31 1月 2015

A long-ass post

Day Written: Jan 30th, 2015 and Jan 31st

    So it's been one week and on wednesday I got an email asking me what time on Friday or Saturday I am free. I told her I and free after 5 on Friday and all day Saturday. 

    Well today is Friday and I started to get worried because I didn't get a reply from my email. It figures she got sick and wasn't able to reply. No worries. You need your time to rest right? So she was able to send me an email today around my lunch time, and probably she will call Saturday at 11am. 

    Which means my free krispy kreme ticket won't go to waste. Today is the last day and I honestly thought that I would have to let it expire and not use it. :../ 
    So my plans just changed at the last minute, and now I'm definitely going to Aeon (the mall), even though it's almost an hour drive just for an average mall. But I get to have krispy kreme, Starbucks, an atm machine conveniently inside the mall, and check out the bookstore. I do kinda wanna go to the Kaldi store (where they have foreign goods from random countries, so no true target customer) and get cereal and oatmeal but I forgot the money at the apartment. 

    And I know my problem is that once I step inside that apartment, I'm totally in my comfort zone and don't wanna get out. Even if I need some food. Plus it's a Friday. The most laziest day in my schedule. It's completely my time after work to waste it as I want. 

~ * ~

    It's now Saturday, and my schedule for yesterday kind of changed. Apparently if you tell the school that you pucked, the school nurse will advise you to go home early. At least that's what happened to me. Immediately after lunch, I threw up all my food. Not that I ate much. But the problem with that is that some of it didn't make it to the toilet. Actually I didn't even get to the toilet at all.
    Part of it came out in the hallway (outside area, so no one steps on it). Then I ran as fast and as safely as I could to the bathroom but puke was already coming out and I had to do that awful thing where you hold it in your mouth, which just makes you want to puke more.
    So instead I went and threw up in the trash can of this room next to the bathroom. Luckily no one saw. But I still had the problem of picking up my own puke that was outside.
    I asked the cleaning lady if she had any plastic bags, told her the reason, but then she went and told the nurse, and then the nurse told me it was ok. That she would pick it up and that I should go home. But in my head I'm thinking, I'd rather pick it up myself. I honestly don't mind. It's picking up other peoples puke that I can't handle as well.

    But she insisted, and insisted that I ended up calling Interac and telling them that the teachers said it was ok to leave early. I called because I figured they would give me a more direct "order". But it was all kind of messy and annoying.

     To explain it more easily here's what happened:
  1. teachers told me it was ok to leave early
  2. I tell teachers I'll call Interac to see if THEY also say it's ok
  3. I call Interac and tell them what the teachers told me
  4. Interac tells me they'll call the teachers to see if it's ok with them
  5. Interac calls the school and talks with the secretary and the head English teacher who I assist (JTE)
  6. I talk to Interac via the phone of the school
  7. I talk to the JTE again and say it's ok.
    Trust me. They make things more complicated than what it needs to be. 
    Recently in my last visit for the Kindergarten, one of the teachers had the schedule ready for me. But the secretary said to send it to Interac first, and then Interac sends it to me. But I thought, mmmmmmmm,

    Why send it to a middle person in Nagoya whose priority is not my schedule nor my time, and will take more time because they wanna translate SOME of the schedule in English since they believe I need that, when I'm sitting in the same office as the other teacher and she can quite literally give me the schedule in hand?
    Is it not easier to give the schedule to Interac AFTER giving it to me? 

    I mean they also take time to scan it, translate a portion of it (which if you're gonna translate a document, do it properly and not half-assed), and turn it into a PDF file (and not the complete schedule at one time let me tell you. It's like a student who sends you the first 2 pages of their report in one email and then 30 minutes later they send you page 3 and 4 in a second email, with all pages being a separate file). 

    If this was DePaul, my teacher would have replied to me saying to send all the pages in one file and in one email, even though you have already sent the whole thing. It makes life easier for everyone. But universities here are a joke (this is my opinion; the thing people write in blogs and diaries), so I doubt people actually learn anything valuable that prepares them for life and their occupations.

    But anyways, I know my viewpoint at the moment is very negative so I'll move right along to what I wanted to say. Which was this:

    I had thrown-up before, but I didn't tell any of the Japanese teachers. Just the Brazilian helper, but we both know that throwing up is not a cause to stay at home. It happens. You move on.

    I ended up going home early and just ate some food to fill my stomach, and took a one hour nap. Then headed to AEON (the mall) by highway. That costed around 4.20$? to use the highway. But I prefer the highway since there's no one in my way, I can drive at the speed I like to drive (pretty fast), and I can get there faster too since most people don't use the highway. And I learned you can use your credit card in those highway booths too. But cover up your nose since that booth is gonna reek of cigarette smoke. I guess they're just really bored that they end up lighting up some tobacco as they contemplate about their lives being spread on the open road.

    At least that's what I imagine.

    At AEON, I went straight to the bookstore. That's where I most loose myself. Even if most things are in Japanese and I can't read them. I just like books. And it reminds me of the reason why I like learning Japanese. Why I like learning languages.
    Because I wan't to read all of those books.

    Ok, maybe not all of them but at least the ones that interest me. And it's the best way to increase your vocabulary. I know this first hand, because that's the same thing I did with English.
    My mom knew my English wasn't good, or at least not up to the standards where I could survive on my own. So she was my teacher too and read books with me in English at home and started speaking more and more in English. Although I believe this also has a backside because without having a solid first language, it stops your cognitive thinking in your second language as well. And as I child I just liked talking in Spanish, because I liked it and nothing more.

    But to my point, I read and read, and because I naturally like reading anyway I started going to libraries and just picking up anything that looked interesting. Of course, being in ESL was a factor within all this but they all helped each other to increase my English. So when I look at books, all I want to do is understand everything and anything. You're being sucked into a world you're just curious to explore.

    I looked at most of the shelves, and stopped mostly at the 日本語 section. Looked mostly at childrens stories too, and a bit on English learning books. Which isn't much learning if you're translating everything into Japanese. All you need in your own language are the explanations, and maybe 2 - 3 sentences that translate only the portion of the grammar you're studying.
    Otherwise, it should be all in the language you are learning.

    Of course in the beginner level, you can't help but have a lot of your own language EXPLAINING things, but as you go up to intermediate and advanced, you shouldn't need your own language at all, because you have learned how to use dictionaries and sources to look for words or grammar. If the book is introducing something new, only unless you are in the advanced level should it explain to you in the language you're learning, but it should have a nice little glossary in the back or just a vocab chart within the chapters. Otherwise I don't see the problem in it having a short and blunt equivalent of your own language.

    This is the problem that I saw with most books that try to teach you Japanese from a Japanese bookstore. They don't have the equivalent. Even though the reader is specifically targeted from whatever language they are coming from. In my case, I'm learning Japanese through English. Learning it through Spanish would just complicate things (for me).
    They give the sample sentences so you know the grammar/word in context and some multiple choice questions, but essentially you are learning it in test form and not through acquisition. Even some level N3 books are introducing new grammar, but they don't show me the equivalent so I have no idea what I'm learning. So I figured it's best to stick with Japanese language learning books from English bookstores (including Amazon), and children books since they tend to have interesting stories.

    And I mean childrens books as those that are for elementary schoolers or those thick books that have 365 days of folktales, or interesting facts. I myself have one called 世界を変えた人たち 365, aka People Who Changed The World 365. What's strange is that they have a translation of the title in English saying "365 Ways To Change Your Life", but that's not what the title says at all.

    After that I got some donuts from Krispy Kreme, and then sat down on a nice comfy sofa and drank my tall hot chocolate that was around 4 dollars and something cents. I honestly don't care about the price because I've been deprived of my Starbucks for months now from being in the middle of nowhere. So 4 dollars isn't gonna hurt much. The next time I'll be having a Starbucks will be in March, so really. Let's get serious.

    With that said, AEON told me about the school location, and gave me their website which you can see HERE to look more info up. It's the Kita Senju Branch in Adachi-ku, super close to the Kita Senju train station. I mean it's literally a walk away. I've asked some people I know about the area and they told me it's a city area (compared to Saitama), and something about being an old town so there's a tomb. I've also searched it online but I only get things like famous places, which at the moment I'm not interested in.
    So my best friend has been google maps and just searching regular everyday places like supermarkets, malls, IKEA!

    So far I like it, and I read over some of the details they provide about the staff in the website. Although I used popjyso.com to help me out with vocab I don't know. But anyways, looks like a really good location. And some of the peeps I've met at the group interview will be located more or less around the Tokyo area, so excited to meet up again.

    For this location the contract is from April 1 2015 - April 20th 2016, with a much bigger paycheck than what I get now. So I'll be able to save more money. (With the salary I have now, I barely have enough left in my bank account to put towards savings. It's quite worrisome and stressful because I have to worry whether I spent too much this month or not, to be able to carry me over for the next month.)

    Training is from April 1 to April 10 with 80 dollars for a full day and half for a half day of training, and of course like they mention on the website, the rent for apartments is fixed. For the training, it's gonna be held at Omiya Training Center and the email tells me we should arrive there by 6/6:30 pm on March 31st , soooooo I'm not sure if we actually stay there or if we can live somewhere else for the meantime?

    Mk. Just asked a buddy of mine. He said we live there for the time being. So probably what I'll do is leave most of my things at Kento's place, and then just live out of my suitcase for that time.

    Oh and one last thing!

    This is a question my friend asked me. "What would you say to the young ones at school if they are thinking about becoming an ALT?"

    I would say:

  1. know your rights. Just because you work 29.9 hours, therefore being below 30 hours does NOT mean you are not eligible for shakai hoken (insurance. and the very important type).

    this is a lie that dispatch companies will tell you because they don't want to take responsibility for paying for employees health insurance. Thus this makes the practice illegal.!.!.!.

    If you are applying to JET, I wouldn't worry too much because it's through the government, but do keep your eyes open. And I would be extra careful with other dispatch companies.

    Essentially read ALL of your contract details, and if they don't give shakai hoken and give you this bullshit about you not qualifying, simply say no.

    Everyone in Japan is eligible for shakai hoken regardless of hours. In Japan, part time jobs and full time jobs are not so black and white in regards to hours like it is in U.S. Here a part time worker can work almost as much as a full timer, but they won't get much of a voice in things.
    People here work under one saying: If you don't ask me, I'm not going to tell you.
    But the problem with this is, you CAN'T ask about something you DON'T know. Thus making it hypocrisy. But you're not in U.S. You're in Japan. You're the newbie who's expected to ask questions about anything and everything.

    If I were JET or a dispatch company, I would give you much more information. Like how a teachers room is set up. Because the pile of information in that room is also important to you!

    I would tell you how schools are set up and how you only have 20 minutes or less to eat your entire lunch. You are welcomed to eat with the students, again, IF you ask. It's ok not to eat with them, but then they'll look at you like you aren't a team-player.
    And if you don't like the school lunches, just bring your own. Cancel your payments to their school lunches and prepare your own. That simple. That way you don't have to tell them that you don't actually like their food.

    Many people here don't separate emotions from judgement, so they will take most things personally. If you say you don't like rice, natto, squid, mushrooms, tomatoes, whatever. They're gonna look at you strange and emphasize again how delicious it is. But wait until they go home, or those kids grow up. They're gonna tell you all the foods they don't like, and don't want to eat.
  3. Make friends with BOTH Japanese and international people.
    Japanese will be your window to those things you don't understand as well to learning new things about Japan, and international people will be your window for frustrations, work comparisons, and simply taking a break from Japan's way of thinking.

    Japanese people will love to explain to you why they love eating rice (because they've been brainwashed after the economy had a surplus supply of rice and made it the staple food ever since). They'll love to tell you all things Japanese, even though you may already know about it. One thing you don't wanna do to much is say "I already know that".

    Again, they're gonna take it personal, and may not open up for other things in the future because "you may already know". Childish. I know. That's why you have your international friends.

    Some people say, "ooh. I'm in Japan. I don't wanna nor need to make foreign friends. I want Japanese friends". I understand that. But trust me when I say that there will be major differences at first. And if you haven't already experienced culture shock, it's going to be very difficult. A balance always makes your life happier and much more rewarding.

    Your japanese friends may know where to get the best sushi, but your international friends will know where to buy clothes and shoes your size. (That actually fit.) Or information to medical facilities that have western services as well as English speakers.
  4. Stay professional.
    In Japan, and some other Asian countries, emotions are not separate from the workplace. People here take effort in making you feel comfortable/happy/at ease/whatever. But if you upset someone, they're not going to want to fix the problem and it may be best for you to transfer. So be the strong westerner, and keep your emotions aside.

    If you're gonna cry, cry later. Because you need to stay strong and show them that you are level headed. Keep that sadness and anger, and savor it for the moment you leave. Not saying that everyone will leave, but just saying if you are, savor it for that last moment and then let SOME of it out. Just be honest and blunt.

    If that school doesn't respect your abilities and that you can do more, just say that. If they don't provide information about things that are important and which also affect your time at work, just say that. Personally, if someone hurts me, I have no reason to be nice to them anymore.

    So stay professional, be polite, and savor all that negativity for when it is most convenient for YOU.

    You are the best person there that can show them you are a hard worker and take your job seriously.
  5. Pay attention to your salary and checks every month.
    Keep a tab on how much you get paid and any insurance and deductions you have every month. It's important to know this so that you can keep a balanced life, and not be dead poor by the time the month ends.
  6. Call your friends and family back home. Talk to them often. Send boxes of things. Write some letters. Make calls. Heck, make plans to meet for the future.

    They are your support group, and as much as they are sad that you left, they will support you in what you want to do, so don't leave them hanging. Support them back. Keep track on their lives too.
  7. Always talk to other people who are in your same line of work. You never know when you'll find a better scenario and may want to change.
  8. Keep your options open. Don't settle. This is how people will take advantage of you, and you may not get much opportunities for advancements.

    As soon as that 3rd month rolled in, I knew that being an ALT was not going to be a job I will keep doing for many years. Some people like it, some people don't. I like advancements, and learning and improving my skills and abilities. And I like having responsibility. I don't like being in a position where I have to ask if it's ok to do something. It's annoying. I like being the boss. But if my job doesn't give me the opportunity nor the money to BE the boss, then I'll look elsewhere. It's that simple.

    Yes, I have a latino mentality when it comes to work. It's not a problem. There's this awesome thing called working in multicultural environments that Japan just hasn't grasped yet, hence why they have problems with most workers who aren't Japanese. And don't buy this bullcrap of Japan being a one race one culture country, 'cuz it's not. No country is. There will always be majorities and minorities, and being respectful is key to success.

    Think about it this way: if all "foreigners" suddenly left Japan (and I'm talking about EVERYONE, including those who are considered foreign but may not be so. So like all Chinese, Koreans, Brazilians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Americans, Brits, Ainu, second/third generations, halfs, everyone.) And no new foreigners ever entered Japan, do you think Japan would survive?

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