Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Exit Interview- Erica, Intern 2009-2010

Pete here!

Before she left, I managed to distract Erica from her busy time of packing and wrapping presents to interview her about her time here and her leaving thoughts...

Pete Williams: So, how has your image of Japan changed?
Erica Ip: Good Question!
Living in the ‘countryside’ I’ve seen that it’s not all bustling streets and nightlife like in the movies. Also, people are more polite in general than I thought.

PW: Anything particularly positive?
EI: The streets are clean, everywhere! It’s also amazing that you can order food in a restaurant, eat it, then pay for it and leave without even talking to anyone.

PW: You mean vending restaurants?
EI: Yeah exactly! Everything is more convenient, like the shops, you can buy fried chicken for 1$ American!

PW: So what about the negatives?
EI: Long train rides to work in central Tokyo; training in the extreme heat in the summer- just sitting in it is enough! That’s about it though.

PW: Was there anything that vindicated your preconceptions about Japan?
EI: The level of Karate here was just as high as I expected it to be, especially the level of dedication too and particularly at Shiramizu. I first saw the Shiramizu Squad at the 2008 World Cup in Vancouver. I remember seeing them and wishing I could do karate like that, which is what inspired me to apply for the intern post.

PW: How dedicated have you been then?
EI: I went from training just once/twice a week in Vancouver to 5 times a week or more at Shiramizu – so quite dedicated! I’ve been told I’ve improved a lot and I hope this is true.

PW: What’s your most treasured memory of the year?
EI: The first tournament that I won gold at! Though, it wasn’t the moment I got the medal- it was when I had just finished my kata in the final round and was waiting for the judges’ decision.

PW: Then what happened?

EI: The whistle went and all 5 flags were for me! I was very shocked! It was surreal! I hope you get the same feeling in one of your tournaments. [in kata? Unlikely!- Pete]

PW: So what about your worst moment or low point?
EI: I think it was my first month here; the transition period. It was extremely hot when I started training 5 times a week, with no internet or cell phone! I also came to Japan with no knowledge of Japanese, so discussions were very difficult. I didn’t feel cut off at all, everyone was very kind and friendly, but it was like being on the outside of something looking in.

PW: That changed though?

EI: Yes! Although I didn’t study much I can still read Katakana and Hiragana, which is handy in supermarkets; since then I’ve been able to buy lots more food that I’ve enjoyed eating! Also, communication with everyone has gotten much easier and even during karate classes I’m understanding the nuances of what’s being said.

PW: What’s your relationship with Arakawa sensei and Shiramizu like now?
EI: It’s mainly as Sensei that I have a lot of respect for, but outside the class it’s like being with family and friends.

PW:Who did you get closest to in Shiramizu?

EI: It has to be Yamazaki Sensei and Yoshihara Sensei, because they are like our Japanese mums! We train together almost every class, and go to lunch every week.

PW: What about Arakawa Sensei?

EI: I think that the interns are really lucky because they get to spend more time with him than the other students; apparently the other students have this image of Sensei where he’s quite scary, but I see him as funny and silly most of the time and a person who deserves utmost respect.

PW: Has he changed your perception of Karate? If he has, how?

EI: I’ve always thought that Karate was a not a skill you learned to use on other people aggressively – or start trouble – but as a way of personal development and discipline. Arakawa Sensei really reinforced that belief in me, but also if it’s practiced correctly is can be very effective when or if needed.

PW: What about the English teaching aspect- did you enjoy that?
EI: It can be very rewarding when you get kids who are eager to learn, but I find some kids are forced into it by parents and don’t really want to be there so trying to be creative and get their interest is difficult. It’s also hard when my level of Japanese and their level of English makes it tricky to communicate for the rules of games, etc.

PW: So with all this in mind, what are your plans for the future? How much Karate does it involve?
EI: I honestly can’t say! I’ll probably do something with kids, because I love kids, but preferably not teaching them! Karate-wise, I would like to compete when I get back to Vancouver and encourage the kids in my dojo to train hard and compete as well.

PW:Finally, what do you think of the current intern and what advice do you have to give?
EI: Hmmmmmm…

PW: Remember I’m in the room.

EI: I think he’s well equipped to handle himself for this year and I hope he enjoys it as much as I have.

PW:Glowing reference then.

EI: You’ll be fine! And as a word of advice, be careful of drooling kids.

PW: Noted!

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