Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Mini-Vacation for Obon

Today was the last time I teach for a few days and I'm stoked for the time off. Sunday marks the beginning of Obon and of all of the holidays I have seen here, I am most excited about this one.

The celebration of Obon varies from region to region. Most parts of Japan celebrate the time in mid-August, while some celebrate in July. Regardless of the time the festival is celebrated most regions of Japan go all out for this festival. Basically, it is a Buddhist belief that during Obon, your ancestors that have passed on will come back to visit with you and see how everything is going. People hang lanterns in their windows and doorways to help their relatives find their way home and this is a time for families to gather at graves and leave offerings of treats for their loved ones. It is very similar to the Day of the Dead that is celebrated throughout parts of South America and the Chinese also celebrate a version of Obon called the Ghost Festival.

The festival starts in Fukuchiyama tomorrow and culminates on the 16th with a big fireworks display by the river that runs through my town. Before I looked into what the festival was actually celebrating, I thought it was just kind of a summer festival to mark the season and the river seemed like a logical place to shoot off fireworks because its wet and open. As it turns out, many people will probably bring small lanterns and candles to float down the river at the end of the night. After your relatives come to visit you, you have to guide them back to their home and you do that by placing a lantern or candle in a lake or river. They will follow the light back to their world.

Over the years, this holiday has become the time for family reunions and this places it in the top three busiest traveling times in Japan. The other two are the Christmas/New Years season and Golden Week. Now I feel kind of sort of bad about messaging this one woman I know and asking her what she was going to do with her time off...kind of sort of hinting that I will be watching fireworks on the 16th and wouldn't mind company. Now I know she will most definitely be with her family like she should be.

The more I learn about Japanese holidays, the more I start to like a lot of them. Yeah, some of them are pretty pointless but there are a few that I really like the meaning of. I am not sure why, but I find it very comforting to know that relatives can come back and visit you and kind of check up on you. I think part of it stems from the fact that after I die, I would like to know that my family and friends are all still doing okay here on Earth. That and for the longest time, I have felt like my grandpa who died almost fourteen years ago, still comes back to check up on me. I feel selfish for saying that because there are people he could check up on that need his help a lot more than me but there are times where I swear he was standing right next to me or sitting on the train with me, enjoying the scenery as it passes by. He liked to travel, like me. Who knows, maybe he is just coming back to visit because I know that if he were still alive today, he would come here and visit me and see the country like I am now.

Anywho, I am expecting to get some pretty cool pictures in the next few days and when I do, I will post them. If you want to learn more about Obon and its history, there is a Wiki for it, just pop in Obon.

Until the next post, Grandma and Grandpa Walker, this Obon is for you.


At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Peltzer said...

Hi Mogwai (you know, each time I type this I think I am talking to Gizmo and there you are, with your Casio Keyboard, singing to me all furry like. Maybe I should sign on here as Peltzer),

So, basically, I am in very much the same boat you were in when Peppy's wandered your way. I work a retail job I dislike, know I can do better and want to travel. My main love is film production but jobs in this field are hard to come by outside of the bigger cities here in Canada. So, my plan was a large life change to continue on in my career but, beforehand, I wanted to live in another country. I found Peppy's on I was drawn to them because: 1) No degree needed; 2) they are Canada based; and 3) the pay was pretty good. My plan was to work, travel and save.
And now with that brief questions:

1) I do not have a degree but have two college diplomas. To your knowledge is that enough for a Working Visa? I'd much rather get a Working Visa and have the higher pay and lower tax rate.

2) Again, the key with me is being able to save. I do not spend much, live a rather sparse lifestyle. I don't drink nor do I party. I am looking to have enough to send back to Canada to pay off loans each month ($400). Is this feasible working for Peppy's. In other words, do you make enough to save money if you are not foolish with it?

3) How much, exactly, is rent? Does it come out of your pay? If you take a place with Peppy's is the rent the same?

4) Are you always in the same place or do you travel to other cities? Does Peppy's set you up with a new apartment in each city?

5) Do you get internet access? How easy is it to come by?

6) I read that you do not get your first pay until the end of month two? Is this correct? Why is this?

7) If this is the case how much do you need to start out to get by those two months?

8) Peppy’s does not pay for flight, this I know, but do they offer some form of compensation if you stay with them for a period of time?
9) How much do you spend, average, monthly on food?

10) Do you get much time off to play with? Mainly, Christmas and such. Are you able to get back home for the holidays?

11) Could you describe for me the interview process in detail so I know what to expect?

Finally, anything else you could pass on to somebody wanting to start with Peppy’s would be most helpful.

Reading your journal, actually, has answered many questions I had and it has been an easing experience to some of the negative comments I have read online about Peppy’s.

Thanks again,
Peltzer :p

At 8:21 PM, Blogger Mogwai said...

Ok, here we go.

1)I am not sure how the degree/working visa thing works in Canada but I know I had to have a bachelors at least in order to be able to come over here. Canad has the working holiday visa and the US does not have one of those, I know to get a working holiday you do not need a bachelors but for the full visa, you may.

2) As for money, there are times when I go nuts and send quite a bit and I am still able to save money. Its amazing how much you save without a car and all the expenses that come with one. You will be able to save money no problem.

3)Rent comes out of your paycheck and how much rent you pay varies from apartment to apartment. My rent is substantially lower than my co-workers that live in bigger cities. Not all of the apartments are the same and to be honest, some are nicer than others.

4)My apartment is in a town called Fukuchiyama but I travel to three other cities to teach classes. All of the classes you teach in will be within an hour or two's train ride from home and normally, you will come home everynight to your apartment.

5)Oh yeah, I have internet! Its fast and not too hard to set up. You will need a Japanese speaker to help you do it and it takes a few weeks but its pretty easy. Internet is freakin' speedy here. :)

6&7)Yeah, you don't get paid until the end of your second month. Its a goofy rule they have, not totally sure why. They covered the reason in training and it didn't make sense to me then either. Bring about $2100 and you will be able to survive until you get paid.

8)No, they never reimburse you in any way for the flight. You get a bonus if you stay on for your full contract so I guess you could call that you flight repayment but its technically not. They have a little loan you can borrow from them, $300 but I never did.

9)I have never actually kept track of how much I spend on food. If I were going to make an educated guess, I would say $250 a month. It varies from month to month because sometimes I am out of town a lot due to where I live and when I am not at home, I spend more on food. On the Peppy scale of things, I am more removed from my coworkers than most teachers are and I have to stay in hotels a lot for meeting etc. This probably won't be the case for you.

10) You get quite a bit of time off. You have enough time off a couple of times a year to travel back to Canada if that is what you wanted to do. I think we get like 9 days off for Christmas but don't quote me on that. Its around a week, I know for sure.

11) The interview is a cake walk. Just make sure you tell them you like kids and give them the impression that you aren't crazy and you should be fine. If you get interviewed, from what I have found, odds are you will get the job. My coworkers and I were talking about this and none of us have ever heard of anyone not getting hired that got an interview.

As for other tips for you, keep reading my blog and I will make a post about stuff I wish I knew before coming here. I have had enough people ask me stuff that I may as well make a post to address it all! Good luck with the interview and if you come over, let me know where you end up!


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