Yesterday was Sunday, and I had to work. One of the few times a year when all of the teachers at my English conversation school are required to gather in one place is the annual Tatebayashi business fair, where we wander around and press gang the locals into taking overpriced conversation lessons. As usual there were too many of us for the size of the fair, and it was raining on and off to boot, so we mostly used the opportunity to bitch about our company.

There’s plenty of fodder to go around – ranging from the recent quest of myself and my roommate to expel the indigent, antisocial son of the company owner from our house to the company’s evasion of and eventual refusal to allow a fellow employee to move into cheaper housing after her contract expired. We’re all on a continuum from amused to infuriated by the base incompetence of the company; the only reason most of us are still sticking it out is because things are so loose around here that we can get away with almost anything (read: doing very little work at times).

I met some of the other teachers yesterday for the first time. There was the closet anti-Semite New Age harmonium-playing conspiracy theorist philosophy major, the guy who lives on $30 a month for food (in Japan no less) and doesn’t let his roommate use his toilet paper, the ex-marine and Merill-Lynch broker who went from a life of luxury in the States to bicycling to work here in Ota, the token black chick with a HUGE chip on her shoulder, and some Jehovah’s Witness dude from Eastern Europe who looked about twice my age and didn’t speak English very well. Myself and my roommate were among the least overtly strange members of the group, and given that I spend a large part of my monthly pay on “Japanese popular art” this is a depressing statement. My roommate sums it up pretty well: everyone teaching English in Japan is fucked up, and the longer they stay the worse it gets.

After frightening several small children and forcing pamphlets into the hands of their parents we had lunch, surrounded by a woman playing a keyboard that was essentailly a glorified karaoke machine, a band of something resembling Japanese Shriners who spent several hours snaking their way around the parade grounds dressed in garish mockeries of Edo fashion and playing clarinets, saxophones, and drums in an arhythmic mess, and the amateur talent up on the converted semi-trailer stage across the way. Shitty karaoke music, shitty “ethnic” music, and shitty rock, coming from three sides.

They finally cleared the parade of wannabe Morning Musumes off the stage. By then the rain was a steady downpour and our target audience of English-convertable kids had shrunk to about half a dozen. We teachers were instructed to put on picture cards of animals, and in theory kids with matching cards would find us and we would teach them a few sentences about the animal. In practice it was a disaster; there was only one kid with my corresponding card, and I had to practically drag him up to the stage. “..b..bea.” say I like bears SAY IT “ai… raiku … beazu.” good now here’s your candy get me off this fucking stage.

That about wrapped things up; I got home at 4 pm after standing in the rain for seven hours with only a shitty 500 yen bento for payment. All in a day’s work for the professional English Instructor.