Latest catch-up post!

A view of the harbour from outside our Golden Week restaurant

Once again, I’m behind and, once again, I’m playing catch-up with my blog. Continue reading

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The Work Situation

I started picking up dribs and drabs of work again as early as January, but I didn’t really get fully back into it until April. As it is, I am not working full-time, but part-time, with a corresponding wage and number of hours.

I consider myself something of a freelance English teacher currently in that I do work for several companies. While I would ideally like to be getting more money out of it than I am and there are downsides to the whole situation, there are a few upsides too and hence this is what I came back to when I decided I was done with maternity leave.

Here, briefly, is what I’m up to:

  1. Teaching conversational English to adults
    I had this job prior to having Mr. K, and I’ve been at it for five years now. It’s with an NPO and y boss is pretty great, more like a friend or even a business partner. While my students are not the most highly motivated learners, they are lovely people.
    When: three Wednesdays out of every month, 10am – 3pm (though my boss also has hopes of opening a 2 hour Saturday class as well)
  2. Teaching English at kindergartens
    I’ve done similar jobs to this in the past, but this time it’s through a large company with a very fixed curriculum. The pay is good and the kindergartens to which I’m getting sent are very conveniently located.
    When: varies some, but about half of my Monday mornings (albeit in a sporadic fashion) and some Thursdays, with the possibility of a few extra shifts occasionally coming up.
  3. Teaching English at childcare centres
    Despite targetting similarly-aged children, this job is somewhat different to job #2, with an emphasis on fun and teaching over strict language learning. This is with a moderately-sized company and a semi-fixed curriculum, and the childcare centres are also very conveniently located.
    When: every Tuesday and Thursday morning, except when I’m doing job #2, simply because they got me locked in first), in which case I go on Friday mornings instead, and except for August.
  4. Private 1-to-1 conversational lessons
    I used to do far more of these, but I’ve currently only got about three happening each week now. The lessons happen in a variety of places and at various levels.
    When: Varies – people book times on Monday afternoon, Tuesday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon.

It all results in a weird, varied sort of schedule. The way things are shaping up, I could end up doing at least some work every day. On the other hand, in the upcoming summer in particular, I may end up doing very little in any given week! Routine isn’t a bad thing at all, but I admit to liking the diversity.

I’m planning on sticking to something of a theme this week and posting more about returning to work post-baby this week. My focus will be less on the details of my specific job/s (stories unto themselves, believe me) but just the whole experience generally, complete with other people’s judgement, my own mixed feelings, and the difficulty and fun of just getting back into things.

Cafes in Japan – Doutor, January 2016


This is a standard afternoon cake set at Doutor, made up of a chestnut milk crepe cake and my standard black coffee.

I took this photo about a week and a half ago, and that is indeed a small person across the table keeping his beady little eyes on things (and his toy lion). It was his second time at a café and he actually behaved quite well.

We were doing something of a trial run to see if he might be able to sit through me conducting an English lesson in a café. There’s a couple of students I would a) like to resume teaching when I can, both for financial reasons and emotional/mental ones, and b) like me enough (I hope?) or are keen enough to tolerate the risk of disruptions.

Work matters aside, though? I like going to cafés to read and/or write. If he is happy to chill there too, just for 45 or even 60 minutes once a week? There’s something kind of liberating about that. Hell, it would even help abett some tension R and I have been experiencing regarding who gets free time when.

I wish I could type the above paragraph without feeling guilty and finding myself with the urge to state how much I love Mr K, just to make sure nobody misunderstands me.

“12 months” in Japan

Ten years ago yesterday, I boarded a plane in Melbourne and flew away.

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The plane in question. Please take a moment to appreciate that I dug that out of my old Xanga site for you.

I wasn’t quite 22 and I was running, even if it was in a sensible, somewhat organized way. The year before, 2005, was not a good one. My grandfather died of cancer, my car was written off by a high school student who seemed to have more life experience than I did, I continued to fall disastrously hard for boys on the internet and get hurt, my 21st birthday was a non-event and, most humiliatingly of all, my orthodontist had temporarily put braces back on my teeth because he screwed up and I didn’t alert him to that as quickly as I should have. I had completed an honours thesis that had given me a badly needed purpose for the year, but it hadn’t earned the grade I’d been trying for and I didn’t know what to do with it.

I was unhappy, and I decided I had to do something about it.

While I was supposed to be working on the final draft of my thesis in September and October, I had started scouring job sites and finding my attention drifting to jobs overseas. Positions teaching English as a second language where minimal qualifications were required were littered throughout Asia. I was drawn to the ones in South Korea and Singapore, both developed countries were the money might be decent. I wanted to go somewhere interesting, yet not in the over-the-top, overdone way that Japan was (I don’t think I’ve ever informed any Japanese person, except maybe R, that I once thought their country was a bit over-the-top and overdone!) and safer than China.

I dithered over submitting my resume, though, and when I finally did, the only jobs available that I seemed qualified for were in Japan after all, so I just went with those.  I figured Japan was safe, developed and still interesting. I didn’t have to go all sushi-loving anime freak, surely, and if Tokyo didn’t really grab me, numerous other places did. Kyoto! Osaka! Hiroshima!

A matter of weeks later, I had a job lined up as an ESL teacher… in the suburbs of Tokyo. I sighed, accepted it, and figured I could always visit the other places anyway or transfer.

So, it wasn’t quite throwing my life’s savings away and departing with a plane ticket and a backpack. I was required to have money, I had a job lined up and the company arranged housing for me. It was also supposed to only be for one year, after which I would presumably go back and pick up the life in Australia I had left behind. As dramatic life changes go, it was a relatively organized one.

I was still jumping in the deep end, though, even if I could expect to be physically and financially safe at the other end. It was the second time I had even been on a plane, and the first time I had travelled overseas. The seatbelt confused me terribly, I was in a middle seat because it never occurred to me to ask the belligerent young guy at the check-in counter for something else and I got painfully bad stomach cramps on the second leg of the journey. My ignorance went far beyond the flight, though – I was going to try living in Tokyo for 12 months (I stayed just shy of that, the first time) without any idea how to use chopsticks and knowing little more Japanese than how to count to ten and ask where the toilet was.

Yet, thinking back, I wouldn’t change that much about it. I was naive, and I could be obnoxious (hell, I probably still am), but time took care of at least some of it and I was doing my best to get an experience that might take care of the rest. All the major elements of that trip are still things I would happily leave as they are.

There are smaller things, though, that I would go back and tell myself if I could. Keep going to Japanese classes, even when you have painfully little time for them. Don’t lose your house key. Write down your new PIN somewhere because, although you won’t need to access your new bank account straight away, you will eventually and taking money out of your credit card isn’t fun. Be nice to your housemates. I won’t tell you what happened to them because I don’t think that will help you – just be nice to them, a couple of them will be friends you’ll still cherish 10 years later and remember, they didn’t choose you either. Be kind and patient with your family back home, get over MUDs for now and even if the company you’re going to work for doesn’t reward or even facilitate effort, do your best anyway.

To anyone who is reading this and might consider doing something like this, whether you’re as young as I was or much older? It is worth it, especially if you’re looking to shake up your life for some reason. All those annoying cliches are true – it will get you out of your comfort zone, give you new experiences, and broaden your mind. You can find yourself so many new memories and stories. Even if you hate it, it will make you appreciate home a lot more and who knows? You might end up there a lot longer than you could ever have imagined.

The pet budgie

I only have one class scheduled today and I almost wish they would cancel. In fact, I’m half-expecting them to do just that, because they are by far the most unreliable of all my students. When I get a phone call 20 minutes before the class from them – when they know it takes over an hour to get to their house – I am pissed.

But no. Marie wants to give me a lift from the station. She also wants to prod my stomach, but hey, quite a high percentage of my students and their families have decided that the stomach is a free-for-all now that there’s a creature inside it. She is in holiday mode, anyhow – her husband is home for summer holidays and it’s Sam’s birthday tomorrow. He is turning nine and, I discover after we get through the class, he is about to receive a budgie.

It’s a blue little thing, brought home and brandished about by his father. S/he clambers about the cage adorably and I feel nostalgic, for my parents’ house and for their pet budgie, an older, grumpier and very talkative little yellow guy. Judging from the menagerie of insects I’ve had paraded past me the past couple of summers when the lessons haven’t been cancelled, Sam and his family are quite enthusiastic about pets (far more so, I retort mentally, than learning English – that’s just expected to miraculously happen). Hopefully the little blue budgie will thrive.