What’s been going on…

I very rarely talk about myself here. I like to put a little distance from my personal life and my “official” pages, but I’ve gotten a few questions recently that have wanted me to divulge a little more into my life in Japan.

Since this can easily turn into a huge, unnecessarily long novel, I’ll present this in a sort of outline form (this is where my “left” brain takes control).

Long story, short

  • Studied Japanese in college (1999-2003).
  • One year study abroad in Nagoya (2001-2002).
  • Moved to Japan for work as an English teacher in 2005 and I’ve been here since.
  • Current total time in Japan = 12 years.
  • I love music, games, anime, and manga.
  • My favorite band is L’Arc~en~Ciel. My favorite singer is Hyde.
  • If I could go to karaoke 3 times a week, I would be happy.
  • I would love to get active in live shows as a vocalist but lack the courage or enthusiasm to do so.
  • I would love to get a job helping Japanese vocalists with their English. So many times I have come across talented artists who fail with English pronunciation. It’s such a waste. If only they got even the slightest coaching…

Japanese Ability

  • No Japanese classes were offered in my HS. I studied on my own with anime, manga, and games.
  • Took two years of Japanese classes in college before studying abroad in Nagoya.
  • Took many intensive classes at Nagoya Gakuin Daigaku, learning far more than my first two years combined.
  • Was a TA for my Japanese professor my final year of college. Graduated in 2003.
  • Took the JLPT Level 3 in 2004 and passed easily. Haven’t taken the test since then. ^^;;
  • I am not confident I could pass JLPT N1, but I would like to strive for that at some point. Simply put, teaching English, whether it be as an ALT or at a kindergarten/hoikuen, there is little time left to study or anything else for that matter (I have never been the best student, so self-study is a waste of time for me).

Here Comes the Black Cloud

  • As of March 2, I am unemployed.
  • The longer I live in Japan, the more in debt I become, and not due to poor life style choices. It’s mostly because of all the excess costs of living that add up (not to mention the racial discrimination regarding bonuses, among other things).
  • The salary I’ve been living on as an English teacher allows you to live from day to day, month to month; but I have been unsuccessful in saving *anything* for the long haul. Retirement? HAHAHA Funny stuff.
  • I’ve been fighting depression for a good 6 years or more and have lived with a pretty bitter, dark outlook on life in general. I try to indulge in my hobbies when I can afford it to take my mind off of the everyday reality of my pathetic life.
  • I’ve had some weird health issues recently, since last summer. I’ve gone to the hospital, but they couldn’t find anything wrong. I still had to pay them $400 that I didn’t have. Fun.
  • I still have weird health issues and I don’t have money to go back to the doc again (not enrolled in health insurance because they’d make me pay 3 years in retro payments…which would be over $3,000).
  • Generally speaking, my life is going no where but in the hole.

Since Moving to East Japan

  • I lived in Nagoya for a total of seven years (2001-2002, 2005-2011).
  • I moved to Yokohama in 2011.
  • I only had 2 different jobs in Nagoya, from 2005-2011.
  • Since moving to East Japan, I’ve had four in the course of five years, two of which only lasting less than a year (started mid-season due to circumstances out of my control).
  • My first job moving here was intentionally brief. It was enough to help me to move to the area and that’s about it. End of story.

English Teacher at an All-Girl’s JH/HS – SAGA

  • My next job was the first I had with an agency to teach at a private, all-girl’s university/gakuen at the Junior High and High School level, I’ll call it “SAGA” for all purposes here. A typical “gakuen” in Japan includes all levels of education, from kindergarten all the way through college.
  • I had a wonderful experience of teaching, and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching with my co-workers. I was active with the Keion club (the so-called “light music club”, although it’s closer to a “rock band club”) and art club.
  • It was a lot of fun, but due to the ambitions of the University, which wanted to employ someone with a higher degree to “re-envision” the entire English Department, I was the first one to cut. Out of the 6 foreign English teachers, I was the only one with a temp agency contract. The other teachers were direct hires.
  • My initial contract was for 6 months to cover the first term of the school year (April 2012) because the University wanted to get a teacher from their sister school in Canada to come lead the department. She failed to come for 2nd term, so I was offered the chance to extend my contract through the end of the year. I accepted. Again, the girl failed to come the next school year, and they offered me to stay, which of course, I did. But the girl was finally coming from the 2nd term of 2013, so I quickly had to find new work from August, which is a HORRIBLE time of the year to find anything.

The Half-year of Limbo – SHINA

  • I worked at a typical Eikaiwa (English Conversation School) for adults for the remainder of the school year, with hopes that I could find another job at a school somewhere…or maybe be accepted back at my previous school.
  • I ended up at a self-proclaimed “good” all-girls, private, Junior and Senior high school (SHINA), only teaching Junior High students. Working life sucked the first year. I worked in tandem with one other foreign teacher who had been there for 5-6 years and never failed to remind me of this whenever she could. I admired her experience and years (she was about 10 years older than me), but I knew right off the bat that our personalities clashed badly.
  • The other Japanese English teachers were cordial enough, but all the other teachers tired very hard to avoid my gaze. They would do anything to not acknowledge I ever existed. Walk past in the hallway? They’d find something so MASSIVELY interesting affixed to the wall to look at besides me. This pissed me off to the point that I found joy in loudly greeting them in Japanese to force them to acknowledge me.
  • One specific Japanese English teacher I knew HATED me, and that’s fine. It has nothing to do with our professional, working life. My opinion of my co-workers has nothing to do with my work, because I’m an adult and I can separate these two, very different things.
  • HOWEVER, if you disrespect me–in front of my students, no less–you will be put in your place. This particular Japanese co-worker, who was known to be the laziest thing ever and would often hand off her own work to someone else to do. Various fun things happened with this individual, but the one that stands out the most in my memory, mostly because it’s the most recent, was how broadly she smiled as she greeted me on the way to teach my last class of the year. This woman does not smile. She would only stand in the back of my room, arms crossed, and scowl at me the whole time. Yeah, lady. I can assure you, I am 10,000 more times happy to never see you again.

After SHINA

  • A teaching vacancy opened up at my previous school that I liked and was always hoping to go back to… but the university wanted to hire someone with a higher degree than I have, so they didn’t even consider me. This was the biggest stab in the back that I have ever experienced. These people have seen how active I have been with events and ceremonies to support my previous students even when I was no longer a teacher there, and yet all they care about is getting someone with better papers. Because that worked splendidly the last time. lol (long story).

Hello, Unemployment

  • So, suffice it to say, I need a new job. And fast.
  • My current school didn’t bother to tell me they weren’t interested in continuing my contract (I was going to leave anyway, whether they “wanted me or not”) until the beginning of February.
  • Usually companies will ask you to sign a new contract for the following year in NOVEMBER. This is a huge burden they’ve put on me. Thanks a bunch. Of course, I have been casually looking for other jobs in the meantime, just not as fervently as I probably should have.
  • My mom requested that I come home for a short visit and insisted it be in March. This is the worst time for me to go home. Not to mention this is the only time I have to go to interviews… I have just this last week to finalize my next job because I’ll be gone the next, and then I need at least a week to get back on Japan time and REST from my “vacation” in order to start a new job… *sigh*
  • Yes, I am happy to see my mom. It’s been FOUR YEARS since I’ve gone home. I don’t look forward to the traveling, although I love anything related to aeronautics (It used to be my dream to be a pilot)…I just don’t like being cramped in a small area for such a long time. The past couple times I’ve gone home, I’ve taken sleeping pills to help me sleep through much of the flight. This has worked beautifully, as I remember one leg of the trip I slept 4 hours straight, woke up to eat, and slept another 4 hours. For a 13-14 hour flight, that is PERFECT.

Side “Jobs”

  • So, now that you know what a horrible wreck of a life I lead, I would greatly appreciate it if the fans of Yoko Taro, the focal point of what I like to cover with translations and such, would cut me some slack regarding release times. No matter how many times I point people to my FAQ, I still receive messages like “when is chapter 15 coming out!?”, “It’s been so long! What are you doing!?”, “The new chapter came out, right? I can’t find it”
  • … … … … …
  • Look, I understand your enthusiasm, I really do. I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I didn’t share the same feeling, but… I am but one person. I know a lot of people rely on the work that I do–and for that, I am extremely appreciative. I know I’m not the best at what I do, but it’s generally fun to work on… WHEN. I. HAVE. TIME. The energy it takes to do it, on the other hand, is an entirely different thing. ^^;
  • Note that I don’t get paid a dime for any work that I put into the Drakengard/NieR fandom. It’s purely a hobby that I enjoy.
  • Currently, I’m too busy trying to find a new job, get whatever paperwork I need to renew my Visa and hopefully get permanent residency, find someone to take care of my cat for the week I’m gone, pack for the trip home, etc. etc… I am not even able to make scans of previous chapters that need to get done yet. Seriously.
  • I am so tired. All I want to do is run off to some tropical island somewhere for a day or two to recoup, but… *sigh*

Positives??

  • Hmm, well I did have my first modelling job this past February. It was a lot of fun to do, even though I’m hardly the model type. It was for a possible CM that will be displayed in trains around the Tokyo area… I will certainly post it if anything actually becomes of it (if it’s not scrapped altogether because of me).

More Random Disappointments

  • It’s almost “near” to impossible to get a ticket for the up-coming NieR event. There are so many scalpers, that it’s really disappointing that ticket agencies don’t try harder to limit access to tickets to avoid this problem. I’m still going to try and get a single ticket, but I’m afraid it’s going to cost a lot more than I should pay…
  • I was recently contacted by a musician that I have admired for many years, who turned into a casual acquaintance through attending various concerts and his own mutual bandmates and friends, to possibly help with English translation or interpretation… … … I am beyond thrilled that he would even ask me something like this, but… it’s during the time I’m out of the country!!! There’s no way I can help. <<DEATH>> Of all the luck!! xP

Conclusion

  • So, now I hope you understand where I am, both mentally and physically.
  • I’m not looking for sympathy or help. Just understanding.
  • Please, please do not pressure me to work harder than I already am.
  • I will get things done when I can. I’m very sorry if this isn’t fast enough for you. Please bear with me, and I genuinely appreciate your support or merely a kind word. It really goes a long way. <3

UPDATE: May 24, 2016

  • I am no longer unemployed. I had a record number of interviews at various places, and I was looking at pulling two separate English teaching jobs. One was a morning kindergarten job through an agency way the heck down in Hiratsuka and the other evenings in Kawasaki. The Kawasaki job paid more if I were to choose just one, but I needed to sign the contract with the Hiratsuka job quickly so I could start working ASAP.
  • I went to sign the contract for Hiratsuka on April 21 and asked when my first salary would be paid. They said June 10 but would ask if they could give me an advance before then since my last paycheck was on April 15; it would be difficult to live on that beyond May 15.
  • When I went to sign the contract, I saw that they wanted me to work from 8:30 to 4:00pm. I wouldn’t be able to work the second job if they had me stay until the afternoon. This was not what we had discussed beforehand. I was also informed that I would be teaching 6 classes in one day, 30 min each, back-to-back with no break until after. If you have ever taught “morning” kindergarten classes like this… it’s incredibly taxing physically. 3 should be max, which I have done when I lived in Nagoya. ANYWAY, they originally told me that I would only be teaching THREE classes in the morning, now I would be teaching DOUBLE and wouldn’t be able to leave after I’m done teaching (1:15 at the latest). wtf  Even still, given my situation, I had no choice but to sign the contract.
  • I visited the place in Kawasaki one more time after I signed this contract but never heard back from them after that, so the idea of working two jobs was completely out.
  • My visa will expire on June 4th, so I asked my agency to give me the paperwork that I needed to renew my visa. They told me that they do it all for me, and therefore needed my residence card and passport. In all my 12 years of living in Japan, I have NEVER renewed my visa this way…so I was very wary of giving ANYONE my stuff… but again, I had no choice. I went in to do this on May 13, and I again asked about the status of when I would be receiving my first paycheck and the status of the advance. I was told that the accountant who deals with those matters had already gone home for the day (I was there at 1:00pm) and he’d have to get back to me. I reiterated that I would be OUT OF MONEY (including transportation money) by May 29. I also reiterated that I have no family or friends in Japan whom I could ask for money. The man at the agency said “Most of our teachers ask their parents to help them out.” Both of my parents are retired and have no money. They can’t help me. That generalization alone is disgusting.
  • In the meantime, I wrote to my agency again regarding the advanced payment, and FINALLY on May 19, I received an answer:

“(O)ur accounting section’s software cannot be adjusted for one employee to be paid outside of the payday cycle, which is why advance payouts are not possible for any employees, Japanese or foreign.”

  • Given this response, it was clear that they knew from the very beginning that they could not give me an advance, and yet they lead me on for weeks, almost an entire month, that I might be able to receive some help to make ends meet. This asshole lied to me not once but TWICE, to my face both times.
  • In the same E-mail that I was told I could not get an advance, they suggested that I speak with my landlord about getting an IOU. My agency offered to write something “official”, probably something that stated how I would be legally bound to pay two months rent in June. That’s so nice of them to offer to help me in this way (sarcasm), but on my lowest income in over 15 years, it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to pay two month’s worth of rent. With all of this, it is painfully clear that the agency will do NOTHING financially to help anyone. How very “not my problem” of them.
  • Job nonsense aside, my problems go beyond that. I was just told that my father was diagnosed with colon cancer and he also needs a triple heart bypass surgery. Both are pretty heavy-duty surgeries, so they need to assess which needs to be performed first. My dad is 78 years old. It may be necessary for me to go home to be with my family on short notice. But, I can’t. My agency has my passport. I wrote and told them about these updates yesterday, May 23 at 3:00pm, but as of right now, May 24 at 7:00pm, I have received NO RESPONSE.
  • I have discussed all of my problems with the school that I was dispatched to…and they are amazing. I must be doing something very right in my lessons or something for them to even offer to PAY FOR MY TRANSPORT to be with my family. These are real, true people who deserve respect. And it’s easy to give them respect.
  • So, anyway… My bank will be empty by the end of the week. I have no one to help me. I will not plead with my apartment agency for a month’s leniency because I cannot pay 2 month’s rent in one go. I have enough to pay rent this month, but that will leave me with very little food/transportation money (my agency pays transportation, but not until your first payday, which totally does not help me). I have both a Japanese and US credit card that I can turn to as a last-ditch effort, but it’s shit since I FINALLY just paid one of them off. Now I’m going to have to use it again… orz

UPDATE: JUNE 4, 2016

Regarding my Family

  • My dad was scheduled for triple bypass surgery for June 2.
  • The surgery was completed successfully, but he suffered a major stroke in the process.
  • Doctors are monitoring his condition and have not seen signs of swelling, which is good.
  • He was also diagnosed with colon cancer, so that is yet another future thing to worry about.
  • 2016/6/5 – Pressure has built very rapidly and my dad is currently in surgery to open his skull to relieve the pressure. This is a very serious situation since he just underwent heart surgery two days ago. If all goes well, his paralysis on the right side of his body will most likely be permanent.

Regarding my Financial Situation

  • I managed to pick up my “My Number” ID card on Friday. This is a new system that unifies a lot of identification and financial information. You can no longer do *anything* remotely related to money without your My Number card.
  • Since my Visa technically expires on June 4, 2016, my My Number card will only be valid for 2 days.
  • In the meantime, I went to cash some old money orders from my parents that I had been saving for an emergency. That alone was problematic. Since the beginning of the year, they system by which post offices use to cash international postal money orders has switched from an entirely Postal affair to a strictly Postal Bank (Yucho) affair. In all my 12 years of cashing money orders at the post office, I have always done this at the regular Postal service window.
  • This time I was instructed to go to the Yucho service window, and when I asked the post office greeter staff whether this was something new that recently changed, they said “No, this is the way it’s always been.” No. You are misinformed. I have been doing this for 12 years; I have never had to go to the Yucho Service Window. But when a second attendant came to “help”, they kept saying that this was the way it’s always been. No. No. And No. I somewhat politely agreed to disagree and walked away.
  • Suffice it to say, as an additional security measure, post offices not only make you print your entire address, name, signature, and date on the back of EVERY money order, but you also have to fill out a special form that is only available upon request that includes the SAME information plus your My Number.
  • So if you have 3 money orders to cash, you will also have 3 separate forms to fill out with the same information. In their attempt to cut back on terrorists getting money this way they assume that they are unable to write their name and address a second time… Real secure. Makes perfect, logical sense. Of course.

Now I hope you can understand where I am. It’s a miracle that I can still get ANYTHING done, even though there are still a TON of things that I haven’t even been able to touch yet… If there are some delays with manga releases or whatever, please be kind. I’m literally doing the best that I can. Hugs are appreciated.