William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

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19. Adjusting?

I just had a fairly minor blowout at work. This Friday was STRESSFUL; I was having to track like fifteen (seemingly, anyway) different threads of responsibility, and a few of them were dependent on people who didn't speak my language. I'm not blaming Japan, but I'm wondering what I was thinking coming here. I have so much sympathy for migrant workers now; I can't imagine having to answer to someone who doesn't speak your language for such a long time. At least for me this is a contract with a definite term.

Ah, but faugh faugh faugh. I'm really frustrated and feel hopeless. It'll pass, and it's passing already.

Cultural Clash #354,112:

- In Japan, work is your life. If you're asked to go above and beyond what's written out for you at work, you do it without a shred of hesitation or comment.
- William counts seconds and pennies.

You can see where this is going. In a meeting, I had noticed that the upcoming Saturday-morning school performance we'll be working (with work starting at 8, our usual work time) had the performance ending at 12, so take-down time would be on top of that. We get a half-day off in recompense, sure, but that would cover the time from 1-5, so I asked, "So when do we finish that day?"

The answer, "Well, after it's over. ... Around 1."

Well, do the math; we're losing about an hour in this trade. So I sort of swallowed an "Oh. Okay." So whatever; I was disappointed, even though it was really kind of a small thing.

So after this meeting was over, J. asks me to stay behind. And now it's a couple of weeks ago all over again. "Maybe you haven't worked a full-time job before. There are extra things that you do; you just do. You don't, you never say 'Oh,' like that - Ms. W. is not happy with that."

Not this again. [And maybe I am inexperienced. You don't need to tell me that! Where do you get off telling me about my experiences?!]

Not again.

I thought I was adjusting. Or, even more conceitedly during moments of bliss, I thought that I had adjusted.

And there were a bunch of other miscommunications and derailments today too, which ordinarily wouldn't be worth commenting about (and still aren't, because I value my peace of mind), but for the fact that this served to complicate and disrupt everything else, not to mention take up a bunch of time that I could have been using to prepare for my opening classes next week.

When I was at my desk I tried to imagine how the same message might have been communicated to me in a more adroit manner. The thing that gets me is this: yeah, fine, this is a culture about saving face, but why can't it be a two-way street, though? The teachers are actually quite good this way when I deal with them directly. But all the adroitness and politeness gets completely lost in translation. Fuck.

And then this experience allowed me to approach my cooperating teacher about something important to me in a too-direct manner without thinking carefully first and I could tell by his expression how much it pained him. And then he ran off. I won't see him again until Wednesday.

The only good thing about all this - well, it may be one of the only good things, but it's a very important good thing - is that I'm watching what I say a lot more carefully than before.

See, there was one moment back in Ukraine:

We're all in Kyiv for Independence Day, and Lee and Roch and I are sharing a room. I get up long before everyone else so that I can shower and whatnot without holding up anyone else.

After my shower, I spray on a little Axe. Lee had been wearing Axe by the gallon at work, so much so that it was quite impossible to stand near him in the confined spaces that go with shelving books in a tiny library. I noticed that he was awake when I was putting on the Axe, so after I sprayed it I said, "See? That's enough."

He turned himself over and said groggily, "That's why people don't like you, Will. You say stuff all the time that pisses people off."

And now I'm realizing more and more that I do do that. There's no getting around it; I have to consider the feelings of others before I open my mouth.

No wonder my grandfather was so habitually silent in his later years.

Anyway, time for kaiten! And tomorrow, Osaka! (And Japanese lessons that F. and I had last night with L. were cool. I thought L. was just a remarkable fellow and a top-notch food and culture guru; I had no idea he was also a hell of a teacher.)

See you soon, my friends!
~ Will
Tags: japan, ukraine, work

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