November 3, 2006 – Dinner with my private student

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.

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