Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Working in Japan

Getting work in any foreign country can be difficult if you don't speak the language. Japan is no exception. But as the universe would have it, an opportunity was laid in my path, and I jumped at it.  So, now I have a job in Japan.

My Japanese Business Card
Although the language barrier exists, 99% of my work is based in English. Knowing Japanese would help a lot, but I'm getting by with the few phrases I know so far, and am starting to pick up a few more.

Working in Japan is different from any other experience I've had thus far.

First, is the dress code. Business attire consists of dark muted colors (black, navy blue or gray), with very plain button down shirts, although ruffles on shirts seem to be OK for women.  There are no bare legs in Japan. If you choose to wear a skirt, there will be pantyhose. Also, anything considered trendy is not acceptable. Although my office is not a strict dress code environment, I do my best to dress the part, pantyhose included.  The silver lining of dressing up for work every day is definitely dressing down for everything else.

If language and a dress code aren't enough of a challenge, there are the customs to contend with. There are very specific ways to present and accept business cards for example, and also to serve tea or coffee. I have a very helpful coworker who coaches me on such things, and for that I am exceedingly grateful.

Thus far work is going well. I do my best to be competent at what I know and ask questions about the things I don't know. Some days are more successful than others, but I'm happy to have the work. It keeps me occupied, gives me a place to go and most importantly offers a rarefied experience that I simply never truly expected to have in life.

I do so enjoy Lemonade.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lessons from Mom

Santa Cruz use to be an anual trip for us as kids. When we were younger, we would stay the night at my grandfather's house in San Jose, and then make the quick jaunt over the mountain in the morning to hit the beach for the day, and then enjoy some of the boardwalk at night.

I can mark the stages of my life by our activities there: the year I learned to body surf, the first year I grabbed a brass ring on the merry go round, the first year I made out with a guy I met on the beach.

But this morning one instance stood out. It was the year I realized my mother was fearless. I was about 5 or 6 and we were camped out on the beach as a family. We had it all: lawn chairs, my Ragedy Ann sleeping bag as a beach blanket, the ice chest and being the 70's, a hibachi grill.

At some point in the afternoon a beach bum approached our site. He wore baggy pants and a trench and had a not so faint smell of cheap wine and sweat.

"How about a hot dog," the man barked. We ignored him as he continued to ramble something about living on the beach. I turned and looked for my dad, who would surely sent this guy off, but as I did I heard my mother's cheerful voice behind me.

"Would you like mustard on that?"

We all looked around half stunned and half amused. She handed the man a neatly wrapped hotdog and he left. At the time we laughed about it, and how our fool hearty mother was oblivious to who was asking for a handout. But years later I realized it was a lesson in kindness, that I still remember now.

Happy Mother's Day Mom. Thanks for teaching me it's ok to show kindness when others are not.