I've been living in Japan for about 4 years now. My life in the countryside is pretty solitary. Of course I have my family, but as far as friends, I have only made a few through out my time here.
Work is going great! But my social life is not!
Now I should probably clarify that my schedule as an ESL teacher puts me in a unique position(that many ESL expats are in). I work when most of my Japanese friends are free. It makes sense that I teach English to Japanese people when they finish work. Only problem is, that is the same time, my Japanese friends are available to hang out. This formula has created a cycle of seeing my Japanese friends once or twice a year.
What about your ESL coworkers?
To add to my socializing dilemma, I live two hours from most of my ESL coworkers. Since I run my own business, I spend most of my time at my office in the countryside. I have met a few international friends that are also ESL teachers. But we have opposite schedules. Throw kids and a family into the mix and I have a similar situation as I do with my Japanese friends.
I appreciate people more
Needless to say I have a new found appreciation for the people I meet and hang out with (even online). This brings me to the title of this post. I recently met a kid at my local gym. He approached me after some of the members told him to ask me about weight training. It took a lot of courage but he walked up and introduced himself (in Japanese). He knew some English but apologized because he felt it was not very good. He told me that he used to play baseball for his high school, but had to quit the team due to an injury.
I made more than a new training partner
The kid was a big boy, about 190 lbs and 6 feet tall. He is 17 years of age and had his life was flipped upside down because of his injury. Since his scholarship was based on him playing baseball, when he got injured, he wasn'tjust kicked off the team, he was kicked out of school! I slowly learned more about him, while teaching him how to train light, around his hamstring injury.
Meeting the kids family
Eventually the kids parents asked me to come over for dinner. They also asked me to bring my family along. My wife was reluctant at first because we didn't know much about them. But she did know the boy, and we both knew that the boy was very friendly. I told her:
"A friendly kid like that must have an awesome family"
We agreed to come over for dinner on a Saturday. As we walked into the house we saw a variety of posters on the wall and sports memorabilia.It turns out that the kids older brother is a professional Japanese baseball player, and he plays for a Japanese team called the Marines. His older sister was a black belt in Judo and lived in a city near by called Akashi. She did a homestay a few years back and could speak English. She actually called the house while I was there and spoke to my wife and I over the phone.
Awesome kid and awesome parents
During the last few weeks training the kid I noticed a few ticks. He sometimes made some strange facial expressions. I figured some people make different types of faces while lifting weights(just look up some of faces Arnold makes when he works out). But I noticed over dinner, the kid would sometimes quietly grunt a little to himself. My psychology background started to kick in and I realized that something was up. Before I finished my assessment, the parents thanked me for training him and told me that the boy was born with slight brain damage. I was shocked!
Having a big heart is more important than having a big brain
I started thinking about how I met the kid and realized how much courage it took for someone like him, to approach someone like me. Over dinner I learned that his parents worked with special needs kids all their lives. This was before he was even born. They felt that the universe gave them their son and knew he was in good hands. I held back my tears of joy. These people were truly the most awesome Japanese people I've met in my time here.
I thought about how this kid makes time to work out with me before he goes to work.That's right! Since he's not going to school he got a part time job to help out at home. I was just floored about how kind this kid is. It goes to show that having a big heart can make up for anything. Here I was saying that I don't really get close to people because of my schedule, and this kid accommodates me into his schedule, even though he is dealing with so much more.
Really cool family traditions
During dinner,some more people showed up and they introduced me to another kid that wanted to learn English. We exchanged contact information and the kid is going to join one of my elementary classes. I was really appreciative of the reference and it was all thanks to my new friend. Everyone was really friendly. Before the night ended the father told me about a little family tradition they have.
Whenever people come over, before they leave, everyone says one goal that they want to accomplish before they meet again next time. One by one, young and old, we stood up and said what are goals were. After we were done we would clap and say GANBARE( 頑張れ) (try your best). It was really cool! My wife told me she felt like we were at an event. I told her that raising a kid with special needs must come with a lot of negative stigma from society. To make up for this, a positive atmosphere at home is needed. This family had an amazing positive vibe!
The boys goals were to get his diploma through an adult school and nail a new job interview he had coming up.As well as gain muscle and bench press 225 lbs by his next birthday in August.
I saw the kid today and I'm happy to inform you that he got the job! Now we just got to work on his bench press!
It just goes to show how far a positive attitude can take you in life!
I am really lucky to be this kids coach and I will try my best to help him achieve his training goals!
Social Gelo with Angelo
Sifu Angelo Ferrer ( Kajukenbo 2nd Degree Black Belt Instructor/ M.S. Psychology)