A Drill of a Different Kind

Growing up in Newfoundland, my schools practiced fire drills several times per year. I was one of the kids who always looked forward to fire drills because it meant that we would get a 15+ minute break from class! So, I find it strange that I’ve been working at my two schools here in Japan for ten months now and I have yet to experience a fire drill at either one of them.

That being said, I did experience my first ever earthquake and tsunami drill yesterday!

My JHS is located on the coast of the Sea of Japan. Although most of the tsunamis in the world occur in the Pacific Ocean, there have been several major tsunamis in the Sea of Japan, including one that occurred as recently as 1983. Tsunamis are taken very seriously, especially here. Fortunately, my school is already up pretty high above sea level – it would take a catastrophic tsunami to reach it – but my school isn’t taking any chances.

Sixth period class was cut yesterday so that we could spend the entire 50 minutes on the drill. Shortly after the bell rang, a teacher came on over the PA system and said, “An earthquake is happening.” I’m assuming the students hid under their desks then, like they’re taught to do (although I was sitting in the teachers’ room, so I didn’t get to see this part). Approximately 90 seconds later, the teacher came back on the PA and announced that the earthquake was over, but that there was a large tsunami forecast to hit our shores in 13 minutes.

A head teacher grabbed a large red flag and raced outside to be the leader. All the students filed out of the school using multiple exits, lined up two-by-two by class and dead silent. We followed the lead teacher as we walked around the school to the edge of the forest and then, to my surprise, we started climbing through it! It was hard work – it was all uphill and the path was only wide enough for single file at some points. The humid, 27°C weather wasn’t helping!

We climbed for 15 minutes until we came to a graveyard (of all places). The students lined up in the parking lot by class and sat down. Our Vice Principal then stood at the front with his megaphone and talked about how safe we were up here – we had climbed another 60 m above our already high-elevation school, which means that it would pretty much take a megatsunami to reach us. The Vice Principal didn’t talk long and, before we knew it, we were filing two-by-two back down through the forest.

I’m really glad that I got to go on the tsunami drill with the other teachers and students. It’s good to know that my school takes the dangers of tsunami seriously, not only for my peace of mind, but for my family’s, as well! (Although having the drill in May when it wasn’t so hot would have been nice – I spent the rest of the afternoon melting in a puddle at my desk! Japanese summer, I’m not ready for you!)

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3 thoughts on “A Drill of a Different Kind

  1. TonyJ2 says:

    Christina, it’s great to hear your drill story. Practising drills gives the children particularly a cultural understanding of disastrous events. These lessons can be taken with them through life, as they may be exposed to other natural hazards.

    I am really plead to read the drill was done on a hot day, and you had to get sweaty!

    I work with communities exposed to bush fire (wildfire) risk. So many people assume a Bushfire will affect them on a Saturday afternoon when everyone is at home, when it is cool enough to do stuff outside, and when all communicates systems are working perfectly.

  2. Royce Piels says:

    Hey there, a fellow Canadian here (grew up in Dartmouth, but living in Toronto currently) and aspiring JET ALT. I’ve read your application blog posts, which were inspirational. I’m going to be applying this Fall, and was wondering if you had any advice re: the application and/or interview process. Thanks!

    Cheers,
    Royce

    (P.S. I took some Japanese in uni a few years back but it’s gone to waste since; for sure I’ll be brushing up on it over the next year.)

    • Christina says:

      Hi Royce,

      Thanks for your comment! I’m glad to know that you found my posts inspirational!

      My advice would be to start on the application as soon as they put it online. The application is long and thorough and some of the required forms take time. When filling out the application, include everything you can think of (without stretching the truth too much, of course) – things that you may consider inconsequential, like a weekend trip to New York City, actually do count towards your international experience, as do activities related to Japan such as judo, calligraphy, or Japanese language studies. In addition to international experience and an interest in Japan, they are also looking for teaching experience. If you don’t have any already, you still have some time before the application opens, so tutoring, having a language partner, or working/volunteering at a summer camp with children will all look good.

      But, most importantly, make sure that you do a good job on your Statement of Purpose (SOP) – answer the set questions thoroughly and let the people reading it know what YOU can do for JET. Get as many people as possible to read over it and offer you suggestions. Some people believe that the SOP can make or break your interview chances, so spend a lot of time on this!

      When it comes to the interview, the most important thing is being flexible. They’re looking for people who are going to be able to handle living in a foreign country in a foreign culture for at least one year. Answer all of their questions, don’t get flustered, be professional, and try to make yourself memorable as the best candidate for the job! Your Japanese language ability isn’t actually a part of the interview process – they just informally want to check your level – but it certainly won’t hurt to brush up on your Japanese for when they do ask! :)

      Good luck with your application! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

      Christina

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