Interview by Chris Simmons
Now that everyone is back to work, I suppose the Spotlight should be too. And what better way then to get to know a wonderful Texas native that is spending her 3rd year tucked away in the heart of Tsugaru… Ashleigh Mooney! Check out the interview to learn more about Ashleigh and her dainty tushie.
Why did you choose to join JET?
To educate the youth of tomorrow! Help students fulfill their hopes and dreams! Promote world peace! End world hunger! Go to space! Colonize Mars! Uhh what was the question again?
I chose to join JET because I had always been interested in Japan and its society. Japanese and American/Western cultures are drastically different, though if you look closely enough there are some similarities. Because of my background in psychology, I’ve always been fascinated with how people relate to each other in Japan and how this plays out in their history. I also wanted to experience being in Japan first-hand and truly immerse myself into the culture, amongst other lofty goals haha.
What do you hope to gain from JET?
I suppose my goals for JET aren’t too different from anyone else, though I like to think of myself as a special little snowflake. I hope to mostly gain experience and grow more into the person I want to be. I came to Japan right after university and I was still figuring out who I am and what does life mean and why did the chicken cross the road.
I could take up a whole book with the things I’ve gained being in Japan but to save time and your attention span, I’ve gained amazing friends, patience, acceptance of others and myself, confidence and some great stories.
What are your plans after JET?
I’m currently working on applications for doctorate programs in counseling psychology. Hopefully after JET I will go to grad school where I can learn how to better save the world. On a serious note I want to help others who are struggling. It is amazing how the simple act of being listened to can make you feel better. Life is tough and we all need help once in a while. This past year I’ve worked for the AJET Peer Support Group, volunteering a few nights a month and the experience has really taught me a lot about how to be a better listener and to give people support. So a quick word to anyone struggling, no matter how big or small your problem is, the PSG hotline is open every night. And you can always message me directly if you want someone to listen! Everyone needs help every now and then; it takes a strong person to seek it out.
If grad school doesn’t pan out, I have a couple of backup plans. I might move into my parents’ basement but their current house doesn’t have one so they will have to move. Sucks to be them. Or I could become a dissatisfied, angry housewife from the 50s who drinks martinis all day. Though I don’t like gin so instead I will substitute in long island ice teas.
How long do you plan on staying in Japan?
Y’all are stuck with me for another year and a half! Why are you running away?!
Do you participate in any clubs or extracurricular activities/hobbies?
I mainly work with my school’s English club about once a week. There is lots of freedom in activities so our main goal is to just talk and express our ideas and opinions. Holiday lessons are the best; this year they wrote monster poems, made hand turkeys and played Christmas games!
What are a few things you like about Japan?
What are a few things you dislike about Japan?
What do you miss the most from your hometown/country?
My cat and dog! They are my wittle beebees and I miss squeezing their wittle faces 😀 I mean, uh… my family and friends?
What was it like growing up in your hometown?
Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world~~~
I think I had a relatively normal childhood! The weirdest experience looking back was a summer camp my parents shipped me off to in order to get some peace and quiet. It was a month of being surrounded by other 9 year old girls and we did usual things like bracelet making, painting, shooting rifles, canoeing, horseback riding –wait what?? Yes folks, after one lesson of showing us how to load our rifles, we would just come in, grab a box of bullets and our favorite gun and go shoot at paper targets. All supervised by a bored 14 year old girl. It was a simpler time… And I have never felt so southern since haha.
What are your family and siblings like?
My mom teaches nursing classes in my old high school. She is one smart lady, but even she has her special moments. When she was in her 20s she used to carry pepper spray on her keychain. Once she wondered what pepper spray smelled like. So she took the safety off, pressed the button and stuck her face in the pepper cloud…. These are the moments that make me wish I was adopted haha.
My dad used to manage a cargo shipping company but he is now retired and spends most of his time at home gardening. Sometimes he asks why I don’t call super often and I like to tell him some of us have to work for a living. I can’t just lazy about at home like some people! And then he is fine with not talking to me for a while, it’s like magic!
Do you have any interesting or embarrassing stories about adjusting to Japanese culture?
Hahaha have you not met me? I have tons of these! I have ordinary ones about realizing my shoes are on the wrong feet in class, telling the gas station attendant I want a full stomach of gasoline instead of a full tank and accidentally walking into the men’s restroom because there were no signs posted.
My favorite though has to be over the summer when I went to a JTE’s tea ceremony. This teacher and I are really good friends and she had a tea ceremony she was going to put on and she wanted Aviette and I to go. She was really excited because she borrowed a friend’s kimonos for us to wear during her tea ceremony! So we get all dolled up and look very lovely in our kimonos and we sit down on these rickety old chairs for the ceremony. Things are going great, the tea is wonderful and all the other guests are having fun. I leaned over to say something to Aviette and the chair I was sitting on broke! I fell flat on the floor and immediately started cracking up. So there I was rolling around on the ground in a beautiful kimono laughing like a lunatic and everyone else was shrieking in horror/concern.
I wonder why that JTE doesn’t invite me out anymore.
One of my less embarrassing, more fun experiences, was playing in Goshogawara’s Tachinebuta! I had no idea what I was doing but it was fun hahaha.
How did you spend your winter break?
My favorite part of winter break was going to Tokyo for the All Japan Speech Contest! My student won the Aomori competition, so we were all excited to go to the next stage. She didn’t win, but her attitude was amazing; she was totally fine with not winning and was just so happy to be in Tokyo. We spent a few days going around and doing some shopping, and it is going to be one of my favorite memories from JET.
warm up with nabe or ramen?
Por qué no los dos? I suppose I would go with ramen; it’s always tasty though I need to practice on my slurping skills.
visit an onsen or have a private bath?
I get stared at enough with my clothes on, I would hate to see what would happen if I were naked haha. The little old grannies can’t handle all of me!
have a heated toilet seat or a heated blanket?
Heated toilet seat! Winter is cold and my tushie is like a dainty southern rose.
run out of tōyu or lose your internet connection?
Ugh asking the tough questions! Well I’ve lived without both here (yes I’m insane) but I think…. Lose my internet connection? Why would you make me choose between them, you monster!