16 February 2007

First Date with Erika, JET Interview + Hello Angeli!

1. Okay, today i had my first date with erika. she has great eyes and she's very sweet and interesting and i'd like to kick it with her again sometime. when we got to my fave japanese restaurant, it was fucking CLOSED. so then we walked in the russian tundra to big bowl, and ate food and talked and sipped green tea and had an intense but thorough conversation. i'm so glad i met her post-thesis cuz it just wasn't gonna happen before. i feel like i talked way too much though. shit happens man.

2. My JET program interview was interesting. i felt extremely comfortable--all things considered--and i think i answered the questions with polish, articulation, intelligence and humor. but i couldn't quite figure out whether it was enough or not. a sample of some of the questions.

AMERICAN CONSUL TO JAPAN (judge #1): --well, the main question i have for you is, why now? why join the JET program now? you're significantly older than most JET applicants--which isn't a bad thing at all--and people will certainly point that out to you in japan, but i'm curious to know why now?

--I guess, there were other things i wanted to do first. i wanted to volunteer, both abroad and here. i wanted to work with kids and do vounteer service before i considered leaving the states. and i wanted to earn a master's degree first, and i guess this seems like the perfect time for me. but above all else, i want to be closer to my family. i have japanese cousins and uncles i've never met in japan and they live in osaka, tokyo, kobe. this is a perfect way to travel, do something i love--teaching--reconnect with my sobo's family, and find new material for writing.

FORMER JET PARTICIPANT (judge # 2): so i see you left the peace corps early, what's to stop you from leaving japan early?

--Well, i would have stayed in burkina faso except i didn't feel my village needed a TEFL teacher. my students asked me to teach them physics, math, biologiy, geology, disciplines i was simply not qualified to teach them. the skills i did have to offer--teaching english, language, reading--they were already getting from other burkinabe teachers. i was in essence taking away hours from them and that didn't seem like a good enough reason to stay.

JUDGE #1: so you're planning on finishing your novel in japan?

--no, i'll be done with my novel in april hopefully. but all MFA grad's usually spend 1-2 years revising their thesis because no school expects us to have actually written a complete and ready-to-sell novel in 1 or even 2 years.

JUDGE#1: so you're planning on writing about the JET program?

--Oh no, i'm planning on writing about cultural diaspora, about being japanese american in japan and being treated like i'm only american, which is interesting for me since in america, i'm treated like i'm not japanese cuz i don't look japanese, a problem of phenotype really. . .
JUDGE #2: so what ways do you plan to become part of the school system? how do you hope to work with our colleagues.

--Good question. first off, i plan on spending alot of time with my colleagues. one thing i learned in americops and the peace corps is, you have to follow a certain level of professional integration if you hope to earn the respect and the cooperationg of your colleagues (head nodding from the panel, i'm thinking cool, i'm finally getting them to feel me). you have to follow a certain level of protocol, you can't fight the whole system. also, i'd like to sponsor an english poetry/haiku contest. next, i'd like to start an afterschool creative writing class, with the blessings of the principal, of course and or an english club.

JAPANESE WOMAN, MAYBE A SCHOLAR, NOT COMPLETELY SURE (judge #3): what will you do if one of your colleagues makes an english mistake in front of the whole class.
--oh, i'd try to bring it up later on, one on one, and point it out, if i thought i could do so without offending him, and if not, i probably wouldn't say anything at all.

JUDGE #3: what would you do if you're working in a small town and one of your colleagues asks you to take out your nose ring or your earrings?
an aside: when i told shiga sensei, my japanese teacher about this question, she was shocked, she couldn't believe a japanese woman actually asked me this, since it's rude to ask things like that, even though everyone will certainly be thinking it.
--well, i'd probably just take it out during class, and not because i agreed with him, but because it would be really uncomfortable for both of us if i just ignored or defied him like that. he would probablhy feel disrespected.

That was the gist of it. it was crazy. no questions about japanese history, no asking me what are the 4 main islands? who's the current prime minister? what are the 8 largest cities in japan in descending order? what american commander essentially opened up japan to western trade during the tokugawa regime? when was the japanese constitution written? what ranking is japan's GNP? i was waiting for all of those. they were at the tip of my tongue, my hand was on the trigger, ready to fire shots into the air like a target game at a carnival. but no, nothing like that at all. it felt good, i loved my new shoes that went along with my hot BR suit, i thought was blazing in my own jacksonian kinda way, i thought the interview went very well, but i have no idea how they felt about it. so now i wait until he end of april or the beginning of may. . . yo, that's a long fucking time.

3. Angeli came to town. . . it was hella cool to see her again. we went out for thai, and after i found out she makes 160,000 dollars a year, i bought her dinner. . . the irony was delicious. . but that's cool, she was like my sugar mama for the rest of the weekend.

It was so great seeing her. . . i hadn't seen her since D.C. 2003, right before i took off for azerbaijan. . . almost 4 years ago, and i think she actually looks BETTER now than she did in adam's morgan as i chomped on vegetarian ethiopian food.

We talked and talked and talked and talked, eventually we drove back to SoBe, the next day we slept in, went grocery shopping, devoured bags of chocolate chip cookies and (soy) milk, i made a greek salad (added feta for her) and we we soaked up the juice with decent italian bread, nibbled on plates of nuts, fruit, chocolate. . . .

The past two days have been just marvelous.

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