This week was incredibly busy and I found it concluding no sooner than it had started. To begin with, our new foreign teacher arrived. Emma, who hails from New Zealand is a welcome addition to our school. Just the same as I, she arrived to Sagamiono with her training wheels on and her eyes wide open. She spent the week following around after Mark, our emergency teacher who covered between Joanna and Emma. Watching Emma learn the ropes made me think about how so recently I was the new guy. My, how time flies.
With the addition of Emma to the team, I am not working in a truly international office. We are comprised of an Australian, a New Zealander, an American and many Japanese. This makes each day a lot of fun with different accents and backgrounds contributing to a well running school. I especially enjoy speaking with both Hamish and Emma at the same time. They both represent the first of their countrymen that I’ve been able to befriend. And it’s a lot of fun to hear their similar, but different accents.
On Friday this week, Hamish took me to his gym to help get me get signed me up. I managed to stumble through the majority of the paperwork with some terrible pidgen with the manager. A bit about the gym; it’s located in Machida, the next station over by local train. For ¥6,000 monthly, I can use the facilities Monday-Friday for a maximum of 100 minutes a day. I wanted to sign up for the weekends, but the price jumped to over ¥10,000, so I decided better. After the paperwork was complete I received a tour of the building. The gym has everything I could ask for: weights, card equipment, swimming pool, sauna, rock climbing, squash, a basketball court, hot-yoga room, studio for classes, even a miniature boxing ring. Everything looks awesome, I’m excited to try it out first hand!
After the grand tour at the gym I met up with Moto down the street for an after-work beer. We chatted for a while and made some preliminary plans for February. Of which I am very excited about a potential tour of a sake distillery!
After work I went out again, this time with Mark and Emma. Mark and I had been talking about Mexican food the week before and we were recommended a local Mexican joint. The food was… not authentic Mexican. It was good, but a far cry from the Tex-Mex I enjoy the States. The portions were Japanese sized and the “spicy” options were hardly exciting. However during the whole process I was able to speak English, Spanish and Japanese with our server. This was very amusing and exhilarating. However I was completely confused and had a tied tongue after we left. After dinner I showed Emma our local bar back in Sagamiono, Ange’s. She approved.
Saturday night was a big deal for the Japanese. The national team was playing in the Asian Cup final match against Australia. I tried to stay up and watch the game, which began at midnight local time, but I soon succumbed to sleep. I woke up the next morning to see the headlines, “Japan bests Australia.” And for a moment, all was right in the world.
I was soon distracted from the news and video clips with my morning routine. This Sunday was our school’s monthly open house. For five hours on a Sunday, once a month, we open our doors to prospective students. This month it was my turn to work. The majority of my day was spent doing office work and staying very busy with activities I can never fully tackle when I’m teaching everyday. Only one student came in all day. I gave him an interview and chatted at length with the young man. He wanted to know why “Eternal” teachers were better than say, Nova, our leading competitor. I told the man many of our finer points, however the one that he was most interested in was our continuing training. Our business holds regular workshops for teachers to attend to continue to improve. He was interested and should be signing up this week.
It just so happened that the very next day I was attending a workshop at the regional head office in Shinjuku. This workshop was for new teachers, and covered a multitude of topics. We practiced and demonstrated elements of our lessons and took notes over Eternal’s corporate aspects. Midway through the day I took a note at the bottom of my page, “Eternal is my company.” There have been several times when I have been immensely impressed and pleased with Eternal. These aspects are always wide and varied, and don’t reflect any one point. I think it speaks highly of my employers when I don’t mind sacrificing my weekend to work.
I was tickled pink at the end of the day. After our training concluded we stood up, buttons our jackets, and walked from the conference room over to the main office. All of the workers stopped their business and stood to face us. In unison we all said aloud, “kenshou arigatou gozaimasu,” meaning, “thank you for the training.” We bowed forward and our corporate counterparts retuned the bow. We promptly made an about face and returned to the conference room to grab our bags. I was grinning from ear to ear with the cultural exchange. I love living abroad.
All the girls from initial training were present for the training, as well as an additional training group. The other seven people were all men and helped serve to balance us out. As a group we all took our lunch together and broke bread. After training the majority of us went out for dinner and drinks. As always, it’s refreshing to see other Eternal teachers from across the area. We drank and laughed and then went home.
I left training highly motivated and encouraged. I learned a few new techniques to try in class. I had a one-on-one evaluation that was very flattering. And most importantly, my confidence in the company was reinforced. I’m already looking forward to the next workshop.
Japan is a consumerist nation that may rival the United States. The country is startling materialistic, and this comes from an American. Retail shops line the streets everywhere you go. Citizens tote around shopping bags, no matter the time of day. Window shopping is a regular hobby of many people. And owning the newest fashion is as important as the content of your character. Sure sounds like home, doesn’t it?
Perhaps this is so exacerbated because of my proximity to Tokyo. I’m sure rural pats of the country are far from being so flashy. Yet still I think this is a behavior, and more importantly, a mentality that has been fostered in the mind of the country. Everyone shops. And everyone sports their newest purchase. Any deviation from consuming is met with skepticism.
Consumerism and materialism together is a catch-22. At once, it cheapens traditional values and makes the world a petty place. People are group, classified and judged merely by the appearance of their skin and their means of transportation. At the same time, this capitalist driven society had, until very recently, the second largest GDP in the world. Thanks a lot China. This is a very wealthy country with a high living standard. The living standard has been increased and perpetuated by a culture of people that want to work hard, and spend hard. As such, they have made a very comfortable country. I guess this is just an instance of having to take your bad with your good.
All told, this is cultural aspect that I’m quickly growing accustomed to. I don’t think twice if a string of patrons walk past all with shopping bags over their shoulders. I have no quarrels with elbowing a designer bag out of my train seat. I too would like to have fancy gadgets and a Mercedes-Benz. However in the meantime, I’ll be content with living the life on a glorified student income.