What they don’t tell you at ALT training: Friends

I’m hoping that as I type this out, somehow my sass will make an appearance, considering how much of a bummer this topic is.

Coming over to Japan without knowing anyone is an incredibly isolating experience, especially when it’s for the better part of a year (or longer). I came here knowing absolutely no one. I had an acquaintance, but not really a friend. Ignoring the language barrier, I think being completely and utterly friendless was my biggest fear in coming to Japan. I have to give props to anyone who does that; so for the fact alone that you chose to completely uproot your life, good job! As my uncle told me before my initial departure, “You got the biggest balls of anyone in this family.”

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Training with my company was my first opportunity to make friends, as might be the case with you, if you’re coming over as an ALT. The people you meet will come from all walks of life. Some will be in it for the long run, and some are only going to be here for a short period of time. Such is life. My main friend group came from my training. I learned all sorts of things from my company, mainly how to function like a normal human (the part about teaching is shaky at best), but they really didn’t prepare me for the utter inevitability that is living here.

Most of your friends are going to leave by the end of the year.

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Everyone has their reasons for going back, and this isn’t me complaining that my friends left me (because how dare them). It just never hit me throughout the year how much their inevitable absence would effect me. Your training, regardless of  company, won’t go into that. They’ll teach how to not to fuck up completely here in the country, how to possibly plan lessons, but they won’t teach you the pains that will come at the end of the contract.

Jeez Gigi, get to the point already!

Take selfies with your friends. Go out and eat with them as many times as you can. Go on trips. Explore whatever part of Japan your heart desires. Get attacked by deer together in Nara, go see what’s at the end of the train line together because you happen to get seats next to each other. And for crying out loud, take all the purikura you can. Do it all, because when they all leave you, you’re going to be regretting you didn’t do more.

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Best wishes.

The Struggle for a sticker – Getting a Part-time job in Japan

Life has various struggles for us to deal with throughout our lives. Let me tell you about a rather recent development in mine. In the pursuit of giving myself a little economic edge, a little extra spending money for traveling or saving up for that lovely Nitori bookcase I lust after (freaking sliding shelf, what?!), I sought a second part-time job to do on the side.

For a little context, I work for a company that contracts ALTs (me) to Japanese public schools. I consider myself more like an English hype-man as I work with the younger kids. Anyway, my company doesn’t pay that great. I mean it’s definitely a livable wage, but I got loans and shit to pay back stateside (Lady Liberty never forgets), so I’d like a little more disposable income. On top of not the greatest pay in the world, second year in Japan is when you got to tighten that belt. Second year is when city tax and truly paying for healthcare come rearing their ugly heads. Let me tell you, I hear about lots of people in my kind of work struggling to pay the additional expenses that you get to avoid in year one, things you can further avoid if you only stay in the country for one year.

Ahahahahaha…I’m not one of those people.

I gotta pat myself on the back though, right? Look how productive and thoughtful I am. I’m preparing ahead of time (or at least attempting to).

Let me tell you though, getting a part-time job is not an easy thing to do.

First things first, it depends on the type of visa you have. For this I’ll be using myself as an example. I have an Instructor-type visa, and because of that, I’m only cleared to do a certain kind of job in Japan; basically teaching in a school, for simplicity’s sake. And I mean a traditional school. I was able to acquire a part-time job at what I like to call a “hipster” eikaiwa. (It’s really nice and actually kind of fun to do since I don’t have to sell anything.) Unfortunately though, my visa doesn’t allow me to just start working there. I found out that I needed to get a work permit prior to working, or else I could get into some serious trouble with immigration. That’s the last thing anyone would ever want, especially me.

Getting a work permit isn’t dreadfully difficult; it just takes forever to accomplish and is rather easy to mess up when regarding dates (those are super important). To help people out there, I’ll break it down step by step, but should this be something you are intending on doing, please be sure to follow your company’s instructions.

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THE WORK PERMIT PROCESS – INSTRUCTOR VISA

  1. Prior to beginning this tiresome process, you’re going to need your company’s written permission to undertake the additional job. For this, you’re going to need an Application for Permission to Work for Other Party (APWOP). Be sure to ask your company for this and then fill out the information. Return it to them so that they may approve it. With their literal seal of approval you may continue on.
  2. This will be your first trip to Immigration. On this visit, make sure you have your APWOP, your resident card, and your passport. You’re going to have to fill in some paperwork, so I recommend having the addresses for both your sponsor, and the part-time job. Once you turn in everything, you will have to write your address on a postcard that will summon you back to immigration in about two weeks. You cannot start working until you get the work permit, allow me to stress that. As a bonus, bring a copy of your new contract with you. Just in case.
  3. The waiting game of two weeks.
  4. Your postcard has arrived! Good job. You’re going to have to make another trip to immigration again, and be sure to have your postcard, your resident card, and your passport with you.
  5. Finish.

Now this is all an ideal situation. This whole ordeal took a month and a half to deal with, hopefully for others it can be made shorter. Ugh what a pain, but hey, money!

For any visits to Immigration, I highly recommend going as soon as they open to minimize your time there. I’ve had waits as short as half an hour in the early morning, while friends waited at least 7 in the afternoon. Luckily for permits, you should be in a drastically shorter line.

Good luck, you brave souls.

Predictable: A Definition

I don’t know about you, but when things don’t go as they should I try to find solace in something that does make sense, something predictable. I went to Merriam-Webster and they failed in providing me a definition that I related to what I was talking to, so I turned to the ever reliable Dictionary.com (shameless plug?). As explained by the previously mentioned source, Dictionary.com defines predictable as “expected, especially on the basis of previous or known behavior.”  While I don’t want to talk about the 2016 election, for the sake of this update, I feel that I at least need to mention it in passing for you to understand my thought process. What brings Panini (Gigi) to this point that she feels she needs to spout about predictability?

For starters, what the f@#$%*!  s*%&  was that? I was so floored as I was keeping track of the election in between classes last week, and to be fair, my brain is still trying to process the unpredictable result. I’m not going to lie…as a woman, I never felt so shitty in all my life in terms of politics. My country elected someone who treats my gender and minorities like garbage. On top of that, I have small Japanese school children asking me why.

Insert gross sobbing here.

I’m sorry, my small adorable students. I don’t know why. My brain is still trying to make sense of it, and in that search for some logical reasoning for the decisions million consciously chose, I sought after something predictable to give me some sense of normalcy. 14990952_10154686153433057_9077974120829127388_o

Nothing soothes the soul more than a predictable YA-novel and a Gingerbread Latte. I know exactly what I’m getting; no surprises. I guess that was a shameless plug for a book I feel pretty meh over. Oh well. (Guys! We have a red Starbucks cup here in Japan!)

Now, back in the vein of unpredictable things; this blog. Generally when I make the endeavor to start a blog, it has a bad tendency to crash and burn spectacularly. First time I tried, I aspired to be an anime blogger so that I could win a trip to Japan. Didn’t happen. Second time, I attempted to try the anime blogger path again because I thought I could do it better…during finals. What a fool. My third attempt was a writing blog, which actually kind of worked until I got lazy and finals kicked my butt again. Each time I only got a couple views and no followers.

But seven people liked my first post and I’m so confused.

I mean, hell, I don’t even know the purpose of what I’m doing with this thing yet. Am I just chronicling my journey in Japan? Is this going to be my third fail attempt at an anime blog? (Probably not) Whatever it is though, I’m glad it’s resonating with you guys. For all I know, maybe I’ll get negative views this time. Ha.

Anyone else see the irony of this? I complain about unpredictability when I am a living example of it.

Thanks for putting up with me, Internet. I hope once I have a point with these blog posts, you’ll continue to humor me and be one of my statistics.

Best wishes!

(Holler if you guys would be interested in me syncing up my Goodreads.)

Panini: A definition and introduction

What is a panini? Merriam-Webster defines it as “a usually grilled sandwich made with Italian Bread.” Want to know a secret? That’s actually the definition for a panino, the singular form of panini. I’m sure I just blew your mind with that. Not many people seem to know that, but there you go. You just learned something new today, assuming you were unaware.

Now, you’re probably wondering what the word panini has to do with anything regarding a blog about some girl living her life in a foreign country. Honestly, it has nothing to do with the whole living in Japan aspect, but it has a lot to do with the girl writing this. Panini, for all intents and purposes is a nickname, one of many, but one that deserves explanation. Let’s present you with some context.

My whole life, my real name has been a complication that many in California, the land of my birth, cannot wrap their head around. My name has gone through the ringer more times with so many people who see a second N in my name and just immediately forget how to read. If you know your vowels and have some patience, my name isn’t so hard to pronounce. But hell, this is the internet, so I’ll leave some mystery to my true self and leave that out of the woodwork. Regardless, my name gave me nothing but trouble for most of my life, until elementary school in which my childhood friends bestowed upon me a suitable name. Gigi. All it took was going to France for a summer to get that name, and as such, I have been Gigi ever since.

Hi, my name is Gigi, and you’re reading my blog. Pleasure to have you as one of my statistics (please follow me).

Gigi has served me rather well through the years and no doubt will I continue to use it. This entry though is not about Gigi though, I mean, I could write a whole post about how weird it is to have a nickname that is also the name of a rather unnerving musical, but that’s neither here, nor there. (Please don’t sing the popular song from Gigi. It’s really creepy having people you don’t know when you’re working at a fro-yo shop sing “Thank Heavens for Little Girls” when all you want to do is ring them up so they can leave.) Yes, this is about Panini. It all started because my Japanese teacher at University fumbled on my name, as most people do. No problem, it was something easily solvable once she saw my name in katakana. (Let me just say, bless you Japan for having a phonetic language. ) This my favorite butchering of my name, and it just so happens to rhyme with panini. I got a laugh out of this and actually wrote パニニのノット on my Japanese notebook. That basically translates to “Panini’s notebook.” My friend saw this and snorted in class.

It was great. Since then, I have happily embraced my Panini-persona and as such have started naming all my social media accounts now after this grilled sandwich mantle I have taken up.

That was a long winded explanation. I hope you’re still with my. If there’s anything you should know about me, weird quirky things amuse me.

Anyway…hi! My name is Gigi, or Panini if you prefer. I’m in ALT living in Japan, fascinated by a whole lot things that I’ll talk about here (anime, food, random things that seem awesome) and if you have any requests about things I should look into, I will happily delve into that as well. Hope you’ll stick around for the ride.

Best wishes!