Posts Tagged ‘stress’

Closer to Zero

2011年 9月 26日

Ideal commute time is zero minutes. While I am at work, my time is being used and I am being paid for it. When I am commuting, I am spending my time getting to work, but no other compensation is forthcoming. Given my choice in the matter, I would have a job where that time was eliminated or greatly reduced.

For two and a half years I chose to live in Ise for personal reasons even though my work is in Tsu. Our circumstances that pulled me to Ise vanished suddenly on April 1st and I set about contriving to get back to Tsu. September 17th – amidst a downpour – a moving company arrived in the morning and hauled our personal belongings to Tsu.

Before the move, whether going by train or by car, I needed to leave about 7:15 to comfortably arrive at my workplace by 8:30. Doing some simple math shows that two and a half hours of my precious time was vanishing in the commute. This morning, facing my longest commute from the new house, I left at 8:10 and arrived precisely at 8:30. Further, I hope to learn a more direct route which will drop it to less than 15 minutes with luck. Friday’s commute should take less than one minute by bicycle.

It has only been about a week, but the luxury of sleep is already greatly appreciated. My calligraphy study has also improved and I am able to do a lot more around the house.

Already there are several posts I want to make, but they require a lot of photo uploading so they may have to wait for my new internet connection (October 6th, hopefully). Looking forward to communicating here.

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Death and Taxes

2011年 8月 29日

So, my life has really been about taxes for the past year or so. I’m trying to get all sorts of outstanding paperwork issues put to rest and get full acceptance from possibly the least-liked division of our government. The sheer volume of paperwork is overwhelming and each time we communicate with the officials, they find some more to do. I’m wondering if this has any end. (On a side note: I was shocked by my latest recalculation of our monthly balance sheets, key word: red)

Anyhow, I was expecting to take a break for a couple days and drive my in-laws to visit relatives – whom I have not yet met – in Niigata prefecture. In particular, one relative had been hospitalized, so we were really hoping to visit her. Unfortunately, less than 24 hours before departure we were awakened with a call informing us that I will be driving the family to funeral services. Another reminder of how precious and fleeting life really is.

My introduction to family will still take place; however, protocol will demand more subdued celebration. We also had to interrupt other activities today for some emergency clothes shopping: my wardrobe lacked a couple of weather and ceremony related items. We will depart in just over 4 hours, so it’s off to bed for me.

Romantic Fun

2010年 3月 12日

Almost every Japanese woman who hears that I am in the midst of wedding planning says, “Oh, this is the funnest time!” To which I reply, “No, it isn’t.”, and they go on and on about how fun it is.

Six months ago when we were kicking ideas around, it was really fun creating a mental image of how we could entertain our guests and make good memories for us. In May, drinking and dining with friends and family and rushing off to a honeymoon to relax together seems incredibly fun. However, right now neither of us has time, it is hard for us to go anyplace together, people are requesting changes which delay things, our announcements are going to fall beyond the ‘politeness’ deadline, et cetera, et cetera, … Call me silly, but I don’t think this is the most fun part.

Wednesday through Thursday we got to spend more than two days together planning and suddenly the suffering diminished and the fun grew. As per my expectations, if someone has a lot of time on their hands, then the midst of the planning can be fun. Visiting restaurants, sampling foods, trying on different outfits, staying at hotels, all become exciting when you have nothing else to occupy your mind.

Both my girlfriend and myself had separate but common experiences. One person was just too annoying, so finally politeness broke down and I asked them, “Were you ‘free’?” I used the word hima (暇) which carries an implication of idleness or laziness. I asked in a polite tone, but the implication was understood. She thought hard for a few seconds and replied affirmatively. Indeed, her husband was working 9 to 5 and she was not working, giving them many opportunities to make plans. My girlfriend’s experience was similar but her friend is now working at the same business, so she could quickly understand the restrictions of a 24×7 job on the planning process.

Anyhow, things are moving forward and I will be on vacation for almost half of March, so a lot will get done during that time… and I’ll get some sleep.

Saving Money

2009年 6月 25日

I love spending money, but something I love more is saving money. My move to Ise was mostly a matter of the heart, but a lot of people – who were not asked for their opinion – insisted on telling me the commute would be too expensive.

Kintetsu railway sells various kinds of discounted tickets. For regular commuters between set locations the teikiken (定期券) is a good choice. I had looked into them in the past and always found they fell short; however, my current lifestyle has matched up with these commuter passes. One reason is that I have to ride to Tsu Station or Tsu Shinmachi Station every day; whereas my first job required traveling to various stations. Another reason is the distance from Ujiyamada Station in Ise.

Formulae for calculating ticket prices are not clear, but it seems the discount for commuting to someplace nearby is less than for a distant location. Additionally, my calligraphy school is in Tsu, so I often use the commuter pass on Saturdays.

Passes are sold in 1 month, 3 month, and half-year increments. Three month and half-year passes receive larger discounts, so my original plan was to buy the longest pass; however, I was uncertain how I would like the train commute, so I wavered for awhile. Finally in a conversation with my mother, she showed the wisdom that got her through life so smoothly. “Buy a one month pass first and try it out.”, rolled off her tongue and I thought the simplicity was great.

For one month I kept dilligent records each time I boarded a train. My first pass cost 20,240 yen (about $200) and I used around 35,000 yen worth of train fares, saving about 42%. Pass renewal can be done in machines at most stations as early as a week before the existing pass expires. I forked over the nearly 110,000 yen (~$1100) for a six month pass, and will keep records to see how things compare. Moneywise, the best choice would probably be to buy one month passes and let them lapse if they fall over a long weekend or my two week vacation in August or such; however, that seemed too tedious.

Convenience is a major point. For the past month I have not stopped at any ticket machines; rather, I just stroll up to the wicket and slip my card in the slot. No calculating the fare, no fiddling with change, no stressing out when I am cutting it close. Buying the half-year pass was a no brainer for me.

Tired and Persevering

2009年 4月 7日

April is always a little busy because it is the start of the new school year. This year, we have to use Ministry of Education (文部科学省) mandated textbooks for the fifth and sixth grade classes. No special training has been provided for the new system and books and software; also, copies of the books are shown to us occasionally, but rarely given to the teachers. It is crazy, I think I irritated my boss when I phoned him to tell him it was annoying.

One important job discovery has been that my boss works for the City Board of Ed. and the principals at my schools have contracts through the Prefectural Board of Ed.; and neither group wants to cover our expenses. They are constantly putting me in the middle and telling me to directly request things like purchase of textbooks. I am tempted to show up with excerpts from the labor code for them, but don’t want to rock the boat (despite evidence to the contrary).

My first classes are tomorrow and I still feel completely unprepared. Normally I would feel comfortable teaching a first lesson with little preparation, but we are being told to stick to the lesson plans published by the Ministry. If I had a copy to peruse at night, I would be pretty relaxed.

Also, I have to keep my energy level up because I personally don’t like the philosophical approach of the new mandates. Most people agree that the compulsory education in junior high is ineffective. I had the mistaken impression that the Ministry was creating the elementary education system to promote earlier learning (something, I think is proved to be successful); however, their goal is actually to prop up the junior high system, as is, by creating ‘desire’ to study through ‘fun’ classes at elementary school. First, I think they should be working on improving the junior high system. Second, while ‘fun’ classes can increase ‘desire’, they missed the boat by thinking ‘simple’ = ‘fun’. This program is designed to be unchallenging and some of my students have already learned everything that they are going to be ‘taught’ this year. Imagine spending 35 class hours studying stuff you know. My fear is that boredom will generate a distinct lack of interest in studying.

Regardless, this is the new system and we must teach it, so I need to be prepared to highlight it’s strengths for the students. If I go in with a bad attitude, the students will eat me and the system for lunch. Fortunately, most of the schools know me and will let me teach additional materials, so long as we cover the course material and I’m not ‘pushing’ the kids too hard.

Searching for that balance…

Who Needs Friends Anyway?

2009年 1月 3日

I was really torn because I wanted to title this one: Take My Stuff, Please! My trip is almost done and I still haven’t got all my storage unit items sorted and packed for checking on the plane. Sands of the hourglass slip away exponentially raising my stress level.

This morning, I had a tight plan of attack: wake up at 8:50am; clean myself up, shovel in a little food, and head out; money from the bank; model trains to the hobby shop; pick-up some gifts at Costco; meet my friend from Vancouver, WA; more gifts at Belle Square and the Learning Center; a little more packing; and dinner at my brother’s. Unfortunately I overslept and my mother has the funny idea that, “A little more sleep is good.” (Actually, at the end of the September trip she let me oversleep by a couple hours on departure day. That was a little stressful.)

Anyhow I hit the train store feeling squeezed for time. I believe this is what is referred to as a ‘distressed seller’ in negotiation classes. The HO rep spent a lot of time explaining to me how they couldn’t move stuff like mine or had too much of it and he could certainly not buy it. He proceeded to spend more time poking around looking for any imperfection and talking about how hard repairs would be. I invested a little time joking about how the shop on Lake City Way says that a true hobbyist wants the car with odd repairs needed, because it is – after all – a hobby. Also I pointed out hundreds of dollars in little bobs I’d purchased to effect said repairs. I think I’d included a lot of comments like, “Couldn’t you give them to the underpriveledged kids, you say come in here?” or, “I just want this stuff gone so I can stop paying $80 a month for storage.” Suddenly, out of the blue, he said, “Well, how about if I give you $25 for it.” I said, “Done!”; and after a little more banter I was out. Oh, I forgot there was a bit of discussion about Narita-san, the temple near the airport; and embassy work; and life in Japan, which may have greased the skids.

As time is running out, it becomes the most precious commodity. There is a danger there of other things, like visiting with friends, getting devalued. Two key meetings with friends had to be canceled and I found myself thinking, “Hey, I can get those souvenirs purchased instead.”, or, “Great! I need to clear out things at the storage unit.” Of course, I appreciate my time with friends, but stress makes us do funny things. At least one of the canceled hook-ups will happen at the airport over lunch; which timing and travel-wise will work out better for everyone anyhow. There is some possibility that another friend might see me there if their flight in is delayed.

With all the snow, this trip has turned out a little crazy, but it will all get wrapped up one way or another. My last unopened box is crystal, so tomorrow afternoon if you see a man, with a glazed look in his eyes, waving vases and bowls in the air in downtown Redmond, yelling, “Take my stuff!”, you’ll know who it is.

Too Much to Do? Throw a Party!

2008年 12月 5日

Sunday I must take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, for which I am not yet ready. Monday and Tuesday I return to the school where I taught in the second half of June. My lesson plans are not finished. So, what should I be doing?

Well, tomorrow I am hosting a small nabe (鍋) party at my home. Relaxing, eating, drinking, and talking seems like a good plan. I’ll tell you how that works out.

P.S. I’m using this post to test the new QuickPress feature on the WordPress Dashboard.