Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A Road To Japan: Farewell...

Well, I guess this will be my very last update before I leave for Japan. I have to pack up my laptop after this and add it to the box of things I am shipping out to Sendai. I seriously cannot believe that in 3 days time I will be departing England and setting off for my new life in Japan. The emotions and feelings I have right now are kind of indescribable. Leaving your family and loved ones is an emotional rollercoaster and I know come Saturday morning I am going to be crying my eyes out. It's silly, I know. I am not leaving them forever and we'll talk online and stuff. But when you've lived your whole life in one place knowing that your family are only a short distance away, your friends are all around you and all these places you see everyday are so familiar, so safe; you are a part of a little world. To suddenly uproot yourself from that world is a very difficult thing to do for someone like me that has never lived anywhere different.

I've always been a dreamer, someone that wants to do grand things in her life but has never had the courage to actually do them. I've quite surprised myself in doing this as I never thought that I would be strong enough to push myself into doing something so bold. But sometimes you really do have to take that leap of faith into the unknown. You can become stagnant in one place if you linger there too long. If you are an adventurous soul deep inside, limiting yourself will only bring you down in the end.

When I was a young girl, I only ever wanted one thing: I wanted to fly. As silly as that might sound now, I so longed to be like a bird and have the chance to spread my wings and fly away. I imagined how wonderful it would be to have no cares, no ties, to be able to just go wherever you liked. It's easy to forget the dreams we have as children, to forget the people we are inside. Life becomes so demanding and your day is filled with things that seem to take up so much of your time. But I think it's important to stop sometimes and listen to that inner person, and to realise what he or she really wants; are we being true to ourselves?

I don't know how the next few weeks will unfold. I don't know what Japan will hold for me or what I will learn from it. But all I do know is that I am ready for the biggest adventure my life has yet faced, and just like the little bird that I so wanted to be, I'm going to spread my wings and fly.

I have probably rambled on far too much again. I seem to have a habit of that once I start writing on here. Hopefully the next post I make will be filled with exciting things from my new life.

Farewell for now.

Monday, 15 July 2013

A Road To Japan: London Orientation & an Update...

Where do I begin? London Orientation I suppose since that is in the title. It's actually quite hard for me try and write this at the moment as I am feeling rather overwhelmed. I just looked at the little count down timer I have on the side of my blog and saw that I have 18 days left. Seriously, 18 DAYS! That's just over 2 weeks and I have so much to do. This overwhelming feeling is actually causing me to be counter productive and I'm finding it terribly difficult to motivate myself. I've found my emotions keep going from high to low as I begin packing everything up into boxes and talking to people about leaving. But that doesn't mean to say that I'm not excited, because this great sense of adventure hovers over all of this. 

Anyway, London Orientation. I still can't actually believe how fast it came around, and how quickly it was over with. I decided to travel up on the Wednesday afternoon. Registration didn't actually start until 9am the following morning, but I really didn't want to risk commuting the hour's train ride up to London and then finding my way on the tube to Mile End where the Orientation was being held at a university. JET had booked for everyone to stay on campus the Thursday night (which was paid for by them), so I simply got in contact with the university and arranged an extra night. Though I had to pay for this myself, it was most definitely worth it and I highly recommend that anyone travelling fair distances or who does not know London all that particularly well do the same. It made things so much more relaxing and gave me a chance to meet up with some of my fellow JETs. Thursday morning we went to register, which included handing over our visa applications and passport. This took quite a while to do as there are about 143 of us this year. After registration was complete we then went into the lecture theatre and had seminars, workshops and talks on various different aspects of Japan and daily life, our flight information etc. I have to say, this was a very long day. We didn't finish until almost 7 and only had an hour's break in that (most of which was spent sorting out our rooms). That evening a few of us went on over to Stratford shopping centre and dinned in Pizza hut. I think someone has a photo somewhere that I'll try and get hold of later. 
Friday morning was up early again and straight into an all day Japanese lesson. This was probably the hardest day, I found myself really struggling to keep up with everyone. Whilst I do know a little Japanese grammar and probably enough to put me in the group I was in, the majority of the group seemed to have a lot more knowledge than I did. That being said, it really did push me, and whilst it did take me out of my comfort zone it was probably what I needed. The lesson was conducted entirely in hiragana which meant that I really had to concentrate to work things out. It forced me to think and meant that I could not be lazy in just using romanji. 
Once the lesson was finished at 4pm, we all then decided to commute on over to the Embassy for the evening reception at 6pm. I'm really glad that we left when we did, as it meant that we just missed the rush hour traffic and commuters. The only downside was that the weather was soooo hot and sticky and most of us were in suits. I actually felt like I was melting on the tube. A friend and I decided to stop off at a Pret store near to the embassy to freshen up and get ready, then went on over to the embassy where we had to hand in our invitations, sign in/security checks and store our luggage. 
Once we were through we went upstairs to where the reception was being held. There were already tons of people inside and we were all given champagne and sushi! It was a really amazing evening and went by so quickly. I talked to so many people over the couple of days in London that I found it so difficult to remember everyone's name. I also spoke to a couple of Japanese businessmen whilst at the reception and they gave me their business cards which was totally amazing. My advice to anyone is try to talk to as many people as possible because they might just be an excellent contact for the future! 
After the reception had finished at 8pm, we were all invited to continue the evening at a pub just down the road from the embassy. Many of the Japanese officials and JET organisers came too, and it was here that I actually got to speak to the director of CLAIR (anyone applying for JET should know exactly what CLAIR is.) I had a very interesting conversation with him and was extremely happy that I went for an hour or so as it gave me a chance to talk to both new and ex JETs too. I must have left around 10.30 as I had to get the train back, but really wish I could have stayed for longer. It was such an amazing evening. I'd had slight doubts about going as I was so tired after orientation and not feeling 100%. But I am really glad that I did. I highly recommend that any future JETs uncertain about attending the welcome reception go, because you won't regret it. 

So yes, now I am on to my final preparation before I leave this country and embark on my new adventure. I really need to start packing this week too as next week is going to be super busy for me. We have some Japanese exchange students coming over from Ito and Yokosuka who I will be be showing around and supporting on excursions. So I really need to try and get mostly packed and sorted this week. I need to get my backside into gear and get organised. Time to make some more To-Do lists I think!! 

Will update you soon on how I am progressing!

See ya~

Sunday, 30 June 2013

A Road To Japan: Where Do I Start???

My beautiful flowers and cards from the Media Department
Ahhhhh! Seriously, where do I actually begin? I have 32 days left until I depart my wonderful homeland and I have so much to do. Right at this moment I am actually feeling a huge mix of emotions, excitement for what is about to happen and sadness for everything I am leaving.
I finally finished work last Friday and it felt so strange leaving, knowing that I will probably never go back there or see some of the people I have worked with for the last 4 1/2 years again. It's quite am emotional roller coaster this whole moving to Japan thing! 
Everyone has been so lovely to me and I received some amazing gifts and messages inside my leaving cards. Whilst I know that this is what I want to do and the very best thing for my future, I cant help but feel sadness for those that I am saying goodbye to here. I have some amazing people in my life that I have learnt so much from over the years. Some of them have been a true inspiration to me and helped me to get to where I am today. Most of all I am going to miss my family; they have been there for me through everything and always offered support when I need it. I love them deeply.
Some of my lovely friends and I out celebrating the end of year, it has been a long one!
All of this has made me realise just how strong and determined a person you have to be in order to uproot yourself from the soil in which you have grown your whole life and move to another plot of land. It's really not for the faint-hearted. I sincerely hope that I can hold strong through the ups and downs that are inescapable when you say goodbye to your world and set off into a whole new one. But I suppose that every adventure comes at a price; in order to grow we sometimes have to leave those we love behind...

Friday, 31 May 2013

A Road To Japan: Placements!

Sendai City Baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

After much waiting, I received my placement last weekend. Ok, so if I'm really honest with you, I was a little surprised to have received Sendai City. It wasn't any of my placement choices, nor had it been a place I had even considered. I think part of me had kind of thought I would be placed somewhere a bit more southern; my requests had all been for the Kansai region and in my interview/application I had mentioned about the fact that my town is twinned with both Ito and Yokosuka, plus we also have strong ties with Hirado. So I was pretty shocked when I opened my information pack. I couldn't help my initial feelings being those of slight concern; the only information I had ever heard about Sendai was that of horror stories from two years ago. When most people I speak to hear the word Sendai, they automatically think of Tsunamis and nuclear disasters.

Sendai City is known as 'The City of Trees'
But you know what, after much research I've come to realise just how great Sendai City may actually be and how silly I was to feel worried about going there. It's quite amazing just how much the media can tarnish something beautiful. The city is rebuilt, everything appears to be pretty much back to the way it was before the disaster struck. If anything, I actually think I've been given one of the best locations to live. It seems to have everything to offer and everything I will need. Shopping malls, mountains for skiing in winter, beaches for the summer, plenty of festivals and things to see...and what's more it looks like there's plenty of arts & crafts and martial arts going on to keep me occupied. Being a city ALT means that I'll most likely be working with elementary and junior high school kids which will be brilliant for me. The more I read and learn about this city, the more excited I am to go and realise why I might have been placed there. It pretty much has everything I said I wanted to do and see whilst in Japan, and hopefully, it's going to be a place that I can learn so much from. I can't wait to get out there and meet the community I'll be working in and discover what things I can become involved with. I have so many ideas for different projects and things I wish to do/take up whilst there. It's almost two months until I depart England, at the moment it all feels like a dream and not real at all. I have so much stuff to do!

So here's a little info about my soon-to-be new home:
Sendai (仙台市 Sendai-shi) is the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, and the largest city in the Tōhoku Region. In 2005, the city had a population of one million, and was one of Japan's 19 designated cities. The city was founded in 1600 by the daimyo Date Masamune, and is well known by its nickname, the City of Trees (杜の都 Mori no Miyako); there are about 60 zelkova trees on Jōzenji Street (定禅寺通 Jōzenji dōri) and Aoba Street (青葉通 Aoba dōri). In the summer, the Sendai Tanabata Festival, the largest Tanabata festival in Japan, is held. In winter, the trees are decorated with thousands of lights for the Pageant of Starlight (光のページェント), lasting through most of December. (From Wikipedia.) 
Sendai City logo.
Throughout the city stand beautiful green trees and sculptures. Because of the many parks and green areas, Sendai has been nick named "City of Trees" (Mori-no-miyako). There are a wide selection of restaurants, cinemas and museums, along with plenty of art galleries and sports facilities. The city covers quite a large area, stretching from the ocean in the east right up to the mountains in the west, meaning that there's lots of outdoor activities available. Sendai is situated 350km north of Tokyo, taking only around 1 1/2 hours to reach by Shinkansen (bullet train). There is also an airport that has both international and domestic flights available. 

...There seems to be several onsen within the area too, so I can't wait to check those out. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about getting totally naked in public baths just yet, but I'm certain it'll be an interesting experience nonetheless! I also found that there's an astronomical observatory, so can't wait to take a look at that either. Anyway, it seems like I'm going to be spoilt for choice of things to keep me occupied! Very exciting!

 So yeah, I've rambled on enough about the city I think. I should hopefully hear from my predecessor and contracting organisation in the next few weeks and find out exactly my location within Sendai as well as the schools I'll be working with and my apartment. Reeeeeally excited to know more! :D 
All of this has definitely made me consider just how much of our lives are actually in our own control. For instance, I decided to apply to JET and move on from my life here because I felt that I was ready for the next stage. But it seems like the moment I made that decision, so many doorways and opportunities began to open up for me. It's almost like rolling a ball along the ground; you set that ball in motion, but it's the objects that it collides with or comes into contact with that determine where it goes. So whilst I may have set myself off on this road to Japan, fate it seems still directs where I go and what happens along the way. I suppose that the 'objects' I come into contact with along that path determine the outcome. It's intriguing to find out what it might be.  

 ...Just something to consider on a Friday night. ;) I now leave you with the song I am currently listening to on my playlist. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Road To Japan: Results!

Well, after a very loooooooooooooooooooong wait, results finally came through yesterday (April 5th).
I got Shortlisted!!!!!

"Overjoyed Otter"
...It's taken the last 48 hours or so for the news to actually sink in. I still can't believe it. I have spent the last few days quite literally starring out of my window, hunting the poor postman in the hope that he might bare with him my very important letter. What didn't help matters was the damn pizza leafleters out in force on my road. I swear they were there to push me over the edge by putting crap through my door. I honestly can't tell you how stressful this whole week has been and both the relief and excitement I felt when I heard that envelope pass through my letter box. (I was actually doing battle with a Ryvitta in the kitchen at the time.) After sobbing like a stupid person, I was finally able to announce it to friends and family. It's the best feeling in the world to know that after all that hard work and battling to get my application & statement completed on time, to have gone through the interview and the gruelling 3 month wait, I had been given the opportunity to fulfil my dreams. 

I know there are so many people out there that didn't make it or were given alternate positions and it only makes me realise just how very lucky I am. Whilst I know that everyone didn't get the response they had hoped for, it's just confirmed even more for me that 'what's meant to be will be.' You are only ever doing what you are meant to be doing at any particular moment. Life takes you where you need to be. The right path for you opens up when the time is right, and though sometimes it may feel like it's steering us away from things we want in our lives, it's always for a good reason. 

I have a massive journey ahead of me and this is just the beginning. At the moment I actually feel quite overwhelmed by everything. (Probably doesn't help the fact that it's now early hours of the morning and I had a 5 hour Naginata lesson today. My brain and body are starting to shut down for the night). But it's so very exciting and I really can't wait. Tomorrow I begin my To-Do Lists! Mwhahaha! 

All I want to say is, for those that didn't make it in, those that were given alternate status and anyone thinking of applying for the future: Good luck. Life is what you make of it. You can sit back and admit defeat or be idle, or you can let it take you where you need to go. There are always chances, opportunities and paths available, we just sometimes need to open our eyes to see them. 

I am most certain more updates will follow. Until next time, toodles my lovelies!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A Road To Japan: Eeeeeeeek!!!!

So it looks like results are beginning to trickle out of different consulates/embassies across the globe! I'm starting to get both excited and nervous now!! Come on UK!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A Road to Japan: Still waiting.....

Time goes sooooo sloooowly when you are waiting.........

 I'm heading into my 10th week of waiting and I have to say it really is killing me. On the plus side it's given me time to start trying to find ways of making money incase I am accepted. I just sold a load of unwanted books and shoes etc. on Ebay this weekend and made about £80 so far! *GO ME*

I'm also considering bombarding people with pretty cupcakes in an attempt to make extra cash. JET isn't going to be cheap and so I'm trying to find any way possible of making money (legally ofcourse! ;D) 
Until then, I am slowly withering away inside. Come on April!!! Bring us all some good news!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

...In other headlines, I made it to my first Kyu grade last weekend. My aim is to make it to black before the summer gets here. I've been training just over 4 years now so it would be amazing to make it there before I (potentially) leave for Japan. But we shall see what unfolds over the next few months. Gotta keep working hard! Practise makes better afterall! :)

1st Kyu! Awesomeness!!! :D
Hopefully my next JET update will be a good one. It really does feel like forever ago I had my interview. I can only hold my breath and keep my fingers crossed; whatever will be will be eh? 
Until then I shall endeavour to raise as much money as possible. More Ebay and Cupcake baking here I come!!!!!! 

I'll leave you with some amazing music that has kept me going this past week: