Archive for January, 2003

Back in action!

Thursday, January 30th, 2003

It’s been a long week, and it’s not over yet…BUT:

I GOT A CELL PHONE! And it has a camera so hopefully I’ll be able to put some pictures up here soon, although I’m not sure of the quality of cell phone pictures. :)

So, here’s my complete info:

Marc Baizman
cell: (090) 6063-0274 (int’l call: 011-81-cell #)

home address:
LeoPalace #210
1-12-17 Inada Honmachi
Higashi-Osaka City
Japan 577-0007

work address:
Umeda Hankyu Terminal Bldg 7F
1-1-4 Shibata, Kita-ku
Osaka City
Japan 530-0012
EMERGENCY ONLY work phone: (06) 6377-3773 (int’l call: 011-81-work #)

Teaching is going really well. I was observed yesterday for the first time, and it went okay. I screwed up some things because someone was watching, naturally, but otherwise it went okay. Hopefully my home phone will be turned on soon, and when that hapens, it’s INTERNET TIME! Cross your fingers that the megalopolis of NTT takes pity on me.

I have a home!

Monday, January 27th, 2003

So I finally left work on Saturday about 8pm or so. My manager and I took a cab to my apartment, about a 30 minute cab ride. Normally. We got lost trying to find the place because it’s in the middle of nowhere. :( We finally made it to the apartment about 9pm or so. Naturally I had made plans to meet up with Craig, the guy from my training group, that night. At 9. I borrowed my manager’s cell phone and called the net cafe that we were supposed to meet at, and luckily got ahold of Craig, and told him I was running late.

An hour and a half later (10:30pm), I was JUST getting on the train to meet him! My manager went over everything in the apartment (how to use the heater – VERY IMPORTANT for the non-insulated apartment), how to use the washing machine (awwww yeah), how to use the electric hotplate and rice cooker, and how to use the bathroom heater/fan. Sheesh. Just typing it all is a pain in the ass. THEN we made my bed with the new bedding stuff that was bought. THEN we went to the supermarket. Or tried to. It was closed. So we went to the local 7-11 and loaded up. My manager bought me a some food to last a day or two. Then she’s all, I gotta run, and I’m standing there with 6 bags to carry back to my apartment, 15 minutes away from the store. So I bring ALL the shit back, throw a few things in the fridge, and turn around and walk another 15 minutes to the train station. Frickin hell.

So I finally get on the train, and get to the net cafe as it’s closing. Craig is thankfully still there, and we head to the nearest bar, get some meat on a stick, and beer, and swap war stories. I catch a train back about midnight. And then try to find my way home… Which I eventually do. Eventually.

So the apartment: it’s not bad, actually. It’s NEW, which is nice. The other guy left a bit of a mess, with a bunch of scary looking food still there. I tossed everything, and cleaned it all. Bathroom, kitchen, fridge (i even defrosted it!), bedroom. All of it. Oh yeah, did I mention the WASHIMG MACHINE in my apartment????? Niiice, but no dryer. Oh well. I’ll hang stuff up, no problem.

So yesterday, I cleaned. And made ramen and rice. And ate Oreos. :) Today I’m going to buy a bunch of apartment junk, like a grabage can, and silverware holder, and drying rack. I don’t think Mark (the old teacher) EVER cooked. NOT ONCE. I unpacked new pots and pans, and silverware. Amazing.

All in all…it’s pretty nice! There’s lots of room for people to visit! Pictures will come when the internet arrives at my house, which naturally I’ve signed up for today. It’ll take a few weks, sadly.

Oh, if you’ve emailed me in the past few days, my email has been busted. Sorry. :( Hopefully it’ll work again soon.


Thursday, January 23rd, 2003

Whew. (wiping sweat from my forehead)

I’m out of work before 11pm for the first time this week. It has been one looooooong and busy week. The old teacher’s last day was YESTERDAY. I’m teaching ALL his classes from now on. They really throw you into the fire, I’m learning.

But, except for the fact that I’ve been working my ass off, it’s FUN! It really is rewarding to see students get the lesson I’m teaching, and learn some new words or phrases. The other teachers at my school are pretty cool. There are two other foreign teachers; Rebecca and Shawn. Rebecca is nice, eh? And Canadian? And Shawn’s is leaving in a month, so he’s got “senioritis”, and it shows. But it’s cool, they’re both at least friendly. And the Japanese teachers are also really nice. I’m just trying to remember everyone’s name. It seems like everyone has the same damn name here; Yuki, , or Shuji, or Akemi, or Izumi, or Nozomi, or Forgetme!

But I’m speaking mad Japanese, and that’s helping the transition too. So teaching is going well, and I move into my apartment on Saturday night. And hopefully soon after that I’ll have a real internet connection and won’t have to bother with this net cafe nonsense, which is closing NOW.

The morning after.

Sunday, January 19th, 2003

Last night was incredible. There were about 50 or so AEON students and 10 staff members. It was a serious PARTY with a capital P. We went to a restaurant called Garlic Shop, “Ninniku-ya”. As the name implies, everything has garlic in it. The food was good, and not fishy! Another good non-Japanese food find! I was asked to make a brief speech to introduce myself and say hello. It went very well, and I even threw in some Japanese, which drew applause from everyone.

My manager asked me to please try and talk to everyone, and I think I actually did manage to talk to all 60 or so people individually! It was so much fun engaging these people in a language that they are trying to learn, and they were interested in me as well. The people were hairstylists, painters, machine shop operators, computer programmers, noodle shop owners, and office ladies,(OLs) They came from all walks of life and ranged from fluent speakers to beginners. And the were all nice people! Really friendly, eager to try out their english skills and learn more. I can’t wait to start working on Tuesday.


Saturday, January 18th, 2003

First, sorry about no entry yesterday. Alcohol was once again to blame. Not me, naturally. :*)

I made it to the other side! I’m done with training! Woo-hoo! And now I’m…seriously hung over. Here’s what happened:

Yesterday Craig, Ellen, and I spent the day preparing our lessons to teach to our “students”, who were actually members of the Kansai AEON staff. Who did i get as a student? None other than the HEAD of the Kansai region! Ugh. So, naturally, I was a little nervous. I thoroughly prepared the lesson, and started teaching at 5:30.

Things got off to a great start. I had the students (Craig, Ellen, and Yuko, head of AEON Kansai) pretend they were at Macy’s in NYC and ask for things. It went really well, and it was fun for everyone. Then I had them listen to a dialogue on CD, and answer some questions. That went pretty well too. Then it was time to drill the vocabulary and phrases. I forgot to do a small thing, but remembered halfway through and managed to recover, but lost a little time. After the drills, I started a “dialogue”. This is when things started to go south. I forgot which person was supposed to say what, and I didn’t really explain it too well. Then I forgot to have the students practice it repeatedly. MEanwhile time is ticking away. Finally, I had them start working on their exersice, which I should have gotten to earlier. The class ended with me having only gotten through about 2/3 of what I normally would have…but I was DONE.

And…despite everything, it went okay. I didn’t panic (much) and was professional the whole time. I really wanted the students to learn, and it showed. It was an amazing experience, and I will obviously have the opportunity to do it again. And again. And again.

Ben had the best advice for me: “In the sea of lessons you will teach for AEON, this one will pale into insignificance, and you’ll wonder what you were so freaked out about. I swear.”

So, after we all finished and did our training feedback and interviews, they took us out to dinner/drinks. Mostly drinks. Ugh.

We were supposed to be out of the hotel by 9:45am. I didn’t get to the lobby until 10:15. Headache, etc. We finally checked out and went back to the training room, where we recieved our AEON pins and were congratulated by the whole staff. Then our managers came and took us to our schools!!!

I met almost all of the teachers at my school, Hankyu-Umeda terminal. It’s right in the train station, and it’ll be easy to get to and find again. I hope. Everyone seems nice, and there’s a big party tonight to welcome me, and to wish the teacher who’s leaving well (his name is Mark, strangely). So now I’m going back to the hotel to SLEEP.

I made it. And I think it’s going to be one incredible year.

I taught AGAIN…

Thursday, January 16th, 2003

…and it went GREAT! This time I had my lesson prepared more thoroughly and I was more relaxed overall. I still biffed a few things, but I really felt like I taught a good, thorough lesson. I think the students had a good time, and even learned a thing or two.

I have to say that AEON certainly provides a thorough structure for each class, and the engineer in me is very happpy about that. Tomorrow is the “final exam”, where I’ll be teaching the head teacher at my school and I’ll be observed by the staff. That will be the first time I’ll be teaching a full 50 minute lesson.

Tonight Craig, Ellen, and I all went out for dinner after teaching and got…Italian food! Surprising, eh? Even more surprising? It was GOOD. And I say that as a native (upstate) New Yorker. It’s hard to mess up garlic, olive oil, spaghetti, basil, tomato and mozzarella, but if anyone would mess it up, the Japanese would. But they didn’t, and it was good! What a relief!

Wish me luck for tomorrow!

Another long day, but a better end.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2003

Today I TAUGHT. Real students. Four of them. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. Did I do everything right? No. Did I mess up a lot? Yep. But it went okay, overall. I think they learned something, and that’s what’s really important.

I taught “How” questions, like, “How much does it cost?” and, “How long is that scarf?” I forgot to do things like explain how the exercise was supposed to work, and demonstrate the questions and answers, and I even forgot to put the Q&A on the whiteboard!

BUT I was enthusiastic, and I really wanted the students to learn. I had the chance to meet them all before the class started, and find out about them and why they were studying English. And that made my job easier because then I knew their names and a few interests, and I was able to use that in the class.

So, overall, it went okay. Was it great? No, but it wasn’t bad, and I think pretty darn good for my first time! And you know what? My Grammy was there and she saw it all.

A really long day.

Tuesday, January 14th, 2003

My grandmother passed away yesterday. She was the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful person I have ever known in my life. It wasn’t a complete surprise, but it’s never something you want to hear, and it certainly came a shock this morning. This was a hard way to start the day.

I felt really far from home today. I’d been okay until now. There are just so many new and different things here to keep me occupied and distracted, and I hadn’t truly felt like I was separate.

Until this morning.

I have to give AEON credit; I told them what the situation was, and they said, “Please, use our phone, and take all the time you need. Come back to training if you feel ready.” That spoke volumes about the company and I’m glad to be working for them.

After speaking with my family and taking some time for myself, I went back to training with a renewed sense of purpose to show my students some of the same kindness and thoughtfulness that my Grammy showed me. Grammy, I love you very much and I know you’re with Grandpa now. I will miss you.

On a slightly better note, I now have my address information, although it won’t be valid until 1/25 and I can’t receive packages here. I’ll be in a hotel somewhere until then.

Marc Baizman
LeoPalace #210
Inada Honmachi Higashi Osaka City
Osaka 577-0007

Teaching is, like, HARD.

Monday, January 13th, 2003

Okay, today was day 2 of training and it was a LOT of information. Ellen, one of my fellow trainees, has previous english teaching experience and even she was a little overwhelmed. Needless to say, Craig and I are staggering under a mountain of new inforamtuion. BUT the silver lining is that this provides a structure for what to do in a class so I don’t have to stand in front of a roomful of people going, “So…uhhh…today we’ll do…stuff.”

But I am tired. And I had frickin’ McDonald’s for lunch today because it was a national holiday and nothing else was open. Yuck.

Okay, I’m heading home for some ramen, lesson plans, and sleep.

Kyoto is the place to be.

Sunday, January 12th, 2003

So I’m fresh off the train from Kyoto and it was amazing. It’s this wierd combination of ancient and modern that I’ve never experienced in or out of Japan. We walked along this one street, Pontocho, which was a narrow alley with every step a wood and rice paper entrance to an exclusive tea house. It was beautiful and serene.

So you’re probably wondering where all those great pictures are, right? The sad truth is that I probably am not going to be able to put up pictures until I get an internet connection at my house (wherever that will be, they still haven’t told me!) or I go to someone else’s house who lets me log on. I can’t hook my camera up to these net cafe computers, they really lock ‘em down.

So please keep reading, and soon you’ll have the pretty lights make happy time, okay?

Training starts for real tomorrow and lasts until Sunday. It’s going to be a busy week from the looks of things. They start at 10 or 11AM and go until 8 or 9PM, depending on the day. We will be teaching students on WEDNESDAY. That’s right, even though I’ve never taught before, I will be teaching a classful of volunteer students on WEDNESDAY. That’s 3 days from now, for crying out loud! I’m a little worried, but I think we’ll be going through enough things in these 10 hour days so that I’ll be able to teach something by then.

I hope. Gulp.

Oh, we got accosted by a Jehovah’s Witness this morning on the way to the train station. The Watchtower in a whole new country.