I started sketching in earnest back in late July and since then I've created about 15 works (trying to complete works at a pace of one a week). Also since starting this routine I've found my skill drawing perception has been steadily getting better and better. Some of my works are even beginning to take on the effect of black and white photographs.
On the physical side of things I've been keeping up my regular exercise (jogging three days a week and going to the gym once a week). My weight has plateaued at 62kg's but my arms, chest and waist are getting firmer. My sternum is like a hard board now which I think is a good thing because it was like a pillow before. :p Winter is coming on a pace so I think my outdoor physical activity will start to lapse. I'll probably put on a bit of weight but I know the trick to losing it now when summer comes around again.
Anyway, I want to get around to the topic I wanted to talk about. You might be wondering why I called this post 'The Eiken Club'. Eiken is an abbreviation of 英語 (Eigo meaning English) and 検定 (Kentei meaning examination). It's an English oral test so students can get a proficiency mark to travel overseas or get into the university or high school they want. hundreds of thousands of Japanese students take this test twice a year when it is offered. It's well known by everyone as 'THE' English test. There are hundreds of text books to prepare for it. DS games, computer software, CD roms and other material all dedicated to passing Eiken. Needless to say the Japanese place a lot of stock in this test.
For foreign teachers who are struggling to get work at decent paying cram schools or finding it hard to gather private students you would think that it would be a lucrative racket to get involved in but for some reason there are very very few foreigners certified as Eiken examiners. In fact most Eiken examiners (probably 99%) are Japanese teachers, tutors, principals and others involved in Education.
I don't know the exact reason why there are so few native teachers involved in one of Japanese biggest English examinations but I think the reason might have to be with the fact that it's quite an exclusive club. You cannot 'apply' to be an Eiken examiner. You have to be referred by someone who already is an Eiken examiner. Considering a lot of foreigners in Japan have a limited number of Japanese friends (many of which are probably not involved in teaching) they have no chance of getting a foot in.
Luckily in my case I knew someone already involved in Eiken and was referred onto STEP (the institute which runs Eiken) by him. I completeed the online training which involves watching a how to video. Reading the grading criteria. And other small things. In total it took maybe 3 hours and a couple if minutes after I got my first examining gig at a high school not far from me.
Today I went along to the test site and sat as an examiner for Eiken for the first time. There were about 15 other examiners at the test site but I was the only non-Japanese examiner there. The other examiners turned out to all be English teachers at local high schools and had a good grasp of English (still accented with a few odd phrase choices mind you).
In total I tested about 40 students and the time went by quite quickly. My only complaint was having to wear 上履き (Japanese indoor slippers) in a freezing cold classroom. Probably went for a wee 10 times in 3 hours. Lunch was provided which was good. A high end convenience store bento so I couldn't complain about that. Numeration wasn't half bad either :)
All in all it was a good experience and I hope I get another chance to do it.