Thursday, August 30, 2012

Prayer

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I try not to talk about politics or religion much here, since this is a Japan blog, after all, and those are awfully sensitive topics for some. But they are a big part of life for many people, myself included.

I think it's safe to say that there are a lot of folks who don't pray until things get rough. They ask God for help or patience or strength, or maybe they pray for someone else who is having a difficult time. The same is probably true in my case. I've had my ups and downs over the years...didn't go to church in Japan as much as I'd like, and I've had trouble motivating myself to go these days, too. But I'm working on it, and I've always considered myself religious.

Religion was one of the big issues I had with dating in Japan, too. One of my potential deal breakers is that I have to be able to raise my kids to believe what I believe. If as adults they change their minds, so be it. But being that there are few Japanese Christians, it was a worry of mine - finding a woman who would defer to my beliefs in the case of our children.

Anyway, I'm getting off track here. If you're religious, prayer can be a good avenue for Japanese, as well as spiritual, enlightenment. One time when I visited Yoshie in Kyushu, we went to this Christian store in Fukuoka. They had all kinds of prayer books and religious literature in Japanese, and some interesting items like Bible manga. I bought this basic book of prayers and Catholic catechism, which I think is meant for children.

One prayer that isn't included in that book but that is probably my favorite, is the Prayer of Saint Francis. Sometimes when I'm in emotional turmoil or pain, I try remembering this prayer, and I find it helps balance me out a bit. This is also the prayer that was printed the prayer card for my father after he died. It's also been made into some beautiful songs.

Well, I've decided I'm going to memorize that prayer in Japanese. Here it is:


平和の祈り


主よ、わたしを平和の道具とさせてください。
わたしに もたらさせてください……
憎しみのあるところに愛を、
罪のあるところに赦しを、
争いのあるところに一致を、
誤りのあるところに真理を、
疑いのあるところに信仰を、
絶望のあるところに希望を、
闇のあるところに光を、
悲しみのあるところには喜びを。
ああ、主よ、わたしに求めさせてください……
慰められるよりも慰めることを、
理解されるよりも理解することを、
愛されるよりも愛することを。
人は自分を捨ててこそ、それを受け、
自分を忘れてこそ、自分を見いだし、
赦してこそ、赦され、
死んでこそ、永遠の命に復活するからです。

And a video of the prayer in hymn form (in English...if there is a Japanese version out there, would love to see/hear it):

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Great App for Studying Japanese (that's not a Japanese study app)

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A couple months ago my wife finally upgraded from her 6 year old (!!) cell phone to the iPhone 4s. As most people do, she went a bit app-download crazy and downloaded anything free which sounded remotely interesting. Out of the 40 or so pointless apps she got, there are some gems. One especially blew my mind. The app is called Discodeer. Play any song on your iPhone or Android phone and the app searches its database and displays the lyrics. That alone makes it a neat app, but what makes it amazing is just how many J-songs it has. It can find almost any J-band I throw at it. 


I listen to J-music exclusively. It's a lifestyle choice. It's good for learning Japanese but obviously only when you actually learn words from the songs you listen to. So while I'm on the bus or train and I don't feel like doing my Anki deck, I can just listen to a song I like while I read along to the lyrics.

Bonus recommendation: I recently got into The Pillows. Man, this song is catchy:

Monday, August 27, 2012

和製英語: High tension

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I can't remember when I first heard this one, but I'm sure I must have been confused. In English, when we talk about "tension," it usually holds a more negative connotation (unless maybe you're talking about "sexual tension"). There's often a high degree of tension between two individuals who don't get along, for example, right?

In Japanese, "high tension" or 「ハイテンション」 has a positive meaning - to be excited or enthusiastic. I suppose this flows from the fact that when we talk about electricity, "high tension" means we're talking about a lot of energy.

An example from ALC:

家族に心配を掛けないよう、ハイテンションで、明るく振る舞うように努めています。
(I strive to be bright and cheerful so as not to let my family worry.)



Friday, August 24, 2012

Life After JET: Paul (Part 2)

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Yesterday I wrote about what was going on in my life around the time I decided to return home from JET and leading up to my repatriation. Now I'm going to pick up and talk about what's been going on for the past year or so. First I'll say that a lot of the observations I'm going to make are probably going to sound kind of negative. Admittedly I'm not too thrilled with the way things have gone since I came back. I've been dealing with reverse culture shock, a crappy economy, a painful breakup, and a basically non-existent social life. But I should also acknowledge that I know thing are going better for me than for a lot of people right now. It's a tough time for entering (or returning to) the workforce. So even though it's a struggle sometimes, I am trying to be positive and recognize the fact that things aren't so grim. Anyway, here we go.

Work: I saved up a little vacation time to come home a few days before my contract ended so that I could attend my good friend Nate's wedding as a groomsman. I remember feeling kind of bad for myself because the typical practice is to stay in Japan for a couple extra weeks after JET and travel or hang out with friends. I would really have liked to spend some more time with Yoshie. But I'm glad I didn't miss my friend's wedding.

I should probably mention that before returning home, I hadn't really been looking for work, and so I didn't have any kind of job secured. But as luck would have it, not too long after the wedding I got an email from Nate that his aunt, the owner of a publishing company, was looking for someone to do some freelance work for her. It seems she was in some kind of a bind to meet a tight deadline and the team she had working on the project was shorthanded. I responded that I would be interested. Turns out she remembered me from the wedding; had a quick couple interviews over the phone and I had a job.

I can't go too deeply into what my work involved (nondisclosure agreement), but I can say that my title was Rights Reuse Analyst, which basically means I was part of a team that helped a client manage rights (as in copyright) data and determine what could be used in their titles and what would be questionable or unusable without legal liability. Originally I was signed on for one month, but when the work kept going I was asked to stay on another month. When we finally finished, I was told that I was welcome to stay on as long as there was work coming in.

I was really grateful to have had that job, but it was really a mixed bag. Everyone working on the project was working from home from different parts of the country (and one from France), which meant we communicated mostly via email and phone, though we also used Skype on occasion. The people I worked with were all really nice, but it was sometimes a high-pressure job, with somewhat unpredictable hours and tight deadlines. A couple times I wound up working from morning until the next morning (with some small breaks, granted), so there were a few 11 or 12 hour days. I remember being stressed out a lot because we were often waiting to receive material from our client. My first couple months the work was pretty consistent and I was logging around 40 hours per week, but then after that I would sometimes have 10 or 15 hour weeks (or less) depending on when we would receive new work/instructions. Waiting around for work and not making money is no fun.

I was making a pretty good per-hour wage, but as a freelancer I counted as "self employed." I didn't have any kind of benefits, and taxes work a little differently when you're your own employer. As my hours started to become erratic and then dwindle, I decided that I needed to find something more constant and stable.

One day I got a JETAA DC (JET Alumni Associate of Washington DC) newsletter mentioning an admin job opening at a Japanese telecommunications research office in the city. I wound up applying and somehow was offered the job (not to demean myself; I know I interview well, but I've since met one of the other guys who applied for the job and he is a nice guy and smart, and his Japanese is better than mine). Fortunately the job came with pretty good insurance. Unfortunately the salary and vacation days offered were...disappointing. I said upfront that I could be flexible but was asking for 40k a year. I think they offered me something like 29k. I declined their offer, and to my surprise they came back with a counteroffer. It wasn't a whole lot better, but I figured I needed to do something...so I accepted, and that's where I am at the moment.

I've been here for about 5 months, and I am looking for another job. The other day I interviewed for a position as associate producer with TV Asahi in DC, but unfortunately I didn't make it past the first interview. The guys I work with here are nice, but it's a small office (4 J guys and me), so I don't really get to meet many people. As I said, my pay and vacation days are not so great. And I know this sounds snooty, but the work is just too menial. I do help with some telecom research, which wasn't included in the original job description, and that is interesting. But aside from that I am basically a secretary. That's a fine job, but I think more suited to a secondary income-earner, and not something that requires a bachelor's degree.

But the job market is a wreck right now. I am applying to federal jobs all the time and the automated rejection emails have just become background noise. I apply to private companies too, and usually don't even get a response. It's a discouraging time to be looking for work. Still, at least I am employed at the moment.

Bottom line here is that the main driver of my decision to return home hasn't panned out. I thought that it was time to come home and try to find a real career with advancement opportunities and a bigger salary. Well, not yet. Let's see what's behind door #2.

Finances: Oh, this is door #2? Not a whole lot different to say here. At my freelance job I was making less than on JET, if you take into account taxes and lack of insurance. Now I am making even less than that. The regression isn't very encouraging. On top of that, in order to take this job I had to buy a car, which at least I had wanted to do anyway. Basically I took a chunk of money I had saved from my freelancing and the tax refund I had from working in Japan (which if I remember correctly was around $5k or $6 originally, but kind of got whittled down over the months) plus a $2k loan from my mom (half paid back) and a 5-year $10k loan through a car dealership, and bought a new 2012 Toyota Yaris. Not a high-end car, but I paid what I could afford so that hopefully this thing will last me a good number of years. The extra car loan and insurance payments aren't helping my situation, but it's another step towards reachieving independence. And it has gets good mileage, too.

Domestic Life: Well, for starters I had to move back in with my mom and sister here in Maryland. It definitely has its perks, like, uh...free lodging and utilities. I love my family, so it's not that I don't want to see them, but it can be hard to go from living independently to being back home again. My mom is probably one of the coolest around, so I can't complain about her. My sister and I get into a lot of scuffles, though. Especially because one of my biggest stressors has been her dog.

Towards the end of my time in Japan, I heard that my sister wanted a dog. She asked me for my input and I believe I said "Fine. But dogs are a lot of work, so don't ask me to take care of it." Well, that turned out how you might expect. My first half year back while I was working from home, it was my job to walk him (usually a couple times), feed him once, and let him be out of his cage for a while if my schedule permitted. One of the main problems is that he is a Shiba-Inu, which is a very energetic and stubborn breed. So he would be banging on his cage, wanting to come out. I would walk him and he would want to run around and grab sticks and leaves and wouldn't go to the bathroom. And when he was out inside the house he would bite at whatever he could reach (pillows, napkins, papers) at random and try to eat them.

When I took this job and also got pissed at her for always going out and dumping her dog on me or my mom, I stopped taking care of him most of the time. Recently, though, my sister has been doing all kinds of crap (coaching a soccer team, taking Japanese classes, seeing her new boyfriend) and my mom has been having problems with her knee and has a hard time handling the dog. So the thankless job once again falls to me.

Well, at least I have a car these days, so I can go out now and then if I want to. But...

Social Life: Stunted. Frustrating. In Japan and in college I had a lot of opportunities to go out with friends and meet new people. Unfortunately, though, I don't really know anyone here. I grew up in New York and my mom moved to Maryland less than a year before I went to Japan on JET. So I came home and was without a car for over half a year. My nearest friend lives in Pennsylvania (though he's moving to Maryland soon), and I was doing the long distance relationship thing. So most of my socializing was done online.

These days I've been trying to branch out and get more involved in meeting people, but it's slow going. I have been going to some JETAA DC networking events but haven't really connected with anyone enough to warrant anything beyond chatting at said event. I've also become a member of the Japan America Society of Washington DC and have attended a few of their events, and am taking a Japanese history class with them. But the events aren't regular enough for me to really make any friends, and the class I'm taking is small and mostly made up of folks older than myself. There is one former JET member in that class who is around my age and a pretty cool dude, though. So there's that at least.

Writing all this I know it sounds like I am just feeling sorry for myself, and sometimes I do. But I'm trying to improve my situation. It's just...very slow. For people who return to a home where they have a lot of friends and familiarity, repatriation might be easier, I suspect.

Romance: Crap, this one again...

Well, I've already written posts about what happened with Yoshie and me. I've also already written some mopey ramblings (mostly in Japanese though, maybe). But I'll give a brief recap.

I returned home and we did our best to keep things going over even longer distance than they had been. We missed each other a lot, and sometimes I thought things were harder for her than me because I had done the international thing before. She visited me for a couple weeks near the end of last year. It wasn't a perfect trip, but was a lot better than her first trip to America, I think. And it was awesome to see her after months of just Skype and Gchat.

After that, things started to decline. She started becoming busier with her music life (setting up shows and meeting new bands and artists to play with; tons of rehearsals and practices). In the past she had told me that she was considering moving to America. Maybe we wouldn't be together at first, but it would be a big step towards our future together. But now she started talking a little about how she was considering moving to Fukuoka (the big city near Saga where the majority of the music community lives). I knew that if she moved to Fukuoka, she wouldn't be making plans to leave Japan anytime soon.

Things started getting rough for me. Texts and Skype sessions became fewer as she got busier. I guess being busy also helped take her mind off of us not being together. I started feeling really stressed at work because sometimes days would go by with merely one or two messages between us, whereas in the past we had been back and forth throughout the day. I missed her a lot and I worried that she didn't care as much about the relationship as she used to.

I visited her at the end of April of this year. It was...not a good trip. I'm glad I went and got to see her in person one last time. But while I was there, she had a lot of practices and a couple of shows. I resented that she wasn't spending more time with me; after all, I had spent a lot of money and taken time off from work to visit, and who knows when we would see each other again? She was irritable sometimes, I think because she was feeling so conflicted. Our trip to Nagasaki to meet up with Joe and Lieko was uncomfortable.

One day I kind of broke down emotionally and poured out that I had been thinking about how I wanted to marry her and build a family together, but that these days it seemed more and more like that wouldn't happen. She listened but I don't remember what she told me. Nothing really to resolve anything.

Then about an hour before I was going to leave for the airport, she broke down and told me that she was going to move to Fukuoka. That she was going to remove her relationship status from Facebook and not make posts about it because it was unprofessional. She loved me but she decided that her music had to come first. I told her I understood, and that in light of that we probably wouldn't be able to make things work. When I was on the bus to the airport, she called me crying and asked if I would give her some more time to think. I said I would.

A week or two later I finally got a chance to talk to her on Skype again and I told her that if this was how things were going to be (we had barely talked since I returned to the States), that we had to break up. I could do long distance, but not indefinitely, and not knowing that I would barely get to talk to her because she would be too busy. God, breakups suck.

Since then we've exchanged one or two emails and we're still friends on Facebook, but I don't know how long all of that will last. I'm trying to get past her, but I'm not doing a good job. Maybe I won't be able to until I meet someone else who I can love.

At any rate, I know that you meet people when you least expect it, but I have a hard time picturing myself with anyone in the near future. Not just because of how I feel, but because of my dismal social life. =P

Conclusion: I'd like to just say that if you are abroad and considering coming home, think carefully and try not to make an emotional choice. But consider your emotions. My main reason for coming back was to get a better job. I thought with my experience and education it wouldn't be too much of a problem, even with the economy the way it is. But it seems having a bachelor's degree and living abroad aren't as strong on a resume as they used to be.

As the JET mantra goes, ESID. In my case, it's very possible things will pick up at some unexpected juncture and I will be better off for having decided to come home. But the sad truth for now is that I often regret my decision. I wish this post had a happier ending, so, uh...here's a puppy:









Thursday, August 23, 2012

Life After JET: Paul (Part 1)

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A little over 6 months ago Joe wrote up a post about what he's been doing since leaving the JET program. That was the half-year mark for us, and now it's been just over a year since we hung up our, uh, chalk (you don't actually write anything on the board when you teach kindergarten, do you Joe?). Anyway, I think this may be another one of my epic novella posts (just fair warning to you), but I think I want to write this partially as a reflection and partially as an anecdote to share with anyone reading this who may be teaching abroad on JET or a similar program and is considering their future. Actually, in light of how long this is turning out, I think I am going to break it up into two posts...

One of the unfortunate things about the recontracting process for JET is that while most JETs start and end their jobs in mid to late summer, the decision about whether to stay or go has to be made in the cold, dark winter months. It may sound silly, but the season can have a big impact on your state of mind, and that's something that should be taken into about when making that fateful decision. Although each of my three years I had to weigh what I wanted to do (my second year was kind of an easy choice, I think, but my first and third were not), it was the December of 2010 in which I decided I would return home.

At the time, these were my circumstances and considerations:

Work: Sometimes I really enjoyed my job, and sometimes I really didn't. I liked interacting with most of my students and I liked a lot of my coworkers. I didn't like having to travel over an hour each way to go to my visit school twice a week, but I was fortunate to work with some great English teachers over there and also luckily worked with 3 very cool ALTs over the years (from the US, Ireland, and New Zealand, respectively). Honestly though, I got frustrated and lazy sometimes. I had a really stimulating couple of classes with one guy I worked with at my base school. We had a small group of students who we met with a couple times a week, and we were able to do more specialized lessons with them. Aside from that, though, although I enjoyed being in the classroom, I didn't enjoy having to visit a dozen different classes (I had to see ALL of the 300+ freshmen) and repeating each lesson a dozen times. Taken with the facts that the Japanese school system focuses on tests and memorization over critical thinking and comprehension and that most of the students I met were only minimally interested in English, I got bored. I admittedly could have worked harder, but I often felt like it was pointless. I tried to connect with students and make them at least find some enjoyment in studying English, but beyond that there wasn't much I could physically do in most cases. Ironically, it was at my visit school for part time students that I met some of my brightest and lingually-predisposed students (not that there weren't a few at my base school - my English club members were really cool kids). But ultimately I just didn't feel fulfilled at work and I wanted to find something where I could feel more...useful?

 Finances: In retrospect, I had it pretty good. At the time, this is what I saw - after sending home money to pay my student loans every month, I had enough for food and going out every now and then, plus sufficient funds to ride the Shinkansen once or twice a month to visit Yoshie, and a little money to save (which would invariably be spent eventually on some short vacation). I wasn't saving anything for retirement or any meaningful long-term goals, although if I had cut out vacations and some socializing, I probably could have. I don't regret my choices on this end, though. I just thought I had the potential to be making more at home (Ha).

Domestic Life: So my apartment was kind of ghetto. I had no running hot water (had gas heaters) and no oven. My building had roaches, and because it was older had little insulation to speak of. But the grass is always greener. The place was a bit pricey, but it was subsidized (I was paying half of the rent - 60,000 yen a month). I had fast and reliable DSL internet (don't think it ever went out that I can remember), lived within walking distance of several parks and my main place of work, and by living alone I had independence and privacy. It could be a little lonely sometimes, but my good friend Dylan visited frequently to hang out and watch movies, and a few times Yoshie came to stay for a few days or a couple weeks, and those are among my best memories of my time in Japan. But by the end I had had enough of the bugs, extreme temperatures, and lack of a decent shower, and I longed for more comfortable digs.

Social Life: I had a great social life in Japan. There are a lot of nice people in the JET community, and I felt like between JET and Dylan (he was in a band and I would often go to his shows), I was constantly meeting new people and expanding my network of friends and acquaintances. I made a lot of really cool friends over there. The flip side of this is that I was also missing my friends back home. I played video games online with a couple of them sometimes and exchanged emails, but it wasn't the same as physically hanging out now and then, and I could feel the friendships straining a bit.

I didn't date a lot in Japan, but I "secretly" went out with one of the teachers at my base school for about three months (everyone seemed to know even though it was secret). I still feel kind of bad about how that ended. I think it was one of those relationships...I liked her, but once we had been going out for a while, I felt that I had been more comfortable with her as a friend than as a girlfriend. We never got very serious, either physically or in any other way, and I broke up with her. We stayed friendly, even though I could tell sometimes it was hard for her. Eventually she moved to Australia to go to grad school, I think. I hope she's doing well.

Aside from that I only went out on one or two other dates. I could have seen more women if I were interested, I think, but I didn't really meet anyone who I felt like pursing. Until Yoshie, that is.

Romance: As I mentioned above, there were a few minor blips on the radar during the first half of my time in Japan on JET, but the main event was my relationship with Yoshie. I first saw her at one of Dylan's shows. She accompanied Dylan and Sammy (his bandmate) on the piano, and I remember thinking she was very talented and gorgeous, but I didn't give much thought to her at first. I found out she was living in Kyushu, which was hours away, and was just in Hyogo for a little while. After the show there were plenty of people who wanted to talk to her and I didn't feel like competing. A bunch of us went out, but she had somewhere to be and didn't join us. I just wrote her off as another beautiful girl I had seen once.

Fast forward about four months later. I was at another one of Dylan and Sammy's shows (on Valentine's Day, I believe it was), and as it was winding down I noticed her coming in and remembered her right away. She didn't seem to know anyone in the audience, so I took the opportunity to go talk to her. She apparently remembered me, too (or my face, anyway), and we chatted for a few minutes. Then she left with Dylan and me since she had to go the same way to catch her train. Turned out she was friends with a mutual friend of ours, and that's how she had met Dylan (actually her friend is now married to our very own Joe). After learning all this, I asked Joe if he knew if she were single. He talked to his then-girlfriend-now-wife and they arranged a couple of hangouts for the four of us that week. We went to a huka bar on our first outing, and then I invited them over to my place and made tacos. She seemed interested and told me that she was busy the next day but would be free once more before she had to leave. I took that as a hint and asked her out for that free night, and she accepted. We went out and had a good time, and I worked up the courage to tell her that I had decided after my first serious relationship that I didn't want to ever do long distance again, but that I really liked her a lot and would reconsider that if she were interested. She told me that she liked me too but just wasn't sure. There was a lot going on in her life.

She left to go back to Saga a couple days later, after we hung out once more with our two friends (the reason she was in Osaka is that she is a part-time correspondence student and has to occasionally travel to campus for tests and such). I asked her if maybe I could visit her in Saga sometime, but she was noncommittal. I was disappointed and thought that was probably the end of that, but we exchanged phone numbers.

Over the next month or so we texted each other a lot and talked on the phone sometimes. She wound up changing her mind and I visited her in Saga once for a weekend, staying at a hotel in her city. We visited Kumamoto and tried raw horse meat and visited an old castle, and one night when she dropped me off I very nervously asked if I could kiss her. I thought she said yes, so I gave her a quick peck on the lips and said goodnight (I later found out from Joe that she hadn't said yes but was actually asking if I meant on the lips, but she never said anything about it to me).

Eventually I got an email from her saying that she had thought about it and wanted me to be her boyfriend. It was April 1st, which I remember because she said despite it being April Fool's Day she wasn't joking.

I won't review our whole relationship, but I will say we had our ups and downs. I had trouble accepting her job sometimes (working at a hostess club as a pianist) and I would get a bit jealous, though I always trusted her. We traveled a lot together, even to Okinawa and to America.

We also talked about marriage and children a little bit, but that was mostly initiated by me. She was happy I felt that way but wasn't ready to seriously think about that stuff yet; she had a lot of musical talent and wanted to pursue that both study and career-wise.

We also talked about the possibility of her moving to Kansai to live near or with me. She said she wanted to, but never seemed to make any concrete plans. Eventually I decided that although she may have intended to, it wasn't very likely that she would do so quickly enough for me. I really didn't want to spend another year so far from her - the travel was expensive and I wanted to be with her more. I also felt that if I stayed and she moved in with me, things would become complicated. She would need to find a job, and if I decided to leave the following year or the one after that and she stayed in Japan, she would need to find a new place. So it was with these considerations that I made my choice not to recontract. This is still something I think about and wonder what if I had stayed. I remember when I told her that I had decided to recontract and that it would probably be better if we broke up rather than me dragging things along when we probably had no future together. We both cried and she convinced me to stay together with her for as long as possible, and although I often regret not giving her the chance to move to Hyogo to be with me, I don't regret staying together with her (even though there were plenty of bumps in the road to follow).

I think that's where I'll leave off for now. In my next post I'll talk about how things have been going since I came back and how each of my situations has changed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Saturn from Saturn

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Looks like someone was a fan of the old SNL "Coneheads" skits.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

So Catchy

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Don't know why the same two commercials repeat, but...good luck getting this little jingle out of your head.

Friday, August 17, 2012

良い and 良い

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I've always kind of just taken it for granted that 「良い」 can be read as 「よい」 or 「いい」 and that they both mean "good." I suppose I never really gave much thought as to when/where 「よい」 is used, as 「いい」is much more common in daily colloquial Japanese. Yesterday, though, I was having a conversation with my boss regarding a push by the ACLU to get U.S. companies to move call centers to America, and I mentioned that I think many Americans regard domestic call centers to be of higher quality than those that are offshore. The Japanese I used was 「いい質」.

Lately my boss has been on kind of a quest to improve my Japanese (I'm grateful for his good will and attention, but this can be stressful at times), and he told me that instead of 「質」, I should say 「品質」. All right, fair enough - I guess because we're talking about a (product or) service? Then he said that I should say 「よい品質」 instead of 「いい品質」. Hmmm.

I asked him about the difference between 「いい」 and 「よい」 and he sat back with a smile and a 「そうねぇ」 and thought for a moment. He explained that 「よい」is used more often in writing, but that in this setting (I'm not clear exactly if he meant as in a workplace or a more academic, research-oriented setting) it's sometimes good to use words that would normally be used in written Japanese. I nodded.

Having done a little searching online, it seems to me that some people believe 「よい」 and 「いい」have different nuances (which would make sense), but I personally had a hard time grasping the difference that said people were trying to explain. I suppose for now it's enough to understand that 「よい」is used mostly in written Japanese.

I wonder if there's anyone reading who could share some additional insight...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The many faces of "ki"

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Sometimes getting your thoughts and feelings down on (virtual?) paper can really be helpful, even if they are kind of crazy and/or melodramatic.

On a completely unrelated note, I was thinking that it's about time for me to write up a post on 気 (ki).

can be translated in a number of different ways, depending on its usage - spirit, energy, life force, mood, etc. Just as the word itself has several meanings, so is it used in a ton of different expressions. So many, in fact, that I'm not going to attempt to list them all. I did want to jot down a few of the more commonly-used ones, however. And then if any of you have any favorites that I haven't mentioned, I invite you to share them in the comments.

1. 気をつける - 「きをつけて!」is an oft-used expression telling someone to be careful or to take care. You'll often hear it used when parting from a group of friends (or maybe coworkers after a drinking party) in the evening. Kind of like saying "Have a safe trip home!"


2. 気がつく - to notice. Sometimes this one can be used in one of the same ways as わかる. If you're not so observant, you'll want to condition your tongue to saying 「気がつかなかった」.

例:飲み放題は、いくら?値段気つかなかったんだ。
Ex: How much is all you can drink? I didn't notice a price.


3. 気がする - to have a feeling about something or to feel ~. I didn't start noticing this one until recently for some reason, and I get the feeling its usage is a little more broad than simply to "feel." Still, that seems to be the primary use.

例:俺は負ける気がするな。
Ex: I have a feeling I'm gonna lose.


4. 気になる - to be on one's mind or to be anxious about. This is also one feel I've not employed to the fullness of its potential. You can use it to say that you're interested in something (or someone) or that you're worried or uneasy about something.

例:そのレストタンはいつも通ってるけど行ったことないから最近気になってる。
Ex: Recently I've been interested in that restaurant since I always pass by it but have never been there.


So how about it? There are plenty more 「気」 phrases out there. What are some other good ones?

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またこんな記事書いてすみません。精神保健のためなんだよね。最近またちょっと落ち込んでて・・・今は色んなめちゃくちゃ考えあるからこの記事はノンセンスみたいかもしらない。ちょっと恥ずかしいし、このごろ日本語で書いてないから日本語で・・・

先週末友達は訪ねてくれてワシントンDCのNational Spy Museumに行ったんだ。楽しくて、気を紛らせて良かった。そして、大学からいい友達やけどこのごろそんなに連絡が無い(彼は高校の先生だから普通は大変忙しい)。ちょっと話してた、別れについて。時々まだきついし。彼言ったのは、自分は一人にいることが納得になる時までデーティングしないほがいいってアドバイスはよく言われてて・・・人によって違うけど彼はそれは信じてない。まぁ、新しい誰かに愛するまで癒さないということは・・・それはそうかもしれない。わからない。僕は心の一部はそうしたい、凄く。でも心の他の一部は離したくない。本当に終わったってわかる。時々「突然に仕事を辞めて彼女と一緒にいるために日本にいったらどうになる」って考えるけどそれは空想。やる気と勇気あっても、僕は彼女が知ってる。そんなバカなことを断るよね。今は音楽生活だ。僕はその結論受けた・・・はずだね。そしていつかアメリカに会うこと・・・それも空想じゃない?

でも本当は音楽は凄いね。音楽というか音楽の力。いい時はめっちゃ良くて、辛い時は・・・Heh...皆の悲しい曲は自分に関係あるって感じやな。昨日Keaneというバンドのアルバム買ってある曲に感銘を受けた。全部ではないけど、こんな歌詞:


"She Has No Time"

You think your days are uneventful
And no one ever thinks about you
She goes her own way
She goes her own way
You think your days are ordinary
And no one ever thinks about you
But we're all the same
And she can hardly breathe without you

She says she has no time
For you now
She says she has no time

Think about the lonely people
Then think about the day she found you
Or lie to yourself
And see it all dissolve around you

まぁ、「彼女はあなた無しにほとんど息が出来ない」ってこととかはないけど・・・本当に最近日々は詰まらないなぁって感じ。でも「誰でも一緒だよ」っていうのは、それはそうだね。毎日詰まらなくなくても、誰でも痛みあるんだね。

Heh...Keaneにも聞かないほうがいい、とりあえず。音楽の力は時々危ないね。

力って言ったら、人間の力を考えてる、最近。人によって、その力の元は違うね。そして人生の時間によって違うかも。周りの人達、仕事、神様、子供、相手・・・自分から引き出す力はいいな。そんな力、僕はあったことあると思うけど最近枯渇しつつあるって感じ。本当かどうかわからない。。。多分今メロドラマ的だけだ。客観的に、僕の状況は悪くない。ただ愛の傷だね。

最近考えたのは、僕はほんまに粘液質な人だね。仕事的には、将来に何したいかわからない。まだ情熱あまりない。才能、色んなことにまぁまぁ上手か標準以上やけど本当に得意ところないかな。スポーツ、音楽、学習、などなどにね。僕の「情熱」は恋愛かな。そんな人あるの?考えるのは、過去に芳恵は伊丹で泊まった時は、その・・・仕事は詰まらなくても、帰ったら彼女と会えるから大丈夫って感じ思い出す。でもそれは十分ではないかもね。

それか僕はレイジーかも・・・

もっと考えなきゃね。

Wow, what a ramble...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Little sword

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Even abroad, for Japanese people the Japanese way often prevails. At my office, two of the guys I worked with were here in the U.S. for two years, and now their time is up (much like how every year teachers are moved around between schools). So they have migrated back to Japan and two fresh replacements have arrived.

The new guys are pretty nice so far. One of them even brought me a gift.


It's a little sword stand that comes with two miniature weapons. The sword is easy enough to recognize, but I had to ask about what the other implement is. Apparently it's a jutte (or jitte; 十手), which were worn by police and samurai not only to keep order but as status symbols.

Don't think I'll be bopping any criminals with this one, but it's cool all the same. Very thoughtful.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mos

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You know, been really hankering for Mos Burger recently. Ah, that meat sauce...




There's one right near Hankyu Itami station that I used to stop by now and then. I could easily do two of these bad boys in a sitting.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Busy weekend

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One of my good friends from back in New York visited me this weekend from Thursday. His girlfriend unexpectedly broke up with him that day, and so I've been spending a lot of time with him and trying to help him deal with it. In some ways feels like the blind leading the blind (guess it has been 3 months since Yoshie and I split up, but sometimes still feels pretty recent), but it's tougher for him in a lot of ways; this was his first serious relationship.

Anyway, he's a tough guy and I know he'll be ok, but...well. It's a sucky part of life, aye?

Back to Japan-related posts this week.