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!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Two Years Since I Hit These Shores....

and currently thoroughly disillusioned with it for many reasons.

I'm hoping this will pass soon as I intend to stay for another year.

Okay. I decided to elaborate a little on what I said above: [WARNING: WHINEY POST AHEAD:]

Firstly, whilst some of my students are wonderful, interested, motivated and fun, I also have several some kids and some extremely boring adults.

A standard lesson for my company can be thrown together in 5 minutes (three of this are finding the right place in the tape). I'm going slightly nuts teaching the same thing again and again. There is little room for creativity, and little time to be creative anyway.

Teaching one-to-one with a boring adult or bratty kid is HARD work and, for some reason, there is a very high percentage of private lessons like these in the area I work in.

The TESOL, of course, doesn't help, as I'm teaching large groups of adults and creating the lessons instead of just regurgitating what I've regurgitated dozens of times before.

I often feel that the company is more concerned with making money than with satisfying teachers or students needs.

On the other hand, I really enjoy the non-standard lessons where there is more freedom: IELTS, Cambridge, hell, even EIKEN lessons or in fact any lesson where I can match the students needs and NOT the company's needs for me to whisk through material to hit the deadlines of finishing the text books.

It drives me nuts the lack of understanding some of the receptionists and school staff have of teachers needs. Oh, you have a spare 15 minutes here Jo, let's cram something into it, etc.

Or maybe it's this and other gripes in combination with all the six day weeks since mid-July just draining it out of me.

Then again, it could be Japan. Maybe it's this country that driving me slowly mad. The overwhelming lack of common sense I see around me. The sheep mentality. The acceptances of things that I just cannot fathom. The obsessions with I used to see as quirks, but now JUST see as obsessions.

But if makes financial sense to stay here for another year. I love teaching: with the right students and the right, shall we say, conditions. I don't want to stop teaching English but something right now just isn't right about it all for me.

Maybe it's the having friends leaving and knowing that's a cycle that will just continue.

Maybe it's events in the UK I'm missing out on: birthdays, weddings, births, parties, etc. BUT I don't really have anything to return TO in the UK, so I'm kind of stuck. Maybe, whilst part of me cannot imagine EVER settling down and doesn't want to ever settle down: another part of me craves that badly and wants a nice two-up-two-down (whatever that means) in London with a husband, Labrador, fuel-guzzling car and a kid or three.

I miss my friends: even though they are all scattered all over. I really miss them. I hang out for emails from friends: and then miss them even more...

Maybe it's just that culture shock has finally and thoroughly hit me after two years and there's no novelty left for me so I'm stagnating. And I'm tired the WHOLE time these days.

I'm going to stop posting this now. It's not doing me any good ranting like this, and I'm sure nobody read any further than the first line of this post anyway.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I must remember to teach my students to say 'I don't feel very well'

Japanese are obsessed with health and the doctors. The slightest sneeze and they rush to the hospital to see a doctor. One student bashed her leg on the table, and went to see the doctor. The average immune system in Japan must be absolutely crap, considering how often people get ill and how willing they are to get medicated for everything.

I suppose this goes someway in explaining people's attitudes and openness to giving you information about their ailments. Whereas a British person, with someone who is not a friend, would subtly say, I'm not feeling too well, or, my stomach hurts, if they have period pains: a Japanese woman will just tell you: I have period pains. I often don't want to know this amount of information from my students.

They are also very quick to tell you that YOU look tired, etc. There really IS no subtlety.

Anyway today one of my students came into the class and hadn't done her homework. She then proceeded to explain to me that she had been ill with pains 'there' [pointing between legs]. Desperately hoping she was trying to tell me she had pulled a muscle or that she had cystitus or something (too much information but....) I listened in growing horror as she started to describe small spots.

Maybe she saw the look on my face at that moment (she knows I know who her boyfriend is and there are some things you REALLY don't want to know) because she went on to say, after saying she'd been to the doctors... that it wasn't an STD but stress, or something.

At this point I breathed. Knowing about your students period pains is bad enough. Being told about their STD's would be pretty bad, wouldn't it?


This morning my tooth was feeling a bit funny. (See Japanese health paranoia is rubbing off on me). I've been a bit headachy and sore throaty and toothachy recently so I was a bit worried. I looked in the mirror and saw a biggish black spot on top of my wisdom tooth. Now, I have NEVER had a cavity, filling or whatever, and was told a few years ago it's highly unlikely at my age that I ever will. But seeing this black spot got me worried. I got out my toothbrush and brushed really hard to see if I could dislodge anything. I couldn't. I used my fingernail: nothing. I got VERY worried.

Partly worried about my obviously rotting tooth, and partly worried that I would have to go face-to-face with a Japanese dentist.

Me and my paranoia were running pretty late by this point so I left the house. Sitting on the bus I found a toothpick and a mirror in my bag and decided I wanted to dig the toothpick into the hole. (I'm a freak, okay). I tentatively put the toothpick into my mouth and went about attacking the hole....

One stab later a bit of food was sitting on the toothpick and the 'hole' had miraculously disappeared.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Rabbits, People and more

(Don't forget I'm still checking for new comments on my Thailand post below)

* This weekend I saw a rabbit on a lead in Sasazuka. It was wearing a little jacket as well.

* Last week, I was discussing giving money to homeless people. She said she didn't do so because she didn't want to spoil them. This from a mid-20s, part-time worker who lives with her parents and happily admits she is spoiled by them and they give her everything she wants.

* I still love my Mooncup.

* Yesterday, after the TESOL, Lou and I went to Nikki's house for a lovely evening. I can't believe Nikki's leaving in a weeks time. I'd been avoiding the reality of it until yesterday when I nearly burst into tears on the train. Well, I was tired and I had a cold and.... fuck it, I'm going to miss Nikki.

* A friend lent me Season 5 of 24 to watch. Goodbye life.

* I'm considering a trip to the UK next year, if anyone wants to see me...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

For the girls....

(Boys move along and post something on my Thailand thread, would ya?)

I have discovered the joys of the Mooncup.

I was intrigued by the idea of using such a thing for a while and it particularly appealed to the save-the-planet side of me. Plus the ooo I can save some money instead of spending a fortune on a menstrual lifetime of things that won't biodegrade for a loooong time.

Anyway, it is SO comfortable and SO convenient that I can't believe I never thought of getting one before.

If you still have no idea what I'm on about, it's an alternative to using tampons or pads/liners during your period. You insert it, leave it and, basically, empty it now and then. No more, 'shit I forgot to being enough tampons out with me today, I'll have to rush and get some' or having to either carry a bag into the toilet at work, or tuck it into my waistband or up my sleeve so nobody can see it.

And no more 'fuck, I'm in a public loo, there's no dustbin, what do I do with my soiled bla bla bla' (I will not flush them). You just pull it out, empty it, rinse it (with soap when I'm at home, just water when I'm out) or wipe it with toilet paper if there's no water, and shove it back in.

A couple of things from the instructions intrigued me though: do not use as a method of birth control - er, do people REALLY attempt to have sex while wearing one? How? Look at the picture above? That's the position it's in whilst in you: just HOW could you imagine it would be doable to have sex while wearing it, let alone considering it could be contraception? Takes all sorts I guess and the fact it's printed on the information leaflet would lead me to think someone brainless wonder has actually tried.

we do not recommend sharing your Mooncup with another woman: ew, ew, ewwwwww. Have people considered this??

anyway, it's cool, comfy and convenient and has a cute little pouch to keep it in between periods.

eesh: I just read back over what I wrote, and it does sound a bit like a marketers blurby thing, doesn't it? sorry about that!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Another weekend

Firstly, please don't forget I have a Thailand post below. Read it and give me your thoughts, comments and suggestions please.

So, a quick catch up:

+ Work
+ Nice catch up with some friends on Sunday night
+ Am on a daily budget now, which I've already blown
+ I was seriously on the verge of handing in my notice due to various actions and INACTIONS that have been going on recently. But I can't go into them on here. I've been talked out of it though. For the moment anyway
+ I briefly also considered giving up the TESOL (another bloody Saturday night sitting in lesson planning for the course teaching practice)
+ The weather is shite. Bloody typhoons
+ I'm not exactly stagnating - hell knows I have enough going on right now. But I'm getting a little bored of things and how they are run / not run. I particularly don't like the way my company never taps into us teachers for input and ideas. That was something I really liked at the BBC. Everyone, at every level was invited to input and brainstorming sessions. Why don't more companies realise the BEST ideas come from the shop-floor? The company could, for a financial incentive, get some VERY GOOD ideas from us, but that would be too simple, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Oops. I've just pretty much cleared out my bank account (pay day was two days ago so I'm on MAJOR budget street until I get my next pay - 3.5 weeks from now - but to include my end of second year work bonus thankfully).

Anyway, the reason for the clearout - money for my loan and I've, er, BOOKED A HOLIDAY TO THAILAND FOR XMAS AND THE NEW YEAR.

Well, I've been getting a little stressed with the TESOL, and I haven't left Tokyo this year so I felt I deserved it! Also, it's been raining, cold and miserable here for the last few days, so it's nice to have something to look forward to. Plus the tickets are disappearing fast. I had hoped to get a couple of days extra holiday from work but that wasn't possible. Still, I've taken the best deal I could find.

I'll be there from December 23rd to January 8th. Will anyone else be there then? I'm not sure where I'll be when but I'm thinking at the moment of doing a Bangkok and around thing, and a Chaing Mai and around thing.

ie -

Bridge over the River Kwai / Death Valley and Erawan falls
Khorat (Nakhon Ratchasima)

Chiang Mai
Chaing Rai / Mai Sai / Chaing Saen
Doi Suthep

Koh Samet or Ko Pha Ngan - maybe but probably not.

Elephants and cooking are definitely on the cards (though not together) and lots of other things.

Any thoughts or suggestion?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Living my life in monochrome

Sometimes I really piss myself off. I am a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions and sometimes this drives me nuts about myself. Blame it on my Gemininess. Blame it on me being me.
  • I take everything too seriously. When I'm not too busy taking nothing seriously.
  • I like spontaneity. But I hate being surprised - it often flounders me.
  • Many people see me as mature, independent, confident and focused. They really don't know me.
  • I don't care what anyone thinks about me. And yet I care what everyone thinks.
  • People think I'm efficient and organised. They haven't seen my undone to-do list or my apartment.
  • I like change. But I don't like change.
  • I want a quiet predictable life. But I want an exciting unpredictable life.
  • I want things done now. But I don't want to do them now.
I wish I could figure myself out.

Dancing and Drinking

On my way home from work yesterday, after I'd got off a bus and was trying to find my bicycle, I heard loud drumming. I live in a very residential area, offset by a university, some offices and a few small shops, restaurants and the like. Not really what you'd call a kicking area. So, my curiosity was somewhat aroused by this rhythmical bashing.

Needing to go to the 100 yen shop to buy some blindfolds and gags to teach with - er I mean, a couple of eye masks to use for a blindfolding non-kinky game - I had to head in the direction of the drumming anyway and saw a crowd of people slowly moving down the street following the drums. My bicycle and I edged closer until we reached a gap in the crowd and saw lots of bikini-and-feather clad ladies samba'ing away to lots of drums. It was really cool. Although pretty strange to see in a small strange in the place I live in!

Today, after surviving another testosterone heavy day at the TESOL course - I'm the only female in a class of straight males - figure it out for yourselves - I went and joined a load of other teachers to go on the Tokyo Bay Cruise. It was so heavily subsidized for us as to be almost free -and all drinks were included in the price. Being a humid day, hanging out (with a 1000 other people) on top of a ship for two hours was perfect! Going inside was pretty sweat inducing though!

Right, that's it. I'm off to bed now. Tomorrow is my day off. I have no plans and no urgent deadlines to stress about now. Happy happy!

BOOM! BOOM! CRASH! CRASH! - Last night there was the MOST amazing storm I can remember ever having heard. For about half an hour or more around half three-ish, the sky was splattered with flashes of lightening, every few seconds. Not little streaks like you normally see, but a really angry sky emlazened with crackles and thuds, like someone playing with a light switch. This was accompanied with full-power rain and non-relenting thunder.

It was incredible. I was very happy to have not been caught in it. It was almost frightening but I love storms and got out of bed to stand at my window for about 15 minutes to watch it. It was quite exciting - and kind of relaxing at the same time. But then I quite like mild air turbulance or being on a hovercraft in rough water.....!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Oh Fac!

I owe emails to half the people I know. My 'to do' list is becoming epic. My bedtime is now swinging around 3.30am most nights and I'm a tad stressed because I'm gagging to book a flight to Thailand for Xmas BUT have to wait and find out whether my lovely company will allow me to take a couple of extra days leave allowing me to get a flight that is drastically cheaper than otherwise. Plus, two of the airlines that fly there are totally booked out on the cheap day. And TESOL.... stress, stress, stress!

Still, my 8,000+ word document is finished and I spent this evening designing town maps for tomorrow's teaching practice. It was fun actually!


Sadly, it looks like summer is over. Apart from the sweatiness, I liked it. I much prefer the heat to the cold, although air-con drives me nuts. It's also quite odd actually having a summer. In England 'summer' normally consists of an odd few scattered days and is totally unpredictable. In Japan, I know if I leave the house with no cardigan to put on later - that it'll be okay. This week has been a bit grim though, so maybe it's over.


Let me share a little teaching tip with you that I picked up today: when you are playing a phonics game with seven year olds that you are desperately trying to teach to read English, and when you are making three letter combinations that the kids can win and will get over-excited about, be VERY VERY careful what vowel you insert between 'F' and 'C', as the little loves can make 'fac' sound very much like a full volume chorus screaming out 'FUCK' very loudly.


There was a crowded reception too, but hopefully nobody heard!


So, I mentioned the weather has been a bit grim recently? Well, at least when it's raining it's obvious why Japanese people have umbrellas up - ie to keep dry. Other days, when there is blazing sunshine and umbrellas are up, it's also obvious why - to keep the sun and UV rays away (many people have UV umbrellas).

What really confuses me though, is when you see people with umbrellas up when it is neither raining nor sunny. It leaves me clueless!

Japanese also have a very different opinion of rain than Gaijin do. The SLIGHTEST speckle of rain, and Japanese will put their umbrellas up; I need to risk getting seriously wet before I'll even consider it. It's just one of those little things that amuses us here.


Another difference in cultures is in attitudes to doctors. I think Tokyoites must have ridiculously low immune systems, as every time they get a slight cold [often] they go running to the doctor for medication. Every time. Some of my students go a ridiculous amount.

One of my students bewildered me the other day: she told me she banged her leg on a table and it hurt so she went to the hospital. Containing my desire to say what I thought / to burst out laughing, I asked her what the doctor said, and she said he'd told her it was nothing. FFS!

Here the majority of people don't go to anything resembling a GP's surgery. They go and see a doctor in hospital instead. This concept is still something I find it a bit odd to get my head around.

I've heard so many bad / odd stories about doctors in Japan that I have no intention of going and seeing one - unless I'm dying....


Equality between the sexes in Japan is something I'm yet to see - in ANY shape or form; and this seems especially so in attitudes to marriage and equality in relationships, and so on. Some of the things I hear make my toes curl.

One example from this week, was a very intelligent Japanese lady who told me: 'sometimes I disagree with my husband but I can't say anything'.

[insert own comment].

Another Japanese friend told me, 'my boyfriend is boring but I must change my way of thinking'.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Quick Catchup


My life is completely taken over by this course BUT it should get easier after this week when the first piece of coursework has been handed in.

I don't want to talk about TESOL though.


Spotted on a t-shirt, worn by a girl in her 20s:

Whip it to me. I'm gonna come. Can I come? [sic]

[only in Japan, heh?]


Apologies for not keeping track of everyone else's blogs. I'll slowly catch up with them.

My social life has been cut right down due to tiredness, TESOL work and trying to cut back on spending.

Of note recently though: a week ago I went with some friends to the open air restaurant at the top of Parco in Ikebukuro. It's a two hour nomi- tabehodai deal (ie eat and drink yourself stupid for a set price) but I managed to control my drinking compared to last summer when I went there and really overdrank. By the end of the pub afterwards I wasn't quite so sober though. But it was a fun night.

Then last night I experienced the hospitality of Timorous Beastie and Timourous Beast in their lovely apartment after my course ended. The evening started off with the lovely Shiomi having a breakdown in her, normally, impeccable sense of direction and getting me lost! Can you imagine the cheek of the woman? Okay, there was a little diversion to try and get some proper lemonade for the Pimms, but still.

Beastie and Beast plied us with lovely food. Although the scared look on Beast's face as he handed a plate of something and said 'try this' was a little disconcerting. The aubergine-pesto-cheese-pancake was lovely though, as were the salad the soup. According to her blog it was pumpkin; I have to confess I thought it was carrot...

Liisa and her Finnish friend plied us with a most bizarre Finnish vodka based licorice drink. That wasn't really to my taste. At first. By later in the evening I couldn't get enough of it though.

Somewhere along the line the decision was made to troop off to karaoke, with Liisa's friend declaring she would NOT be singing as she hadn't had enough to drink. Yeah right. Guess who sang to EVERY song?! Beastie refused to put any songs on but was caught sneakily singing along at some stages. Liisa and Finn friend showed what rock chicks they really are as they sang, danced and generally picked lots of rock numbers I had never heard of...

I of course was the image of decorum and quietness and sat quietly behaving myself. It was after a particularly throaty version of 'Hey Mickey' that I discovered the true benefits of the strange Finnish drink.

Good fun, really!