Sunday, March 31, 2013

Old Jersey

Sometimes I forget (or am not informed) when I need a suit at work, so I show up underdressed. But then on days like last Thursday, when I do remember to wear a suit to work, there is some activity in the afternoon like cleaning (or in Thursday's case, changing desks) that calls for the athletic wear (jogging pants/jacket, or "jersey" as they are called in Japan). So, I was the guy at work wearing a white shirt and nice red tie, moving desks, sweeping floors, cleaning up cords, and vacuuming, while everyone else was dressed in more appropriate wear for that activity.

The underdresseding thing happened to me just a couple weeks ago for the closing ceremony, actually. I wore a tie, but instead of my suit jacket, I had an athletic jacket ("jersey") which teachers usually wear everyday (just not at ceremonies, usually). But I did notice that one teacher had the full athletic suit, pants, jacket, and all, during last week's ceremony, commemorating the teachers who left the school.

Today is April 1st, April Fool's Day. And lo and behold, the English teacher that I hugged "goodbye" last month is back! It was pretty funny; during the introductions, all of the new teachers are introduced to the current teachers, with "which school they are coming from," and that English teacher was introduced as having "come from this school." Heh. Anyway, glad to see her back.

Yesterday it snowed. While in other parts of Japan, cherry blossoms are blooming beautifully. I wish the nice weather would just come back already!

Word of the Day: ジャージー "jaajii," or "jersey."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Import Cars

I need some car advice. The situation is as follows:

1) I own a 1997 Toyota Celica GT-Four, which I love. It's a one-of-a-kind, and it isn't sold in the US, but it's sold in Canada, Australia, Japan, Europe. I've named her 美唆 「みさ」 "Misa." The kanji mean "beautiful" and "tempt," respectively, as in "beautiful temptation." The second kanji can also mean "to excite" or "to seduce."
2) It's a powerful car and with decent gas mileage. An average of 20.42 mpg, which I calculated myself over the course of 22 months; distance traveled over gasoline purchased. The distance was mostly low-speed, too. On the highway, it gets 27.4 mpg; again, an actual calculation with real values.
3) The car has 130,453 km (81059.7 miles) on it.
4) There have been quite a few modifications: the clutch has been replaced (before I bought it), as well as the timing belt (not sure about the water pump). I also had the stock spoiler replaced with another stock spoiler (which provides better down force and looks cooler), as well as had the shift stick replaced with a new (but stock) one. The previous owner installed a 10+1 disk CD player, DVD/TV/Navigation system, a highway card reader (like EZPass), and oil temperature/pressure gauges.
5) There was an oil leak which I got fixed.
6) The exhaust/muffler needs to be fixed/replaced. It is currently being fixed, but may not be permanent.
7) I am considering bringing the car to the US, but it requires that certain steps be fulfilled, the most important one being that the car passes inspection and meets the emissions requirements of the US; that would probably require replacing the muffler. I saw some for about $600 online, but that's the price in Japan.
8) I bought the car at a reasonable price.
9) I may or may not be able to sell my car. If I have to dispose of it, it will cost about $100-200.
10) Shipping my car and having it fixed up for American emissions/inspection may actually cost LESS than buying a used car in the US.

The issue I face is whether or not it's feasible (or even possible) to bring the car to the US. With everything I mentioned above. I really love this car, and I think it'd be super awesome if I could bring it to the US. But it's a right-hand-side-steering; I wouldn't have a problem driving it in the US, I think. Not too much anyway, 'cause I have so much experience at this point, and I've driven on 4-lane roads in Japan (2 lanes in one direction) a lot, and I often stay in the right lane. And I have experience driving on tiny roads, so I feel as though the blind spot that I would experience (when making left turns) isn't really all that bad.

If I try to sell the car, I might be able to sell it, but used cars are very cheap in Japan so I wouldn't be able to get much. Though if I sold it in the US, maybe I could sell it it for a high price because it's an import and ultra rare?

Hmm, I wish it were cheaper and easier to bring my car to the US...

Misa, in front of my Jr. High, next to an RX-8

Word of the Day: 車 「くるま」 "kuruma" or "car." The "onyomi" or "Chinese style reading" for this is しゃ "sha" (sometimes romanized as "sya"), as in 車検 「しゃかん」 "shaken/syaken," the infamous and expensive biennial car inspection in Japan.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Decision

Back in the fall/early winter, I was approached by my supervisor about whether or not I wanted to renew my contract for another year. If I said yes, I would have been the first ALT to stay for longer than three years in this town. I was very happy to hear this offer, as that meant that they wanted me to stay and because I had been enjoying life here so much that I wouldn't mind extending my stay even longer.

So I had to weigh my options.

The plan was (and currently still is) to apply to medical schools this summer, with matriculation into medical school a year later, in the Fall of 2014. If I stayed on the JET Program for a fourth year, timing would be perfect: completion of the fourth year would coincide with the start/orientation for medical school. I would also be making the most out of my new iPhone 5 contract (which I started in October) and my syaken car inspection, which lasts for two years (and is currently being done).

My life in Japan is super fun; everyday is like an adventure. My Japanese language skills have increased dramatically since I first arrived, and even back then, they weren't too bad. Can I read a Japanese newspaper? No. Can I read Japanese manga (comics)? Yes. Well, for the most part. If I come across a word/kanji I don't know (which is often), I have my trusty "Imiwa?" app to help me. Can I watch a Japanese movie or anime? Yes, unless it's filled with jargon I don't know; but I understand at least the basic gist. What I can't do quite yet, though, is enjoy a Japanese video game that has lots of important or detailed story elements like Metal Gear Rising. I had been waiting for that game for months, and finally when it was released, I went and bought it. And most PS3 games have multiple language data on the disk, so as long as my PS3 is set to "English," the game will be, too. But noooooooooooooo, Konami decided to separate the language data between versions of the game. My theory is that because the game was released on PS3 and XBox360, Microsoft demanded that the content on the disks be exactly the same; and with a smaller capacity disk that XBox360 uses, it's likely that there are no options for multiple languages on them. Anyway, point is, I was super disappointed, and my language and kanji skills don't suffice to enjoy the conversation-heavy game to the extent that I'd like. I digress...

If I stayed in Japan longer, perhaps I could get to that point. I would need to buckle down and start learning and memorizing new vocabulary, new kanji, perhaps new grammar points. Well, at some point, I'd like to get to it. Staying in Japan would also allow me to have more opportunities to do things I haven't done yet, such as: racing up and down the mountain roads Initial D-style in Gunma Prefecture, feeding the deer in Nara, checking out Himeji Castle, exploring the beautiful shrines and temples in Nikko, climbing Mt. Fuji, or practicing some karate in Okinawa. But staying in Japan on JET for a fourth year creates a glaring problem when it comes to...

...Medical school interviews. The plan is to apply during this application cycle. That means taking the MCAT soon (April!), submitting the application materials in June, and doing interviews in the fall/winter. The problem is that I don't know when the schools would want to interview. And if I were in Japan, I would have to purchase an international round trip plane ticket to go and interview. And I would have to purchase another ticket for another interview at a different school. And again for another. That would get quite expensive. Plus, I wouldn't have the vacation days to be able to call off work so many times, and it would be a huge inconvenience to both my coworkers and my students. In theory, I could try to schedule all of my interviews at the same time/week/month, or better yet, during the holidays when I could be home. But that would force the application committee (and me) to wait. That would be no different from prolonging the application itself, and if I learned anything from past applications, it's that timing is everything. The earlier, the better.

So, I must come home! That means a lot of things. It sucks because now I know that the limits are set. I've always known that my time in Japan with the JET Program would be limited, but somehow it's sobering to know exactly when I have to go. Kinda sucks. But hey, at least I know exactly how much time I have left, and I could plan it to use the time wisely, right?

Lately, I've been doing a lot of MCAT review. So a lot of my time is spent with my head in the books. Well, book. Speaking of which, I still gotta finish today's review!

Word of the Day: 選択 「せんたく」 "sentaku," which means "selection," "choice," or "option."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

February Post

We had the annual JET "Skills Development Conference," formerly known as the "Mid-Year Conference." This is the only time in the year where Miyagi JETs are able to officially cavort with Sendai JETs, as we usually have separate group meetings and orientations. This year I showed off a new way to tie a necktie, the Eldredge Knot:

Pretty snazzy, eh?

A couple weeks later, a stray dog followed me to work. It didn't look like a "real" stray dog, just one that seems to have escaped from her owner's home. She's quite a beautiful dog; I'd like to have a Shiba at some point. Maybe when I have kids.

Cute Shiba-ken!

The big event in February was the annual Sapporo Snow Festival! Every year, MAJET goes to Sapporo, Hokkaido to celebrate, and we have a grand fest at the Sapporo Beer Garden where we stuff ourselves full of lamb and Sapporo Beer. Just look at my bib!

The Snow Festival was like usual, filled with cold temperature, snow sculptures, ice sculptures, snow slides, snow mobile-pulled rafting, crabs, soup curry, Sapporo ramen, and blizzards.

Blue Dragon

Sapporo Ramen!

Lucky Cat


View from the Top

Ice Castle!

Hotel-like Room on the Return Ferry
 Word of the Day: 結び目 「むすびめ」 "musubime," or "knot."