In the meantime, I signed up with a tutoring agency with the idea that I might teach pronunciation and usage to the approximately three hundred thousand people living around here for whom English is not their first language. If I can get a few of those each week, that would actually pay well enough to make up the difference between my financial aid and what I need to live.
- - -
Today I am reminded of when I first moved to Japan. I got hired by a school within about three weeks of moving there, but what with visa changes and other silliness, it was the beginning of June before I started work, July before I got a partial paycheck, and August before I got a full paycheck.
All of which meant that I had to make what little money I had stretch as far as possible, a task which would have gone much more smoothly if: A) I'd had a proper kitchen (the dorm had a shared kitchen, and I had a fridge in my room just about big enough to hold two sandwiches); and B) I wasn't smoking two packs of Cabin Mild cigarettes per day. (Yes, thank you; I quit some six and a half years ago.)
So, in order to make the yen flow slowly, I tried to do as few expensive things as possible.
Here is a complete list of everything one can do in Kyoto that costs nothing:
1. Walk around the city.
2. Look at stuff.
That's really about it.
So, that's what I did. I would wake up in the morning, have some sort of breakfast, then wander down to the Vivre department store and look around there, partly because they had cool stuff to look at, but also because they had Western-style toilets, as opposed to the dorm, which had Japanese-style ones. Vivre also had a music department, where you could listen to as many CDs as you liked, a bookstore, where you could stand there and read manga, a TV section, which, at about 10 or 11 AM would start showing Mariners games live on NHK, a grocery store
with all sorts of nice ladies handing out free samples, a game section with PS2s and GameCubes set up, and so on.
So it wasn't really all that boring, is my point.
I would usually grab an onigiri for 80 yen from the convenience store for lunch, and then walk down the river, or up into the hills, or downtown. I usually picked the direction at random and just started walking, stopping only when I got tired or found something interesting to do or see.
I would generally try to time my return for the evening after five PM, so I could stop by the grocery store again and buy a discounted bento lunch for dinner. Most stores make their bento fresh every day (or buy them from a service), and the ones not sold by five PM or so get heavily discounted. Lots of university students would take advantage of this, and I learned pretty quickly how to shoulder them aside to get that last tonkatsu-and-spaghetti combo.
In the evening, I'd either go to the Internet cafe and check my email (and talk to Yoshimi, who worked there), or go down to the pub and throw darts with Crazy Dave, who really couldn't stand to drink by himself, so he'd usually stand me to a pint or two. (When I started working, I repaid that favor, as often as I could.)
Just a quick stagger back up the riverside to get back home, and then I'd watch a DVD on my laptop until I finally fell asleep.
Those were good times, some of the best, and I knew it even then.
But even then, I was learning:
There will be other good times.