Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Life in Japan and Korea: Myth vs Reality

I am not an angry blogger; I promise. I am not a bitter blogger; I mean it. Sure, there is a virtual poop-ton of bitter people who are fed up with living in Asia, but rest assured, at the time I write this blog (meaning never say never) I am not one of them. I am making this clear because I want all you out there reading this post to know that I am not trying to be a grumpy old fart raining on your parade for the sake of being a grumpy old fart.

This blog post is based in reality. I am being a realist. If you are an obsessed Japan or Korea fan you may not want to read what I will write, but tough, this is how it is!

I wanted to address some of the false images people have and false assumptions people make about life in Japan and Korea.

1. If I move to Japan or Korea, my life will be better: Maybe, maybe not. There are millions of factors that will cause this to become a reality or not.  Did you come to Asia to teach or live with a massive financial debt hanging over your head or were you running away from a messy divorce? If so, maybe life won't be better for you with a simple geographic change. For many out there though, life does become better.

Simple reasons for this: A massive geographic and cultural change is exciting. It is a sensory overload and an amazing learning experience. Moving to a culture completely foreign and learning to navigate it can be fun. Also, living in a place that may have a deeper history than where you came from may also seem interesting.

2. I want to live in Japan because I love anime and manga: Japan isn't a comic book or a cartoon. it is real and life here is real. It is very different than in Europe and North America, but it is real. People eat breakfast in the morning and go to work. They drink coffee during their coffee breaks and fall asleep with the TV on at night. Life in Japan is certainly cool, but it isn't like a manga or an anime. Sorry!

3. I hear everyone in Japan does Cosplay and I wanna see it: No they don't! To be honest, it is pretty rare to see people doing Cosplay in Japan. It only happens in specific places and only sometimes. Although, as a Canadian, it is interesting and amusing to see people dress up in costumes, it isn't that common. According to my wife and many other Japanese people I have talked to, the regular everyday Japanese person thinks Cosplay is pretty weird. It is a subculture. Sorry folks!

4. If I move to Korea or Japan (some younger readers say this) then I'll never be bullied: ARGH! Please don't think that. Bullying is rampant in these two countries. Their teen suicide rate is through the roof. If you think bullying is bad where you are from, try being pushed to the outside in a group culture!

5. I love Korean dramas and want to move to Korea: Sort of like the anime thing. Life in Korea is interesting, but it is real. Dramas (soap operas in North America) are anything but real. That prince charming way that guys act in those shows...well....they're just TV shows. Nuff said!

6. I really want to move to Japan and Korea because I love the food: Good reason. The food in both countries is outstanding and a fine reason to set up shop there!

7. I wanna move to Korea or Japan cause all the ladies will want me: Did the ladies want you where you came from? If the answer is "No", than maybe you may have trouble here as well. If you go to a club and someone throws themselves all over you right away, either you look like Ryan Reynolds or they've done it many times before. To be honest though, you get a good lady here like you would anywhere else. Be interesting, charming and have some luck on your side!

8. I want to work in Japan or Korea, but I don't want to teach: That is cool. What is skill set though? Do you work for a large multi-national company that will transfer to Japan or Korea. Are you so fluent in the language that you can compete in the local job market? Are you a freelancer who can tele-commute from anywhere in the world? Will you be a language or university exchange student? If not....not sure what you will do?

I lived in Korea and I now live in Japan. They are very interesting countries to call home. They can at times be frustrating though. You will face many of the day to day living problems people all around the world face. You will also get to enjoy many of the benefits of life in such interesting cultures with rich histories.

Follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Teaching in Asia....the podcast?

I started playing with something new this eveing. I started to mess around with something called SoundCloud. Basically I can produce quick, on the fly podcasts using my iPhone. I recorded my first episode this evening. I talk about my book "Teaching in Asia: Tales and the Real Deal"

SoundCloud seems pretty freakin cool so far.

Take a listen and let me know what you think. if you like this mini-podcast, I will make more.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Teaching in Asia

Earlier this evening, an online and "real life" friend of mine asked me, over Twitter, "what exactly is your book about and how can I get it when it is finished?"

That's right folks. I'm in the midst and in the home stretch of finishing my first book. Well, at least the first draft of it at any rate. I have mentioned this before here on this blog as well as on my You Tube channels (from which I am taking a hiatus), on FacebookGoogle+ and on Twitter. Some of you are aware of my writing project and many of you are not. 

Long story....not so short. I was an ESL teacher in South Korea for more than five years. I then went back to Canada, got my elementary school teaching credentials, taught in Canada and then came to Japan where I now teach at an international school. I have been a teacher for ten years now, taught in three countries and have worked in language schools, Canadian public schools as well as the international school system. All the while, I have been a blogger and for more than five years, a You Tube video blogger. 

In those years, I have received hundreds of questions from people all around the world interested in coming to Asia to teach. Some questions have been thoughtful while others, not so much. I have written many a blog post answering some of them and have made even more videos. My videos about teaching in Korea and Japan have received hundreds of thousands of hits. Some of my most popular ones are not so much about facts and advice, but stories from my time in Korea and Japan. 

I am a teacher and I am a story teller. I'm honestly not sure which one I like being more. In a way, they both go hand in hand. 

Last September, while out for a lunch time walk at work I came to a conclusion. There was no way I could ever truly explain everything I want to about working and living in Korea and Japan in a blog format. There's simply too much to discuss. Likewise, I could never do more than scratch the surface with a You Tube video. That's when the idea was born.

I began writing "Teaching in Asia: Tales and the Real Deal" that same evening. A book that would be both practical and hopefully entertaining. A book aimed at those around the world who were interested in coming to either South Korea of Japan to teach. It would be a practical "how to" guide as well as series of stories about my experiences in Asia, both inside and outside of the classroom. People really seemed to enjoy my stories on You Tube so I thought a lot of people out there would enjoy them on paper as well. 

The book started to almost write itself and by November, the bulk of the first draft was completed. Then my work schedule increased and I started video blogging on You Tube more than ever before. With all the time I was spending on You Tube, I had little or no time to write. The book basically got put on the back burner. 

The new year came along and I decided that writing was far more meaningful to me than video blogging. I decided to stop video blogging all together until I could get this project finished. My priority is to get this done and self-published. In 2012, that is a pretty easy thing. My book, once done will be available on the Amazon Kindle store for a small sum. At the moment I am in the midst of adding a few more stories to make it more worth while and fun for the "future readers" out there. 

If you have any thoughts of coming to Asia to teach, this book will help you find a job and hopefully the right one for you. it will also help anyone out there with no classroom experience and for those who do, hopefully offer you a few new perspectives. 

Even if you have no desire to ever teach in Asia, I think you will still find something interesting within it's pages.

Close to launch time, I will let you know about the website for the book itself.

Stay tuned for more!

Check ut a story from my BusanKevin You Tube channel. I shot this one more than 3 years ago. It is about the first time I stepped foot in a classroom. This story and many others will be in "Teaching in Asia: Tales and the Real Deal."

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Japan Week in Pictures

A few photos I took with my phone this week in and around Kobe, Japan where I live.. Hope you like them!

REMEMBER to go and check out my new blog Things I Hate Project. Everyday I'll write a short blog about something in life that I like. I'll complain about it in an ironic and hopefully humorous way!

 Cool wheels

 Blue skies

 Almost home after a day at work.

 Playing cars with my son.

Almost home (6:00pm).

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Influenza Weirdness in Japan

It’s an interesting thing getting sick in another country. I’ve been getting sick in other countries for years and each time, it’s an experience. Obviously, things are simply done differently in other places. Sometimes they seem normal and sometimes they don’t.

Earlier this week I unfortunately got my butt whopped by a bad case of the seasonal flu. Yup, it was my turn. Not sure how much it helps, but normally my wife and I get our seasonal flu shots in late autumn. Last year for one reason or another, we simply forgot. I know many out there will argue that the seasonal flu shot offers at best, minimal protection, but at least it is something. This year we didn’t get our shots and we both got sick.

Now of course there is nothing out of the normal about getting the flu, but what seems odd to me and many other non-Japanese living in Japan is how seriously it is taken here. People talk about getting the flu like we might talk about getting Ebola. Here, the news and citizens in general really talk it up as if it is a life-altering event.

Tapping into the far recesses of my brain, I seem to remember being diagnosed with the flu in Canada very quickly. The doctor would quickly name a list of flu symptoms and ask me if I had them. If I answered “yes”, he would make a prescription for 10-12 days of antibiotics and send me on my way.

The other day here it was quite a different story. Upon arriving at my family doctor’s office they asked me to take my temperature (standard practice for any visit to a doctor’s office in Japan). I handed the thermometer back to the nurse and once she saw my temperature was 38.5C, she gave me a mask to wear and made me sit in a back room away from the main waiting room.

The doctor then gave me an “Influenza test.” With a special kit, he took a cotton swab about three inches long and shoved it deep into my sinus cavity and swabbed. This by no means was a pleasant experience. After that, the swab was placed in a solution and within 5 minutes we had the results. He said, “I’m afraid you have Type A Hong Kong Influenza.” He made it seem so serious and dire. I was starting to get worried.

While waiting for my prescription to be filled, I Googled that strain of influenza and was quickly relieved to find out that all of that very dramatic talk meant I simply had caught a seasonal flu virus.
Amazing how dramatic people can be about something in Canada, we are so casual about.
Yup….being sick in another country can be a strange experience!