Monday, May 16, 2005

Farewell Party...

Yesterday was my last day of work. It was a fairly uneventful day, other than the fact that I got some flowers and gifts. However, this day one of my greatest fears while working at said Establishment was realized. The school that I worked at was [and is] located above a store called Muji [Rushi--if you're Japanese]. This store sells all kinds of shit, from clothing to shoes to sheets and blankets to bikes. I've been thinking since I started working at said place that my dream job would be to work at a place such as Muji putting together their bikes. So yesterday I was out on the balcony, as I often was, above the line of Muji bikes. I had put my can of Coke on the ledge and was talking to the new teacher, J., about god knows what, when a strong wind came from out of nowhere and blew my Coke can off of the ledge. I screamed, "Shit!" and tried to grab the damn thing before its inevitable fall onto the bikes, but unfortunately was just too slow. I crouched down and J. jumped back against the wall to hide. After a few seconds I got up to see what had become of my can. None of the passersby seemed to take any notice and nothing was out of the ordinary, other than the fact that there was a banged up Coke can lying between the row of bikes down below.

It's important to note that a few hours later, the can was still there.

There was a party at the end of the day, at which point the alcohol and bullshit flowed. There were a lot of students there that I wouldn't normally spend a considerable amount of time with... One of these students, who was in one of my classes, was sitting next to me for a little while asking me about the phrase, "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse." Of course, he had left out the, "I'm so hungry," part. Because I had been drinking what was the equivalent to malt liquor, I started telling him about my own take on that lovely little saying. I told him that when he's talking to native speakers he could say, "I'm so hungry I could eat a small child." I told him that the native speakers would understand what he was saying and think that it was funny. I think this will be my lasting impression on the school. They will eventually remember me as the vegetarian who ate small children.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Lying goodbyes

Of course, I can't tell my students that I'm quitting because of the school's mishandling of a situation with a budding sexual deviant... So instead, I have to lie to them. I am looking my students in the eyes and telling them that I have a family emergency and that I have to go home. If they ask--which some of them do--I'm telling them that my grandfather is in the hospital, that we don't know what's wrong, and that I have to go home. Only one person wanted more details, at which point I started talking faster and using words like, "Lymphoma," and, "chemotherapy." Lucky for me, I know a little bit about both.

I find that it's pretty easy to lie to these people. The only time that I have difficulty is when there's a student in the class who knows the real story. It's harder to lie to a group of people when one of them knows you're lying.

So I've been lying for four days now, and I only got choked up twice. Some of these people I'm really going to miss. It's not all jack off kids and hellish children... Part of me feels like I am making a mistake. [the same part that likes to point out that I'm going to be officially homeless in a foreign country for three weeks.] On the other hand, I've thrown down a rather sizable amount of cash on a multiple destination plane ticket, and I'm really looking forward to driving around Australia and laying on a beach in Thailand. [If you can believe what you read in the Japan Times, the beaches in Thailand are the cleanest they've been in 20 years, all thanks to the tsunami!]

I've only got two more days of this job... And five more days of a home. This is quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever done.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Official notice given...

Today the top gaijin in the Company, M., came to my school to talk with me about my quitting. Of course, that meant that I needed to give him an official resignation letter, which is as follows:

To Whom It May Concern:

Please accept this as my letter of resignation. My last day of work will be Saturday, May 14, 2005. The reasons for my resignation are as follows:

1. In December of 2004, while teaching a Voyage class with only one student present, said student (a high school boy) starting touching himself in a sexually inappropriate way. I told the staff of my school, starting first with my head teacher. I was told that this problem would be taken care of as soon as possible. Due to problems with the logistics of scheduling, as well as the feelings of the students, I was told that my last day of teaching this class would be Thursday, February 11, 2005.

In the beginning of January, 2005, Henry, the Kids' Trainer, came to our school to tell us that Shimokitazawa would be starting kids classes in April. At this time, I told him about the situation and the solution that staff had devised.

On February 16, 2004, I saw that the Voyage class was still on my schedule. I was told that I would only have to teach this class for two more weeks. It was at this point that I notified Henry. I had already spoken to him about this problem and I wanted to let him know what was going on, just in case two weeks turned into two more months. Henry told me that he would make some calls and get back to me. The next day, he called me back and told me that he had asked a Japanese trainer to speak to my manager, and then told me that they had said that I would only have to teach this class for two more weeks. I explained that I knew that, and had in fact spoken to my manager about that the other day, and that my reason for contacting him was to let him know what was currently happening with my situation. He told me that he would speak to them again and talk to me during an Interview Workshop which I was scheduled to attend the following week. Later that week, Henry told my school that I did not have to go to the workshop and I never heard from him again. When I saw him at a Kids Training Workshop at the end of March/beginning of April, he did not say anything to me.

2. On April 12, 2005, my manager told me that one of the children I had interviewed had signed up for my class. This class was to begin Thursday, April 14, 2005 at 6:00 PM, the same time as my Voyage class. I asked my manager about the Voyage class and she said that it had been cancelled.

The fact that I have never wanted to teach children, and said so from the initial interview on, is beside the point. Had the situation with the Voyage student never happened, I'm sure that I would be less upset about having to teach a child. However, the staff at my school were either unable or unwilling to help me when I was having a serious problem with a student and could not just cancel the class, as was initially discussed, until a child signed up in that time slot.

I know that the staff at my school did as much as they could to help me. I don't blame them in any way. However, that doesn't change the fact that I feel like my problem was minimized and ignored by all the Aeon employees whom I spoke to about the situation. It is with this feeling in mind that I feel that I cannot continue to perform my job here in a way that is both fair and enjoyable to the students.


M. was really very kind to me. He was sympathetic and understanding. He apologized on behalf of damn near everyone in the company. He didn't make me feel bad or patronize me. Of course, this approach made me feel kind of bad. And it made me wish that I had gone to him months ago, instead of dealing with that incompetent Henry.

Now that it's done, I don't really feel any better. I don't feel like a weight has been lifted or any great sense of relief. It's just over...

Friday, April 22, 2005

The beginning of the end...

I gave notice today. I received a lot of guilt and bullshit about responsibility in return. I responded, "Maybe it's because I'm an asshole American, but the only responsibility I have is to myself."

There was talk of getting rid of the kid's class I have, but I know better than to trust any talk of canceling classes.

When they asked what I would tell the students, what reason I would give for quitting, I said, "Well I'm not going to tell them about Y. [jack off kid], if that's what you mean."

But I must admit, there is a part of me that does feel bad for fucking them this way. I'm supposed to tell them tomorrow my final decision, as it were. Then the appropriate people will be called, dates and times arranged...

It is only two months more work when I return from Golden Week. Two months on paper isn't so bad. But two months of miserable work is a little different...

At what age will I grow out of this inability to decide?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Another example of Japanese animal training

Lest I be misunderstood, Japan is not all doom and gloom for me. The job is shit, but the place itself is okay.

After a particularly shitty day at work--because it was a Sunday and therefore my usual day off, and also because it was one of the last days to see the cherry blossoms [a big deal in Japan] and instead of being in a park getting drunk under the trees with my friends, I was stuck at work teaching make up lessons for students that weren't my own, and it was an absolutely beautiful day--I met my friend J. at Yoyogi-Uehara so that we could go to Yoyogi Park and have a mini hanami [to use Japanese English, "Cherry Blossom Viewing"] party.

We got to Yoyogi at about 6:30 and it was packed!
Everyone [except us] was drunk. We found a spot under the trees--which we couldn't see very well because the sun was quickly setting--and drank our overpriced alcohol beverages.

After we finished our beer and sake [respectively] we decided to change locations. I wanted to go to Yasukuni because I had been told that they keep the trees lit until 10PM. J. thought that we should go to Meguro River because it was better and closer. Proximity won.

We were walking by the Meguro River [which, truth be told, is more of a stream or drainage ditch than a river], trying to find an izakaya that J. wanted to show me when I saw a woman walking towards us pulling what I assumed was a child on a tricycle. I couldn't tell what was actually on the tricycle until it got much closer. Much to my [christ, should I say it?] shock and awe, the woman was pulling a cat in a dress on said tricycle. This poor creature was standing on the seat with its front paws on the handlebars. The strangest part of it was that the damn thing looked completely comfortable. J. ran back and asked the woman if I could take a picture. She was kind enough to stop and I didn't want to take up too much of her time, so instead of trying to find my camera in the bowels of my bag, I just grabbed my phone. Unfortunately, the cat wouldn't look at me [probably because the woman was talking to it] until I took the picture.

In years to come, I think I'll probably forget all about the cherry blossoms--which were beautiful--and only remember that poor cat...

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A New England

On the way home from a night of drinking, I was, to use the local terminology, packed like sushi on the train. There was a couple being very un-Japanese [ie. showing public displays of affection by touching each other in a romantic way] next to me. In fact, for two stops, I was so close to this couple that my arm was resting on the woman's shoulder because a space hadn't opened up enough to allow me to put it by my side. I was looking at this couple and starting to really get homesick when said Billy Bragg song came on the trusty I-Pod. I instantly started thinking about hearing this song while I was changing my sheets at home, exchanging one pair of T-Shirts for the next, and singing in my best British accent... I remembered being in the front row at the concert, singing with the crowd, in between a little guy [that looked more like a rat than a man] and S. I remembered driving down the interstate singing it while listening to talk radio and thereby fighting the road rage.

When the song stopped I wondered what it would remind me of when I got home...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The pen is mightier than the poisoned dog treats

I am constantly amazed at the behavior of dogs on this island. Unlike in the Western world, dogs here are incredibly well behaved. They sit and stay where they're told, they don't chase after people, and they don't bark. I don't know what the Japanese secret for training dogs is, but if I were a dog person, I would certainly try to find out.

However, my opinion about the behavior of dogs has recently changed. For, by my sleep deprived estimation, 9 straight days, I had been woken up in the wee hours of the morning [i.e. anywhere from 7 AM to 9 AM] by my neighbor's evil little dog's yapping. And it hasn't been just occasional yapping. This dog barks at everything! People walking by get barked at, strange noises get barked at, birds get barked at. And then the neighbor's child gets involved and starts barking at the dog, which, in turn, makes the damn thing bark more.

This evil dog would wake me up occasionally before, but that would be maybe once every week. Now that it's starting to warm up, the housewife has been keeping her sliding glass door open, which means the dog barks at everything constantly.

In the interest of my sanity, something had to be done. I decided that killing it would be the most surefire way to fix this problem, but there could maybe be legal complications associated with that. I thought about calling the cops--especially after an hour of dog barking and baby crying starting at 7 AM on a Saturday! Where the fuck was the damn mother?!--but, unfortunately, one must speak Japanese to call the cops. I decided that the best thing to do would be to write a letter.

I allowed myself time to calm down before writing the letter, if only because most of the things I was thinking can't be translated into Japanese. [Never trust a language that doesn't use profanity!] I wrote what I considered to be a rather polite letter and my Head Teacher offered to translate it for me. When she returned the letter to me, she told me that she had written something along the lines of, "My American friend has a complaint about your dog," and then translated my letter into the second person. This was not at all what I had wanted. First off, I didn't want the lady to know I was American. It didn't seem very pertinent to the issue, and, to be quite honest, I didn't want it to effect whether she did something about the beast's yapping. Second, I didn't want her to write the damn translation under my original letter. It just looks bad.

I took what my Head Teacher had given me and asked one of the Japanese teachers to rewrite what she had written, minus any references to me being an American.

On my way home, I stopped by the house of the evil dog and lazy housewife [who does nothing when their child has been crying for an hour?!] and dropped the note in the mailbox. This morning, I woke up to the sound of my alarm for the first time in what was beginning to feel like months. Of course, the dog was still barking, but this time it wasn't out on the balcony barking directly at my window.

wood tobe coburn