Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nothing To Say.

Marriage. Babies. Career.

when your friends are busy chalking up the milestones of their lives, you find yourself wondering what sort of achievement you're actually after.

then you realise for all the things you think you possess, everything is worth crap when the cards are played and your hand is shown.

i am going to be 30 in a year and they are trying to shove 170,000 yen down my throat. how do i explain this to myself?

serinah, here is your present and future.

no marriage. no babies and yes, no career either.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Total Solar Eclipse

I actually witnessed the eclipse from my bedroom.
we could only see up to 92% of the eclipse in okinawa, but the experience was extremely surreal nevertheless.

the skies darkened and the temperature fell, even the birds and cicadas went quiet.

here are some pictures taken on my mobile phone.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wanted: Japanese Only

Excuse me, if you've noticed I'm not Japanese.
if it's not too much to ask, can i be measured against some form of internationally-accepted standards instead of those horridly unforgiving japanese yardsticks that you insist on using?

listen to this.
remember the recruitment examination on the names of forests and mountains that I flunked? turns out very few of my 469 other competitors made it to the final round so guess what? according to some reliable sources, the company is facing a critical dearth of non-japanese staff so they are still hiring and the invitation for resumes is still very much open.

there are a million and one ways of getting around the issue but they will never choose to bend their silly rules. lower your passing mark for that stupid test and you'd instantly have more applicants to choose from. or why dont you just make passing the forest-naming exam a non-complusory requirement? wouldnt you want to actually MEET the people keen on joining your firm to find out how interesting they are in person instead of basing your decision on how well they can regurgitate the names and locations of all the natural heritage sites in japan?

someone suggested i send in my resume again.
honey, you gotta be kidding me. i'd be stupid to join a company as inflexible as this one.

listen to this one too.
i went for yet another recruitment exam two saturdays ago, this time for an up-and-coming institute of science and technology looking for applicants proficient in english to serve in positions that cater to the needs of their mostly-foreign research team. we were required to fill out our applications in english and everything about the place suggested that they were open to foreigners.

48 people were shortlisted for the exam, a fact i regarded as proof of their stringent hiring requirements. the moment i opened the test booklet though, my hopes crashed. not only were the questions wored in japanese, there was a mammoth section on what the japanese call non-verbal SPI, a collection of mathematically-inclined tasks aimed at testing your analytical and logical abilities.

there were a number of foreign applicants at the exam, and most of them walked out upon seeing the contents of the test because they could not read japanese. i was one of the three non-japanese who decided on attempting the exam. throughout the paper i thought i would gain a foothold over the other applicants as long as i tried to complete the section worded in japanese and scored higher marks in the english proficiency test that was to follow.

i was so wrong.

the english test was primary school level at best, with sentences like "mr. stein spotted an emu in his backyard and fed it dog food". i didnt know whether to feel insulted or disappointed.

everyone knows i CANNOT do mathematics for nuts. but i know for sure that i am good at my job, and that im good enough for the institute. but at the very end of the day, it seems that as long as you have practised every ten-year series there is on that darn SPI crap and you can understand phrases like "emu" and "backyard", you're considered good enough.

i have actual, related experience from my previous job but no one's going to take that into consideration because i couldnt pass their stupid SPI rubbish.

again someone suggested i brush up my SPI skills.
if i am to be judged on how well i can count, then i suggest you go fly kite because this foreigner is not going to contort herself to conform to that narrow set of requirements deemed valuable to a japanese employer.

it's time they did it our way anyway.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Get Up

This is going to be my theme song until I finish the darn thesis.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fed Up

No, I don’t drink. And no, I won’t have any even if you force it down my throat.

It’s a matter of choice. I choose not to get red-faced or pissed drunk because I like it that way. It’s never about money because chances are I already have more of that than you do.

By the way, even though I don’t drink, I know my Merlots from my Cabernet Sauvignons. You don’t have to be able to drink to have general knowledge.

On Wednesday night I had to endure one of the most trying experiences of my life when I was dragged to a wine party by an extremely pushy girl who happened to be my tutor.

This young lady, all of 21 years of age, was assigned to be my helping hand by my academic supervisor, who was worried that his very first foreign student might have difficulty adjusting to the new environment in Okinawa. Although there was never really a pressing need to ask for her help, I relished the opportunity to make a new friend, but our age difference sometimes made communication difficult so we gradually stopped meeting each other on a frequent basis.

Two months ago she called with an invitation to a wine party held by the boss of a firm she was interning at and I finally relented after running out of excuses not to turn up.

That decision turned out to be for the worst.

She told me there would be wine, a “sumptuous dinner” and “plenty of opportunities for networking” so I simply assumed that the event would be held at a restaurant. Instead, my tutor, who was already heady at half past 8 in the evening from drinking too much wine, showed me to the spartan premises of an office that looked suspiciously like a temporary set-up.

The moment the door opened, I wanted to leave. What she termed a “wine party” was in actual fact a collection of two men and three women cramped uncomfortably into sofas that were adjacent to a lone armchair where the boss was seated. There was wine all right, but the only food on the table were thin slices of tomato with mozzarella and tuna pesto.

One male staff member was wearing an apron and made to serve drinks and food while the rest of them engaged in pointless banter. The boss, a porky man with a punch perm and ugly teeth, tried to impress the women with tidbits from his money-making seminars and oily invitations to his company’s summer house in Karuizawa.

Turns out the man makes his dough from selling hogwash to people who didn’t know any better, and my tutor probably fell for it and thought she was hobnobbing with society’s upper crust. The women were assembled by my tutor on her boss’s instructions and all of them were young and very impressionable. They were all wide-eyed and hanging breathlessly to the boss’s every word, and I was sitting there wondering what on earth was wrong with them. The two other men, who turned out to be interns at the firm, retold an experience when they were pawed by tai-tais when they were parading at a fashion show arranged by the boss.

I lasted for one exquisitely painful hour and mumbled an excuse to leave.

To add insult to injury, I was asked to pay 2000 yen for two slices of tomato that I ate and the wine that I didn’t drink.

The final piece de resistance? She actually had the gall to advise me to send a personal email to the boss to “thank him for the kind invitation” because “that’s basic business courtesy in Japan”.

To put things straight, I PAID for my torture that night. He should be thanking me instead for wasting my time on his shady party. And no one needs to lecture me on Japanese business customs because that was all I did for four years in Singapore. My thank-yous are reserved for those who deserve it, not some oily man bent on getting young girls drunk on cheap wine.

My tutor called me twice the next day after she realized that I didn’t heed her advice on sending the email to her boss. I didn’t pick up her calls and I probably won’t ever do so again in future. Half of me wanted to tell her she’s in for a shock, but watching her waxing lyrical over her glass of wine, it might already be too little too late.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Man of Our Time

He may have been an awkward genius, but the legend deserves a proper send-off.

Bad and Thriller are timeless, but this is my all-time favourite.