Getting My Japan Instructor Visa: My Pre-Adventure!

Hey all!

So it’s been awhile and I realized I’ve been procrastinating writing this post… Sorry! Old habits die so hard.

Downtown LA
Downtown LA

Anyways, I received my Certificate of Eligibility in the mail ahead of schedule! It arrived on Tuesday the 18th and I took it straight up to the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles the next day. Interac had notified me when Immigration approved my CoE, when it arrived in the Tokyo office, and they sent me a tracking number for it once it was in FedEx’s capable hands. I had to sign for the package so it’s best to make sure someone is at home on the scheduled delivery date!

So then off I went to figure out where on this good Earth the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles was located. Of course it wound up being smack in the middle of the downtown business district and parking was $4.00 for every 10 minutes… Not happening! But they are kind enough to give alternate parking lots in the area on the website (here) and the time it would take to walk to their office from each. Good things to check for here! Cities are expensive!

Both Interac and the Consulate advise calling ahead to check that you have all the documents ready and available for the visa application. In Los Angeles for a 1-year Instructor visa you need (1) the visa application which you can download on their website here, (2) a recent passport photo –2″x 2″ (yes, another one!), (3) your original Certificate of Eligibility, (4) a copy of your CoE, and (5) a valid passport*.

So I set off on a delightfully sunny Wednesday afternoon to brave the traffic and crowded city I generally do my very best to avoid! Directions to about three different parking lots in hand (less exorbitantly priced than the building lot, but still more than I would like to pay…) I wound up in a completely different lot on Spring St. and closer than I thought to California Tower #2, highrise that is home to the Consulate. There was a ridiculous hill to climb and a never-ending set of stairs to traverse (I hadn’t found the escalator yet!) before I reached the plaza that led to the buildings. It was really a very pretty place with an outdoor amphitheater, a mini-lake/fountain, and a lot of food joints!

California Towers Plaza
California Towers Plaza

Inside Tower #2 security checks you in, gives you a sticker, and directs you to the appropriate set of elevators. A kindly security guard set me on my course to the 17th floor and up I went in my bright and shiny elevator! Another security guard checks your bags when you enter the actual Consulate and you need to take a number to the Visa window (#6 I believe… there’s a big sign) and not stand in a line-that’s-not-really-a-line-just-a-large-group-of-bored-Japanese like I did for about five minutes! Once I was actually there and browsing the good-sized library room it wasn’t long before my number was called.

California Tower #2
California Tower #2

If you have all your materials ready like you should (because you were a good little teacher and called ahead!) it takes maybe 5 minutes total and you have the option of either (1) coming back when they tell you to pick up your completed visa, or (2) bringing a pre-paid FedEx envelope so they can send it back to your home. Once you get it, you have three months to enter Japan.

Because I am only an hour away from L.A. (with some traffic) I elected to return. The Consulate is in the same building as my old roommates work so it wasn’t that bad. I applied for the visa on Wednesday and was able to pick it up on Friday! Good stuff, fast service! When I went back for my visa, I didn’t get lost, had less traffic, found the escalator (yes!), and found a quicker way to walk from the parking garage to the building. So much better!

Basically, applying for your instructor visa is a very simple process once you finally have your CoE in hand! I picked up my approved and completed final visa on the same day that Interac estimated my CoE would be approved by immigration. Everything is going so fast! The process takes minimal time and is good practice in navigating a large city with no map, just the knowledge of the streets you memorized on Google the night before (I don’t have a smart phone people. That’s cheating! ;) ) It all went very well and now I am almost fully ready to head to Japan and a bright new adventure!

* Make sure to check the requirements for the Consulate you are visiting. They vary! And the information on the application varies. For example, I needed to put down the place my passport was issued but didn’t need the ID number issued by my country (which I still think is SSN in America. But double check!)

American Culture: Valentine’s Day!

It’s February 14th and hearts, chocolate, and flowers abound! What day is it?  Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day!

Now this day is celebrated in many ways in many parts of the world, but Americans have differing views on this “day of romantic love.”

(1) Valentine’s Day is the day that couples everywhere buy each other gifts and expect displays of romanticism and caring. Jewelry,

My Valentine from my parents <3
My Valentine from my parents

chocolate, flowers, stuffed animals, balloons, and romantic dates are used to show your love for your partner. Males and females give each other gifts in America; we don’t celebrate White Day or have some other holiday for the other half to return the affection so it’s all done on this one day. Some people adamantly state that it’s the thought that counts while others correlate the size of the gift or display with how much their partner cares for them. Either way, Valentine’s Day is a day that lovers expect to spend together (or at least thinking of each other if it’s long-distance) doing something to show the other that they care.

(2) S.A.D. Day is Valentine’s day for all the single people out there! Single Awareness Day is acknowledged as both good and bad depending on the person. Some people resent the displays of love and affection between couples all over the place and are unhappy while others get together with other single friends and party! I usually grabbed my roommates (one single, one in a long-distance) and we would go out to dinner together and then stay-in for a movie night! This day presents a wonderful challenge showing the power of positive thinking!

(3) There is also a group that refuses to acknowledge Valentine’s Day because they believe it has become too commercial. And it’s true that stores have had candy, lingerie, and heart decorations everywhere since mid-January trying to get customers in the mood

Happy Valentine's Day!
Happy Valentine’s Day!

to buy lavish gifts for their significant other. Every commercial on T.V. is full of happy couples joyously presenting another diamond or bouquet to each other. Again, I recommend positive thinking! If you let yourself get caught up in the commercialism you lose the meaning behind your gifts and I would understand why people don’t like that. So remember it’s the thought that counts! ;)

(4) Another group, single or paired off, recognizes Valentine’s Day as ‘the day of love’ and shares this with everyone. Neighbors, friends, family, lovers, enemies,yourself, everyone! They see it as a day where the community can work towards making anyone they come across a little bit happier by showing they care. Give someone a smile, maybe even a hug! Brighten someone’s day. People give chocolate or little gifts and cards to their friends and family. This is the group I joined this year, my parents are taking me out to dinner tonight and I received a wonderful little box of my favorite candy: Reese’s!

I’m sure there are other groups that didn’t make this list but these are the major viewpoints I have come across in my life.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated usually in elementary schools with a class party and the giving of small candy and/or fun cards with popular cartoon or movie characters on them. Usually it is a wonderful time for crafts and creative lessons! There aren’t usually

parties in Jr. High and High schools but all over the school are boys and girls carting around stuffed animals and balloons from their boyfriends and girlfriends. I’ve seen girls trying to carry stuffed bears bigger than themselves between classes! Valentine’s Grams are a popular school fundraiser at all levels. For anywhere from a quarter to $5 different clubs and organizations in the school sell and will deliver flowers, cards, candy, or stuffed animals to another persons classroom. My high school choir and band came in during class and sang as an option for their Grams.

No matter how you’re celebrating, use this day to tell the important people in your life that you care! I think it’s wonderful that an entire day is devoted to love and friendship like this. It’s a nice reminder to you and your loved ones that you are not alone and always have each other.

Happy Valentine’s Day all!

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you belong to any of the groups listed, or more than one? :)


American Culture, Holidaysamerican culture, american valentine's day, day of love, single awareness day, valentine's day

Getting An International Driving Permit (IDP)

Hey all!

So today I went on down to AAA for my International Driving Permit! My placement in Japan is a driving one so my company gave us instructions for it. You need (1) 2 passport sized photos (signed on the back), (2) the application form which you can find ontheir website here, (3) a valid United States drivers license, and (4) it cost me $15.

One step closer!
One step closer!

There’s no test, you just need an actual driver’s license from your home state. It was honestly the easiest, fastest process ever. If you’ve ever gone to a DMV you know you can sit there for hours and hours while it seemed AAA was on top of it! All you do is take these materials to your closest AAA branch office (I’m pretty sure they all do it) and sit down with one of their travel agents. In and out in 15 minutes if there’s not a long line. Even if you don’t have photos or the application, some offices take passport photos for you (for an extra fee) and they always have the application there for you as well. Apparently I was the only person she’d seen with all of the steps done already!

A lot of travel agencies recommend getting an IDP as a form of identification before you go traveling. It is translated into 10 languages other than English and is valid in over 150 countries currently. This is helpful if you have to identify yourself to or need help from police in non-English speaking countries as at least they know who you are and that you are American. Also, even if some countries don’t require an IDP to drive, some rental car companies require an IDP to rent from them so make sure to always do your homework!

So now I’m one step closer to leaving for Japan! All the little pieces are coming together and I’m so very excited to begin this wonderful adventure! I picked up an awesome “travel” journal today (really just a pretty hardbound notebook) to document everything I do and learn on the spot and hopefully I’ll then be able to put it up here. :)

Have a fantastic February all! Go for those dreams!

*NOTE: These steps are for USA IDP’s. If you live outside of America, your requirements will probably be different.

Beginning Certificate of Eligibility and Visa Info (VIDEO)

Hey all!

So this is a recent video I made about my placement (which I already talked a bit about in this post), my departure date and flight (which I already told all of you in this post)– feel special, you’re all remarkably well-informed in a timely manner!– and info about my visa application which is  moving right along! Enjoy and let me know if you have ANY questions!

Have a remarkable day!

American Culture: The Legend of Groundhog Day

Hey all!

Today is February 2nd and any school kid will tell you it’s Groundhog Day! This is a holiday mostly recognized by the elementary school set, but it’s based on the tale of a groundhog. Every year in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania crowds gather to celebrate the groundhog-clipartnight before the resident groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, makes his weather prediction every February 2nd.

In accordance with an old German lore (the earliest settlers of Pennsylvania), if the groundhog (a hibernating animal) sees its shadow when leaving its den, it is scared back into its hole and there will be six more weeks of winter. But if no shadow is cast, spring will come early! Seeing as Groundhog Day fell on the same Sunday as the Super Bowl (click here to learn more about it!), Phil’s announcer read his prediction a little differently today:

“A Super Bowl winner I will not predict, but my weather forecast you cannot contradict. That’s not a football lying beside me, it’s my shadow you see. So, six more weeks of winter it shall be!”

Elementary schools use Groundhog Day as a focus for art, reading, and writing projects all around the country. While Americans enjoy learning about Phil, his forecast is never taken too seriously. It is just some traditional fun! While I’m sure the rest of the country is disappointed to learn there will be six more weeks of winter due to the record cold and snowfalls that have occurred since December, California is excited to know there is some hope for cooler temperatures and maybe, just maybe a bit of rain!

So whether you’re hoping for an early spring, for winter to actually start, or if you’re out of the country and interested in some American myths enjoy Groundhog Day and bundle up!

Do you have any favorite myths, legends, or stories? What does your country/state/city celebrate still?

Still curious about Groundhog Day? Check out its website here!

American Culture, HolidaysAmerica, culture, February 2, folklore, Groundhog Day, holiday, myth, Punxsutawney Phil

American Culture: Super Bowl Sunday

Hey everyone!

American Football

Today I wanted to talk about a very important day in many Americans lives: Super Bowl Sunday! American Football has one of the largest fan bases of any sport here in the U.S. and the entire pro-football season all leads up to this one moment. Today is a day when people gather together at the house with the biggest T.V. they can find (and usually bring all of theirs as well to hook up into one huge screen!) and eat chips, dip, salsa, and hot chicken wings with as much beer as can be stuffed into the fridge and coolers. Everyone knows about the Super Bowl and everyone picks a side. Denver is my personal choice but as they are losing rather badly right now (halftime) I decided to write this post!

It is common to walk around residential areas and hear the shouts of enraged or excited fans and if anyone dares turn off the television or change the channel…. Well, it was nice knowing them. Right now, a large southern California cable provider has failed and the channels aren’t working so they’ve stopped answering their customer service phone about five minutes after the drop! Too many very very angry people!

While this sport and this game is taken seriously by some, for others the commercials that companies spend millions on and all year planning are the highlights! The Super Bowl commercials are used all year round after the game because they are well known to be the best of the best in entertainment. Popular sites such as YouTube even hold contests to rank them after the fact.

So whether you are watching for the teams (go Denver!), the food, or the commercials Super Bowl Sunday is basically an American excuse to host a party, get competitive and excited with a bunch of friends, and spend the day having a good time in an all-American, crazy kind of way!

Check out what it looks like when you mess with the TV during the game here! (2012 Super Bowl!)

American Culture, Holidays, With VideoAmerica, American Football, broncos, commercials, culture, Denver, football, Seattle, Super Bowl Sunday