The Cats of Istanbul

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Yes, I did spend my whole week in Istanbul taking photos of cats.

Stop judging me…

12 Tips for Bikram Yoga

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I’m by no means an expert on Bikram yoga. I only started being able to do the whole routine all the way through without sitting down on the floor trying not to vomit a week or so ago.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m just less fit than the other women there, but I tend to be affected by the conditions in the room more than most people. I’ve nearly finished my 20 session card and I still am barely better than a newbie. BUT, this means that I am great at finding ways to make the uncomfortable situation slightly less so. Every session I go to there is at least one new person, and I wish that I could sit them down and tell them all I know about how to make that hour and a half suck less.

Instead, I’ve compiled a list of what I have learnt helps during classes. If you happen to be a Bikram-er then please do add your own tips in the comments!

Dress the part.

You will SWEAT like never before. Try to wear as little as you are comfortable with, and have your armpits and back as free as you can. Some girls wear bikinis to class. Some wear hot pants and sports bras. I have two outfits – grey soft yoga pants that are nice and flattering but come down to the ankles, and baggier black sports trousers that are shorter. I wear the former when I feel good about my body and the latter when I do not. Added to this are a load of tank tops. I don’t like to shower afterwards with the others because, you know, communal nakedness. So I throw an old baggy jumper over my sports bra and trousers and go home.

Take your makeup off.

Imagine you are taking a shower, because that will be your moisture level at the end of it. You don’t need makeup.

Get equipped.

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For your first few goes you don’t need all of this, but once you know you’re going to be a Bikram Babe/Dude-babe, you should get the whole set –

Big bottle of water (necessary)

Yoga matt (your studio may rent them to you)

A long towel with rubber blobs on the other side to stop it moving about (this covers your matt. I got mine – shown above –  from Amazon, but you can use a bath towel until then)

A smaller towel for your face/to help with certain poses

Watch your food intake.

This is my biggest bit of advice. If you eat too much at lunch, you will feel terrible during yoga. I usually go for a soup and salad on yoga days. I ate too much before going out to yoga the other night; I had a small bowl of vegetarian meat balls for protein, but I actually felt them coming back for a reunion later. Try some fruit or veg + hummus no less than an hour and a half before your class.

Use your water wisely.

Drink a bottle of water an hour before the class and you should be fine. Only take in water when the teacher says so – except for the one just before the triangle pose, because it really makes you feel weird when there’s water sloshing about inside of you. You need to keep taking in water, but try to limit it a little and not drink too much otherwise it’ll just end up making you feel much, much worse.

Position yourself.

Check out the room and work out the best place to stand. In our room there are two heaters on the ceiling – it’s not good to stand right under these. They also have horrible lights, except for the square skylight. I make sure to stand under the skylight as the normal lights bug me.

Don’t push yourself too far.

This is another big tip which should be common sense. The teacher will tell you that it’s ok if you feel sick or dizzy. Don’t listen to them. You know your own body and when it’s had enough and needs to sit out a move then do so. Don’t let peer pressure force you to hurt yourself.

Don’t leave the room.

It is best to stay in the room and stay sitting down for a bit – if you leave the room then no one can check if you are ok. For your own safety stay in the sight of the teacher.

If your knees wobble, don’t extend.

There are a few poses that ask for you to stand on one leg and then do something fancy with the other leg. Until your base leg stops wobbling, don’t attempt the fancy stuff. Just stand there holding your foot until you can balance enough.

Stop looking at other people.

The second you do, you’ll wobble and fall. I know, it happens every time.

Squeeze your bum.

One of the best bits of advice that was given to me is that if you squeeze your bum, you will be able to balance a lot easier. It works…until I forget to squeeze my bum.

Make sure to take something in after.

I always have a pick-me-up, or reward, waiting for me at the end of the class. Mostly, it’s these little fruit bars from DM or a coconut water. It’s pretty important to refuel afterwards.

SO that’s my list! Got anything to add? Pop it in the comments!

Happy Thursday!

Working in Japan

Japan

I know so many people who would do anything to be able to go and work in Japan. It seems to be on the bucket list of so many people, whether they are people who are obsessed with anime, people who like to travel or just people wanting to live an adventure for a year.

I want to write (what may be a kinda long post) about how you can live in Japan – from what options are available to what you’d need to do. SO, let’s get going…

Question 1 – Do you have a degree?

If the answer is NO, you have two choices; be a student or get a working holiday visa.

Japan doesn’t give working visas to those without degrees. It kinda sucks, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t go live in Japan still, it just means that it might take a little money.

If you want to be a student, you can enroll at a language school, or perhaps if you are a university student you can be an exchange student like I was.

HOW CAN I DO THIS?!

Well, to be a student, first you should pick a school to study at, then apply for your visa. You can get lots of info on this here. I’ve never done this (I went through my British university) so I’m afraid I don’t have so much advice. Shop around for the best deal with the school and check out the local area, too. Some universities have programmes where you don’t have to be a university student yourself to go there, but going to a language school is probably the easiest option.

To do a working holiday visa, it’s slightly harder as there are certain conditions, such as being from a certain country, being within a certain age bracket, having a certain amount of savings stocked up and so on. I found a really good website that talks you through the process so check it out. If you don’t have a degree then this is possibly the best way to go about Japan for the year.

Question 2 – Would you be up for fighting for a popular job?

If you have a degree then perhaps you’d like to become an ALT (assistant language teacher) in a school. I asked if you’re ok with fighting for this job because the process is very complicated and involves writing essays, having interviews, and applying for a job that thousands of other people are also dying to get.

This is mainly with The JET Programme but if you happen to fail with them, there are other companies that do the same thing such as Interac, and depending on the city there are other, smaller companies too.

Why is JET so popular?

Well, there are many advantages to being on JET. The first being that the pay is very, very good. I’m willing to say that unless you get a real job at a big company in Japan, you won’t find a salary this good in Japan. Interac and the others don’t pay quite as good, but it’s still better than most.

JET is great because you are welcomed into a great community. You have pre-departure meetings in your home country, and then everyone gets to go to Tokyo together and we take of the Keio Plaza hotel for a few days while we are all training. Those days were so much fun and I made friends with JETs from all over the country.

It’s also a fairly easy job and you don’t need much to be able to do it. The application process requires you to be on the ball though – you need a great essay and to be able to be charismatic and engaging in the interview. Nothing in your application process should hint that you want to go to Japan because of anime, or because you want to find a Japanese partner. You need to have some REAL, solid reasons for wanting to go there.

Why did you leave JET?

There are also a few downsides to JET. The main one for me was that I felt I was over qualified for the school that I was placed at. Some people get placed in amazing schools. Some get placed at schools who use them as human tape recorders. My placement was somewhere in between that, but it still didn’t mean I was actually teaching. I wrote a lot more about it in this blog post from a while back.

They tell you that you are there to teach but really you are there so that they can have random foreigners in the countryside. You will probably not be placed in Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka etc. You are more likely to be placed in the middle of nowhere, with one convenience store which is a 20 minute bike ride away, and where wild boars come scratching at your door every night (hahah, you think I’m joking?!)

I miss life on JET a lot, but I am very grateful to be in a job where I use my skills and my brain.

HOW CAN I DO THIS?!

I’d love to write a blog post on how to get into the JET Programme, but actually a great guide has already been written. Go check it out, and good luck!

Question 3 – Do you want something a little less…stressful?

If the fight to get a place on JET doesn’t appeal to you, then you’re still in luck! In Japan there is a culture of taking classes outside of school – usually called “juku” or “cram schools”. They leave school and go straight to these schools to sit for another few hours cramming their brains with more info. It’s rare that juku would hire native English teachers since they would focus on grammar (being taught in Japanese, of course…) but there are also after school English schools called “eikaiwa”. There are big names ones like Aeon, ECC and the troubled NOVA, and then smaller ones that are owned by, usually, a middle aged Japanese woman who studied abroad and wants to share her love of English with children (correct me if I’m wrong, guys!!)

How is this different to an ALT/JET job?

Well first of all, your salary would be less. It may even be commission based (I had some friends who were to build up their student base and only then made a decent wage.)

Your hours would be different, too. An ALT works from 8am -4pm. An Eikaiwa teacher might work something like 2pm – 10pm. It means that these two different creatures don’t get to hang out so much as their schedules are totally opposite.

Like I mentioned above, as an ALT I went into classrooms and mainly stood at the back until the teacher needed me to say something, then the kids would repeat after me. Occasionally I’d plan a 15 minute game or something. I worked as an eikaiwa teacher part time when I was at uni in Japan. It was a very small school, run by a nice Japanese lady. I was to teach alongside a real idiot British guy (the type who has lived in Japan for 10 years but speaks only a few words), and in an evening the two of us would teach 4 elementary classes back to back. We’d start with a welcome song, then maybe do some alphabet workbook activities, then maybe read them a story and finish off with some shadowing (a strange practice they like to do in Japan where the kids listen to, say, a fairy tale cd, and try to mimic what they say in real-time. The kids have no idea what they are saying. I have no idea if it’s any good or not.)

TELL ME MORE!!

I can’t personally, but I have found some pretty great links that explain what it’s like working at one of these companies.

Keeping the Peace in Japan working for AEON

What can I do with a BA in Japanese Studies – unnamed school

Susie Somewhere at Peppy Kids Club

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There are, of course other ways to get to Japan. Perhaps you can get a gig as a foreign model, or you are a real life teacher and get a job at a university. But these are the three most popular ways of getting to live and experience Japan, and this post is LONG ENOUGH.

Have you ever lived in Japan? I’d love to hear how you got there and what you did!

Frankfurt/Nintendo Q&A

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Recently I have had an increase in the amount of people finding me on Facebook/Linkedin to ask me questions about working for Nintendo and living in Frankfurt. I write this blog because I want to help people, and while I don’t mind the odd person contacting me, I would prefer it if people used the things on my blog before going out to find me.

I have decided to write a post with all the most common questions I get asked, so hopefully this will get found before people click on the “send message” button!!

How do I get a job at Nintendo of Europe?

Have a look at this site for all the latest positions available and apply through that site. As much as I’d love to help everyone who applies, I actually can’t and it’s not fair if I do. Plus the fact I’m not really comfortable talking about work related things to people who randomly find me on the net. I’m sorry. Nintendo is a normal work place and so you should just treat this application as you would any other regular job out there.

What’s it like living in Germany?

It’s probably one of the best places to be in Europe right now. It’s pretty safe, clean and financially secure. German people are funny and interesting to observe and live amongst. It’s easy to find gluten free products, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place that’s more open to vegetarians and vegans. Organic is a complete way of life here and it’s easy to live a healthy life.

But aren’t the taxes super high there? Can I live a good life there?

Well, yes. I think I pay something like 45% in taxes (I may be wrong in that). I know working as an English teacher here is often a financially tough career, but most company workers are paid enough for the net salary to be enough to live well in Frankfurt. Some things are much cheaper here, like I don’t pay much on rent because I live in a great flatshare, and I don’t find food to be that expensive here. German supermarkets have fewer offers than, for example, British supermarkets. Don’t expect to fill your trolley with “buy one get one free” offers. But the overall price of food does tend to be cheaper. I tend to avoid the main supermarket, Rewe, and shop at Indian, Chinese and Turkish shops instead.

Eating out can get expensive. You can expect to pay around 10 euros for a meal, a beer is about 3 euros (here is a typical German restaurant’s menu) but soft drinks like coke can be the expensive part of the meal.

Mobile phone contracts vary greatly in price. I pay quite a lot for mine (around 50 a month) but asking around, most people pay much less than that for their smart phones. A lot of people use pay-as-you-go phones, as well. Check out this site for a list of mobile/cell phone companies.

The company has offered me a ___________ salary/What salary should I ask for?

I can’t really talk much about this. Luckily, Toytown forum has lots of advice!

Can I get home comforts easily?

Well, it depends what you want. I can get pretty much anything I crave from Japan (though not the magazines and books any more since the Japanese book shop closed). There are various Japanese and Chinese supermarkets around that can sell you anything from Calpis to natto. There are also a LOT of great Japanese restaurants around. For British things, British sauces and branded food items can be found in the department stores Galeria and Karstadt. Aldi also does “British week” sometimes, too. There are a lot of American expats here and you can find lots of American foods in the Rewe in the basement of My Zeil.

German clothes shopping is pretty crappy, but we have H&M, Zara and Primark here. ASOS.com has free international delivery so I use that most of the time.

From my recent messages, these seem to be all the most common questions. If I haven’t answered something that you want to know, check out Toytown for lots and lots of German life info, or just pop the question in the comments of this post.

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