The last few weeks… (I’m back!) – Part 1 – What I’ve Been Up To

So I’ve been AWOL for a few weeks, but I’m back now and promise to start back with regular posts.  For now though, I missed a few things that I wanted to talk about, but it’s been a while, so I’m just gonna lump ’em all in this single post in a more simplified form.  Got a bit of stuff that I’ve been up to as well as a couple of reviews.

First up, I should talk about why I was gone for so long.

For two weeks, starting on March 14th, I was living out of a Sleep Inn in Rockville, MD working at an English exchange program for a group of about 120 awesome high school students from Yokohama Hayato High School in Japan.  I got assigned a group of 11 really cool guys and it was my job to show them around for a few weeks.

It turned out to be a really cool program.  The first week was more about the students and community service as well as practice culminating in a really fun Japan Fair.  During this week, the kids visited several local high schools to experience classes and do some Japanese presentations as prep for the Japan Fair.  We also did some community service with some of the American high school kids (planting trees, picking up trash, etc…) and visited a local Boys and Girls Club as well as a community center.  At the end of the week, the Japanese students put on a pretty impressive Japan Fair at the community center.  There were Japanese games, tea ceremony demonstrations, kids writing your name in Japanese calligraphy, and all kinds of performances (dance, singing, martial arts).  All in all, it turned out to be a great day with over 1,600 attendees.

The second week was all about America and it’s culture.  We spent a day in Washington DC visiting a couple of the Smithsonian museums (Natural History, American History, Air and Space) as well as a quick stop at the White House for pictures and a cello performance at the Kennedy Center.  The next day, we took the kids to Lancaster, PA for a day of Amish culture, starting with shopping at various shops, followed by a tour of an Amish house and school, a bus tour of Amish country, a movie about a boy making the decision whether or not to stay Amish, and culminating in a huge family style Amish feast.  The other cultural experience we did this week was a visit to a beautiful Greek Orthodox church followed by a Greek lunch (Pastitsio and Spanikopita).  The kids also had a chance to go shopping at an American mall (which was probably one of their favorite parts of the trip).

The last weekend we went back to the theme of community service and had the kids act as course marshals in the National Walk for Epilepsy.  It was the coldest day of the two weeks and it even snowed a bit, but overall the kids did a great job and hopefully had a bit of fun doing it.

Anyway, in the end, it was a great two weeks.  I met a lot of cool students as well as a bunch of other cool assistants that I’ll hopefully keep in touch with.  I’d still really love to get back to Japan and now I have another reason to do so, especially since I’ve never been to Yokohama.  For those of you who are friends of mine on Facebook, I uploaded some more pictures there, didn’t want to post them on a public page just in case.

So, I spent two weeks at the exchange program, but I was gone for three weeks.  Here’s why.  Last week I had an interview with the Japan Information Center (JIC) at the Consulate General of Japan in New York.  According to the website, “The Japan Information Center (JIC) is the cultural and public affairs section of the Consulate General of Japan in New York. Our primary role is to promote better understanding of Japan and Japanese culture by providing a wide range of information, educational services and programs to the public.”

So, if I were to get the job, I would be an administrative assistant, whose job it would be to maintain correspondence for the JIC and act as a cultural translator/interpreter for all media relations handled by the JIC.  It sounds like a really interesting position and a great opportunity.

As far as I can tell, the interview went great.  Surprisingly though, it was all in Japanese, which was a bit odd, as the job posting mentioned that Japanese wasn’t required for the position.  But sure enough, from the minute I stepped into the office, 90% of the conversation was in Japanese.  To be fair though, I started the greetings in Japanese, so that could be why.  Either way, it was no problem.  I understood everything that was said.  It was just a bit of a surprise.  During the interview, I was also asked to read two short Japanese writing samples.  The first one was no problem at all, but the second one was very political and extremely hard to read.  As I was struggling, he did let me know however that it was intentionally that way.

Anyway, it was a fairly short interview as they had another interview scheduled half an hour after mine.  We mostly discussed what the job entails and he asked me questions about my future plans as well as my strengths and weaknesses.  At the end, he mentioned that there were a few more people to be interviewed, but that I should hear back soon.  Also, another plus, on the way out, he told a woman in the office that I had great Japanese.

The following day, I also had one more thing to do for the position.  I was mailed an example situation and details that I had to take into account and write a sample business letter (in English of course), so that they could check my writing ability.  I think I did fairly well on this as well.  I was also given the opportunity to do it in Japanese as a plus, but my keigo and especially business letter Japanese is fairly non-existent, so I decided not to do it rather than turn in some garbled mess of a letter.

So anyway, that was my last three weeks.  Now I just need to wait to hear back from the Consulate-General.  Fingers crossed….

P.S. – check out part two for the reviews.

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