JETAABC NEWSLETTER VOLUME 12, ISSUE 3: Fall 2007
In this issue: AGM, Canada Rep Elections . . . . . . 2 Book Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Reverse Culture Shock . . . . . . . . . . 4 Life (not) According to Plan . . . . 4 Taiwanese festival . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 RJG Dodgeball . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Recent Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
The latest food night was at Insadong Korean Restaurant in Coquitlam. Does anyone know how to say “itadakimasu” in Korean? (photo: Mariette Baynton) page 1
Note from the Editor
2007 JETAABC BOARD OF DIRECTORS
ow, it’s been a very busy fall ... just check out page 8 to see what the JET alums have been up to! I’d like to give a big “THANK YOU!” to the alumni that submitted articles for this issue: Jennifer Fujita, Joseph Liau, Linda Takahashi, and Arran Yarmie. Thanks also to those who submitted pictures. Happy holidays!
President Greg Joughin firstname.lastname@example.org Senior Advisor Bobby Taylor email@example.com
Annual General Meeting (AGM)
Secretary Ann Yamashita firstname.lastname@example.org
ETAABC’s annual general meeting will be held on Thursday, January 24. 2008 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the YWCA (535 Hornby St., Vancouver). Elections will be held for the 11 JETAABC board positions (listed on the right), so if you’d like to be on the board for 2008, this is your chance! (You can review the jpb duties for each position on the website: jetaabc.ca.) Even if you don’t want to run for the board, come out to enjoy some snacks and socialize with other JET alumni! Please RSVP by Jan. 11 to email@example.com.
Call for Canada Rep Elections
he JETAA Canada National Representative (a.k.a country rep/CR) is responsible for coordinating communication among the seven Canadian chapters, and is the point person for communication between JETAA Canada and JETAA-International, CLAIR, and MOFA. The Canada Rep is elected for a term of one year, and the next election is coming up in March 2008. All JET alumni members in Canada are welcome to run for this position, and platforms are due by January 31, 2008. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Treasurer Chris Bailey email@example.com Membership Coordinator Erica Moizumi firstname.lastname@example.org Social and Cultural Coordinator Anita Lien email@example.com Technical Coordinator Joseph Luk firstname.lastname@example.org External Liaison Nina Inaoka Lee email@example.com Volunteer Coordinator Jeff Co firstname.lastname@example.org Career and Personal Development Sabine Sengmueller Sasakura email@example.com Newsletter Editor Joanna Karaplis firstname.lastname@example.org
Lion dance at the “Discover Okinawa” reception (see p. 8 for more details)
Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America: A Food Memoir by Linda Furiya Book review by Linda Sachiko Takahashi
ne of my favourite kinds of books the memoir. A mrmoir is not as time-consuming to read as an entire autobiography, and it still contains the essential elements that keep me turning the pages. Some of the most memorable ones include The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls and Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. More recently, I have been interested in food memoirs such as The 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and JB MacKinnon, which is a perfect combination of a memoir and an inspiring cookbook. Furiya’s book is just that and more. Bento Box in the Heartland strikes a particular cord with me because the author was born in North America and has Japanese ancestry. This is where most of the similarities end, but there was still enough to keep me absorbed. Although I grew up in Vancouver in the 80s, and Furiya spent her childhood in the 70s in rural Indiana, I can identify with some of her experiences growing up as a visible minority. Even my father, who grew up as a third generation Japanese Canadian in the Kootenays, could relate to the experiences described in this book. Another added bonus is that there are delicious recipes at the end of each chapter — everything from easy onigiri to more complex kurimanju. The food is incorporated into the storyline and recipes are then available for the reader to try. There isn’t a single recipe for “typical” Japanese sushi-restaurant fare, just simple “comfort foods” inspired by her childhood. Food was the greatest connector for Furiya and her
parents when language and cultural barriers created rifts. Food is an important part of one’s cultural identity, whether it is from one’s country of birth or ancestry. Food can also bring back fond memories of times spent in foreign countries. When I lived in Japan, I missed things from Canada like easily available good cheese and real bread. Now that I’m back here, I miss things like okonomiyaki, ichigo-daifuku and kakigori. Bento Box in the Heartland shows how food is one of the most important things that helps one to identify with one’s own cultural background. Comfort foods can bring us back to a time when life was simple and less complicated, or just help us relive fond memories.
Speaking of food...
n November 3, 2007, ten JET alumni trekked out to Coquitlam to relive their onsen memories at JJ Family Spa, a Korean spa (3000 Christmas Way). Five more alumni joined them afterwards for a night of Korean BBQ at Insadong Korean Restaurant (403 North Road, Coquitlam). What a delicious and relaxing way to spend a Saturday! Remember that all JET alumni are welcome at these Food Nights and other events ... just check the website (jetaabc. ca) for upcoming events. Photo by Mariette Baynton
There’s No Place at Home Joseph Liau
e hate this place. But we do not really know why. Despite being born and raised in the True North, strong and free, our home and native land is no longer that. It has been one year since we have returned to Canada from our teaching experience in Japan, and my friends and I have just started to set our roots again in our “homeland.” The problem is not “this place”; it is the situation: we are in reverse culture shock. “Culture shock is a very common experience when you move to a new area,” says Steven Heine, Professor of Cultural Psychology at the University of British Columbia. But while many of us are familiar with the phenomenon, we are not as aware of reverse culture shock. “For one thing,” says Heine, “when you’re moving to a new culture you can expect it to be different. But when you’re moving back, you’re not expecting it. It can be very disorienting.” Among my friends, the reverse culture shock was so disorienting that I could hardly find anyone who was willing to talk about it. We had all participated in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) where we learned that every situation is different. But we all had one thing in common: we hated returning home. “Specifically what I found difficult was reconnecting with a lot of my friends,” explained Brent Schroeder, the one friend who was willing to talk about his experience at the time. According to Heine, in any culture shock experience there is a period of trying to “fit in,” and dissimilar interests make that difficult. “I found myself talking more and more about Japan,” said Schroeder. And if your friends are not interested in Japan, then it can be difficult to connect. I had a hard time reconnecting, and initially that’s why I started to write this article, but when I contacted Schroeder, I realized that we understood each other and eventually we became very good friends. I still find myself gravitating toward people who had been in Japan, and, in a sense, they have become my new network. “We rely a tremendous amount on our networks,”
says Heine. And when you move to a new setting, “in general you don’t have the same network of people.” The JET Programme does a great job in creating a network of people that understand exactly what you are feeling. “I definitely miss that — the necessary community that is built into JET,” says Schroeder. But leaving JET meant leaving behind the network to which we belonged, and that’s not something that a lot of us thought about. According to Meegan Bombadil, who was a prefectural advisor for the JET Programme, “the JET Programme addresses the issue of reverse culture shock”; however, “people have so many other things to focus on before leaving Japan, that they don’t do much to prepare for [it].” The problem with culture shock is that you can never really be sure when it is over. “It comes in waves,” says Bombadil, who experienced multiple occurrences during her stay in Japan. With reverse culture shock, “you get the same process,” explains Heine. Every situation is different, but I would say that “waves” describes the feeling of any culture shock quite well. That is what we are, wave men — ronin — those tossed about like the waves in the sea.
Life Beyond the JET Programme: (Not) According to Plan (And Happy Nonetheless) Jennifer Fujita
arrived in Nagano in the summer of 1998, fresh out of university and eager to learn about Japan and to improve my Japanese skills. I never thought that ten years later I would still be in Japan, working and living in the concrete jungle of Tokyo. The past decade has been an interesting one and not one that has followed a major plan. Which is funny, as I was all about longterm planning in university. Upon arrival in Nagano on the JET Programme, after the whirlwind orientation at the Keio Plaza in Shinjuku (little did I know I would someday be working two blocks from the Keio at a PR agency), I was a wide-eyed 22-year-old who had just finished my degree in biology with a final year thesis on flax enzymes. Yes, flax enzymes. Proof enough I had to escape school. I thought I had everything planned. I would only stay a year and then retreat quietly back to Canada and start a Masters or pursue a career in biological sciences,
with a healthy knowledge and appreciation of Japan intact. As it happens with many happy and curious JETs, the one-year grace period turned into three. I felt comfortable and content working at the Prefectural Office. Although I am Japanese-Canadian and speak Japanese with my parents, my Japanese was so rusty that I could not read the kanji “contract” [keiyaku] on my contract when I first received it! At the same time, I was surrounded by tens of CIRs (most whom did not share my ethnic heritage) who were completely fluent. It put me to shame and motivated me to study. I was nestled in the mountains and foothills of Japan’s Northern Alps, befriending people from the U.S., UK, Australia, New Zealand, and France, as well as local Japanese. With my newfound friends, I was hiking, snowboarding, visiting onsen, traveling, and experiencing Japan as much as I could, as in the back of my mind I always kept thinking, I’ll be going home soon. I should have put those thoughts much earlier. Then again, judging by the countless photos from the period of 1998 to 2001, I certainly crammed in as many memorable Nagano experiences as I could and it may have been sadly different if I had known otherwise. After three years on the JET Programme, I started packing many boxes, and even sent some home, with the intent of moving back to Vancouver. Upon a whim, I applied to be a Program Coordinator at CLAIR (JET Programme Management) in Tokyo and got accepted. Three weeks later, I was in Tokyo, dazzled and bewitched by the bright lights and big city. I loved Tokyo the minute I arrived and even more so, the group of people I worked with, all former JETs, who have become some of my closest friends. Tokyo was a different world from Nagano. Busy, loud, exciting, massive, mesmerizing, awe-inspiring, stimulating. Tokyo was the perfect locale for my mid-twenties single self. And I didn’t have to worry about the homesickness like I did in Nagano. There were multiplexes, international supermarkets, clubs, Tex-Mex, dim sum, international networking groups, the airport (i.e., evacuation plan, not that I ever needed it) and tons of people. After five years working in the Japanese government system, I knew I had to try something new. I entered the private sector and started working for a Japanese PR firm, gaining much-needed business skills. This was a rather grim and stifling experience as the environment was dominated by an egotistical and control-obsessed Japanese shacho, who preferred
the cream in his coffee to be swirled, not stirred, every morning. I lasted a miraculous seven months there and knew it was time to go home. Everyone at the JET Returners’ Conference speaks about return culture shock. I never paid attention to culture shock, let alone reverse culture shock, but arriving home was ... not exactly shocking, but weird. After so many years in Japan, here I was waking up in my old bedroom in the suburbs of Burnaby with not an idea of what to do. All my planning in the past had been moot. Why should I put faith in planning now? Being at home with your parents is also a lesson in swallowing your pride. Eventually, after much complaining about everything from the dingy Skytrain to paying taxes and tips again, I started figuring things out. My friend helped me land a contract job at the Vancouver Opera (program planning, not singing) and introduced me to a very nice volunteer named Chad. After my contract ended, I enrolled in an intensive Asia Pacific-focused management program at Capilano College. Funnily enough, Chad had also spent a couple of years in Sendai after university, and enrolled in the same program. After years of working, I loved being back in school. And despite being my class competitor, Chad has since become my fiancé. The program required a co-op component and the natural choice for both of us was Japan. Luckily, we both found co-op placements in Tokyo and two years after re-integrating into Canadian society, I was thrust back into Tokyo. Who knew I would be back in Japan with someone in tow? The JET Programme led me to nearly a decade of life in Japan and guided me on a path of international thinking, exploration, exciting work opportunities, higher education and lifelong friendships, not to mention love. I will always be extremely grateful for the experiences that the programme allowed for and all the fantastic people I met as a result. Not everyone in my life shares the common bond of Japan, but when they do, there is something special and significant about it that cannot be ignored. Although I abandoned the idea of planning in the past (look what good it did me!), now that I am a little older and, as I would like to see it, wiser, I have some “plans” up my sleeves, including one to move back home and settle down in Vancouver. We’ll see what happens. In the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you make other plans.” page 5
More Medals for Ready JET Go! at Taiwanese Festival Arran Yarmie
eady JET Go! took home more hardware at the Taiwanese Dragon Boat Festival held September 1st and 2nd. RJG was able to take home a silver medal in the Group B Final and the RJG women teamed up with the Riptide women to claim another silver medal. The first day of competition on Saturday saw perfect weather for racing. Overcast skies kept the heat at bay down at False Creek, and the race schedule kept RJG busy with four races. Some of the races were just for fun, giving the festival a light-hearted and festive atmosphere. RJG competed in the No Guard race, in which boats have to cross the finish line, reverse seating positions, paddle back to the finish line, and then a team member perched at the front of the boat has to grab a flag. Sound chaotic? Well, it certainly was. RJG was able to emerge from a mess of splashing paddles, colliding boats, and confused paddlers to grab their flag first and claim victory. The second day of racing on Sunday had RJG compete in a blindfold race. This was followed by men’s and women’s races with medals on the line. The RJG women teamed up with Riptide women to form the Rice Girls. With a team powered by dynamic paddlers nicknamed Sticky Rice, Spicy Rice and Long Grain Rice (to name a few), this team was assured success. The Rice Girls paddled their way to a second place finish. The RJG men also teamed up with the boys from Riptide to form Got Durian? Unfortunately they couldn’t match the girls’ success and came in fourth. The last race of the day saw RJG compete in the Group B Final. RJG had a solid race and came in second, two seconds behind the winning team, Scotia. Another strong placing on the home stretch of what has been a successful season for RJG!
or Ready, JET, Go!, the JET dragon boat team, 2007 was a good season. But after the dragon boat season ended, what could they do to stay in touch and in shape until the 2008 season? The answer was found in their memories of elementary school gym class: DODGEBALL! Adult dodgeball has become popular in Vancouver recently, with leagues organized by Urban Rec and the Vancouver Dodgeball League. Rules differ from league to league (for example, Urban Rec prohibits headshots; VDL allows them but only if they’re not intentional), but the main purpose is to have fun. So during the off-season, Ready, JET, Go! joined the Vancouver Dodgeball League and became Ready, JET, Throw! Organized by Gabby Kalaw and joined by RJG coach Kevin Thien, the team has a roster of twelve members (six players, of which at least three must be female, are needed for a game). The team plays on Thursday nights, racking up fifteen games per night: five games each against three opposing teams. Their overall record remains low, but their enthusiasm has earned them an average of 14.6 out of 15 for “spirit,” which is near the top of the league. Although they’ve been plagued by injuries (including sprained fingers, sore arms, tweaked knees, and even a concussion), they’re not about to retire. They recently competed in a charity tournament on November 3, and will wrap up their season with their league playoffs on December 8 at Lord Byng Secondary School from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Come and cheer them on! (But stay alert — this can be a dangerous spectator sport!)
Photo courtesy of Vancouver Dodgeball League
Volunteers on the boat cruise
A Busy Fall for JET ALums!
es, it’s been a busy fall for JETAABC alumni! On Sunday, September 9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., a group of volunteers from various JETAA events were treated to a boat cruise to thank them for their efforts. The boat left Coal Harbour, toured along the south shore of Burrard Inlet, sailed through the Second Narrows, then veered north at Cates Park and up Indian Arm to the pristine Silver Falls. On October 11, there was a “Discover Okinawa” reception at the Century Plaza Hotel (1015 Burrard St., Vancouver). Guests enjoyed sampling Japanese food and watching a traditional Okinawan lion dance (picture on p. 2!). Twelve alumni attended Sabine Sasakura’s Career Seminar on Friday, October 19, where they heard presentations on “Know Yourself, Know Your Career” (Erin Leach), “Where the Jobs Are” (Cathy Hoang and Sabine) and “Nuts and Bolts of Job Searching” (Elizabeth Stephen). Finally, on November 18, eleven JET alumni and ten Mokuyokai members competed in a bowling taikai at Rev’s Bowling in Burnaby. The award for highest average score went to Jenn Zaster, while Amy Moizumi got the “Gambarimashita!” prize. The winning team was Team Dominate (Jenn Zaster, Joanna Karaplis, Liz Stephen, Yasushi Baba, and Roy Bishop), who took home a basket of chocolate, tea, and Glico curry mix! (Poor Roy left early and missed out!) Remember to sign up for the jetaabc mailing list and check the website (jetaabc.ca) regularly to find out about upcoming events. See you at the AGM!
Bowling taikai with Mokuyokai page 8
Newsletter of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Alumni Association of British Columbia and Yukon - Fall 2007: Reverse Culture Shock | Life (no...