Sent: Wednesday, November 14
Hey, you guys know anything about marcus evans? In their ad they said they were a conference-based strategy company, which sounded surprisingly like something with which I actually have experience, so I threw them a resume and I now have an interview in Tokyo next week. My present problems, however, are twofold:
1) I think I need to buy a suit. All Japanese businessmen wear full suits all the time, and although I'm interviewing with what is apparently a fully foreigner-staffed department, I'm still not sure if my blue jacket-green pants combo is going to cut it. I also left my good shoes at home. I'm going to do some hunting today.
2) The opening was in the sales department. Is this a BAD idea and I should run away now, now, now? Quite frankly, I'm hoping to get a foot in the door and work more on their presentations and conferences if all goes well, but they probably won't like that idea. I'm worried that they have openings in this department because previous staff members have self-disintegrated. They asked if I had plans to be in Tokyo at any particular time so that, if things didn't work well, it wouldn't be a total waste - I think that was a somewhat subtle hint that I'm one hell of a long shot. Ah well. Could be fun. I want to see Tokyo anyway.
3) Okay, realistically, I have tons of other little concerns, but they mostly involve what to do with people out here and they're not exactly concerns of yours.
As for my Japanese, I seem to have the misfortune of meeting Japanese people who speak English very well, so it becomes vastly impractical for me to try to communicate in Japanese. That, and I haven't heard from my language exchange partner in two weeks and since the world stays sane and manageable as long as I remain in my house, I'm not too inclined to call him up myself. He said he'd call me anyway.
My buddy from Ottawa actually called me the other day, and had the misfortune of catching me during a class, so I couldn't take the call. It must have been 3:00 in the morning when he called - what a nut. Anyway, calls from friendly Canadians are always appreciated, although they will most likely be picked up after 9:00 most days (8:00 am your time) or any time on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
More news next time I have an hour of inexpensive e-mail...
Sent: Tuesday, November 20
Guess what I have at 5:00 today?
A job interview in Tokyo!
I get to spend lots of money to get my posterior out to Tokyo on the Shinkansen (bullet train). I'm considering finding a hotel and making a two-day trip out of it since I don't work again until Friday.
This is turning out to be a $1000 trip to Tokyo. I now have new shoes and a new suit and I wanted to get a new shirt and tie, too, since I have only two shirts and two ties I like and I have to wear a shirt and tie at work every day, but I decided that I didn't want to make this "My $1500 trip to Tokyo". I can wait till next month.
I was considering busting out my traveller's cheques and buying a laptop while I'm in Tokyo (there's apparently a street where they have used ones sitting in baskets outside in the street, and they're quite cheap), but I've decided that I want to keep my emergency "flight home" reserve available at all times, and if I get a laptop now I'll be somewhat impoverished and dependent on another paycheque ere I can return home in an emergency or if I get really irritated with my boss and quit. Did I mention I get paid once a month, and only fifteen days after the end of the pay period? Did I mention that it's entirely inconvenient? In mid-October I got a lovely $350 for the week I worked in September, and had to wait another month for a real cash infusion... which I have now largely blown. But my rent is paid. Yay!
One last note on bills and peculiarities out here: I specifically asked that my cell phone bill be applied directly to my bank account, and, of course, I just received a bill in the mail that I have to pay manually. I even asked the sales clerk to do it in Japanese AND English and she assured me that she understood. This country prides itself on good service but the service people are only interested in providing the services they're used to providing. But the weird thing is that the convenience stores here are so universal (and open 24 hours) that most bills can be paid there, as with my telephone bill. You can't get money after 9:00 pm, but you have to be able to buy a bag of snacks at 2:00 in the morning. Go figure. As for the phone bill, given my past experiences with automatic account deductions, I've decided that it's probably a good thing that I'll have total control over when I feel like paying. Besides, I'm told that it takes them a month to cut off your service if you stop paying, and that sounds like it'll be a nice option when I change cell phone companies next year.
Okay, I have to get going if I want to give myself a few hours to find the place I have to go in Tokyo. Later all.
Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2001
Subject: Updates one hour at a time
I'm using a public computer near the local city hall. I have free access to the slowest internet in the world for no more than one hour a day, and I'm not allowed to use disks. I can also pay for faster access with allowed disk use at an internet cafe; it's about ¥400 per hour, but free is much better. Most of the foreigners end up here. I want to buy a laptop, but I don't have the cash to grab one right now. I just blew my first paycheque on a suit and a trip to Tokyo, which I'll probably detail in my next mass missive. But I do own a nice suit now!
...although, even if I get a laptop I won't have net access since my house doesn't have a phone line. Funny thing when you travel: you realize how unique North America's inexpensive and universal phone lines are. I have a cell phone since it's the only practical way to communicate. Most English teachers move every few months anyway. And yes, I got a flip-phone too. I went with an inferior company entirely because I liked the ergonomics of their phone. Most of them were built like ice-cream bars, but this one was shaped like a computer mouse and made by Panasonic, which is a company I rather like. There are tons of cool features on the thing that I pay for but can't use because I need to set up an IP or something to get net access, so instead of downloading games and music instead I just get charged for trying to access them. The nice thing is that everyone is either polite enough to put their phones on manner mode (i.e. vibrate) or at least the large variety of ringing tones means the damn things aren't as completely obnoxious as they are in North America. Fur Elise again? Anyone? Anyone?
My phone was free, and I pay about $60 a month for 3 hours of free talk time ($0.18/min after that) and 300 free Skymails, which are like e-mails to phone addresses. They're cool, but limited to other people who are signed up with my company or one other compatible company.
The bamboo was... I don't know if it was dense or sunny, really... it was on the side of the hill at this huge slope so I couldn't really go into it. I discovered that there's also bamboo on the hill near my house, though not as much.
The waffle-like pucks are actually called "imagawa yaki", which I can remember because I can actually read most of the Kanji. "Yaki" refers to something baked (there are a lot of Yakis out here - Yaki Soba, Taiyaki, Tacoyaki...), while "imagawa" is a place but the Kanji are "now" (ima) and "river" (kawa) which I can actually read. Incidentally, Taiyaki is the slightly more expensive, fish-shaped version of the pucks. The bean filling is called "anko". It's in almost everything, but the "smooth" and "chunky" versions have slightly different names, and while the smooth version is tasty, the chunky version is a bit too much for me.
The sushi here is plentiful. As for taste, it's supposed to be excellent around here partly, I think, because Shizuoka is the country's top tuna producer. I'm not too sure because I keep buying the cheap stuff at the local store at lunch time. I love it: they charge differently depending on what's inside, so I can get cucumber sushi for ¥240 or crazy expensive some-kinda-fish sushi for ¥400 - and that's for 12 rolls. I usually pay about ¥280 for a cucumber-fish combo. I had sushi proper on my first night here because it was my housemate's birthday and some people brought in a giant platter, but I haven't had it since.
I finally learned how to make Tempura sauce, so I've been using that a bit - it involves throwing soy sauce, water, sugar and this ground fish powder into a frying pan and simmering it for a bit. It's quite good, but the fish powder makes your cupboard smell bad, and I've only had the patience to do it once. Tonight I might make a whole bunch of it and save some for later. As for Teriyaki, it doesn't exist. It's just the name of a style of cooking and only fast-food places use the taste as a sauce. But Tempura sauce is the same kind of thing, so I'm cool now. It took me many sessions talking to some guys in our free conversation class to figure all that out.
As for suits, I'm lucky I'm about the same size as most Japanese people, but if I gain more than 5 pounds I have to buy a new one.
Look for a massmail in the near future... I'm hoping to get it done for next week (but ya know, this hour-at-a-time-thing...)