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You know, it's a sad thing when I'm more determined to post about something bad than something good. The Easter Egg hunt that Miss Kakizaki and I organized this Saturday went beautifully, and I'll post all about that later, when I have photos.

For now, though, I'm extremely irritated. So here goes:

When I enrolled in JET, I was informed that I could enroll, for free, in one of three levels of correspondence course: Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced. I was also told that if I passed the Advanced course, I would be eligible to take a Translation and Interpretation course during my second year as a JET, with the fee likewise waived by CLAIR, the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations.

I want to be a translator someday. What do you think I did?

The Advanced level course has ranged from marginally interesting to downright inane. I once spent two weeks learning ten different ways to say "this and/or that". Sometimes I read aloud from my textbook to my coworkers at the Board of Education; this is a favorite source of comedy for the whole office. Real Japanese people all around me have shaken their heads, wondering who on earth would even use some of these phrases.

And the entire book, except for the unit test instructions, is in Japanese, because apparently it improves your Japanese ability if you can't figure out what the use of a simple phrase like「-から言って」is without translating explanatory sentences like: 「-から見て/見ると/見れば/見たら」と同じように、判断の根拠を示すときに使い、「-を根拠に判断する/考える」という意味を表します。 So, we get English test instructions to make sure we don't botch up our answers over a minor grammatical slipup regarding how many out of (A), (B), (C), and (D) we're allowed to black in...but the advanced grammatical structures we're being tested on, we have to puzzle out for ourselves with a dictionary in the other hand to deal with words like "paradoxical statement", "comprehension", "prospect", and "conjunction"?

Anyway, mindgrinding as it is, I have persevered and gotten passing grades, 80% or higher, on all five of my monthly exams so far, and I only have a few left. The mountain is almost attained; I can smell the sweet scent of the cherry blossoms on the summit of victory.

Today, I received next year's enrollment literature. "All right!" I said. "Let's see what the process is for enrolling in my T&I course!"

I'm skimming the page now. Hmm. There's an application form. That's easy enough. And...oh, wow, a qualification exam. Why is there... This is when I notice that there's a cap on the program. A 150-student enrollment cap.

There are thousands of JETs in Japan.

Okay, I think, so they want only the best. Fair enough. And, I mean, how many JETs can be enrolled in the Advanced course to begin with? A few hundred? Most of them have probably already had their mental abilities numbed into a torpor by this year's course. I totally have a shot.

Thus reassured, I keep reading. And then I notice this little stipulation: Please confirm with your supervisor if they have a budget for your participation in the training seminar. Wait, what? I page back to the outline of the course fees. Yes, CLAIR swallows the fee for the correspondence course...but apparently my little town of Uryu is supposed to pay to send me to this seminar.

All right, so where is the seminar? They've sent me to lots of seminars in Sapporo and Tomakomai. I skim some more.

I live near Takikawa. The seminar is in Shiga Prefecture.

Now I'm paging frantically. I jump to the FAQs in the back. Maybe I can pay for the trip myself. What else are they massively overpaying me for, if not for stuff like this? But, no, the seminar is "part of (my) work duties" and therefore my Contracting Organization "must cover all the fees". I am flatly not allowed to pay for my own airfare to Shiga; instead, a town of 3000 people is supposed to spring to fly me the distance from Seattle to Anaheim and back. And I can't take the course if I can't attend the seminar.

Sheepishly, I highlighted the relevant sentences and showed them to Miss Kakizaki. She gently and immediately let me down, being as nice about it as she could.

I'm a JET. I'm paid out the roof. I could fly to to Okinawa and back for a conference without having to sweat about it too much, although it would dent my grad school savings considerably. My town is itty-bitty and has to scrape to send me to the basic JET conferences. And yet they're expected to pay for my trip, as if this is some huge boon of a loophole CLAIR has cleverly constructed just for me and my pocketbook. And I get told all this now, and not a year ago, when I could have just told them to take their course and put it in an anatomically unlikely and uncomfortable place.

Apparently CLAIR isn't satisfied with the best T&I students in the JET Program. They only want the best students...from the wealthiest Contracting Organizations.

I love you too, CLAIR. It's so good to know our esteem for each other is mutual.
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