In an unexpected turn of events, I got a call last week from my Personal Supervisor (PS) asking me if I wanted to go on a business trip. He said that I would be spending four days out in Ibaraki, which is near Tokyo, since they apparently had no one to cover a school up there. I agreed to go because I thought it might be fun and I could explore the Tokyo area on my time off. Well, that actually didn't work out because the company did not want to pay for my hotel for four days. However, they still needed me to go for one day to cover two classes and since I had already agreed to go, my schedule was changed so that I could head to the Kasama school last Thursday. It was going to take around four and a half hours to get there for the class and then the company would arrange for me to stay in a hotel for one night, then head back to Fukui the next morning. Not entirely excited about the prospect, especially since I had a sore throat and had lost most of my voice, I headed to Ibaraki on Thursday morning.
The trip itself was largely uneventful, though I got to watch a lot of different parts of Japan go by as I sat by the window on the trains. I got to see Nagoya, where I stayed for training, again and I swear I even recognized some of the buildings as they went past. Two interesting things did happen on this trip to the Kasama class room. One was that I got to ride a shinkansen to Tokyo, which was an experience in and of itself. The train is super fast and it kind of feels like you're on a roller coaster without all the drops and loops. It was actually kind of hard to keep my balance when I had to get up and walk around the train.
The other interesting event was that I got to see Mt. Fuji as we passed it by on the shinkansen. It was hard to get a good picture since we were moving so fast, but I managed to get a few. It is a neat looking mountain, though I think it I was looking at the back of it because it didn't look a lot like the mountain I'd seen in the pictures.
Anyway, my transitions between the trains were pretty fast, only about ten minutes max, and I arrived in Kasama in what seemed like no time at all. When I got to the classroom, I ended up with another problem: I couldn't get the door open. I tried turning the key both ways and I wasn't hear any clicks or seeing any signs that I was making progress opening the door. I called schedule control to ask them about the lock and one of the people at the office asked me if I'd ever been to this classroom before. I held back my laughter at such a stupid question and replied that I was from Fukui.
While the office was trying to scare up some information on the lock, I kept fiddling with it and managed to get it open. I went inside and examined it to find the strangest lock I'd ever seen. It was basically a screw that was bolted inside the door and you had to use the key to spin the screw out of the lock in order to open it. I explained this to schedule control when they called back and they said it sounded like a really weird lock. They asked me to write a note about it and send it to them, which I did at the end of class.
The two classes I had were a Green class, which is five and six year olds and a Lime class, which is eight and nine year olds. The Green class was a bit rambunctious and since I didn't have my voice, it was hard to control them. There were, however, two cute students in the class that made up for this. One of them was a boy named Yuki, who came to class early. He showed me one of his picture books and asked me what everything was in English. Then, after class, he gave me a hug and showed me his stuffed animal puppy. It was really cute! The other good student was a girl named Natsune. She was quiet, but she paid attention and helped me all class. When she first arrived, she asked me where I was from and I told her I was from Fukui. She laughed a little bit at that answer and said, “That's a problem,” in Japanese. That caused me to laugh a bit, as I thought that pretty much summed up the day pretty well.
The Lime class was a lot of fun. There were very smart and they clearly try very hard to learn English. There was a funny moment with them when they first came in and they stared at me because they weren't expecting a foreign teacher. One of the boys, called Hayato who was a lot of fun during the class, started asking the other students in Japanese, “Do you know her?” They all responded “No,” so then he asked if I was Japanese. The other kids looked at me and the laughed at him, saying “No way.” Strangely enough, I actually get asked if I'm Japanese by Japanese people quite a bit. I don't think I look Japanese at all, so I don't understand why people ask me that. Maybe they're just so shocked at seeing a foreigner in their presence that they try to see me as Japanese so that I fit in with their normal perception of reality? I really don't know.....
Anyway, after class was over, I thought that my adventure for the day was over as I headed to Mito to go to my hotel room. I got up to my room without a hitch and had just gotten out of the shower when all the lights went out. My hotel room was pitch black and since I was facing a giant building, I wasn't able to get any natural light. I used my cell phone as a flashlight to find my clothes, then went outside to see what was going on. The hallway was dark except for the end of the hall, which still had light. One of the other guys staying on the floor asked me if I was alright and I told him that I had no lights. He seemed surprised and said that his room still had lights on. Apparently, only one side of the floor was effected by the power outage.
After he said that he still had lights, more people from my side of the floor began coming out of their rooms. I asked them if they didn't have lights and they said yes, adding that they couldn't see anything. At that moment, one of the workers from the lobby came upstairs and entered our floor. He was bombarded with questions from the other occupants of the floor, few of which I understood fully. One of the questions I did understand was from the guy I first met, who asked if they could just move the people who didn't have power to the other side of the floor to the rooms that did have it. The front desk worker replied that they didn't have enough man power to arrange for that, since there were only three people working at the moment and lots of floors were out of power. After that, he quickly departed, running away from more questions from angry customers.
I said to the first guy I met that I couldn't see anything in my room, so he offered to help me get to the lobby. We used our cell phones as flash lights and descended the dark stair well. It was quite an adventure going down the twisted stairwell to the lobby. We made it down to the front desk, he asked if I could get a flashlight and the lobby handed a floodlight to me. After that, we went back upstairs and I thanked him for helping me, then went back to my room to sleep.
The next morning the power was back on, which was great since I no longer needed it. I exited the hotel, bought some breakfast at a Starbucks and started my long journey back to Fukui. The trains pretty much left one after the other, except for my train from Tokyo to Maibara. I had a little over an hour to wait at the Tokyo station, so I spent some time taking some pictures and being a tourist. There was a lot of different stuff at the station and it made me wish I had had more time to go see Tokyo. Hopefully, I'll get a chance before my time in Japan is over.
Anyway, once my hour was up, I got a pork bun for lunch and boarded the train to Maibara. I ended up getting back to Fukui a little after 5:00 pm and, boy, was I happy to be back. It was an interesting trip to be sure, but I hope I don't have to make it again.