I Passed My Test!!!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

So this is how it happened. I didn't pass on Monday and so I went crying to my supervisor that I needed help. Instead of anything useful, he said "Do you're best and I'm sure you'll pass next time" All the while knowing that if I don't actually improve, I'll be taking this test up 12 or 13 times! No one is going to pass me just because I show up. They'll just feel bad failing me every time.

So I went home crying to Nick. The next day (because his Japanese is much better than mine) he called up the testing center, then called up some driving schools and finally called up a few private tutors that could help me out. After pulling a few strings he set me up with a very nice teacher for Thursday afternoon (more time off of work...bleh)

However, there was a problem that I'd been having since about my 5th time taking the test. As I kept improving, the proctors kept giving me more and more specific information for how to improve. My Japanese limits me to basic stuff so even though I was getting the gist of what they were saying, I couldn't understand the very specifics and that frustrated me even more. I told this to Nick and he decided to come all the way from Kitagawa* to translate what the tutor was saying to me while we drove around.

*Ino is where the testing center is. It's about 30 minutes west of Kochi city. I live about 40 minutes East of Kochi city and Nick lives about 2 hours East of Kochi city. Just to put things into perspective. He also had to take a little bit of time off of work as well. He gets more vacation time than I do but still.

On Thursday, I went to work until 2pm then hopped on a train to Kochi city where I met up with Nick who then drove me to the testing center.

Actually, right as Nick was leaving work early that day, he decided to take a back road home. He'd done this before, it was normal. Earlier in the week he had a close call with almost getting run over by a car. He missed it and nothing really happened. But on Thursday, as he was riding his bike home from work, he actually did get hit by a car.

It was some old woman who went through a blind turn too quickly. She hit Nick and he bounced back off the car only so that the car could keep going forward and drag him a few feet. His right foot has a pretty big scrape on it but if he hadn't been wearing sneakers, I'd say that a good chunk of it would have gone missing. Other than that, there are a few scrapes on his back and arm but nothing very serious. The bike is completely shot.

And he still made it into Kochi city in time to pick me up and take me to my tutor.

We practiced there for a few hours and that was about it. I took the test on Friday and everyone at the testing center was very proud. They were so happy to see how much I had improved. They really were all rooting for me. :)

And I honestly don't know how I can make it up to Nick. He knows it's a big deal what he did but the gratitude I feel is immeasurable.

And that's my story! I'll be driving like crazy for the next few weeks!!!!

More Driving Frustrations

Monday, September 10, 2007

I still haven't passed the driving test. Today was my 6th attempt. That's 6 vacation days wasted. That's more than 36300 yen (just about $350) down the drain. That's 18 days of worrying about all of this. I'm talking lot's of dreams about driving. Lots.

And still what feels like no progress.

The test is hard and they grade me accordingly. It wasn't made to be an easy test. I've heard everyones opinion about it too. It's not fair the way they expect us to pass this test without ever taking a Japanese course in it. It's not right to have such a ridiculously difficult test. There's no way you can drive like this is real life! Why would they want you to drive that way on the course? They're just out to get your money. They're jerks. They want to break you before they'll pass you. Make sure they see you cry. Let them think they've won and you'll get your license and be done with all this bs.

This is the sort of thing that people say. And it's easy to believe it too. I've cried three times now over this test. The last one was actually in front of someone as my pride couldn't hold the tears back any more. It is true that I've spent a lot of money on this. But not as much money and time and energy if I had actually taken the course which is about 8 weeks of intense study and testing as well as around $3000. I know because a friend of mine actually had to take it. He past on the first attempt but I wouldn't expect anything less. One of his class sessions actually covered which finger he should use to turn on the blinker.

This is how asinine this test is.

But the truth is that no one's out to get me. This is just how the system works and none of my instructors are trying to break me or take my money. They don't see an single extra yen if I pass or fail.

In fact, they've actually made the test easier for foreigners. I sat in the car one attempt with a Japanese man who was also taking the test that day. I watched him drive "the same course" as I did that day. His was much more difficult. It was longer and had more hoops to jump through. He didn't pass that day. I saw him again today actually. He's on his 4th take. I don't know if he took the driving course in the first place. I also don't know if he passed. I hope he did. No one should go through this hell more than once.

But for me, it seems I've been giving more help than any other JET this year from what I've heard. One girl passed on the first try out of sheer luck. One girl took it 5 times and had to pay for two super expensive lessons where the instructor drove around with her and told her all the tricks for how to pass. One girl took it 8 times and every time no one told her what she had done wrong which is slightly unusual. Normally they'll tell you at least one thing that you did wrong. They never told her a single time for some reason. Her school ended up paying for a $300 tutor to help her out.

But as for me, I seem to be a bit different. First, I am one of the only JETs who was never accompanied to a test by anyone from school. I had to beg to get someone to take me to the paperwork day when they had to make copies of my passport and American drivers license and interview me about my driving record. After that, there has been nothing. This is highly unusual though it's definitely not required that anyone accompany me. That's certainly not in anyones job description.

Aside from that one HUGE set back (am I bitter? We'll see when this is all over) I've actually been given a lot of help outside of all that. The first take I did miserably. The second take I did only slightly better. But the amazing thing was that my proctor took me aside and brought me into the classroom where he proceeded to show me how I should be driving on the course, where I should turn on my blinkers, etc etc. After he calculated my results (failure) he actually wrote down a note to have translated so that I could understand exactly what he was saying. This is one of the most amazing things ever done in the history of the Kochi Driving Exam. Many a JET has begged their proctor to write down exactly what they did wrong only to be refused in the end. My proctor did it out of the kindness of his heart without even being asked.

The third take I left before my very kind proctor could see me cry. The fourth....is a haze. I can't actually remember anything about it except that I was sure of myself. The 5th I thought I had it down. I was sure that I passed more than ever before! And my proctor was an ass in the end and I didn't pass. He was an ass because for the first time I was treated the way that everyone else had been treated. He told me one thing that I had done wrong (I turned too slowly on the curves...which, personally I don't think is not worth a failing grade for) and when I failed he said nothing. I wasn't even sure I had failed in the first place! He just gave me back my papers and walked away. I cried that day too. Snot everywhere ;)

Today, I was sure I would pass again. I stressed so much before that coming into the test today I couldn't have even cared less. I knew the courses by heart. I knew what to do and where to do them. I had done an excellent job before and the only reason why I didn't pass was because my proctor was a jerk.

Usually I get to the test site about an hour and a half early. The trains work that way (BITTER!!!) and it gives me a chance to study in the right environment. Almost every time I've tested I see this one motorcycle instructor. She's talked to me a couple of times before and she's always really nice. We talk about things like how many times I've taken the test, where I'm from, what I'm doing here. I look forward to seeing her and she always says "do your best!" whenever she leaves. I know she's rooting for me.

And so, today when I saw her, I smiled and said this was definitely the last time I would be taking the test. It was my 6th try and I was very sure of myself. She said her usual "do your best" and that was it. Then about 10 minutes later, an elderly man came up to me and said "what course are you taking?" Just like that. In Japanese, of course, but just as matter of fact. I told him and he pulled me into the classroom and told me everything that I could ever know about the course I was testing on today. It was just as if I had paid him to teach me only it didn't cost me a cent. I know that it was the motorcycle instructor pulling a favor for me.

In the end, the man didn't tell me much of what I didn't already know. He gave me a few tips but for the most part, I had it down. He helped with my confidence boost and he helped me with little things that I might get a few points off on. Hey, in this test, every point counts!!!

When the bell rang, I got one of the nicest proctors yet. There were two times when there were problems completely outside of my control and I don't think he marked me off for them! (A man walked out onto the course and I had to stop or hit him and another time a different car on the course was in my way so I had to stop where I was as well which is, of course, a no no in real life. But then again, no one said this was reality. It's Japan) He was the first proctor to actually talk to me like a normal human being instead of god talking down to his subjects. I thought for sure he would take pity on me. But in the end, I failed just like I had before.

I cried right in front of him when he told me this. He actually stuck around too to give me more pointers.

When I got home, I went straight to school and cried for my supervisor too. I told him I didn't understand the Japanese. I didn't know what else to improve upon. I just don't know what else to do!!! I'll never pass this if I don't do something different!!!

His answer:

"hmmmm, you know, Japanese people are lucky if they pass after 6 attempts. Do your best, I'm sure you'll get it next time!"

Thanks a lot.

I'm going to see if I can bribe him to call up the testing center and figure out just why I haven't passed. Something. ANYTHING from him would help. He's supposed to be taking care of me! This is his JOB!!!!


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