My new English teaching job is from 12:30-2:00 on Friday afternoons. The Japanese teacher of the class is Yasuko (pronounced Yas-Ko). She and I co-teach the class. The students consist of 4-6 Japanese ladies, all grandmothers. The class is a conversational English class. Each students prepares a story, in English, about an event in their life. They read me their story and I help them by correcting their word choice and grammar. Once we have created a smooth story, I ask them questions about their experience. Usually, about half way through, we take a break and have a snack.
The class is held in Kamakura at a women’s and children’s center.
I take the 11:55 train from the Jimmuji station – the station outside our housing area – to the Shin-Zushi station (1-stop). It is a 3 minute train ride. Once I’m in Zushi, I walk about 5 minutes to the Zushi station and catch the 12:12 train to Kamakura (1-stop) about 6 minutes. Once arriving in Kamakura, I walk about 5 minutes to the school. I arrive at approximately 12:23. In keeping with Japanese culture, my promptness is appreciated.
When the previous teacher invited me to her class and to meet Yasuko, she told me two rules. No jeans. No yawning. Got it. Also, she suggested I bring something to drink. Before class, I stop at a vending machine and purchase a bottle of warm green tea. This was my third time buying the same green tea. I realized yesterday that each class I drink about one more sip than I did the previous class. Obviously, I don’t really like the tea, but perhaps I’m starting to like it? Or maybe it’s just wet and washes down my snack. I do not being my own snack. I’m still learning the protocol on who brings the snack and when. So far, someone from the class brings a snack and shares with everyone. I anticipate surprising them with sweet treats very soon.
Last week, we went around the table and each lady introduced herself to me. They told me their marriage status (three are “Merry Widows”), kids, grandkids and hobbies. After each one talked, I asked a question or two. All of my grandmothers have a hobby of gardening. And like my grandmothers, they are always quick to compliment me. Whether it is my smile, timeliness to class, handwriting or color of my scarf, they all give me accolades during our time together.
Today, the ladies told me about an event occurring during their week. We discussed the jazzy and unique holiday sweater Junko knitted and was wearing. Hisako went to a Violin Concert. Kikumi went to Tokyo to visit her daughter. We discussed what they ate for dinner. Finally, Keiko told us why she missed class last Friday. Her husband wasn’t feeling well and they went to the hospital. In the end, he was fine and they were able to still attend the opera that evening in Tokyo!
After class, Yasuko took me to the room next door and gave me an envelope with my paycheck for two classes and a Christmas present! So very sweet and unexpected. I definitely wasn’t prepared for a gift exchange!
A side note about gift giving in Japan. The Japanese love to give little gifts to each other. The custom is when you receive a gift, to give a little bigger gift in return. You can see how this can get out of hand, similar to their customer of bowing. The school is on break until 1/13/2017, giving me plenty of time to select the perfect gift in return. The gift Yasuko gave me was a small drawstring bag made by her sister. The wrapping was adorable. She placed the bag into a plastic sleeve and then into the gift bag. Stapled the top and added a bow. Kawaii!!
I couldn’t pass up the chance to take a picture of my “lesson plan book” – haha what I use to take notes and write down questions to ask. And my ¥10,000 bill handed to me in an envelope, of course and with my name spelled wrong. This is my first ¥10,000 bill! It looks like so much money. With the dollar so strong right now, it is only about $83.00. Regardless, it is money towards my next plane ticket! Also, my green tea, blah.
At the end of class today, we had a little extra time. Yasuko told me to ask each lady a question. I started with “what will you do during break?” Next I asked, “what is happening in the news?” This was a big one! They wanted to talk about Trump! Oh, boy. The general consensus was they like America and are concerned Trump will change current policy and affect existing relations. To quote directly, “America is our friends. We concern Trump not let us remain allies.”