November is National Beard Month

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I don’t have a beard, but I have a Korean friend named Hemi. Hemi like the dodge engine.

Her English is as good as my Korean, so we speak in Japanese. Hemi works at a Korean restaurant in Japan that mostly caters to Koreans living in Japan. This means its pretty authentic, which is a rare find in Japan. Everything in Japan is Japanese style. I once went to a Korean-run Chinese restaurant in Japan. Even this was Japanese style, which meant it was Japanese style Korean style Chinese food.

Anyway, back to Hemi’s restaurant. A while back, a group of Taiwanese people apparently came in to eat. They didn’t speak Korean, or even Japanese, so the basic emergency Japanese-menu was out. However, one of them did speak English. English really is the international language, and can be used almost everywhere, except Japan. Fortunately Hemi knew an English speaker, me. She called me, and translated the Korean menu (and how to do Korean BBQ) into Japanese for me. I then translated that into English for the Taiwanese girl who could speak English. She then translated that into Chinese for her group.

This sort of multi-lingual encounter (disaster) happens a lot. I teach English to a Korean girl in my building, mostly in Japanese. It makes for some weird lessons. I’ve never really wanted to teach English, but it’s difficult to escape in Japan. Everywhere you go people want you to teach them English. When people at my school ask me, it’s easy enough to bullshit and say I’m totally too busy but ask me next month. But when my landlady asks me on behalf of a tenant, it’s not as easy to lie, because she knows that I’m on my ass at home most days of the week. The plan there is to inflate the price and scare them off. When my landlady asked me to tutor a Korean girl who lived in my building, I promised I’d go talk to her. I told her my hourly wage was 4000 yen ($40). Of course she turned out to be a patent attorney and that wage was more than reasonable. I now have to give two hour long lessons a week because I’m too chicken to say No. At least it covers half my rent.

Schoolwise, I am attending most of my classes. I’ve only made it to my psychology lecture twice, and I’ve never actually been to my econ lecture. There were very few available credits this semester, so I wound up taking some bullshit classes. Classes like Career Development. It doesn’t really apply to me, but it’s 2 credits. One of the requirements of this class is to go to someplace called 私のしごと館, which amounts to “My Career Hall.” It’s a huge auditorium where students and young people can go and get hands on experience with various kinds of careers. Everything from designing cars to programming computers to driving trains. Well, I don’t know if they were ready for the big white guy, but it was mandatory for me so tough. Upon arriving we were to pick a possible future career to experience. I am pretty set on becoming a translator/interpretor and they had nothing relevant, so I picked the closest thing I could find. That is to say, I picked the most unrelated field I could find. 京象嵌. No Japanese person I spoke to knew what that meant. It amounts to some sort of traditional Japanese gold inlay. Being decidedly non-artistic and non-Japanese I felt this was the perfect career for me.

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My friend Keysha went back to the States for the first time in 5 years. She left me with one of her Business English courses in the meantime. I know as much about business English as I did about traditional Japanese inlaying. She assured me that there was no actual “business” or “English” or even “teaching” involved. I still doubted whether I could do it, until she told me it paid 8000 yen an hour. Suddenly I remembered I knew everything there was to know about business English. Luckily, Keysha wasn’t exaggerating. The “class” amounts to a meeting room at a company, whose executives gather for an hour a week to practice English discussion. They don’t actually speak English, so nearly everything is in Japanese. And they don’t discuss things, as much as they pick on the youngest exec for an hour. And they don’t act so much like executives as they do kindergarteners. And $80 an hour ain’t bad for babysitting.

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~ by foomfoom on November 26, 2006.

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