Teaching Christmas in the Japanese Countryside

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Winter at one of my schools.

Many people often ask me what the most difficult part of teaching in Japan was.  The JET Program had a mandatory, two day orientation to teach us about the long, English teaching road ahead. They rattled on and on about isolation, language barriers, and cultural clashes.

Yet they forgot the most important thing of all:

Actually instructing us on how to teach English.

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Never showed this face to my students, but man did I feel like this many-a-time (especially during blizzards)

The most difficult part of JET for me was standing in front of 40 middle school students and entertaining educating them for one hour.  I was a journalism and Japanese major–I knew absolutely nothing about education.

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The Reality of Working as a Chinese and Japanese Interpreter

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Are you considering a career as a Chinese or Japanese interpreter/translator?

Think again.  And think real hard.

The Learning Process

I pulled up my collar.  I strutted into the hallway, knockin’ down the door as I busted into my first interpreting class.  I pulled up a chair next to the fellow Chinese students like a boss.  I gave everyone a chin up, just to let them know that this little lady here could speak and read Mandarin.  I just passed HSK Level 6 after only 6 months of study, and although I had lived in China for only two years I could pay my own bills, find an apartment, make friends and date the locals all without a translator.  I was the shit.

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Hiking in China: 7 Habits of the Modern Day Chinese Traveler

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J and I were descending one of China’s greatest treasures: the National Park of Zhangjiajie.

Every corner we rounded presented us with a new jaw-dropping landscape of carved sandstone valleys poking through a sea of lush green trees. J and I took a deep breath, inhaled the clean air of the countryside and lost ourselves in the sea of clouds swirling in between the mountains.

That is, until Avicii arrived. You know, the Swedish DJ. The Chinese tourist who came bouncing down the trail behind us was blasting him full volume from his iPhone speaker.

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5 Reasons Japan is NOT technologically advanced

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On my most recent trip to Japan I once again asked myself this question:  Is Japan really technologically advanced?

Advanced robotics.  Giant mechas.  Bullet Trains.

To much of the world, Japan is seen as the world of the future.  It’s no surprise the  country that invented the Mario Brothers and the hybrid car is known worldwide as the most high-tech.

So when I moved to Japan, I was expecting to walk into the future.  I was ready to see what life would be like in a world where technology ruled.

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My Boyfriend’s First Impression of Japan

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After two months of silence:  I’m finally back on U.S. soil.

After suffering through China’s excruciating internet (wow, did it get WAAAY worse in the last two years, and hats off to fellow expats still suffering through it), I am finally able to wordpress and Google photos freely (and thus update this little blog).

I traveled extensively for six weeks throughout China and Japan–and believe me, I have A LOT to write about.  I’m very excited to get some posts out in the upcoming days and weeks.  It was great to be a nomad traveler again, donning a backpack and whizzing from place to place for days on end.

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Will Learning a Foreign Language Get You a Job?

I was escorted to the conference table sporting my best black blazer, pencil skirt and pallet of make-up.  The receptionist handed me an ice-cold bottle of water and nodded curtly, “the manager will be with you shortly.”  She smiled warmly before exiting the room and gently closing the door.

I planted my elbows on the table, folded my hands and took a wide, but tall and defiant posture.  I listened to a TED talk once about how body language alone can make or break your chance of getting hired.  Retreating inwards and folding your arms and legs make a candidate look timid; however,  sitting tall, lifting your neck, holding up your shoulders and puffing out your chest denotes confidence.  I was going for the latter look.

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5 Steps to Hanami (View Cherry Blossoms) in Japan

Spring has Sprung!

Spring has Sprung!

Ah, March.  The prelude to Spring.  The light at the end of a long winter tunnel.

Or in Japan, it’s the start of one of the most prized occasions of the year:

Cherry Blossom Season.

Whatever high expectation you have for watching cherry blossoms in Japan (or better known as ‘hanami,‘ which literally means ‘watch flowers’ 花見),  Japan will not disappoint on this front.  It’s a magical experience.

While many tourists envision their hanami experience like an anime opening (think wind blowing in your hair as sakura petals brush past your skin), the reality may differ somewhat.  To get the kind of hanami experience you’re dreaming of, it involves more than hopping on a plane and finding a sakura tree–it will take a whole ‘lotta planning.

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How the Japanese Celebrate New Year

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The most important day of the year for the Japanese is New Year, and with it comes certain traditions and ceremonies.

Why don’t the Japanese celebrate Lunar New Year like the rest of Asia?

Unlike the Chinese (and the rest of Asia), Japan does not celebrate the lunar new year.  Japan’s new year holiday is every January 1st in alignment with western calendars.  In fact, Chinese New Year is known as 旧正月, or “old/former new year.”

The Japanese switched to the Gregorian calendar in the Meiji era, when the entire country was modernized due to western influences.  This is the era of the last samurai, of kimonos being traded for western dresses and suits, of guns and cannons in the battlefield.  Since then, the western calendar has stuck.

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Spending Christmas in a Japanese Buddhist Temple

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Spending Christmas abroad is tough business.  I don’t really know how to put it into words, but something is just missing in the air.  Maybe it’s the commercialism.  Maybe it’s the exchange of presents, the Christmas parties, or even the cheesy songs on the radio.

Probably, it’s just the plain and simple fact that no one gives a crap about Christmas in Asia.

As I often mention on here, my life in Niigata was different from the typical foreigner.  I was extremely isolated.  Due to various falling outs with other foreigners, I was all alone.  I had no one to share Christmas with.

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You Know You’ve Turned Chinese When…

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I’ll never be ethnically Chinese.  It’s just not going to happen.

Despite this, I feel Chinese (as weird as that sounds).  I was  so accepted and integrated during my time in China, I felt like one of their own.  Sure, my proverbs sucked.  Yeah, I couldn’t read all the Chinese characters.  Still, I was invited to almost any and every outing, and many of my Chinese friends treated me like family.  I hung out with the locals like I was their neighbor, and they treated me as such.  Thanks to the kindness and passion of my friends in China, I felt like I truly discovered what it means to live and understand China.

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