9 - 24 March 2000

The period designation has very little to do with what I am going to write about but it helps me keep straight what I have written. Most of this will be about the training and what my job is - as I know it at the moment anyway. I told you before that I did my training in Mito while staying in Katsuta. The apartment in Katsuta was about a 25-minute walk from the train station and then a 7-8 minute ride to Mito. So I got in some training for the daily walk to work also but did not know that at the time. I was staying in the apartment of two Australian girls, both from Melbourne area and I think they had been in college together. One of them was away in Australia on holiday for 10 days when I got there and arrived back Tuesday night. I arrived in Mito around 7:00 on Friday night and waited at the Nova school until the other girl finished work at 9:00 and could lead me home. I then had Sat and Sunff to recover from the flight over here and to start the adjustment process. I could not get much help from the girl in this regard because she has been cooking almost all of her own meals. She could not tell where there were any restaurants in her neighborhood because she never goes to any. Nor could she tell me much about ordering anything to eat because she always goes to the supermarket and picks up what she needs by looking at what is there. So it was point to something and hope for the best. So far so good; I have only received one thing that I did not like much at all and left it (unfortunately I do not know what it was, this is a language task for my teacher when I have one assigned.

I traveled into Tokyo on Mon for Orientation and then training in Mito Tue through Thu. I knew that it would only be three days training and was concerned about the short time. I continue to have concerns about it but that is the way the company works. They do not expect you to be an accomplished teacher after three days and provide ongoing training for the first three months. I have assignments that are due almost every week for the next month and then have scheduled training sessions through May. After that I can, and will be encouraged to, take some other training classes that specialize in particular areas. The way the first three days worked was that I taught the first 1/3rd of a class by the end of day one. Then taught about 2/3rds of a class at midday of day two with a full class at the end of the day. On day three I was in the class "room" (this is actually a half glass cubical with a table and 5 chairs) alone with my trainer observing from the next room for 4 lessons. This is half of what we do at a regular days work; 8 classes a day of either 40 or 45 minutes each. That is the easy part. What is crazy is that we must write up assessments of the students from the last class, pull student files for the next class and plan a lesson for the students that will be in it - this you do in 10 minutes! Everyone says that it will be easier after about a month but the first couple of weeks have been frantic! My normal work schedule is Wed 13:20 to 21:00, Thu 10:00 to 17:40, Fri 13:20 to 21:00, Sat 10:00 to 17:40 and Sun 10:00 to 17:20. Mon and Tue are my normal days off. However with sick days and people wanting to swap days off it can get very confusing. This week I will work almost two weeks straight through and then have 4 days off because of swapping days with another teacher that wanted my Mon & Tue off.

A few comments on the weather may be in order. I am starting to receive e-mail that says that spring has arrived. That is true here and then again it is not, it just depends on what minute you may be speaking of. It is very changeable from minute to minute. We have had a lot of cold hard wind during the nights with days that vary from cloudy to bright sunshine. Iwaki is known as the "sun shine city" which gives me a good idea of what the rest of the country can be like. On Sat night the 26th, the day after I arrived, I was wandering around in a snowstorm in Katsuta looking for something to eat. Here in Iwaki on the 10 March it was a bright sunny morning and by noon it was a wind driven snowstorm. All in all a lot like the weather in Zlatograd during the early spring. Maybe it has something to do with the proximity to the sea, I do not know. Where I am at is about 15-25 Km from the ocean versus the 80 Km in Zlatograd. The good news is that we have had only a couple of days of rain; I was actually expecting more. We did get a very hard rain last night and I have been told there will be a lot more to come in June.

Not a weather item but in the category of natural occurrences, here at least, was the first earthquake to get my attention. It hit on the morning of the 20th and gave two good shakes. I thought we were in for a "good one" but that was all there was to it. It was rated as a 5.4 but could not have been very close. I read that it was in the east-northeast of Japan, the area that I am in but no exact epicenter.

Well that is it for the moment. I will have 4 days off starting this Sat. and will try to do a bit of sightseeing and also get my bike put together. I'll have more to say about all that next time.