Showing posts with label Culture Shock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culture Shock. Show all posts

Saturday, 14 April 2018

14 - Friends, Talking Birds & Guinness

Day 14 - Sunday

Today we were kicked out the hotel room again at 10am for cleaning. It's quite good, both for us and the environment, that the hotel has offered us a discount if we just ask for the room to be cleaned every second day instead of every day. I just wish we'd planned it better so we had a lie in on the non cleaning days...

This morning (after awaking slightly the worse for wear after last night's jaunt into Tokyo) we were to make our way to Machida station to meet some friends and go for a very nice lunch in Denny's. We caught up on the past six years and again found the time lapse almost insignificant. The only change was in our kids' ages. It was fantastic to mix and mingle with familiar faces and made me more and more want to consider every possibility in whether we could actually relocate back to Japan.

My son got a present - a toy blackbird with a small microphone and speaker so that you can record a short word or phrase and when you pull the trigger it opens its mouth, flaps it's wings and repeats back to you what you said in a high pitched squawk. It cracked my kid up for the whole rest of the day.

After lunch my family went off to Sagami Ono to track down one of his old friends (when he was three) and I slunk into a Doutours near the hotel for a bit of blog self publishing. I have to confess, I've never really done this much travel writing and upload in the space of two weeks before and I am starting to get a little fatigued. I know it's all down to self discipline, to keep writing every day and there's no such thing as a bad first draft, rest on the page etc., but also in the back of my mind I can't help thinking: is any of this any good? I try to leave the words to cool down on the page for a few days and come back to them to try to reread them and edit as a third person, but is it working? Is it interesting? Are you the readers feeling engaged or is my exhaustion showing through between the lines?

What is prose? The longer and more often you study a sentence the less it seems to mean. It should flow. Be easy to read. There should be variety in vocabulary and sentence structure. Imagery. Words should fall like drips from a stalactite onto a stalagmite to form a connection between the writer and the reader in the dark chasm of nothingness.

Boom. A simile. And it's only 8:40am!

After writing, the image of me crawling into our huge empty recently made up bed in the hotel room for a cheeky afternoon few z's became too compelling to resist, and I obeyed instantly.

Blackness. Blackness, and if I'm honest, some drooling.

After my nap I went out to meet my family in Ono again for some dinner before heading off to meet another old friend from our 'Tough Gig' and 'Ripped' days, in a new Irish Bar right across from our hotel in Nakamachi, Machida. There, among other things, we discussed recent changes to Japan's national English program in schools. Presumably to save money on a drop in budget ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) are now only present a few days a week on a rotational pattern, and to make up for this, all Japanese English teachers must teach their lessons only in English. It's a shame and must make things difficult for both lower level students and teachers, but I suppose when a board of education has to tighten its belts the ALT program would be the first to be affected. My chances of getting another job in Japan had just taken a hit.

But when I returned to my hotel room I heard from my wife who'd heard from her friend that because of this change in the public schools more parents were sending their kids to private lessons and after school English clubs. My chances had just sprung back!

Another thing my wife relayed to me was the story of the talking bird (which had been driving us both crazy all afternoon). Apparently, on returning to the hotel, my son had trained the bird to say, "Key 401 please" in Japanese in order to pass this on to the receptionist. He'd rehearsed it several times in the long queue and when they finally arrived at the desk and the young Japanese woman smiled politely at them, my son took out the bird and pulled the trigger. "Key 401 please!" it squawked. My son and wife cracked up and waited for the receptionist to smile or laugh or get the key or something. But according to my wife, there was absolutely 'no reaction'. She said she tried to make a joke out of it and got my son to repeat the bird's request just in case the receptionist hadn't heard right. He repulled the trigger : "Key 401 please!" bleeted the bird. My wife and kid cracked up again, and my wife was crying wth laughter when she retold me this story. But again, 'No reaction.' The receptionist had frozen, and for all we know is still standing rigid and petrified to the spot days later, as understandably she had not been trained to deal with such a bizarre and unsettling request from wide left field. If she had had an ALT in her school while growing up she would have been familiar to such antics, but alas it didn't seem that way.

So if you ever stay in the Toyoko Inn in Machida, and see what looks like a very lifelike wax statue of a young female Japanese receptionist behind a glass case in the foyer, that was us - the Young family.

Read Day 15.