Posted in Uncategorized

We Don’t Talk Anymore

Sometimes I go through old diaries and wish I could go back in time to hug myself. A lot of people have this bitter self-hatred of their teen and young adult selves, but I don’t. I wish I could give my past self a hug and tell her everything is going to be OK.

I found a snippet in there about my father and it was jarring to say the least. See, we don’t talk anymore. Why? Oh boy, where to start.

When I came to Japan in my first year, it was the “honeymoon” period. I was all about having the best time I could in Japan, and I did. I traveled every chance I got, went on these crazy adventures with JET Programme people in Ibaraki, which made for some great memories.

My mom and brother kept in contact with me via Skype and Facebook. We would call on the Skype phone or vid call. My brother actually helped me get miles so I could come home for Christmas!

But, well, complete radio silence from Dad.

I tried to call him once. I called, he picked up the phone, and I got maybe 5 minutes of conversation before he started complaining about how expensive the call was going to be. I don’t remember saying goodbye, just hearing the click of the line dropped. I cried my eyes out for the better part of an hour after.

I didn’t try that again.

I figured he’d call me, or maybe my step-mom would get in touch via Facebook for him. Right? Not so much. My brother actually worked as the go between for that year, helping to finalize plans and everything.

I wrote that diary entry above in 2012. I was beginning to hit a really important but kind of traumatizing realization that I couldn’t live with him as a shadow figure in my life anymore. He couldn’t care about me unless I was right in front of him, and even then, only if a football or basketball game wasn’t on.

As a child of divorce, he had weekends he could visit, but he often didn’t/couldn’t come. I remember waiting by my grandmother whenever the phone rang at her house. I remember one time I stood there and didn’t move, because I wanted to just pretend I was still waiting, or maybe he’d call back and change his mind.

Basically, I spent a very disproportionate amount of time in my life just waiting for him to show up, and he didn’t.

It’s a stereotypical story, I know, divorced kid with an abandonment complex, but the pain of it was still valid. He tried to make up for it with things, like a car on my sixteenth birthday- a Ford two-seater with a sliver of a backseat that I drove until the transmission got wonky- and a week long vacation on the Alabama coast in my senior year. Grand gestures, like he was trying, you know?

However, I knew he wasn’t paying child support for years, same for medical bills. Mom and student loans put me through college, although he would occasionally send grocery money here, emergency money there. He was inconsistent with how he wanted to care about his children, like my brother and I were two things that were on the list of things to cross off, but it depended on the season.

Christmas of 2012 was a roller-coaster ride. I was running around from city to city, trying to see as much of my family and friend groups as I could in a short time. I stayed with my dad for a bit and he got me on the plane to Japan. I thought it was all good.

Then 2013 rolled around.

I decided to just wait and see. Surely, I thought, surely he’ll send a message at some point. I left him with all my information, he can do it. Or maybe step-mom?

No birthday, no Thanksgiving, and no Christmas message.

Months into 2014, I don’t know when exactly, but my step-mother (bless her) tried to ask me about when I was coming back for a visit… And I went off.

I said some very awful things to her. Some of them I didn’t mean, and I was largely unfair to her. If I could regain contact, I think I’d apologize mostly to her. She didn’t deserve to get the emotional pent up frustration and rage I felt towards him.

And he messaged back through her account. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember reading through it and thinking to myself, “I can’t do this anymore.” It addressed nothing, didn’t even attempt to form understanding about where the anger came from, it was just…uncaring.

So I blocked him.

Ever since then, I’ve felt oddly freed. I’m not waiting around for him to acknowledge I exist anymore, and I’m not wounding myself by expecting some kind of love that’s never coming. Instead, I’m learning to love myself with the family and friends that do love me.

Maybe one day we can talk again, but I’m not going to open that door. Past me didn’t deserve to have her heart broken like that for so long. Maybe when my heart is a little bit stronger and I’m a little wiser…until then, I guess.

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Posted in YouTube Videos

If You Wanna Get Caught Up…

So I’ve been vlogging a little bit more than usual, and my channel has been growing a little bit.

Basically in this video, I talk about how unhappy I was with the old way I was doing things and revamping the ideas on the channel.

Actually managed to do a semi-daily thing for a week, just talking about different things as they happened in my life.

And here we have the BEST THING I’VE EVER BOUGHT AS AN ADULT WITH MY OWN MONEY!!!

Ranting about the rainy weather and typhoons. Hahaahahaha, little did I know that I would have 5 more after that. 

Hello other typhoon, how are you? Man, these past couple of months had some brutal weather. Really, really tired of rain at this point.

Eating things I shouldn’t, also Mondays are cursed.

This one got the most views and hate. A LOT of people came out to defend Japan, which is normal. A lot of times whenever you talk critically about Japan, you’ll have tons of people try to tell you how wrong you are about the racism in the country. And most of those people DON’T ACTUALLY LIVE IN JAPAN, so it’s super frustrating. Somehow this little thing accumulated over 1,000 views, I guess because it was a hot topic at the time. Oh well, opinion unchanged (actually Japanese media is already proving me right in some instances, but what can you do?).

Anyways, hope that gets you caught up!

Posted in Uncategorized

Dear (Adult) Eikaiwa Students…

I understand that you want to improve your English for various reasons. You’re really, really trying hard, you think. You’re going to a class once (maybe twice) a week, you’re reviewing the material, but somehow you’re just not improving.

You’ll see other eikaiwa students in the lobby chatting it up with the English teachers, and you’ll wonder, “How come they’re better than me? Is it the teacher? Is it their methods?” And I might have a couple of answers for you.

If you’re having trouble in eikaiwa maybe…

You should increase your study time.

A class or two a week is not enough, not even nearly enough. When I was in the JET Programme, we were shown graphs and charts from various studies around the world. On average, you need at least two hours a week of studying to remember the material. If you want to improve in dramatic fashion, you need three to four hours a week for results.

Many eikaiwa students make the mistake of thinking that one class a week will magically make them better at English, but that’s just not possible. Languages for the average person means developing multiple skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It means you can’t just expect a “fast food English” approach and expect grand results. I’m sorry, that’s just not how it works. In addition to that…

You might need a group class. 

A lot of Japanese students are under the impression that a private class is better because you’ll get more time with a teacher. While that is an advantage if you’re studying for a specific exam or have business related things to improve. However, for general conversation things, it would actually be better to have a group class.

Speaking with one person for forty five minutes to an hour (depending on the company) means you’re only speaking to one person. Yes, it’s a native person, but then you’re limiting yourself to that teacher only for your listening and verbal skills. With other people, you’ll have different experiences, backgrounds, and ideas. With other people you can learn from them, basically, and even learn from their mistakes.

Think about naturally learning Japanese, you didn’t do it with one teacher or one parent. You talked with all different kinds of people in different situations. That’s how languages work, you need to have a variety of different people in order to gain more conversation skills.

It also helps that in a group class you’ll make friends. When you have people you enjoy hanging out with in a group class, you’re more likely to show up to class regularly. Private students often drop classes halfway through a course because, well, their teacher is a teacher. A teacher might become your friend, but that’s often not the case. With a group class you’ll have people you can get to know, and maybe even hang out with after class, possibly even study together. Emotional investment isn’t something to ignore.

And we finally come to…

You need to set realistic goals. 

Many students at eikaiwa set themselves up to fail. Often times the expectations are something along the lines of, “Oh! If I go to class every day, once a week, for a year, I’ll be fluent!” But that’s not a realistic goal. Fluency is complicated, and usually requires years of practice and study.

Fluency would also be better acquired, honestly, in an English speaking country. In Japan where 99% of your interactions daily will be in Japanese, expecting to become fluent in one year through an eikaiwa alone is just setting yourself up to fail.

Now, there will be people who will say, “I became fluent in one year!” online. That’s probably because they devoted themselves to that language daily for hours and possibly lived in the country of the language’s origin. It is possible, but not through one class a week.

Also, expecting one class once a week to make you fluent is putting an unrealistic expectation on the teacher. Believe it or not, your teacher’s job is not to make you speak perfect English, our job is to make you communicate effectively in English. What does that mean? It means we want you to speak and then be understood.

We don’t want you to speak like the Queen of England, we just want you to be able to use the language in a way where in a conversation you send a message with words, and the person listening to you gets that message. Yes, vocabulary and grammar are important, but the core focus in our classes is communication, not tests.

In short, set yourself goals that are reachable within a year. It can be as simple as, “I will be able to travel in English.” That’s usually a basic level, asking for how much something is or where a place is. Or maybe a goal like, “I will be able to help foreigners around town.” If you’re a beginner, try to go with goals that meet that level. If you’re higher level, maybe keep an English journal for a year.

And those are just a few things I wanted to bring to your attention. I don’t expect you to maybe understand this post well, and perhaps this advice isn’t that helpful for you. Still, I hope perhaps you’ll take these points under consideration as you study.

Keep up the good work, you’ll get there!

 

Posted in LGBTQ in Japan

Upcoming Shows in Tokyo!

Hey all! So I know what you’re thinking. I’ve been M.I.A. and not really posting much. Well, that’s because I kind of got involved with a few more performance projects. Yay!

Kings of Tokyo Show Flyer.jpg

The first up is a premiere show. The Kings of Tokyo・東京王 is the first all Drag Kings performance troupe. We’re going to be having our first show very soon, on August 11th!

Venue: Shinjuku Gyoen Sound
When: August 11th, Show Starts @8:00 p.m.
Entry Charge: 2,000 yen + 1 Drink Order = ~2,500 yen.

But also! Tokyo Closet Ball will have a performance too. The theme for the night is “Dreams and Memories” so expect something amazing and magical.

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Venue: Gyoen Rosso 198
When: September 1st, Show Stars @8:00 p.m.
Entry: 2,000 yen + 1 drink order = ~2,500 yen.

Both venues and shows are LGBTQIA+ welcoming! If you want to have a fun time with some gender subversive entertainment, check out these two shows. Thanks!

Posted in cultural differences, Teaching Things

On Making Sick Kids Go to Class

If I was ever to do a “Ten Things I Hate About Japan” video, for the most part I would just spend 8 out of those 10 things complaining about the summer and the summer heat. #1: The fucking humidity, #2: The fucking heat  #3: THE HELLFIRE COMBINATION OF THEM BOTH-!

I’d figure it out. But until then, I do know one particular aspect of Japan that drives me up the wall: forcing sick kids to go to school / class.

One my students today came in- let’s call him Nashi – coughing up a lung before he even walked in the door.

“Hey, are you ok?” I asked him in English.

He responded with, “I have kaze.

Kaze is Japanese for “a cold.”

I sighed and let him in. Nashi coughed and coughed throughout the whole class. He could hardly breathe. Every single time he tried to talk he would have a fit. On top of that, his twin sister – let’s call her Natsu – was in the beginning stages of his sickness getting passed to her. Both of them proceeded to spend most of that class time DYING from coughing and coughing and coughing.

For some reason their mom prepped Natsu with a water bottle, but Nashi got nothing! I actually stopped the class about ten minutes in to grab some water for him so he could at least attempt to get through class without coughing his voice raw.

This is a class of four students, so that meant 50% of my class was sick. Because I’ve been in very similar situations before, I’m predicting the other two kids are gonna get sick. Both of them will still come to class. Fast forward to three weeks later, and I’ll be sick.

As Nashi and Natsu left I asked them, “Where is your mom?”

“Oh,” Nashi said as he sipped on the water I gave him, “she’s at home. She’s making dinner.”

And I couldn’t help it, I got a bit judgmental. So a stay at home mother just forced her sick kids into a closed in space with me and two other much younger kids? And she also forced them to go to school? I didn’t say anything, I just gave them stickers, told them to take care, and off they went.

This aspect of Japanese culture is perhaps the one aspect I cannot tolerate very well. In the United States, if a kid has a fever, they stay the hell home. At least in my generation, anyway. We don’t force kids to fight through fevers and coughing to show up to class miserable. I’ve heard that nowadays some schools have ridiculous absentee rules, but back in my day (she said like a granny) the kids stayed home to get better and then come back to school healthy. This way the germs didn’t spread around to half the school population and take out the whole class with a sickness.

In Japan, if you’re still able to lift your head and not pass out, you’re going to school. Even with fevers, I saw my high school kids come into my classroom with glazed over eyes and obvious red cheeks that signify “I am super sick, yo, someone take me home!” But they would only maybe go to the nurse’s office to sleep for an hour and then right back into the next class!

Technically, if you have a fever of over 40 degrees Celsius you should go home, but I’ve seen kids be throwing up with no temperature to match. It’s crazy to me that at so young an age kids are already being trained to kill themselves for the sake of school and then work. Health should take priority over one day of school, right?

I don’t know, maybe I am “too American” in this mindset, but I feel like science would also support my idea? Stress is considered a strong factor in keeping a sickness lasting longer than it normally would. Wounds are shown to heal slower if someone is stressed versus staying in bed. Not to mention that Japan already has a problem with stressing their children into becoming hikikomori – wherein a person wants to stay inside and never leave their house due to overwhelming anxiety.

In addition to all that, making children go to classes and school while sick is actually the opposite of the collectivist outward thinking of other people that Japan usually prides itself on.  The sickness will always spread to another person, regardless of face masks being used or not. Whether it’s the student in class or the teacher or someone on the street/in the train/on the bus, you get the idea.

So really, forcing them to go to class doesn’t really help anyone. It doesn’t help the kids, it just keeps them sicker for longer. The sickness always spreads to other kids, and to teachers. Therefore, it’s not helpful, it’s detrimental in every conceivable way.

The only argument “for it” bothers me. “Well, when they grow up, they’ll have to go to work sick too!”

But once again, science kind of says otherwise. Until you’re about 18-21 years old, your immune system isn’t developed enough to handle viruses like a fully grown adult’s body. That’s why we need kids vaccinated for the flu: they can literally DIE from strands of that yearly virus, unlike a healthy adult that can bounce back from it.

Demanding that children perform to the same expectations as an adult seems a bit of a ridiculously impossible expectation. Kids’ bodies just are not developed enough to handle the bombardment of illnesses and stress all at once.

I don’t really have any solutions to give here, I’m just a foreigner with an outsider perspective, but I worry, I really worry about my kids. Be they Nashi and Natsu who are only nine years old with colds to my high school teens with obvious flu-like symptoms, I worry about what kind of message they are learning from being forced into class and school with a sickness.

Because perhaps the thing that bother me the most is the underlying message, that your well being doesn’t matter as much as what you’re supposed to accomplish. Sacrificing your health, your wellness, your mental strength, all for the sake of…what? What does it really do for kids but set them up to feel like their wellness and health don’t matter? Not in comparison to the things they’re supposed to get done. Tests, exams, tests, exams, studying, studying, studying, all for the sake of the exams!

I don’t know, it just seems like prioritizing exams and tests over kids health is such a bad way to go all around. Once again, I’m coming from a different generation and from another country, so maybe I’m wrong. Still, I think it’s not just a cultural difference at play, there’s also a kind of cultural dissonance too. I’m sure that the kids will be alright, but I worry what it does to them.

After all, I’m a teacher, that’s kind of part of my job.

Posted in Teaching Things

On Eikaiwa Schedules

Now that I’m back in the eikaiwa schedule, let’s talk about a few things real quick, mainly about how the irregularity of these schedules can be maddening.

I understand that everyone gets the warning in the application process that some people will get more hours than others, and that some days will be more busy than others. But holy hell, man, sometimes when I get home I’m just EXHAUSTED. And it occurs to me as I sit at home eating crap food because I feel like crap that these schedules are so freakin’ weird.

I get some of the schedule irregularities. It’s business and customer service oriented, so when we do taiken (trail) lessons then we need to set aside time for those. Alright, fine enough. But then there are times when I’m working a day of back-to-back classes and I go, “Gee, wonder why this turnover rate is so damn high?!”

I can understand wanting to keep customers happy, so you prioritize their time over the employees. But I also don’t understand why you’d fail so hard at scheduling things that your employees end up wanting to quit.

My hard day is Saturday, where-in I teach four back-to-back classes in the morning. This wouldn’t kill me if it weren’t for the following classes in the afternoon, which are all kids group classes. Young kids, as in toddlers and elementary school kids. The amount of energy required to “teach” them, as in play in English with them, is more than the energy I actually have in a week.

This particular schedule has cycled through three other people before me, all of whom based on those who worked with them, also hated the schedule. It was apparently a factor in one person leaving.

And I know for a fact many eikaiwas do this practice of impossible workloads with demanding time constraints because god forbid we pay you a full lunch hour instead of the allotted forty five or actually give you overtime hours for doing extra prep.

Nope, gotta keep them labor costs down.

I get that owning a business is difficult, keeping customers must be a difficult endeavor, but consistently making impossible schedules isn’t going to fix those problems. Making schedules that give little to no prep time means that students get little to no quality in classes, it means teachers having little to no energy to get through the day, it means students leaving because they’re paying for these lessons and they want good quality for what they pay.

In the case of this Saturday schedule, they’ve added more children into my toddler class. I can already foretell a trend of adding more students into other classes of mine. I guess that’s because I do good demos, perhaps because my class times are more convenient for moms. But a really obvious solution, one would think, is instead of adding more students into an already full-ish class or shoving make-up students all into this particular day, would be instead to hire one more teacher for the school.

But we can’t because gotta keep those labor costs down, right?

It drives me crazy to think about how often these schedules happen in eikaiwa work, and they’re needlessly bad. If you can tell on paper that a schedule is causing a turnover, then maybe it might be a good idea to, I dunno, fix it?

Or even prevent it from happening! “Prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is a quote I often think about when it comes to problem solving. If you already tell there’s going to be a problem, then do your best to prevent it from happening, and maybe you’ll be better off for it. It’s simple, but in the eikaiwa industry they often seem to shoot themselves in the foot and ruin good instructors by demanding too much with harsh schedules.

Essentially in giving instructors enough time to plan, enough time between classes for set-up, and that forty five minute break, the quality of lessons will be better. It seems like common sense, and yet I saw this in Coco Juku before this current eikaiwa. Schedules are often designed on some days to simply cram as many students in as possible. Once again, I understand the need for a customer base, but if you have more customers than instructors for classes, that’s an over-extension of resources no matter how you look at it.

Now in fairness I’m actually really, really lucky. My boss chose schools that were close to my apartment, so I’m not spending two hours on a train to go to and from a school. My Monday through Thursday hours aren’t back-to-back madness at all, mainly because I get a full hour of prep on these days. These schedules are well designed to maintain a regular customer base.

But all too often the consistent customer base isn’t a part of the “quotas” and “targets” of an eikaiwa school. Constant customer growth is higher on the ladder. Quotas and targets won’t keep customers coming back, instructors do. Allowing the system to ruin instructors is how eikaiwas go under, just look at NOVA for that reminder. Push people too hard and something will give, be it in the form of a one month notice or a lawsuit or an angry tirade on a blog…

I’m well aware that this post won’t really solve anything. I’ve already spoken with several people about the harshness of that Saturday, and everyone basically shrugs their shoulders and says, “Yeah, Saturdays man,” and go on with their lives. Also, it’s not like one day out of the week is gonna make me quit (lived in Japan for seven years now, please, I’ll be here a while longer).

And yet, I worry about the new people, the ones who came half way across the world to be instructors and might have way worse schedules. I worry about my friends who talk about their eikaiwa work where they get zero personal days, just days without pay, sometimes even a whole unpaid summer. Instructors in the eikaiwa industry have little incentive to stay loyal with any company what-so-ever, scheduling is just one of many factors that bothers me about this work.

Once again, I’m lucky. I work for a company with personal days, paid leave, insurance, so the basic non-slavery-like package deal. And yet, I can already see cracks in this foundation. I can already start to see parallels to problematic system practices. I wish that things could change.

What kind of changes? A cap on back to back classes would be a good start (like perhaps three-four), a minimal ten minute prep before each class, and a standard hour of a lunch break (because come on, everyone uses it for prep time, who are we kidding?). But I know those changes are never gonna happen. A person so low on the ladder is never gonna get the attention of the big administrators and the company heads, there’s just no way that’ll ever happen.

It’s nice to talk about it, though, at least just a bit.