Sunday, 28 February 2010

5 things I'll miss

Everyone seems to be doing this and as I have to keep my mind off worrying about my visa I thought I'd post about what I'm going to miss about living in England.

The thing I'm going to miss most is my friends and family, this just seems too obvious to put on this list! I'll just list the material and conventional comforts of home.

1) Koppaberg. Actually I haven't really done my research on this one but it seems highly unlikely that Japan would stock my favourite ever alcoholic beverage. The sweet sweet nectar that is Pear Koppaberg. It's awesome for 2 reasons, it tastes like pic n mix and it comes in pints.

2) New Look. Affordable (for me...I still think Top Shop is 99% full of overpriced shit) and great clothes. Tonnes of my clothes are from New Look and probably most of my shoes. When I'm in Tokyo, shopping for clothes and shoes may prove to be slightly more of a challenge. I'm not a big girl. I'm size 12, but I fear I will be considered XXXL in the 109 stores! Sad, but this just means I have to plan carefully what clothes to take with me, they'll need to last me but be easy to mix and match for different looks when I get bored.

3) The British summer. Sounds weird to say that I'll be missing the weather but summer in Britain is awesome! Hanging out in park with some booze and strawberrys, kicking a ball around with friends. I know I'm probably going to do this in Japan but it won't smell the same. Also the seaside! Every country has the seaside but there's only one British seaside! Fish and Chips don't taste the same anywhere else.

4) My own DVD's/Games etc. Bit weird I guess but not having my personal selection of movies and games that I can put on and play whenever I want is something I will miss. I know there will be a million other things to keep me amused but there's nothing than sitting in your own bed in your jimjams and wacking on a movie of your choice or settling down for a proper session of Twilight Princess.

5) British telly. Yep, pretty obvious I know but I'm gonna miss shows like Buzzcocks, Shooting Stars, Peep Show, and even Torchwood (before it betrayed me). Oh beautiful British comedy, tickling that funny bone that only you can reach. There is something so utterly bizarre about our sense of humour, something that other nations just cannot understand. I don't think I'll be finding the same sarcastic nonsense over the other side of the world.

This list took me a long time to come up with. I couldn't even think of many things I will miss. Maybe it will be interesting to do another post like this 6 months down the line when I realize what I really do miss.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Visa update

Yesterday was the day I traveled to London to meet Carly and we would go to the Japanese Embassy in Park Lane to apply for our visas. There were a few hiccups along the way...

When Carly and I booked our flights with STA we asked for open returns which was all fine but the travel agents cannot book you on a flight 1 year in advance because the times and flights have not been planned that far in advance, 11 months is the furthest you can book. So what you have to do is phone STA up (while on holiday) and ask to move your flight date, they book you on a 6 month advance flight...I guess to kind of give you a return ticket...if you were retarded and forgot to ring up then you though "FUCK WHERES MY TICKET??". They are then able to book your time and seats and you pay a small fee.
The woman who was dealing with my application didn't understand this. She saw my itinerary was planned for 12 months, looked at my return date and proceeded to tell me they didn't match...


My plan is to stay for a year, I am going to change my flight dates as soon as STA allow me to.
I can understand that it looks dodgy, what if this ISN'T an open return and my plan is to miss my flight that I've paid nearly £600 for...OK I kind of get it.
Maybe it was silly of me to assume that they would let it slide but then I didn't think it would be a problem. My worries were more focused on my bank statements to be honest! I had to get a print out from the bank showing my recent transactions with a special stamp on it but it doesn't say where the money is coming from so she asked me...I dunno I just felt like a criminal, like it was so suspicious to have 2 largish amounts of money going into my account! Obviously one was my wages from work and the other was a cash loan from a friend. Still I felt like she thought I was really trying to con her into giving me a visa!
Anyway so the itinerary and the plane tickets didn't match so she told me that I wouldn't get approved. So I asked her what to do, she said the only thing I could do was to change my itinerary to a 6 month plan. Seeing as I'd do pretty much anything for this visa right now, fibbing a little bit so the documents matched wasn't going to be a problem but it involved phoning my dad and getting him to edit one of the pages aswell as going into my e-mail and finding a receipt for the plane ticket then fax them over to the embassy.

Carly also had to get a photocopy of the cheque that had been paid into her account. All this stuff just seems so fucking red taped it's stupid.

C'mon Gaby! Jump through those hoops!!

Now would probably be a good time to say I dislike dealing with bureaucracy. I'm not very good at it for one thing. I don't understand terms and conditions and when I don't understand what an official is saying to me I go blank as keep asking them to explain, which gets us both annoyed and I look like an twat.
Anyway the whole process of getting the forms sorted took about 3 hours but I did express to the woman behind the counter how much I wanted this visa and how I wanted to make sure everything was sorted so I gave myself the best chance possible of getting approved.

I'll be honest she wasn't very sympathetic or helpful but then she might have been having a bad day...I made sure to give her big smile and thank her honestly for her help and she eventually smiled back and said they phone if there were any more problems.

Unfortunately now we have to play the waiting game. I doubt they will even get to review our applications until Monday, then if there are any more problems it'll take another day...then if we get approved our passports have to be sent back...that's another day. Maybe by the end of the week we'll know.

So Carly and I headed into London Town for some well earned food. Also we went to the puri kura place in China Town but none of the Japanese machines had paper....still we had fun on the crappy old ones!

I guess that concludes the visa part of my story. It's the last step apart from packing and actually getting on the plane.

On a personal note I'm meeting my ex on Tuesday to tell him exactly why I nearly smacked 7 types of shit out of him the other night. Wish him luck!


Thursday, 25 February 2010

Last night was one of the worst of my life. This is very personal stuff that maybe shouldn't go on a blog about moving to Japan but my reasons for going are tied together with the need to get away, move on and do something I've only ever dreamed of.

My ex boyfriend turned up at a gig that he knew I would be at...with another girl. It completely blindsided me and I'll be honest here, I went ape shit. I pulled him over and screamed in his face. He was terrified and did what any natural fucker would do and blamed it on "not knowing" and then, worst of all, me.

It ended with me being in one of the worst emotional states I've ever known. I am not an angry person. I know that carrying hate around with me does nothing but hinder me getting on with my life and being happy. Pain is different, pain can be turned into positive things and I can grow and learn from it. Also pain goes away with time but if you haven't learnt anything from it then it wasted time.

I know that this will be a distant memory and I will look back with a different perspective and smile. I am 22 years old, and while it feels painful and confusing right now this is a very small part of my life. There are so many bigger things to be happy about, my life is about to change dramatically and a great adventure is coming. I think that going through this will make me appreciate what I am doing even more.

6 weeks and 1 day until I am on that plane.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Let's get a visa!

So, first thing's first. I need a visa!
As I have no job offers from Japan (on account of me not having a degree yet! Ke) I'll need one holiday working visa. The point being that for the most part you're supposed to holiday...

I should probably tell you all that my plan is to one day find a permanent job in Japan, but I've never holidayed there before! So....what if I hate it there??! It is my mission to find out if I still want to reside in a culture that is completely different to my own. So this trip is much like a gap year for me...just to test the alien water.

SO! Holiday working visas.

This Friday, Carly and I will be going the the Japanese embassy to apply for our visas. You need to fill out some form on the day.

Nothing tricky there, except having to pay £4 for a fugly passport photo.

Then you need a personal statement, basically your reasons for wanting to invade Japan. I won't post the whole thing but I briefly outlined my main interests in Japan, the things that I have read up on (namely the music scene, fashion tribes, and the FOOD) then I put what I found intriguing about the country and things that you can't really know unless you experience them.

Next is your itinerary. Your twelve month plan. AKA your blag cos you actually have no idea what the fuck is gonna happen when you get over there!

Now I know that I'm gonna have to be super careful with the little money I have managed to scrape together for this trip. I also know that travel costs soon mount up. Whenever I go to London for a weekend I always come away feeling like I've been raped by the London Underground and National Rail! I may plan to travel from Osaka to Hokkido during my trip but the reality might mean I stay working in Tokyo for the majority of my stay and just taking day trips and weekends when I can.

I've tried to blag as much as I feel comfortable blagging on the itinerary, putting some districts of Tokyo I want to explore, some festivals I'm interested in seeing and the cities I want to visit but I've kept it very brief and to what I can comfortably talk about in an interview.

I'm being realistic here, I'm not an expert on Japan by any means, but I think its better to have a vague idea about something and go experience it for yourself than to pretend you know everything.

Hopefully in my interview they won't ask too many details

I think that's it for paperwork. The only other BIG thing that you need to deal with for the visa application is MONEY. This has been the cause of many headaches over the last month. You need to have either
£2500 in the bank
£1500 + a return ticket

I presume this is to make sure you get the fuck out of the country when your time is up. They need to know you won't resort to selling drugs or prostitution to get the funds to get you home.
So I have one return ticket (dated for 6 months after I arrive but this can be extended as needed upto a year) but I need £1500. Overdrafts don't count so after rent and plane tickets are paid for I'm still lacking the funds. Don't worry though! A friend has lent me the cash until I get paid. Obviously this is not ideal. I should have been saving like mad for this trip but the truth is I only made the decision to go for a year (before I was planning to take a 2-3 week trip) after I split from my boyfriend a month ago.

Hey, nothing heals a broken heart like moving to the other side of the world!

I think thats everything apart from the obviously things like taking your passport and 3 months worth of bank statement. I'm kinda worried as my funds are being deposited tomorrow so obviously won't show up on my bank statements...and they'll see that I just spend all my money on clothes and drink!
I've been told they take your passport for a week or so which means I'm screwed if I get ID'd in London...and I WILL get ID'd. I want to go drinking with my soon to be Tokyo sister, Carly.

This is the first big step on my way to Japan! Can you feel my giddiness!


Wow it's the first post!
In just over 6 weeks Carly and I shall be departing the UK for one whole year.
Over this next year I hope to bring you some real insights into the Japanese way of life from an aliens point of view. From getting a visa, to getting a job, dealing with the language barrier to dealing with homesickness. I'll bring you my views and first-hand advice as I experience it as an expat.
I have no doubt that this trip will change me as a person, for the better!

Please enjoy watching me grow over the next year!