I arrived at Narita Airport, Chiba (near Tokyo), at the end of July 1999. Although I had experience teaching freshman composition as a T.A. in graduate school in the U.S., I had never taught Japanese students (one of my freshmen students in the U.S. had been a native of the Philippines). Nevertheless, I was anxious to jump-start my teaching career.
I was based at a senior high school for the first year. “I’ll give it a year, maybe two,” I promised myself. (This is how all ex-pats start…)
Eighteen years later, I’m still in Japan, and I’m still teaching English. In the interim, I have moved five times within three separate prefectures, taught English from elementary school age to senior citizen, and earned a second master’s degree and a doctorate in education.
Oh, and I also got married. In 2009, my wife and I had a baby girl, who became the pride and joy of our small family (in 2012 our second daughter was born, to double our pride!). My wife works full time, but she was granted child care leave; she was even paid 30% of her salary for the year (much of which had to be paid back immediately for pension and health insurance, of course).
“I’ll give it a year, maybe two,” I promised myself.
However, when she returned to work, it was impossible to get into a day care center in our area…let alone a day care center that was willing to take care of an under 1-year-old infant that couldn’t walk or talk yet.
So, what to do? We talked it over, checked out our options. I found out from my school that, technically, I could take child care leave until the child is 3, provided that my spouse was working full-time and no close relatives were living in the local area. Great, I thought. Why not?
And so the adventure began…