Thursday, September 16, 2004

Here's a bit more, which I just wrote, so it's fresher.

10:55 am Sep 16
At Work

This keyboard is juuuuuust different enough to be irritating. All they did was move the quotation mark, @, apostrophe, semi-colon and various slashes. The result is that just when you get up to speed you come to a crashing stop. In some ways I suppose it’s easier, but it’ll take some getting used to. And word says my apostrophes are invalid. Wonderful.

Anyway, went to 6am meeting this morning, with bigwigs. Didn’t understand anything, got a lot of smiles, introduced myself to the owner of my company. That’s cool. Yesterday, crashed my moped – this thing seriously went over my head, we rolled, we danced together forward in a slow spiral of doom. Good thing I was wearing my helmet. I just stopped too suddenly, and must have had my weight forward. That sucked, ruined a shirt and kinda screwed up some pants. Not to mention it’s my boss’s moped. It seems to be running just fine, but now I’m always wondering “Did it make that sound before? Did it ride like this before?” Makes me wish I had paid more attention to how it felt to ride it. Ah well.

Found a dojo, I’m gonna go show ‘em what I can do on Saturday. If all goes well, I can go to kendo practice every morning at 6am before work, and then shower there. It’ll be magnificent. Then Saturday night after kendo I am going to go to a meeting over some sort of the English Speaking Society. I’d imagine that as a native speaker I could potentially help them out a bit, and in so doing start to repay the kindness and generosity of every Japanese person I’ve met since coming here.

Work is still not at all busy, they still haven’t given me any sort of “job” per se. I write reports every day of what I did all day, then the next day receive the report, with corrections, fix it, and send it out to various bosses. Then I write that day’s report. But I’ve been kept pretty busy. For example, last week I got a different lecture every day – about company history, about the computer system in the building, etc. Then this week, members of the Niihama Guide Club have been showing me around. This club seems to be just a bunch of Japanese housewives volunteering their time to show the occasional guest around Niihama and outlying areas. The only camera I have right now is attached to my cell phone, and so it’s not very good, but I’m going to try to attach some pictures as soon as I figure out where I can upload them.

Yesterday, we went out to the bridge that connects Shikoku Island to Honshu Island (two of the main islands in Japan – I’m in Shikoku). It might well be the largest bridge in the world. It’s actually a series of bridges over a series of islands. Yesterday, we went to Oshima Island, where we drove up a mountain, had salt flavored ice cream (it was delicious), visited a rose park, and saw a museum with armor and weapons. Every where I go there are beautiful vistas, ancient buildings and just dozens of things to look at. Nowhere in America will someone casually mention “Yeah, this was built 1200 years ago. Whatever.” Or “Yeah, from you can see the city you live in, 50 miles away.” I’m just constantly walking around with my jaw hanging open.
So I met some Gaijin this past weekend, mostly American and some brit/scot/irish/aussie as well. The rule of thumb is, if you’re not Japanese you’re an English teacher. What surprised me is, these people don’t speak ANY Japanese. They’re all like “Yeah, I’ve been here for 2 years…I’ve almost learned Katakana…” Katakana is the easiest of the three Japanese writing systems, and the one in which foreign words are written – I couldn’t even imagine living here without knowing so much as Katakana, especially since it takes maybe a day to learn. But I guess that just goes to show how friendly and accommodating the Japanese are – these people can live here, function on a daily basis, without even a rudimentary grasp of the language.

Anyway, according to these guys, there’s nothing to do in this town – they all seemed kinda bored with the whole Japan thing. Apparently they just drink a lot and do karaoke once in a while and that’s the life – so I’m not sure how much I dig that. I know just from my tour this week that there’s more than that, albeit maybe not much more. Niihama used to be a really thriving industrial city, but now it’s kind of a run down country town, with not much aimed at younger people. There’s a small technical college in town, so there are SOME younger people around – I gotta get to know them. So far, other than the Gaijin, I only know the girl at the Ramen shop in the mall who speaks English. Though I’ve spoken with her briefly a few times, I still don’t know her name, but I know she goes to the technical college so perhaps I can befriend her and in so doing have an in to the Niihama nightlife. We’ll see. Or, ya know, an in with a beautiful native who speaks English.

Prices in Japan are a bit different than in the US. Stuff that would be expensive in the US (like, say, Japanese food, for instance) seems on the whole to be a bit cheaper, but things that are cheap in the US (like, shampoo or whatnot) tend to be more expensive. In the states I can get a 99cent bottle of shampoo, while here the cheapest I’ve seen is about 4 bucks. I guess given that most of my money went to Japanese food in the states, I may actually save a few bucks here. :-D

Todd, one of the Americans here, is leaving next month. As a result, he will sell me his PS2, which includes the internet adaptor. The price is going to be 60% of whatever such a system used normally goes for, which is a good deal for me. I expect about 10,000 yen (100 bucks), maybe 12,000. Video games fall into the category of “more expensive” out here, so when Metal Gear Solid 3 or Final Fantasy 12 come out, I’ll probably be shelling out about 70bucks. But it’s cool.

In terms of pop culture over here, I’ve seen pretty little so far, but the hip new thing in music seems to be a group called “Source”, who just released their second CD (featuring KJ from Dragon Ash, as it were). I can’t afford new CD’s over here (those fall in the category of way more expensive, ranging up to about 50 bucks a disc for popular artists, it seems), but I can go listen to the new stuff at Tower Records and then go buy used old albums by the artists I like, so it works out.

These updates, you have by now realized, are really chaotic, and I rarely keep the same subject between paragraphs. I hope it doesn’t seem so spaced out as to be difficult to read. This is just the way my mind works and I won’t apologize, damn you.

So according to my boss, when I write my daily reports I need to, at least at first, think in English and then translate, using a dictionary. For example, I talked about various artifacts on display at a history museum that I saw yesterday – but in my report, I discussed “things relating to Japanese history that were in a museum.” It makes for very childish writing, I suppose. I need to try harder – mayhap henceforth I shall write my reports in English first and then translate. Then eventually I’ll be able to write them in Japanese.

So I go to meetings now, like I’m some sort of person who belongs at meetings. Everyone takes notes, as do I – but my notes are just words that I don’t understand, which I then take back to the office and look up. It’s a life.

So yeah, for reference if you ever need it, my address is:

792-0032 Ehime-ken Niihama-shi Masaeda-Cho 3-3-6 #403

A package of cookies now and again would be appreciated. *cough cough, hint hint* Also, my phone number is 81 090 1175 9071. I think. The 81 is a little sketch – that’s Japan’s country code, I’m not sure if you need to dial anything else to call me. However, if that gives you trouble, try dialing 011, then that number. At any rate, the important thing is, call me some time.

And that’s about enough of writing my journal for the time being. I got about 4 hours left of work, during which I will learn, god willing, about 30 kanji. Maybe I can figure out a bit about my phone, as well. Like how much the long distance call I just put in to Dan cost me. Cuz it doesn’t say. But it should. Dammit.

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