Sunday, July 31, 2005

News from Tokyo

Emily called earlier. She just wanted to let me know that she got to Tokyo all right. It was already Monday morning there. She says that she got to the hotel last night and went straight to bed.

The guy she sat next to on the plane is going to be a JET in Toyama. Her roommate at the hotel in Tokyo is a Toyama JET, too.

I can't even begin to imagine what life is like for her right now. She says that Tokyo reminds her of Shanghai. I'm so jealous. She's doing something that she'll remember for the rest of her life and I'm trying to decide if I want to put my Nintendo in storage or bring it to my new home. Its not much of a comparison. She definately gets the award for the most interesting member of this couple for at least a little while.

We talked for about 10 minutes; the conversation was over before I was ready to say good-bye. She says that she'll try to call me again, but I know that her calls will be few and far between.

Some more advice from a friend:

"I think I got upgraded in September (after being informed of my wait list position in April) but I rejected it. May I recommend dropping JET and looking for some other, cheaper teaching abroad program? Every person I've spoken to about JET says the program is really difficult.
I plan to reapply after Peace Corps. Apparently their main beef with me was that I had never worked in another non-English speaking country before. When I mentioned studying in England at the Tribunal (that is, at my interview), one lady snapped: "Yes, but they speak English there!" I saw my chances plummet at that moment."

Thanks, Phoebes. So they do upgrade really late in the game; I had my suspicions. My favorite part of your letter was where you try to comfort me and recommend that I find something else because I really wouldn't enjoy myself and then tell me in the next breath that you plan on reapplying.

Have fun in Mongolia and whatever you do, DO NOT cut off one of your fingers so that you can be reassigned to Thailand.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

This JET got some press



Naples High grad embarks on Japanese adventure

Sarah Ledbetter will teach English in Japan's countryside as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program.

By DIANNA SMITH, dlsmith@naplesnews.com
July 30, 2005

Sarah Ledbetter wants to immerse herself in another culture.

So with a plane ticket and the guarantee of a one-year job teaching English in Japan's countryside, she is scheduled to take off today for Shinshiro City, where she will live, teach and learn whatever she can about Japan.

And all for $3,000 a month.

Ledbetter was scrambling to pack and say her goodbyes because she was chosen to participate in the Japan Exchange and Teaching program. The international program allows college and university graduates to teach English to middle- and high-school students in Japan. JET recruits people from 41 countries and has had as many 6,000 people participate.

Ledbetter, 22, is a 2001 Naples High School graduate and recent graduate of Rollins College outside Orlando, where she majored in anthropology and concentrated in Asian studies. She grew up in Naples and said she wasn't exposed to many cultures, which is why her curiosity led her to minor in Asian studies and is now leading her to Japan.

"I thought spending a year in Japan would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said. "Hopefully it will be an eye-opening experience."

Shinshiro is in central Japan, on the Pacific Ocean side, and is in the northeastern Aichi Prefecture known as Oku-Mikawa. It is home to an estimated 36,000 people and is surrounded by mountains and rice paddies.

"It'll be different from growing up in flat Florida," Ledbetter said.

She found out in April that JET chose her to be one of many volunteers in the country. She's been preparing in her North Naples home by reading as much as she can about Japan, its culture, language and writing. She can't speak Japanese, but is studying the writing system.
While in Shinshiro, she will be responsible for students in four high schools and will travel between them frequently to teach English, along with a Japanese teacher. Though Ledbetter hasn't taught before, she said she is looking forward to the challenge because she is considering becoming a professor one day. The teaching will help her decide if that is what she wants to do.
Packing for the trip already has taught her some about the Japanese culture. Ledbetter said she has to bring many pairs of shoes because, in Japan, a person has to wear a different pair of shoes indoors and outdoors. She's also searching for small gifts to bring because offering a gift is a sign of respect and appreciation in the Asian culture.

JET coordinator Mitsutoshi Sekita said the purpose of the JET program is for people to learn what they can about the Japanese culture and then return to their homeland and promote the country and its people. Shattering stereotypes about Japan is another goal. He said many people have the misperception that most Japanese people are shy and quiet. And, even worse, some think Japan is part of China.

"They'll see the real Japan and be more open-minded," Sekita said. "We expect them to break the stereotypes."

The program started in 1987 because, Sekita said, middle- and high-school students craved conversational English. Though English is taught in all grades beginning in middle school, Sekita said it was difficult for some because native speakers weren't teaching the language.
To qualify for the JET program, one must be younger than 40 and have a bachelor's degree. No particular major is required. According to the Consulate General of Japan in Miami, an estimated 6,000 people from Japan live in Florida.

If Ledbetter enjoys her job in Japan, she is allowed to extend her stay two years.

"I'll see how much I like it," she said. "If the culture shock doesn't get to me, it'll be a really great experience."

and she's off!

I dropped Emily off at the airport in Miami this morning. Then I drove home to Orlando and took a nap.

Her last few days in America were pretty fun-filled. We spent a couple of hours on South Beach, had a pitcher of mojitos at a hotel cafe, went to a reception at the Japanese Consulates house, and said our goodbyes at 8 AM this morning.

In case you were wondering, there were 36 JETS from Miami this year, making the 2005 Miami JET delegation the largest in the program's history. After meeting some of them, I don't expect anybody to drop out.

I'm pretty sure that I won't be a JET participant this year.

One of the JET alums at the reception recommended that I apply for next year.

No, thank you. I'm not going to put myself through that again.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

2 more days

We're about to leave for Miami. We are going to head to South Beach as soon as we get down there. Emily has an orientation and a cocktail party to attend tomorrow. I am going to follow her to the cocktail party (another excuse to wear my suit, thus bringing its cost down to about $85 wear per wearing).

Then she leaves Saturday morning.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bon Voyage!


I surprised Emily with a little party of sorts at Tatame last night. Tiana, Sandra, Crissie, and Diana came to wish her a safe trip. Mom and Dad came, too.


My two favorite girls.


Is this taken in Japan or in Winter Park?


Dorks.


What does one do in a bar with a 4-year old at 9 PM? Why, read Dumbo, of course!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Shuttle Launch and Baseball Game



The day started at 2:30 AM. I picked up Diana at 3:30 and then drove out to Titusville to scope out the best viewing area for collecting redistricting petitions at the space shuttle launch. We started collecting petitions around 7:30, finished by 11:30, sat in traffic for two hours to get to Cocoa for lunch, drove three and a half hours to Sarasota to pick up Emily, drove to St. Pete for the Red Sox game, and crashed at Emily's around midnight. The next morning we got up at 7:30 and drove straight to Winter Park.

Here are some more pictures:

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Emily leaves in 6 days

A week from now, Emily will be in Tokyo and I will be in a horrible state of depression.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Emily leaves in 11 days

Being a JET Alternate is torture.

On August 4, it will have been 4 months since I was put on the Alternate list.

On July 22, it will have been 5 months since I interviewed.

ugh...

This really is torture. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, the Miami Consulate policy of not letting the applicants know where they are on the list, for lack of a better word, SUCKS. I'm not going to pretend to understand the thought process behind their reasoning, but on this end I can tell you that it is very stressful. I emailed them a few days back and they told me that they couldn't tell me anything. They also told me that I would be notified when the upgrades end and when the application process for next year begins. It will be sometime in September.

ugh...

This whole Japan thing hasn't really turned out the way that Emily and I expected. We figured we'd be in the same prefecture, if not the same city, or school. I guess not. The best placement I could hope for now would be on the same island...if I'm lucky.

Where's a vial of Felix Felicis when you need it?

In the meantime, I work on my career in America. I have a great job where I work with people that I like and do things that I would probably do without pay (don't tell any of the higher ups that).

The lease on my apartment ends at the end of this month. I have to pack up all of my stuff in the next week. Then I will be accompany Emily to Miami on the 28th and drive back up to Orlando after her plane takes off on the 30th. That gives me one day to move out the rest of my belongings and clean up the apartment before turning in the keys.

I really don't have that much stuff. I am going to put most of it in storage and take only the bare essentials to the room that I will be renting in downtown Orlando. I am friends with the owners of the house and I've told them about my plans with JET, so they have no problem with me leaving on short notice.

So basically, even though I don't expect to get upgraded, I am setting myself up for an easy departure should I get upgraded. I guess that is the best I can do, right?

Friday, July 15, 2005

We're Famous!



Emily, Diana, and I are featured on the Club Paris website. How cool are we?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

18 days until Emily leaves

Upgrade me now, or I'll feed these kittens:

to this Tyrannosaurus Rex:

I'll do it! Don't try me! I'm getting desperate!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Senator Bill Nelson and some fat guy from LCV


I met Senator Bill Nelson this afternoon at a townhall meeting in Plant City, FL. When he opened up the floor for questions, I raised my hand and asked, "Mr. Senator, how many hurricanes have to hit the coast of Florida before Washington decides to do something about global warming?"

I made the whole room laugh...and then Senator Nelson gave a very good response (no need to recap, anyone reading this blog knows what he said...but he didn't tell me how many hurricanes it would take).

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

NOVA says NO

July 5, 2005

Dear Mr. V.,

Thank you for taking the time to apply for a teaching position with Nova Group in Japan. After careful consideration, we regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you an interview at this time. We hope that you will understand that we have a limited number of positions to offer, and there is a substantial response to our advertisements. We are sorry that we cannot furnish any further details regarding our decision.

If you would like to apply again, you are welcome to do so after six months. We will happily reconsider your application at that time.

We appreciate your interest in teaching with Nova Group and hope that you will be able to fulfill your desire to work in Japan in the future.

Sincerely,

Nova Group Boston