Bhutan, Meditation, Bread, Learning, Friends, Family, Music, Books, MT

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Friends in Japan

The four years of my life, before I returned to Bhutan, was spent in Japan. I had quit my job as a maths teacher, but my plan to meet Ugyen in Bhutan had hit a small unsurmountable hurdle. An ad appeared in the paper for a job teaching English in Japan. "No English needed." A perfect way to fill in the year. My good friend David was heading there too. Life is full of coincidences. Or is it karma? Or fate? Or just plain bad luck?
The interview for NOVA was interesting. A young whiz kid gave a brief "tour" of what to expect. Then the interview. Could I explain what "dictation" meant? Could I see how many fingers were being held up? Did I know what my favourite colour was? I only just managed that one.
Soon after, I was on my way to Japan. I had requested Hokkaido, as David was there. They sent me to a small "rural" city called Omihachiman, just North of Kyoto, on the shores of Lake Biwa. Not anywhere near David. We still managed to get together for the odd chess game though. David plays very odd chess.

Photo taken by Jackie Peers (related to David by marriage!).
See more at her design website (Click to see).
One of my first teaching colleagues was a real English teacher. Ted. What a lovely friend he turned out to be. A very down-to-earth attitude to the job, yet very professional. I wish he had taught me English. Through him I met Shoei, who was destined to become my landlord. The three of us had wonderful times together... long walks, delicious meals, or just relaxing over a large bottle of cheap, yet good wine.

One of my regular evening students at Omihachiman was Hideo. Another great friendship developed. Bicycling was a common interest. When Hideo found this out, he generously loaned me one of his spare bikes, which I kept for 4 years. One of the best days in Japan was our ride around Lake Biwa together. His wife, Kumiko, provided a scrumptious meal on our return.

One day, in Osaka with Hideo, we saw an amazing large building. I asked if he knew anything about it. "Yes," he replied, "I designed it."

After a year at Omihachiman, I was promoted. To an even smaller place called Yokaichi. This was a new school, so not as busy. That suited me. Another student entered my life. Tomoyo. She came twice a week. It took a lot longer to get to know her. But she was a mine of information. One of our link-ups was music.  I was so touched when she made a special effort to see me off at the station. That was a very difficult parting. But, every day, since I left Japan, Tomoyo has been in touch. Her English is much better now that I am not teaching her.
Tomoyo arranged the flowers on the right. She is the flower on the left. ;)

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Mark.
    I am glad that you have such positive memories of your time in Japan. And I am certainly glad that Shohei and I were able to contribute to those memories. I'd like to think that other people remember us so happily, but I am afraid that lots of ex-Nova people couldn't wait to be shot of Japan and were especially glad to be free of Nova along with the people in it that they saw as authority figures (yours truly included).
    But, that is now all water under the bridge, isn't it?
    I was interested to read your recipe for rice-based comfort food!
    My favourite lazy day snack for years has been cold rice topped with sultanas (raisins in Japan), honey and milk. And on those days when I had a cold and no energy, the same mixture, heated up, went down a treat!
    How about telling us about some of your Bhutan friends - nothing libelous of course!