Yesterday, we met with two of our Japanese friends to discuss our business adventure and to see if either of them would be interested in helping out. Needles to say, as we were in a packed city, sitting at a Starbucks, a manger walks by and informs us he had been paid. Later that day, I found out that the Japanese staff had been paid. Needless to say, I am rather weary of working for NOVA and have put in applications at other companies. It seems as though NOVA knew the maximum point to push its employees as a teacher strike was called for Saturday/today. I feel like they are just going to string us along as we will have to wait two more weeks to see if we even get paid.
I hate not knowing if I am going to get paid or if the company is going to fold. I was all excited to start a business but now that plan is on hold until we figure out if NOVA will pay. I just have this feeling that NOVA is going to get as much money as possible from the students and then its going to shaft the instructors. The one nice thing, if instructors are not paid on the 15 they will strike on the 16th and NOVA will definitely fold.
I have found out that I eat when I am stressed, that is my way of coping. 90% of the time I am alright with things but then the other 10% I get a little nervous. Also, every once in a while I smoke to help ease the nerves. However, no more of that. I decided I need to shift my perspective and start focusing on the long term, not the short term. Hope everyone is doing well and having fun, I know I am even as crazy as things are...
I am still getting used to walking on the left side but my natural reaction when I am about to run into someone is to step to the left... so that can be quite confusing at times.
I am on the lookout for a Japanese teacher to help me understand the language. Some of the women that I work with have offered to help teach me but our schedules do not work out.
Japanese karaoke is amazing. A little costly, but amazing. For three of us to rent out a room, it was about $15 a piece for an hour and a half. But, as part of the deal you had to buy a drink. Joel got a small beer -$6. I got a mixed drink and think it was around $7. But, we had a good time. Next time, before we go out anywhere, I am going to have a few drinks at my place to save on the alcohol expense. I do not know if I mentioned this before but a bottle of SKY Vodka is around $10. The liquor or spirits as the English like to call them are cheap, or at least I think so.
The job is moving right along and with each day, it gets a little easier. There are still times when I think I over prepare for a lesson because you just never know where the conversation will go. Today, I talked to an older man for 20 minutes about a National holiday to honor ancestors. People from villages light symbols on the mountain side and the dead rise through the flames back to heaven after hanging out in their hometown for a day. Sounded pretty interesting.
Our apartment now costs $600 a month which is extremely pricey compared to other places and that is a piece for three people. One woman at work has a single place for $450 a month. So, Taka, our good friend in the other picture is going to "seek" an apartment for us to live in. Hopefully, we will be able to save an extra $200 a month or so for the same set up.
Lots of new news with NOVA. I guess the company is closing a lot of branches and some people around here are freaking out that the whole company is going to shut down. However, I have no idea how they can close all 800 branches. Furthermore, there are rumors that the Japanese government will step in and help the company before it lets it shut down due to the fact that English is such an important language. So, needless to say, I am not worried. Worst case scenario, I will move in with a friend for a bit and try to find a job at another English school, as a private teacher, or as a cook somewhere. But, its too soon to come home.
Finally, I want to give a shout-out to all my black brethren back in the states. I spoke with Stephon for a bit today and he asked if he could make it into the blog. Otherwise, not a whole lot is new with me. Still traveling and taking pictures whenever I get the chance. There are a ton of good restaurants around and I am attempting to learn how to cook as well. The ingredients are very different from those at home so it is going to take some time to get used to it. Hope everyone is doing well, miss you guys, and I hope you are happy.
The second day we were scheduled to teach two lessons - one in the afternoon and then one again in the evening. Once again, there were not enough lessons to teach so I had to miss out on the first lesson of the day. We got some more training and then it was time for my English teaching debut. For this lesson, I was only to do half of it. The man with whom I was instructing with put me at ease right from the beginning. We introduced ourselves and then proceeded to inform the student that I was supervisor here on a routine check-up. So, I forget what we talked about but it was a young woman, around the age of 18. Everything went off smoothly and we had a lot of fun. I believe we talked about borrowing or something of that nature. Day two ended without any hitches and it was home to get some rest for the four lessons I had to teach tomorrow.
Of the four lessons I had to teach today, there were going to be two back to back sessions. That way, I could prepare for an actual day of work. However, our instructor still gave us ample time to prepare our lessons. My first lesson of the day was an absolute disaster. The lessons are supposed to go on for 40 minutes and I was done with the core teaching in about 25. The aim of the lesson was customs and traditions so I tried to get them to talk about Japanese weddings. However, neither of the students had ever been to one and only the one student had ever been to a wedding period. So, for the last 15 minutes I just bullshitted about whatever came in to my mind. The next lesson I had two older ladies and a ton of fun. We talked about apologizing for being late. It was a grand old time to say the least and they were sweethearts. Hopefully, I will see more of them in the future. It went very well and we had a lot of fun.
The evening lessons comprised of a one on one lesson as well as a group lesson. For the man to man lesson we talked about his interests and he spoke English very well so it was rather easy. The time flew by in that lesson and I found out he used to play badminton and likes to watch baseball. Very nice man who told me I looked young. The next group was the level closest to native speakers and we discussed the levels of apologies. If you break someone's pencil versus their camera. Great group of guys who were very imaginative. The one man informed the other that he had broken his camera after a wild boar hit him. So, lots of fun, and that was the end of training. Worst comes to worst, you just talk in English.
So, what does a lesson consist of:
1) Introduction - just a general, how, how are you conversation where you introduce yourself, tell the students one thing about yourself, then they ask you a question.
2) Focus Question - prepares the students for the lesson. So, if we were going to talk about interests and hobbies, I would ask the students to discuss three of their interests with one another and then have them share one thing they learned about the other people.
3) Main Language - This is the first part of the actual lesson. The students learn key phrases which will aid in their English skills. For example, I really like to watch ... or ... is a favorite hobby of mine. They practice the phrases a few times.
4) Activity - the students are assigned an activity for which they can still use the book to assist them. It might be a mini-role play or some other sort of game which they can look at pictures.
5) Application - the students apply everything they have learned in a situation without the help of a book. The books are closed and then they would be asked to have a conversation about their interests.
6) Wrap-Up - iterate what the lesson was about, offer feedback, and ask if they have any questions. The lesson is done in 40 minutes.
I am not sure if it is illegal for me to share any of this but that is a basic NOVA lesson in a nutshell. There are lots of other aspects and parts of the lesson and each one is timed out but for the most part, there it you go. Instructions have to be simple and precise. If they do not understand something, you can usually write it down and they will pick it up. There written understanding is much better than their verbal. So, that was training and NOVA all wrapped up in to one. If you have any other questions, please let me know. Hope everyone is doing well and is happy!
After lunch, I decided to buy an I-pod to treat myself. Why or what I was treating myself to, I am not exactly sure. Perhaps it is the fact that I am now in the working world and have a job, not much of a real job, but a job that will hopefully be rewarding and offer lots of experiences. Also, the I-pod serves a practical purpose as it will allow me to study my Japanese to and from work. I thought I might be able to do that with my cd player but then realized that I would need to make 45 discs; so, I decided it would be easier to buy an I-pod. Joel made me a bet that I wouldn't be able to purchase it using my American card and it was the typical DDB or Double Dollar Bet (the loser has to buy two items at McDonalds, one for himself and one for the winner). I was able to purchase it with the card so I am now up to two items at "Mack-ahs" as the Aussies call it.
We caught the train home and I took a little nap before making some cereal and eggs for dinner. After my gourmet meal I decided to go for a little walk to a park I heard about. It took about 10 minutes to find it so I decided to make the night a bit more interesting and go on a little walk-a-bout. Bad decision. Three and a half hours later, I eventually find my way home, luckily with only one blister on my foot. However, I did get to see a nice river, at which point I new things had gone terribly wrong. I retraced my steps and attempted to follow the signs to Shin-Osaka station, the one closest to my apartment. On the way back I got to see a late night soccer game - it actually appeared to have some talented players. When I got back, Joel was in the complex with some Japanese friends from WSU so we had a porch drink. That was my first day off in the big city of Osaka. I know its a little out of order but I'll try to write a bit on training tomorrow before it escapes my memory. Hope everyone is doing well and things are going great in your life. I wish you all the happiness you desire.
Keep in mind every time I say we entered the Kids Room we had to take our shoes off then put them back on before going to do the next thing.
We left the apartment at 10 in the morning – Joel, MIA Ray, and myself – for a 12:30 start. Obviously, we wanted to give ourselves enough time to get to work on the first day and prepare for any possible mishaps. Additionally, we had to obtain a pass for Ray that morning and when Joel and I got ours, we waited about 45 minutes. So, the three amigos headed off to the station, excited and ready to take on the world. We arrived at the station and headed for ticket sales. Luckily, when we arrived, there were only two people in front of us. Needless to say, we were over prepared in regards to our time frame. So, at 10:30 we decided to head towards our branches. Joel took the subway, Ray and I the JR line.
We ended up spending an hour in Starbucks to kill some time while Ray enjoyed a cream puff he grabbed when we got off the train. First cream puff ever for Ray and it was a Japanese one as well. Anyway, we headed into the branch and were directed upstairs; we met Helen and Josh, our trainers for the day. Also, we met the only other trainee at our branch, Cydonnia. Cydonnia is from Australia and her mother is an aborigine, her father a typical Aussie. She seemed very friendly, outgoing, and was excited to be there.
We started off in the Kids Room, not teaching kids but just doing basic paper work. Took a break, headed out of the Kids Room for about 5 minutes then back in again for our basic training. The lessons themselves seem pretty simple and it will just take some time before I and everyone else gets acquainted with the structure. So, our first task, introductions. Pretty easy but there are a lot of little things you need to do and incorporate, a lot more difficult then you might think, trust me. Regardless, after about two hours we were supposed to sit in on a lesson and conduct the introduction. For some reason, there were only two lessons at the time so I was chosen not to give an introduction. I got to watch Cydonnia instead.
Back to the Kids Room we went after the lesson to learn about the next process – the application. The application is pretty much where you set up a scenario and allow the individuals to talk amongst themselves. Once again, sounds simple, but no so easy when they are not English speakers.
Back to the Kids Room, more training training, off to dinner (we went to a bakery, the three newbies), and then back to the Kids Room.
Nevertheless, about 40 minutes after dinner we were off to teach another part of a lesson, this time the introduction as well as the application. Luckily I got to participate this time with Josh and for my scenario, two individuals pretended they were out at a store and one sorry fool forgot his/her money at home and had to politely ask to borrow money from the other individual. Overall, went pretty well, a little short, but that will come with experience. After the application I give feedback, areas of improvement, etc. After that, you wrap up the lesson and iterate what it was you taught today, ask if they have any questions, say thank you, and then you are done.
Back down to the Kids Room, briefing, a bit more training. Last lesson of the day I was with Dave, teaching pretty much half of the lesson. We had a one on one lesson as individuals can pay for private tutorials. We entered and Dave put me at ease from the start. He told the student from the start that I was the supervisor, watching him to make sure he was doing everything correctly. And away we went. Lesson ended, went pretty well, Dave had to help me a bit only because I did not have enough material but once again, it was a learning experience and something I will pick up over time. During the day, we found out that Cydonnia lived in the same building as us so we all took the train back. I stopped at the Family Mart on the way back to the place and picked up a beer for myself and Ray. The rest of the evening was spent sitting out front the apartment, hanging out, drinking a few beers.
Some things I realized from training:
1) I am the expert, I have been speaking this language my whole life. No need to get worried.
2) The most difficult part in oversimplifying instructions. The simpler, the better. I feel like I am talking to Gavin sometimes.
3) The book is just a guide, a lose structure to follow. As long as you hit the aims of the lesson, whatever way necessary, you will be just fine.
4) Once I get the hang of it, I should be good to go.
5) I really wasn’t that nervous, especially compared to Ray and Cydonnia. Overall, it was a fine first day.
Hope everyone is doing well.
The customs of eating are different as their are no utensils except for the occasional spoons. Foods such as rice and noodles are often literally shoveled into the mouth using chop sticks. The noodles are not neatly wrapped around the sticks and any leftovers from the previous bite are left to drop back into the bowl. Most other items are bite sized so they do not have to be cut. As mentioned earlier, most soup does not come with a spoon but is sipped directly from the bowl. Can you imagine trying that with clam chowder? Who knows, maybe when I come home I will continue to use chop sticks. To drink it is either water or tea, maybe a beer. But there is not the selection like there is in the United States. Before dining and at the end of every meal individuals utter two separate phrases when dining with others and although I know the phrases, I do not know their meanings. Com-Pie (phonetic spelling) is cheers. This is what I have gathered so far and will be sure to keep you posted on any more that I come across.
On the flip side, this evening, I had a medium sized bowl of rice, a few pieces of egg plant, as well as a piece of fried fish for under $4. For lunch the other day, some fried vegetables and soup was $3. Pasta at the store was a $1.50 and a smaller box of cereal was $2. A sushi roll at the store, filled with tuna, was $3 (there are different kinds of sushi which I did not know until yesterday: proper sushi which is just the fish/seafood on a block of rice, sushi rolls which consists of the seafood and rice wrapped in seaweed and another type which is just the raw fish). So, there are plenty of inexpensive items to be found and the cost of living is not necessarily outrageous, one just has to adapt.
Gas right now is about $5 a gallon here.
My monthly rail pass came out to around $75 but then again, I think it is cheaper than paying for a car, car insurance, gas, etc. However, this only includes my home station stop up to and including the station at which my NOVA branch is located.
The rail system makes its money when you travel to those places for which your pass is not valid. Our trips to Namba were $5 round trip, not too bad but one can see how it could quickly add up. However, I could easily purchase a monthly pass to that destination as well but that is not reimbursed by the company.
Rent - $600 a month which includes utilities.
I have decided that instead of sending regular emails I am going to blog about my experiences in Japan so hopefully this works out as planned. For starters, the flight was long but not as long as I had expected - 13 instead of 14 hours. Luckily, the middle seat in the section I was sitting was open was I was able to spread out quite a bit and get a few good naps. Also, the aisle seat allowed me to periodically walk through the plane whenever necessary. The food was, well, plane food to say the least. The jet was a double decker and the most massive one I have ever been on, holding around 300 people. After the flight it was off to immigration and then on to customs. After reviewing my passport, customs allowed me to go right through without even checking a single bag. I guess they trust Americans in Japan.
The flight was followed by an hour ride on the train, at the end of which I was met by a NOVA employee. There were only four people from NOVA on the train, one of which got off at my stop - MIA Ray (more on the nickname later). I thought I had lost my $25 ticket which would have been a problem because I would need it to get through the gates again. Luckily I found it and we proceeded the the apartment - about a 5 minute walk. Joel, a good friend from WSU and the companion which convinced me to make the trip was waiting outside of the apartment complex. After dropping off my bags we walked around the streets for a bit, taking in the "big city lifestyle" before heading off to bed and a fruitless attempt at sleep. Perhaps it was the nerves or the jet lag but I only got a few hours of sleep.
The next day we started off with a trip to Starbucks, an adventure in itself. Our orders were placed by pointing to the drink which we desired; however, I was still able to order a "venti." After that, we made plans for the day and first on the list was our visit to the City Ward Office to let them know we had arrived. Luckily, on the way out, we ran into MIA Ray and his flatmate who were headed to the same place. Joel and Ray needed photos so we made a stop in the train station at a passport booth. After Joel finished taking his pictures, Ray was due up, but he was nowhere to be found. After searching for a few minutes we decided to just wait by the machine. Sure enough, Ray came back, with apple juice in hand - of course, he needed a drink, but failed to mention that to anyone. And so the nickname starts to take shape.
We were off to the Ward Office. Registration was necessary to open a bank account as well as a cell phone account. After registration, our guide informed us that he is joining a friend for lunch before oh so kindly pointed us in the right direction. The three of us discussed our route for approximately 10 minutes before making any quick decisions and eventually asked for directions. This was the first but certainly not last time we became lost in the first two days. We got back to our station and decided to head to the bank. The bank itself was an another exciting adventure as we were directed to the second floor. We were told to fill in our information, including telephone number (the bank now has the Ward Office for Joel as he confused it with a NOVA number), address, and name - a relatively simple task complicated by the fact that the writing was entirely in Japanese. After help from the clerk, the arduous task was complete. Their only advice, which they told each one of us four times and in English, "YOU MUST RECEIVE CARD." After opening our Japanese bank accounts it was on to find a cell phone. Our ward office guide informed us that Namba was our best bet.
Needless to say, it was easier said than done. We arrived at the train station in high hopes and we ready for the challenge. Our spirits were quickly deflated as we spent 15 minutes watching others buy their tickets, with no clue as to which tickets to buy or which line to take. We went to the information desk and Joel's limited Japanese came in handy. We purchased our tickets and were off in search of phones. After some questioning and a little bit of help we stumbled across a cell phone center.
We were greeted in Japanese but we eventually directed to an English speaking employee. After questioning her for an hour or so, we eventually decided on a plan, which cost a measly 980 yen or $10 dollars a month. Joel and I are able to contact one another for free between the hours of 1 am and 9 pm but must pay during the peak time or to those who do not have the same service. Ray accompanied us and periodically added his own questions. About the time Joel and I finished the paper work and were ready to leave, we turned around only to find Ray missing once again. Joel and I went on a ReCon mission but came up ended handed. A few minutes later Ray wearily entered the building, informing us he became lost. The legend of MIA Ray was growing. Since we had dinner plans for that evening, we made plans to pick up our phones the next morning seeing as though they would not be ready for another hour.
Joel and I were off to meet the ladies, I in workout shorts and a plain white tee. Unfortunately, I missed the part of the information that said our luggage would not be delivered for two days after our arrival and only had on those clothes and the ones I had flown in. Also, since we were running late, Joel wouldn't let me go back to the apartment to change. We met Japanese friends from WSU, each at a different train station before heading to dinner. Miho made reservations and we took off our shoes at the entrance as we were lead to a private dining area. The walls of the room were covered with a back marble and the tables were made of a deep cherry oak and white glazed glass. The door was closed and servers knocked before entering. We sat on the ground to eat, dining on raw salmon, fish eggs on scallops, tofu with dried tuna and avocados, breaded shrimp in a coconut sauce, breaded chicken, an egg salad, potato balls, as well as desert for Joel's birthday. The desert consisted of a fruit cup, french toast and ice cream, chocolate sou flay, in addition to a bit of plain ice cream. It was a delightful, fanciful meal with what Joel and I considered to be VIP service, only costing around $17 a person. In Japan, everyone shares the meal as orders are placed in the center of the table and dished to individuals. Also, tipping is not a common practice. After dinner it was off to the bowling ally to finish the night but at a costly $16 dollars for two games, it is one activity that can wait until I come home again. Thus, my first day in Japan was over. It was filled with a lot of exciting memories and good times.
The day before Joel and I decided to meet Ray in front of the apartment at 9:30 in the morning but quickly realized he was nowhere to be found as 10 o'clock quickly approached. We headed up to his room and gently knocked on the door which was eventually answered by his roommate from the United Kingdom, Phil, our guide from the day before. Phil informed us that Ray was still sleeping so we decided to head out on our adventure for the day. Today's goal - find our places of employment. However, Joel and I first decided to pick up our phones then grab a bit to eat seeing how it was closer to noon. We hoped on the subway, confident of our skills and quickly found our way back to the cell phone company. We picked up our phones then wondered the streets of Namba, a shopping district for quite some time. We decided on sushi for lunch and split the lunch special. Most of the sushi was delicious; my only advice, do not eat mackerel.
Before we left for Namba however, we decided to purchase our monthly rail passes to save a bit of money. After a 20 minute wait, we approached the counter in an attempt to purchase two rail passes. With little effort and lots of understanding, aided by Joel's Japanese, we were able to purchase the tickets relatively quickly, oh, in about 15 minutes. Then, we headed off to our places of employment and found them with relative ease. The only exception was the flower clock which threw me off just a bit. Joel's NOVA center was before mine so we stopped at his first and then ended up at mine a bit later in the day. Around my center there is what appears to be a market as well as a KFC and McDonalds. After we stopped in at the branch we headed for the train station to make our way home. Sure enough, who did we pass? MIA Ray was walking the other way headed to the same station as myself. Now, the nickname had stuck. We ended up riding the train back together. My luggage was supposed to be delivered between 8 and 9 pm so I spent the evening waiting on it. However, I began to wonder if it was going to arrive by 9:15 so I decided to hop in the shower, hoping the rest of my belongings would arrive. Sure enough, after I got out of the shower, the luggage was in my room. I spent the next hour unpacking before heading down to a coffee shop, which serves beer around 11. Apparently, the owners work 7 days a week so every friday night, they have a bit of a party. The man wears an Elvis get-up while the woman was decked out in a bunny skirt. They played a few Elvis and Johny Cash songs but I never could quite make out the lyrics, only the beat. I called it a night around 1 and hit the sack shortly thereafter.
A few interesting facts thus far:
The Japanese have coins which are equivalent to $1 and $5 but no bills for those amounts.
A person can drink beer on the street, in the subway, pretty much anywhere.
Beer cost approximately $5 a bottle in the bars.
Cars drive on the opposite side of the road and the driver is on the opposite side of the car, which takes some getting used to.
If you are good at acting things out then you can travel anywhere in the world and still communicate.