Monday, September 07, 2009

hosting at leafcup

Many have wondered how I managed to survive Tokyo after what had happened. I myself wondered too, given the fact that Tokyo knocked London off from the top spot in the list of most expensive cities this year.

Sometimes I thought how surreal it felt to be unemployed, and still living in the world's most expensive city.

But many times God amazed me with His provision and blessings.

Through a dear Swiss friend, Andreas, I managed to find a part-time job which was just a station away from where I lived. Many times I cycled to work, especially since spring and summer provided great weathers to be out at.

Leafcup was started by Kanta-san, who used to work in the IT industry for top financial companies, making a good living but didn't quite like the stressful lifestyle. He decided to open up a cafe catering to Japanese who want to improve their English speaking skills.

There are many such cafes around Tokyo and other cities in Japan with a similar concept, but many did not do well when the economy went into recession. On the contrary, Leafcup continued to flourish and have expanded into providing English lessons and have branched out to Yokohama just last month.

I loved working there because of its relaxed and friendly atmosphere. In fact, the job itself was pretty stress-free! Being a chat host, I just needed to facilitate conversations between a maximum of 6 customers, all seated in a circle at one of the tables in the cafe.

There are always 2 types of tea available, unlimited refills for both host and customers. We chat about anything under the sun.

The Japanese are always keen to talk to foreigners who are living in Japan, while improving on their conversation skills. For the chat hosts, it's a way to get to know locals who sometimes seem shy to open up in a language they're not quite familiar with.

It can be quite a challenge making sure everyone has equal "talk-time", some of the chatty ones seem to want to share about everything about their lives, while the timid ones would rather be asked questions.

After watching Gokusen, I felt even more inspired to "teach" them, even though I actually didn't have to do that. I've never actually taught before (outside of Sunday School), whatmore to adults so it was really a good experience.

A lot of them were students studying for their TOEIC exams, some were working adults seeking to be proficient in the international language, while there were even older ones whom I admire for wanting to improve on a 2nd language.

Even though I only worked once/twice a week, and the money only lasted me for meals, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The other part is cycling to and from work. I missed being able to just go anywhere on my bike, not being restricted to train schedules and traffic situation, not forgetting getting a good workout too.

There were lots of times of reflection on the bike, and having that job was a blessing, no matter how small it felt.

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