It’s been a long, strange road to get here.
I’ve been trying no less than five years to get my ass over to Japan. I started back when anime was Japanimation and iPods were cases you’d put your contact lenses in. Everything thwarted me. Film school vetoed study abroad. Effects career complicated work abroad. Personal life muddied travel abroad.
I applied several times to TEFL companies, where I could teach English in Japan. The first time, with JET, I had a personal recommendation from the director of USC’s Japanese language program, vouching for my language ability, as well as the director of USC’s Information Technology Program, vouching for my teaching ability. I thought I was a shoe-in. I got rejected without so much as an interview.
The second time I applied to JET, UPS screwed up my next-day delivery, which became a 5-day delivery, and arrived on the absolute last possible day. After confirming they’d received it, I relaxed, content to hear from them “before the end of January.” Come February 1st, I was on a road trip, at that point in Vinita, Oklahoma (birthplace of Dr. Phil!), and still hadn’t heard from them. What with it being the first day their instructions demarcated as “okay to check on your application,” I called them up to see what was going on.
I then learned that I was one of the only people in JET’s history to have his application lost.
“Well,” the young woman said, “can you give us the tracking number for the UPS package, to prove you sent it?”
“It’s in Los Angeles. Currently, I am in Vinita, Oklahoma.”
“I take it that’s a no?”
I looked around. I was standing next to a wooden sign that said ‘Population: 6345’. Across the street stood, 50 feet high, a statue of an Apache Chief, tomahawk in hand.
“No,” I said, “I have no access to it.”
“Well, we’ve given out all our interviews, I’d really need to get it ASAP to help you out.”
“But this is the first day you said I could call. And it’s already too late?”
“Well, not if you can get me the tracking number. When do you get back in LA?”
“Maybe three days.”
“I kind of need it by the end of the day.”
An 82 MPH hour later, I found a rest stop with a Starbucks Coffee, whereupon, from within my car, I was able to hack their wireless network, access my email, and get the vaunted tracking number, proving that they’d lost my application.
“Oh, I’m really sorry, it looks like it really was lost. Could you maybe fax us your application again?”
“It’s in LA.”
“I need it ASAP.”
I scurried back to LA, faxed my application in, arranged an interview (which was very nearly with my old Japanese teacher), all of which went swimmingly. And then I got on the wait list.
The wait list letter was sadistic. It was as if they’d taken the acceptance letter and haphazardly inserted the words “almost,” “nearly,” and “just barely didn’t” into every sentence. I half expected the signature to be followed up with the postscript “Sucker!” The lowdown was that they’d let me know if I was in sometime between April and August.
I applied to other eikaiwa companies, all of whom were exceedingly creepy and corporate. By the end of June, I knew the orientation for JET had passed, and that there was pretty much zero chance I’d gotten in. I started planning a world tour, arranging places to stay all across Europe and Asia, determined to get out of the country by hook or by crook.
Then I got a call at work.
“Hey Jason, this is Angel, from the Japanese consulate.”
“I need you to repeat after me.”
A fevered couple minutes of me repeating Angel’s words later, I was off the phone, and everyone in the room turned to me, mouths agape. My boss looked me in the eye and said, “Jason, you’re fired.” I wasn’t, but I definitely wasn’t going to be there much longer. Angel had said I was leaving at the end of July, one month from then.
On July 1st, I got an official booklet, saying I was leaving July 29th. Over the four day weekend, I managed to give away 90% of my belongings, cancel my lease, book a trip back to Kentucky, and arrange two different barbeques. I completely dismantled my life in four days.
On July 5th, Angel called me and told me I was leaving August 22nd. She thought.
It wasn’t until the 13th I even knew the town I was going to.
It wasn’t until the 21st that I knew who I was replacing.
It’s the 24th now, and I don’t have any solid contract information, I’m pretty sure I’m not getting an orientation, I don’t know if I’ll have any furniture in my apartment, and have a suspicion I’ll be heading out there more or less by myself, as I’m now in the second wave of JETs.
But it doesn’t matter. I’m going to Japan, bitches.