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Driver’s License Adventures, Part 3

April 4th, 2013 No comments

I went back to the Menkyo Center today, took the driving test a second time, got through the course almost perfectly, and failed anyway.

I went second again, this time riding in the back as a Brazilian woman failed the test almost as badly as the Middle Eastern guy from the last time. It would be nice to ride in the back during a passing run so I could know what the hell they’re looking for.

I did much better in the crank this time, only having to back up once at the very beginning when pulling in.

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The S-curve was still a bitch, but when I felt my back left tire hit the curb again, this time I backed up before running over it. You’re allowed to back up three times and I backed up three times, so I thought I’d made it through successfully.

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I completed the whole course and parked the car, then turned to the proctor and glanced at my page to see the big fat “fail” kanji (不) on the page. You’ve got to be kidding me. I drove like an expert, never forgot to turn signal, to check my mirrors, to completely stop at stop signs, and I even verbalized in Japanese everything I was doing. I did everything the book told me to do and then some, and I still failed.

I had a harder time understanding the proctor’s explanations this time because I didn’t know what I’d done wrong. As best I can tell, I didn’t get close enough to the right lane when making right turns, and I hadn’t checked all of my mirrors before backing up in the crank and the S-curve.

So now I’m even less optimistic going forward than I was before. I hadn’t gone in today expecting failure—there’s a difference between knowing failure is likely and expecting it—but now that I know you can pretty much do everything exactly right and still fail, I have no idea how long it’s going to take to get this thing. Apparently it doesn’t matter how much time and effort you put into preparing for it—they just want to make it as inhumanly impossible as they can. As though you’re an unsafe driver if you can’t flawlessly navigate an “S-curve”.

Seriously, what kind of sadists designed this test? There are no “S-curves” or “crank”s on actual Japanese roads, but they won’t give you a driver’s license unless you can make it through them perfectly? Meanwhile, they don’t even test you at all on stuff you will almost certainly have to do, like backing up, making a K-turn, or parallel parking. It’s absurd.

Sorry, I had to get that rant out. I’m certainly not the first gaijin with a blog to do so, and I won’t be the last.

As for the actual consequences to my life, we’ll see. I will have to bike to work for the first week, then I take the test again on Monday the 15th (luckily school is cancelled that day).

When I arrived back in Togane, I didn’t go directly home but took my bike on a test-run to the two closer schools: H-sho and K-chu. Adding the 5 minutes it takes me to bike to the train station, it’ll only take about 25 minutes to bike to those schools, and only five minutes to bike from H-sho to K-chu after lunch on Fridays. That also takes into consideration getting off the bike and pushing it during the steepest parts of the hill. I definitely worked up a sweat getting up there, but it’s not overly strenuous. Definitely doable, just inconvenient—especially when it’s raining or in the summer when it gets super-humid.

M-sho, on the other hand, is about ten times the distance over many more hills. When I got home I e-mailed Interac to suggest the possibility of hiring a taxi to take me between schools on Wednesdays only. Since Interac covers 20,000 yen of a car-lease anyway, if the price of a cab for just 4 days a month is less than that (and it almost certainly is), why wouldn’t they cover that as well? I got no definite response today, but I feel pretty good about the chances. They need me to get from M-sho to K-chu between the end of lunch and the beginning of the afternoon periods, and if that’s not feasible by bike then it would make no sense whatsoever for them to refuse to pay for a taxi.

But to end on a positive note, when I stopped at a convenience store up in the hills before heading back down to central Togane, there was a group of four young boys there having a snack by the window. They greeted me as soon as they saw me and asked me if I was an American. I asked them if they were H-sho students. Two of them were, and the other two were about to enter their first-year at K-chu. I told them I was their new ALT and we had a very pleasant exchange. I told them my name and where I was from, and they told me their names which I unfortunately forgot but will learn soon enough. I gave them a friendly goodbye and a “see you next week” and went on my merry way. Extremely friendly kids, very excited to meet me. If that doesn’t brighten your spirits, nothing will.

I also found out today that ALTs don’t actually teach every grade in elementary schools. Apparently kids don’t start learning English until 5th grade, so I’ll only be teaching fifth and sixth graders, which means two classes of 20 for M-sho, and one class of 35 fifth-graders and two classes of 20 sixth-graders at H-sho. That’s slightly disappointing because I’d been curious about the experience of teaching really little kids, but it’s also a bit of a relief because the territory won’t be that unfamiliar—these kids won’t be all that much younger than first-year JHS students.

Tomorrow is the opening ceremony at H-sho, which means barring some catastrophic bombing of my self-introduction speech, tomorrow is going to be a million times better than today.

Expanding Horizons

April 3rd, 2013 No comments

The long month of endless goodbyes is finally over, and the month of abundant hellos has begun. I introduced myself to all three of my new schools yesterday, and thereby quadrupled the number of Japanese schools I’ve ever set foot in.

A woman named Takahashi from the Interac Chiba office picked me up at 9:30 yesterday morning and drove me to the schools. The first school was an elementary school about 10 km away. This school is the reason I really need a car—it’s practically over a mountain. It’ll probably take me about 45 minutes to bike there, and I’ll be drenched in sweat by the end.

The Japanese word for elementary school is shogakkou (‘sho’ [小] meaning ‘small’ and ‘gakkou’ [学校] meaning ‘school’), so I’ll refer to this one as “M-sho”. M-sho is extremely tiny, with only about 20 students per grade. That means it’ll not only be the smallest school I’ve taught at, but the smallest classroom size as well. It should be interesting.

When we arrived, Takahashi-san was more nervous than I was. I’d only done this once before but at this point I’m fairly confident in my ability to make a good impression on people. I was more curious than anything else—this being only the second Japanese school I’d ever been to.

We were greeted by the principal and vice principal when we arrived and taken to the meeting room. Takahashi-san made her formal greeting, then I was asked to come to the teacher’s room and introduce myself to the faculty—only about fifteen people. Takahashi-san had asked me to prepare a self-introduction, but she hadn’t expected me to memorize an entire miniature speech in Japanese.

“People of M-sho, konnichiwa. I’m Kyle. I’m from New York state, America. I’m 29 years old. From 2008 to 2011 I taught adults in Germany. I came to Japan in August of 2011. Until now, I’ve been working at Togane Chugakkou. I love teaching kids. I’m looking forward to working with the faculty of M-sho. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”

After my epic mega-speech at Togane Chu’s closing ceremony, this was a piece of cake for me, but it was enough to serve the purpose. The faculty gave me a round of applause and complimented me on my Japanese. The principal told Takahashi-san he was very impressed, and the vice principal gave me a “good job!” in English.

For the next fifteen minutes or so, Takahashi-san and the two top administrators went over a bunch of details of the contract. They asked me if I wanted to order school lunch, and they said they’d like me to eat lunch with the students on days when I’m there—something I’d never been asked to do at Togane Chu but which I’m rather looking forward to.

A little cultural tid-bit: coffee was poured for me and Takahashi-san, and the principal kept gesturing to it with a “douzo” (a word for offering something). I don’t drink coffee because caffeine doesn’t agree with me at all, but I remembered from all the way back in Narita training that you’re not supposed to drink the first time you’re offered something anyway. Japanese people typically wait until the second or third time it’s offered. I was able to hold out until about the fifth time, at which point I figured I might now be appearing ungrateful so I took a symbolic sip.

On the way out, I asked Takahashi-san to find out if there was somewhere I could change into my suit when I arrive, as if I do end up having to bike there I’m going to be sweating like a pig by the time I arrive. She explained my concern and they told me I can have a locker.

When we left, the entire faculty came out of the teacher’s room to see us off. It seems like that’s going to be a really warm and friendly work environment.

I’ll only be working there Wednesday mornings, and the other elementary school on Friday mornings. My main school will be K-chu, the junior high school, which was our next stop.

Our appointment there was for 11:00 but we arrived at 10:40. It’s Japanese custom to be early, but apparently it’s also bad form to be too early, so we sat in the car for fifteen minutes and had a nice chat. Takahashi-san is incredibly nice, and I found her nervousness rather charming. When we noticed someone up in the teacher’s room looking into the car, she took out her bag and pretended to be sorting through things, lest she give them the impression we were just sitting there.

When the time came, we headed up the stairs to the main entrance of the building. K-chu is a much newer school than Togane Chu, and looks almost like a nice hotel from the outside, with balconies outside every classroom. The inside looks much more clean and modern as well.

The first person to greet us when we arrived was S-sensei, my old vice principal. I joked with him that it was “long time no see”, and he brought us into his office. It felt very strange to be in this unfamiliar building but have that very familiar face there the whole time. I could almost imagine the rest of the old Togane Chu faculty just beyond the door as well.

This time, there was no introduction in front of everyone. Only two women came to the room to go over details with Takahashi-san, and she asked me to give my speech to them. S-sensei said, “again?” and told them how I’d also made speeches in Japanese at Togane Chu’s closing ceremony and enkai, so it was no surprise to him that I had yet another one.

I’m not exactly sure whether the women were JTEs or just faculty members. One of them, I was later told, is the teacher in charge of the ALT so I assume she’s an English teacher, but she didn’t speak any English to me so I’m not sure. It’s entirely possible she’s an English teacher who doesn’t speak English—those are apparently quite common in Japan, and the fact that Togane Chu’s English teachers all spoke great English might have been a rare case. Certainly when it comes to the elementary schools I shouldn’t expect anyone to speak English, so that will be interesting, but hopefully at least one person at my main school will speak enough to help me out when I’ve got questions. (Though if not, being forced to speak a lot more Japanese is actually a good thing).

The one question I had at this meeting was regarding my after-school activities: playing games with students and running the “Kyle-store”. I’d told Takahashi-san about it before and she explained it to the teachers there. I’d brought some Kyle-dollars to show them, and my self-made deck of cards. Luckily, S-sensei was already well familiar with the idea and it was agreed I’d be able to do this “when circumstances allow”.

Once that meeting was over they brought us into the teacher’s room where I got my first look at where I’ll be spending most of my time over the course of the next year. It looks just like the teacher’s room at Togane Chu but half the size and more modern. My desk is in the back corner facing the window, and looks like a nice spot. The teacher across and one seat to the left of me is the head English teacher. I met him and exchanged the standard Japanese greetings, but he didn’t speak English to me either. He’s the only person I met yesterday that I know for sure I’ll be doing lessons with, and he seemed like a nice, good-humored guy.

After that, we had just one more school to visit. This elementary school, H-sho, is only a five-minute drive from K-chu and it’s where I’ll be spending my Friday mornings. The faculty waved to us from the teacher’s room as we were entering, and we were greeted very warmly at the door by the “headmaster” (not sure if that’s the same thing as a “principal”) and the teacher in charge of the ALT. They spoke a few words of English but they’re clearly far from fluent.

We were taken to the teacher’s room and seated in some comfortable chairs there. When Takahashi-san told them I had a speech prepared, they actually stood us up and interrupted everyone in the midst of their work, telling them the new ALT would like to introduce himself. I went through the speech again, this time in front of an audience of about 25. The reception was overwhelmingly positive this time as well, and I was complimented heartily by the headmaster.

The rest of the little meeting went just like the others, and I found out I’ll be eating lunch with students here too. The headmaster said they have the best school lunch in Japan, and while I’ve heard every school makes the same boast, they said at their school it’s actually a lunch menu you can choose from, which sounds awesome. I won’t have to pick around the beef and pork at this school!

But the most excellent surprise of the day came when one of the teachers came up to introduce herself to me and told me who she was. K-sensei is the mother of one of my students from Togane Chu.], but not just any student—my favorite student! I could hardly believe it. Of all 600 students (800 if you count last year’s graduates), I’ll actually be working with the mother of the one I liked the most!

She and the two men we’d had the meeting with saw us to the exit and wished us a good day. I’ve been invited to that school’s opening ceremony for new teachers on Friday, which I fully intend to go to even though it’s outside the contract.

I only might not be able to attend if I pass the driving test tomorrow and have to get a car on Friday, though I can probably do both things in one day. (But it’s far more likely I’ll fail the test again anyway.)

So now I’ve seen the schools I’ll be working at this year, and I’m extremely pleased that they all seem so pleasant. Ironically, the one school where I received the least warm greeting is the school I’ll be spending most of my time, but we’ll see how it goes once I’ve given my self-introduction to the whole school.

In any case, I know I made a very good impression on everyone I had a chance to, which was the main purpose of the day. But I think the person I made the best impression on overall was Takahashi-san. She was extremely grateful to me for memorizing that speech, as it made her and Interac look good as well. She found it wonderful that I actually like to stay after school and communicate with students, as most ALTs just want to go home right away. And when we were getting close to my apartment I pulled down my window to call a Togane Chu student passing by on her bike by name, and Takahashi-san found out I’d learned all 600 of my student’s names. Before she dropped me off she told me I should be a real full-time teacher, not an ALT.

I’ve been imagining going back to America and teaching there at some point, but who knows? Maybe I’ll just stay in Japan and become a real teacher here. I doubt it, but it definitely does have a place on my list of possible futures.

The End Approaches

March 24th, 2013 No comments

Friday was my last actual paid work day at my school, so I suppose I technically don’t work there anymore. But it didn’t feel like the last day because in reality, it wasn’t. It was the last day for the students, but the teachers remain for another week before changing jobs within the school or transferring to their new schools. There was a closing ceremony on Friday, but the real, actual, final closing ceremony won’t be until this Friday, the 29th. Attending that is optional for me, but I wouldn’t dream of missing it.

Friday was, however, the last day for O-sensei, my teaching partner for every class for the last two semesters. Her husband is being transferred to Korea, so she’ll be moving there with him and just be a housewife for awhile until she’s comfortable enough with the language to get some kind of job. It’s a pity because she made a great teacher, but I suppose she never intended to make a career out of it.

Departing part-time teachers give farewell speeches at the first closing ceremony while full-timers go at the second, so O-sensei one of three teachers who gave a speech on Friday. One of others was being offered a position as a full-time teacher, so he had to give a farewell speech in spite of the fact that he’d already found out—though he was supposed to keep it secret—that his new job would be at the same school. The students are in for a pleasant surprise when they see him again in April.

I hadn’t stayed the whole day after the closing ceremony last year, so I hadn’t known how the whole teacher-transfer process goes down. At the end of the day of the closing ceremony, there’s a meeting in the teacher’s room in which the principal formally announces which teachers and faculty members will be transferring and where to, and he also reads the names and ages of the people who’ll be replacing them. Apparently it’s supposed to be kept secret until that moment, and even then they’re not supposed to tell anyone until the formal announcements are made in the newspaper the following week.

Why the need for secrecy, I have no earthly idea. O-sensei couldn’t explain it either. That’s just how it works in Japan.

Apparently, I was also supposed to keep my own impending transfer a secret. When I e-mailed Interac to ask them which specific schools I’d be going to, they wrote back telling me I should only be saying that I might transfer to another school, not that I definitely would. Oops. Too late. But that’s a mistake I couldn’t possibly regret any less, as I wouldn’t have had all those wonderful goodbyes from students if I hadn’t told them I’d be leaving.

But the whole secrecy thing complicates things in terms of my own role at the school’s final closing ceremony. I’ve been hoping to be able to give my farewell speech—to which I’ve added a few extra paragraphs and continue to practice every day—in front of the whole school like the other departing full-timers. But Interac hasn’t told my school’s administrators about the transfer yet, and I learned from T-sensei yesterday that the school actually received a letter telling them I would stay there. This confuses me greatly, and I called Interac to find out what the deal was but the woman who handles placement wasn’t there and she never called me back, so I have to wait until Monday to clear things up. She did write in her e-mail that they let the schools know about their shuffling of ALTs at the “end of March” and the 29th is the last weekday of March so I’m fairly confident they’ll know by the closing ceremony, but I’m not technically supposed to be a part of the closing ceremony unless they have the official word that I’m leaving. T-sensei said that I could still give my speech, but it would just be its own extra part of the assembly. I wouldn’t be in the formal goodbye part where all the departing teachers are handed flowers by students, make their speeches one by one, and formally exit the gym. I’d probably also be excluded from the farewell-speech giving portion of the enkai, for which I’ve also prepared a speech.

It’s a little annoying, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be told the news next week and everything will be ready for Friday. It would be extremely weird for Interac to withhold news about who the school’s ALT for the next school-year will be until it actually is the next school year.

Interac is even keeping the schools I’ll be going to secret from me, though I have a pretty strong clue as to which junior high school I’m going to. It came about in a bit of an odd way. A year ago, the mother of one of my students found my apartment while doing her Jehovah’s witness knocking-on-doors thing, and ever since then she’s been showing up at my door every couple of months or so to talk to me about Jesus and make me read Bible passages. I’m too polite to ask her to stop, so she keeps coming. The last couple of times she came, she brought with her a Jamaican girl who is also a Jehovah’s witness and also an Interac ALT. The first time, once we got through the Bible stuff she asked me if I’d be transferring and at that point I didn’t know. She said she already knew she’d be transferring and I should contact Interac and ask them, which is what prompted me to do that at the beginning of the month. The second time she came I said I would be transferring but I didn’t know where to, that it would be in Togane but they were making me get a car. She said that meant I’d probably be taking over her schools, as she needed a car to get to them. They’re in Togane, but way up in the hills so it’s not really feasible to walk or bike to them. As far as I know, there’s only one junior high school up in the hills, and since she was their ALT and she’s transferring, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that this is in fact where I’ll be transferring to.

At the meeting on Monday, I listened to where the other departing teachers are being transferred to, but none of them were going to that school. However, one of the vice principals—the really nice guy who once told me he wishes all Americans were like me—is going become the principal of that school, which needless to say is awesome news. No stress about making a good impression on that principal—I’ve already had two years to do so!

But we’ll see. If I fail the driver’s test tomorrow, there’s some chance Interac won’t offer me that position. They said they’d pay for a cab until I get the license, but I’ve long since learned not to always trust the information Interac gives me. For all I know, what they told my school was true and they won’t end up transferring me at all—leaving me with a substantial amount of egg on my face when I go back in April and face all those students I shared heartfelt farewells with.

In any case, I should know by Friday. Though the school-year is technically over for me, I pretty much consider this to be a work-week. Monday is the driver’s test and that’ll take up the whole day. Tuesday is the day of the Spring Concert, so I’ll be seeing a whole bunch of teachers and students that day. Wednesday and Thursday are free but I’m toying with the idea of going in anyway just for the hell of it. And Friday is the closing ceremony and farewell enkai. So it’s over but it’s not over.

The only absolute final goodbye I’ve said so far is to O-sensei, who will not be working next week and not attending the closing ceremony. She was given a very fond farewell by the faculty when she left at the end of the day, and I was asked to pose in a picture with her as she left. We exchanged a few words of mutual appreciation for each others’ help, and I gave her a note I’d written to further express my appreciation. I’d written messages to all the students, so it was only right to write one for her as well. She helped me tremendously throughout the school year both with lessons and basic life-in-Japan stuff. I was extraordinarily lucky to be partnered with her, but now that’s over.

I feel extraordinarily lucky to have taught at that school, but that’s over too and it’s time to move on. One week to go.

The Send-Off

March 5th, 2013 No comments

Every year at the beginning of the final week before the seniors graduate, there’s an assembly in which the underclasses give them a send-off. We had ours yesterday, and I guess I missed it last year because it was completely new to me. I might have been called to the Chiba office or something, as I’m sure I would have remembered it.

The first and second graders bring their chairs to the gym, while the third-graders have chairs set up for them. The underclasses are seated by the time the seniors line up at the entrance. Everyone applauds continuously as they enter and take their seats. There’s the singing of the school song, and then the ceremony begins.

I have no idea if it’s the same routine every year, but this year it started with a play performed by the drama club with cameos from some of the teachers. My Japanese isn’t good enough to really comprehend the play, but it obviously took place in school. One of the second-graders had the lead role and did an excellent job. I wonder if he wrote it himself, but I forgot to ask. It was a huge success, with everyone laughing frequently, especially during their teachers’ cameos.

Next came the band performance, and they totally rocked the house. I remember being pretty impressed at last year’s spring concert and was majorly impressed again by them this time. I don’t remember my middle-school band being that talented, but it makes sense that in Japan they’d be better, as Japanese students in general definitely seem to be far more dedicated to their hobbies and after-school activities. (I’d bet any of the sports teams from a Japanese school could beat an American school’s team if that competition were somehow arranged.)

The next part was the most interesting, as one of the teachers had put together a slideshow with pictures of the graduating class taken throughout their whole three years at the school, including pictures of them as first-graders which they got a huge kick out of. There were a lot of random pictures thrown in, but most were from significant events like class trips. There was a lengthy section dedicated exclusively to Sports Day, and I was pleased to see that some of my pictures—which I’d copied to the school’s computer network—were included in the show. A lot of people had worked really hard on this send-off and I hadn’t been asked to do anything, but at least with the inclusion of some of my pictures I could feel I contributed in some small sense.

After that, the emotion level in the room was now pretty high. Some of the girls had tears in their eyes, the reality of the impending end of this special time in their lives perhaps hitting them for the first time. At this point the seniors were asked to turn around and face the underclasses, as one of them gave a short speech thanking the seniors. The underclasses then sang a lovely song for them, thus raising the emotion level even higher. Then a senior gave a short speech to the underclassmen, and the seniors sang a song for them.

Finally, everyone faced the front and the principal gave a short speech of his own to the seniors. I was able to make out that he was talking about his best memories from their class, and he mentioned the pyramid the boys had done and the dance the girls had done on Sports Day, the first time they’d ever done that, and he’d been impressed by it.

Finally, the seniors stood up and left the room as they entered, to continuous applause. Once they were gone the second-graders were asked to help clear the gym floor and I helped a bit with then, then everyone filed out.

It was a beautiful little ceremony. I couldn’t help but get a little emotional myself, not just thinking about how this is the last week the seniors will be here, but probably one of the last weeks I’ll be at this school as well.

I’ve heard that some Interac teachers have already received their placement for the next school-year, so yesterday I called the office and asked if they knew what my situation was going to be. I was transferred to one of the women in charge of placement, and when she told me they were probably going to offer me to the same Board of Education and asked me if I’d like to stay at the same school, I realized absolutely nothing has been done in terms of my placement so far and none of what I’d previously written to Interac had been considered at all. But now the choice was actually being put to me directly—would I like to stay at the same school?

I couldn’t help but hesitate for a moment. I really love this school, and the thought of leaving definitely makes me sad. But all my other reasons for wanting to leave ultimately triumphed and I told them I’d like to change schools. She gave me the impression that I’d be staying in Togane but just switching schools. When I hung up I realized that this would most likely mean they’d simply switch me with Kim, and I’d just teach at the other junior high school next year.

While that would be OK with me, I’d still prefer to get more broad experience, so I sent her an e-mail and explained exactly where I was coming from, that I want to know what other schools are like and while I enjoy junior high school I’m also curious about elementary and high school. I said I’d prefer to work at multiple schools and would be willing to relocate but I don’t have a Japanese driver’s license.

This morning I had an e-mail back from her asking me if I had a valid driver’s license from my own country and if I’d be willing to get one for Japan. She said they were having placement meetings every day now and would discuss my situation this morning and she’d let me know. So nothing is confirmed yet but it definitely sounds like they’ll not only honor my request to change schools, but put me in multiple schools of various levels, which is exactly what I’d like the most.

As to the car question, that leads me to believe I might get to go to other schools without having to actually change my apartment, and I definitely like that idea. It would be cool to live in another part of Japan, but since I now know that I’ll be staying in Chiba anyway, I might as well stay in Togane.

If I do have to drive, I’ll have to go through the whole process of getting a Japanese driver’s license, and I have no idea how complicated that will be. It might just be a matter of filling out an application since I’ve already got an American license, or I might have to take a whole driver’s test—that would undoubtedly be challenging, but I’m sure I’d be up to the task. If that does end up happening it’ll also be the first time I’ll have driven a car in a foreign country (I never drove in my entire four years in Europe), and I’ll have to get used to driving on the left side of the road with the wheel on the right side of the car. That’ll be strange but cool.

Nothing has been decided yet, so I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. But it looks as though like the seniors, my time at this school is also rapidly coming to an end.

Dues

November 23rd, 2012 No comments

Well, the high of being back in Japan has finally worn off and I’ve slipped into a melancholy mood for the first time since the return. It’s nowhere near unbearable, just the natural human emotional cycle. What goes up must eventually come down.

It started this past Monday, when for the first time in a long time I gave a truly bad lesson. I was trying out a new game for a first-grade class and it just wasn’t working at all. Games should be simple enough for students to pick up the rules more or less intuitively even if they didn’t fully comprehend the instructions, but the way I designed this game was completely counter-intuitive to them. The students who had the misfortune of participating, it seemed, ended up feeling like they understood the grammar less than when they started. Total failure.

Of course it’s not something that’s never happened before. It used to happen quite frequently last year when I was just starting out and hadn’t yet gotten a feel for what works and what doesn’t. It would typically take one or two failures before I’d have the kinks worked out enough to make a lesson successful. But there was a noticeable difference in the way the classes I always taught first reacted to me as opposed to those I taught last. I’ve done pretty well with the first-graders all year so far and I know I can put together another good one for next time, but even just that one miss was enough to do some damage. A few of the students in that class who normally greet me warmly were giving me the cold-shoulder after that one.

I re-worked the whole thing and it went much much better the second time, and other successful lessons for other grades bounced my mood back up now and then, but it was overall a downward trajectory.

It culminated yesterday with some bad financial news, which ironically was immediately preceded by good financial news. When my visa expired, apparently, the Japanese government cancelled all of my registrations with things like taxes and health insurance. Interac set up a time for me to go with an Independent Contractor to the Togane City Office to re-register. I was picked up after lunch at school yesterday by Ms I-, the same woman who took me shopping when I first moved into my apartment a thousand years ago. At the City Office we discovered that the Alien Registration Card I’d got at the airport was not yet valid because my address wasn’t on it, and I’d been living in Togane illegally since I got back. That turned out to be of no consequence though—I just filled out a form and they put my address on the back of the card and stamped it. And when I re-registered for Health Insurance, they informed me I would only have to pay for the remainder of the fiscal year (until March) and I’d get a 70% discount for reasons I didn’t quite understand. I was behind on my payments for this year’s insurance but this year’s insurance was cancelled so I don’t owe any of that money.

And the other good news is now that I have health insurance again, I can finally see a doctor about the acid reflux problem I’ve had for years and years. Interac has already set up an appointment for me to go with Ms. I- to a doctor on Monday.

But the bad news started when I got home and found my October pay-sheet from Interac waiting for me. I’d been paid in full for the month of September, which I’d assumed was either an oversight on the part of Interac (which has been known to commit a few oversights from time to time) or the simple result of my having a year-long contract with a base monthly salary. I figured I’d just wait and see what happens, and just make sure not to spend too much of that money. But they’d paid close attention to my October pay and started paying me only on the day I returned. After rent, I was left with what amounts to just a few hundred dollars in pay.

Almost immediately after making this discovery I got a call from the branch manager at Interac, first to confirm my doctor’s appointment and second to inform me about the oversight with September’s pay. I wasn’t supposed to receive any of that money, and of course now Interac wants it back. But in their infinite mercy they won’t ask for it back all at once, and instead they’ll deduct a certain amount from my paychecks until I’m square with them again.

I wasn’t about to argue anything about their share of the responsibility for the visa-mess, especially when they literally just agreed to pay an IC to take me to a doctor next week out of their own funds. It would also be pretty useless to do so as I can’t possibly imagine they’d ever agree to cover even half of the income I lost. All I’d be doing is taking an adversarial posture with my employer, and I’d really rather not do that when I’m counting on renewing my contract next year. Besides, the branch manager himself was being incredibly nice about it, and he had nothing to do with the visa oversight in the first place. I now know who it was at the office who fucked up, and I hope he’s glad that for the sake of not ruffling any feathers I’m willing to take all of the responsibility.

If I want to be square with Interac by the end of my current contract, I’ll have to let them take about a third of my net salary each month for the next four months. That will leave me with little more than basic cost-of-living expenses and maybe the odd night out. It’s certainly do-able, I just have to go on living like a hermit which is something I’m quite used to anyway. It’s only going to really be rough during winter break, when everyone is off traveling and I’ll just be sitting at home in my apartment not spending money. No trips to Kyoto or anywhere else this year. At best I might be able to treat myself to one day-trip to Tokyo, but that’s it.

On the plus side, at least I don’t have a girlfriend. I was considering actually putting some effort into finding one when I got back to Japan, but I’m glad I didn’t because I certainly couldn’t afford that right now. Here’s to silver-linings.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

Sayonaramerica

October 16th, 2012 No comments

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Barring any unforeseen catastrophe, in 24 hours I’ll be en route back to Japan, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

I took the train into the city on Friday to pick up my passport with a fresh new valid work visa (a beautiful thing to behold), and that went as smoothly as I could have hoped. On my way back from the consulate I passed by Times Square and spotted a crew of three people dressed as Disney and Sesame Street characters soliciting money from families whose kids might want their pictures taken with them. I couldn’t resist approaching them and telling them how I teach English in Japan and my students would get a kick out of a picture of me and Mickey Mouse in New York, but I was there alone so one of them would have to take the photo. Cookie Monster removed his gloves and took the camera, and I lined up to pose with Mickey as Elmo stood on the other side of me. I had to turn to Elmo and say, “Not you, sorry. My students don’t know who you are.” Poor Elmo. They took a couple of shots and opened their bags for my donation. I have no idea what the standard tip for those guys is so I gave them each 2 bucks. That was 4 dollars well spent. I also bought a Yankee cap for the super-friendly groundskeeper who works at my school in Japan, as he’s told me a few times how it’s his dream to go to New York City and see a Yankee game. I can’t wait to give it him.

Last night was my last shift at Domino’s and it felt unbelievably good when the time came for closing and I finished mopping up that floor for the last time. In the days leading up to my last day, I was surprised to find a few of my co-workers xpressing their disappointment at my leaving. One of the managers, Stephanie—who was also there the last time I worked there—said she’d just gotten used to having me back and didn’t want me to go. I’d definitely gone in their with a bit of a chip on my shoulder but after awhile I warmed up to my co-workers and it seemed they warmed up to me, apparently finding me to be a hard worker as well as pleasant company. So in addition to all the money, my time at Domino’s has also earned me a few extra Facebook friends.

As for the money, my nearly two months of work minus all my spending on gas and beer (my only regular expenses while living at home) netted me a decent chunk of what I would have made teaching in Japan. In fact, when you weigh all my income and expenses from both jobs in both places including the extra burden of the new plane ticket, it seems the net pay worked out to be almost equal. It’s just that to make that happen I had to work six days a week for six to nine hour shifts. I could have gone back to Japan in August as scheduled and sat on my ass until the Certificate of Eligibility came through, begging my family for cash when it ran out and perhaps demanding arbitration within my company for financial compensation for them having dropped their end of the ball on the visa, but this was definitely the better move. It was my mistake for trusting my company’s e-mails saying I could go on vacation and return without worrying about immigration issues, and a couple months of delivering pizza, washing dishes and mopping floors were the consequences of my error. I believe that’s called “accepting responsibility”…but what would a liberal-progressive like me know about that?

My replacement teacher Heath has been in touch with me over the past week as we’ve been waiting on Interac to organize the transition to bring me back. I probably misjudged the guy just as I think he misjudged me, but it seems I’ll actually get a chance to meet him on Friday. My branch manager called me yesterday and he said even though I’ll be arriving on Thursday it’ll be easier to have Heath finish out the week and have me start teaching a fresh set of lessons on Monday, but I’m certainly free to go in to say hello to everyone, pick up my textbooks and discuss the lessons plans.

According to Heath, things might be a bit different when I go back. Since he’s been there he’s only been teaching with O-sensei (whom he actually worked with at a different school when she started a couple of years ago) and only doing lessons from the textbooks that the other teachers couldn’t get to because they’re behind on the teaching. That’s probably how things will continue even after I return, so I’m a bit disappointed that I won’t get to work with the other teachers anymore but somewhat relieved that they’ve only been doing the kind of textbook work which leaves little room for fun and games. Even if that’s the material they give me when I go back, I have complete confidence that I’ll be able to make it fun and the students will be glad to have me back no matter how great and experienced a teacher Heath has been. I shouldn’t be thinking of myself in competition with him—his 17-years of experience are just motivation for me to raise my own bar even higher.

So that’s what lies ahead. As for what’s behind me, it wasn’t all that bad when all is said and done. I can’t deny that it was depressing to not be doing what I love and frustrating to be missing precious weeks of my students’ lives that I only have so little time with in the first place (not to mention the Speech Contest), but in the end all I can do is chalk this one up under valuable life experiences. It reminded me of what work is like for most workers, and greatly enhanced my appreciation for being able to do the kind of work I do.

And I also got to spend extra time with my family and friends I never get to see in Japan. Getting to see the fall foliage—far more beautiful here than Togane—was also an added bonus.

So goodbye once again, America. I won’t be back for a very long time and I can’t say I’ll miss you too much when I’m gone, but you’ve treated me well enough while I was here.

On a final note, the owner of the Domino’s I worked at, Teddy, was desperately in need of drivers when I called him to come back to work. (On my last shift working with him I had him snap a photo I thought would also be quite funny for my students to see.) As I was leaving he said he thinks God sent him back to me this time. Well, if God caused me and everyone at my company to not consider visa-expiration dates before I went on vacation just to boost Ted’s service numbers then He works in mysterious ways indeed. But if He does exist, I suppose He could have had more than one purpose. It’s hard for me to believe there was any purpose to this at all, but maybe one day I’ll look back and see one.

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Good News, Bad News, No News

September 29th, 2012 No comments

Since the first time I lived abroad, I’d have a recurring dream in which I’d be back home in America and suddenly realize I wasn’t supposed to be there. I’d be struck with anxiety thinking, “This isn’t right—I should be in Germany [or Japan]. What am I doing here? I’ve got to get back.” That dream came true this year, and recently I’ve been having the inverse of that dream, in which I’m back in Japan and suddenly realize I can’t remember the return journey. I either realize it’s a dream or decide not to question it and just go with it. When I woke up from the former dreams I’d experience relief. With the latter, huge disappointment. I’ve been suffering from some kind of reverse-homesickness, and it seems to be getting worse all the time.

The thing is, nobody seems to get it. Why would I want to be back in Japan so badly? Do I have a girlfriend there? No? So what’s the big deal? You can eat sushi here too.

I tell them I have friends over there and a nice place of my own, but when I try to explain that it’s my job I miss most of all, they really don’t get it. To almost everyone I talk to here, a job is just a job, a way to earn money, a means to an end but by no means and end in itself. I can’t adequately explain the difference between coming home from a shift at Domino’s pizza and only feeling good because you’re finally out of there, and coming home from a day at school and feeling good because the day was actually worthwhile. With a few exceptions, these days are utterly devoid of any quality that makes life actually worth living, and I’ve slipped straight back into the depression I used to feel when I lived here and had nothing to live for in the past.

One of those exceptions was last Sunday. I had the day off (the first after 11 straight days of working) and went hiking in a nearby state park with my mom and dad, stopping at a brew-pub on the way back for some beer and nachos before returning home to watch the football game on TV. The weather was perfect and it was a fine day overall, but those days are few and far between.

Any “friends” I used to have in high school have long since moved away, as have most of the people I hung out with in college. Mike in Brooklyn is the only one left that I have any desire to see, but it takes an hour to drive to Long Island and an hour from there to get through the traffic to his neighborhood and find a place to park. The earliest I can ever get off work is about 7:30, which means it would be 9:30 by the time I got there. That’s not too bad, but when I planned to do that Thursday night, orders kept coming in and I didn’t get out until 9:30, making the trip out to Brooklyn decidedly not worth it. I’ve got this Sunday off too though, so I’ll at least get to have another fun day out there tomorrow.

I previously wrote that this is no longer a vacation but a life, but that’s not really accurate. This is barely any kind of life at all.

With regards to my actual life—the one I don’t currently have access to—this week can be characterized by good news followed by bad news followed by no news. The first good news came on Monday. Interac informed me that they received the completed documents from immigration and expected final Certificate of Eligibility approval the following day, Tuesday, at which point they would update me again. That was great to hear, as it meant the CoE would be on its way and set to arrive the following week, and after the 4-day visa processing I’d be set to fly back the week after. I decided to make Friday the 5th of October my last day, and use the rest of the 3-day weekend to pay some final visits to family members with my parents, including Sue and Lance on Long Island, my grandparents up in Red Hook, and maybe even Billy at college in Delaware.

There was nothing from Interac the next morning, but another bit of good news came my way quite unexpectedly from Heath, the ALT who’s been replacing me at my school but who made it clear in so few words that he has no interest in keeping in touch with me. Before deciding to leave him alone and just accept my disconnectedness from the school, I’d made it a point to at least let him know my feelings about missing the Speech Contest, to tell him what happened with M- last year and to impress upon him how much I was determined to help her win this time and how bad I felt that I couldn’t. I’d hoped to at least let her know through him how sorry I was, and to hopefully motivate him to coach her as best he could.

His message was, “Just wanted to let you know your girlfriend M- got 4th place this year so no tears this time!”

The news itself was indeed fantastic, although the delivery felt like a bit of a stupid juvenile jab. My “girlfriend”? What are we, five-years-old? “Ha ha, you care about a girl’s feelings! You loooooooooooove her!” Yeah? I suppose I have cooties too.

But regardless of that, I can now rest easy knowing that M- achieved her goal which she so richly deserved. She worked so hard last year and came away with nothing. Over the rest of the year she focused hard on her speaking and pronunciation abilities and came back the following year to deliver a speech that landed her an actual prize. I wish I could have been there to share the moment with her, but I couldn’t be happier that she got it.

The next day I got a message from Kim, my neighbor, who’d also been at the Speech Contest. She told me about M- winning and congratulated me, though I told her I couldn’t accept her congratulations because I hadn’t been there and she’d done it all on her own. But she also told me she met Heath and talked to him, and this is where the bad news comes in. She said he’s a really up-beat guy, he’s been living and teaching in Japan for 17 years, he’s a champion sumo wrestler, and he’s well known by the JTEs in our area. She wrote “your kids are in good hands.”

That was the worst possible thing she could have said to me. I don’t want my kids to be in good hands. Capable hands, sure, but not expert 17-years-experience hot-shot celebrity ALT sumo-wrestler hands. For whatever reason he seems to have nothing but disdain for me, but I imagine the kids must love him and the JTEs must be quite impressed by him. When I go back, I’ll no longer seem like as good of a teacher to any of them. A significant portion of the students will no doubt prefer him to me and be disappointed when I return, and the teachers will have to readjust to working with an inexperienced, non-Japanese speaking teaching partner. For all I know, after seeing him do his expert lessons they’ll realize just how amateurish mine were and stop letting me have so much control over the planning.

I hope I’m just being needlessly paranoid, but when the only thing I’ve got going for me in my life is my job, it’s hard not to constantly worry about all the ways in which that might end up spoiled by this situation. It took me 27 years to find myself in a life situation in which I could truly call myself happy, and wouldn’t it be just so poetically appropriate if the thing that provided that happiness gets tainted and torn to shreds after just one extremely brief lightning-fast year?

And it’s all because of paperwork! Forms and stamps and files that nobody ever checks. Because I didn’t get a fucking stamp I was supposed to get before going on vacation, I’m forced to exchange a month and a half or more of a life worth living with this empty bullshit existence, and return to a fundamentally altered situation. The more I actually think about the underlying reality of the situation—that everything would be perfectly fine if not for the paperwork procedures of people with absolutely no connection to my life whatsoever—the more absurd it seems.

The worst part is, there’s still no end in sight. At the beginning of the week it looked like next Friday was the light at the end of the tunnel, but I heard nothing from Interac the whole rest of the week. I just sat tight until Thursday which they said is the day I’d usually hear from them, but got no update then either. I would have sent an e-mail asking what the deal is, but I did that last Thursday when I also got no update and it make no difference. They’re going to update me whenever they damn well please and all I can do is wait and grind my teeth.

And that bit of no news is how the week ended and where things stand right now. For all I know, I will get the Certificate of Eligibility in the mail this week as planned and be ready to fly back the week after. Or there might have been some kind of problem and they had to start the whole process over from the beginning in which case I’ll be stuck here until December. Maybe Heath and my school have decided they’re happy together and want to make his teaching there a permanent arrangement, so Interac no longer has need of me and are just figuring out how to release me from my contract. WHO KNOWS???

In any case, I took back my two weeks’ notice from Domino’s and told them to just keep scheduling me until further notice, so there will be no visits to family members next weekend. I’m still going to try and do that before I leave though, because if there’s one thing my mind couldn’t possibly be more made up about it’s that I’m not coming back to America again next year. I need to stay in Japan, pay off all the debt I still have from this year’s travelling expenses and when I can finally afford to travel again, actually see more of Japan.

There will come a day when I find myself back in this situation, stuck in America where I don’t belong and desperate to get back to my actual life. But then I’m going to wake up, I’m going to be in Japan, and I’m going to breathe and enormous sigh of relief that this time it was just one of those dreams.

Stranded at Home

August 24th, 2012 No comments

Last year I came home from Germany thinking I’d have a nice long month or two at home before Interac would call me up to come to Japan, but it turned out that I got called in far quicker than I’d anticipated, making for only about one month of time back home. This year I came home expecting a month, but it’ll wind up being longer.

It turns out the information Interac gave me about not needing to leave Japan to get a work visa if the Certificate of Eligibility is issued while you’re in the country was false, or at least not applicable to me. Thanks to my dad for looking it up himself and reading that to get a 90-day tourist visa in Japan you have to show a return ticket out of the country within 90 days, something I didn’t have. We looked into it closer and discovered that not only do you need a return ticket, but the tourist visa can’t be converted to a work visa so you have to leave the country anyway. I called Interac on Wednesday night (Thursday morning there) and asked them about it, but they weren’t sure and only said my information contradicted theirs. So I called the Japanese embassy the following morning and got the facts as they pertain specifically to my case—I would not be able to get a work visa inside Japan no matter what.

So considering my two options—stay here and wait for the Certificate of Eligibility and apply for a work visa here, or go to Japan on a tourist visa (by fabricating a return ticket) then fly to Korea to get the work visa once the CoE is issued—it became clear that the most straightforward and financially wise decision was to stay here for the time being. Tickets to Japan in September are generally about $1000 but some were as low as $650. Round-trip tickets between Japan and Korea are about $500. The fact that I can work while I’m here while in Japan I’d just have to sit idly by and lose money just seals the deal.

Yesterday I made contact with Ted, the manager of Domino’s, and found out he’s in need of drivers and can definitely use me for as long as I’m around. I’ll be going in today to work out the details with the new store manager, and it’s likely I’ll be driving again by Sunday.

So yes, I’ll be time-warping back to those good old college days of pizza delivery, quite the major juxtaposition to my current life of respectable work as a public schoolteacher in Japan. It won’t be too bizarre because I’ve done a little driving for Domino’s nearly every time I’ve been back, but this time it’ll just feel a bit more strange because of how different my actual job is from the one I’ll be doing temporarily. It should be fun though—I always enjoyed delivering pizza around here—and I’ll have my own little private inside joke to think that when I hand people pizza and they think they’re just paying some loser schmuck who can’t get a real job, they’re actually paying a respected English teacher of a Japanese public school.

Depending on how much I actually end up working, I should at least help to mitigate the financial damage the extra plane ticket and missed teaching work will do to me. My only real concerns now are what to do about my utility bills for the apartment where I live, and how the school will react to me when I finally make it back. I don’t know how long it’s going to be—it could be as little as a week or as much as a month and a half—but while I’m gone there’ll be a replacement at my school, supposedly some older guy with loads of experience. I’d like to get in touch with him and ask him kindly not to do too great a job, because the last thing I want is to go back and have the teachers now comparing me to someone better, and all the students dejected and disappointed that Mr. Replacement is gone and now they’ve got to deal with boring old Kyle-sensei again. I just remember going on vacation in Germany and losing three of my lesson groups because they liked the substitute better. Being gone for too long worries me.

Hopefully Interac will put me in touch with him, and I can’t think of any good reason why they wouldn’t. It would help him to be able to ask me about the school if he wants, and it would help me to know what he’ll be teaching while I’m gone. I would also really like him to convey to the Speech Contest students how much I regret not being there to help them out. Hopefully he’ll do a good job and M- won’t have to lose again, but I just really really hate not being there to coach her. There’s still a somewhat decent chance I’ll actually be back in time for the contest, but there’s really no telling until the CoE comes through.

And that’s where things stand right now. Marooned in my own home, stranded in a life I grew out of years ago, with the pathway back to my current life pending on a piece of paper being processed half a world away.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

The Latest Updates

August 20th, 2012 No comments

Things have been relatively uneventful since I got back to New Jersey. On Thursday evening I went with my dad to Easton, PA to join him on his monthly gathering of a few Lafayette fraternity brothers. We went to Porter’s pub, a place with a selection of about 60 beers, and if you try them all (usually not done all at once) you get your name engraved on your own silver mug which they hang on the ceiling. I tried a few beers and got my own mug started, which should be finished by the next time I get there thanks to my dad impersonating me.

And yesterday I hung out with Lisa, an old friend from high school whom I haven’t seen in years. We were pretty close for awhile but drifted apart towards the end, and she’s had a pretty rough time of it ever since her best friend Val died when they were 17. Her father just passed away on Monday and Lisa had gone to the funeral the day before, but other than some sadness over that she seemed to be doing very well overall. We had lunch at a diner in Clinton, then walked up Point Mountain, the highest point in Hunterdon County for some nice conversation with beautiful scenery. It was nice to see that she’s doing much better since the last time I’d seen her.

Finally, I finally got some new information from Interac last night regarding my visa situation, and the news was pretty good overall. They found out that if I’m in the country when the Certificate of Eligibility is issued, I don’t need to go to an overseas embassy to get the work visa. So as long as I get back to Japan before the processing is complete, I won’t have to leave Japan and I should be able to get the visa and be back to work relatively quickly. However, if the ironic happens and the process is rushed fast enough to get the certificate issued before my August 31st arrival, I’ll have to fly to Korea to get it done.

I’d also asked them about the possibility of working for the school as an unpaid volunteer while I don’t have the visa, and he said that wouldn’t be possible if I’m still on a contract, as on paper it wouldn’t look like volunteer work. They’d have to end my current contract early and draw up a whole new one for the remainder of the school year. After giving it some thought I realized this is probably the best option, and I sent them an e-mail this morning to ask about what exactly that would entail. After all, it reflects pretty poorly on Interac if their ALT can’t fulfill his obligation to work the full school year because of visa issues we should have been on top of, but if we demonstrate our willingness to work around the problem, that should be to our credit.

In any case, I’m feeling much better about the situation overall and it looks like whatever consequences ultimately come of this, they won’t be too disastrous. The worst thing that could still happen, other than a major financial hit, is that I won’t be able to help the Speech Contest students prepare and I’ll have to feel like I let them down. But I’m pretty sure the Speech Contest is open to the public, so I’ll be able to at least go there and show my support to the students regardless of my visa situation.

And that’s where things stand right now. Whatever happens, I’ll be back in Japan by the end of next week.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

Legal Limbo

August 2nd, 2012 No comments

It turns out this immigration status issue might be far worse than I thought. Apparently my original work visa expires on August 15, which means I was supposed have gotten it renewed before leaving Japan. It would have been nice of Interac to warn me about this before I left, perhaps in response to one of those “What do I need to do before leaving Japan?” e-mails I sent them.

I went to the Japanese consulate yesterday because I was in town anyway, but I’d left my passport at my parent’s house because it’s safer here and I hadn’t expected to need it. As such, while the ladies at the consulate were sympathetic and anxious to help, there wasn’t much they could do for me. I’ll be returning there with passport in hand today, and it won’t be until then that I finally get a more solid idea of where I stand.

The time difference issue is a huge head-ache, as the Interac office is closed when the consulate is open and open when it’s closed. I had to wait until about 7:30 p.m. yesterday to get a phone call from Interac and what they said was not the least bit helpful or encouraging. The person in charge of my branch has never had a situation like this before, and it appears to him as though I have to physically return to Japan before August 15 when my current visa expires and have it renewed at an immigration office there. If not, I have to go through the entire visa application process from start-to-finish again, which includes an application for something called a Certificate of Eligibility which usually takes a month to process.

All of this sounds like insane bureaucratic nonsense to me, as I already obtained a Certificate of Eligibility last year—the fact that I’ve been working in Japan for a year ought to be sufficient evidence of that. The idea that I wouldn’t need this certificate if I wanted to renew my visa at an immigration office in Japan, but I need to get it all over again when trying to renew my visa from the United States just makes no logical sense to me, but bureaucracies are often illogical. It’s 2012 for crying out loud. Why should the physical location of my flesh and organs make such a huge difference? I have a job in Japan, an apartment I’m currently paying rent for…do you really mean to tell me that just because the cells which make up my physical body are not spatially located within specific geographic parameters, I have the same status as some schmuck who’s never been to Japan applying for a visa for the first time?

For all I know that may actually be the case, so I’m just going to have to deal with this stress until I get more answers later today. The worst case scenario isn’t the most devastating thing in the world, but it is pretty awful. I’d have to cut my vacation extremely short and go back to Japan almost immediately. Despite my foolish optimism of yesterday morning, I now no longer have any reasonable expectation that Interac would cover the cost of a new plane ticket or anything else. So I’d have to eat the cost of my original plane ticket back on the 29th, as well as the cost of my ticket to California from August 8 to 15, a trip I of course would have to forego in order to get this visa business taken care of on time. Sorry, friends I almost never get to see in life—it’ll have to wait at least another year. Some forms need to be stamped, after all, and they can’t be stamped in this longitude.

I can’t expect any help from Interac. Sure, they do have somebody at the Chiba office who’s specific job it is to oversee their employee’s visa status and whatnot, but I should have checked my visa’s expiration date before leaving and asked them about it specifically, instead of asking about the related issue of a re-entry permit and assuming they wouldn’t have just said, “Don’t worry about it” but also something like, “Just make sure your visa is renewed before you leave.” This company has thousands of employees. Am I the first person to ever go home for summer vacation? You’d think some kind of “Make sure of A, B, and C before you leave” would be standard procedure, but apparently not. They just let you go on your way and if there’s a problem…oops. Our bad. But you have to pay for it.

Anyway, this could turn out to be the shortest, most ill-fated vacation I’ve ever taken. What was I saying about the summer of 2012 again? Something about “fun and interesting experiences”? Well, one out of two ain’t bad.

Categories: Personal Tags: , ,