A very Australian Christmas (a 2013 retrospective)

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Where have I been you ask, did I drop off the face of the earth? Yes and no….. Over the Christmas and New Years period I returned home to the down under to spend the holidays with my family in Melbourne.

Now I did the same trip last year and expect I will do much the same this coming Christmas. However the relationship developed with a country left behind in lieu of another is a bittersweet one, the return to said country equally so.

Upon leaving Australia after my last trip I retained a residual distaste for the country, questioning whether I would ever want to return to live there in the future. Despite having spent a fantastic few weeks with my friends and family, I found myself longing to return to Japan. This year however I have returned to Kobe in quite the opposite headspace.

For so long firm in my mind was the firm belief that I was a black sheep, not only amongst my family and peers but also within my country of origin, that I was somehow different from everyone else’s.

If there is anything that can shatter long held beliefs and redefine a person it’s two things, time and distance. As the saying goes ‘you ain’t know what you got till it’s gone’.

I guess the major turning point for me was finding myself begin to contemplate my future, not in Japan but post-JET. I guess seeing my long term friends my age back home getting on with their lives caused me to reflect upon my own situation. What am I doing in Japan? What kind of career do I want in the future? Shall I return to university for further study? What will my life have shaped up to be by my later 20s?

Over the past few weeks I have sincerely had some of the greatest times of my life, simply enjoying the company of the family and friends I left behind half a world away. From this experience I experienced a major shift in my mindset of what exactly Japan and the JET program mean to me.

Having had aspired to reaching my alleged ‘ultimate goal’ of living in Japan for almost a decade. I can now see with definite clarity that I had put the country on a pedestal, the way one might put a pretty girl.

Now I’m not saying I thought the country was all Sushi, anime and geisha as many do who have never been fortunate enough to visit Japan. Nor would I want to downplay the profound respect I have developed for its people and culture. But instead I would like to put forth that yeah, if you get an awesome placement like Kobe on the JET program (or even if you don’t), Japan can be everything that you ever dreamed of and more. But at the end of the day the experience like anything in life is going to be what you make of it.

I know I have said this in past posts but you can grow up and discover where you want to go in life quite rapidly here, today is the 588th day of my journey here so I would hope to have made some progress. Whether that is the product of conquering the hardships of living alone in a foreign country for the first time or unique to JET I couldn’t say. However I am a firm believer that this experience has helped set me on the right track to becoming the man I always needed to become.

I arrived in Kobe coming up 2 years ago a person I can look back upon with distaste, self-righteous, unempathetic and stubborn as hell. I like to think I’ve made a little progress since then, yet I realize the road ahead is long but if I have gained any insight it’s this:

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of ones ignorance”
-Confucius

I don’t want to say that I have come to some great epiphany either, rather that I am just walking my own path one step at a time learning with each one.
What I have learnt is to truly appreciate and treasure those you who love you, whether they live next door or a world away. Rather than worrying about winning the affection of others and what they think of you, simply be the best you you can be. Show a sense of empathy, respect for others opinions and a sincere interest in what those around you say and you will never want for company.

I have met so many amazing people in Japan from all corners of the earth in the short part of my life that I have been here, but I will be sure never to forget those friends and family I had in Melbourne neither.

To all that I saw and spent time with during my visit home I thank you for making my trip amazing. Particularity the efforts of my parents who took every step imaginable to do anything and everything to make my visit home a memorable one.

Till next time,

-Dan

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I Still Call Australia Home

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I’m always travelin’
And I love bein’ free
So I keep leavin’ the sun and the sea
But my heart lies waiting over the foam
I still call Australia home.

Im currently sitting on the tarmac at Kansai Kokusai Kūkō 関西国際空港 (Kansai International Airport) in 10 minutes or so I shall be departing homebound for Australia for the Christmas and New Year period.

Honestly I’m met with a flux of emotion ranging from excitement to nostalgia, all in all I just want to be home and out of the cold landscape that Kobe rapidly degraded into.
In fact my biggest fear in leaving Japan is the possibility that my Japanese which is already less than stellar may degrade over the next 3 weeks as I fill my body with copious amounts of food n booze!

Anyhow rather than posting day by day as i usually do, I have prepared a ‘holiday schedule’ of posts I have been writing as a buffer in just in case, so (presumed) loyal readers can look forward to that.
Anyhow ill see you all on the otherside!
オーストラリア 行きで!

A Mochitsuki Present

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Today was mochitsuki (mochi making day) at my chuugakkou 中学校 (Junior High School). In what was literally the most touching thing that has happened to me since I arrived in Japan, a couple of my 2年生 (8th grade) students gave me some handmade mochi they made especially for me.
Apparently they had noticed how much my Japanese has improved since I arrived and they wanted to express their gratitude towards me for studying hard everyday so I could speak with them!

What The Hell Is Thanksgiving?

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Ok so I’m an Australian, we don’t tend to really get into most European holidays let alone American ones.
So my knowlage of Thanksgiving is that it’s got something to do with Indians, turkey and maybe candy corn……
Now I’d heard that Japanese people tend to assume all gaijin are American but had yet to experience it before today.

Conversation 10 minutes before class with ES sensei who speaks very little English.
OTE: Daniel Sensei, today Thanksgiving yes.
Me: Yeah I guess, but…..
OTE: (cutting me off? Today class change Thanksgiving shoukai OK?
Me: But I’m Australian not American and I have a lesson planned based on this weeks grammar point.
OTE: Ahhhh sou desu, Australia Thanksgiving class ok. Byebye. (Runs out of the staff room)

FML (−_−;)

How Much You Can Expect To Be Paid On The JET Program(me)

Now particularly with all the changes to the JET program compensation and introduction of the sliding pay-scale which began this year. There were many very worried prospective applicants this time last year (myself included) who would have done anything to get their hands on some solid information regarding how much we could expect to take home.
These are my last couple pay slips, which accurately reflect exactly how much a Kobe JET participant can hope to take home a month. Those in other prefectures can end up with slightly more or less but 20万円 (200,000¥) a month is a good ballpark figure.

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Now since we are quite fortunate in Kobe and get a couple bonus perks with our income ill break it down.
So for our first year we earn 3.36百万円 (3,360,000¥) or 28万円 (280,000¥) on a monthly basis. From this the deductions include:
1.5万円 (15,000¥) mandatory heath insurance
2.5万円 (25,000¥) average social security
6千円 (6,000¥) income tax (note: Americans are not subject to this for the first 2 years on the program due to a tax treaty)
3.9万円 (39,000¥) apartment rent (originally around 8万円 but half is paid for by the Kobe Board of Education)

This usually leaves me with around 19万円 take home money. However one of our perks living in Kobe is that we are refunded our transportation expenses, this amount is dependent on the route you must take to work, mine is 15,640¥ a month. However to complicate things depending on the month sometimes we are paid out for a month transport pass at a time and once a year a 6 month pass (which is why the pay for October is so much higher than November).

Soon as my second year rolls around (6 more months wew!) my pay will go up to 3600000¥ a year, in my third year it will again rise to 3900000¥ and if I so choose to the pay in the 4-5th years is 3960000¥.
Although I earn significantly less than many if my friends I haven’t really noticed any difference in our lifestyles as most people save quite a lot of money whilst on JET (I have many temptations here in Kobe but I imagine saving in the inaka is even easier!). The first few months money was quite tight I will admit, however once your apartment is furnished money is not such a problem as Japan can be quite the affordable country if you live sensibly.

Anyhow I hope this breakdown was somewhat helpful, as always feel free to hitt me up if you have any questions.

Daniels Australian Cookbook

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This Saturday is the Bunkasai 文化祭 (Cultural Festival) at my Chuugakko 中学校 (Junior Highschool) and returning from a week of leave I found myself being asked to plan an Australian culture table with in my free time over the next few days.

Here is today’s creation, Australian cookbooks!!! Featuring the recipes to make Anzac Biscuits, Lamingtons, Sausage Rolls, Australian Toffee and Fairy Bread!
I have printed enough to make 300booklets……… Sigh 50 down, a plethora of folding to go.

Sometimes I have deeply regret seemingly ‘amazing ideas’ without considering the work required to bring them to fruition….
(−_−;)

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Aussie Orgy Party オージーパーティー

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Ain’t no party like a オージーパーティー (orgy party).

Found this gem on Imiwa this morning, was news to me that this is how Japanese think we party down under, pretty sure this is the perfect example of lost in translation.

……just dafuq (>人<;)