Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Riding the JR Line


My new job is an hour and a half train ride out of town. By car that's roughly a two hour drive with the traffic. Now you know why I've entered the world of train culture. Trains are much faster and many times safer than driving.

Japan is infamous for timely trains. Two minutes late and everyone on the platform starts checking their watches and smart phones. Four minutes late and the control room is sending out apologies then announcements stating that the train shall arrive shortly. And you know what? It always does!

I've never seen a late train in the sense that it didn't arrive on schedule. Personally, the latest I've seen was around five minutes late. Only in the case of random freak accidents does a Japanese train not make it to it's destination on time. Usually suicide jumpers flinging themselves in front of a speeding locomotive. But if it wasn't for suicidal folks completely inconsiderate of the time schedule, the trains in Japan would probably never be all that terribly late. All in all, I must say, that it is pretty darn impressive.

So here is a breakdown of my daily commute.

5:00 AM ... Wake up.
6:10 AM ... Ride bike to tram line.
6:45 AM ... Switch from tram to JR line.
7:00 AM ... Switch trains at main station. Buy breakfast.
7:24 AM ... Ride train to destination.
7:50 AM ... Arrival.

My breakfast usually consists of a coffee with a freshly baked panini. Now, I am a little behind on the times, because this was the first time I have discover the wonderfulness that is panini. The way the bakery at Kumamoto station makes paninis is splendid. They slice a small cut into a thin loaf, then put on all the toppings, seal back up the loaf, and throw the whole thing into the large oven.  The oven looks like a pizza ovens. Then after a minute, they pull it out, and presto--a panini!

I prefer the bacon, lettuce, tomato with cheese panini. The cheese melts inside, and it is truly scrumptious!


After that I head to school. Actually, I work at three schools. Two elementary schools and one junior high school. The transition from my old job, where I had taught at three different junior high schools and ten elementary schools, was fairly smooth.

The new faculty and staff, teachers and students, all gave me a warm welcome. Usually, when starting at a new school, it takes a few weeks for everyone to warm up to you. Especially the students. But this time, for some reason, it was completely different. The students keep asking what day I will come, and one of my junior high school 3rd graders (equivalent of a freshman in American high school) stated, "What days do you come to school? We always have more fun when you're here."

I'm glad they are having so much fun. Although, all I have really had time to do is chat with them in the hallways between classes. During class, Bikkuri Vick takes over, the crazy wild teacher--and goes wild teaching English. Gets the children motivated. My philosophy is, you have to raise you energy level to theirs, or at least the excitement of learning, if you want them to absorb what you're teaching. Also, when teaching ESL I have found that it really helps to be animated--the larger the gesture or expression is, the more likely they will be to make the correlations between the vocabulary and the action.


After a hard day of work, Bikkuri Vick often likes to stop for a drink. Of course, the preferred beverage is Bikkle. Why Bikkle? Because Bikkuri Vick likes to drink Bikkle.

Actually, you wouldn't know it by reading the English, but this is an inside joke with my students. In Japanese, there is no sound for the letter "V" so inevitably it becomes the letter "B." As such, the sentence, said in Katakana sounding English, becomes an extra humorous rhyme in Japanese.

"Bikkuri Bikku laikusu tsu dorinku Bikkeru."

Yes, I do. I do like to drink Bikkle.

After a nice refreshing drink, to cool off and regain my sugar levels, I walk ten minutes back to the station, and repeat my train hopping all the way home. I usually get home around 6:30 PM. Well, that's my daily routine involving riding the JR line! Busy, busy, busy.


P.S. This is the bike which gets me around. Notice the Bikkle along with the bento in the back of the bike.

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