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Please enjoy your busy schedule

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Oooooh man. The above phrase was one of the notable quotes by the director of AEON East Japan, Mr. Miyake, and he was right on the money. The past few days have been nuts and mega busy. So let’s try to recap this adventure thus far.

The last few days of training were pretty hectic. We had a full lesson to prepare and demonstrate in front of 2 other trainee teachers, a trainer (who was evaluating us), and another Japanese AEON staff member. This wasn’t really that big of a deal, but a lot of people were having a cow over it. It reminded me a lot of school when you would have a big project or assignment due, and you have people going nuts over it. There are always people who study way too much just to suck up to the teacher. There are always people who pull their hair out over an assignment because they over-think it. There are always people who can’t get past step one. Then there are people like me, who cruise through assignments thanks to a combination of mutant skill and sheer laziness. How does laziness play into this? Why would I spend loads of time on something, when I can be lazy and do a decent job without stressing out over things? I’m being modest here. I can put minimal effort into things and still be awesome. I’ve learned to do things right the first time, because I’m too lazy to have to do it again.

After all the training and demo lessons were over, we received our official company lapel pins and Instructor nametags on Friday night. Thank goodness. We all went out that night, which was fun because we got to bond as a training class. With pins and nametags, we are officially teachers at AEON. Luckily, since we finished right before a three-day weekend, we got to take it easy before being dispatched to our branch schools. I slept pretty much all day on Saturday, then headed to a restaurant near the Omiya Seminar House called Bikkuri Donkey for dinner with Brian. The restaurant’s name translates to “Surprise Donkey,” which makes little to no sense in whatever language you put it in. No, they don’t serve donkey meat either, which is a shame because I wanted to add it to the in-progress “Animals Anthony has Eaten” list. They did, however, have 400-gram hamburger steaks and plates of fries with watery ketchup and mayonnaise that turned into the first meal in Japan where the food was bigger and more than I would have expected. So if you’re ever in Japan and want to eat a giant salsbury steak for super cheap, check out Bikkuri Donkey. Went down to the Ueno Zoo on Sunday with Brian and Bryan, which was sweet. Monday, again, I did absolutely nothing, which was good rest for what was to come.

Tuesday morning all us new teachers had to get up balls early to clean up the Seminar House and pack things up, etc. We eventually took cabs to Omiya station, and were hanging out there for a few hours until we actually left. One group left after an hour, and my group left an hour after that. I understand why we got up so early, but seriously, the entire time we were given free time at Omiya station, I was thinking how much nicer it would have been to get 2 hours of extra sleep. After a fun hour or longer train ride, my group met our managers at Akihabara station. From there we grabbed Sobu line to our schools. The trainers totally lied to us about most managers not speaking English, since they all completely did. My manager Emi took me to the Ichihara Goi school, which is literally across the street from the station. I also got to move into my apartment, which is amazing because it’s not only a lot bigger than I expected, but it’s only like 3 blocks away from my school. I have no idea why this wasn’t mentioned to us earlier, but apparently it’s AEON policy (I’m pretty sure it’s not just my school) to buy an incoming teacher all kinds of stuff for their apartment. In addition to the furnishings and appliances in the apartment, I also had waiting for me an entire table of towels, dishes, kitchenware, and soap, etc. Then we walked to the nearby Ito-Yokado department store and bought shampoo and stuff, then a load of groceries. It was sweet that the company paid for all these initial set-up costs, since I was pretty sure I would have to myself.

Over the first two days of work, I was talking to my departing teacher John a lot about the job, teaching the classes, and so forth. I observed his classes and then by the end of Wednesday I was teaching my first lesson. I now understand why I heard training is the worst part of the AEON experience. While the lessons and stuff are for the most part what we talked about in training, the atmosphere is absolutely different. At training, they made it seem like we would have to be practically dancing up in the front of the classroom like a zombie. Classes are much more relaxed, and I’m having a lot more fun with it. The staff I work with are awesome, which is good because despite the job being only 29.5 hours a week technically, at least for now I am working everyday from about 12:45 to 9:30PM. Once I’m more efficient at preparing lessons, I’ll be able to leave during my breaks and everything during the day, which will cut back on my in-school hours by about half. Overall though, this job is a lot of fun, and about a billion times better than the crap they fed us in training. My staff isn’t a bunch of super-excited AEON zombies, so I suppose the trainers are just an anomaly.

While I like the job, at least thus far I finish every day absolutely exhausted. You wouldn’t think this would take so much out of a person. I think I’ll get used to it within a few weeks, but for now my routine has been waking up every morning around 8 or 9, walking around the area for shopping or something, then going back to my apartment about an hour before work to shower and get dressed. I then walk the whole 3 blocks to school and start my workday. I leave work around 9:30PM usually, and grab food then go home to watch TV before passing out on my Tommy O’Brien-style floor mat. The Goi area where I live is a little country, but I still have almost anything I would normally need within a 5 or 10 minute walk, like a department store, an electronics place, a bunch of restaurants, etc. Oddly enough, there are also a lot of hostess and snack bars in the area, which makes it kind of sketch, but oh well. Oh, and did I mention that my apartment is in the sketch neighborhood? I’m pretty sure the only other places surrounding my apartment building are these sketch hooker bars.

I’ll be getting a cell phone tomorrow I think, FINALLY. The stupid Gaijin Card registration process is taking longer than expected, so I won’t have my actual card until like October 11. Without this card, I can’t sign up for a DoCoMo phone like I had planned on. AU can register a new phone without the gaijin card, so I’ll probably just get that tomorrow because I’m dying without a phone. I also don’t have internet at home yet, so I need to try and get that. I’m writing this blog in Word and will just upload it next time I have a chance. There’s not even stolen wireless here. Tokyo Game Show this weekend.

AEON Training

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The title of this entry is a lot more boring than what rubbish I would usually make up, but I have a lot I’d like to write and not a lot of time as I’m disgracefully already tired at 11:30PM. I’d also like to point out that I may very well be risking my job everytime I write a blog entry, because I seem to remember stuff in training and in our manuals about not giving away AEON secrets and also one about not badmouthing the company. I’ll try not to do any of those explicitly, but I’m sure they’ll turn up on a semi-regular basis. But who cares? I’m not going to stop my mad blogging, and you’re not going to stop reading. Why? Because the internet is a good way to kill time in-between sleeping sessions, that’s why.

I’ll be honest, I won’t be able to cover all my sweet stories, observations, and complains in this one entry. It’s been what, almost a week since I posted anything of substance? I’m far too tired to write a lot. I’ll catch you up on whatever I miss at a later date.

Flew out of the US last Thursday, which was the 7th. Arrived at Narita airport the afternoon of Friday the 8th, but it was quite a comfortable ride in the time machine. I flew United, and my only big complaints were that there wasn’t as much legroom as I’ve had on other airlines, and they didn’t have the personal video screens. Aside from that, I had one of the greatest flights ever because the plane was only around 60 or 75% full, and there was no one sitting directly next to me. I was able to do my normal routine of staying up the entire night before packing and sleeping almost 7 hours of the 12 hour flight to Tokyo. When I was awake, I would listen to my iPod or watch videos on it like the first episode of Psych (which is pretty good). The secret to getting through customs quickly, at least in Japan, seems to be rushing off your plane to the customs line. I did it this time and also last month, and both times I made it to the line close to the front, with only a 10 minute wait ahead of me. Immediately after I get there, the rest of my flight AND 2 planes full of other people show up. If I were to get stuck in that, my wait would probably be an hour or more.

Met up with one of the AEON trainers, and once we had a group of 5, the last people to arrive for the day, we headed to Omiya and the training center. We took a Skyliner express train to Nippori, then took regular trains on the Keihin-Touhoku line up to Omiya. Then took a cab from there to the center. It was like 2 hours of commuting, but we were finally where all the magic begins. And by that I mean where we would be sleeping, training, and being turned into robots for the week. Toured the place, got settled in, met the other people in our training group (there are 18 of us teacher trainees total), and then training started the next day. I’ll get to that soon. Sunday we had a day off, so I headed down to Akihabara with Brian to look at the normal stuff, eat sushi, and marvel at all the freaks (maids) that are taking over that town. We also went to Yodobashi Akiba for the first time, which I swear is the largest store I’ve ever been in. Largest electronics store for sure. It’s about 9 stories tall, with each floor bigger than a Wal-Mart. They have about anything electronic or not within this massive building. Seriously, this place puts Best Buy to shame. I guess since all the maids and otaku are taking over that area, they figured they needed something to keep Akihabara the electronics capital of town.

Training for the most part isn’t bad, but it’s majorly exhausting. We go everyday from about 10:30AM to 7 or 8PM, and that doesn’t even include the 3+ hours of demo lesson prep and homework that we have to do every night. It’s tough work preparing lessons, and everything follows the very specific and detailed AEON methods of teaching. They have this stuff down to a science, for real. During the day, we usually have a lot of lecture sessions, demo lessons, and we practice our stuff. Today and yesterday, we had real AEON students come and be our guinea pigs, so that we could practice our shortened lessons on them. I did a lot better tonight than I did yesterday, and it’s all starting to make sense to me. The hardest part is just remembering and following all the steps in my lesson plan. The main thing that’s making this week bearable is the rest of the trainees. I was afraid before getting here that we’d have a terrible group, full of the typical Japanophiles, otaku, and regular social ingrates. I also got to sample the JET people last month at the Keio, and good lord those people sucked hard. My group here at AEON is way sweet, so it makes things easier. We’re usually exhausted after training, but we’ll go get dinner, talk smack about everything, then head back to do our lesson plans.

The trainers here are great, although I have noticed something about all the long-term AEON staff I’ve encountered so far: their speech has been permanently impeded. They’re all (OK, fine, most of them) so used to teaching English to Japanese people that their language is slow and choppy all the time, even when talking to other native speakers. I’m going to use all of my power to make sure this doesn’t happen to me this year, so don’t worry. I’ll still be the same fast-talking, sarcastic jerk that I always am. Also I won’t talk to you like you’re a retard.

Training goes until this Friday, then we have a 3-day weekend. I think it’s “Be Nice to Old People Day” again or something. Either way, 3 days off is awesome. Then on Tuesday, we all wake up early and distribute throughout the eastern/northern Japan areas to our branch schools. We already got our school schedules and apartment information, and I’m pretty happy. The schedules at AEON, as I knew beforehand, are pretty easy. I have Sundays and Mondays off, and even during the week I have a lot of breaks. I usually work from like 10 or 11AM to 7 or 8PM, but with the long-ass breaks in there this shouldn’t be too bad. I live less than 2 minutes away from AEON and the train station, so you can’t beat the convenience there. The place is like 23 square meters big, which is tiny by American standards but not bad for a Japanese studio. It’s definite bigger than my apartment last summer in Myoden, which is all I really cared about. If you want my address, e-mail or Facebook msg me. I was going to post it here, but since I have a suspicion about a certain A-Team stalker, I’ll keep it private. Snake!

That’s all for now I guess; my eyes are closing on their own which means I need to sleep. I’m actually on a “normal” sleep schedule here, which is weird to me since I’m used to going to bed at 5 and waking up in the afternoon. Now I usually wake up at like 6 or 7AM. Tomorrow I need to get up to plan a lesson, which is the last one we have to plan for training. This might sound like a complicated task, but it’s mainly coloring pictures and filling in blanks on a lesson plan sheet of paper. Then you practice it so you know what to say, and bam. A lot of people were downstairs working on theirs, but I’m lazy and I instead went upstairs to steal wireless and write a ridiculously long blog entry. Goooood night.

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