30 August 2012

Guest blogger: Maz!

During training in Tokyo I had the good fortune of meeting some very lovely people, one of whom was my desk buddy for pretty much the entire training. Hailing from the small island of Tasmania off the coast of Australia it was funny to meet someone who comes from a smaller island than I. I have Mari-Anna to thank for introducing me to the wonderfullness that is Possum Magic (if you haven't read this book, read it now. Now!) A while back Mari-Anna (or Maz to her friends) asked me to write a post for her blog on why I decided to come to Japan (which you can read here if you feel so inclined). And in turn she has written one for me. So without further ado...

Mari-Anna, far right

Hello, Random Japan Readers! Ciara has kindly asked me to be her guest blogger today, about why I decided to make the crazy decision to up and move to Japan.
Well, it is a very riveting story, I assure you! 
I guess the first question you might have is where did I come from? I am an Aussie, from the city of Hobart in Australia's beautiful island state of Tasmania. Ever heard of the Tasmanian devil? Yep, that's real! (It's also endangered...feel free to read up and support the cause!).

Anyway, back to me. Well, when I was in grade 5 at primary school, I began learning Japanese. Why? Because I had to. Not that I was complaining. Most primary schools in Tasmania (and maybe the rest of Australia?) start teaching a language in grade 5 or earlier, the language depends on the school. The most common ones are Japanese, French, German and Indonesian. Australia and Japan are relatively close neighbours, so for tourism and business trade it's a handy language to have.
When I got to grade 7 (high school) I did a semester of Japanese and French, both your basic 101 type courses. In Japanese class it was great because I already knew what was going on. In French class, I had no idea what page we were meant to be turning to. So the next year I dropped French and kept going with Japanese. And kept going and going and eventually majored in Japanese at university, along with Biochemistry. Not to brag, but I got pretty good marks in class for grammar and writing, which I totally owe to my amazing teacher in grade 11 & 12 who had a way of thoroughly and clearly helping us understand the language, whilst making it fun. Having said that, my listening and speaking skills were still pretty...not so good.
In my first year of uni I also came across something life-changing. It is called Wadaiko, or more commonly, Taiko - traditional Japanese drumming, which is common at festivals in Japan and has become a contemporary performing art. A society at uni was starting up and I was one of the founding members. Taiko is not only about rhythm but also about movement and the visual impact. Great for exercise, great for stress relief and great for fun! I trained and performed with this group, called Taiko Drum or 太鼓虎夢, on and off for around 5 years, performing all over the state. Basically the moral of this paragraph is I LOVE TAIKO!!!! And taiko comes from Japan.


Anyway, after graduation life went on, I lived in the states for a year and a half, then worked various temporary jobs in Tasmania. One day while I was at work, I was in the kitchen on break, and happened upon a small group of people from the other department who were having a little cooking demo for fun. I can't remember what they were cooking, but I think it was something Japanese as one person there tried to show off their Japanese knowledge by calling someone "grandma" in Japanese as a joke. Only he wasn't saying "grandma", he was saying "aunt" and didn't realise. Well my head puffed up with my amazing Japanese skills, and I thought to myself that I had studied Japanese for so long, and had a pretty decent knowledge of it, and yet...those listening/speaking skills as well as a complete lack of vocabulary meant those skills weren't really good enough to be of use. So I decided it was time!! Time to do something crazy like quit my job and move to Japan and get those Japanese skills really happening!
So I did. Okay, it wasn't that simple. I, of course, applied to teach english - the only job I'd be able to do really! A note to anyone out there considering doing the same thing: if you're thinking you don't want to go for another 6 months or so, APPLY NOW! The recruitment process for a job can take a lot of time. Also, the fact that I had no formal teaching experience didn't really matter, so don't let that put you off. I eventually got a job with Interac, which is how I met the lovely Ciara!
So now that I've been living here in Tokyo almost 4 months, what are my thoughts? Love it. Every day I'm so glad I made this decision to come here! It has been very humbling though, realising just how much Japanese I don't know (ie, most of it). Depressing even. I have come to realise there is a huge difference between "classroom Japanese" and reality Japanese. Still, I came here for a reason, and even if I don't become "fluent" by the end of my year in Japan (ha! The chances are pretty slim), whatever improvement I make after giving it my best will still be considered a success. And I have improved, a lot! Still a long way to go though. I have had some amazing experiences here and I'm sure there are many more to come. In conclusion, I love Japan!

So there you have it folks. Another Japan enthusiast like myself. (Note: I also love Taiko! The Taiko drumming arcade game may be one of the greatest games of our time. I'm currently plotting on how to sneak one past customs and out of the country.) Maz likes to share her musings and goings on over at http://tassiemazzy.blogspot.jp/ if you want to take a peek.

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Thanks for the comment random human. I will put you on my list of people to rescue when the zombie apocalypse comes. Promise.

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