Aside from the day-to-day routine of playing with Kayla and Lucas, my parents and I have done our best to get out and explore the surrounding state parks, national parks, and national conservation and recreation areas. I found it surprising how many people I met during my travels around the world who had been to more US National Parks than most Americans I knew (including myself). In fact, in 2017 about 36% of international visitors to the U.S. visited a national park. I think there is a tendency for Americans to think they have to go abroad to find true natural beauty, but in reality some of my favorite scenic places are in the United States.
While it doesn’t seem like Las Vegas would be close to much, being in the Mojave Desert, it’s actually in close proximity to a lot of amazing parks. Just in the last few months we’ve visited Zion National Park, Valley of Fire State Park, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, Death Valley National Park, Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Hoover Dam). It is really amazing how these parks, all within a few hours drive of each other, are so entirely unique. And to my point above, it sure seemed like we were the only Americans visiting!
Zion National Park (The Narrows & Observation Point):
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area:
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park:
Lake Mead National Recreation Area:
Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area:
All of the parks in this area are amazing, but I really can’t recommend Death Valley National Park enough. The park is massive, covering 3.4 million acres, the largest national park in the US with the exception of Alaska (which includes the first, second, third, and fourth largest!). The attractions are unique and diverse, including salt flats, sand dunes, craters, colorful mountains, and exotic terrain. The park has really done an amazing job carving roads into the various points of interest, and if you go in early December like we did, it’s likely you’ll pretty much have everything to yourself!
Death Valley National Park (Zabriskie Point, Artist’s Drive, Ubehebe Crater, & Badwater Basin):
In other news…December has been a really big month for all of the Feldmans! Here are some updates:
My nephew, Lucas, had cochlear implant surgery and heard for the very first time. He is happily embracing his newfound sense of hearing and we can’t wait to continue watching him grow!
My niece, Kayla, turned three! With her birthday, Hannukah, and Christmas in the same month, she’s basically been opening a present-a-day throughout December.
My parents are officially Nevada homeowners! They closed on their house just before Christmas and we are in the middle of the move-in process.
Finally…(drumroll)…I got a job in Tokyo!
No…my job is not driving go-karts through the streets of Tokyo. Just after Thanksgiving I applied for a job at a company called Freecom and after about a month of intense interviews and waiting, I received an offer!
Let me back up a bit. Since I got home from my trip I’ve been researching English schools and scouring job boards in Japan. While I was initially really excited, I had actually lost some enthusiasm. After traveling for nearly a year and now enjoying a long stay-cation, I had been envisioning a somewhat noncommittal job, maybe even something part-time, that would allow me to earn some money while still maintaining a flexible lifestyle with plenty of time to travel. I soon came to realize that in order to acquire a work visa in Japan you don’t get to half-ass a job. Japan has a handful of large private schools called eikawas that tend to rack up terrible reviews on Glassdoor and demand long hours, little flexibility, pay minimum wage, and offer limited benefits, especially when it comes to vacation days. I was told this is just how you get in, you do it for a year or two, and then find something better or go home. But I wasn’t satisfied with that.
Then one day I came across an ad on a job board for a company called Freecom. What caught my eye right away was that they worked with professional sports teams in Japan, including soccer and basketball. I’m not sure why I didn’t apply right away, maybe because I hadn’t even finished my TEFL certification course yet, or because it was early November and I didn’t intend to go to Japan until March or April and it seemed too far off. But the more and more I got discouraged with other job postings the more I realized this could be a really good opportunity. Over Thanksgiving I enlisted the help of my Aunt Linda (who has significant experience with job search assistance), and my sister-in-law’s mother Kim (an English teacher), and set to work putting together a resume and cover letter. Very suddenly I found that I really wanted this job. I finally submitted the application through the job board, exactly three weeks after it had been posted, and received the following auto-response:
427 resumes. Ugh.
But to my surprise, just two days later I got an email asking for an interview. This interview would turn out to be with the CEO, where I would learn they actually had over 700 applications and were looking for three new employees. I thought my interview went really well. He was enthusiastic about my love of sports, we talked about Stephen Curry, golf, and the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Over the next three weeks the first interview turned into a second, and then a third. Finally, just minutes after a nearly five hour walkthrough and final signature on my parents new home in Nevada, the offer came!
I’m not sure I could come up with a better suited job for me if I created it myself. Who would have thought I’d find an English teaching job in Tokyo that allowed me to incorporate my love of sports, wear athletic clothes to work rather than a suit jacket, and actually provide opportunities for upward mobility. More to come on the job, but just one month after applying I now have a work visa application in process and a plane ticket for February 15th to start my new career in Japan. A lot can happen in a month!