Well, I still haven't heard anything back from JET. I have no idea where I stand on the wait list and there is no way to find out. I am not even sure what exactly I am waiting for. Am I waiting for a spot on the “short list” or a spot in the program? Are they the same thing? Information is surprisingly hard to find. In addition, I have been waiting for 6 months already. Is the demand to do JET so high that they can afford to treat potential employees so badly? Apparently.
It was in the hopes of finally getting SOME information from JET that I checked my e-mail once again on Wednesday. Once again, no mail from JET. However, there was a letter from Sakakibara Sensei, and in that letter was a link to the website of a company called INTERAC. Curious, I went to the site. It seemed that INTERAC was in the same business as JET, except was privately run. I saw that interviews were being held in Los Angeles on Saturday, so, on a whim, I completed the on line form. In 4 hours I had received confirmation that I had passed the initial screening, and a more detailed resume was requested by the next day. I sent it in right away. Thursday morning, just as I was about to go for a run, the phone rang and my telephone interview began. By the end of the interview I had been invited to interview in person, provided I could be in Los Angeles at 9am on Saturday morning.
And that is how my journey began. I quickly assembled all of my paper work. Luck and begging helped me get my transcripts and a letter of graduation, which normally takes 2-3 weeks, in 15 minutes. Auntie Joni entered “The Dungeon” at HPA and searched all day for my High School transcripts, which I needed (thanks again Auntie Joni!). I went to Kinko's again and had a set of passport photos taken for the 3rd time (I have spent $50 on passport photos this year!). Finally, I called Mary and begged her to let me stay with her in Santa Barbara. She said that I could. So, on Friday morning at 9am I started driving to Santa Barbara.
I hate driving.
6.5 hours later, after one refueling stop in Vacaville, I arrived in SB. My first stop was the gas station so that I would stop being blinded by the fuel light. This was followed by the second most important stop...
I walked around K-Mart for maybe an hour looking for supplies for my the sample lesson that I would have to do for my interview. I also bought toilet paper for Mary. Toilet Paper: for the woman who has everything. Mary and I met up at 5:30, and once again, I was overjoyed to see her. I really wish it didn't take 13 hours and $90 to get to Santa Barbara and back, because I would love to be able to hang out with Mary more often. She is one of the funniest girls I know, and I have noticed that some the best aspects of Diego's personality are beginning to emerge in Mary as well. However, it seems like she has recently been going through a lot. Anyway, she took me to the beach, which she had never been to in her 4 years at UCSB.
And this is right before she did a face plant trying to jump over this stream.
Naan Stop. Haha. This is the place where we had dinner. Naan Stop. Heehee. Well, the food was good. Actually, if I had stopped before the Naan I would say that the food was fantastic. It was the worst Naan I have ever had. It tasted like ash, was too hard to chew, was cold and looked terrible. I can't understand why a restaurant would advertise it's worst dish. Maybe they just don't realize how bad it was. It was after all, staffed by naan-South Asians who all seemed to be ridiculously stoned.
After eating way too much, Mary took me to an improv comedy show. The show was...well...aside from the fact that there were way too many jokes about Cinco de Mayo and Mexico, it was funny. And this is Mary's computer, which may I point out is the exact same as mine and was purchased in the same week.
We went to bed and I slept very little. Um, perhaps I should clarify that statement. I slept very little because I didn't have a pillow. Not having slept much, I got out of bed at 5am and began to get ready for my interview. Mary wished me good luck and saw me off, and I began the drive to L.A.
I reached the interview an hour early. Good job me. There was a 3 hour seminar from 9-12 which was very informative. Basically, INTERAC is in the same business as JET. It seeks to provide ALTs to local boards of education. However, to stay competitive, it seeks to provide higher quality ALTs at a lower cost and with greater flexibility. They pay their teachers less to help lower the cost, but they also provide more training and support to their teachers than JET seems to. Also, they have the same work hours as JET, but provide more paid vacation time. And, they do not provide housing, like JET does, nor do they provide airfare. However, since both of those things would be my responsibility, I would have the greater flexibility that I have wanted. I was also generally impressed by the presenter. He was upfront about the problems of INTERAC (the lower salary and the lack of housing) because, he said, it was better for the company if potential employees knew about the positives and negatives of working in Japan before they went, rather than arriving, finding that they hated it and leaving. Retention of employees, he explained, was important because it is very expensive to hire and train new employees. And having good employees is helpful for the reputation of the company. Basically, INTERAC seemed a lot more professional than JET. Applying for JET requires you to everything perfectly and requires incredible attention to detail. Photos must be cut to a 3 by 4 cm size, documents must be fastened together in a specific order with a paper clip on the left side, and any irregularity will result in the disqualification of an application. INTERAC's was far more flexible in the details, but much more interested in actually getting good people. There was a phone interview before the actual hour long interview instead of JET's single 20 minute hot seat pressure test, which allows the interviewer to better gauge your character. In addition, INTERAC tests you on your grammar skill, which JET does not, and gives you a personality test. Basically, I got the feeling that INTERAC got to know me better in the 3 days that I have known about it than JET did in the 6 months I have been trying to get a job with them.
I don't know which job I would prefer, though either would be great. I like INTERAC's style better, but JET pays way more 500,000 yen (a little less than $5000) more. Also, JET subsidizes housing. If I did INTERAC, I would need to go to Japan with $5000 to get my housing in order and get me to my first payday. I don't have $5000 at the moment. I may be selling quite a lot of stuff.