Archive for September, 2014
Today was Phoala’s last day at NOVA. He is returning to Australia in the near future. To celebrate, most of the teachers went out after work to a place called “Beer and Food Factory” in Kamata. You can get 1200 yen all you can drink if you order one or two small food items from the menu. As you can imagine, the English teachers took full advantage of this offer.
Like many parties in Japan, there was a second party afterwards. Since I had to work the next day, I decided to be responsible and go home instead of pulling an all-nighter. I somehow managed to find the station, return to Kawasaki, and then catch the last Nanbu line train back to Noborito.
(2014 Update) The last train out of somewhere like Shibuya is usually lively and crowded, full of energetic young people. The last Nanbu line train leaving Kawasaki is full of business people (and English teachers) who look like they are already regretting their choices for the evening.
I got training on the new teaching method today. NOVA is switching their system as of Friday. There will be a lot less preparation time with lessons, and also a lot less flexibility. This should ensure an even quality of lessons with different instructors, and a lot less thinking for us teachers. I am not sure how I feel about the change yet, but I am optimistic.
(2014 Update) The NOVA teaching method was long overdue for a change. The old method was based on an English textbook from the 1980’s used to teach English to immigrants in America. The pictures and dialogues were hilariously outdated. One lesson in particular was based around a letter written to a hotel to make a reservation in the future. Who makes hotel reservations by letter?
There were 40 lessons per level. Teachers were supposed to find some target language in the lesson material (usually grammar or vocabulary) and invent a situation where the student would use that language. The lesson often had little to do with the textbook material. Coming up with a situation and building a lesson around it was not always easy to do. Lesson quality and difficulty could vary wildly depending on the experience and creativity of the teacher.
The newer system was based on teaching a variety of language for a particular situation. The situations are usually common like choosing a restaurant, asking a friend for a favour, or hotel complaints. The lesson would introduce some vocabulary and sentences that could be used in the situation, and provided a chance to practice the new language. At the end, students were given different parts in a role play situation and had to use the new language.
The new lesson material was created by a team of experienced teachers, and provides templates and all needed material for better lessons. Since the lessons matched the textbook material, students could review outside of the classroom. It was a huge improvement for both teachers and students.
Today The Penpal came to visit. She was pretty excited about my upcoming transfer to her part of Japan. Living in Numazu will allow us to see each other much more often.
We hung out and tried to play the Clue VCR Game. This was a favourite from when I was a kid. Similar to the classic board game, the goal was to solve a murder faster than the other players. To play, you watch some scenes featuring the Clue characters, and then draw some cards with clues on them. For example, the card will say “the character who ate beef at dinner is the killer”, or “the weapon that Professor Plum had in the library is the murder weapon”. It is a pretty cool idea, but like many VCR games from the 80s, the execution left something to be desired.
The English was a bit too challenging for The Penpal and I to play the game together, but we did enjoy watching the video and laughing at the over the top acting. In the evening we went to Gyu-Kaku for dinner, because Gyu-Kaku is awesome.
Interesting note: today was the first time that it has ever rained when The Penpal and I spent time together. Every other time it has been sunny or the rain just finished before we met. For a country that gets a lot of rain, this is pretty impressive.
Today I finally went out and bought a digital camera! I went to the big Yodobashi Camera near Kawasaki NOVA and bought a Canon IXY 4 megapixel camera with a 256mb memory card. I was looking for something in the 4 megapixel range with optical zoom that was point and shoot. This camera met all of my requirements, and the price was pretty good too.
I managed to make the entire purchase using Japanese. Very simple Japanese, but I still felt pretty proud of myself. The salesperson was very polite and patient. Yodobashi Camera rules!
Teaching English to children is a very effective form of birth control. Some days they are HORRIBLE.
Today is my one year Japaniversary! I can’t believe I have been living in Japan for a year already!
Even more exciting, I got official notification of my transfer. As of November 1st, I will be living in Numazu and working at NOVA’s Mishima branch. Woo hoo! More information as I get it!
Tonight was Thursday Night Karaoke in Yokohama with the usual crew. I try to challenge myself with a new song or two each time. Tonight I sang “Sex Type Thing” by Stone Temple Pilots, which turned out pretty well. Later on I was inspired by The Blues Brothers and tried to sing “Stand By Your Man”. Jem came in on the duet, and completely took over the song. Somehow her British accent was completely replaced by a perfect Tammy Wynette southern twang which left us all with our jaws on the floor. Serious talent!
Today I did some laundry, and to my horror I found that I had left my USB memory stick in the pockets of my pants. After a trip through the washing machine it still worked perfectly. Probably not recommended.
I still haven’t gotten used to cold water wash for laundry. In most parts of Canada, washing machines use warm or hot water to wash clothes. Cold water wash seems to get the clothes clean, but it’s harder to get stains out. There is a great dry cleaning place near Noborito station that I take my work clothes to occasionally. They not only get out any stains that the cold water wash misses, but they also press and fold my shirts afterwards. Most of the teachers in the area use this laundry, so they have compiled a big list of all of the foreigner names so they don’t have to ask people with limited Japanese skills the same questions every time (address, phone number, etc). Not every business takes the extra steps to make their business foreigner friendly, so if you find one please tell everybody and make sure to give them your business.
After laundry I worked on updating my blog and got a few new pictures added.
If I could sum up my entire day in 2 words, those words would be sleep and hockey. I am not exactly making the most of my time in Japan, but I am okay with that.
If I could add a few more words (and I can because it’s my blog), I also watched some CSI with Okonomi. After the demise of Twin Peaks night with Zoe and Lux, Okonomi and I have been hanging out and watching CSI often, usually over a few beverages.
After work, I went to see Resident Evil: Apocalypse in Shinyurigaoka with Lux. Apocalypse is the second movie based on the Resident Evil games. The movie was predictably awful, until we noticed that the movie was obviously filmed in Toronto. The movie’s climax is a huge fight scene in front of Toronto’s unique city hall building.
Lux is from Kitchener / Waterloo which is close to Toronto, but not part of the GTA. Telling her she is from Toronto is a great way to annoy her. Toronto is Canada’s largest city, and is the city that all other Canadians love to hate. Winnipeggers still laugh about the time that the crazy mayor called in the army when Toronto got a lot of snow.
Watching parts of Toronto explode on the big screen was worth the price of admission.
(2014 Update) Leafs suck!