Hey y’all, Kevin here. Again. Back with another personal piece. I made the decision last year to study abroad in Tokyo and Chiba for this upcoming fall semester, and have been taking the necessary steps to be able to follow through on that decision. For those who don’t know, to study abroad in Japan, or to get any form of visa, you must receive a Certificate of Eligibility. It’s a document given out by Japan’s Ministry of Justice, which you can only receive they receive the assigned forms, they review said forms, and determine that you are eligible to apply for a visa. The document, in short, is a thick piece of paper that says “This guy can apply.” Only after you receive the Certificate of Eligibility can you work on your visa application. Needless to say, it’s an important document. My program – IES Abroad: Tokyo Language and Culture – tends to take care of most of the application process. They provided me with all the necessary forms, instructed me on how to fill them out, and even sent them to the Ministry of Justice on my behalf. However, it was my job to take the CoE and apply for my visa before my departure date, which is on August 28th.
Let’s backtrack now.
FedEx was set to deliver my form – which requires a signature for delivery – on August 5th, a Monday. So, my mother and I waited, as we both did not have work. But nobody showed up, and our tracking number read that it had been delivered. Naturally we called FedEx to figure out what had happened. They explained that there was a note left on our back door that said that nobody had answered the door so they would return tomorrow. However, we had been home all day, and nobody had come to our door. It turns out FedEx had hired a replacement driver for someone who had not been able to work that day, and the new guy did not understand our complicated street. He had placed the note on our neighbor’s door and left with my CoE. The receptionist promised it would be delivered properly the next day.
So Tuesday came around, and I have my internship here at JASGP, so I was unable to wait. My mother was home and received the envelope containing a series of forms, one of which was my certificate. However, she did not know what the form looked like, so when she slid the documents out and saw Kanda University’s giant Certificate of Admission, she believed she had found what we were looking for, and sent it to the Japanese Consulate in place of my CoE. This would have been an easily remedied mistake, had the certificate not stayed inside of the envelope due to its heavier stock and lack of paper clip. The envelope, of course, wound up in the recycling, along with my visa and trip to Japan. The consulate got back to us almost immediately, telling us that we did not have the Certificate of Eligibility. “It’s really the only document you need,” said Agent 17 plainly (he never gave us his actual name, unless his actual birth certificate name is Agent 17, in which case, cool).
The two of us started scrambling. We called IES to see if they had forgotten it, which, of course, they had not. But would we really throw something so important in the trash? Of course not! So, we contacted the program’s dean, who informed us that, given the circumstances, we would likely have to receive a new CoE. “Cool,” we said, “How long will that take?”
“Well, normally a few weeks, but seeing as the Ministry of Justice is closed for Obon until the 21st, it is unlikely they’ll be able to get it to you before the 28th,” she said.
“Cool,” we said, hung up, and went to find the envelope. Of course, it wasn’t that simple. Of course, we couldn’t just look in the recycling bin and find what we were looking for. Of course, the recycling truck had already come and taken my trip away.
“We’re not done yet,” my mother said, and called up the Philadelphia’s Recycling Center. While she may seem like a kind, sweet woman, my mom is actually a total boss when it comes to high pressure, serious situations. Think Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, but as a therapist. She gave them our address, and was given the truck information and driver’s phone number.
And you BEST BELIEVE we found that truck.
And you BEST BELIEVE we followed that truck – all the way to the dump. Now, the driver of the truck knew what was going on, but the people running that literal trash heap had no idea what was going on. When we told them what we intended to do, the woman in charge looked at us like we were crazy.I mean, how often do two people REQUEST to sift through literal trash in the hopes of finding a trip to Japan. While there was some pushback from the administration there, they let us through with relative ease. Honestly, we probably shouldn’t have even been allowed on the premises. After finagling our way into getting hard hats and neon vests, we were allowed to watch the truck dump it’s 18 ton load, which is far more trash than I ever thought I’d see in person, before crawling through it to find our envelope. That’s right: we crawled through garbage.
And we FOUND. THAT. ENVELOPE.
And it still had the CoE, in near perfect condition. We both screamed and threw our hands in the air like Brad Lidge in ’08, and all the workers clapped and congratulated us: they had never seen someone come to the dump to find something they lost, let alone be successful. After leaving shockingly clean for dumpster divers, I called Agent 17 (seriously I think that’s his birth name) and set up a meeting for that Monday at the actual consulate in New York City. He congratulated us, and let me know exactly what I needed to bring with me, which was pretty much exclusively the Certificate of Eligibility. Again,”It’s really the only document you need.” Now, everyone I’ve told this story to has expressed the same level of awe, explaining the unlikelihood of us finding something as small as a priority mail envelope in 18 tons of garbage, as well as it being in near mint condition. I was not surprised, though. My entire life I have been lucky, finding face up pennies nearly every other day. That luck I attribute to her: she has found more four leafed clovers in a week than most people will in their entire lives. So, on our way to the dump, I had a feeling it would work out: with our combined luck, how could it not?
I received my visa Saturday night, and I fly out on Monday.