Just as most people remember falling in love for the first time, bringing their newborn baby home or eating their first bag of nik naks (I might be alone on this one), I remember the day I decided that I wanted to live in Japan.
I was lying down on a mattress in my friend’s apartment after having just spent an hour or so covering all the little lights that flicker in her lounge. I have a hard time falling asleep when there is too much light in the room and Ducky’s lounge was a veritable mini Tokyo of microwave, TV, kettle and computer lights. We had spent the day at a very big LAN and computer expo and the excitement of all the anime products and PC games were still mulling around in my mind. Amongst the many manga and scantily clad bunny-girl figurines I spotted a magazine called Otaku. At the time I did not think much of it but a few years later I ended up writing reviews for that little Japanese Dr Livingstone of the magazine world, exploring the South African jungle and spreading the word about Japanese culture and entertainment. It was also in this magazine where I saw the JET program advertised for the first time.
I am not sure if it was all the Death Note merchandise or the fact that I had been browsing some Japanese handouts from Ducky’s journalism course just before bed but I just knew this was something I had to try. One way or another I was making my way to the land of the rising sun.
The idea was rock solid but the execution thereof would turn out to be somewhat more troublesome. So many things happened from when I first spotted the advert for the JET program (The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) and getting my final confirmation that it would be easier for me to illustrate how it all went down with a list of emails that flitted across the internet for the last few years.
Embassy of Japan to Furiida: Please note that you have been selected to take part in the JET interviews and tests to be held at the Consul of Japan in Cape Town.
Embassy of Japan to Furiida: I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for attending the 2009 Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) interviews. The Embassy would like to inform you that your name is on the short-list that has been sent to Tokyo for consideration.
Doctor to Furiida: I regret to inform you that the x-rays of your hip have confirmed our suspicion that there is a tumour in the left femur; we need to get you into surgery as soon as possible in order to perform a bone graft.
Embassy of Japan to Furiida: It is our great pleasure to inform you that you have successfully
passed the 2nd stage of the screening process for the 2009 JET Programme year and are now on the final short-list for ALT candidates.
Doctor to Furiida: Even though your bones are healing with Wolverine type speed (I may be exaggerating what my Dr said but just go with it) I cannot in good conscience have you travel to another country so soon after surgery.
Embassy of Japan to Furiida: While you incur no penalties by declining your offer at this stage of the process you will need to apply again from the start for the 2010/2011 program.
Doctor to Furiida: It is all good Furiida San, your hip is all healed so you can get your ass to Japan now (this may not be exactly the way he worded it either).
Embassy of Japan (second time round) to Furiida: It is our great pleasure to inform you that you have successfully passed the 2nd stage of the screening process for the 2010 JET Program year and are now on the final short-list for ALT candidates.
So here I am a few years older with a few more metal pins in my body than I thought I would have at 26, just waiting for that final email to tell me where in Japan I will be hanging my proverbial hat. In about two months time I will be craving nik naks, butchering the Japanese language and explaining to the kids in my class why koeksisters and biltong are Oishii. In two months time I will be watching the sun rise in the land of ninjas, geisha and samurai.