I have mentioned this before, but it took me a long time to get my Science degree. Over a decade, in fact. Throughout the genetics labs, English classes, late nights of studying and hours of time in the stacks at Cameron Library, I had one end result in mind: moving overseas.
I blame my parents for the influence. From a young age my family always took risks and challenges in stride, moving to places were things were fascinating – but not easy.
We lived in several different countries, each with their own culture and nuances. We moved home from overseas assignments in 1996, and I’ve been steadily accumulating friends, a mate, pets and belongings for the last 14 years. Now I’m about to give it all up again and go on the road.
In November, I submitted an application for a job overseas with the JET programme in Japan. I jumped through hoop after hoop, submitting a long personal essay, going through health and background checks, accumulating references and surviving through an interview in Calgary in February. And also waiting. Waiting a lot. At least I had the wedding to take my mind off of things.
Finally I was offered a job in April and I’ve accepted it. JET is a Japanese government run program that places teachers from around the world in Japanese classrooms as a sort of cultural exchange. The teachers learn Japanese and experience Japan, and the students learn English and learn about our home country. We get paid well and are offered extraordinary support from the Japanese government, board of education members and other JET participants. I’ve heard things ranging from great to mediocre about the program. Nothing really terrible, though. And a lot of people write and blog about their experiences. There’s only one way to find out what it’s really like, I guess.
It will be incredibly hard to leave what I consider my dream job at the Edmonton Journal as a photo editing assistant and web producer. Working at a newspaper has been a fascinating experience and one I never expected myself to have. I can say nearly every job I’ve had has been a dream on in one way or another, and I hope that Japan offers the same. If I could do my current job from Japan, I would. It’s not the job or the people – it’s the city. It’s time to go.
Just another day at the office, scowling at stealthy photographers snapping photos. Credit: Ryan Jackson
Standing with Journal staff photographers and other photo deskers, 2008. Credit: Walter Tychnowicz
So, finally, my dream comes true. I’m not sure what changes this blog will undergo yet, but I expect them to be somewhat major. Obviously I’m excited about the Japanese cuisine, but I’m a bit nervous over the changes cooking at home will undergo. All my cooking appliances and cookware will be given away here. Our spice collection will be pared down to the absolute must brings.
Everything I hope to use in the next year will come in two suitcases with me or shipped via boat. Mike will join me a few weeks after I get settled. The initial contract is for a year, but could be extended for as many as five.
My new home: Okinawa. It offers tropical beaches, treehouse restaurants and exquisite uniquely Japanese experiences like sakura/cherry blossom viewing parties
We’ll be living on Okinawa which is kind of like the Hawai’i of Japan. It has a culture unique unto itself even compared to the already unusual Japan, and for this reason is a tourist attraction to “mainland” Japanese. There is a heavy American influence with the US military presence on the island. The climate is tropical and the days are hot and humid, and there are many island diversions we hope to avail ourselves of such as diving, fishing and rock climbing. We’re actually closer to Taiwan than Tokyo, and so I hope to finally begin forays into China.
I’m a naturally nervous person at heart, but I can honestly say that although moving nerves do keep me up from time to time at night, I’m ready to spring into action and start down a new path. I will be leaving Canada July 30…so not long to go!