Monday, April 20, 2009

Teaching English in the Mountains

I just got back from a two-week shift at my English teaching job. Usually I work for seven days, and then get seven days off, but this time I had a long shift due to a busy holiday season. Last week was Golden Week, during which there are three national holidays in a row and most Japanese people take vacations. Some use their vacation time to study English in the highlands.
I teach in an immersion language program. I stay in a log cabin in the mountains, and four students join me for five days or for a two-day weekend course. I teach English conversation, grammar, telephone calls, speech and debate. And we speak English all day and all evening, during meals and free time. The "free time" is for the students - I don't really get any free time when I'm at work - but it's fun and worth it because I get lots of time off between work weeks.
The cabin, pictured above in winter although it's beautiful spring now, is set up like an American cabin, with board games and books in English and lots of American food and snacks.

The students are amazed at the size of American products. Parmesan cheese is about 1/8 this size in Japan, and the same is true for shampoo and shower products. I like to introduce peanut butter and apples as a traditional American snack, but the students don't usually like it. Peanut butter is a uniquely American taste!

My boss provides delicious meals for lunch and dinner. Shabu shabu is a special Japanese meal that most people only eat twice a year (maybe like turkey for Americans) but I get to eat it twice during every week that I work.

To eat shabu shabu, we swish fresh vegetables and meat in boiling water at the table. Of course we cook the pork fully, but the beef is eaten rare. We dip everything in a tasty sauce. I love Japanese mushrooms!

Two nights a week, the students cook using recipes in English. This is fun for them and requires them to cooperate to complete a task using English. I help with vocabulary, but other than that the students do the cooking.

Japan has a type of sweet potato that is really slimy when grated! I think that Americans, including me, don't usually like slimy food but Japanese people don't mind it. This potato is really slimy when grated and raw, but it becomes a part of the batter for okonomiyake and when cooked it's a delicious eggy pancake-type food.

Here, the students made gyoza, or Chinese dumplings. Mmmmm.
In the evenings we either watch movies in English or play games like Scrabble and Monopoly. Since Monopoly is about life, it's a great game for learning English.

Outside the cabin is a beautiful bamboo forest, and behind the forest are rice paddies. Now that it's spring, I can hear the frogs in the rice paddies every evening. It's now warm enough that I can sleep with my bedroom window open, and I hear the frogs all night and the birds in the morning.
Now you know a little about my job in Japan!


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading about your job, Kimi. The pictures are priceless - look at that Pantene and Suave lining the bathtub! The organizers who pulled this enterprise together seem to have given many aspects of the program a lot of thought. This looks superb. Oh, to be a fly on the wall, to watch you in action! Your students are lucky to have you as their instructor.
- E

Lisa said...

Hello Kimi

My sis told me to take a look at this, and I am so glad I did. You are having such an exceptional experience, and are kind enough to share it, and share it so fluently and vividly. Thank you for the peek into your working life - truly refreshing.

Keep well,