I found a job on Craigslist.  I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true.  I always browse Craigslist for education jobs in Japan, usually to only be depressed that we don’t live closer to central Tokyo.  But, out of the blue, a girls English Camp came up that was close to our home.  Zushi?  I could do Zushi, I thought.  So I applied.  I heard back from the company within a few days, and before I knew it, I was headed to Tokyo for an interview.  I was excited!  After the earthquake, I lost many of my teaching jobs, so I was excited for a new experience.  The interview went great, and I was hired to teach five days of intensive English for an all-girl, private, junior high school.  This was exactly the type of opportunity I had been looking for.

When the time came for camp, I found myself half asleep during morning rush hour with a huge suitcase.  Note to self: In the future, NEVER bring a huge suitcase on the train during rush hour.  The Japanese people do not look kindly on you, and I received more than my fair share of dirty looks.  In fact, on one train, I had a lady use it as a chair.  You just never know what you are going to experience here! I made it to Zushi confrontation free, though there were a few times I thought my suitcase was going to get into a fight.  I met the representative from the company, as well as the three other teachers, and we headed to the International Productivity Center (that is actually the name) to begin a long day of teaching.  The curriculum was already provided for us…we just had to teach it.  Unfortunately, the text book was an ESL book that would have been great in America, I’m sure.  But, we were teaching English as a Foreign Language, and that is a significant difference when you are choosing curriculum.  Needless to say, the book was too difficult for my girls, and I spent my evenings revising the lessons and what I would teach.

I was the only teacher who could not speak Japanese, and the only female teacher, so I thought my first day would be a little bit rough.  Other than my girls all failing the placement exams and having to scratch the curriculum, my first day was great!  I loved my class, I loved their teachers, and I loved the other English teachers.  My class had fourteen girls, ages twelve and thirteen.  Most of the girls were twelve, so they were still sweet and young.  I’m glad I didn’t have the classes of thirteen and fourteen year olds, as you could tell they were already developing attitudes, and they were not as eager to learn and study.  The twelve year olds were still very excited to learn.  I also learned that giving the girls stickers made their English skills go from pretending to not speak English to using complete sentences.  It’s amazing what stickers can do!  I will never teach without them! We played lots of games, learned lots of vocabulary, and overall, I think the girls’ English came a long way in just five days.

After my first day of teaching, I was exhausted.  I had been up since 05:00, traveled an hour and a half, taught for eight hours, and I was ready to crash.  We checked into our rooms, and it was burning up.  I played with the air-conditioning, and couldn’t get it to work.  I thought maybe they weren’t letting us control our own rooms in an effort to save energy.  Then I realized none of the lights were working.  I played with buttons and switches for about twenty minutes, and couldn’t get anything to work.  Finally, I knocked on another teacher’s door and asked for help.  Ahhh….I had to put my keys in the wall for the lights to work.  Obviously I’d never stayed in a Japanese hotel before.   A little embarrassed at my lack of being able to read and function in a country that I live in, I took a twenty minute nap before dinner.  Other fun notes about Japanese hotels: a) There is an awesome Japanese robe for you to wear.  b) There is a green tea maker instead of a coffee maker.

I woke up from my nap to eat dinner with all 80 girls and eight teachers.  One of my biggest worries had been whether I was going to like the food at camp, because it would have been a long week if I was also hungry.  But the food was great, and so was the dinner conversation.  One night, the Japanese teachers invited me to eat dinner with them, and I really enjoyed getting to know them.  I really enjoyed being around people I didn’t know for a week.  It was a nice retreat from base and our tiny community here.  I did miss James a lot, and I didn’t even get to talk to him that much.  Apparently, we have the worst cell phone service in Japan, and the service was almost nonexistent for the entire week.  But it was only a week, so I survived! 😉

The week went by very fast, and I was exhausted at the end of it. Trying to keep up with the energy of young girls took a lot out of me.  But I loved it!  I learned so much, and I discovered that I can actually teach for eight hours at a time.  I spent my day teaching, the early evening having dinner with the other teachers, and then the evening getting ready for the next day of teaching.  And since I am not a morning person, the mornings came very early for me.  Thankfully, I had a beautiful view of the ocean to wake up to and vending machine coffee to get me on my feet.  And when I walked into my classroom to a smiling group of girls, the fact that I wasn’t a morning person didn’t matter anymore.  It was such a rewarding experience, and I am very thankful to have had such an awesome opportunity.