I couldn't quite get a handle on my role as an English teacher at the Sakai Eigakuin. For one, the students' range in ages was vast. One moment, I'd be teaching a gaggle of giggling high school kids, and the next, a group of somber housewives.
Masako, the girl I'd met at Lynn's party, was a willowy, quietly intriguingly sly creature who winnowed her way into my affections within minutes, that night at Lynn's. And within minutes, we were off to the sake machine around the corner to fetch a "last-call" sake before the automatic shutoff at 11.
We hit it off pretty much immediately. She was tall for a Japanese girl, lanky and demure. She laughed at my jokes, encouraged my poor Japanese. I was smitten.
The first notion that I could get into real trouble was the uniformed officer who was waving people forward to enter the security line for the boarding gate area at Seoul's Kimpo airport. I couldn't tell if he was military or regular police, but he was wearing a gun, so I decided not to chance it.
First of all, I want to thank Shawn and Chris for giving me the space on their site to tell my side of the story. I know that Chris didn't even believe I existed. He wouldn't agree to letting me put a story on the site unless he met me! We met at a bar in Kawasaki and he was like majorly shocked to see me.
The three of us were sitting in Kim's apartment sharing a pizza and drinking Kirin Lager. Well, I was drinking the Lager and the other two were sipping ice teas. The phone rang. It was Ann, Kim's friend.
One hundred days into my eventual 1095 spent in Odawara and I was climbing the walls. My classroom had a view of the station. The sight of all those people boarding trains bound for locations other than Odawara drove me to depraved depths of jealousy. Somewhere someone was having fun. He or she was having fun in a way that wouldn't come back and bite them on the ass later. He or she was meeting new people, going to new places, doing the whole "life" thing. I lived in Odawara.
In my first days at GEOS, I was center stage for the first few weeks. I was taken out on the town, shown the sites, showered with all sorts of small presents. The arrival of a new teacher is a big thing in a little town and people seemed to be genuinely happy to meet me; or were they were happy in the sense Gilligan was when he finally made it back to civilization?
I brought a fair chunk of cash with me in traveller's checks to tide me over since my first paycheck would be minuscule as I was arriving in the middle of the pay period.
The rain was falling pretty steadily and even though I had an umbrella, I was still getting wet. Only a few more blocks to the red lanterns and greasy pine pillars. I was looking forward to this. God I hated Fridays. My kids class drove me up the wall. With Chris and Yo gone, I was the only male teacher in the school. I wasn't interested in my coworkers' gossip about the latest trendy dramas or forays to the local gaijin bar. I was going to forget about all that now.
The white Hyundai Pony of Doom rolled to a noisy stop outside my house. The door slammed shut with it's characteristic crusty sound. I walked out to the street and met John by the car. We were soon hurtling down 104th avenue. The floor of the car was covered with the shards of broken cassette boxes. The covers of various Black Sabbath tapes were mashed into the floor and smeared with shoe prints.
Fairies were wearing boots in Ozzie's world. On the back seat of the car were cassettes and empty beer cans. The car smelled like cigarette smoke and gasoline.
In January of 2000, a contributing writer to the site wrote an article that would launch a personality to the forefront of the eikaiwa debate in this country. This man brought to light a question that at once crystallizes and clarifies the entire English Conversation industry dichotomy. The question: "Like, is eikaiwa a chill way to make a few bones and go on with your life or is it, like, some kind of job (career), man?"