Part 4: "I just exchanged messages with your head trainer, and he has confirmed there's no way you can pass training after today."
My room mate arrived the next day after I had spent hours upon hours of scrubbing my hands bloody and raw trying to remove the slick layer of grime from the apartment.
Among being Australian, tall and similarly aged, Stephanie had a head of short, bouncy brown curls, and dark-oak eyes which were lit with enthusiasm as she explained her reasons for coming to Japan. Turns out she was a well-travelled expat who had jumped aboard a plane the moment she graduated university, and had experienced teaching English to second-language students in countries I hadn't heard of.
When I pointed out I had spent the day cleaning the bathroom, she had enthusiastically asked, "We have a bathroom? I haven't seen one of those in months!"
I liked her easy-going nature, and a friendly face was what I sorely needed in a time of life transition. Our Australian traits complemented each other, and we were quickly up to mischief once training started; cat-calling each other during presentations, diverting every conversation to characteristics of drop-bears, and - if time permitted - daring each other to eat mysterious food during lunch (or ganging up on our American fellow teachers in training to try snacks we knew to be down-right awful).
Training was every bit draining and torturous as people had described; we were expected to be at a training classroom on the other side of Nagoya city by eight o'clock every morning (though, by day two we were arriving before seven-thirty - a five o'clock wake-up without breakfast), lunch was a combini (convenient store) scramble as we woofed down onigiri and bread in order to rush off to observe afternoon classes, and train transits were spent catching up on sleep instead of doing the pages of reading we were supposed to complete every evening. We easily clocked-in sixteen to eighteen hours a day of training, homework, and teaching.
While the majority of my training sessions and observation classes with veteran teachers in their schools were not too demanding (most of the veteran teachers were laid-back, very kind, and often joked about their cultural mishaps), there was one session which truly pushed me to the edge.
Hiding from Japanese Ghosts
Ghost stories are the least frightening thing about Japan when facing culture clashes, mystery food, language barriers, and - scariest of all - marriage.