Friday, February 10, 2006

Hmmmm 2

Finally heard back from ECC: nothing in Hiroshima, but they will put me on a list for later openings. Thus, no definites. I guess it gives me the chance to drop Geos, as I'm in the same situation for both companies (can't choose where I go) and I like ECC better overall. One highlight is that ECC has fewer schools, which might mean less chance of getting stuck in the boonies, as they are primarily in Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo; still, no guarantees.

I guess that means some of the pressure is off. I would have left in March if I were to go to Hiroshima; now it could be several months. Probably for the best. Definitely better than I could ask after the crap this morning.

So, now that you've suffered through all my whinings, I'll reward you with some pictures. Toronto is no Kyoto, so don't expect much!

The hostel I'm currently in. It's in a nice neighborhood, Kensington Market, with a bunch of small... markets, as well as a Chinatown. The buildings throughout the district look a lot like the below:

Proof that Toronto is just kind of weird:
This is a wall of 100 violent deaths on the job. Something about it being a monument to those who have died to... whatever, it's weird.

A lot of you have probably heard of and sites like it that make fun of Japanese attempts at English that can be hilarious. While this may not be hilarious, it's good to see that it works the other way around - those of you who know Japanese will see in a second that this sign the CN Tower's Japanese is just wrong.

And here is the view from the floor of the tallest free-standing structure in the world, the CN tower. I couldn't take it - rationally I knew the floor had to be quite safe, and yet I could not get myself to stand on the glass. In fact, the usher on the elevator ride down told us that the entire floor is glass, but people couldn't handle it so they covered most of it with carpet!
Daiju, who was nice enough to get tickets for my birthday from his roommate who works at the Tower, had no problems standing on it. He even danced on it a little bit.


Well, I really screwed up. I may have written before that I was less than excited about the interview today, that I might even skip it. Because I haven't heard from ECC yet, though, I decided I'd better; besides, I've read people's experiences at the interview and they a couple said they had been able to get placed near Tokyo, something impossible with ECC and very unlikely with Geos. I decided, in the end, to go to the interview, if only to see what they had to offer.

But I screwed up. Yesterday, after I made my decision to go ahead and go, I went over my sample lesson and, from my experience at the other interviews, I knew it wouldn't work. So I spent last night - my birthday - trying to think of ideas for the stupid interview. I gave up finally, deciding to enjoy myself for at least a little bit that night, then wake up at 7 and suffer through the day. The interview was at 1:30, so I figured I'd be alright.

I actually came up with an idea - not a great one, but one that would do. Honestly, I don't know if it would have worked very well, but I think, in a room of people who had never taught before, I probably wouldn't look to bad.

I finally prepared it around 12:30, hopped on the train to the Kinko's, but some jerk-off was writing his resume on the only working computer. It costs 30 cents a minute, but it looked like he was going to be there for 3 or 4 hours. I decided to wait, but it was already over - I finally gave up at 1:30 - the email inviting me to the interview said no one would be admitted after 1:30.

So there it is. I walked home really angry at myself. It's possible that I wouldn't have liked this place either, but now I'll never know.

More confused than ever now.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Well, I notice a job listing for the job in Hiroshima on the latest Gaijinpot (the place where I've done a lot of job searching) so I'm guessing I didn't get it. I haven't had any word from the interviewer yet - he's supposed to contact me today. I don't know what to think - I have to admit I felt some relief when I saw that posting, but if you'd told me I didn't have to do the speeches in my speech class several years ago, I would have been relieved, too - and yet, I think I gained from having done them.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Got a job (if I want to take it)

Just called Geos, the second company I interviewed with, and I somehow got a job. I'm a little surprised, but it's certainly a boost. However, I have no idea where I'd be placed and, honestly, I don't particularly like their business tactics. I have a week from tomorrow (when I get the contract and associated materials) to mull it over. In the meantime, I'll hear from the job I am more interested in tomorrow, and, if I'm really feeling a glutton for punishment, I have an interview starting Thursday with Aeon - a company even bigger than Geos.

I still really would like to be in Tokyo, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Everyone keeps telling me it should be so easy - I don't know why I've had such a difficult time... Anyway, if I'm placed in Hiroshima I should have a good time, and after a year I can try to find something in Tokyo. But I haven't gotten the job yet...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Two down - one to go?

Just finished the last day of my second interview - fairly grueling, with 5-6 hr days on Friday and Saturday and outside prep time last night of well over 5 hours. It was educational. It's pretty iffy whether I'll get the job - I think there's a fifty-fifty chance. One thing in particular was a problem - during the 30 minute lesson, an interviewer said I was sighing all the time. I know I have a tendency to do that, mostly when I'm tired, but I didn't realize at all that I was doing it during the lesson. That upset me, and she wasn't gentle. That is definitely something, along with my closed body movement, that could keep me from getting a job. But I still felt I did well, and even better, it convinced me that it is possible that I could teach, and that I enjoy it. I'm not very accustomed to that sort of work - standing in front of people, organizing my thoughts on the fly - and thus any sort of progress is a real boost to my confidence. It may be that I won't get a job this round - I hope I do, of course - but I think it is a good idea to pursue teaching, if for no other reason than to force myself to try another way of behaving.

Now I have to decide two things - whether or not to put myself up as a candidate for the job that will start in March that I explained earlier - working for a company that seems better than the rest and that I might be more likely to get - and whether or not take the final interview I have planned this Thursday. The first I need to decide in the next couple of hours, and yet I'm still on the fence. The other I will decide after I hear back from the first two companies, one on Monday and the other Tuesday. I think it is likely I won't go to that last interview, but I may change my mind,

For now, though, I finally can take a look around and enjoy myself here in Toronto. I'm exhausted today - I've been up late and up early several days in a row - so I'll most likely take it easy today, but tomorrow I'm going to at least check out the Hockey Hall of Fame and the nearby sites like the CN tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the world. I'll also be able to spend more time with my hostelmates, the best part of this trip so far. I actually find myself looking forward to coming back to the hostel after the interviews because I have such a supportive group here. I learn quite a bit about Europe as well, as I'm the only North American around most of the time. Even if I don't get a job out of this trip, it will have been worth it for the people I've met and the things I've learned about teaching.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Toronto II

Here I am in Toronto. At the moment I'm sitting at an oval table in a kitchen with an old stand-alone cupboard (something in my heart tells me there is a more specific term) peeling paint and an L-shaped layout very similar to many of the kitchens I know in Lawrence. I am surrounded by two men from France, a tall Japanese man almost my age with long, curly, black hair, and a younger Irish woman who works here, all of us trying to figure out how a waiter asks a customer how they'd like their meat done (rare, well, etc.). I still think there is a more specific way to put it, but I'm always wrong, so I give up for now. Anyway, one of the French guys has moved to asking the Japanese guy about judo terminology.

My first interview didn't go so well. The first part was great, but then, that was primarily informational. Later, however, we were asked to come up with a short demo lesson over lunch and then present it, the other interviewees acting as young students. I was a little nervous, of course, but the first few presenters, while they were energetic and fairly interesting, kept making mistakes that had more to do with paying attention to the instructions given at the beginning of the demo lessons than with real effectiveness - in any case, it seemed fairly easy, and I felt confident that when it came to my turn I would do not only well but outdo myself.

As has often been the case lately, I was humbled. I did a really poor job; I kept stumbling where my imagination had seen me performing particularly stunningly (yes, that's right, remember, adverbs can modify other adverbs, though don't try it at home).

When I left, I wondered to myself if an old dog can learn new tricks. Not in those terms. I mean, though, that I have fairly good idea of what I am good at - I finished the grammar quiz without any problems, but in this simple task I just fell flat. So I wonder if I can - if I should bother to try to - become a good teacher.

In a later one-on-one interview (until that point we had all been gathered together around a round table very different from the one in front of me), the interviewer - there was only one, somewhat of a surprise - mentioned that my performance hadn't been bad enough to signal a "red light," but it was not really enough to catch his attention. I agreed, saying that I had started fairly poorly in a speech class, and yet later I did really well.

There is one little quirk that could... could work in my favor - they have an opening in mid-March in Hiroshima that happens to be looking for "someone a bit older to balance out the primarily younger teacher pool" or something along those lines. Intriguing, and there is a chance that just because there is such a short time-frame for them to find someone they may ask me, but I still really have my heart set on Tokyo. I have until Monday to decide, and during that time I should get a good idea what my chances are with other schools, as I have a three-day interview starting tomorrow.

Alright, enough of that. One little Canada note, then I'll quit. Absurdly, the government-run liquor stores close at 9 pm. You heard me. Apparently this is a little different in the French-speaking areas, but I was shocked. I wonder if life is that much better here for it? Maybe it is.

While I've been writing this, a French couple has come in and the Japanese man and Irish woman have left, so I think I'll retire off to somewhere else.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


I'm in Toronto for some interviews for jobs teaching English in Japan. I got in, checked into my hostel (very nice place) wandered around a bit, and came back to find there is a Japanese guy who hangs out here. It was the first time I've spoken Japanese since I was in Tokyo, so I was a bit nervous, but he seemed to be able to make sense out of what I was saying.

Tomorrow's my first interview, and I'm nervous, though I read over some notes by people who have gone through the interview before and it seems manageable. This is really the one I want, so I hope it will go well. They seem to be fairly kind to their instructors, and very earth-conscious, which is an added bonus.

Well, I'd better get some sleep so I can be at my best tomorrow.