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775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ainít Easy Being Green
769: íTwas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Letís Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: Iíll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes íRí Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japanís Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters ďRĒ Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthingís Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Cafť Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Childís play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By Gil Cruz

Good company

Don’t believe everything you hear. Nova rocks!

Gil Cruz is a Titled Instructor with The Nova Group in Saitama

There’s a look of disgust, an awkward silence and the conversation dies. This is the usual response when I tell fellow foreigners I work for Nova. “What’s it like?” is the question that eventually follows—asked with suspicious, scrutinizing eyes.

Unfortunately, the company I have spent three joyful years with has received a lot of bad publicity and does not have the best of reputations. I therefore think it is time that the misinformed heard from me, a happy and (relatively) long-term Nova employee.

I admit there was a time when I had had enough. But after handing in my notice, I searched extensively for a bigger and better deal, which never came along. I thought long and hard about my unappealing job offers only to conclude I had it better with Nova. Fortunately, I was able to withdraw my resignation and stay with the company. Why did I do this? Please read on.

First, my job hunting revealed Nova’s starting salary (mid-¥280,000) is much higher than many other schools, regardless of an applicant’s experience. With debt like student loans, the more you earn, the more you can send home—and the quicker you can clear those bills.
What’s more, living abroad should be fun. I pity teachers I know from other companies who are incredibly inactive in their free time. This is not out of choice but because of money constraints. I have never had that problem. Especially after generous pay increments when renewing my contracts, I have always been able to live life in Japan to the max.
Many think that working for Nova is extremely hard work. That’s true—if you are lazy or were born with low energy levels. Our schools are famous for being right outside train stations. Combine this with sitting down for most of the working day, and the job hardly constitutes hard work. In fact, I find myself getting restless from sitting so much! And yet I was born with average energy levels.

To further combat the rumor that Nova works its employees to the bone, we recently changed our textbooks. The new books, which come with lesson management plans that explain how to teach every stage in a session, are proving popular with students and teachers alike. Simply “plug and play!”

Besides teaching, our unique shift-swap policy allows us days off whenever we like. Thanks to this, I have done more traveling in my three years with Nova than some do in a lifetime. There’s nowhere else left for me to visit in Japan. Thailand, Bali, the Philippines? Been there, done that, got the best massages of my life. When flights to SARS-stricken Toronto were practically being given away, I was there in a second. And does my family miss me? Not a chance. They see me too often for that. Twice a year, I might add. Recently my parents bought a house in Spain, and that is where I soaked up the sun last festive season—for three weeks, fully paid. Nova stands for “No Vacation”? I think not!

Acquaintances from rival schools argue that they have more paid holidays than I do. While that may be true, their holidays are inflexible and restricted to Japan’s peak traveling times. During that time, everywhere is more crowded and everything is more expensive. This discourages some people from doing anything exciting. What a waste of paid holidays! We Nova instructors, however, can take our holidays almost whenever we like, giving us the freedom to travel at the cheapest times. And we also receive generous discounts on package holidays from the Nova Tourism Bureau.

Supposedly, Nova employees lack opportunities to meet Japanese people, because we’re not allowed to socialize with our students. Are Nova students the only Japanese people in this country? For a long time now, I’ve been hanging out with more Japanese than foreigners—Japanese I met in my guesthouse, the gym, bars and clubs. Given the choice, I wouldn’t hang out with my students anyway. I’ve heard the adage about policemen never being off duty. That’s not for me. My time out of work is my time out of work. I don’t need Japanese friends who expect feedback on every English sentence they utter. Save that for the classroom.
Neither do I want to watch everything I do or say, in case my out-of-work antics interfere with my lessons on-premises. Students in Japan have great respect for their teachers, for their teaching. They don’t need to see me making the most of nomihodai offers, or upset their ears from accompanying me to karaoke.

Of course, Nova isn’t for everyone. But I hope you’ll think differently after my spiel, which was written by someone who almost turned his back on the company. If I had, I wouldn’t be where I am now: a travel-holic who also manages two schools and 12 instructors. Such financial, travel or career progression opportunities don’t come by every day. So I certainly have nothing to complain about.

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.