Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Quest for a Better Lifestyle

Wysteria are a common sight in Japan.

by Kevin Burns

Originally published in the Vancouver Sun.

For many readers, children and adults, the brain drain is more than an abstract theory.

Quest for a better lifestyle

Sayonara, Canada:People laughed at Kevin Burns, when he said he would own his own school. Now he has four.

Minami Ashigara Shi, Kanagawa Ken, Japan

I am lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. At this moment, I am sitting on a hill top,
looking out at miles and miles of trees. It is so green, beautiful and only 10 minutes from my home.

I don't live in the Great White North anymore. It is sad that in Canada today, you often have to move
somewhere else to do what you want to do. Yet it also angers me to hear people complain that there's no work
in their home town and that is why they are on welfare or employment benefits--as if that explains everything.
I want to scream at the TV: "Move then! Go to where there's work!" There are many displaced Canadians
in this country. They cannot get a decent job back home.

I decided that I would be a teacher when I was 26. If I liked it, one day I would own my own school. People
laughed. With a Bachelor of Arts in theatre, I landed a job at one of the biggest English language conversation
schools in Japan. I learned enough to open my own school two years later. I now have a small chain of four
schools, an hour and a half south of Tokyo, and one of them is in my Canadian, Victorian style house.

Teaching English in Japan is a funny business and not easily defined. It is part entertainment, part modeling
and part education. Studying English week after week can be incredibly dry and progress slow. But if you
liven up the classes with humour, and make them into your own David Letterman or Larry King Show, the
students keep coming back for more. I sometimes don a funny nose and glasses for my class of high-powered
business executives. Sometimes I am not sure if I do it for them or for me. It keeps me sane.
My first school grew to more than 100 students in the first eight months. So I hired two part-time
teachers to help, a Canadian from Victoria and an American from Missouri. I believe in free trade.
After work, I kick back with a Labatt's Blue, watch Kids in the Hall on TV and , if I get bored,
a Mike Myer's video. Is this Canada or Japan? Would you like a Canada Dry before we go further?
That Scott Thompson is funny, eh?

My Japanese wife is great. She owns a small boutique and manages our schools. We have three beautiful children,
Jonah is six, Sennah, four, and Shanaya two- who all have the blessing of Canadian and Japanese citizenship.

Although I miss my family very much and can never really go back to the home I left, I like it here.
Where I am at this moment is quintessentially Canadian. What could be more Canadian than sitting among
tall cedar trees, listening to the birds, on a hot, sunny summer's day?

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