So it’s that time of year again folks. Time to elect some new folks to lead HAJET. We’re sure there will be some farewells and thank yous in an upcoming issue of Polestar, so let’s get right to the nominations, yes? Here are the nominees for each position–when you’ve read their platforms, head to vote.hajet.org and vote!
Chris “Ferfie” Brownoff
Why do you want to be, and why should you be President?
Hey, this is Ferfie. I live in Rikubetsu, located right on the northern edge of Tokachi. Rikubetsu is a wonderful little town, famous for being the coldest place in all of Japan. However, it is lesser known for not having an ALT for 11 years prior to my arrival. Needless to say, this has been a year of a lot of “firsts” for me. Likewise, these “firsts” have presented quite the learning curve since my arrival in August. I imagine that this isn’t all that different for just about anybody reading this blurb. We all got to Hokkaido, many of us weren’t entirely sure what to expect from our jobs/new lives, and I’m willing to bet that the majority of you experienced at least some kind of challenge in adjusting. Maybe you reached out to your predecessor for: a) advice regarding your duties as an ALT; b) what to expect from your town as far as amenities/services are concerned; or c) perhaps you were concerned with just how small your new accommodations would be.
Yeah, I didn’t get that. Not having a predecessor meant that, prior to my arrival, I had no one to communicate with that could offer any real advice relating to the situation I was about to get into. When I showed up to my house, I was fortunate enough to have a bed, some appliances, and a TV. That being said, I had no furniture, no cookware/dishware, not even a set of chopsticks. I ate my first meal from Seicomart on my living room floor.
I had no one to communicate with regarding what I should expect when I get to my house, let alone with respect to my actual job (in fact communication was so sparse that I didn’t even know how I was getting from New Chitose to my town).
Fast forward to Sapporo Orientation, and things started to make a lot more sense. I got some job suggestions, finally started to get some living advice that might be applicable to Hokkaido JETs, and got to meet a lot of rad folks. Getting to hang out with and ask questions to other ALTs (both new and current members of HAJET) finally gave me the opportunity to start actually preparing for my job. Not only that, but since then, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some of the most wicked folks I’ve ever met.
For me HAJET hasn’t simply been a resource for advice on working in Hokkaido. It’s provided me with an extensive network of interesting people who I want to reach out to for a variety of reasons. Got questions about teaching as a one-shot? HAJET’s community seems pretty damn ready to offer some advice. Want to plan a holiday event? In my short time here, HAJET has time and again pulled through with support. Want to just hang out with some folks with similar hobbies? Doesn’t seem to matter how big Hokkaido is, if you have a shared interest, you’re probably going to find someone willing to take part in it as well. Plus, the dedication to cultural exchange or opportunities like the Hokkaido English Challenge demonstrate the caliber of JETs that we have in Hokkaido. So for all of these reasons and more, HAJET has been a very significant part of why I love my life in Hokkaido.
Simply put, I would love to take on the position of HAJET president. I’m not going to sit here and tell you about all of the council positions I’ve held before, nor do I have anything resembling a platform to run on. In all honesty, I’m not even certain if that’s required for this kind of election. I will tell you, though, that aside from the black mold in my first house, I have been incredibly stoked with just about everything I’ve experienced in my first few months in Hokkaido. I honestly can’t do justice to how I feel about my town, my coworkers, students, or the friends I’ve made since I set up shop in Rikubetsu. So much of this is because of how stellar HAJET has been for me. Not just the council, but the community that it encapsulates. To be frank, I just want to contribute to that and help others connected to this community as much as I can. But don’t call me Frank – just Ferf will do… I’m sorry I really like puns.
What’s your favorite Hokkaido memory?
As for my favourite memory, I’ll keep this short-er: Probably just driving through the mountains on my way back from Sapporo Welcome Party. The whole weekend the weather was beautiful, leaves were in great autumn form, and I was travelling through unbelievably serene terrain with some people that I happen to quite like. But coming back on the Sunday evening, it was late and the sky was totally clear. I remember looking up at the stars and I thought that they all looked so vivid. We pulled over near some trees and just looked at how clear and stunning it all was. It was the first time I was ever able to see that long, dense cluster of stars in the milky way, stretched across the sky. It was really humbling and beautiful.
Nikolai Arkady Muth
Hi everyone! My name is Nikolai, and I’m here to tell you all about my application for Vice President of HAJET. If HAJET is a pirate ship and we are all pirates, I want to be your first mate. Possibly you know me or remember me from real life, which would be awesome. Maybe if you’re a first year you remember me from my application for First Year Rep last year. If none of the above, then probably—as Michael Bublé once said—”I just haven’t met you yet!” Regardless on how this election turns out, hopefully that can change in the future. :)I was told I have to answer three questions, which as far as applications go isn’t bad. The first is why I want to be Vice President. This one’s easy. As I said, I did apply for HAJET’s recent First Year Rep election, and I’m applying again now to HAJET because I’m serious about my desire to give back to the community that was so welcoming and fun when I first arrived in Hokkaido. I want to be that friendly face (see attached photo) that newbies and veterans alike can turn to when they have questions, or want to make a bid on some sweet cuppin’ cakes at the HAJET bake sale auctions, or even just want to chat. I really do think that HAJET is an amazing organization that really benefits, and actually forms the backbone of the community of ALTs in Hokkaido. Part of what attracted me to the JET program in particular was the great support group and communities that I’d heard about. Now that I’m here, for me, HAJET IS that community and that support. But I’ve realized I’m not truly satisfied just being a member and if I can I want to be able to participate: to help shape how HAJET moves forward, and to keep it being a strong and loving presence in Hokkaido’s ALT community.
The second question here is about why I SHOULD be Vice President. This one’s a little harder. If pure desire and motivation haven’t swayed you yet, you should probably know I have experience in the role. I was the Vice President of my Student Council in high school. I KNOW!! It’s like I was preparing my whole life for this moment! As a bonus, I’m exceedingly tall, so you know, if you’re ever at a busy meeting and you’re like “Oh no I need to find the PA or someone in charge,” you’ll probably be able to see my head above the crowd.
Ok but seriously, Vice President as a position seems perfect to me, because I’m looking for a way that I can provide support to this community and organization that’s helped make my time in Japan enjoyable. My Japanese is pretty well developed so I’ll be able to set up hotels and meeting rooms for our seasonal gatherings, or help anyone who needs to figure something out but doesn’t quite have the language proficiency. I really believe that the way I want to live my life is by doing good for the people around me and so I want to do the best I can for the ALTs and the community of wonderful people in Hokkaido. Thanks for reading this far and for your consideration, and I hope the rest of your winter goes well.
The bonus question asks me to detail my favorite memory in Hokkaido so far. By far the hardest question here. I’ve met so many cool people here through HAJET and just in Hokkaido and in my town; these are people that I know I’m going to want to keep in touch with beyond my time as an ALT. I’ve had too many good memories so far to choose a favorite! I’m gonna narrow it down and say that ONE of my favorite memories of my time with HAJET folks was when a group of pals and I banded together at one of the bake sales to bid a sizable amount of money so we could win a cake with the face of our current President—Adam—emblazoned on the top in frosting. The consumption of his face that followed felt very symbolic and ritualistic. In a good way! Any organization where the new, bright-eyed, and impressionable members can purchase and subsequently devour the visage of the current leader is one that I want to be a part of.
Why do you want to be, and why should you be Secretary?
From the moment I learned about HAJET, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. It is through HAJET that I have had some of the best moments of my time here on JET. One year ago, I ran for a position on the PC. Over the past year, I have learned so much about how HAJET works and what it means to be a member, and although this year may be drawing to a close, I don’t want to stop giving back to the organization that has helped me adjust to life here in Hokkaido. Along with a new year, I feel that taking on the position of Secretary for the 2016-2017 year is the best way I know how to continue to be involved. I believe I am a good fit for Secretary for the following reasons.
First, given the constantly changing nature of life as a JET, it would be beneficial to have someone who already has experience working on the PC to work with the new council. As my year as the Central Rep comes to a close, I feel that I am familiar enough with the direction in the which the current council is going that I will be able to offer support for the new council, whenever necessary.
Second, I have three years’ experience working in a secretary-like position during my undergrad. I worked closely under my university’s Asian Studies department advisor to maintain our database of certificate students, in which I handled the information of new applicants, current students, and graduates. In addition to this, I was also in charge of maintaining an updated mailing list for our department’s weekly and monthly e-newsletters. I also have experience with taking accurate and concise notes about departmental meetings and various events held by my department. With this kind of experience, I think I will make a successful Secretary on the HAJET PC.
What is your favorite Hokkaido memory?
My favorite Hokkaido memory is a very recent one: keeping up the tradition of having an American Thanksgiving to get over the hump of the school year. Hosting good friends, eating delicious food, and playing great games, but not before the intense, near-24-hour cooking marathon in such a small kitchen!
Why should you be, and why do you want to be Treasurer?
While in university, I was twice elected as an Operations & Finance Commissioner for my Students’ Union. Here, I worked with clubs, reviewed and approved travel grants for students, and sat on the $14 million organization’s budget committee as well as another funding committee. I also worked with a student club as the president, where I helped to clean up our finances, and helped make membership a better value. Lastly, I also worked with other clubs to help them run their events by lending our club’s equipment and skills, which could have cost them a fortune without our help.
I’d like to be HAJET’s next Treasurer because I’d like to get more involved with the organization’s operations. I know how important but undesirable a Treasurer is, and how crippling it can be for an organization to have to find someone to do a job that isn’t always the most interesting. I really enjoy behind the scenes work and want to ensure that HAJET remains financially transparent and responsible while still having room to grow. I’m very easy going and agreeable, and just want to make sure that everyone else can go about their work without road blocks or concern. This is a job that I’ve done before and enjoyed doing it.
What is your favorite Hokkaido memory?
My favorite memory in Hokkaido so far has been having friends visit my small town. We always go to the city to do everything, and I really enjoyed showing people around my town and having a relaxing weekend. It’s not the most exciting place in Hokkaido, but I enjoyed playing host and showing off what my town has.
Hey, everybody! My name is Adam Gentle, I’m stoked to say that I live in a land of giant crab claws and drift ice named Mombetsu, and I’m running for Northern Rep.
In case I somehow completely failed in one very big aspect of my last position and you have no idea who I am, I’ll go ahead and say that I’ve had some experience with HAJET over the last two years. Because of that experience, I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of what the job of a Regional Rep entails, and how vital those positions are when considering how big and varied our prefecture actually is.
Part of my plan, if elected, is to continue in the tradition of two people that I consider to have done excellent jobs in the position of Northern Rep over the last two years. They both planned fun and memorable welcome parties with their own creative twist (I’ve got a couple of would-be tricks up my sleeve too), as well as being massively helpful in contributing to the Prefectural Council in other ways throughout their respective years. I’ve learned a lot watching and collaborating with these guys.
In addition to that, I’ve got some ideas of my own for rad events throughout the year to bring all us Northerners together, and I will do my utmost to represent the interests of those that tend to live quite far from where a lot of the HAJET action normally happens.
Basically, what it boils down to for me is that I’ve spent the last year riding the collective force that is HAJET all over this beautiful prefecture, focusing on the big picture aspects of what HAJET is (and I feel incredibly grateful for the experience and the friends that I’ve made), but now I would like to know what it’s like to focus my efforts digging a little deeper into the part of the island I call home. Going even more grassroots in an already heavily grassroots-y organization, if that makes sense, and supporting the new Executive team coming up.
I’m still excited about what HAJET has managed to do, and even more stoked to see what’s to come. Thanks for reading this.
Hey there! Jon Curry here, this year’s First Year Rep from the northeastern coast town of Hamatonbetsu. Just like when I ran for First Year Rep, a huge part of my motivation this time around also comes from the many experiences I’ve had in the relatively short amount of time I’ve been here thus far – experiences that our current Northern Rep really helped to facilitate.
One of my best memories, both because it was great and it led to many more good memories, was the weekend of one of the earlier welcome parties. I was planning on having a lazy, antisocial weekend, heading home straight after work and jumping into a pair of sweatpants. I suddenly heard my genkan door slam open; to my surprise, Mike (the current rep) and Sam (my fellow Hamaton ALT) were standing there with wicked grins. “Shut up and get in the car.” “We’re goin’ to that welcome party and so are you.” Caught between shock and laughter, I caved and packed a bag for the weekend.
If I hadn’t gone to that welcome party, I would never have made as many great connections with fellow JETs as I have in these few short months. It made me feel like I was part of a greater and more cohesive community, and pushed me to get more involved. I made new friends at each subsequent party or meeting, and was elated to run into them again and again at other JET events. Hamaton is fairly isolated and big JET gatherings being somewhat few and far between, so I’ve come to realize how impactful my regional rep has been on my life here in Hokkaido.
It’s that first friendly kidnappi- er, invitation that led to so many more memories, all of which make me want to be someone who can provide that same warm welcome for future first years. I had a similar responsibility in college as a senior mentoring freshmen, and my connections with them are still strong despite the distance. I can only imagine that not only would I provide clear and patient guidance for the JETs up north, but I would have an opportunity to form even more deep, long lasting connections. I both understand and welcome the challenge and responsibility of taking on a mentoring role such as this, and I would be honored to serve as your HAJET Northern Rep. Thank you!
Why should you, and why do you want to be Eastern Rep?
The first phrase my Japanese Language partner taught me back in New Zealand when I told her I would be going to Nemuro was, “the edge of Japan”, maybe: 日本の境界 nihon no kyoukai… I’ve since forgotten, because I’ve not felt the need to use that word since. At the time I truly felt I would be venturing out into the last place in Japan, kilometers away from anything and everything. But I’m glad to say that is not the case! Somehow the distances shrank into familiar journeys, connections were formed, and we all saw each other naked at a lake. I really owe all my sanity to HAJET, not only for the events put on, but for everything that came after that thanks to those initial meetings. More than anything I want these events to continue happening in the future, I’d like us all to keep on keeping in touch. I’d be happy to be a part of that and know that it would all go fantastically despite the fact that I’ve only been here a few months, and though I’m trying my current understanding of Japanese admittedly isn’t amazing. I know this because we are a bunch of lovely people out here on this massive island, and we all help each other out. There are so many fabulous adventures to be had out East, we can all learn so much from each other and this place.
What is Your Favourite Hokkaido Memory?
I’ve learnt that foxes get fluffier in winter, I’ve also learnt what foxes are like in reality, and that they scream. I’ve learnt that deer are insane and come out around twilight and have no sense of timing when it comes to crossing the road. I’ve learnt that the mythical creature tanuki is round and fat and lives near Betsukai. I’ve learnt that Japanese cranes are giants (155cm tall) and come in pairs. There’s a weasel guarding a hot spring at lake Kussharo in Autumn, and Eagles watching Notsuke Peninsula in winter.
It’s extremely hard to choose one specific favourite memory, but I can tell you the moment I decided I wanted to stay here. It was Autumn and we drove from Akan to Lake Onneto to look at the Autumn leaves. I’ve never seen anything like it; all the mountains were made of the colours of fire, but not only orange and red, also yellow, green, purple, brown, as well as the blues, whites and greys of the rivers and lakes. We looked into the dark green forest and you could really understand the creatures, stories and art that come out of Japan. I turned to my friend and said “I’m not leaving yet”. There is still so much more to explore.
Why should you be elected?
Before coming on the JET Program I worked in the recruiting section for a company where one of my duties was being responsible for the new hires. Ultimately I had to be a support system for those new hires, providing solutions to any problems or answering any questions that were brought up. We were sending many of these new hires to work around the world, so I had to be knowledgeable about where they were going and make them feel comfortable, but also excited about moving to a new country. Though this took place in a completely different context than HAJET, it really gave me experience on how to be supportive and helpful to a group of people who are coming into a new environment and helping them become a part of their new community.
I understand that being Central Rep isn’t only about welcoming new incoming JETs, but rather making a community between those new JETs and the other JETs and ALTs in the Central Region (and the rest of Hokkaido for that matter!). I look forward to doing this by making sure that there are events, not just welcome parties, that bring those JETs, new and old, together. It’s important to let people know who is in their area as well as what’s going on in their area. I often hear JETs looking for events happening around Hokkaido to observe or take part in. As Central Rep, I plan to stay well-connected with the members of the Central Region and other Regional Reps so that I can find events and activities that are taking place throughout the year. I want to make that information available to both those in the Central Region as well as the rest of Hokkaido. Also, by staying connected, I can actively contribute to the Polestar with news and updates that really highlight the Central Region. Plus, the more I get to know all of you, the more I understand what the Central Region is all about and the better I can represent you on the PC!
Why do you want to be elected?
Simply enough I really love HAJET. I feel as though people always flourish best and get the most out of their experiences when they’re a part of a supportive community and that’s exactly what HAJET provides. My first six months in Japan have been amazing lagely due to HAJET and participating in their events. Because I enjoy the HAJET community so much, I want to take a more active role in it and would be excited to help contribute to what makes it so great. I want to continue making HAJET a useful resource for new and old JETs and other ALTs alike so that it can be used to help you make the most out of your time in Japan.
Favorite Hokkaido Memory:
My favorite Hokkaido memory has to be the open-onsen moonlight adventure at Lake Kussharo during Eastern Welcome Party. I just thought it was perfect way to be introduced to the HAJET community. Here you have 20 or so JETs all naked in an open-onsen in the middle of the night under the full moon. It was definitely romantic, but in a platonic kind of way. But in all seriousness, as strange as it sounds I think that moment was the epitome of the HAJET community. What could have been an uncomfortable and awkward situation, especially as a newcomer, was actually a genuinely a great time. Everyone was just so laid back, casually chatting about things, no shame or judgment whatsoever. There is always bonding whenever onsening is involved and that moment really made me feel part of the HAJET community.
Why should I be the SW Rep?
I should be the SW Rep because I have spent most of my free time in Hokkaido exploring our area and meeting other ALT’s. I love meeting new people, finding new places and going on adventures. I think I could help any new incoming ALT’s settle in and enjoy our region of Hokkaido.
Why do I want to be the SW Rep?
I want to be the SW Rep because I would like my peers and any new ALT”s to feel as excited as I was about living in the SW. Our current SW Rep brought me pizza when I arrived. I feel at home here because we have a good community, and we have a lot of events. I’d hope to continue this atmosphere.
What has been your favourite Hokkaido memory so far?
My favourite Hokkaido memory is hiking in Daisetsuzan National Park in the Fall. The colours of the landscape were completely unreal. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Before that trip I had some doubts about whether or not Hokkaido was the best place for me, but after going there I was sure I was going to love it here.
Hello, I’m Daneille O’Neil. I’m a third year JET from the island of Jamaica, living in the small but picturesque town of Morimachi.
I could go on and talk to you about how hardworking I am–slight OCD levels–dedicated and the like but I will chose not to bore you with such things. What I will tell you is what my region means to me and what I hope will continue to happen whether I’m elected or not (but seriously vote for me :D).
The Southwest, though small and maybe even considered far away, is a home away from home to me. This sentiment didn’t come about overnight either. It was through the camaraderie of the persons I’ve met here, their eagerness to help and share their experiences that made mine an even better one. They gave me a sense of belonging and comfort in knowing that I’m not alone here even though it may seem so sometimes.
It is this type of fellowship I wish to perpetuate here in the Southwest and to our neighbours. Sharing with and caring for each other like bothers and sisters from other mothers and generally making your experience here in Japan one of the best you’ve ever had.
Despite the huge job it is, I’ve decided to run for Publications Coordinator again. As the 2015 cordinator, I completely reworked the Hokkaido Newcomer’s Guide, making it tighter, prettier and easier to read. I also managed to slash the cost of the publication and bring in new advertisers from across Hokkaido, saving HAJET a huge amount of money and improving the budget for both 2015 and into the future. I was successful in the role thanks to a 10 year career in journalism and a Masters in Communication majoring in Professional Writing and Journalism. In taking on the role again, I hope to draw in further advertisers and maintain the quality of the guide. So, vote for me and I’ll keep rocking the publications coordinator role.
Why do you want to be, and why should you be Musical Director?
I have extensive experience in the theater, and have been involved in performances from a very young age. I majored in Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During my time in university, I was involved in over 10 student-led productions in a variety of roles including actor, props manager, blood designer, combat choreographer, sales coordinator, and director. In February of 2015, I wrote and directed an original musical, which parodied a number of classic Broadway shows and songs. The production had a budget of $0 and a successful run which sold out all but one performance.
Theater is one of my passions and has always been a huge part of my life. I am eager to contribute in any way to the revival of the fantastic HAJET Musical tradition, and for this reason hope to be considered for the position of Musical Director.
What’s your favorite Hokkaido Memory?
My favorite Hokkaido memory so far is my first HAJET camping event, the Eastern Welcome Party at Lake Kussharo. It was my first taste of the natural wonders Hokkaido has to offer, from the beautiful lake view out my tent flap to the day trip I made to Lake Akan to get my first glimpse atmarimo. It’s also where I met so many of my amazing HAJET friends and resolved to become more involved in the organization itself because I saw its commitment to making everyone feel welcome and putting on great events with something fun for everyone.
Featured photo credit: WBUR.org