Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cult of "Me" vs. Cult of "We"

Thanks for your patience while waiting for the update. I started back to work this week, and like anytime you start back to work after a long break, it is pretty tiring getting back into the groove.

For the better part of the last 20 years I have been working with Japanese people almost exclusively.
That means that I have gotten use to a communication style that is very nonverbal, vague and roundabout when compared to that of Americans.
Now that may sound like a negative to most of you, but once you get to the point where you can understand the nuances of Japanese communication, interpersonal communication and coworker interactions actually become more predictable and easier to handle. You'll notice I am NOT saying preferrable.... there is a lot of superficial nonsense to deal with in Japan and of course, maintaining the heirarchy and pecking order here is maddening at times.

Japan is a seniority based society, not a merit based society.

Still dealing with something that is familiar and predictable can sometimes be better than the opposite.

So, it was with some trepidation that I enbarked on my new career at the International school. For the first time in a veeeery long time I would be working side-by-side with other expats like myself, 9 to 5 everyday.

I must say that I did look forward to it while being a little worried.

I mean, I should be able to communicate directly and openly with my fellow expats. This would, I thought, be a very refreshing change. I was looking forward to having meetings in which something was ACTUALLY accomplished, rather than meetings with Japanese coworkers in which group consensus was goal to be reached after all the decisions had been made by the "guys upstairs" prior to the meeting.

I should add that Japanese meetings are insufferably long- especially when you consider that nothing is actually decided of importance during said meetings.

Well....I was right about the directness of my fellow expats. Their individuality was not just evident in interactions, but it was more like it was splayed across the room in large garish orange neon.


It was as if I had left the "cult of "we" and traded it for the cult of "me"!

A large, flashing neon "ME" at Idiosyncracys-R-Us!

What is particular disturbing to me about this is that I am put off by it.
This is no doubt a true sign of "you've been in Japan too long when...."

Still, though, I am slowly getting used to it and learning how to work around it.

My co-workers, while small in numbers, are a fairly clickish lot. Socializing with them has proven interesting.
I have managed to step on a few toes in the early 20's to 30's-single-and-wanna-drink beer crowd, so they don't invite me out, but I tend to get invited to gatherings for "the guys". Having a beer with the guys allows all ages to participate, because no matter what your age, you can still tilt back a beer and add to the commentary on the workplace.

No one invites the headmaster to these gatherings, which is a shame...but I guess the power thing is a lot larger a hurdle than the age thing.

Being 43, I feel like I can fit in anywhere with most any age group. It is interesting that the younger age groups don't feel the same way about me.

The Japanese staff, I think, like me a lot. When we communicate they feel at ease speaking Japanese to me and I don't go into the office yelling screaming, or showing anger....
I am more predictable....and there is a certain comfort that it brings.
Maybe that is why I like talking with them too....

Friday, January 06, 2006

Ringin' in the New Year, kind of....

To all the friends and family reading, I hope the coming year is a blessed one for you. For those of you I don't know, well, write something and let me know who you are!

For the first time in a long time, I was able to stay at home with my wife and ring in the new year. Last year on the 31st I was playing in near 0 temps outdoors on a stage in the mountains near Iizuka in a snow storm!
This year, however was much more enjoyable.

I spent the first day doing what one should do during New Years Day....eating and sleeping and just generally being a lazy sod.
On day 2 we met up with the in-laws and went out for lunch at the family fav, MK Restaurant.
Now if you don't know what an MK Restaurant is, it is a place where you can get all-you-can-eat dim sum or shabu-shabu (basically thinly sliced meats and veggies that you boil in a pot on your table).
The kids are absolutely gaga over this place and so is my father-in-law because it is so cheap. My FIL is so tight, well, imagine getting diamonds from coal and you are getting the picture...
After lunch the kids whined their way into staying at the grandparents' house for one wifey and I had a nice evening alone.
The ensuing 3 days saw me locked to the TV to watch the BCS bowl games. The first game was the ND game. Thanks to the great QB in the sky for not letting those overrated jugheads win. I am sure someone will rank them in the top 10 for next season.
The PSU/ FSU game was entertaining, but it was hard to decide to root for as I was a student when FSU rolled WVU in a bowl game and of course, almost anyone is preferrable to Penn State (affectionately known as "Penn Snake" in WV). I ended up rooting for FSU....some memories are more bitter than others.....
Then the national championship game, which made me happy. I honestly didn't think Texas had a chance considering how loaded USC was.
Shows you what pride will do to ya....

To say that I am incensed is to put it mildly.

Nevertheless, A hearty congrads to my alma mater and their 38 to 35 whippin' that they put on Georgia! Seems that WVU has finished the season 5th in the AP poll, which is as high a rating as I can remember. I expect the team in 2 years to be nat'l champs. Next year, they will be good too.

Well the 3 week vacation is almost over. I am looking at starting back up on Monday...still a pile to do here at the house that I managed to put off thus far. Hopefully I will accomplish a bit more in the next 3 days.

New Years resolutions....why bother?

Nevertheless, I have set myself on a path to lose a good bit of weight, read more and do internet less. Also I plan to pick up on my baritone sax playing a bit more.