I remember my last few days at AEON quite clearly. I was already having issues getting my boxes shipped to Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories in Kagoshima, the luggage service still relatively unknown to me. On top of that, AEON usually has the incoming teacher occupy the outgoing teacher's apartment, meaning I had to vacate two days prior to my leaving Hiroshima. No worries, though, as they usually put you up in a nearby hotel (I actually got shifted between two; how can a hotel in Saijo ever be booked solid??).
My last few days, as you might imagine, were rather hectic:
- Getting my boxes transferred to Kagoshima
- Keeping just enough supplies for those last few days
- Training the new teacher
- Disconnecting my internet service, settling final bills
- Planning my farewell speech and gifts to teachers
It should be noted that my branch of AEON was a pretty tense working environment since I had disrupted the group harmony by posting my teaching experiences on this blog. I couldn't really read anyone's expressions in the end; I didn't even know if I had a single friend at that branch (really liked the part-time teachers, strangely enough). Whereas another outgoing teacher had been treated to a nice dinner party with gifts from most of the staff, I would have been relieved to receive a handshake and "thank you".
That's more or less what happened. My dinner party went through without a hitch (a few days before my last teaching day), though I did pay 4000 yen for everything there. After my last class was finished, the teachers and staff gathered at a nearby restaurant for one final dinner, where I received a chopstick holder and cover... something they probably got at a 100-yen store. I didn't think much of it at the time, but it occurs to me now that gift really was as close to a slap in the face as the staff could manage. Think about it... a chopstick holder... yeah... that's exciting. Still, I just thanked them for their gift, offered my own - a Texas T-shirt for the assistant manager - and walked outside for the final farewells. My last paycheck, end of contract bonus, and airfare stipend added up to about 400,000 yen, which I had in hand as I bowed to each teacher in turn, bade each of them farewell, and set out to walk down the street as I had done so many nights: leave the glowing sign of AEON behind, pass the hair salon, duck slightly under the hanging vines, cross the river, maybe pick up a snack at Lawson convenience store, cross the street at the all-night diner, pass the Ford dealership and the Hiroshima Bank, then take a left turn to face my apartment building.
That last walk still sticks out in my mind. A huge relief, a sense of a job well done, satisfaction having stuck out the year, more satisfaction with the money in my pocket, and a bit of sadness over leaving Hiroshima. Less than twelve hours later, I took the shinkansen heading west.