Playing the Game (Week X)
By morning my cough had developed into a full blown head cold. I awoke to shivers and the sweats. Wadded up tissues littered the floor about me. Damn. The bulk of my day was spent treating my symptoms & self medicating. I’m glad I brought a few OTC medications with me. They’re proving invaluable now.
I suppose if I had to get sick, this is the ideal time. My break was a total success and this is my final day to rest up before jumping back into things. I just hope I can return to full energy tomorrow. Heck, at this point I would take 50% energy.
I watched Ninja Warrior tonight. I much prefer the 30 minute US format, then the 3-hour marathon they ran here. Still though, I’m delighted to be in the homeland of my favorite fitness show.
12 hours of sleep definitely helped. Then again I created optimal sleeping conditions. Before bed I put on three layers of clothes and cranked my thermostat to 30 degrees. I naturally woke up every four hours so I could take another dosage of medication. Come morning time I was congested like I had corks up both nostrils, but at least I wasn’t leaking mucus. Lovely visual, yeah?
I ate, dressed and packed a lunch this morning. Fortunately today was a late start day for me, so I didn’t work until 1pm. I was even more relieved when I saw my schedule at work. Only three classes today. My first class was a little alarming as I started out with a blank memory. I stared at my teaching materials for a moment, not sure where to begin. Soon my brain fired up and I jumped into gear. My student was none the wiser.
The rest of the day went off without a hitch. I taught, did some chores, lobby talk. Just the usual. Today was nice to be at work, since the remodel was all done. All of the rooms had new wallpaper & carpet. I even managed to secure a new teaching room. My former teaching room was sufficient, but it was merely a box. My new room has a great view from the 8th floor looking out across the city. While I do enjoy the view, I especially enjoy having natural light coming into my room. It makes a big difference for my mood. Soon I’ll buy a small potted plant for the window sill and I’ll post some pictures.
After work I walked the usual beat and ended up back at home. There a big bowl of ramen waited with my name on it. Dinner. Blog. Bed.
Our school’s part time foreign-teacher, Hamish, caught a cold this week. The doctor put him on bed rest for the entire week. This means we were to be shorthanded for the week. Today our school received word that we would be getting two Emergency Teachers (ETs) to help get us through the next two days. While I do appreciate help coming in, I am also a little nervous. ETs, to me, are corporate employees. Their job is to migrate between schools to cover for teachers. As such they don’t answer to a branch manager, like I do. Instead, they answer to a regional manager. I have no quarrel with who they answer too, I’m just a little nervous by their presence. No worries. I’ll have to turn this anxiousness into an opportunity.
Our first ET visited us today. She was a Japanese teacher. She was very enthusiastic and ready to help. Her lunch break coincided with an office hour of mine, so I was able to chat with her for a few. Through polite talk, I was able to explain her peculiar accent. Born and raised in Japan, she had lived in Australia, the US and France. Her trilingual accent made her sounds amazing.
Throughout the hour I was able to chat with the lady and answer some of her questions about the school and myself. I think I used this opportunity perfectly, as I was able to come off as friendly and a diligent employee. I have no doubt she will report something similar to her supervisor.
On a more humorous note, I felt a bit adventurous day. I used my break to visit the restroom, the nice restroom for customers. I entered the stall and stared at the toilet. This toilet, is called a “washlet,” and is very popular in Japan. It is a highly sophisticated piece of plumbing. The seat raises and lowers automatically. The seat is also heated. The control panel is designed to be at shoulder level when sitting. I lowered my suspenders and took a seat. I turned on some soothing elevator music and took care of my business. My eyes, and fingers, examined the control box. I pushed almost every button concealed behind the Japanese, unsure of its feature. I stopped at the last button. This button had a clearly identifiable picture. I’d never used a bidet before, but today was different.
I pushed the bidet button and my eyes lit up. Hot water shot towards me at a high velocity. I giggled from the… unfamiliar feeling. Seconds passed and the water kept flowing. Why wasn’t it over yet? I squirmed around, “Make it stop,” I thought. I wanted to stand up, but I couldn’t, because my back would get hosed. I turned to the control panel and started slamming buttons. There was no “off” neatly printed, it was all Japanese. Eventually I found the right button and the torment stopped. I sat there exhausted. I pulled up my britches and composed myself. I washed my hands and walked back to class. I collected my students and directed them to our classroom. “Why are your cheeks red,” a student asked. “No reason. No reason at all.”
Saturday. Busy day. Our second ET came this evening. This was a special ET though, this was a trainer. One of my trainers from initial training came to assist us today. My chance to network and impress the higher ups became much more viable today. During an overlapping office hour I chatted with the man for a few. I was able to reaffirm that I am a person beyond wet clay for ETERNAL’s molding. And I was able to confirm that he was more than just a trainer, that he’s a really cool guy.
A few more hours passed and the end of the day had arrived. I was busy tending to the duties of three teachers, since we had two ET’s covering for foreign teachers. The trainer saw my hurried nature and took a moment to thank me. He said that my supervisors only had great things to say about me and that we was very impressed with how I was fitting in. He also commented on the unusual fact that I will be the school’s senior foreign teacher with only four months of experience. The program is designed so that doesn’t happen, but extenuating circumstances had let me slip through the filters. He again thanked me for all my help. We shook hands and I wished him well. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this corporate game.
Day of rest. I lounged about my apartment reading and watching movies. Nothing spectacular, but highly enjoyable.
Today I took up an opportunity, and was glad I did! Lauren attended a university in Yokohama as an exchange student. As such, one of her old classmates extended an invitation for her to watch his team play footsall. In turn, Lauren invited me to go play with his team. So I met Lauren at the station in Totsuka, just outside Yokohama. We took a trip down memory lane as she pointed out her old stomping grounds.
A half hour later we arrived at the university. The football field was covered with scores of Japanese students. What Lauren had interpreted as a pick-up game, was actually a footsall tournament! We talked with some of the locals and I was picked up by a team that didn’t mind having a gaijin. What ensued was seven games over the course of four hours. Throughout the day I played every game, and spent my downtime trying to stay warm. The day was totally reminiscent of my youth. Saturdays in the Spring, freezing cold and playing soccer.
Much to my surprise, my team advanced to the finals. And even more to astonishment, my team won the whole tournament! Just the same as last time, my competitive spirit came out and I played hard. This made me popular with my teammates, who took to chanting my name a few times, “A-rex, A-rex, A-rex!” Yeesh, as if my ego wasn’t already swollen!
More importantly than my own ego, was that of our captain. The young university student was far from as confident as me. He was timid, portly and unattractive. The manner which he carried himself suggested he had been berated by his peers most his life. Yet somehow he managed to scrap together a few athletic players, and with a little luck his team had won it all. The look on his face after the last game was of sheer jubilation. It seemed as if he had never won anything in his life. He collected and held the trophy tight against his chest. He was a winner.
I looked around at my peers and it seemed no one else was taking note of our captain’s subtle behavior. This did not shock me. I feel that I am very attune to the subtly of people’s feelings that they try not to wear on their sleeves. I think this attention I have is more finely tuned because of my upbringing.
Throughout my youth, my father instilled in me a very strong sense of integrity. I specifically remember a reoccurring episode when I was 10 years old. A mentally-handicapped boy in our neighborhood would often come to our house hoping to play with me. Being a self conscious boy, I abhorred the thought of being seen with him. Besides, his underdeveloped social skills made it difficult to interact with. My father was wholly aware of this, but he still coerced me into it. Then, and through later trials, my father would tell me how fortunate I was. Its funny how children can never see their fortune. Here, he meant that I was a healthy, normal person. Andrew, like so many other people in this world, was dealt a “short deck,” so to speak. Therefore it is my duty, my responsibility, to silently acknowledge this difference, and to take the higher road. I cannot stress how crucial these lessons were in shaping me into who I have become. I am forever in my father’s debt because of this. And obviously, for many more things.
To bring this back around, our captain was a young man who hadn’t been afforded many of the opportunities you and I take for granted. Therefore I relished in his victory. I slid out of the spotlight and let him take it all. I walked back to the bleachers to get dressed. Walking into the shadows, I looked back over my shoulder. The capt was getting back pats and high-fives. I couldn’t have been any happier.
The game was followed by dinner at a nearby restaurant with some of our team. Lauren and I then hopped a train to central Yokohama where I was treated with some hookah! It was so lovely to relax in the warmth with a hot cup of coffee and a toasty hookah. Soon after I was home and in bed. My body was completely drained from an intense day of footsall. I would need my rest before going back to work the next day.
This entry marks the 10th in this series. I have now typed out 70 entries of my daily life in Japan. I feel that at this point my routine has settled and I have fully documented all of those mundane activities. I will continue to write and post weekly, but the format will change. Please check back next week to see what that looks like. Thanks for reading. 🙂