13 August, 2010

Tokyo Orientation: Day 1

The beginning of Tokyo Orientation
Up bright and eaarly the next day, I managed to squeeze into a lift heading down. All the hotel lifts had signs next to them apologising for how busy the JETs would make them at breakfast, lunch and dinner times, so I was actually pretty surprised that 3 of us stepped off on the 4th floor. Unfortunately, the closest dining hall was on the 5th floor which I tried to tell the two other girls but they said it was only for the TOAs. Wrong! Walking into the dining hall reminded me of the first day of the year at boarding school or college where some groups were obviously pretty good friends from the same home country, some people were making friends over breakfast and still others were eating pretty silently. I don't know if it was 6 Orientation Weeks' training or what, but I pulled out a tray, filled up a plate of food and wandered over to the shy yet friendly looking guy who was sitting in the corner on a 12 seater table all by himself.
I then had what was probably the most honest and friendly one to one conversation I had during my entire time in Tokyo. Jesus from Kansas city (we're not in Kansas anymore!) was a really nice guy, and we were both excited to be moving to Japan.
Concord from the Hokkaido section
From brekkie I squeezed back into a lift to go back to my room for a minute before heading back down to the Prefectural Assemblies in the massive Concord function room. This place was pretty massive, with easy seating for the 700 or so of us in the room. Our first hour was just spent chatting to those people heading to the same prefectures as us. For those who don't know Japan has 47 prefectures, from the gigantic yet sparsely populated Hokkaido up north to the sweltering Okinawa in the south, which is actually closer to Taiwan and China than mainland Japan. It was great to meet some people I'd been in contact with through the Hokkaido JET site, especially Simon who is the current president of the Hokkaido JET Association. I also met people like Tom, the only other person in Group A who was also placed in Tomakomai where I would be going. Apparently a couple of people recognised me from the HAJET forum where I'd stuck an actual headshot as my avatar. Whoops.
After that time to mingle we got underway with some opening ceremonies, introductions to bigwigs and people running the orientation, small speeches on quick tips for living in Japan and a keynote speech on culture shock which took us through to lunch. Mildly interesting/useful stuff.

After lunch we at least got to see Simon get up for his speech on life inside and outside the classroom, which was great fun and legitimately good to listen to. While chatting to him earlier we'd talked about going out for a beer as a group, which sounded like an amazing idea to me.

Quite a bit of the orientation was filled up with groups of workshops we could pick and choose between, which was pretty useful most of the time. For the rest of the afternoon I picked out 3 talks and walked off to my first one at 3 in the afternoon. I'm interested in maybe pursuing a career in education, which was a major part of the reason I decided to come over to Japan for this year on the JET Program in the first place. So, The JET Program as a springboard into a career in education seemed like it would be perfect for me.
It wasn't.
Now, I can't say that it was really the guy running the seminar's fault but that it was unlucky he happened to be someone who was working in education in Japan as a university professor and almost the entire room was filled with people who wanted to know what they had to do to become a teacher or professor in Japan after the JET Program. So the entire session was probably awesome for them, just entirely useless to me because I'd been thinking of trying to become a teacher of Japanese overseas. So, I put my hand up to ask the last question of the day, which was about which Japanese language proficiency tests would be the most widely recognised overseas to become a Japanese teacher. The entire room (of generally 25-35 year old post-masters/phd graduates) seemingly swivelled to look at the freak who asked such a ridiculous question and the guy up front looked surprised before answering. Apologies for turning up to the seminar I thought was geared specifically towards people like myself, haha.

Next was the elementary school session, where we basically pretended to be the students and played along to a few games designed for children aged roughly 6-12.
I totally kicked arse. Like, dominated some of the games.

My final session was about self introductions, and the room was so packed that a whole bunch of people had to sit on the ground or just stay standing. Here again I found myself trying to not get bored out of my mind while some people taught us how to say hello and good morning but then they finally went through a few examples of introductions they used in classrooms with students. I've got about 9 schools I will go to throughout the year, with each one being for about 2-10 weeks in a row then I'll never go back to the same one. I've since found out that I'm mainly at middle schools for 2-3 months in a row with some tiny stints at primary schools between January and March when the middle schoolers will be busy studying for exams.

Hokkaido JET nomihoudai
With most of the official stuff out of the way, I just had the prefectural reception with a dinner buffet to look forward to at night. Which I was definitely doing, because I was feeling pretty thirsty for a beer by this stage after the longest day I'd had since... I can't even remember. I'd knocked over a couple of beers with a few dinner plates while it seemed as though a lot of other people stood around not drinking. Oh well, more beer for me I thought, though we only have a single bottle left on the table...
Simon to the rescue! The Kiwi comes out of nowhere with 3 bottles tucked under each arm which he dumps on the table. Legend.
Unfortunately, I have too much of a good thing and we slowly get kicked out of Concord, but not before I skoll a few beers and find out that we're meeting in the lobby 30 minutes later as a Hokkaido group.

Nothing suss
Beer and Food. Simon on right.
Now, at this stage a little voice in the back of my head was saying: sure, you should go out and have fun, but only have one beer and then switch to water so that you can wake up easily tomorrow. I didn't listen to this voice. Mainly because we found a nomihoudai place (all you can drink-normally with a time limit) and I once again felt obligated to drink. 2 hours, a whole bunch of included food and about 8ish beers later, I was good to go back to the hotel. Before going straight to sleep, I hung out with some of the TOAs in the computer/ironing board room while I tried to sober up a little. The night before I hung around in the same room like a massive creep because I couldn't get to sleep and thought that the poor bastards stuck on 2 hour shifts behind the desk would be the only ones still awake. While there I witnessed the above/right, which looked suspiciously like a TOA pinning a newbie's arms behind her back for no good reason but we'll let it slide eh, Mystery Man?
Courtney and I, the only 2 Aussies with placements in Hokkaido Prefecture. (Tim doesn't count because he's in Sapporo)

I eventually stumbled into bed some time between 1 and 3 if memory serves, once more dreading how I would feel the next morning, though certainly having had enjoyed the night's drinking with my new neighbours within the prefecture of Hokkaido.

Drinks with new Hokkaido JETs!

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