An ALT Packing For Japan: Regrets and…. Regrets


I am a world-renowned overpacker. Seriously! Need some wet wipes? Sure. A flashlight? Gotcha! A snack, some paper, spare socks, a band-aid, Continue reading

About Me, Japan, Pre-Japan, Q&Aadvice, ALT, do's and don'ts, , packing, packing list, suitcase

The Great Japan Adventure: Getting There!

Hey all!

So, I wrote this post awhile ago and when I went to actually put it up my internet freaked out and lost it. The. Whole. Amazing. Thing. I was a little too depressed to rewrite it right away, but here’s to a new (and hopefully just as awesome) post! (That’s also being saved every other word!!!!!!!)

March 20th. Just an average day I’d lived through about 23 times, but 2014’s was a bit different. It was the day I left home, family, and everything familiar and understandable to venture off into the unknown for a year. My first ever trip abroad!

Here we go!
Here we go!

Continue reading

The Night Before Departure

It’s about a quarter to 2. AM. And I’m still packing! This might be easier if I was not a hoarder/procrastinator/chronic overpacker but the fact that I am stuffing (folding/rolling ended SO long ago…) my life into a suitcase and a backpack with a 50lb weight limit is kind of irritating. I personally think airlines should set a size limit and if you can fit everything you need into it you should be applauded as the packing-master and tetris-champ and left at that. Thank goodness for the Wii Fit because in my house-of-no-scales I would have been tear-jerkingly over-weight at the airline check-in and paying for that as well as my extra luggage (the aforementioned backpack).

Rant over.

Really though I think my nerves are transferring into packing woes this late at night and the fact that I’ve just said goodbye to my Continue reading

About Me, Pre-Japancalming down, japan tomorrow, nerves, night before departure

Hard Goodbyes and Homesickness: 6 Ways to Beat the Blues

Hey all!

Last glimpses of California...
Last glimpses of California…

Forgot who I was did you? Sorry about that! A lot has been happening and I’m just going to start by going in chronological order starting with this post.

Last Sunday was my birthday! It’s been four years since I spent a birthday at home because I’ve been away at college, so my parents decided to celebrate with a bang! It was a combination Continue reading

About Me, Pre-Japanfamily, farewell, homesickness, homesickness cures, saying goodbye

“Are You Nervous?”

So lately I have been getting this question more and more! It seems every day my family or some random stranger that has heard about my upcoming adventure (from my family) is asking me “so are you nervous?” And I never have been.

"Are You Nervous?"
“Are You Nervous?”

Until one day…

I realize it’s March. Hold the phone! Say that again? Yeah, it’s March. And I checked my countdown and realized I have less than 20 days until I leave for Japan! My, time does fly!

Short answer: Yes. Of course I’m nervous. I think Continue reading

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!)

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.