October 7, 2013
Two weeks ago I was invited into the office for a little pre-training orientation. Overall, it was a great experience. Since I have been back, there’s just been a surprising amount of negative energy creeping into that space between my ears. I’ve been having second thoughts about teaching, and whether I would have enough time outside of work to focus on other interests (like writing). Talking with my new co-workers was a great relief.
The company seems to care about its employees like family. I got that vibe during my first interview back in spring, and it was only reinforced in Tokyo. I was a little worried that it could have been all talk at first. Employees move in and out of these companies often; which would make it somewhat difficult to develop that “family” relationship. Yet it seems ingrained into the company’s culture to support not just during the initial transition, but throughout the contract. But back to the negative energy:
When I started to become more aware of my negative thinking, I took a swim through the river of my consciousness, and tried to find a small stream or inlet from which all the bad stuff was coming from. My experience (or lack of it) was a pollution; plaguing my thoughts and lowering my morale. I had never taught a class in my life! How was I going to do this? In addition to these thoughts, I was starting to come to terms with the real reasons for why I’m back over here. I came back because I loved the lifestyle I had in Tokyo. I love my friends here. And I wanted to eventually become fluent in the language. I hate to admit it, but this job just seems to be the vehicle via which I can have the life I previously had.
October 20, 2013
Yesterday evening, I hung out with a few of the ALTs in my area as well as some in neighboring cities. It felt good to have conversations beyond small talk for once. For the past two weeks the only English I’ve really been speaking is in the classroom. In the teacher’s lounge my conversations are almost always in Japanese. We talk about the weather, what my hobbies are; you know, really heavy stuff. It’s a huge difference from the jobs I had before moving here. Out of respect of others viewpoints, news and other possibly opinionated topics are never brought up. And even if they were ever mentioned at work, I wouldn’t have enough understanding of the language to hold a conversation about it anyway. I’m starting understand that I really value communication in the workplace, that isn’t always work-related.
In addition to this, I work at three different schools a week. This further isolates me from the other teachers; I am never really around often enough to establish a deeper sense of camaraderie. But I’ve just started. Everyone is extremely nice; we’ll see what happens in the coming months. The teaching itself is awesome. I feel like an actor whenever I enter the classroom. The calm, chill Eric becomes the singing, super excited and expressive sensei; getting students excited to learn.
So the other night we made smores, drank wine, played kings, ate chips w/ guacamole, talked about Life, and did NOT have small talk. Like with most of my friends out here, I was the youngest in the group. Many were surprised that I would make the decision to come here at my age. Although I don’t know everyone’s reasons for coming to Japan, I get the feeling that many ex-pat teachers come here to escape whatever monotony is plaguing their life back home. I feared the monotony, the 9 to 5. So I changed my environment: now it’s the 8:30 to 4:30. And its a fairly comfortable 8:30 to 4:30. Back in the states, I wouldn’t get home from work until 9:30pm or later. But does comfortable necessarily mean happy? Everyday I realize more and more that it’s up to me to create the life that I want to live. Although I really really enjoy teaching, this isn’t the last stop on the journey. The tale continues, Stay Tuned.