I’ve been steadily filling out forms and questionaires for my visa paperwork. This process is going to take awhile to be sure. (( –I’m not at all sure how my friend Joy was able to get her visa for Korea so quickly. It took her about a week for everything. Though I suppose student visas are different from working visas and of course Korea is different from Japan.–)) I’m terrified of making a mistake that is going to slow me down in the issuing process. I’ve heard the ten thousand horror stories of disgruntled ALTs and I am quite determined to stay as ahead of the curve as possible. I aim to be problem free! ((–sigh– inadvertent rhyming))
Another thing that has concerned me for awhile is wondering when exactly the major problems with Interac are going to kick in. The internet has made the Japanese ALT industry rather tight knit. Everyone tends to frequent the same blogs and websites. There are warnings written all over, bellowing for practically everyone to hate Japan, hate teaching, hate the culture, and hate the company. It’s rather disillusioning and certainly overwhelming. I’m all for going into a situation as knowledgeable and prepared as possible, but I often wonder why anyone goes to Japan at all if it’s as awful as they say. ((Though I think perhaps a lot of that has to do with expectations and motives and such… but I digress.))
The bottom line is, yes, I have heard the nightmarish reviews and each and every ALT/eikaiwa company out there.
I’ve done my research, I assure you. I know about NOVA. I know about cirriculum sales quotas. I know about being a human tape recorder. I know about mind numbingly simple sentence repetition. I know about the gaijin stigma and isolation. Furthermore, I have heard about delayed paychecks, lower pay rate on holidays, tiny apartments, and being absolutely “abandonded” by whatever company you sign your contract with. I have taken each and every complaint into consideration and I’m still going. I’m in this for the long haul and I’m not going to be dissuaded. I’m not going there expecting to live like an American in America. Nor am I expecting to be treated like a celebrity… unless I get the star treatment akin to Godzilla…
Anyway, tirade aside, I know there have been legitimate problems with all of these companies… Interac most definitely included. But something happened to really give me a little bit of hope. And I am hoping to put this little anecdote out there into the Japanese ALT interweb (haha) and hopefully, somehow it will give someone a little bit of security and hope.
I was a bit confused with some of my paperwork. I need to go to the Japanese Consulate (in Miami) to drop off my Certificate of Eligibility. I can’t send it to Japan from my regular post office. I’m not quite sure why… that’s just the way it works. Well, I received a ton of different PDF forms to download and scan/e-mail. Then I had to send the hard copies to the Tokyo office. Well, the directions in the e-mail were a bit vague and I was slightly confused. I filled everything out, however, and sent my application for the Certificate of Eligibility from my local post office. But then I started to panic… was that a mistake? Was I supposed to take that to the Consulate? Did I just send a useless letter and slow my visa process down dramatically? Am I going to have to go to Korea for the day to leave the country and reenter on a new visa…?!?! There was a rabbit trail of terror I was running headlong down… but I decided to try and chill out and just ask the Tokyo Office about it.
Now, I’ve been fully prepared to not hear back from them much. I’ve been warned, by those inside and outside of Interac, that this is an extremely busy time of year and that correspondence from the Tokyo office is few and far between, leaving me to wander aimlessly admist tons of questions. But I wrote to them nonetheless, expecting to wait for an e-mail for about a week.
I finished my e-mail and got up off the sofa to grab a bit to eat. Then my phone rang. I looked at the number and and recognized the country code… +81. Japan was calling me? I quickly ran through my mental address book. Makiko is still in Switzerland. Tomoko is back in NY now. Mai and Sonoko have American cell numbers… だれですか？ Who on earth is it?
I slid open my phone and tremulously whispered もしもし？((moshi moshi? Hello?))
It was the Interac Tokyo Office!!!
They had just gotten my rather concerned e-mail and were calling to help answer my questions. This literally happened within five minutes of my e-mail being sent. Talk about going above and beyond to help a new, nervous employee out! びっくりした！I was quite surprised! They answered all of my questions, gave me extra information, and they even told me what to expect within the next few weeks and months. I was so stunned by their graciousness and availability.
I know that no organization is perfect and I know that there will definitely be hardships ahead of me. But I feel much more confident in how this is going to go. My recruiter has been consistently available for me and my questions. She has also been honest with me in every particular. The Tokyo Office has reached out to me personally and my fellow teachers have been discussing a lot of different things already. I am eager to continue on this journey and to answer my phone more frequently…. もしもし！HELLO!