Chasing Cherry Blossoms
about mearchive

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


You know it's real when it's written in icing. Fuck.

Image Hosted by

Thursday, July 7, 2011

24 DAYS TO GO: Graduation, Orientation and Location, Location, Location!

Wow, what a whirlwind few days! So, I finally said goodbye to Cambridge on Saturday - after three years, it's still not really sunk in that I'll never be going back as a student. Even thinking about university in the past tense feels weird. When I started, I was an acne-ridden, brace-wearing 18 year-old who'd never really lived away from home before. Three years later, I've managed to get pretty well-versed in living away from home, have  swapped the brace for a wrecked liver and have picked up some amazing friends along the way. The day of graduation itself was a fitting end, sort of what I'd imagine a wedding day to feel like for the bride: donning a special outfit, everyone watching tensely as you walk the aisle to collect your degree... I was as surprised as anyone when I found myself crying at the end of it all - saying goodbye to a good friend Paul, we exchanged more in the way of snot and tears on each other's shirts than actual words.  It wasn't because I was worried I'd never see my friends again, but just because when I do see them, it won't be when we're all (relatively) carefree students at Robinson - it really is the end of an era... and one that has probably been the best of my life so far.

Thankfully, I didn't have too long to dwell on the bittersweetness of graduation... I popped home for a few hours on Sunday to see the family (and get this AWESOME cake!), then it was straight off to Uxbridge for the pre-depature Orientation! Ironically, it was the journey home from the Orientation which, more than anything, made me wish it were the 30th of July already. Stuck in a rush hour traffic jam, in the rain, on a packed bus, with a heavy suitcase, facing a four-hour journey home, I wished I could just push a button and be teleported to Ainan. 

I also came away viewing the Exchange as potentially more of a long-term investment than I had originally envisaged: lots of my fellow JETs who I met were much older than me (some in their late 20s, a few in their 30s and beyond) and it just made me - currently only 20 - feel like I've got nothing to lose by taking a few years out in Japan (provided I enjoy it, of course!). Before I'd always felt the pressure to rush back home and get a job, settle down and start earning, but having spoken to everyone else and seen how it's fitting into their lives at such a later stage, that pressure pretty much evaporated... Who says I even need to come back full stop? Obviously I can't say for certain until I arrive in Ainan, but for the moment I'm completely open-minded as to how long I'll end up staying in Japan for. There's not much to keep me in the UK!

Speaking of Ainan, I've got a whole host more information since I last posted! I've had ex-teachers and current teachers crawling over themselves to give me information... it's been great! There's Elayna from Michigan, an ALT about to go into her third year; Aodhin and Ting, ALTs who are just preparing to leave Ainan; and finally Joel who's staying in Ainan for his fourth year as an ALT! The fact that so many of them have stayed for such a long period of time is encouraging enough in itself! Just this morning, Ting was kind enough to send me some snaps of the accommodation I'm going to be moving into... so take a look at what's soon to become my new home!

I'm pretty happy with what I've seen! There'd clearly been a bit of a miscommunication between me and one of the JETs, because I'd been given the impression that I'd be staying in something resembling a cave, but clearly that's not the case! I've also managed to uncover a few hilarious tidbits of information from my predecessors. One choice line in an email I received read: "I see more monkeys than people on my way to school". I was actually a little bit disappointed when I found out that the author was describing his more rural part of town and not where I'd be staying... I've just got a thirst for a real, over-the-top rural experience. I even considered dying my hair blonde to compensate for my placement in the more urban part of town, just so that I'd be more of a feature with the locals. I'm actually not joking. I spent most of my last lecture at Orientation not listening to the speech being given but just staring with envy at the naturally blonde hair of the guy sat in front of me. 
Luckily, before I spent what little money I have left after university on crates of L'Oreal, I found out that one of the five schools I'm going to be teaching in has only 17 students... and is up a mountain. That did a pretty good job of quenching my thirst for a rural life!

All this information has also bred a growing list of things to buy (alongside my pressing need to get down with learning some actual Japanese). Top of the list so far are: handkerchiefs (to mop up the sweat induced by the current 39-DEGREE HEAT), slippers (the Japanese custom is that you can't wear the same shoes you travel to your workplace in whilst working... with the result that I'm going to have to teach in a suit and a pair of slippers. Great look), and "omiyage": gifts to give to the significant others that I meet upon arrival (my boss, co-workers, etc) - this, I'm still a little bit uncertain about. Apparently Harrods' bags go down well, but if someone gave me an empty carrier bag as a gift, I'd probably strangle them with it before I rejoiced. Might have to rethink that one.

Image Hosted by
Layout adapted from a creation by tuesdaynight / Click here to go home.