Life has a way of upending even the best laid plans, so when my current plans went about as far as 'holiday in Cornwall', life had no trouble in throwing them out the window. When I recently found myself on the wrong side of the latest management restructure I was therefore suddenly faced with a bit of spare cash and a dauntingly uncertain future.
As such, I started throwing around a variety of ludicrous ideas (in one sleep-deprived, caffeine-fuelled moment of madness I briefly considered spending it all on a video camera and filming my own horror movies in the hills of Pudsey) and eventually thought of teaching English in Japan. Whilst the less realistic horror-director, video-game-designer, dragon-trainer careers faded as rapidly as they had arrived, this one stuck. I had already started learning some basic Japanese to try and figure what everyone was shouting about in Lost in Translation, and soon the multitude of possible problems and niggling doubts I had fell away until I simply thought 'Why not?'
I'd done a tiny bit of travelling in my teens, and I had a hit list of places I wanted to see at some point, but I'd never considered the idea of fully living abroad before. My long-suffering girlfriend, however, was far more experienced in that area, having lived in Germany, Italy and, most terrifyingly, London. Her eyes lit up at the thought of my global horizons fianlly broadening beyond, again, that holiday in Cornwall.
So here I am, a guide to learning Japanese in one hand, a Japanese copy of Pokémon in the other, a Studio Ghibli movie on the TV, some pot-ramen brewing on my desk, and I'm getting ready to take my first tentative steps towards a TEFL qualification.
I've done a little teaching before, so I know a little bit about putting together a lesso, but my teaching experience is in secondary school science. That's dead easy to make interesting; you just blow stuff up and tell disgusting stories about the Norovirus. Teaching English? To little ones? How am I supposed to do that?!
I mean, English is hard! It makes no sense! Every linguistic rule I've ever been taught has got more exceptions than followers! I mean, how does it make sense that if you want to say an alarm has gone on, you'd say it's gone off? One mouse becomes mice, but multiple houses don't become hice. With all our crazy pronunciation, the word 'Ghoti' could end up as 'fish', and the less said about silent letters the better!
I have a genuine fear that at some point I'll have an exchange with a pupil like this;
"Sir, so what about sheep? Does that become sheeps? Or shice? Or sheeth?"
"Erm, no, it's still just 'sheep', regardless of how many there are"
"Sir, have you ever considered the idea that your language might be really really stupid?"
(To which I would reply "Well at least we haven't got three different writing systems", at which point I would become seriously concerned about the fact that I'm still arguing international grammar with an imaginary four year old).
However, through all the fear, I'm sure I'll figure something out.. So here I go, taking the first steps towards a new career in a new country. Wish me luck!