Saturday, January 29, 2005

Me too!

Miami here we come!

Oh hell, I need to buy a suit...

Friday, January 28, 2005

I got it!

I interview next month in Miami!

And another thing...

Boston is getting E-mails today. No idea if Miami is E-mailing or not.

Nerves

A girl I've chatted with a few times about JET is very worked up right now...she and a friend applied to the same US consulate, and said consulate is letting people know via E-mail about their interviews. Her friend got an E-mail two days ago...she's had nada. If I were her, I wouldn't be able to leave my room, because I'd be checking my E-mail every thirty seconds.

COME ON MIAMI

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The letters are starting to come in

I checked the 2005 Yahoo group and saw that several people in Portland and Los Angeles have gotten thier interview letters and email verifications. It should only be a matter of days now.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

GWB Inauguration

Today is Thursday. It has been a week since the Inauguration. This morning I woke up on a couch in my girlfriend’s apartment. Last Thursday I woke up wrapped in my jacket in a car parked on a street surrounded by snow and homeless people.

I’ll start my story there.

Steve and I woke up at 6:15 when our phone alarms went off. It had been a very uneasy sleep. We tried sleeping with the car turned off, but when we started showing the symptoms of frostbite we turned the car back on. If I remember correctly we were actually awake before the alarms went off; we just didn’t want to get moving any sooner than we absolutely had too.

The car was moving 30 seconds after we woke up. We had our day planned out ahead of time. We drove into the city. Traffic was light. We found a parking garage near the LCV office and paid $10 to park their all day. We changed in the garage. Then we grabbed breakfast across the street. We went to a place called Cosi. It was a little chain sandwich place. We each got a coffee and a bagel sandwich. The bagel was square, which was pretty wacky, and the eggs on my sandwich had the consistency of Jell-O. I didn’t care. It still tasted good.

Coffee in hand (which made us feel like we had had 8 hours of sleep) we walked towards the mall and towards the parade.

There weren’t many people walking about at 7:30 in the morning. There were, however, caravans of Secret Service agents in black SUVs driving up and down the streets. The agents in the back seats had the windows rolled down and were holding assault rifles. They weren’t pointing them out the windows, but they had the butt of the rifle under their armpit, so at the very sight of a turban wearing terrorist they could aim and fire.

We tried to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. Good luck with that one, buddy. The street was blocked off with 10 foot steel walls, concrete barriers, and city buses. Yes, I said city buses.

We walked pass the White House down towards the Mall. I was really looking forward to seeing the Mall covered in snow. We had gotten a glimpse the day before, but we were stuck in traffic at the time and I had to concentrate on that.

Nobody was on the Mall. There wasn’t a single car on the streets. The sun was just starting to come up. It was like a movie.

I made Steve walk over to the new World War II to take a couple of pictures. I wanted to see how they commemorated Saipan, Guam, and Tinian.

If I had been by myself I probably would have walked over to the Lincoln Memorial, but Steve was getting pretty antsy. He was looking forward to running in front of Bush’s motorcade and starting a riot, so we decided to walk towards the parade route.

I wasn’t too sure where the parade was or where the security checkpoints were, but I knew that it ran from the Capital to the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue. So we just headed towards the Capital. We walked between the White House and the Washington Monument, which was closed and being refurbished. We saw a sign outside of the White House that read “100% ID Check”. The two of us imagined a Secret Service agent asking you for your blockbuster card and your library card. We probably joked about that for 5 minutes. (I’m just trying to give you a sense that the two of us are dorks, is it working?)

Walking up Constitution towards the Capital we passed a couple of security checkpoints with long lines already extending out of them.

While walking along Constitution, we were blocked off from heading towards Pennsylvania Avenue on one side and the Mall on the other, so we just kept on walking. We dead-ended at a security checkpoint in front of the National Gallery. They weren’t letting people in yet, so we just waited. There were probably about 50 people already waiting when we got there; by the time they let us in at 10:00 there were over 500.

Security was a joke; it was designed to scare away any terrorists, not to really stop them. First we passed through steel barriers guarded by the National Guard. It was their job to turn away anyone wearing a backpack. No backpacks allowed! Then we entered a “security tent”. Males went to male screeners and females went to female screeners. We had to open up our jackets and we got patted down. They didn’t check my jacket and they didn’t check Steve’s bag. That was it. We just passed right through.

We found out later that they weren’t allowing fruit because they could be used as projectiles. Never mind that the snow on the ground could easily be packed into snowballs. They weren’t allowing open water bottles, either (I had one in my jacket pocket that they didn't find). I also saw people with backpacks, which supposedly weren’t allowed. They didn’t allow American flags or crosses, but they did allow people to bring in signs. They just couldn’t bring in sign posts.

On the drive up Steve and I had joked that it would be funny if there were troops or cops lining the entire parade route. We were shocked to find our joke come true. Bitter, bitter, irony.

At first it wasn’t too bad. You could tell that there were cops lining the whole parade route, but they were bunched up into groups, talking to each other, eating, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and talking on their cell phones (That’s Chicago’s finest for ya).

We scouted out a spot on the corner of 4th and Pennsylvania at the start of the parade route. We were in a little section sandwiched between some bleachers and a security trailer, across the street from the Canadian Embassy. We were the first people in the section. From where stood we could see the left-center section of the Capital. We were too far away too make out any details of the stage, but I think we could see it. There was a big TV screen to one side. We could sort of make out the image of whoever was on screen. That was how we knew when Bush was accepting the inauguration. (Do you accept an inauguration?)

We were directly across the street from the ANSWER Coalition rally (something, something to Stop War and End Racism). It seemed pretty pathetic to me. I was hoping for hundreds of thousands of protestors, but I think we only got a few thousand to show up. But anyway, they had a stage set up and some of their own bleachers. They all had signs. None of them really said anything new; it was mostly anti-war. They had the usual complaints. Why are we at war when people don’t have jobs, healthcare, that kind of thing. They chanted and rallied all day. Some of the chants were hard to understand, but they all circled around the theme that Bush sucks.

Steve and I just stayed in our spot and tried not to think about how cold our toes were.



Although getting something illegal into the parade would have been easy, actually using it would have been impossible. Running into the street was out of the question. The snipers on every roof top would have ensured that we wouldn’t get further than four or five steps (probably more like two). The police, although friendly at first, would have been another barrier. All the cops had really long batons, pistols, and gas masks. Breaking the law was out of the question.



The only thing we could really do was sit on the sidelines and protest behind the two rows of steel barriers and freedom walls of cops separating us from the parade route.

Our section only starting filling up when the section with the protestors across the street was full. Steve and I had been worried that we would be surrounded by Bush supporters. Most of the people waiting with us at the security checkpoint were Bush people. They were easy to spot. They had fur coats, cowboy hats, W pins, and a dull, glazed-over look in their eyes. We were pleasantly surprised. We were completely surrounded by Bush haters. It was great! I wasn’t really into it because of sleep deprivation and frostbite, but we got all our old LCV cheers going. "This parade sucks! How much did it cost?!"

The other side of the parade route got pretty rowdy. The cops looked nervous, so they formed four freedom walls between the protestors and the parade route. On our side we only had two freedom walls, maybe two and a half.

We waited for hours for the parade to start. Our section was 99% Bush haters, but the bleachers we were near were 100% Bush supporters. On the other side of the bleachers, where there was more standing room, there were more Bush haters. I think that was the general layout of the parade route. 100% support in the expensive seats; 100% dissent in the poor seats.

Before the parade started, the dignitaries and big time Bush supporters had to be bussed up to the special White House parade viewing area. We held up our signs every time one of these buses drove by. Some people gave us the thumbs up, some the thumbs down, others the middle-finger. We generally returned the favor.

The parade started with a DC Metro motorcycle brigade. They got booed. That wasn't cool. Then representatives from each branch of the military marched by. They didn’t necessarily get booed (again, not cool), but we chanted anti-Bush slogans as they marched by.

There was a caravan of GOP leaders in the middle of the parade. They got really harassed. I think the only jackass who wasn’t there was Karl Rove.

When Bush finally drove by the crowd went wild. Well, what we thought was Bush anyways. I saw Laura in one of the limos, but I didn’t see W. He drove by in a caravan of about 10 huge black SUVs, with SS agents hanging out the windows and running along side the cars. They were going about 30 mph. So much for a parade. I saw a couple of projectiles launch from the other side of the road just before the entire parade route turned their back on Bush.

That was it.

Dick Cheney came by next. He was driving even faster. His limo literally left the SS agents running along his car in the dust.

That was it. That’s why we drove 860 miles.

There was more parade, but we didn’t stick around to watch it.

To make a long story short, we got something to eat, put on some more socks, went out for a couple of drinks, spent the night at a hotel that Ed paid for and drove home the next morning.

Here are some pictures:

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Excellent!

A recent post on the JET Yahoo! group:

Just wanted to offer some words of encouragement to JET 2005-2006 applicants. I was just talking to one of my co-workers about the fact that JETs are the best! He mentioned to me that the Japanese government is putting a lot more money into English Education over the next few years. So the number of ALTs will grow! He said that they are looking to hire 400-500 more ALTs next year alone...so that is wonderful news for everyone! Good luck!

I'm so amped for this interview. I should mention that I spent the bulk of my college winter break traveling through India, and I stupidly forgot to pack the wonderful Japanese language tapes that Angelo gave me for Christmas. I am happy to say, however, that since I've been back at school I've been catching up. This morning, I listened to them while at the gym. It's hard to believe that in the next month I'll be through the interview (if I'm granted one at all). I'm very optimisitic, however, and I think I'm anxious to find out simply because if I'm denied an interview, then I can get going on my other prospects. Whatever happens, I know I'm going to be happy after graduation, so it's all good in the hood.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Some advice from a former JET applicant

I got an e-mail from my friend Phoebe. I didn't know that she applied to JET last year. She gave me some advice:

"Good luck with JET. Your essay (and Emily's) were certainly better than mine when I applied... and I got accepted as an alternate. Just don't make the mistake I did during the interview and start babbling on about Japanese anime. I think that's what got me downgraded from ALT to alternate ALT."

Thanks for the advice. I don't think it will be a problem though, because I don't know anything about Japanese anime.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Hi All!

Here's my JET essay. Be warned: it's super cheesy, so if you feel compelled to roll your eyes, I'll understand.

Of Language and Learning: Teaching English in the Land of the Rising Sun

Language. It is a sign of who we are and where we come from. As language defines us, so does it unite us, but it can also impose barriers that drive us apart. As our society aggressively pursues globalization, individuals who maintain cultural sensitivity and strive for effective communication despite language barriers will be an increasingly important commodity; individuals who can also pass the gift of adept communication to others will be invaluable. On the eve of my college graduation, the culmination of four years' immersion in language and communication and the beginning of a lifetime of educating others in these disciplines, I feel increasingly the weight of this responsibility, yet I cannot imagine a more exciting and satisfying pursuit. As I prepare to test my skills as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan, I am confident that my background and experience have equipped me to face and ultimately overcome the challenges and demands of the position, not only those imposed on all teaching assistants, but also those facing any foreigner living and working in a culture so different from their own.
My three years as a Writing Consultant at Rollins College have been a glowing highlight of my academic career. In this position, I've had ample opportunity to work with undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines. Notably, I have worked closely with many students who speak English as a second language, and this has been the most challenging and the most rewarding part of my job. Several students have worked with me on a consistent basis, and it's a great accomplishment to see their vocabulary improve through repeated contact with a peer, from whom they discover new words and phrases to better express their ideas. When I help them combine their accumulated knowledge of English grammar and sentence structure with these elements, the results are truly remarkable. My familiarity with the specific nuances of the English language that native Japanese speakers often struggle with, in conjunction with my people skills and cultural sensitivity, will exemplify me as a dependable, approachable source of information and allow me to achieve maximum results in the Japanese classroom.
My academic success at Rollins College, particularly in my English major, has led to a unique and exciting opportunity; I currently serve as a Teaching Assistant in a freshman composition class under Dr. Lezlie Laws. In this position, I work closely with each student, both in the classroom and individually in the Rollins Writing Center. At the Writing Center, my contact with a paper usually ends when the session is over, but as a Teaching Assistant, my impact goes beyond a specific assignment and I witness my students' educational development in the classroom. These experiences have cemented my decision to pursue a career in language instruction, for I believe that a strong foundation in written and oral communication is essential for educational success in all disciplines and, transcending the classroom, essential to success in the workforce. Thus, as an ALT in a Japanese classroom, I will be equipped to tread the fine line between peer and authority figure, to assess my responsibilities both as an instructor and as a subordinate, and adapt my strategies in the dynamic classroom environment.
Although my professional vision dictates that any experience in the classroom would cultivate my passion for education, deciding to work specifically in Japan was a natural result of my equally unrelenting passion for cultural studies. Not only have I formally studied two foreign languages, but as an undergraduate, I devoted a spring break to sampling theatre, literature, and the arts in England; worked extra shifts at the Writing Center to spend fall break in Mexico; spent three weeks of summer vacation engrossed in the history and social philosophy of China; and finally, this semester's yoga and meditation classes will culminate in a trip to study religion and philosophy in India during Christmas break. These sporadic samplings have left me yearning to completely immerse myself in a foreign country, absorbing its culture as a citizen and not merely a visitor. Knowing that a reputable organization like JET will support me both in the United States and Japan will allow me to approach every fascinating, baffling, frustrating, amazing, and unequivocally exciting experience in Japan with the same fervor and clarity I employ in every facet of my education—and my life. I realize that the road ahead is full of challenges, but with more determination and ambition I have ever known, I am ready.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Still waiting...

The letter still hasn't come. It will come eventually I guess.

In other news:

I messed around with the format of this blog a little bit. I added a links field; I'll add links to other JET blogs or info sites as I come across them.

I also invited Emily to join this blog as a member. She should start posting in the next couple of days. She is going to post her JET essay, too.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

This is where we applied

Emily and I applied to the following prefectures:

Toyama
Ishikawa
Fukui

Anybody with any information on any of the prefectures would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Yahoo Groups has a JET Group

I came across bigdaikon.com and I found a Yahoo group for JET applicants. Check them out.

I've got JET on the brain

I don't want to write an update everyday explaining in detail how I am waiting for the JET letter letting me know if I have an interview (Will it be a letter? A phone call? An e-mail? Writing in the sky?), but last night I had a dream that I got my letter and that I made it to the next round. Please, please, please don't disappoint me. I am planning my whole life around this experience; I don't know what I'll do if I don't get in (probably move on and get a job somewhere else, but I don't want to think about that).

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Still waiting...

I'm really anxious about this JET letter that will be here anyday. It is being delivered to my parent's house (since I've been kind of a wanderer lately). So I casually go over there everyday and check for mail.

Nothing yet...I guess I'll keep waiting.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year!

This is the month! I should get a letter any day now letting me know if I need to go shopping for a new suit or a new job. I chatted with Scotty from Richmond the other day (past JET) and he told me that he interviewed on Valentine's Day. Miss Emily (my girlfriend, who is also my co-applicant) has been talking about a Valentine's Day interview for weeks. Could it be fate? Honestly, I really don't want to interview on Valentine's Day, but I'll be happy to be interviewing none the less.

I really think I'm a good applicant. My GPA at Richmond sucked; it was only a 2.2 (with a B.S. in Biology). But at Rollins, I had a 3.5 (with an A.B. in Environmental Studies). That shows progress and maturity, right? I'm well traveled. In fact, I had to use an extra page to write down all of my international experience. I'm most worried about my lack of teaching experience (none). I've had training experience, which I admit is a little different. Teaching servers how to wait on tables and teaching volunteers how to talk to voters about campaign issues is very different from teaching Japanese students how to speak English.

Let me spend a couple of minutes talking about Emily. Emily is my girlfriend of just over one year. We decided back in August to apply to JET. We worked on our applications together. Emily sent in her application about 6 weeks early and I sent mine in about 2 weeks early. (I was working about 100 hours/week at the time and didn't have the time to actually finish my application until November).

We are applying to JET as a couple.

We have applied to the same prefectures and we filled out the appropriate extra questions. We stated that we are engaged. This is technically true because we have every intention of getting married, but she's still in college, so I haven't popped the question yet. We're not really sure how this is going to work out, but I'll keep you posted.