Archive for April, 2018
Packing with a hangover also sucks.
Tonight was my “unofficial” farewell party. For those who haven’t been following the blog, when a teacher relocates to another part of Japan or moves home they often get two farewell parties: the “official” party which is attended by teachers and staff, and the “unofficial” party which is attended by teachers and students.
Azeroth took charge of organizing the party, inviting students from the two branches that I worked at in the area, Numazu and Mishima. The turnout was really impressive! We started off our evening at an izakaya and then ended up going to the second party at karaoke. The whole evening was a lot of fun, and I’m happy that I got one last chance to say goodbye and make everyone listen to my terrible singing.
After failing to make any progress on packing today, I gave up and decided to go hang out at Koalako’s apartment.
A few months ago, Koalako moved into an apartment with some NOVA teachers. If interacting with students outside of the classroom is not allowed, sharing an apartment must be ultra prohibited, although I’m not sure how much authority they have to tell teachers where they can and can’t live.
The apartment was nice and pretty spacious for a Japanese apartment. Everything looked pretty typical, except the toilet room (in Japan the toilet and bath are often in separate rooms). This is the one room where Koalako really got to express herself, making the entire room pink to annoy her roommates.
I hung out with Koalako and roommates, enjoying some food and beer. Our gathering managed to attract a few more teachers from the area. One of the new arrivals had just returned from Australia, so they brought over some wine. It was my first time to drink wine from Australia – it was dangerously delicious. They also brought one of Australia’s most famous (infamous) foods – Vegemite, which was dangerously NOT delicious. I seriously don’t know how people eat that stuff.
Another fun evening in Numazu – I’m really going to miss this when I move home!
I can’t believe there is only one week left before I leave Japan and move back to Canada! I decided that I should probably start doing some serious packing during the day.
Fighting procrastination as hard as I could, I actually made some progress during the day. It’s important to reward yourself for hard work, so I spent my evening enjoying a Trailer Park Boys marathon with Super Dave. Before we started, we walked to the nearby Don Quixote to stock up on beer, cheese, and salty snacks. Good times!
Tonight I made another important stop on my farewell tour – Gotenba Kogen Brewery with my roommates.
For those who haven’t been reading my blog, Gotenba Kogen Brewery is a brewery and buffet restaurant located at a resort on the side of Mt. Fuji. They offer a 90 minute all you can eat all you can drink experience for about $30. It’s pretty much one of the happiest places on earth!
To fully take advantage of the 90 minutes of feasting, you really need to plan in advance. Azeroth loves beer, so he spent most of his 90 minutes refilling his beer mug. Klaxman doesn’t drink, so he spent most of his 90 minutes refilling his plate. I managed to find a nice balance that left me both slightly drunk and wishing I had worn sweat pants. So good!
The Penpal came to visit me after work for a typical date night featuring Pizza-La while watching Friends. With just under 10 days left before I move back to Canada, this might be our last pizza and Friends night. I’m going to miss it!
The Penpal will be joining me in Canada early next year after her visa is approved. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of new traditions we start together.
(2018 Update) For most of The Penpal’s first year in Canada, our date night was Vietnamese take out from Vi-Ann and a movie rental from Movie Village.
Last night I went to a farewell party with Kim and Kame before crashing on their couch. In the morning we all woke up hungover, and lurched our way out for breakfast like 3 zombies. Fortunately the restaurant we went to sold coffee in one liter pitchers.
After feeding and caffeinating ourselves, we took a nostalgia tour of Noborito so I could take some pictures of Hello House and the new and improved Noborito station. I lived in the area for a year, and the station was under construction almost the entire time. The completed station looked great! Around the station area there were also a lot of changes. Nothing ever stays the same in the Greater Tokyo Area.
Kim and Kame accompanied me to Asakusa for souvenir shopping. The shopping area in front of Sensoji temple is a fantastic place to get souvenirs: I had been there so many times that I already knew which stores I wanted to hit. This was possibly my last chance to do souvenir shopping in Tokyo, so I made it count. I ended up leaving with a fully loaded backpack and several shopping bags, looking like a pale pack mule.
After parting ways with my friends, I decided to take the Tokaido Line home, stopping at Kawasaki station. My first English school was near the station, so I was very familiar with the area. Like Noborito I was shocked at all the changes around the station area that happened over the past 2 years. Hostess bars and pachinko had been replaced by and supplemented with new stores, game centres, and movie theatres. As I enjoyed a delicious burger at Becker’s I realized that Kawasaki would likely be unrecognizable to me when I returned the next time. Kawasaki is usually not near the top of anyone’s Japan sightseeing list, but I’m really going to miss it.
As part of my farewell tour, I went to Kawasaki today to meet up with my old housemate Kim. We went out for okonomiyaki in Noborito before meeting up with her fiancee Kame.
Kim was one of the most fun people I had met during my time at Hello House, so I wasn’t surprised to find out that Kame was a pretty cool guy as well. We all went to Yoyogi park to join up with a Hello House leaving party for someone who had moved in after my time there. Living in a dorm filled with English teachers means lots of people coming and going. You never really get to know everyone well, but you do get to attend a lot of farewell parties. Almost every farewell party I have attended in Japan was at an izakaya, so an outdoor party was a nice change of pace. I’m really going to miss the ability to drink legally in public when I return to Canada!
Eventually, like with every other party, we ended up at karaoke. I introduced Kame and Kim to Sad Cows Song which they instantly loved. We got back to their apartment late and I spent the night on the couch. It was a very fun day but the morning is going to hurt.
Earlier in the year, I picked up a private student on Saturday mornings. Tonight my student took me out for a farewell dinner. For the sake of the story, let’s call him Hiro.
Several teachers try to supplement their income by picking up private English students. When private lessons work out, they can be a pretty good deal for both parties: the teacher gets paid cash under the table and the student gets more flexibility on their lessons at a lower price. Many cynical English teachers believe that the main reason for NOVA’s “don’t interact with students outside of the classroom” policy is to reduce the chances of teachers stealing customers and turning them into private students.
Hiro worked for an automobile parts manufacturer and occasionally needed to interact with Americans in English. He knew enough to talk about his work in English, but wanted some practice in the kind of small talk and everyday conversation that he would encounter in overseas trips. He was keen to learn and fun to teach.
When I started making plans to leave Japan, I worked on setting up Super Dave as a replacement teacher. During our last lesson, Hiro invited me out to a farewell dinner. I’m not one to turn down good food, so I agreed.
Hiro picked me up in his car and drove us to a small yakiniku restaurant in Mishima. There are a ton of good restaurants in Mishima, but most of them are not easily accessible by train so this was a nice treat for me. Like most yakiniku restaurants, we had a grill right in the middle of our table. I’m a pretty adventurous eater so I let Hiro order for us. Over the course of a few hours we had plate after plate of different cuts of meat show up at table; I ate everything except for the salted squid guts with raw egg – there simply wasn’t enough beer to make that look and smell appealing.
After eating and drinking so much that we could barely move, I started worrying about how we were going to get home. Hiro called a very convenient taxi service that sent one cab with two drivers. We rode in the cab while the second driver followed behind in Hiro’s car. The cost was just slightly more than a regular taxi. This service should be available everywhere!!
I arrived home drunk, sleepy, and with a case of the meat sweats. Thanks again to Hiro for treating me to an amazing dinner! My experience goes to show that if you really want to experience life in Japan, you need to get out and spend time with people other than just English teachers. I’m a lucky man that I got to meet so many cool people during my time in the country.
Business attire in Japan is very conservative, so it makes sense that English schools have strict rules regarding teachers’ appearance. NOVA has the typical rules for dress code, but they also have an interesting set of rules regarding facial hair: if you have it you can keep it as long as it’s properly trimmed and groomed. If you don’t have facial hair you aren’t allowed to grow it on the job.
Ever since my last lesson I decided to stop shaving and see if I could grow anything. So far I have learned two important things:
- There are spots on my face where nothing grows. This is going to make a beard impossible and a goatee challenging
- Growing facial hair on a usually clean shaven face is super itchy
Some people like my roommate Azeroth can grow a full beard in a matter of hours. With my uncooperative face and blond hair it’s going to take me weeks and may look ridiculous the entire time. I can now understand the reason for NOVA’s “can’t grow it on the job” rules.