November 7, 10:00 PM JST
It’s Sunday evening, marking my first full week in Japan. It’s funny how far removed from culture shock I feel at this time. I suppose that the weight of moving away has still yet to really hit me. Today was an adventurous day that took me all over the city, with some sight seeing. Yet I still have this funny feeling as though I’ve done it all before. I think my numbness to any home sickness is aided by all the time I’m spending with the other new trainees. They’ve quickly become an important support system for me. I think the real test for me will come when we go our separate ways and I’m finally all alone.
Sunday was our only day off this week. To celebrate the occasion, the ladies and I went down to Yokohama. For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese geography, Yokohama is a major city just an hour south of Tokyo. Since I’m staying in Ómiya, an hour north of Tokyo, we spent considerable time merely commuting. I believe I spent just shy of $20 to make this journey, and I’m not sure if that’s a fair amount yet.
Once in Yokohama, we went to the city’s Chinatown. We strolled around for a few hours looking at the odd trinkets and having Chinese lunch. The Chinese food here was a bit more Chinese than the American interpretation. While in Chinatown I had my first Japanese woman come on to me. While leaning on a post she shuffled up next to me and begun whispering sweet nothings to me. My friends laughed out loud before they translated. “You’re a handsome young man. I’m a single woman. When I was younger I worked for a major company.” Had this sweet lady been a half century younger, I may have asked her out right there. I smiled back, bowed and said “arrigato gozamaisu.” She smiled, then the sweet old senior citizen turned and walked away.
Next we visited the Yokohama pier and witnessed, from the ground, the famous ferris wheel. I’m very excited to venture back and take a ride on it. We grabbed margaritas at an American-styled restaurant and made the long journey back north. Before making it back to the ETERNAL house, we stopped at the local market to pick up tomorrow’s dinner. We all desperately need to save money, since our first full paycheck won’t come until January 25th. So we’re going to be cooking a group meal and eating in for the remainder of the week. I am looking forward to eating with the girls and cementing our friendships.
Hope all is well back in the States!
November 8, 11:45 PM JST
Truly a hectic Monday! Training was spent covering a regular 50 minute adult lesson. I believe this will constitute the bulk of my classes. Tomorrow we’re having actual ETERNAL students come in for a demo lesson. The girls are all relatively nervous/concerned about how they will perform. This couldn’t be any further from how I feel. Although I am far from being 100% prepared, I’m sure I’ll pass with flying colors. It’s been fun living with four girls for the past week. I’m consistently amused at the minor differences between the sexes.
Today a group of ETERNAL teachers came back to the training house for their 3-month workshop. We were able to have lunch with them and pick their brains. I befriended a young bloke, Ben, from Manchester who was quite charming. Together he and his comrades told us some of their highs and lows with their jobs thus far. I was relatively alarmed to find many people were not enjoying their jobs like they thought they would. While this is a tad disconcerting, I think attitude means a lot. And some of those folks just had plain crummy attitudes. I hope I can be as upbeat as Ben when I return for my follow-training in three months.
November 9, 11:30 PM JST
Another beautiful morning here in Ómiya! Lauren, Elisha and myself were up and out of the door by 7:30 for a long run through the local park. Already my stamina is amazing and my beer belly is shrinking!
Today we demonstrated an abbreviated lesson to actual ETERNAL students. 11 individuals from the Tokyo metropolitan area volunteered to come to the training school for practice lessons. Apart from giving my 15-minute lecture, I was able to chat one-on-one with some Japanese folks. This was SO much fun. It was a little difficult discerning their English from their accents, but I managed. An interesting aspect of my job is the cliental. The majority of the students that come through our doors have enough disposable income to learn a second language. WIth such income comes additional disposable income. As I learned from many students tonight, their ample resources provide them with an envious lifestyle. I cannot wait to befriend some students and hopefully share in their experiences!
Additionally, I talked some business tonight with a trainer. I discovered that ETERNAL is a privately held company. It seems the company is comfortably operating in the black. I also learnt that following the financial collapse of 2008, ETERNAL has become the largest English-learning corporation in all of Japan. Additionally, the owner of ETERNAL places a heavy emphasis on fiscal responsibility. While a student must pay for 100% of their tuition up front, 50% is refundable if they don’t finish the course. This portion is deposited into a trust fund that is only accessible to the company should the student complete their course, or if they demand a refund. I find this practice to be both honorable & beneficial to both the company and the client. As an employee, this bodes well for my future with the company.
Training this evening was followed by road beers, internet cafe, road beers and dinner. Some of the girls cooked up a fine Chinese dish and we enjoyed each others company over dinner and conversation. Training sure is swell.
November 10, 11:55 PM JST
It’s too late in the day for me to write much, so apologies for today’s curt nature. Today I presented an entire adult lesson plan. Given the circumstances, I performed well. I did receive much positive criticism from my trainers and will continue to make progress by the corporation’s standards. Additionally today we learned about the highest-level English courses ETERNAL offers. These courses are discussion based, where the students do research and come to class to discuss. In this sense, these upper-level courses are in a similar vain as collegiate discussion classes. Fortunately, I am teaching two courses like this per week. I am VERY excited to lead the discussions.
Dinner tonight was a traditional Japanese dish consisting of cabbage, carrots, onions, chicken, egg & rice. Elisha and Lauren are proving to be wonderful chefs and I look forward to dinner every evening. We did make a brief stop at the internet cafe where I was able to call Mom and chat briefly with a few of you. While the interactions I had were every pleasurable, it somewhat confirmed a suspicion I was holding; I am only homesick when I can talk to my friends and family back home. Even so, please continue to send me your emails and messages as I do dearly enjoy reading them. However, please know that I won’t be checking too often. I miss you all, but am surviving quiet well here.
PS- I want to give a brief shout-out to Aaron & Alexandra Ball for welcoming their son, Michael Dylan Ball, to our world! I am very sorry I can’t be there to celebrate with them. Please send them my love and good will if you can!
November 11, 11:00 PM JST
Another fun day of training! We continued learning about adult discussion classes. These are difficult to instruct, but will prove to be rewarding once I find my groove. Lunch today was at a local French restaurant, Saint Marc’s. Three of our trainers took the five us out for a four course meal. The food and service was of the highest quality, very recommended. It was also nice to chat with our supervisors outside of the “office” and get to know them a bit more personally.
November 13, 1:00 AM JUST
FINAL DAY OF TRAINING! And indeed it was bitter sweet. We presented our final practice lesson. I have continued to make progress, but still have much to work on. These details will surface once I begin to teach on the coming Wednesday. Training concluded with a ceremony presenting ETERNAL lapel pins. Pretty sweet. I’ll be tacking this pin on to my suit every morning when I head to work.
Work was followed by dinner at a local restaurant and some drinks. It’s funny how I’m just now finding my way to bed, 5+ hours after work concluded. I feel at home.
November 14, 3:30 PM
Happy Sunday to all! My ETERNAL schedule has fallen in to place a bit more, as I’m enjoying my first, soon to become regular, two day weekend. Saturday was spent relatively relaxed. I was fortunate enough to speak with a few of you over the phone. And I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with each one of you! It sounds like all is well in Lincoln. I’m sorry I missed the first snow. However I am thrilled that the Huskers pulled out another victory!
The reality of my first big-boy job sunk in a bit deeper on Saturday. I spent more than four hours preparing my lessons for the following week. All of my labor only prepared me for 8 of my 10 classes next week. It appears my time is no longer my own. They say the Japanese have perhaps the strongest work ethic. I am experiencing this first hand.
Sunday morning came early as I went for a long jog and I continued to explore new parts of the local park. After a nice breakfast; Lauren, Charlie and myself ventured down to the local shrine. This weekend is a special Japanese holiday, “Shichi Go San”. The holiday is kind of a rite of passage for 7 year old girls, 5 year old boys & 3 year old girls. For this occasion the children dress up in kimonos and have their pictures taken. As such, the temple was busy with young families partaking in this Japanese custom. I was very delighted to see how happy everyone was. Following our visit to the shrine we walked about the park for another hour taking everything in. Sunday is often the only day of the week that people have off, so their squeezing in all their extracurriculars and hobbies into one day. Students and adults alike were enjoying the nice weather in a lovely location.
We returned to the training school for lunch and more lesson planning. I only spent 2 hours finalizing my coming week. The girls and I then went out for dinner and another brief stop at the internet cafe.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of another big week! In the morning I will board a train for Sagamihara. Once I arrive at my local station, I will be greeted by a representative from my school. They will spend the day with me as I sign up for my Alien Registration Card, open a bank account, and get a cell phone. The rest of the day will be mine to unpack and prepare for work on Tuesday. I do expect my schedule to be consumed with work for the next week, so my internet presence will limited. Fear not I will be alive and well.
That’s all for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading up on my activities. I would love to hear what you all think. Please feel free to leave comments and add any advice. Additionally I do love to hear news from home, so drop me a line anytime!
Until next time,