I’m due in exactly 6 days and the time is really starting to go slllloooooowwwwlly… I’ve already scrubbed the inside of the fridge, washed all the windows, set up the crib, finished two art projects (see below) and composed several doctoral level theses in Japanese. Actually this last one’s a bit of an exaggeration but I really have been studying. Mr. D has been studying too and just last week impressed us all in Japanese class by uttering such phrases as “Of all the raw foods, I like fish best” and “That is our oven. I like it because it is big and so we can cook big foods.”
I packed my hospital suitcase nearly a month ago although I really have no idea what I was thinking at the time because upon double checking it the other day, I found it to be primarily filled with books with titles like “In Cold Blood” and “Perfect Madness” (so suitable for a new mother’s first days), boxes of chocolate, and what appeared to be literally thousands of disposable breast pads. I think there was a bottle of peppermint foot massage lotion in there too. Now I’ve repacked the suitcase and there really isn’t much else left to do except sit back and wait. In the meantime, even my dreams are becoming fairly tedious. The other night I dreamt about a stalk of limp celery. It was just sort of hanging there in my dream and I kept thinking things like, “Yep, that’s celery. It’s LIMP celery. Yep, it’s limp all right… What’s going to happen now I wonder? Hmmm… nothing I guess. It’s clearly celery though, that’s for sure…”
About 3 weeks ago I had my last day at work. I knew that I had to get out of there when towards the end I found myself accidentally instructing a roomful of Japanese 3 year olds to repeat after me the words “Mr. Noisy makes love when he drives his car!” It was supposed to be “Mr. Noisy makes NOISE when he drives his car.” Luckily none of the parents of my students can speak English thus ensuring that nobody noticed that my mind was obviously in the gutter that day. Actually, I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular when I said those words so I’m not really sure what happened. Regardless, it was a close call. The good news is that it’s all over and now the only child I have to worry about screwing up with my little slips of the tongue is my own.
I’m not sure how much I’ve told most of you about this job. You can get a gist of it from reading ABOUT ANNA DILEMNA but there’s really no easy way to describe the place I’ve been working for the past year and a half. It’s not a preschool and it’s not what’s known in Japan as a “juku” or cram school either. No one’s ever really explained the philosophy to me in detail actually but I do know it has something to do with right brain learning and the idea that if I rapidly flash 150 anatomical flashcards to a 4 month old Japanese baby, then the next day she should be perfectly capable of leading the class in a rousing rendition of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” If she’s not, well then it’s because I just didn’t do my job right.
Things I do know:
-The head of our company- a strange little man who looks like a Japanese Barney Rubble, is a high ranking member of a dubious religious cult to which he apparently donates billions of yen every year. (I’m not joking).
-Most of the employees of the company have been brainwashed into thinking that the reason they are paid so little money for teaching (despite the fact that each student pays approximately $200 for each 50 minute lesson) is because all of the extra money is being shipped to the “poor children in China.” (As a side note, this reminds me of another story I heard recently in which one of the major subway lines here in Tokyo has a new campaign where they are trying to convince the public that all the people “falling” onto the tracks and being squashed by trains are not actually committing suicide but rather just accidentally walking off the edges of the platform due to being in such awe of the sight of Mt. Fuji looming in the distance. And I thought I was gullible…)
-Our company philosophy handbook is full of such sage tidbits as “Because you are a woman, make the best of your kind feelings.” Um. Okaaaay….
-Aside from flashcards, teachers are also encouraged to make use of other supposed “right brain aimed” teaching methods including ESP (yes you read correctly), sensory training, and image training. The following is an example of an image training class curriculum put together by one of the Japanese staff last year.
Image Training: Mommy loves me and my English is perfect
Close your eyes
We are going to breathe out from our mouths all the bad air
Ready, let’s breathe out
Now, let’s breathe in
Make your stomach round like a ball
Again breathe in
Finally breathe out
Can you speak English?
Yes you can
Your English is perfect just like mommy’s love for you
Can you hold mommy’s hands ?
Mommy’s hands are warm and soft
Can you feel mommy’s loving energy?
You feel so relaxed because mommy is with you
Your mommy and daddy love you very much
You love your mommy and daddy too
You are a perfect, happy family
Learning English is fun for you
Mommy is holding you tight
You are happy to be held by mommy
You are so relaxed
Now slowly open your eyes and give mommy a big hug
Say ” I love you mommy. Thank you for my life”
I think it’s safe to say that I’ll never have another job quite like this one again.
By the way, on my last day of work, I received a carefully crafted, handwritten note from the mother of one of my favorite students (accompanying the note was a box of Lady Godiva chocolates which are of course now safely stowed away in aforementioned hospital suitcase). The note said:
“Birth of a baby. We are pleasure very. Too. Because if was born. Become very terrible everyday till then one’s time carefully.”
Sounds rather ominous wouldn’t you say?