水曜日, 7月 06, 2011

Catching Up. Poll Result, Australia, Japan, and My Triumphant Return to USA!

So first, THANK YOU to the 38 people who took part in my poll. Out of the 4 choices, an overwhelming 50% voted I ought to move to Canada and become a farmer, so I decided to go with option #5, and get a job in NYC working for the international arm of a Japanese television channel.
I say "I decided", but I was also very fortunate that they agreed with my decision to work there :D That, btw, will be starting September 1st, so I hope the Big Apple is ready for Greg Beck!
So... Australia! I went there at the end of April and visited my sister, who was coaching the Adelaide Roller Derby (ADRD, but please read that as "Ad-Rad") and the ladies showed us a simply amazing time! Not only did this happen:
Hold a Koala? Check!
Pet wallabies, kangaroos, dingo, and capybaras? Check!
River Dolphin-watching Cruise. Cheeerk
Our hosts also planned a bajillion other amazing things for us. We went strawberry picking, saw an Aussie-rules football game, went on a wine-tasting trip, and sampled the the large selection of delicious food and beer that Australia had to offer! It was great fun hangin with my sis as well. She is my hero, and you may notice I have a link to her roller derby blog (which does much better than mine, no surprise) at the bottom of my page.

After that I spent a couple days in Melbourne with my friends Kathleen and Jude! They also did an amazing job playing host, putting me up, and taking me all around town, even to the school Kathleen works at, and the restaurant her sister works at (Clay Pots, i think it's called...it's a great live jazz bar, and seafood restaurant! Check it out in St. Kilda!) Here are some photos you can click to view full sized:


And to wrap it all up I saw my old friend Anni from back in my study abroad days in Japan! Stellar!

Then it was time to fly back to Japan, but not home! I bot picked up by my Hiroshima friends, Yamaguchi pals, and Ehime girlfriend in Fukuoka for another... RAMEN TOUR! If I've never explained ramen tours before, shame on me. I'll check later and post a link if I have.
Here's what you need to know about that:
IT WAS FUN! (You can see Steve and his wife on his motorcycle behind us!)
After that, Wendy and I split off from the group to sight see in Nagasaki and visit some of my CIR friends who took us out our second night there. Again, awesome, awesome, awesome. Here's the abridged version:

But we were by no means done. On the way back to Hiroshima we spent a day in Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch-fashioned city in the northern cape of Nagasaki Prefecture, complete with gorgeous fields of flowers, a One-Piece (anime) themed harbor, real, working windmills, and a slew of attractions and restaurants. It was cool, overcast, and a wonderful day. Definitely a great place for couples!
Wendy brought her SLR so we got some very crisp shots of one another!
 Since then, I turned 27, but worked everyday that week (and weekend). And in June we went to our annual touch rugby tournament in Tokushima, Shikoku. Wendy met me up there too, along with her prefecture's team...grrr ;D

Most recently, I had another solid date-weekend with my Wendy! <3
We saw the new film Super8, spent a day at Kintaikyo and Iwakuni Castle, and spent the next day traveling out to Okunojima, the notorious "Bunny Island" that was over-run by escaped lab rabbits after the Japaense abandoned their illegal, top-secret poison gas facilities during WWII!
For some reason Kintaikyo is also famous for selling 100 different flavors of soft-serve! These were our second, EACH!
Not only did Wendy get these wild bunnies to hop upon the bench for some snacks, look how well they behaved!
So this has been my life these past couple months. Of course I'm leaving out my new venture in to the world of MMA, but that will wait for the next post!
With all this stuff, I hope you understand why I haven't been updating my blog so often.
July 30th will be my last day as a CIR and PA on the JET Programme, and after a couple more weeks with my girl, we must part for awhile as I fly home via Seattle on the 17th to visit my relatives and then fly down to Tucson and re-organize my American life while catching up with friends and family there as well! So busy! And to top it all off, I have to fly to NYC at the end of August and find an apartment by my first day at the new job!

木曜日, 6月 23, 2011

Good Idea: Volunteer Interpreter

As promised, the other side of my week in Ishigaki, Okinawa:
Mayor's thoughts: "I see you takin' my picture"
So, I mentioned previously that day one I met some triathletes from the same flight to Ishigaki. What I didn't mention however was that the nice woman from Chile I met went on to win 1st place in her division (the highest womens' division, that is)! How did day two start? After the Spatan-style madness that was breakfast with my host family (see prior post), the other interpreters and I headed to the City hall and met the mayor! At the meeting, Stephanie, the local CIR who was in charge of organizing us (along with a million other aspects of the triathlon), explained what we were doing there to the governor.

After that we had several hours of orientation, including a tour of the facilities on the island that would be used by the international competitors, as well as the hotels they would stay at. These became the places we were posted throughout the week to help them in shifts.  We also received our schedule for the week, and everyone had several free days and half days to spend with our host families and sight see.
Once orientation was over, we volunteers decided to grab lunch together and we followed Clayton, the only volunteer doing it for the second time, to Indian, but since it was packed, the four of us who had to work later split off to find local food and see the shopping arcade. 
Orion, brewed in Okinawa released a special can commemorating the Triathlon
 After getting to know each other over lunch, we shopped around and discussed our host families while enjoying the local color. Everyone in Ishigaki seemed to be not just friendly and approachable, but more tolerant (read: less gawky) of us foreigners and rarely made a big deal about us speaking Japanese (a point I really appreciate since I'd rather use Japanese to communicate the same things I would in English, not just discuss how, where, and how long I've studied Japanese). Basically, I was loving everything about this island!
This fishing shop sells the most ridiculously big and beautiful, old shells you've ever seen!
Tom's host father was actually the owner of a minshuku, a family-operated Japanese lodge, so not only did he have a hotel room for his room, his host, who had nothing better to do (thanks to the international panic after the March earthquake and tsunami, closer to MONGOLIA than Ishigaki), took us out for a tour of the island the next morning and snorkeling after lunch! We visited a recently discovered, ancient cave, and stopped all over the island to take photos of breathtaking panoramas and picturesque beaches with absolutely no one taking advantage of them!
See what I mean?
After sightseeing and lunch, I went snorkeling for the second time in my life, and let me tell you, it could not have been MORE different than my first time. The biggest difference was Ishigaki is covered in reefs, which might as well be the underwater nations' capitals they are so busy and crowded with every kind of fish and coral going  their way and not caring one bit that you're there! I even saw 4 sea-snakes, which look like 6 foot long air-conditioning ducts painted with snake patters and a face like mollusk from outer space! Apparently they are one of the most poisonous things on the planet as well, but because they have tiny mouths, and are happy to creep along the ocean floor, we didn't have to call in the national guard.
Up to this point though, it had really only been the 4 of us hanging out, even though I already knew 3 of the other volunteers from conferences in Tokyo and online forums, and I was worried that everyone would be happy to go to bed at 9 every night and hardly hang out with each other. Luckily, that was not the case AT ALL!

That evening I was invited by a local English teacher, Sean, to a house party of mostly older Japanese people who volunteer every year to help the triathlon as well. He had stopped by my evening shift Day 2 at the hotel, to say hello and see this year's batch of volunteers. That whole week, he and Alex, a cool dude from England, also teaching English on the island, extended these warm welcomes, and this, the first of many such nights, turned out to be some volunteers who had also used their network to invite pretty much all of the other volunteer interpreters. What started as a quiet get together and drinks with a half-dozen older, but very pleasant folks, turned into an all ages party with 30 people spread throughout the kitchen, living room and front porch, with children and and dogs running around between everyone's legs, good food on the bbq, more coming from the kitchen, and the older men urging the volunteers to drink more Orion and shima, the local term for their long-grain rice alcohol, Awamori, that is famous all over Okinawa. 

The next evening as well, we were invited to yet another host's minshuku and Jeff, the Taiwanese-American volunteer made ginger-chicken soup along a pot-luck of other food brought and/or made there in the kitchen by other guests. We stuffed ourselves on hamburgers, taco-salad and snacks, and talked with owner, who also ran a dive shop, and a couple other Japanese families who showed up late.

 When I say "showed up late" it's because I didn't realize until about the 6th of 7 days there, that even though Ishigaki is very much a part of Japan, it was the first place in Japan I'd ever been where the entire island really didn't care about being punctual. Japan is right to pride themselves on how punctual their trains, planes, and subways are, but this town where everyone drove themselves, and liked to relax, had really embraced the island lifestyle and given up on worrying about being a couple minutes late. It was almost like culture shock when it finally dawned on me.

Finally, after a few more shifts sitting at help desks, and a couple trips to pizza and karaoke with my fellow volunteers and local English teachers, the big day had arrived:
The mass of white water is about 100 professional triathletes paddling the water like viciously fine-tuned machines
 After the morning of local and amateur participants, the pro women and men had their go at tearing all over the island! The swam two big laps in the bay before exiting, grabbing their bikes and tearing up laps, including both ways across that huge bridge in the photo above, before finally running a MARATHON. INSANE!!!
Some more of the local color, out cheering for his Kiwi countrymen.
Jeff, Tom and I were chosen to be on the anti-doping committee. So our job was to watch the athletes we were told to after the race and make sure the didn't drink, eat, or take anything shading between finishing the race and being taken for the doping test. We got to wear cool head sets and communicate with the people back at the test facility, and my guy, who placed 3rd was extremely cooperative and just happy as hell to have placed so well since coming back from an injury.
We're officially DOPE
 That night, at least half the island met out in park for a celebration with live music, and food stalls from various local organizations and school clubs. My host family took me there and After looking around, I joined the other interpreters. Not only was everyone and there brother there that night (including the athletes from that day), the mayor stopped by our little group sitting in the grass and started pulling beer after beer out from his jacket pockets, thank us each personally. What a great guy!
I took this on my cell phone, but that's the mayor giving the thumbs up!
 Meanwhile on stage, Stephanie was busy helping with the English and Japanese emceeing, so when she finally finished and the concert ended, we all marched back downtown, past the main area of the triathlon, for more drinks and karaoke, celebrating late into the evening.

Most of our merry gang, with Jeff brandishing the case of cola he got from Olga at the park!
Ben, Sean, and me (holding some shima) at karaoke
 The next day we took some of the different triathlete teams form their hotels to elementary schools to talk to the children about what they do and their impression of Ishigaki. Ben and I got the Austrian team and I got to dust off my veeery rusty 'ol German language skills!

The next, and final full day on the island was the first time all the volunteers had the day off at the same time so we all grabbed a ferry that morning to Hateruma, the southernmost island in all of Japan; it's so far south that they boast being able to see the Southern Cross constellation!
seriously, they're proud
 We rented bikes, and rode all the way to the southern tip of this southernmost island, and after many photos on the wave-battered, volcanic cliffs, we returned to our bikes, pedaling back around to a place for lunch, and then the beach for more snorkeling!
Oh and did I mention we looked incredibly intimidating? That's cuz we didn't.
 Then we barely returned our bikes in time to catch a bus back to the port and the last ferry of the day to Ishigaki. We all snoozed for those 2 hours, which was perfect because we had our own thank you/farewell ceremony and dinner to attend at a hotel conference room, and the City Hall
 (Stephanie included) did a cute, silly, magic show for us, but mostly for the children of all the host families who attended that night as well. Knowing this was our last night together, guess what? That's right! We went out for more drinks and karaoke. I think I got to go to karaoke four times that week, and since it's one of my favorite things to do, yet sometimes so difficult to find people in the mood to go with you, it was one more thing about my time there that I absolutely loved!
This was a wild bar where all the staff, surprised by a sudden audience, got up and started playing us rock covers!
The final day we had to say good bye to our host families and each other. After going through security, I sat with a few of the other volunteers, in an odd limbo where nobody spoke, lost in our thoughts of all the memories this week on Ishigaki provided. Then my cell phone rang, and it was Stephanie. with less than 10 minutes before our plane started boarding she called me back out to receive a thank you gift from the city hall staff, a few of whom also came to wave goodbye. Thus making this trip excellent, right down to the final moments before takeoff. But I don't say "flying home", because I didn't fly back to Hiroshima. I flew to Fukuoka for my flight the next day...to AUSTRALIA....

土曜日, 6月 11, 2011

石垣と書く。愛と読もう。 Ishigaki, Okinawa

Okay, so I am ripping off some Radwimps lyrics in my title there, but basically it's just a cool way to say I LOVED ISHIGAKI!

This has been a long time coming so let's jump right in:
I stepped off the plane in Ishigaki, and island of Okinawa so far south that it is closer to THE PHILIPPINES than it is to the southern tip of Kyushu!
I went there as one of about 10 volunteers for a week-long home-stay while interpreting for their world-class triathlon. 
A smartly dressed, young Englishman, named Alex, was standing outside checking in Triathletes who were on the same plane as me. One of the other volunteers, a friend of mine named Erica who was also on the same plane, was quickly greeted by her host mother and two children, and she introduced herself to me as well and offered me a ride to my host-family's house!
Half-an-hour later I am being shown to my own room and sitting down to dinner with my host-family of 6!
Breakfast the next morning with the Masuda Family :D

  Over the week, I got to know my host family really well and they were SUCH amazing people! The mother, Nodoka, spoke English really well, and it turns out she had spent two years in Tonga with JICA (the Japanese Peace Corp.) Her Husband, Yoshi, had quit his job and moved to Ishigaki quite simply "to be happy." And he worked very hard at two jobs, one being his own juku, a Japanese night-time cram school where he taught English, science and math.
Their house was big and beautiful and infested by the noisiest, craziest, best 4 kids in the world!
At 7, 5, 2, and 1 years-old, there was almost never a quiet moment, but at the same time the dynamic between them was fascinating. Sometimes it was all-out every-man-for-himself war, although Ryuki, the eldest, was pretty good keeping out of it. Still, other times, though rare, the four of them would work and play together so sweetly you'd think you were watching The Japanese Brady Bunch.
The second oldest, Takeru, was the star of the show and demanded constant attention. Every morning I would laugh as he piled have of the bread on the table onto his plate, even though he only ate maybe 2 pieces. But even though he liked to talk and act like a bully, he was really very sensitive and sweet; quick to laugh, quick to cry; this kid wore a heart of gold on his sleeve.
Himari, their only daughter, was a darling example and sharp contrast to the boys. That first night she walked right up to me (I was sitting on the floor), handed me a hair clip, turned around and sat on my lap like "Ok, now you're going to play with my hair". She would sneak attack her mom with a hair brush. Without saying a word, she'd pull out Nodoka's hair band and start combing! My favorite thing about her though was that she would sneak off by herself and run little experiments. I found her in the bathroom one morning washing off rocks in the bathroom hand sink and getting water all over the floor, but I just laughed and gave her a towel and left her to it and when I came back later everything was clean.
Maybe it was actually Nodoka who cleaned it, but I couldn't even fathom the amount of energy those children must take. She and Yoshi both were excellent parents, and they always seemed to say exactly what I hope I'd say to my kids. They were infinitely patient, they'd speak English to their kids, have other families and children over, take Ryuki to baseball practice, catch bugs with Takeru, and all the while, keep an ever-vigilant eye on Kazu, The Vacuuming Fascist.
Maybe it was because he is always at home watching him mom clean, but at 1 year old, Kazu seemed to love sweeping and vacuuming more than walking. Seriously, his favorite toys were a small broom and the vacuum cleaner. Even turned off, he would pull it out of the closet by himself and push it around the floor contentedly. I liked to call him "Kazu the Fascist" because he always sat back and purveyed - not "look" or "gaze" - he would purvey the house and everyone and everything in it with a confidence that said "All of this is mine".

I spent the week traveling, sight-seeing, partying, and interpreting with the other volunteers and we had such a great time together, but my host family made the time there so unique and I loved coming home and seeing them, waking up and having the boys peeking in my bedroom, whispering to each other, and eating meals and playing with them. I'll talk more about the other stuff next time, but when I think of Ishigaki, the fondest memories and warmest emotions are of the generous and beautiful Masuda Family.

水曜日, 6月 08, 2011

Oh the times♪ They are a'changin'!

Okay, I swear, last non sequitur post before I write about my April/May Travels. There's just so much to do in life that pulls me away from blogging, but I guess that's a good thing and keeps these interesting!

FIRST! I've been reading the Japanese newspapers a bit more and here's some of the buzz:
Miyajima, home of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site ITSUKUSHIMA SHRINE was voted the best tourist location in Japan according to tripadvisor.com (which is according to the newspaper article I wrote :P)
YAY! I already knew that though. It is awesome. My friend Mike is here visiting Japan for the first time right now, and I took him there for the hiking, nature, temples, shrines, and food last Monday and we had a great time!

NEXT! Wifi is finally coming to Japan!
What a minute, wtf? Japan is technology central right? What do I mean "coming to"? Well, lots of people have wifi in their homes here, and even in the 90s Japanese people were the first to use their cell phone to connect to the internet on their laptops. But the concept of a WiFi hot spot never really caught on here like in the U.S.
...until now.
The reason is smart phones. After the success of the iPhone, iPhone3/3G/and 4, a growing minority of Japanese people are using smart phones and learning about apps, twitter, and facebook (yeah, now, finally!). Even though every mom in America is clambering to post their baby photos on facebook, the majority of Japanese people are shyly creating, and quickly deleting their scary facebook accounts.
Japan, as you can imagine, likes its privacy and being reserved, but the internet culture of voyeuristic friend-stalking is just too appealing to our monkey-brains, and nature is slowly winning out over nurture (i.e. Japanese Culture). I am basing this on my own suppositions btw, there's probably 5 different Master's thesis topics in there just waiting to happen.
But since Japanese people are buying unlimited internet packages on their shiny, new smart phones, and using them, they are clogging the cellphone networks and leading to the complaints Americans are all too familiar with. Japan's solution: make more WiFi spots so they can get their phone content faster without burdening the phone lines. Simplicity is beautiful eh?
So what are they actually doing? Well, NTT the phone tower company is planning to install 50,000 new Wifi spots in popular businesses such as cafes by March 2013, and competitor KDDI says they will be installing 100,000 of their own! This will probably destroy the 3G and 4G internet dongle (what a disgusting word btw) USB business targeting the previous netbook (cheap, light, and little laptops) boom, but it all spells PROGRESS to me!

Last: You may have read this in western media, but Mazda is axing their cooperative efforts with Ford in the US by 2013. You might see see this as weakness or desperate restructuring on Mazda's part, and even now, their main plant in Hiroshima is only operating at 70% due to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, but they plan to be back at 100% by October and have plenty of other plans in the pipeline for Thailand, India, and China, so I think it says more (or less) about Ford and the American economy.

Interesting? Bullshit? Whaddya think? Notice any stories I haven't? Or, if you've read something about Japan and thought "Wtf?", lemme know under "Comments" and I'll get back to ya! 

火曜日, 5月 17, 2011

Crazy, Educational, Bizarre, Japanese Commercials - Mame-shiba!

This will teach you so much! Mame-shiba literally means Bean-Shiba (as in shiba, the Japanese breed of dog), and the commercials are a series of characters that were invented simply to popularize themselves! This happens a lot in Japan, and another of my favorite examples is Relakuma (relax-bear). Once popular, the creators can make money off selling themed snacks, pencils, pillows, and kids accessories, so in that sense they are like their own 30 second cartoon shows designed purely for soulless consumerism, but I DON'T CARE! In these commercials the "dogs" are awesome because they are both cute and give off-colored trivia that make people lose their appetite! HILARIOUS!

Please enjoy! Oh, and keep clicking on the links that appear to see the next in the series (they're conveniently numbered). There are about 20 "episodes" that some kind people made English subtitles for! Number 10 is in English, and 12 is in Spanish, and both are horrible stereotypes of America and Mexico, but that makes them even better! Thank Wendy for showing me these!

土曜日, 4月 30, 2011

Super quick!

Okay, a picture is worth 1,000 words and this is almost 200 photos:
I am busy loving life on vacation!
P.S. This all took place in Okinawa Prefecture and the last few pics were in Fukuoka, Japan and Hong Kong on my way to Australia, so MUCH MUCH MORE to come...

月曜日, 4月 25, 2011

Random Australia Update!

**UPDATE: Back home safe in Japan and here are my pics from Adelaide! **

Okay, so I am in Australia now and even though i owe you a big juicy blog about my week in Okinawa, I wanted to paraphrase an email about these last two rdays in Adelaide, Australia...AKA  "RADELAIDE" !!

Yesterday I woke up after one late night of drinking home brewed beers. I'm staying with an amazing artistic and culinary couple involved in roller derby here. I hopped in a large passenger van (driven by the father of one of the roller derby members) and 12 of us drove an hour north to Adelaide's famous wine country, Barossa. The scenery was GORGEOUS and I took lots of photos...until my camera battery died! But I'm sure as I slowly friend them on facebook more photos will pop up. ANYWAY. After grabbing some delicious bacon and eggs for breakfast, we did wine tastings at 3 vineyards, but the guys brought an entire cooler (called an "eskie" in Australia - "chilly bin" in New Zealand, btw) of beers and since we had our designated, dad driver, we all got really drunk by the time it was dark.

For lunch we had an amazing picnic-style lunch at a lake, with food provided by a nearby restaurant run by a famous Australian cook (like Julia Child-style famous). I ate pheasant for the first time ever! It was baked into a flaky pie crust, and it was delish!

At the end of the night we were dropped off at Bonnie's "homestay" and we had an almost equally amazing dinner cooked by Paul, Kit Cat Krunch's fiance. Then we played drunken Rock Band on PS3 (I played drums of course), and then they busted out an ukulele for me to play! By the time I got home I was so sapped, I passed out immediately!

This morning I awoke to the sound of my sister and others arriving. I got dressed and went out to coffee and croissant sandwich (BACON for breakfast: DAY 3!!! <3) - everyone cooks here and eats such amazing food, and today was no exception. In the morning a ref/roller girl couple "Brain and Foxy) drove my sister, another San Diego coach "Ringer", and me to a wildlife park were we got to PET kangaroos, wallaby, wombat, dingo, (okay, technically we shouldn't have tried to pet these last two through the bars, but WE DID! heh heh!), and even held a Koala!!!!

It was so magical!
After another oranic health food shop-supplied picnic, we went strawberry picking! After all this I was exhausted so I passed out for the last three hours after we got home, woke up, took a shower, and just ate a power bar and some left over potato chips for dinner. Good night world! Adelaide RULES!

土曜日, 4月 09, 2011

人事異動 AKA Do the Office Shuffle!

I've been at this "Blog" thing for almost a year now, so I forget if I've posted about this before. Hope you enjoy! BTW - apparently the word "blog" came from "Web log", when a guy moved the "b" over to make "We blog", thus turning blog into a verb. That's one of those things you've probably learned 5 times and forgotten 5 times.

Every new fiscal year in Japan (April-March) most organizations go through jinji-ido or "personnel transfers". For a government organization like mine, this gets even more complicated by elections, which bring about changes in policy that restructure the entire government. So it is not only "who works where" but entire divisions that are collapsed, reorganized, expanded, renamed, and shuffled around. 
The Governor of Hiroshima, Yuzaki, was elected last September. He is a Stanford Graduate and fluent in English!
Halfway through my second year at the Prefectural Government Foreign Affairs Division, they not only changed several of our members, including my supervisor, and group leader, they also added a wall partition making our office physically smaller, to expand the neighboring room where some new chief of staff was moving his office. Everything had to be rearranged to accommodate this, which meant rolling up our shirt sleeves and moving huge desks and lockers full of over a decade-worth of paper files, all by ourselves.

Along with the transfers come office parties. By office parties, I mean everyone in the office goes to a restaurant and pays between 30 and 50 dollars for some version of an all-you-can-eat-and-drink dinner. This gives everyone a chance to get to know each other in a slightly structured, but less formal setting, and they can be really fun!
One such party, a year ago. This photo was taken by our Director, who was promoted to Chief this month.
Quick side note: The restaurant pictured above is a fried-skewer cuisine place called Hanbei. It is post-war era themed, so instead of a pitcher of beer, you get a tea kettle full! Our oldest member, and atomic bomb survivor, Mr. Tabuchi had never been there before, but since everything there reminded him of his early twenties (including the music, which he seemed to know all the words to!), he probably enjoyed it more than anyone!

The funny thing about these restructures is that they are not application based. They don't even decide based on what subjects you excel in! Basically, no one knows what will happen until the final weeks of March, and since many organizations have buildings in different cities (even different islands, and prefectures!), you can suddenly find yourself with less than three weeks to move to, for example, Tokyo! One of my co-workers announced just a couple weeks ago that he was being transferred to MAZDA to work in their PR department as part of a professional cross-training arrangement, so he won't be back working in the government offices for the next two years! We were all quite surprised.

This year, they also decided to reorganize my Foreign Affairs Division into the Regional Strategy Bureau. That alone didn't affect our office, but it meant adding a fourth, related group to our office, and expanding the physical size. To do this, they moved OUT the neighboring chief of staff, and took out last years wall partition. Since they had also knocked out the old wall behind that the previous year, it meant our office became LARGER than when I first arrived! Here are some pics of that:
One year ago:

 And a few more from this year:

The number of people in my office has grown by 7, and luckily for me, two of the new additions were regular members of my weekly English Lunch, so I know them well. My group has two new women, and a former member of another group in the same office last year, and my new group leader last year was promoted to deputy director! Here is a picture from the end of our office party last week, with some new incoming and outgoing members in attendance:

It is unbelievable to me that this happens EVERY YEAR, but another reason for it is to accommodate new hires. The Japanese school year is on the same schedule as the fiscal one, and for many organizations, gaps of even one month in your scholastic and work record can disqualify you from the next higher pay-scale, so Japanese undergraduates spend the majority of their senior (4th) year job hunting, sometimes even starting during their junior (3rd) year! I would not be the first person to hypothesize that this has something to do with why Japanese Universities are considered notoriously easy to graduate from, once enrolled.
It is also noteworthy that while all of this is going on, people are still working on projects, balancing budgets, and undergoing end-of-the-fiscal-year audits. The whole thing is extremely stressful, and I am VERY glad my position is not subject to these transfers.

Did I mention... because I also split my time working at the Hiroshima International Center, I have to go through this twice as much as everyone else! He's a pic of me saying goodbye to our old director, Mr Kawakita, who has been transferred back to the Government offices after three years here. He has also been a good friend to me, and I hope he comes to visit sometime.
He joked that since it was me (a foreigner), we should hug, and when I actually did, everyone laughed, but then decided that since I did it, they would too. It was a nice way for everyone to say goodbye to those leaving.

That's all for now! I have an insanely busy schedule stating tomorrow, so i will be taking about a month off from blogging. Please fill your time by leaving me feedback and questions for me to work on new stuff when I get back! Muah!

水曜日, 4月 06, 2011

Quick Update

So last Sunday, at my Wendy's invitation, I participated in my first EVER official marathon!

weeeell, the 10k (6 mile) division anyway. ^^

But look how good I did! I don't know if I am proud or ashamed that I didn't train, but I am DEFINITELY GLAD I finished in under an hour. I guess the next step is to start running 10k all the time and go for the half-marathon eh?

In other news:
I got SO MUCH DONE yesterday!
Yesterday was my late shift so before work, I got up, got clean, ate breakfast, did laundry, went to the dentist (I had to get my new filling replaced because a piece came out the night before while I was flossing), went to the Immigration Bureau and had my Japanese visa and re-entry permit transferred to my new passport, went shopping, came home, and made lunch and packed a meal for dinner, ALL BEFORE getting to work at 1pm! That's what Charlie Sheen calls WINNING!
Sure buddy.
 Had a great, productive day at work too, and afterward, came home and prepared the questions for tonight's quiz night which I am hosting with my good buddy Warren! (see previous posts for pictures and references to both!)

Bye for now!