Japan, Week 1
November 1, 2010 6:30 AM CST
I’m sitting here at the Omaha airport, waiting for my flight. I just said goodbye to the family. The reality of this trip is finally beginning to sink in for me. I am now totally alone. And I am only going to become more isolated. Damn. But this is what I wanted. I take comfort in the challenge before me. Sink or swim, in Japan.
November 2, 2010 9:00 PM Japanese Standard Time
My body has been running for 48 straight hours, not including crossing the international dateline. I am sitting in my own room at the training house in Omiya, Japan, just north of Tokyo. I need to review some Japanese before bed, but I want to write a brief blog entry for my first day!
I departed Omaha, NE at 7 AM Monday morning, after a brief layover I arrived in Tokyo at 3 PM Tuesday afternoon. The airport arrival consisted of immigration, baggage claim, customs and pick up by my trainer. My training group consists of four young women; Charlie, Lauren, Lisa & Elisha. After pick up from the airport we rode two different trains before hopping in cabs and going to our training school. Once at the school we unpacked and headed down to the local grocery store. Shopping for basic groceries was a major culture shock as I had difficulties locating basic *American* foodstuffs. Not to mention the very awkward interaction the cashier and I shared. Lesson 1 in a foreign country: LEARN THEIR LANGUAGE.
Now both my brain & body are dead tired. I’m going to review some Japanese and then go to bed. Speaking of, the beds here are traditional futons, meaning I’m sleeping on the ground. This will take some getting use to.
November 3, 10:30 PM JST
What a long, fun day! I work up early for a short run. Had breakfast & got cleaned up with ample time before training began. The girls were also ready early so we hung out and shot the breeze for a while. Training was informative, albeit preliminary. I received details about my future school, Sagamiono. I will be working at a very large school, with 450 students. Fortunately I have two other foreign teachers I will be working with. I’m counting on these people to be extremely helpful in assimilating to Japanese life. Unfortunately both my school & train station are further from my apartment that I thought. However 20 minutes by foot to either location isn’t bad.
After training me and the ladies went out for an adventure. We took the local train line to downtown Tokyo. Very cool. Next we had dinner, such small portions! Finally we found a bar/restaurant where one of Lauren’s friends work. We had some complimentary drinks before venturing back to the school. The commute was 60+ minutes by both train and foot! A far cry from Lincoln!
And now I’m off to bed before I fall asleep typing!
November 4, 9:45 PM JST
First full day of training! We spent a solid eight hours learning how to teach children. We started memorizing different games and songs to use with our kids. Personally I will be teaching children from grades 1 through 5! Fortunately the maximize class size is eight students. We also spent some considerable time practicing parts of a normal lesson. It will be a challenge teaching exactly like my company, ETERNAL, wants me to, but I think it is something I will eventually excel at. I am very excited to put all of my natural “genki” (roughly translated; happy energy), into practice, dealing with enthusiastic English learners!
On a more personal note, I’m resuming my healthy lifestyle while in Japan! I went for another lovely run early this morning through a local park. It was nice seeing the locals walking & jogging about. I took a brief breath at the top of a hill to observe the natural scenery. The subtle difference in the Japanese flora and morning dew was indeed serene.
I am still caught off-guard in the morning when I wake up and realize, “I’m in a different country.” I sometimes forget this during the day when we’re locked inside and spend eight hours dissecting the English language. It is only at night when I walk to the neighborhood grocery store that I’m reminded I’m in a land far away. A land with different language and strange alphabet. WIthout my fellow trainees, all of whom have been to Japan before, I would be totally lost here. Still though, this thought does not really bother me.
That is all for now. I’m going to crawl into bed for a third consecutive night of a nine-hour slumber. I could get used to this.
November 5, 11:30 PM JST
Huzzah! Today our children’s training culminated in an evaluated practice run. I presented a 50 minute lesson plan focusing on the future, which included a “wh-” word, “what do you want to be?” While I was still far from perfect, I believe that I excelled at this test. Concluding my teaching lesson, I was asked to evaluate myself. Of course I was proud of how I performed. But an American statement of “I performed well” is considered arrogant. Working for ETERNAL, and thus working within the confines of Japanese society, I am expected to demean my work so to prioritize my weaknesses. So I bit my tongue. I taught moderately successful, but have much to work on.
Following another eight hour day, the ladies and I went out for dinner and some drinks. On the walk home we grabbed my first true “road beer.” That is, we each picked up a pint at the local 7/11 market, and walked the half mile home with open beers in our hands. As if walking home buzzed with an open container wasn’t foreign enough, I tried to read all the Japanese signs on the way home. Welcome to Japan, Alex.
PS- I experienced my first earthquake today!