Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another buck passing(?)

So I received an email from my contact yesterday that started out with this:

I also wanted to let you know that I will be leaving Korea (to go back) on Monday March 2nd.

Well this was certainly unexpected.
Can't say I slept well last night after hearing that. Last time I "filled in" for someone returning, it was NOT a good position. Worst one to date including an occasionally drunken pervert. Although at this point, poor work conditions are nothing new in this business.

And if that weren't unsettling enough, I STILL have not received my home nor work place address. No matter how many times I've nudged or even just asked.

So it's 8 days and counting until my next entrance into hell!
But at least it will be an interesting version of hell.
Not like the mind-numbing, suicidal-inducing boredom of Youngstown, OH hell.

Cheers! (^_-)-☆

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Why is my laptop smoking?

Japan at least is a similar to the USA - runs alttle "slower' which always made my laptops work harder. Specifically, in the US, my laptops were cooler then in Japan. In Japan the internal fan ran ALL THE TIME the laptop was on probably accounting for the fact that inevitably. like clock-work, my laptops always died 2-3 months after returning to the states. >.>

Korea apparently is much worse and will likely literally FRY any equipment made to Japanese or USA standards without a converter.

Here are two excellently written sites I found in my quest to protect my precious Ipod Nano.
Detailed info on Japan's situation including pictures and explanation of area variations.
Worldwide Voltage and Frequency table including linked pictures.

In summary, Japan is complicated - I'm not summarizing it - but USA is a fixed at 120 V with 60 Hz frequency while Korea is mostly 220 V with 60 Hz frequency.

Cheers! (^_-)-☆

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

MichiKusa {道草を食う}: tea


In Japan there is a traditional belief with tea that if you find a leaf is floating upright in your cup that means good fortune is coming.

This is what I found in the bottom of my tea cup late late last night.

Does this mean I am meant to find love on the otherside of the ocean?!?
I wasn't particularly looking, but sure why not.

Cheers! (^_-)-☆

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Do I really need to know this?" AKA: a Korean Language Primer

When I first went to Japan originally I had some basic language skills as backup. I was an exception. Most ESL teachers went blind and frankly did perfectly well. My family thought I was brave or whatever just for going to a foreign country, but I think THOSE teachers were the brave ones. Now is my chance to prove I too am brave.
Not really. It's mostly that I'm just reckless. ^o^

I snooped around online for some info and found a bunch of sites which I will post later, but I needed a BOOK since you have to have you Foreign Residents card processed and in hand to get Internet service at your residence. If Korea is anything like America -and I'm sure it is as governments everywhere thrive by dragging their collective a$ when it comes to getting things done- that could take some time.

Anyway, the book I choose was in Japanese. I know from the little searching I have done online that grammatically Korean is far more similar to Japanese then English. Pronunciation-wise closer to English so I plan to use both English and Japanese resources at my disposal. In the meantime though, since I'm starting from ZERO I went with this Japanese book on recommendation from Kinokuniya in NYC. It came with a CD and was in-stock..

I have to say it just cracks me up. After tracks of numbers, counting and basic greetings you, the learner, enter the world of daily conversation. And that's when it gets good.
"Please stop" ... OK, harmless enough.
"His conversation is most unpleasant" ... Now there's a very Japanese comment. But still in the reasonable range of things.

"The change is wrong."
"This is not what I ordered."
"This food is not cooked through."
"The glass is dirty." ... ...Home cooked meals are sounding better and better all the time.

"I'm afraid of ghosts." ... ...? OK, I do NOT recall this ever coming up in a conversation and I'm a renowned horror-film fan.

But the best parts come at the end of the book/CD. I think the authors were just sick of the whole thing by then and decided to screw with us.

It's starts off with "I have been hit by a car." and "It's not my fault." (now that's a must know in any language.) then follows up with such other useful phrases like "I am the victim" which utterly cracked me up and resulted in no sleep.

Again, do we really need to know these things?
And if so, what does this say about Korea?
All fun.

Cheers! (^_-)-☆

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

oh, yes. another nasty school crawls out from under the rocks

So Korea it is!

But before that, here's another company to avoid in Japan while your out hunting - tis the season and all.

Not only are the benefits ATROCIOUS - frankly I told my friends in Japan the only benefit was it being IN Japan - but apparently they are not interested in qualified applicants. Just so much... work... to schedule... interview... *pass out*

Seriously, they were all high-ho to interview me, but way behind the ball. To make a short story even shorter, I received this message:
Thank you for your email. I have scheduled your telephone interview for Tuesday, February 10th at 10am JST.
Please confirm your interview time.
Vanessa Oguchi HR

SEVERAL HOURS AFTER I had already scheduled an interview with another company that had been in constant email contact with me even throughout the weekend. Like I said, take your time people. Don't want to break a sweat or anything.

Anyway, I sent them a duly apologetic reply, finishing up with a 元気いっぱい:
Terribly sorry for the inconvenience. If another day or time works better for you, please do let me know. I am sure we can work something out!

To which I received a completely そっけない response:
Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, Wednesday is a national holiday so our office is not open.
Kind regards,
Vanessa Oguchi HR

うわ~今時のRecruiterは頑張るよね~。(爆笑) Seriously that was the extent of it. Again, don't want to overextend ourselves here. ^o^

Oh, and if their attitude does not make you wary, check out their benefits. I've clipped some below from the info sheet they sent me. If you have never taught in Korea or Japan before, let me say again, they are the WORST I have ever seen.

-Basic salary: \100,000/month (this figure already includes travel expenses)
- Location allowance: \130,000/month
- Attendance Bonus: \10,000/month
- 3 days possible sick leave

And scarier, there's summer (August) and winter (December) vacation to consider. Vacation, YAY? No, Vacation NO PAY:

OPTION A: Aug & Dec paid at 60%
OPTION B: All months paid at 100% except Aug

Then there's this charming little added expenditure which I have NEVER had to pay before:

Car fee: \20,000/month
We will assist you in finding accommodation within your budget. Please note for most apartments there may be considerable initial outlay.

And yes, renting an apartment in Japan does have "considerable outlay".
What is there left to say? Someone is making money here but it's definitely not you.
Basically, you are completely on your own with this company. Good luck and all. :D

Anyway, from my end, cheers and be back with more info on Korea in the future! (^_-)-☆

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Wait. Korea too???

So now we're about to become the Complete JAPAN/SOUTH KOREA Guide?!?!?
Looks like my next job takes me South Korea, NOT Japan. Although I intend to move back to Japan at some point hopefully. Heavy on the hopefully there.

I have found that compared to when I first went in 2000 to Japan, the benefits and wages for Native English teachers have been steady declining. Imagine a plane in nose-dive if you will.

From 2000-2002 I was making the equivalent of 30K USD in Japan. Ah, how I reminicse on those days.
From 2006-2008 I was making the equivalent of 26K USD in Japan. I was in the back-ass country at the time so it worked ok as there was no place to go to actually spend money.
Now shopping around again in 2009, I'm finding the area I worked before in 2000 is offering as low as 23K?!?!?!
(In case you didn't know already, Japan and Korea school years start in the Spring so from January you enter the height of teacher recruiting season.)
Yes, yes, there are still some placesa offering reasonable salaries, but mostly you're looking at the ridiculously low range where the compensation in NO WAY covers the amount of work you will be doing.

Frankly, I find no excuse for this. Commodity prices cost of living has been rising since 2000 and yet salaries are steadily going down??? Where is the compensation for this?

On the other hand, all the schools - few though they may be - I have looked at in Korea are offering top wages for Native English speakers, more in the 26-28K USD bracket. I don't understand this. Yes, the Japanese economy is in shambles, but so is the economy of the whole worldso that doesn't make for an excuse, does it? On top of which, there is a growing need for native English teachers now that they are starting to require English classes at the elementary school level nationwide.

So, as long as I convince someone to give me a contract, it's off to Korea!!
I kinda did want to go there anyway at some point. Besides, they do have a 3hour ferry that runs between Pusan and Oosaka, Japan. (A city near Kyoto if that is more familiar sounding to you. Sorry if you already know that. ^.^ )

In that case I'll be posting info about surviving in both areas from then on.

Cheers! (^_-)-☆

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