- Go to all of your optional pre-orientations, orientations, and information sessions. That way, you can skip all superfluous portions of Tokyo Orientation and sleep off your jetlag.
- Don't panic about buying presents for your schools or Board of Education. Small, individually wrapped novelty items from close to home are great. Get them for your boss at the BoE, your supervisor, your principal, and your head teachers. Get something like a bowl of individually wrapped American chocolates, cookies, or crackers for everyone to share at your BoE and/or schools (depending on how many you go to).
- Look into local wildlife for where you are being placed. Various areas of Japan - namely in the south - have all manner of interesting animals. On the plus side, monkeys and deer. On the downside, pit vipers and poisonous centipedes. Much of Kyushu and all islands south of it are also home to hand-sized spiders. This might be no big deal to you, but severely (as in, run-to-mother-crying) arachnophobic JETs have been placed in these areas, and mental preparation is fairly important.
- You might be living in a house or an apartment. There might be a crapton of leftovers from previous ALTs, and it could be traditionally built, and falling apart. Or it could be brand new, beautiful, and your ultimate dream home.
- You may want or need to buy a few personal items and/or housewares, but for the most part all housing will be furnished. Your BoE may even help you replace or buy things you need.
- The rent will likely be minimal, and absolutely never high enough to create financial complications. (Because your salary is pretty darn good.)
- This is a job that involves a lot of talking, being in public, and participating in group activities in and out of the classroom, and being surrounded by coworkers both at school and at parties. It requires a lot of amiable smiles and doesn't allow for much alone time during the day. This would seem obvious from the job description, but is still a worthy thing to take note of for introverts and people used to spending more alone time.
- If your social battery is quick to drain and needs solitude, relaxation, or loud music to recharge, then there will be times that the day will be trying on your nerves. It depends, of course, on the person: But busy times in the classroom tend to be less draining than, after a day of sitting, eating, and teaching beside your fellow staff members, being nigh ordered to make merry with them for hours at drinking parties afterward. All the while, of course, being expected to keep up the professional yet friendly attitude.
- JETs have been known to escape to the bathroom, take walks outside during lunch break, and sit alone in their car before leaving for their next school, all just to take a breather.
- This is still a great job to have.
- It's okay to need alone time.
Your First Month
- When you first arrive, you will be severely jetlagged - falling asleep around 8 PM, waking up around 5 AM - and suddenly expected to go a thousand places, meet a thousand people, and remember a thousand appointments. You can't. Even remembering your new garbage day will seem like an overwhelming task, let alone the location of all your schools. It might help to get some sort of day planner that you can carry around in a pocketbook or leave on your desk. Write everything down, and slowly things will seem less hectic.
- There will most likely be literally nothing to do when you first arrive, for the entire month of August. Aside for a rare few assembly days and getting dragged around to introduce yourself to new people, almost all of it will be office time. Use it to get acclimatised, un-jetlagged, un-lost, and buy all the shit you need, study Japanese, and make your self-introduction lesson, as well as any other lesson plans you can think of.
- They may do absolutely nothing to contact you, so hunt your teachers down (respectfully) and ask what will be expected of you in the coming month, what your schedule looks like, and if you need to make lesson plans.
- It may take one to five months for your students and coworkers to stop accidentally calling you by your predecessor's name. More, if you don't see them every day.
- Replacing someone can be hard, especially if they were well loved. Keep in good spirits.
- Your supervisor might not speak English.
- Your JTEs, to be completely honest, might not speak that much English.
- And unless you are very fluent indeed, your smattering of Japanese will not help you during staff meatings at all. Don't worry. You don't have to say anything.
- Most JETs come to Japan with little to no knowledge of Japanese, while others come perfectly fluent. Don't worry about your language level. Study hard, and the people at your office will help you out as much as possible.
- No need to panic.
- You may not be allowed to drive anywhere during work hours, for insurance reasons. This obviously does not apply to JETs who are required to drive from school to school.
- Japanese driver's licenses are an absolute pain in the behind to get. They require full memorization of two driving courses and a great number of finnicky rules. It may take at least four times to pass the practical test. Start working as soon as possible.
- Some JETs may need to drive to school (or take public transport), while others may not be allowed to drive or own a car at all. Every situation is... yada yada....
- It may be nigh impossible, in more remote areas, to find: Hair products for naturally curly hair, exfoliating body scrub, large size (by Japanese standards) clothes and shoes, darker-then-creamed-coffee makeup, unusual hair dyes, strong cold medicines, certain health foods, and birth control pills.
- Plenty of onsen that 'don't allow' tattoos don't actually turn out to be a problem. Tattooed Japanese people will on occasion use them as well; most importantly, to JETs who don't wish to be rude or culturally insensitive, Japanese people in those onsen rarely seem to care or look twice if anyone has tattoos.
- That doesn't mean there aren't cases of people being forcibly ejected from the baths.
- Still try to be culturally sensitive; if your tatto is something easily hidden, it may be best to hide it.
- If you live in a small town, you will definitely run into teachers and students in the hot springs. It will be weird for you to see them naked. Just remember that they don't consider it weird to see you, and might even strike up a conversation.
- That doesn't mean it's never novel for them to see a naked foreigner, though.
- If you're a dude, you might have to suffer some variation of the, 'so, you have a penis' conversation. Just... deal with it.
- It may be very difficult to get sick leave, and nigh impossible outside of a high fever or hospital-worthy illness. You may be forced to take vacation time.
- It's usually acceptable, if you don't have classes, to go sleep in the nurse's office for a little while. Even half an hour nap mid-flu can be a fantastic recharge.
- Don't take it too seriously. Every JTE wants you to do different things in different ways, and thats something you will only learn over time. The kids largely just want to get to know you and have a laugh. So keep smiling, and dont be afraid to make a fool of yourself.
- There can be a lot of variation between different schools, in terms of behaviour management, teacher attitudes, etc. The culture of different schools can be very distinct.
- Study up on basic and advanced English grammar. Make sure you know what it does, when it does it, and why. Make sure you can explain it simply and clearly, and give examples. Being a native speaker does not automatically mean that any of this will be second nature to you.
- Japanese bureaucracy will make you want to scream and claw your face off.
- Getting special permission for something, especially if it has never been done before - even if it is useful and related to your job, like an English Camp - is full of invisible roadblocks.
- Imagine an Entmoot.
Contributions by: Cat L, Joanna S, Emily E, Alex V, Cornelius P, David L
What I Didn't Like:
The Troll/Goblin King. He could have not existed. At all. Every scene with him in it was superfluous and gross. Can I blame Del Toro for him? He admittedly looked a bit Meet the Feebles, but I will blame Del Toro for him anyway. Because of reasons.
The conceptual design of the White Orc. Whatever the fuck his name was. I liked his existence and the angst he caused Thorin just fine, but he looked... unimpressive. Like something out of 300, not an orc out of LOTR. Though his metal claw was superbly freaky-looking, and I approve of it.
What I Liked But Could Have Been Saved for the Extended DVD Release:
The 'That's What Bilbo Baggins Hates' Song in Bag End. I liked the song, I just felt it... didn't need to happen in a theatrical release. Or at least, more than one line of it didn't need to happen. IDK.
Although sudden singing in LOTR is a pretty traditional thing. And the 'Over the Misty Mountains' Song was awesome.
Radaghast the Brown. I felt like I'd fallen into Narnia and was watching on old, crazed Mr Tumnus. On crack. Though it was cool to see Dol Guldur. And... okay, it was cool to see rabbits outrun Wargs.
Also, the actor once played the Seventh Doctor Who. Which is cool.
Fighting the Trolls. It admittedly didn't last long and it was nice to see the dwarves come to Bilbo's rescue. But I'd have loved to see the scene just start with Bilbo talking to them, stalling them, outsmarting them. More character interaction, less action.
And maybe less sneezing. Though now when I sneeze john4nod goes, "Is it a Hobbit?"
The Stone Giants. Don't get me wrong - conceptually, the idea of stone giants the size of mountains clashing in the midst of a thunderstorm? Yeah, fucking awesome. But they didn't move the plot along and just provided a lot more 'people falling off of teetering things' moments of not-actually-tension. It would have sort of been amazing to see them in the dark, misty distance and the dwarven party walked along the cliffs - just out there somewhere, barely visible when the lightning flashed, like two mountains clashing. IDK. I just felt it became less impressive once there was... too much of it too close?
You know who you are.
About 15 minutes of fight scenes. The whole bit in the goblin caves was very 'Frodo and Sam among the orc ranks' to me. It fits fine as an extra scene if you like that kind of thing, but in the end it's just too. many. goddamn. orcs. And they don't even properly move the plot along. They just... exist. Grossly. And then a lot of bridges broke reminiscent of the falling log and the buggy ravine in King Kong and a lot of dwarves tumbled around on splintering platforms of wood like it was the end of National Treasure and then there were just goblins fucking everywhere.
It was like this. Except goblins.
What I Really Liked A Lot:
Everything else. :D
Frodo walked on screen and I cried. I sobbed and sniffled. I'd already been making weird gaspy noises at the sight of the shire and the dwarves and the damn SHIRE MUSIC OMG HOWARD SHORE YOU MAGICIAN but Frodo? Happy Frodo, young and carefree and pre-Ring and it was like greeting an old friend back from the dead, I was crying into my 3D glasses.
Martin Freeman as Bilbo. Pitch perfect. Thank you.
Gandalf showing off more magic skills. It was great to get a fuller range of his powers.
Elrond. See, I adore Hugo Weaving (see: V for Vendetta) but I was never an Elrond fan. He was severe and he had Eyebrows and he was all ARWEN YOU'RE GOING TO DIE, ARAGORN GO AWAY BAHHHH. But here? He was in armor and on a horse and hunting orc and being... sort of lighthearted and REALLY POLITE AND GOOD TO THE DWARVES, REALLY HE WASN'T BEING SHITTY TO THEM AT ALL and just dayum, Elrond, yes. Yes.
The glimpse of Thranduil.
The minute when they're running from the goblins on the bridge and the Troll King pops up and stops them short and Gandalf looks at him and everyone who has seen LOTR is just shrieking BITCH GANDALF WILL PUT DOWN A MOTHERFUCKING BALROG ON THE NEXT MOTHERFUCKING BRIDGE HE STANDS DOWN ON AND YOU SLOBBY-ASS MOTHERFUCKER THINK YOU ARE INTIMIDATING WELL GANDALF WILL SAY 'YOU CANNOT PASS' TO A GODDAMN BALROG OF MORGOTH GO BACK AND SIT THE FUCK DOWN BEFORE HE STOMPS YOUR ASS.
Thorin being really fucking impressive.
Bilbo saving Thorin. There are not words. I fucking cried. See, I knew what was going down - I knew that Thorin would have his glorious showdown in the last battle of the last movie so him standing there DRAMATICALLY with the DRAMATIC FIRE and the MUSIC and his sword and SHIELD OF WOOD and it was EPIC and I was like fuck, this will end in tears. And it's brutal, the beatdown he gets. It's just horrible. And then Bilbo, little terrified loyal respectable Bilbo just RUNS AND PLOWS THE FUCK INTO WHITE ORC'S UNDERLING AND STAB STAB STAB AND HE HAS STING AND FUCK YEAH JUST JKBEGJKBEJKBGE HOBBITS AND LITTLE GUYS AND UNDERDOGS FOR THE FUCKING WIN KFEJBGJKEBEKBJG SOBBING WAAHH ;_______;
The 'Over the Misty Mountains' song.
The Eagles. :D PRETTY EAGLES. I saw the butterfly and was like YES I KNOW WHAT'S COMING NOW.
The new and improved Warg CGI. A+ WETA. A+
RIDDLES. IN. THE. DARK. It was hands-down the best scene in the entire film. The framing of it, the cinematography and scripting was exactly how I've always imagined, but they've also improved Gollum's already-amazing CGI, especially for his facial expressions. And Serkis and Freeman, just, wow. Absolutely masterful. Gollum's double personality and Bilbo's fear and their humor and drama and Gollum's utter terror and RAGE when he realizes Bilbo has his precious - unf.
All the dwarves having distinct personalities. Finally. Yes.
"I'M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!" Possibly one of my favorite lines. When he wakes up in Bag End and they're gone and they've left his place all nice and neat and disappeared off on a suicide mission and he KNOWS he just missed out on something massive so he goes BOLTING OUTSIDE AND RUNNING OUT THE DOOR AND DOWN THE LANE ;____;
Bilbo and the Stone Trolls. Once he actually started talking to them, stalling for time and MAKING IT UP ON THE SPOT and his little face and being like THEY'VE GOT WORMS and Kili all outraged like I HAVEN'T GOT WORMS and Thorin being like SHUT UP YOU IDIOTS *KICKS LEG* and then Kili got it and was like I'VE GOT WORMS, I'VE GOT SO MANY WORMS.
I also enjoyed Fili and Kili when the ponies first disappeared being all .....LLLLLLET'S NOT TELL THORIN YET, YEAH
I enjoyed the Dwarves finally getting their due as an impressive and skilled race. I mean, wow, the grandeur and talent we saw in the opening. Also, the diversity. Massive approval.
Bilbo in Bag End. It was a bit like watching John Watson when Sherlock is being a massive tit, if there were twelve Sherlocks and John had never been in the army. He was adorable and pitch-perfect and when he was reading the contract and was like "Sorry, nope." *DEAD FAINT* I might have shit myself laughing like a five-year-old.
ALSO GANDALF HITTING HIS HEAD ON THAT CHANDALIER GKEBJEBG TIES TO LOTR
The White Council. If only because they were a bunch of veteran actors together in one room. Or, well, no, it was more than that. It was the shades of who Saruman would become in who he already was then. And it was Gandalf's FFFFFFUUUUUCK ME head-in-hands pose that opened the shot after realizing Saruman had tattled on him. And it was Galadriel and her secretive smile because SHE KNOWS WHAT THE FUCK IS UP AND SHE'S IN GANDALF'S CORNER. AND WHEN GALADRIEL IS IN ANY CORNER BUT YOUR OWN, YOU BETTER RUN YOUR ASS OFF DOWN THE HILL.
PS: Everyone who isn't dead by the end of the trilogy will be dead in Moria. It's horrifying. I might cry.
PPS: This shit is not Thranduil's division. But it's totally the division of his dwarf-befriending hotass son.
What I Am Most Excited About in Upcoming Hobbit Movies:
Smaug. That was an awesome eye at the end - like, beautifully animated, holy shit - but I'm even more excited for what I know is coming.
Legolas. Yeah, sorry. I don't want him to have a big role, and I've heard they've added an ~elf maiden and I really don't give two shits or want OCs or big changes in story, but I do want a badass Legolas cameo.
And most of all? GALADRIEL, LADY OF LIGHT, STORMING DOL GULDUR AND LAYING SEIGE TO ITS WALLS AND TEARING IT ALL DOWN LIKE QUEEN BAMF. GO APESHIT, MY LADY. SHOW US YOUR MAJESTY.
A group of young offenders are hit by a freak storm while during community service and get freak powers.
Also they accidentally kill their probation worker.
And sometimes other people try to kill them.
And I guess they ~grow and ~learn and shit but mostly they stay shitheads.
- Imaan, guest reccer
Also, ignore everything after Season Two (this is an objective statement) and prepare to be offended while you ugly laugh.
This is a show about a 900-year-old alien with a time-and-space traveling blue box who steals random young women from London and takes them on adventures. It's a family show, a scifi show, a ridiculous show about a man who can change his face. It's also quite nearly the best show ever to exist ever. There are lots of reasons to love it. I will try to explain.
The Doctor knows things. He's been around, and he can tell you anything about any race anywhere at any time. He was probably there when they built their civilization, and probably will be there when it ends.
It's like when you're a kid. The first time they tell you that the world's turning and you just can't quite believe it 'cause everything looks like it's standin' still. I can feel it. The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinnin' at 1,000 miles an hour and the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour, and I can feel it. We're fallin' through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world, and if we let go... That's who I am.
He's like an ancient grandpa, and like a frothing child.
He may have seen it all, but he wants to keep seeing it again and again and he wants to show it all to everyone else.
(The show is the pro-gayest thing ever to pro-gay.)
There is no one unimportant.
There is no one he won't try to help.
“You know what they call me in the ancient legends of the Dalek homeworld? The Oncoming Storm. You might have removed all your emotions, but I reckon right down deep in your DNA there’s one little spark left. And that’s fear. Doesn’t it just burn when you face me?”
And he'll listen to children who worry about the things grown-ups pretend don't exist.
He's the kind of person you want to believe is out there.
“He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night, and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the universe. And… he’s wonderful.”
Because everyone wants to run away, just a little.
So you buy a pair of red chucks and keep them by your bed, just in case. As if he could really land on some windy summer night. The kind of night where it's so quiet, so still that you can almost hear the waves lapping against the shore on some far distant beach. Maybe the sky would be dark and full of stars, and the air would be warm. Maybe there would be rings around the moon and dew on the grass.
The kind of night where maybe, back when you were a kid and dragging along behind your mom on a reluctant moonlight walk, you could have imagined the road under your feet leading to another world where it disappeared into the darkness - like stepping through a veil to find castles on the horizon and serpent-headed boats docked at the foggy shore, dragons shaking the earth as they roared into the sky. Back when you hadn't quite grown up, not yet, not really - hadn't seen how complicated the world was, how sad it could be or how glorious - but all you know is that there's so much out there, so much mystery to find and history to explore and future to create, and you just want to get on your feet and go, go, go. Because you want to see alien stars and distant mountains and different cultures, and you don't know much but you know it'd be - -
And then.... And then it's just running out the front door barefoot, pajamas baggy and ugly, hair messy and unbrushed, not a cent in my pocket or a person who knows where I've gone - only you, the Doctor, and the TARDIS, next stop: Anywhere.
Also, there's always this.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
Harry Potter by JK Rowling
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
The Bartimaeus Series by Jonathan Stroud
What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci
Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault
The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart
As you can see, my tastes hover somewhere between 'fantasy,' 'epic,' and 'snarky hero-slash-heroine.' The first two hardly need explaining, I think. If I attempted to elaborate upon these, we would be here all day, so I will leave them for a post all their own.
The Thief has been one of my favorite books since I was approximately ten years of age, and is entirely to blame for my love of insolent, brilliant, funny heroes and surprise twist endings. It begins in a prison and ends in a palace. It's something of a faux historical novel, with a touch of mysticism, more than a little talk of destiny, and a journey across the European countryside in search of a legendary king-making jewel, all told with searing wit by the young thief in question. Imagine Neil Caffrey, but inspired by the Gods. Literally.
Same with Bartimaeus. Or, not really. But the snark is there. The snarkiest snark to ever snark, believe you me. There's this thing with these books that I can't quite explain. As if the author tapped into some old magic, some old understanding of the universe, and figured out how that shit really worked and just wrote it all down, the secrets of another world on paper for us to read. The panel flap makes it sound like Harry Potter. Ignore the panel flap. This is a world all its own, set in some London that never was, in the midst of wars that never happened, and in a world run on the slave labor of djinn. It's got politics and corruption and massively flawed characters and massively badass women, plus the most hilarious and quite frankly cuddly djinni at the center of the narration. And footnotes.
Lani Garver, though. It doesn't fit in with the rest, especially not at first glance. It's a fairly typical teen story - teenage girl learns to stop fitting in with the cheerleaders, lead out of her miserable life by a boy who all the meatheads hate. Except it's something a million times more than that. He's an angel, for one thing. Maybe. It's not for sure, and that makes it all so much better. He's maybe an angel. He's maybe just a super gay (trans?) kid who lives his life helping others out. But there's something else at work, something bigger, something fucking huge, and I just don't even know how to explain it. This book changed my life a little bit. And I might be going out on a limb here, but judging from the author's other stories and how they all run on a similar theme, I'd bet you anything that there's something or someone in particular in her past that she's writing this stuff about.
Fire From Heaven massively fed my stupid love of Alexander the Great. It's my historical headcanon, a simply amazing account of Alexander's life, from boyhood to glory.
And the Merlin series - well. Remember what I was saying above about how it felt like the author had tapped into something genuine? This is, in my fanciful mind, the 'truth' of Merlin's story. Because he was real, I like to think. Goodbye, naysayers. Goodbye.
At the risk of getting heavy objects thrown at my person, I would call this the best show - certainly the best SciFi show - on American television in the early/mid-2000's. (This is a thing called an uneducated opinion. You are welcome to have your own.)
Out of the fog of reality TV shows, procedural shows, sit-coms and SciFi shows that translated 'aliens' as 'humans with weird bumps on their forehead,' Farscape appeared. Wonky and chaotic and sexy and hilarious, this little oddball show gained enough of a following that, when it was suddenly cancelled despite having been promised a fifth season, fans were so vocal in their outrage that it was brought back in a mini-series.
The show takes a standard fish-out-of-water scenario - in this case, an Earth astronaut shot through a wormhole into outerspace - and shakes it up, turns it on its head, then displays itself to you like an acid trip. The plot, and here I quote Wikipedia, involves "features a diverse ensemble of characters who are initially escaping from corrupt authorities called Peacekeepers. The protagonists live inside a giant space-dwelling creature named Moya, which serves as their ship."
Farscape is weird. The aliens are intricately designed, the episodes well-plotted, and there's psychological torture and bad luck in abundance. There's not, comparatvely, a whole lot of shooting and explosions. (But when the explosions happen, they are almost artistically crafted.) It's also ridiculous, which is how you occasionally get aliens in Hawai'ian shirts and men in tights.
The writing is complex - in a good way, the way that means you need more than a few brain cells to follow along - and there is no standard, boring pattern that each episode is hammered into. It also addresses, indirectly, the ugly issues of ethnocintricity and corrupt authority.
The acting is superb. The characters all have their own personalities, strengths, faults, motivations, complications, and moments of pettiness. The show also boasts some of the only convincingly badass women I have ever seen on television - ones who look like they have the mental and physical strength to back up their words, and are no more or less interesting and faulted than the men.
Also, there are muppets. (Really.) They move, emote, speak, and interact on the level of a professional actor, and it is testament to the talent of the puppeteers, voice actors, script writers and supporting cast that you occasionally forget they are not human.
Plus, the show is hilarious. (It would have to be, with all the time it spends messing with the poor characters' heads.)
In short, Farscape is a witty, chaotic, mind-bending breath of fresh air. And I leave you with the clip at right.