Where Are They Now: David Chan and Susan Wong (Kobe 2010-2011)

This month Arjan Tulsi speaks to Canadian couple David Chan and Susan Wong about their Hyogo experience. 

When were you in Hyogo and where were you placed?

We were in Hyogo for 1 year from 2010-2011 and were Hyogo ALTs placed in Kobe. We got married the year before joining JET and were lucky they placed us together in such an awesome location. We lived in Tarumi and taught at four senior high schools between us.

Could you tell us a little about what you did before JET?

We lived in Calgary, Canada before joining JET. Susan was an optometrist and David was a biochemist at the university. David had just finished his studies recently and we thought it was the perfect time to do something different together.

IMG_20130831_113631What have you been up to since leaving JET?

We returned to Calgary right after JET as Susan was already 4 months pregnant! We’ve been here since and our boy Lukas is now already almost 2 years old. Susan is doing optometry again and David is working as a project manager.

Did you suffer any reverse culture shock after going home?

A bit, but overall we think it wasn’t too bad. It was the little things that we were taken aback by: cars yielding to pedestrians? And what do we do with this tab again? The change in lifestyle was also quite different. Going from Japan where we walked or took transit everywhere, to Canada where things are really spread out and you basically can’t get by without a car.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIMG_7550 resizeDo you miss Japan at all?

YES! We always reminisce about our time in Japan and miss so many things about it. The festivals, the culture, the people, and just doing normal things like going to an izakaya or the constant busyness of Sannomiya. And of course the food!

What are you doing now?

We’re both working full-time and are otherwise keeping busy with our son. We also recently moved into our new home and are trying hard to get everything set up.

How has the experience of living in Japan, and working on JET, helped you in your professional or private life?

Living and working in Japan gave us unique insights into Japan’s culture and a different way of doing things compared to Canada. I think it’s good to be exposed to new cultures and being fully immersed in another country allows you to experience certain nuances you may not when just visiting as a tourist. I often think about how our cultures differ and it helps you evaluate what approach works for you. For example, mitigated or indirect speech is far more common in Japan than in Canada and thinking about its merits and shortcomings is something we wouldn’t have fully appreciated had we not spent our time in Japan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat’s your favourite memory of Hyogo?

I think it’s not so much one favourite memory, but many little things we cherish a lot. For example, going to Motomachi and Sannomiya – there is always a new shop, restaurant, or dessert house to discover. Or simply going to a neighbourhood pub, drinking homemade umeshu and being treated to boar by the locals for no reason other than it being the animal you encountered on Mt. Rokko. Another favourite memory is the view of the Akashi Kaikyou bridge. We lived on the very west side of Kobe and could see the bridge from our living room window. Walking home from school and seeing the bridge in the distance – definitely something we’ll always fondly remember.

feb 168 crop Do you have any advice for the new ALTs?

Soak it all in and enjoy every moment of your experience. We were only on JET for 1 year and constantly wish we’d had more time. While you’re there, try to make the most of your time and commit to it fully, whether that’s teaching, exploring the culture, or learning the language. Now is the time to experience these things and you’ll never have such an opportunity again!

 What about advice for ALTs moving home?

Try to figure out what you want to do when you return home before you get back home. It’s hard, but if you can try looking for a job as early as possible. It can definitely be stressful and make the transition home a little bumpier if on top of everything else, you’re looking for work.

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