Let me start by bringing you up to speed.
Six months after graduation from university I found myself in the land of the rising sun, Japan. For the last 12 months I have been working full-time teaching English at private language school. In my free time I’ve played tourist and have adopted a Japanese lifestyle. I am now at the beginning of my second year abroad. For the next year I will continue to explore new frontiers, both in Japan and within myself. This blog is my attempt to capture what I do and see and share it with you.
Cast of characters:
Elisha: The outdoors girl from Seattle. I met Elisha during initial training and we quickly formed a bond. We share a love for nature and often go hiking together. She is one of my two best friends in Japan.
Lauren: The girl from Hollywood. I also met Lauren during training. Equal parts おたく and glamorous, she is also very pragmatic. Along with Elisha she is my other best friend. The three of us have a very tight bond.
Emma: The smart-aleck Kiwi. Emma came from New Zealand to teach English at the Ono. We weathered the March 11 disaster together and have a tight friendship.
Mari: The new girlfriend. Mari speaks near perfect English and is helping me learn Japanese. Imagine me, as a woman, and Japanese. That’s Mari. Kind of.
Moto: The Japanese connoisseur. Moto is my immediate supervisor and good friend. We share many interests and have had our share of adventures together.
Trevor: The lanky man from Chicago. Trevor, first name Sean, teaches English just down the road from me. Our similar background and current circumstances have helped forged a strong friendship.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Officially my one year in Japan. And I celebrated with a morning run. In the morning I ran by the Sagamiono Women’s University. I saw many young ladies carrying boxes around the university. I wanted to stop and help carry something but thought better of it.
“You’re out of breath and sweaty from running. You don’t speak Japanese. There are only two possible reactions these women could have to your good intentions: repulsion or fear. Both of which would end up with me explaining to the police that I only wanted to help. Yeah, better not help this time.” I thought to myself.
I kept running and passed the entrance to the school grounds. There were groups of people standing about. Behind them there was a large hand-painted sign in front of the gates. “art show,” it said. Looked interesting. It would be nice to pick up some local art for my apartment. I thought nothing else of it and kept running.
The next day was a national holiday, “sports day.” Mari and I both had the day off so we decided to take advantage of the nice weather. I suggested the “art show” and we were off. We walked from the station to the gates I had passed the day before.
“Art show?” Mari asked.
“Yeah,” pointing right at the sign Mari was looking at. “It says… ‘Heart Show?’”
I walked over to the sign for a closer look. Heart? I was sure it had said art. Then I thought back to the day before. There had been a group of men standing in front of the sign. One of them must have obscured the “He” from “Heart.” At my brisk pace I didn’t take a second look to see the full word. So “art” was actually “Heart.” Oops!
We followed the crowd and entered the school grounds. Mari grabbed a brochure and read to me from the cover. “It’s an open house.”
My excitement for an art show was quickly snuffed out. No matter though. Both Mari and I are upbeat people. So we decided to make the best of it. It was actually a treat to walk throughout the campus. From my old apartment I had walked by the university on my way to work everyday. A huge fence had always kept me from strolling the grounds. So now I could finally see inside. And it was big! It was actually an elementary/middle/high school/university. These girls could literally have all of their education in one place. Amazing!
We finished touring the campus and had a relaxing rest of the day. The day was far from eventful but it’s always nice to have a holiday in the middle of the week.
Friday, November 4
First thing at work and I was called into the office by Moto and the manager. Something was up. This was unusual. They issued me a few compliments about my work and then told me the reason of the meeting. I had been named the “Teacher of the Month!”
Every month the regional HQ designates one teacher as having done a great job and deserving of recognition. So my supervisors had suggested my name. I was approved and had received the award. Moto handed me a letter hand signed by the CEO. He also gave me a box which I opened. Inside was a very nice pen with my name, “Alexander” printed on it. Groovy.
What satisfied me most was the timing of it all. I was honored for the month of September. It takes six months to be eligible for TotM. If you consider that I started in November, it took only four months to be honored. Not bad! And just like that I had achieved two of my work goals: be offered an extension and receive the award. Check and check!
Friday, November 11
Friday marked the second month of dating Mari. To celebrate I cooked dinner for the two of us. Always trying to increase my bachelor skill set I learned to sauté. After work & a quick youtube video I was in the kitchen sautéing vegetables. I tossed in some うどん and BAM! We had a feast fit for a king. Mari seemed to be pleased with my ability to put together an edible meal. Compliment accepted.
Saturday, November 12
All week at work we had taught special lessons. I again taught my US History class. It was great. I printed off maps of the continental US to draw on and explain history to my students. However in the History-2 class (after the Civil War) I made an observation. I no longer needed a US map, I needed a world map. It was a subtle but significant reminder of how much the US has changed. From an inward looking country to a global power. Hmm, very interesting.
Emma meanwhile was teaching a wine tasting class. She taught students the history of wine and how to accurately taste it. And at the end of the week she had a few half drunk bottles left over. So the staff all squeezed into a small classroom and we “listened” to Emma teach us her lesson. It didn’t take long until we had finished all of the bottles. I looked around the room and saw everyone had a rosy pink nose from their drinks. But it was soon late. We cleaned up and packed up and left for the week. Satisfied.
-New Bucket List-
I’ve done a lot while in Japan. In fact in my first year I did almost all of my “to-do’s.” Now it’s time to write a new list and set some goals for the next year. So may I present to you my new Japanese bucket list.
Visit a new island- Japan has 2,456 island. I’ve only seen one, ほんしゅ. So I’m setting a very attainable goal of one more island this next year. Although it would be nice to see as many as possible.
Visit a new country- I’m in Asia. There are sovereign countries all around me. I’m very interested in leaving Japan, even for a weekend to go and see something new. I WILL make this happen.
Speak 日本語– This should have been a goal last year. But through circumstances and laziness, mostly laziness, I still can’t communicate very well in the native language. I will fix this.
Wear a ゆかた- This traditional garment looks fun to wear. But I not only want to wear a ゆかた, I want to have a reason to wear one! I’ll have to find a festival for the occasion.
Swim in transparent water- I have seen many bodies of my water in my life. But I’ve never seen crystal clear water. I’ll have to venture away from Tokyo to see this, but not too far.
See the にほんかい- For no reason other than it’s a huge sea!
Stand in the Pacific Ocean- I’m not sure how I haven’t seen the Pacific after living so close to it for a year. In fact I’ve never seen the Pacific except from an airplane. Time to fix this and get my ankles wet!
Visit 京都- The city is full of history and culture and is often branded as a “must-see” on par with London, Paris & Rome.
Run a marathon- I’ve been running regularly for a year now. Might as well see if I can finish a full marathon!
That does it for my the first entry in the new series. I hope you found some of it interesting. This week you’ve had a taste of the new flow, which is similar to the old flow. However now I’m including more photos. I’ve included a new glossary. I’ll also be using outside hyperlinks more often if you’re interested in learning more.
I still welcome comments and suggestions for the next entry. So if I forgot something you’d like to see please let me know! Otherwise that is all for this time. I’ll see you all in two weeks. Take care and enjoy Thanksgiving!
先生 (sensei)- Teacher
おたく (otaku)- A nerd/geek/dweeb
うどん (udon)- A type of Japanese noodle
ほんしゅ (Honshu)- The main Japanese island
日本語 (Nihongo)- The Japanese language
ゆかた (yukata)- A casual Japanese kimono
にほんかい (Nihonkai)- The Sea of Japan
京都 (Kyoto)- Former imperial capital of Japan