Archive for February, 2015
My second home in Japan was an apartment building called “Ooka City Plaza” in Numazu. Coming from the dormitory style gaijin house known as Hello House East, it was a big change. I will write more about the details of Ooka City Plaza in a future post.
Getting an apartment in Japan can be difficult if you are not Japanese. There are lots of up front fees, language barriers with contracts, and many reports of real estate agents not wanting to rent to foreigners. In order to keep the flow of conversational English teachers coming to the country, NOVA rented apartments all over the country for the use of their employees. NOVA would then place employees in their apartments, and deduct rent from the monthly salary payment. The rental charge was higher than what you would pay for your own apartment, but still reasonable considering the apartment was ready to live in.
Living in a NOVA apartment was a convenient option for new teachers. The apartments were fully furnished and stocked with kitchen supplies. All new residents got their own futon and pad, and a very useful guide for living in a Japanese apartment. The guide was written in English with illustrations, and covered everything from regular maintenance to garbage disposal rules to getting along with your neighbours.
Most of the apartments had 3 bedrooms and and one bathroom. NOVA made money if the apartment was filled to capacity, so they always tried their best to keep all of the rooms full. The apartments themselves were small by most foreign standards, but decent enough for Japan.
Other than finances and convenience, the other main advantage of NOVA apartments was that you would be living with other English teachers. This provided a built in support network of people who knew the area, and also understood the challenges of living far away from home. NOVA would often rent several apartments in the same building, creating small communities of teachers in an area. As long as everyone was getting along it was a good way to counter the effects of homesickness.
I have a lot of good memories from my time in my NOVA apartment. Other than some disagreements with roommates (which could happen anywhere), it was a good place to live while I was teaching in Japan.
I did some exploring on my bike today and took some new pictures. I love being able to get around town!
Also, for the first time in a long time, I did a proper grocery shopping at Seiyu. I am usually pretty lazy about preparing food, so I thought that having some ingredients in the house would make me more likely to cook something at home instead of just eating out like usual.
There is a basket on the front of my bike, but it wasn’t nearly big enough for the amount of food that I bought. Balancing shopping bags on a bicycle while riding on narrow streets is not easy (or safe). Thankfully, Seiyu is not very far from my apartment.
After finding space to put away my food, I cooked for myself for about the first time in 3 months. It was a nice change from my regular diet of convenience store bentos and izakaya food. Hopefully I can keep this up.
(2015 Update) Nope!
I was feeling surprisingly good after last night’s party. To make things even better, I was rewarded with 3 empty lessons, making for a nice easy day at work.
One of the lessons I did teach was a one on one kids class. In a nice departure from the norm, the lesson material was WAY too easy for this student. We breezed through the lesson, and I tried to think of a challenging way to keep him occupied and engaged for the rest of the class.
I decided that the classic game “Hangman” was a good option, using words from the lesson material. One of the words I chose was bike. The student got a few letters correct, realized that he almost solved the puzzle, and then started guessing some unlikely letters. Q came out first, then Z, W, X, and other letters that would provide some high scores in Scrabble. I wasn’t quite sure what he was doing, so I kept asking him if he was really sure he wanted to guess those letters. He said yes, so we kept going.
After several more wrong guesses, I finally completed drawing his stick figure on the gallows and told him that he lost. His response was to say “hee hee it’s bike”. He was messing with me the whole time.
It was a refreshing change from a usual kids class where the kids aren’t interested in the material and just run around in circles.
Today was Veronica’s last day as an English teacher, so after work we had a big farewell party at an izakaya in Numazu. Veronica had been teaching for a while and was very well liked, so her party attracted teachers from Mishima, Numazu, Fuji, Fujinomiya, and Shimizu branches.
The highlight / lowlight of the evening was Brad’s (not very) erotic dance. Brad is one of my coworkers at Mishima NOVA who is soon moving to Fuji school. He is about the size of an NFL linebacker, and has a huge booming voice that you can hear from a great distance. Working with Brad is fun, if you don’t have to be in the next classroom competing with his huge voice. The staff usually does a good job of trying to put him in a classroom away from other teachers if possible.
For some reason (alcohol) Brad decided to entertain us by trying to do a “sexy” dance. He had a completely serious look on his face at the time, and most of his moves appeared to be stolen from N-Sync. It was hilarious and terrifying at the same time.
As usual, the second party was at karaoke, which went late into the night. Farewell parties are a lot of fun, it’s too bad that someone has to leave in order to have one.
After work I went out to my favourite izakaya Ryuu with Palmer and Azeroth. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may notice a pattern developing.
In addition to the famous 100 yen draft beer, Ryuu also has very cheap sushi. I ordered some tako nigiri (octopus on rice) for only 70 yen each. Unlike other discount sushi, the pieces of fish were surprisingly large.
After a fun evening of beer and sushi, I was given a new nickname by my Aussie and American roommates: Frenchy McFrencherson from North Frenchland. If Canada does change it’s name to North Frenchland, it will make the anthem a lot harder to sing.
My first day calling in sick since I came to Mishima school. I spent a relaxing day trying to settle my stomach, sleeping, and watching Friends on DVD.
THEY WERE ON A BREAK!
Today I made a quick trip to Kawasaki City to do some shopping at Yodobashi Camera. I know that there are some electronics stores in Numazu, and probably a closer Yodobashi Camera in the area, but it’s nice to get out of town and check out some of my old familiar places on a day off. Plus the train ride allows me some time to read.
Yodobashi is a huge store, so it’s easy to spend a few hours simply exploring. There were so many cool things that I wanted to buy, but I stuck with the things that I needed: a new keyboard, USB memory card reader, and a DVD burner. I have limited hard drive space on my used desktop, so the burner will help me backup my data, as well as make copies of things that I am legally allowed to. Remember kids: don’t illegally copy DVDs. And definitely don’t use software to remove Macrovision or region codes from things. That’s super bad.
After I returned home, I opened up my desktop computer and started the upgrade process. Like most computer upgrades, what should have been an easy exercise of “open the case, put in the parts, install drivers” turned into several hours of troubleshooting by trial and error, creative cursing, and promises to buy a new computer in the future. Eventually I got everything working and rewarded myself with a beer or two.
Getting a day off by trading shifts with another teacher = fun! Working on a day off to pay back the shift swap = not fun.
At least we do have the flexibility to trade shifts, which is a huge selling feature for the whole “Conversational English teacher” thing.
Happy Valentine’s day! I can’t believe that it was my second Valentine’s Day with The Penpal! As is the tradition in Japan, She got me some Valentine’s chocolate. Men in Japan don’t have to get anything for their girlfriends or wives, which is a pretty good deal for the guys. However, I am Canadian, not Japanese. I made a trip to the department store across from Numazu station and got a small box of fancy sweets for The Penpal. She was not expecting anything so she was surprised and appreciative.
I wish I had saved some of the soybeans from Setsubun for my kids class today. They all seemed to be possessed by demons and needed the kind of exorcising that only roasted soybeans can provide.
ONI WA SOTO!!