Interview by Chris Simmons
This week GMA managed to track down Aomori City’s Alex Brueckner. For those that don’t know Alex, this is no small feat. Most of her spare time is either spent traveling abroad… or planning her next trip (and making all of us jealous).
WARNING: This interview contains several pictures of beautiful beaches that will make you cry when you look out your window at the snowy wonderland that is Aomori.
Why did you choose to join JET?
I fell in love with living in a foreign culture when I studied in Cologne, Germany, so I was deadset on moving abroad after graduation. I’d already spent extensive time in Europe, the bugs were too big in South America and Australia, and my fair skin would’ve burnt to a crisp in Africa. I also wanted to use my English degree while being afforded the opportunity to travel. JET ticked all of those boxes.
What do you hope to gain from JET?
It’s funny, because I originally came on JET thinking that I’d do one year and then head off somewhere new. Three years later and I’ve fallen head over heels in love with my job. I rarely ever get truly homesick, but when I do, it’s when I don’t have any lessons for extended periods of time. I genuinely really love the kids I teach. JET has taught me that my passion is teaching English, and at this point, it’s kind of difficult to imagine myself doing something different. It sounds clichéd, but I think that JET is the rare job that presents you opportunities to better yourself professionally and personally every day, so now I’m just trying to put as many of those to use in order to improve both my future and present.
What are your plans after JET?
Not move back to the US…that’s pretty much all I’ve decided on as of yet. For a while, my go-to answer was “head to Europe for grad school,” but now I plan on getting my TEFL certification and either applying for a position on the Peace Boat or heading to Korea to teach. Grad school can wait, I think.
How long do you plan on staying in Japan?
Obviously it’s difficult to do anything but take it a year at a time, but unless something very drastic changes, I want to stay the full five years allotted for JETs. After that, I don’t plan on making Japan my long-term home, however. Too many other places are calling my name.
Do you participate in any clubs or extracurricular activities/hobbies?
I did calligraphy for a while, but my left-handedness and total lack of artistic ability proved too frustrating for me. I also run my high school’s English club. Personally speaking, I run during spring/summer/fall, do yoga, and enjoy cooking. I also spend a fair bit of time writing; I run my own personal blog, The Globe-Trotting Geek, on WordPress, and I write regularly for Mind Equals Blown, a music blog, and Dead Screen, which is its sister pop culture/media site, as well as submitting random pieces to travel blogs, like Matador Network. I went through a stint last year during which I was writing for Thought Catalog pretty regularly, too. Additionally, I’m basically addicted to travelling. Bring me that horizon, baby.
What are a few things you like about Japan?
The food, oh good god, the food. If I had to eat only sushi from Kantaro every day for a year, I wouldn’t complain. I also love the convenience and speed of bullet trains. I lived in a fairly rural community in the States, so if you didn’t have a car, you were kind of stuck. I like that I can hop on a train in Aomori and be in Tokyo three and a half hours later. I think what I love most, though, is that Japan presents with you with amazing cultural experiences and events constantly. There’s always some random festival going on if you know where to look.
What are a few things you dislike about Japan?
I would shank a nun for central heating and buses that are on-time during the winter. Also, shirako. Who thought it was a good idea to eat cod sperm sacs?!
What do you miss the most from your hometown/country?
If we’re talking beyond the obvious “family, friends, pets” trifecta, it would be the linguini pallini and tiramasu from Olives & Peppers, the tiny, top-notch Italian restaurant that’s five minutes from my house.
Do you have any interesting or embarrassing stories about adjusting to Japanese culture?
Well, one time I called a kid named Daisuke “daisuki” by mistake during class. That was a rather embarrassing moment. I also accidentally went to Hokkaido my second month during a school visit, because there were technical difficulties that day and my Japanese wasn’t advanced enough to understand the announcement about only the doors at the front of the train opening. Whoops.
Is there any important information about you that you would like to share with others (unique ability or interests)?
A lot of people are surprised when they first learn how many tattoos I have. I’m also a raging car enthusiast (which is kind of funny, considering I’ve driven exactly once in the past two years) thanks to my love of the British motoring programme, Top Gear.
wear gloves or mittens? Definitely mittens. I have a pair of kick-ass mittens that my grandma gave me for Christmas this year and they’ve withstood Aomori’s winter admirably. They may look like something a twelve-year-old would use, but I couldn’t care less, because they keep my fingers from freezing.
bake brownies or cookies? Cookies, for sure. Actually, for much of my childhood, I couldn’t stand chocolate in any form. (I know, I know, BLASPHEMY.) That all changed when I studied abroad in Germany and discovered the glory that is Kinder Bueno candy bars. I’ve learned to like chocolate now, but I’ll still gravitate towards desserts that don’t rely on it as a major flavor. Give me oatmeal or pumpkin spice cookies, and I’m a happy camper. And if I had to pick between risking salmonella on brownie batter or cookie dough, cookies are definitely the more tempting option. (Note: If they are Nutella brownies, this answer goes out the window, because Nutella is the gods’ gift to mortals.)
drink hot buttered rum or amazake? Hot buttered rum sounds like it’d taste like butterbeer from Harry Potter, so that’s a no-brainer.
have Christmas Cake or Christmas Ham? Cake, all the way. I’ve never really been of a fan of ham, and I will ALWAYS choose dessert if given the option.
travel to Hokkaido in the winter or Tokyo in the summer? Hokkaido in the winter. Any time I go to Tokyo in the summer, I always think I’m going to spend the entire day exploring new parts of the city and lounging in parks, and then the two hundred percent humidity and eight thousand degree temperature hit me, and all I want to do is ride the air-conditioned metro all day. I can always add on more layers when it’s cold…sadly, there’s only so much clothing I can discard in the summer before people start to look at me like my brain’s gone a bit wonky.