More Liver

Bounenkai

 

December 7

Success! I’m finally up to date with my blogging. Everything is posted, and is currently being written! I hope to stay on top of this from now on!

Today was another average day at work. A very enjoyable day, but nothing that I haven’t already described! The walk home was the coldest of my time in Japan so far. The thermometer reads 7 (46 F). We’re approaching mid-December and we still haven’t had the first freeze of the year here. That’s a change from the norm in Nebraska!

Today is also Pearl Harbor remembrance day. It is somewhat surreal walking the streets of Japan on today. I waited all day to see if anyone would make mention of the occasion. Just as I expected, no one did. However on the walk to and from work I thought about all the changes that have taken place since December 7th, 1942. How much smaller the world is. How a young white American can traverse this country with no quarrels. Pretty neat.

Nothing much else to report today. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

 

December 8

Woke up. Went to work. Left work. Had drinks. Came home. Went to bed.

Just another day working and playing in Japan. After work I went out with Joanna, Hamish and two students. We had a few drinks and dinner to commemorate Joanna’s impending departure. The two students that came with us were both high level English speakers. Which made small talk much easier!

I tried liver for the first time tonight, at least the first time to my knowledge. This is the first food in Japan, and actually the first food ever, that I found myself averse to. Per usual, I was eating everything on the table when I picked up a cut of liver. The smell seemed off, but still I ate it. The texture was off-putting, but still I pushed on. The taste was poor. After swallowing the little piece, I told the others how I didn’t care for that meat. They promptly told me it was liver, and I was further revolted, it was psychologically gross. I figured I had better make sure it wasn’t just a bad piece that I ate. I went back in for another piece. Chewed it and swallowed. Suspicion confirmed, I do not like liver.

At work today, I had one of my favorite classes. I have a weekly private lesson with a middle-aged woman. She works for a major news channel in Tokyo and is one of their top translators. Each week she brings in audio portions from various English speaking media outlets; like BBC, PBS & CNN. This woman’s level of English comprehension is astonishing. The material she brings in to go over with me is often for her own practice, which she uses to practice her translation skills. Other times she’s brought in actual material that has been broadcasted. Very cool.

 

December 9

This week at work we’re distributing evaluation forms to all of our students. A portion of this form is about me, their teacher. Only four weeks on the job and I’m being critically evaluated! How’s that for a learning curve! Actually I am thrilled that ETERNAL is having us provide this to the students. I feel like an actual educator, and a paid one. These students are filling in bubble sheets giving us their opinions. We won’t have the data processed for another two or three weeks, but I can’t wait to hear their thoughts!

Otherwise today was a little different from usual. Hamish was at the corporate office attending a workshop. So Joanna and I split his normal workload, resulting in a very busy day! I taught two courses that were not regular. It was nice to step out of my comfort zone to teach from a different book. And of course it was a delight to meet new students!

 

December 10

For lunch I took the elevator down to the first floor of the station and visited the grocery store. I picked up a bento and pint of milk. I took break in the teacher’s lounge and chatted with Joanna and Hamish as I ate my lunch. Midway through my meal I decided that I didn’t really care for my lunch. The beef bento didn’t quite taste right. I told Joanna this and she broke out laughing. “You’re eating liver, again” she told me. I looked at my “beef” and sighed, there went my appetite. “Better make sure it wasn’t a fluke,” I thought. I took one more bite and threw the rest away. Yep, I really don’t care for liver.

After work the foreign teachers all went out for a quick pint. A quick pint quickly turned into a 90 minute conversation. We all wanted to go home for some rest before Saturday, our earliest work day of the week. But we were all enjoying ourselves too much. Eventually we saddled up and went our separate ways.

 

December 11

Saturday’s at ETERNAL Sagamiono are a rush. All told there are eight teachers and three staff members running around all day. Per usual, no sooner was the first student coming in than the last student exited the school. Normally after work on Saturdays I would get a quick drink or just head home and get to bed. But today was a special occasion. Our office held our yearly bounenkai, translated as “end of year party”. This is a very popular tradition in Japan. Coworkers, friends & family alike all celebrate the end of the year in the weeks preceding the new year. I could get use to the yearly bounenkai.

Our bounenkai was a combined affair this year. We celebrated a completed year, but all gave a salute to Joanna who is leaving in exactly one week. As such, the party was both lively and somber. However the open bar, and the boss footing the bill made for a very happy evening! Dinner was a four course meal. Many traditional Japanese foods were served, all of which were delicious. Except for the liver. Yet again I knowingly took a bite of a liver. And yet again I was dissatisfied.

The main course motsunabe came out in three pots over hot burners. The nine of us spent much time trying to figure out the English equivalent of motsunabe. We decided it was similar to giblets and collagen, neither of which are common in western diets. Naturally I had a healthy skepticism of this food, but who am I to question delicacies in another country. I took a big scoop into my bowl and picked up my chopsticks. The taste wasn’t bad. It tasted vaguely of chicken. The texture was something else. Each giblet was spherical, looking similar to the intestine like you find with sausage. When you bit into the giblet a mush came out. This mush had a mild taste and was easily chewed. However the remaining skin was a little tough. I found it easiest to chew it up as best as possible, then knock it back with a mouthful of delicious Japanese beer. While I might not order this dish by myself at a restaurant I had no quarrel with eating it!

Following the main course we had a few more drinks and continued talking. Yuri-sensei began a round table discussion sharing our new year’s resolutions. Many goals were cliche, and others inspirational. Still though, this was fun. Next we went in a circle and told Joanna one thing we would all miss about her. Sitting next to her, I could tell Joanna was very touched by this thoughtfulness.

Before much longer our open bar had come to an end and we donned our coats and shoes. It had been a fun night, but tomorrow’s Christmas party for the children would come early.

 

December 12

Today was the much anticipated children’s christmas party! The whole teaching staff volunteered their time on Sunday to help with the production. All told, approximately 50 students came out for the occasion. The overall theme was “Christmas”, depicted as the Japanese interpretation of Christmas, and the staff’s understanding of it from the foreign teachers (me). We had two groups of kids, the preschoolers and the school aged. Each level was split into three sections. Each section would rotate through one of three stations. Moto and Hamish read a children’s book about snowball fights, after which the students crumpled up printer paper and had a “snowball fight”. Joanna and Harue’s room was arts and crafts, where the students colored Christmas ornaments. Finally, in my room, Sari & myself had the “Stocking Race”. Basically it was an egg race where students picked up pieces of chocolates with a spoon, and deposited the same candy into stockings. After the games the kids sang Christmas songs and had a gift exchange. Oh yeah, did I mention I was dressed as Santa Claus all day?

After the Christmas party some of the teachers went down the fifth floor for a late lunch. Hamish took us to a Hawaiian restaurant that’s speciality was Belgium waffles. At this point in Japan, I’ve stopped questioning odd things like this, and now I just go with it. Oddly enough though, this restaurant didn’t serve syrup with their waffles.

After lunch Moto and I went shopping for a while. I was in need of a new backpack and wasn’t sure of any good places. Moto took me to a store in Machida, the next stop down the line and where he lives. We shopped around a bag store until we both found something we liked. We purchased our bags and headed back for Sagamiono. Back in town we met up with one of Moto’s friends, Ban. I had met Ban several times before and really like him. He’s a good guy and is very funny. We went back to Moto’s favorite izakaya for dinner and drinks. A few hours passed and we hit the door. Moto and Ban went off together and I walked home. I would need my rest for the big day on Monday!

 

December 13

I woke up early to overcasts skies and rain. Not ideal weather for a long walk to the station. I got cleaned up and set out. Today was to be my Sunday, a day of rest. Rather I was making the 100 minute commute to Ómiya for a workshop. ETERNAL is a big believer in workshops to continue their employees education. I myself love the idea of workshops. My personality is that of a learner. I am always asking questions, always craving knowledge. So the fact that I was spending my weekend attending training wasn’t the worst thing ever.

Within one month of beginning work, all ETERNAL teachers are required to attend children’s follow up training. However before the training could begin, I had to travel back to the training house in Ómiya. I traipsed through the rain to get on my local train at rush hour. I then proceeded to take the busy train directly toward Tokyo. Never have I ever been packed into a small space so tightly. Along the way I had my phone out and was reading the morning news. We made a stop at a station and even more people crammed in. I was forced in tighter to my neighbors and could feel their breath on my skin. After long I decided to pocket my phone and watch outside the train. But alas I had waited too long. My hands & arms were stuck. I tried to wiggle myself free but couldn’t move. I was literally forced to keep sending emails and reading the news. This was an awesome experience that was unlike anything I had ever done before. I am very glad I could take part in it. And now I never want to do it again!

I made my first solo-transfer at Shinjuku. I have changed lines several times in my six weeks here, but had not yet done it alone. I’m sure I sound like a dork for getting so excited over a trivial matter like this. But it was still fun to navigate from one terminal to another. Now I finally feel like a big-city kid!

The follow up training brought our original training group together, plus one more. Once in Ómiya I met up with Lisa & Elisha. The three of us got breakfast and coffee before we hopped in a taxi for the training house. Once at the house we were informed that Lauren would not be joining us. The poor girl had gotten some wicked food poisoning. Our training group shrunk from six to five. It was very nice being back in the training house, even for just a day. I have many fond memories of the building and the trainers that we worked with, so it was almost a feeling of coming home.

Training was wonderful. We reviewed the children’s teaching method and took plenty of notes. We also presented a lesson to the trainers and received feedback. At the end of the day we broke into small groups and were able to ask the trainers more personalized questions about what we had experienced in the classroom. I was surprised to learn many of the girls had problems controlling their students. It seems many of the students simply do as they wish and do not heed the teacher’s calls to obey. I don’t have this problem. The first day I taught my classes I was sure to establish a new order in the classroom. I was the teacher, the authority figure. The students and I should have fun, but I am not their buddy. When I give a request, it isn’t a question, it’s to be done. As such I’ve had wonderful success controlling my students.

Before long our day at the training house was over and we were dressing up to brave the gray weather. We bid goodbye to our trainers and took cabs back to the station. We had decided earlier in the week that we should all get dinner and drinks after training. We walked a short distance from the station and occupied a restaurant. For two hours we ordered food and drinks and had a grand time.

Much too quickly the dinner drew to a close and we all split up. On the train ride home I witnessed my first “sick” passenger. Some young man across from me had overindulged after work and couldn’t stomach the lurching train car. His purple vomit filled the train car and he cleared a space like I couldn’t believe. Where was this guy on my morning commute? True to Japan’s amazing train system, a cleaning crew was on the spot three stops later and had the mess cleaned up. The sight was gone, but not the stench.

I next found myself back at home and quickly slid into bed. The day was long and productive, but very exhausting. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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About japanesealex

Alexander lived in Japan from 2010 to 2013. He is now pursuing a career in public service in Honolulu, Hawaii.

4 responses to “More Liver”

  1. watashiwagaijin says :

    you liver experiences over the span of a week is actually pretty impressive. yumz!! (^_^;)

  2. Claudia Wheeler says :

    What was your resolution? And we need Santa pics:) Love you!!

  3. Tony says :

    I’d heard of the packed train cars in Tokyo, much like you describe. Did you see the guy with the packing ram to physically push people inside the train car so the door can close? I don’t know if I could handle that madness. I’m certain that you learn to deal with whatever your surrounding demand, so if that’s the way it is, than so be it. Hopefully it’s not too often.

    Thanks for keepin’ up with the Blog yo!

    Wurd.

    Tony

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