Monday 24 January 2011

A Tale of Woe (and quite a bit of Self-Pity)

I've been AWOL a little bit, trying to recover from the truly disastrous JET interview I had last Monday.

It's a tale of Squirrels, Sweet Potatoes and Subconscious Self-Sabotage
Here's the run down:

It started off well enough. I got the letter informing me I had an interview on Wednesday and celebrated by bootie popping in The Faerie's kitchen.
But then I realised that the day of the interview was the 17th - in four days.

And I still had a 4000 word assignment to complete.
Cue a big slump of melancholy into my Chicken Quesadilla.
Quesdaillas are not sad food, nor have I ever been known to be sad when food is present, so this was indeed an odd image for the Faerie to see. She scraped me off her table and sent me home to sleep.

I'd reached my target and now I had to go back and edit all 4,213 words to prevent being penalised for going over the word limit. And reference everything (which is going back over everything I'd written and giving credit to the people whose information I had used in the longest, most arduous and specific manner possible).
The outside world became a fairy tale I'd heard of when I was young. I immersed myself in my topic and began to curse out the forebearers of the  people I was talking about in my essay. The amazing Bobbi Jane Gardener has advised me to do my research and given me an amazing amount of info regarding what to do if I get an interview, so at intermittent intervals, I would open a new tab and do some Japanese research, on sites like NHK - ah, the government has had a reshuffle! Interesting...and something about a whaling ship - am I allowed to discuss such sensitive topics in my interview?! Okinawa, Okinawa...I read alllll about Okinawa (because I'd mentioned it in my application form).  Looked back on the JET website, about what kind of person they were looking for to take up the mantle of ALT.
I made notes. NOTES!
I started to feel more confident. I started thinking, hey, maybe I could do this.
They say optimism comes before a disastrous Friday evening.

I re-read acceptance letter from JET in order to plan my journey.

Right, so I need 4 passport pictures, my acceptance letter and my passport for the interview.



My passport?

As in, the passport that I had left at home?

The home that is 150 miles away?

I phoned the JET desk and asked if any other form of identification was possible, but it's the Japanese embassy, so that's a massive no.

To say I had a bit of a panic attack was a minor understatement.
It got worse when I saw the price of the tickets - £46 to get home from uni, a tenner (£10) to get from home to the interview in London and then £52 to get from London back to uni.
I started pacing around my room and then promptly fell over because my body was so used to being hunched in front of the computer screen the muscles had cramped.
I kid you not.
And I needed to dress professionally, but I didn't think any of my clothes were appropriate, so this meant I had to go clothes shopping.
I love food shopping because, depending what you're eating, it almost always tastes good.
This cannot be said for clothes.
Shirts that ride over bosoms when arms are lifted, exposing tender, poke-able tummies.
Collars that show far too much, but throttle you when buttoned up.
Trousers that are far too snug around the bottom area, but gap obscenely at the waist, while a bitter draft blows about my ankles.
Having no quesadillas to slump into (having eaten them all), I had to make do with my bowl of rice.

The effect was not the same.

To make sure I actually went through with clothes shopping, I enlisted the help of the Faerie. Most of the shirts in the high street shops were too short, so we had to go to another, slightly 'higher end', one.
I found a shirt we were both happy with.

However, as soon as I bought it, I attempted to take it back.
The Faerie: What are you doing?
Me: I'm going to take it back!
The Faerie: Why?!
Me: *panicking* It's £25! I just paid £25 for a shirt! I must be mad! I can't afford this! I'm a student, not the Queen!
The Faerie: Stop complaining and don't return the shirt.
The Faerie: Stop complaining. We are leaving. With the shirt.

I'm brilliant under pressure.

I also managed to find a pair of tights that might actually reach my hips.Thus, the shopping trip was declared successful (despite my misgivings).

The Wonder Thing: You know this essay you're writing?
Me: Yeah?
The Wonder Thing: Don't you have to give in a paper copy? In person?
Me: Yeah?
The Wonder Thing: Isn't it due in on Monday? Same day as your interview?
Me: Yea - aw, crap!

Because I would be in London for the interview, I would have no opportunity to hand in the hard copies of the essay. And since it was now Saturday, the office was closed, so there was no way I could drop it off early either or send it through the post.

The word 'Alack!' came to mind. As well as 'Alas!' and 'Oh, bugger'.

It is decided that The Wonder Thing will hand in my essay for me.

He has no idea where the office is.

Ye Gods.

I wake up, and go down to my college printing room.

It is locked.

Because it is a Sunday.

I kick the door.

I walk hobble the 15 minutes to the library to print off all 32 pages that need to be handed in.

I also type out an instruction sheet for where The Wonder Thing needs to go, what needs to go on the cover sheet and how much I seriously appreciate his help because if the essay was not handed in on time, I would lose 10% and go down a grade, so please can he go in extra early and get help from the office lady and avoid the 4pm rush?

I put it in a special folder and just miss the bus.

I wait 30 minutes for the next one.

I post the work through The Wonder Thing's house and go to the train station. Because I missed the bus, because I was in the library, I missed the train and have to wait half an hour for the next one.

When I finally get my backside onto the train, I sigh in comfort as I sink into a seat and scrabble in my bag to take a look at my JET interview notes.
Whoa. Dude. Where are my notes?
I know I had them, I remember having them in my hand as I got ready to leave my room - but then I remembered my phone and put the notes down on my...on my bed.
Oh, frick on a stick!

I arrive at my home station and patiently wait for my lovely Pappi come and pick me up. There is a teenage couple making out so voraciously that I start composing a PDA PSA (Pubic Displays of Affection Public Service Announcement) in my head.
My family arrive. I celebrate by throwing my entire mass on them to show that I appreciate their presence.
I'm sure that, somewhere, deep down, possibly in the tender area being forcibly nudged by my elbow, they feel the same.
When we get home, I disassemble my room, searching for the passport.
It's not in my drawer.
It's not in my bed.
Or under it.
It's not in my book box.

Where is it?!

Eventually, I find my passport in a bag full of random paper that could be mistaken for trash.
I'm an idiot.

Monday - Interview Day
I wake up nervous. As well as my formal clothes for the interview, I'm also carrying various other carrier bags full of other stuff I have forgotten, and some pasta for the train back to uni. After dropping The Bro and The Littlest Sis at school, Pappi and I head to the shopping centre, where we sit outside the photograph shop, waiting for them to open so I can take my picture, because all 2 photo machines in town are broken.

In the pictures, a stray strand of hair has escaped, making me look slightly manic, thus proving that pictures can truly see into the depths of your soul.

We drive to London and I change into my formal short and skirt and my Converses and get on the train to Green Park, the station nearest the embassy. I am an hour and 25 minutes early. I wander around according to my instructions and arrive back at the place I started.
I realise I have read the wrong line and had been walking in the wrong direction.
After walking in the right direction, I finally see the Japanese flag hanging off the embassy. I'm highly relieved.
But I'm still an hour early.
I go to the park across the road and change from my Converses into my heels. And wait.
While I am waiting, I am investigated by a squirrel.
That's right. A squirrel.
The squirrel dodges and then peeks at me from under the bench.

This was the boldest squirrel I ever did see in my life - it walked up to the bin next to the bench I was sitting on and stared at me, telepathically demanding food. And it fluffed it's tail specially when it saw me taking a picture.

I'm not even lying! LOOK AT IT!!
I stared back at it, refusing to be blackmailed - the pasta is the only fuel I will have for the next 5 hours.

Then it scurries onto the bench and - I swear this is true - it starts posing on the bench handle, lying on it like it was in a gosh darn car advert or something. It was literally lounging on this bench handle. I'm like 'ARE YOU FURREAL?!'

A few runners look at me funny. I stare back at them. They run on, perhaps a little faster than before
There are all sorts in the park. I even see some sort of military training exercise. At ten to three, I finally get up and stagger to the embassy. There are two other girls already there (WITH NOTES!!) but one is taken to an interview shortly after I arrive. I look around at the presentation they had in the area we were waiting in. It was really interesting, about the bicentenntial celebration of British and Japanese relations, based around a hundred year old Japanese Gateway in Kew Gardens. The other girl is surprised when she realises I was still at uni.

Before the interview, we watch a video and chat to two previous JET alumni, who were the women escorting us through the embassy. We then do a brief English test and go to separate areas to wait for our individual interviews.
Which is when I start doubting.
Whoa. What was I doing here?
Was I stupid enough to think I was going to get this? The other people were actually organised! They didn't forget their notes! They are not currently holding their swimming costume in a plastic bag because they were ORGANISED!
This is unfortunate, since interviews are usually my forte because I am organised and above all, confident in myself.
When I am allowed into the room, I am already hyperventilating.
There are three people - from what I understand, one of them is a woman who teaches Japanese in English , one is a former JET alumni and one was someone who works for the embassy.
It starts off badly.

Former Jet alumi: So you're applying for the ALT position. Can you tell me what it stands for?
Me: *overconfidently* Assistant Learning -
Former Jet Alumi: Language, not learning.
Me: Oh God!

And then I deteriorate oh so very quickly.

Woman who teaches Japanese: It says on your form that you are learning Japanese?
Me: Yes, I am.
Woman who teaches Japanese: Can you introduce yourself in Japanese?
Me: *takes a deep breathe* Konnichiwa! Watashi wa A Simple Thing desu. Dozo yoroshikou. Hajimemashite. *covers face* I'm sorry! I've never said that to an actual Japanese person who's not my teacher before!

But I think the worst bit was definitely when the man who works for the embassy asks:

Man who works for the embassy: So it says you are interested in Okinawa. Do you know what Okinawa's most famous export is?

The first thing that comes to mind was 'Karate'. And then I think, No, it can't be karate. It has to be something like rice, or ceramics? Brain, keep up! Stop not thinking!

Me: I don't know.

Which is a good thing to say if you genuinely are not sure. But then I add

Me: Sweet Potatoes?

One of the main rules of interviewing, is never guess. If you are wrong, you'll look ridiculous.
After I realised what a stupid thing I'd said, I start hyperventilating again, and they think my asthma was playing up.
No. I was just a very big idiot.

Safe to say, I don't think I will be in Japan this summer, but the interview was a good experience. The interview panel were incredibly kind, and they asked questions about stuff I'd written on my form (I'd written I don't eat pork, and they asked what I would do if I were offered a dish such as tonkatsu. I replied I'd throw my preferences out the window and eat it. Hey, I do it with [melted] cheese all the time!)

I met the other girl on my way out and we chatted a bit. Her interview had gone very differently from mine - she had been asked questions mainly about herself and her experience. They'd asked her next to nothing about Japan, which she'd been surprised about.
I went to the train station, and stared at a girl I'm sure was Sienna Miller for about an hour. And then after eating my non squirrelled pasta, I fell asleep.

Oh and I checked my notes. Karate is the most famous export of Okinawa.

Ah well. On the bright side, it was an experience and I did learn a lot from it. I know my personality and enthusiasm came across well in other parts of the interview, but I was easily intimidated by the circumstances and my organisation and preparation needed some massive work. If I want to work abroad by myself, then I can't be as easily cowed as I was in the interview.
Hopefully, remembering these things will keep me in good stead for the future!


  1. Aaaawww! I'm still hopeful on your behalf though! I would have broken down :(

  2. Aw, cheers! I really appreciate that :) It'd actually be God's work if I got it, because He knows I didn't really do anything to contribute!


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