have an unclear future, so they decided to move to Canada for us to begin our journey another way. 

Skip to about eight years later and Japan was at the back of my mind until I entered university and took Japanese classes as an elective while I completed a degree in Environmental Design (for me to take a master’s degree in Architecture). One day while I was frantically trying to finish one of my studio projects, one of my classmates asked me to join him in a language exchange with Japanese exchange students. During my time in the exchange, I was able to meet up with another person that had done JET in Ibaraki (was not sure where Ibaraki was until he told me it was near Tokyo) and talked to several Japanese students about how JET influenced their decision to become an exchange student in Canada. At that time, I was unsure about joining the JET Program since I did not see myself being qualified, since I do not have any teaching experience at all and I was not good at presenting my project to my friends, let alone a crowd of strangers!

That all changed when I decided to volunteer to host a birthday party while working at a craft store. I thought I was just there to supervise (more like babysit) children while they do their craft projects, but to my surprise it was hands-on; I needed to teach them the skills that even I do not have. It was already too late to back down; I have already started walking down that path. It was full of struggles; at first teaching children was not much of a success, but I strived to be better at teaching crafts such as painting, drawing and art history. After doing about 30 birthday parties and numerous in-store events, a small spark went up and I remembered the JET Program. I started reading more about the requirements for it and I was surprised that everything that I have worked for so far had been worth it. My motivation for the JET program is not to become a schoolteacher, but as a journey that would bring me success in the future while learning valuable skills, such as presenting to a larger crowd of people and being able to pass on knowledge to future generations.

Seemingly, everything fell into place. Architecture school made me research more about Japanese lifestyle and made me more interested in the Japanese landscape; I went back and watched “Japan Video Topics” again while doing research on compact living spaces and saw the mechanical platforms one more time (I thought it was an excellent idea and I adapted it into one of my studio projects); I continued to be a member of the language exchange and met people that had similar interests as I do. I went to Japan two times just to see and feel what it is like to be there and experience daily life. I continued to work on being an instructor at the craft store until about the beginning of the pandemic when I went ahead and applied for the JET Program. I just kept on walking and did not mind what was ahead of me until I got the email that I was accepted into the program. Now that I am waiting for my departure from Canada to begin a new chapter of my life in Japan, I always go outside and walk to cherish what little time that I have left. To motivate myself, I keep on walking, even though I do not really know where it will take me.

Matsuyama City

Diksha Kumar

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Hey everyone! My name is Diksha Kumar and I’m 25 years old. I was born in India but when I was around 4 years old my family and I moved to America. I am fluent in both Hindi and English, and I’m still working on my Japanese. My interest in Japan all started when I was growing up. I lived next to this family that had recently moved from Japan. Since I was close in age to their kids, we always played together and during that time they introduced me to so many aspects of Japanese culture, and their favorite dishes. I moved away a couple of years later and it was only during university where Japanese classes were offered. At University I double majored in both Biology and Japanese at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. During my junior year in college I got to study abroad for a full year in Sendai, Japan. During my stay I got to volunteer at a local high school where I was able to learn more about the day-to-day life of students in Japan, while also getting to share my own experiences about growing up in America. I had so much fun that day, I really wanted continue with the volunteer program and was eventually asked to help some students after school with their English homework.I was so sad when my year was up and I had to come back home because I really fell in love with Japan and Japanese culture again!  

After coming back to the states I was sharing my experiences with my classmates, and afterwards  my Japanese professor told me about the JET program. I knew right away this was the best way to combine both teaching and going back to Japan! My current hobbies are reading, playing video games, and when I can remember, playing the violin. I am a huge fan of murder mysteries, honestly just the mystery genre in general. My all time favorite game series is Kingdom Hearts, honestly anything that Square Enix comes out with, I’m a fan!  I am also teaching myself to play the keyboard in my free time and I’ve recently gotten into gardening. I love to travel and my dream is to explore more of Japan since I only really got to experience Sendai, I would also like to explore other countries in Asia as well as Europe! I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone when I finally arrive! 

Tom Elwin

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Hi, my name is Tom Elwin. I’m going to be an ALT in Matsuyama, Ehime. I was born in Stanford in the Vale, U.K., but grew up abroad in Denmark, Singapore, and Germany due to my dad’s job. I now have dual citizenship (British-German) after 9 years living in Germany. I came back to the U.K. for my bachelor’s to study archaeology at the University of York. My application to the JET programme was inspired by my mum who had participated in it herself after university. But my love of Japanese culture began much earlier. Attending international schools, I grew up with a number of Japanese friends. They would teach me little phrases like ‘baka’ or ‘O-genki desu ka’, and I fell in love with the phonetics of the language. I wanted to better fit in with them, so I asked my mum to start teaching me more Japanese at home.

A few years later, she made a trip back to Japan to visit the small town in the Niigata prefecture where she had spent time during her JET placement and allowed me to join her. The three weeks I spent in the country opened my eyes to an amazing culture that was unique and different to anything I’d personally experienced before. After that brief stay in Niigata, I knew that one day I would have to return. The JET Program will be the perfect opportunity for me to give back to a culture that gave me so much during my childhood, and will be great for me to reconnect with part of my familiar past. Besides learning Japanese, in my free time you’ll usually find me playing football, badminton, or tennis. Otherwise, I enjoy the standard binge of shows on Netflix, playing video games, and hiking. I’m a big fan of the English football team, Tottenham Hotspur, which can be quite painful at times. Over the course of the last year as I’ve waited to leave for Japan, I began a Master’s degree in Archaeology at the University of Tübingen, Germany, have been working part time at an online language school, Bespeaking, and non-stop dreamt of Tempura. I can’t wait to get started in Japan and meet you all!

Ivania Gonzalez

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It’s Like Walking in my Mom’s Shoes

I am a first-generation Mexican-American. My parents are from Mexico. My mom came to the United States with a suitcase and a few bags of her belongings. She knew only a few English phrases and yet managed to settle down to form a family and a new life. Ever since I was a child, I have always wondered how my mother did it. I never imagined that I would go through a similar situation as an adult. As a child of a single immigrant, I didn’t even think I would have the opportunity to either attend college, travel, or live in Japan. Yet, I am a college graduate patiently waiting to travel to Japan and fulfill my duties as an ALT. 

My interest in Japan began when I was introduced to anime as a child. I instantly fell in love with Japan and its culture, religion, and language. I wanted to take Japanese classes in high school but my mom wanted me to focus on my Spanish. It was one of my college professors who told me I would be a perfect candidate for JET. However, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to live in Japan since, at that time, I had never left the U.S. or been away from my home for more than a month. What helped me feel more secure about my choice was being able to study abroad my junior year at Kyoto Gakuen University in Kyoto, Japan. I discovered more about who I was and easily engaged with the community around me and my host university, further deepening my experience. I realized while living there that I would be alright on my own.    

As a former English Language Learner (ELL), I understand how the students may feel towards learning the English language. I plan to use my past experience learning English to guide my students and motivate them. Participating in JET gives me the opportunity to continue to help others communicate and create connections using the English language. I personally met so many people thanks to being bilingual. It allowed me to make connections and learn more about different cultures from the people I met. I aspire to help students become more confident with their English. I want them to experience being bilingual and feel proud of themselves for knowing more than one language. 

Strangely enough, it’s as though history is repeating itself. I am struggling to learn a new language to live in Japan, a country where I have no roots to rely on. I have to make a living for myself. I know it won’t be easy. I know there are going to be some days that I will feel down. However, if my parents were able to survive and make a living, so can I. I am blessed to have my parents, family, and friends supporting and cheering me on. I am excited to see where I go after. I don’t know where I will end up. Instead of stressing over where the finish line is, I am going to focus on my journey and make the most of it. 

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