Meeting with my past

It was good to see my brother and his partner in Devon. There hadn’t really been time to catch up at the wedding; it was important we do that before I leave. I’m so glad I made the trip down there.

Likewise with my older sister, whom I met up with here in Bristol at lunchtime. I’m so proud of her doing what she’s doing.

Tonight I’m staying in Garfield Villa, the house I lived in for over a year following my return from Japan in 2003.

It’s funny being back here. The house and its lovely occupants take me back to that time.

I find myself becoming the person I was then. If you’d asked me yesterday if I was very different 5 years ago, I would have said no, not really. But ask me tonight, and the answer is a definite yes, I really have changed.

I actually find it quite disturbing to come face-to-face with the Joseph of five years ago. He’s a bit of an egotistical twat, to put it politely. He was a Joseph who cared a lot about the opinion of others, and actively sought to entertain. I feel he lacked confidence in himself, and sought to hide behind a mask of humour – and enjoyed being seen as a boundary pusher.

This was also the Joseph who desperately wanted a girlfriend, and actively sought a partner using dating websites, and getting close to friends’ friends. He had quite a few disastrous ‘encounters’, all of which become anecdotes told at parties, the bearded farmer one being the most famous.

I’m not ashamed of that Joseph: it was a necessary part of my growth, but I do feel uncomfortable taking on that character now. Reflecting on what happened tonight, I can clearly see just how much I have changed since 2003, how my internal reactions to identical stimuli (separated by time) are very different.

So in a way, it’s comforting. It’s comforting to know that there has been change. But I also feel badness inside that I wasn’t able to assert myself.

It’s also made me wonder what would have happened had I not gone to university, had I not started work on my spiritual life, had I not met *Twinkle*. I think for me, the act of physically moving to different places and meeting many different people, being exposed to different ideas, has contributed an awful lot to my growth. So that begs the question – does growth now take a back seat to financial necessity and the comfort of routine?

Of course not. But I feel that the end of this era of regular ‘forced change’ does mean that I will need to now put in a good deal more effort to actively continue learning and growing. Yes, I think the challenges of living in Japan as a foreigner will to some extent provide fuel for further growth as a matter of course, but that won’t be enough. It’s important that I continue to engage with life on a daily basis, and not get complacent.

I find that idea exciting, yet scary too. Thursday really is a big day. It’s not just a flight to Japan, it’s the start of what I think will be one of the most challenging periods of my life to date.

Needed: Advice on paying tax in Japan

I was wondering if anyone out there can give me some advice, or point me in the direction of a reliable information source, regarding tax and insurance in Japan.

Until now, when working in Japan my income tax has always been sorted out by my employer. Also, as I have never stayed there for a full year, I think I have escaped from having to pay certain other taxes. My health insurance has also been sorted out either by my employer or university.

As of next week, I’ll be pretty much self-employed.

I don’t want to find myself in the position where a year down the line I am suddenly faced with a large tax bill, so my question to people living in Japan is, does anyone know what I have to pay and how I go about paying it? Is there just income tax, or do they also have what we call Council Tax (charged to households, as opposed to , to pay for local services). Would I be eligible for the Japanese state pension if I payed contributions towards that, or would I be better off sorting out my own? Does anyone know of any specialist support centres / helplines that I could contact that give advice on all of the above?

Also, can anyone recommend a reputable life insurance company?

Finally, does anyone know how one goes about creating one’s Last Will and Testament in Japan, or what the default rules are if one dies without one?

Any advice would be gratefully received. Thanks 🙂

CELTA: we did it!

Who’da thought it, the end of August. The trees are already starting to drop their leaves – is summer really over already? Seems like it was only yesterday that I was in my little student flat in Sheffield, wishing the winter would end. That’s one thing I miss when I’m busy: I don’t have time to take in the passing seasons.

I’m now on a little First Great Western train heading south towards Devon, having left Sheffield for the final time about 5 hours ago. It’s been a good journey; all’s gone smoothly with only the compulsive nose-picker causing any discomfort. When the train stopped at Hereford I had the chance to offload my huge bag on mum and dad – they were waiting on the platform, and handed me my passport and other post in return. back on the same train, I can now travel light as I visit my siblings in the south.

CELTA – The end cometh

Yesterday, after 4 weeks of intense learning involving over 150 hours of contact time and 80 hours of homework, we finally completed our CELTA course. Of the sixteen of us that began, only one dropped out – everyone else passed – well done us!
Whilst we all sought to support everyone else, it was the other three members of our Teaching Practice groups (four groups of four) that we spent most of our time working with, and thus supporting / being supported by. Our group lost one of our members in week two (due to stress overload perhaps?/ undue lack of confidence), and whilst this was a bit of a blow, Jane, Josh and I decided that it was that bit of extra adversity that we had to overcome in order that we could go on to greater glory.
We were right to think that: when the provisional grades were handed out yesterday all three of us were delighted to be amongst those who received ‘B’s, which on average only 25% of CELTA-ites achieve.
As a group we also applauded Alice, who demonstrated such a talent for teaching that she was awarded an ‘A’ – a grade that only 5% of students achieve (as we were jokingly told at the beginning, “Only people who don’t need to come on the course achieve As”).

It had been a good final day. We’d started off with an advice session on job-hunting / TEFL CV writing (very useful), then spent some time getting our portfolios (containing records of all completed assignments / teaching practice / observation) up to date for submission. In the afternoon, some trainees gave their final lessons, whilst the rest of us were overcome by ‘creativeness’ and dreamed up a couple of videos starring a set of white board pens sporting blu-tac faces. Video shoot complete, we made our way to the garden for a celebratory party put on by the English Language Teaching Centre, for the benefit of summer school teachers and CELTA trainees. The perfect way to bring things to a close.
It felt a bit funny when we finished. We’ve been given our certificates, we’d exchanged thanks – we were free to go, but no-one moved. Was it really over? What were we supposed to do now?
After a few minutes, we started to move. Thank you, thank you, it’s been great, tough, but really enjoyed it, thank you.
Pub anyone? Sounds like a good idea.

We sat in the back garden for an hour or so chatting. Talking about the past few weeks, talking about the next few months. Some people are off to work abroad (Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, Spain to name but a few). Others are sticking around in Sheffield for a bit whilst they look for work. Some still have their degrees to complete.
We were talking about how these days, a goodbye is no longer a ‘good bye’. The reason? Facebook. With Facebook, you can contact virtually anyone incredibly easily, even without their contact details, so there seems little need for real ‘goodbyes’. It’s not that Facebook provides a continuation of real-life social interaction (although it can help alleviate feelings of sadness related to not being able to hang out with friends, as it provides small but regular doses of ‘themness’), it’s more that it increases the chances that you’ll see people again.

I find it fascinating how in this way technology has fundamentally changed what I used to feel was an important part of human interaction (saying semi-permenant goodbyes). Personally, I think this is a very good thing, as I never liked goodbyes, and the number of times I’ve met people for a second time whom I never thought I’d see again tells me that there really is no need for goodbyes anyway. But I’m grateful for Facebook for giving me a socially acceptable reason / excuse to not place great weight on partings, when social norms might dictate that I do otherwise.

Having said all that, I will miss my coursemates. Genuinely ‘good’ people, the kind of people who will make a difference wherever they go.

Anyway, the train is now approaching Newton Abbot where my brother should be waiting to pick me up. I’d best sign off.


Oh So Nearly There

oh yes, things are good. I passed my final CELTA assignment on first submission (yay!), now just planning my final lesson (featuring Mr. Bean; he’s a real global celebrity), for delivery in about 20 hours from now.

We have a wee bit more to do on the Friday, but it’s not going to be too demanding, and should be pretty handy – it’s all about finding TEFL jobs. In the afternoon we’ll be attending a summer school party (food and drink kindly provided by the centre), then that’s it. We’re done. We should be given our provisional results on the day.

I travel to Devon to see my brother and family on Saturday, Bristol on Sunday to see my sister and co., Oxford on Monday to see my other sis and co, then I have two days of final packing / sorting out currency / tying up all loose ends here in the UK.

Then, 6am Thursday morning I leave for Heathrow.

All I need now is my visa – the embassy has had my application for a week – might give them a call tomorrow to see if all’s OK.

Very very excited!