Off to the Orient
April 30, 2003
With a direct flight from New York City to Tokyo for only $400, savings from a season of waiting tables at Cache Cache and a desire to teach English once again, Jevon Allen is off to Japan for the summer.
“Or until they ask him to leave,” joked a friend.
Allen spent two years teaching English in the city of Toyokawa, Japan, a couple of years ago – an experience that shaped his life. Located just southwest of Tokyo on the Pacific coast, Toyokawa (which means “plentiful river”) has become somewhat of a second home for Allen. “I love it there, and I’m excited to go back,” he stated at his send-off party last Saturday night.
His home this winter was at “The Brown House” on Cemetery Lane – also the setting for his bon voyage party. The historic housing complex has sheltered many a ski bum over the past decade. Currently 12 tenants reside there.
Allen’s neighbors, housemates and friends joined him for the send-off celebration. “It’s a $100 party at a house with a million-dollar view,” proclaimed one guest on the back porch.
“I’m ready to go back and see my friends,” said Allen, who speaks conversational Japanese. “It takes six years to become fully literate so I wouldn’t consider myself fluent in Japanese yet.”
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As an English teacher, Allen encourages his students to try to speak a foreign language in a comfortable learning environment. “In Japan, the word ëchigoui means both `different’ and `wrong,'” he explained. In Japanese culture, mistakes are looked down upon, which can impede the process of learning a foreign language. “The school where I worked, when I lived there a couple of years ago, is a really welcoming learning environment. We really encourage people to feel comfortable.”
After his trip to Japan, Allen hopes to write a book about his travels through Asia. “I’ve spent quite a bit of time over there traveling around the Himalayas, Bali, Laos, Japan, Cambodia and Thailand. I’d like to document my experiences.”