Random thoughts, comments, observations and general fluff from a random bint who left London at the end of September 2004 to embark on a new life and new adventures in Tokyo, land of the cute.... and is leaving mid-June 2010 - and counting!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

I found an internet cafe but the keyboard is strange!

It seems like weeks since I last wrote anything here, but this is the first time I`ve managed to actually have time and find a cafe.

Soooo, firstly it`s been raining heavily for the last two and a half days. Being soggy is getting boring. Seeing cyclists on bikes with umbrellas is extremely amusing though. Tokyo is a safe place. Apparantly the only things to ever get stolen are bikes and umbrellas. Gaijins (foreigners) on bikes are automatically assumed to have stolen them, and owning a bike is a good way to get to know your local police force. So far my umbrella (on permanent loan from a school I visited to observe a class) hasn`t been knicked. There are little cages outside shops where you leave them when you go in, so I guess this is down to luck. I`ve also seen multi umbrella stands where you can lock your umbrella inside.

I moved into my new apartment on Sunday. There are six other teachers there but everyone has very different schedules, so I don`t know whether there`ll be much socialising. We`ll see. I`m more likely to keep seeing people from my course and flight I think. It is still early days though.

The apartment is lovely. But then it`s all mine so I`d probably say that about anywhere. It`s all very basically furnished. The bedroom, which actually feels massive compared to the room I had in London has a futon, built in wardrobe, brown carpet with blue rug (or is it the other way around), a little balcony and a little open cabinet. It has sliding door into the `reception` room area which has a fridge (my OWN fridge - I can`t explain how amazing it is to have more than a shelf in a fridge. Even if it IS still empty!), a little toaster oven (I mean little), a small desk and chair, several small dustbins (trash is taken very seriously in Japan and you have to separate burnable, non-burnable, recyclable, plastic and god knows what else. It`s very confusing!) It also has a massive top loading washing machine that takes about zero time to wash but you have to keep moving things from one side to the other and put the water in yourself, etc. Then there is a little sink, a few built in cupboards and a one ring stove! The little bathroom has the equivalent of a 3/4 size British bath, a shower, basin and loo. It`s compact. Having been led to expect an extremely tiny apartment though, I`m thrilled. You really need to have flatshared for 15 years like I did to understand JUST how thrilled I am.

It`s in a very residential area and about 20 minutes stroll to the station. If it ever stops raining I may consider getting a bike, but the walk is quite nice too.

Yesterday was my first day of teaching and was pretty full on. I have five different schools and Tuesdays and Sundays are my days off. Yesterdays school was reasonably close and easy enough to get to. The organisation I work for has schools everywhere in Tokyo and many of them are tiny. Yesterday`s school had two classrooms and I was the only teacher in all day. The receptionist was lovely there, which made life loads easier when I couldn`t find things, etc.

Actually, to tell the truth, everyone is lovely including all the other teachers I`m coming across.

And EVERYTHING is Tokyo is cute. Believe me. It`s all a bit much and making me all mushy. When I eventually get around to getting a digital camera, I promise to post up some pictures of the cuteness. Hell, of everything.

Anyway, I had a real mixture of students yesterday and some of the classes went much better than others in my opinion. But, as this was the first time I`d met the students I`m not too bothered by this. I had three 5 year old boys and I`m really looking forward to seeing them progress. They were pretty boisterous, but I just went with it and had them running around the classroom until they wore themselves out. Luckily, nobody else could see me being followed around a classroom by three littlies hopping slowly, now hopping quickly. Of course, when teacher got tired, teacher stopped. The kids weren`t allowed to!

I have a variety of adult classes throughout the afternoon and evening, one had two ladies, the others were just 1:1. I really enjoyed these and, despite them being at all levels, they were all very chatty. This surprised me as I`d been given notes by their previous teacher saying many of them were reluctant to talk. Maybe it was just me. People always talk a load of rubbish to me. Kidding. And no, I made them work as well as just chat! Gotta make `em feel they`re getting their money`s worth, eh?

I also had a few classes with nine year olds - two 1:1 classes and one with two littlies. I didn`t feel these went so well. Partly because the notes I`d been given on them were crap and partly because when the activities weren`t working I didn`t have a big stock of games at the ready. This will come with experience though, and I already feel a bit better prepared for the next time I see them.

Most of the teaching days start at around 1pm and end 9pm. Some of the days, like Monday, Wednesday and Thursday are pretty packed. Friday and Saturday are much looser days. This means I can stop giving over almost entire off days (like today) to plan lessons and photocopy materials.

I went to the City Hall this morning to sort out my Gaijin Card (alien registration - yes, that does make me think of Sting every time it comes up). The building, obviously, wasn`t labelled in English in any way at all. I had a rough map I`d been drawn and made a random guess in the right direction before accosting some poor woman who didn`t speak English and went off to get American who`d been in Tokyo for 20 years. He`s now new-best-friend and has told me to contact him if I have any problems, etc. He may, of course, end up seriously regretting having uttered those words to me. The registering process was painless enough anyway, and once I get my card, in about three weeks, life will be loads easier and I can get a bank account, phone line, home internet account, etc.

What else? My working vocabulary has increased by another four or five words giving me a grand total of about 10 words/phrases I`m regularly using. My miming and pointing abilities are fantastic though!

I`m still getting confused by the trains. Buying tickets is easy though. You pick a random number (okay, I`m getting an idea about how much some journeys should cost) and buy a ticket. Then, when you get to the other end, a top-up machine will kindly tell you how much more you owe. This is so much simpler than figuring it out beforehand.

I`ve been eating some wonderful food here. Shame really that I don`t know what half of it is. My next challenge will be to actually get in some food, and not just live on bento boxes and pot noodles, as nice as they are. Actually, sod that. I LIKE having the noodles for breakfast, and the chopsticks are the only things to wash up afterwards.

Just in case you don`t know what a bento box is, think packed lunch. It`s a little tray with compartments. One has sticky rice. One of the others will have, for example, some meat or fish things, another maybe some salad, another maybe some pickles. Very nice. Very convenient.

Do pass on recipe and meal ideas to me though for one ring and one toaster oven. To put the toaster oven into perspective, think slice of pizza. Small slice of pizza!


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