Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Giving up on Driving

I had the third attempt at the driving test today, and I have given up.
This is just ridiculous. The first time, I made a clear mistake, and
failing was plainly my fault. The second time was picky, and I can
understand one of the things that I did wrong, not why I lost more than
30 points, but I accepted that I would have to do it at least one more
time. But this time, I was stopped half way through the test after
flawlessly navigating a narrow hair pin curve, and told that I had
failed. The explained to me after I returned what I had done. She said
that I need to drive slowly enough around a certain corner so that I
can stop immediately if necessary, which I believe I was doing. She did
not explain to me what I had done wrong any where else, or where the 30
points were lost. It's plainly ridiculous. I've had a driver's license
for about 8 years, and there is no reason that I should have to take a
test like that more than once. They apparently don't fail people
because they don't drive well, otherwise I would have passed on the
second time. Maybe they want money, maybe they just want to make it as
hard as possible just to mess with us.

English, Australians, Germans, Canadians, and a few others don't even
have to take a driving test. Each of these countries have provided
Japan with statistics of their drivers, including things such as
accident rates as requested by the Japanese government, so license
holders from these countries are exempt from taking the driving test.
But when the US tried to submit these statistics, the Japanese
government said that they had to get separate statistics from each
state, effectively treating each state as a separate country. This
doesn't mean that people from states who have completely the necessary
requirements can be exempt however, because it still all has to go
through the national government.

So for right now, I'm giving up. Possibly, after I move to Tokyo, I
will try again. I have to have time though. Lots of it... I've already
used almost 4 full days trying it in Kanagawa. I have heard that
Kanagawa's test is the worst, so hopefully Tokyo will be better. In the
mean time I will go to a local police station to find out if I am legal
to drive with my international drivers license so that I can move.
Otherwise I might have to pay for some professional movers to do it...

Off to another Job interview. I only have 4 more this week. Ugh!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Another Job Update

The last update I wrote was posted a few days after I wrote it, so this one will appear to be close, but there are actually a few days in between.

Today I had interview #2 at the Foreign Language College. This time, I had a sample lesson for 30 minutes (The longest sample I've ever had to do) with 5 students while the head of the school observed. I think it went really well, and the students were great. After the lesson, I had an interview with the school head, and the head english teacher. I think everything went well, so I'll hear from them soon. I think I'll get a part time job with them, but hopefully they'll offer me the full time job.

I also had an interview with the Japanese tech support company that I found at the employment office. It went okay I guess, but I'm sure I made a bunch of mistakes in etiquette.

I also got a call from Bloomberg today for an interview on Wednesday, which is exciting.

Saturday's interview with the dot com was terrible. Admittedly, I wasn't as prepared as I should have been, but neither was the interviewer, (the president of the company) but he was a jerk even before he really started asking questions. Even if I was better prepared for the interview, I wouldn't want to work for him.

After that on Saturday, I met Ai and her mom for dinner. Ai's mom was the one who really convinced me that I could find a non-teaching job, and now I don't want to stop until I find something. But I'm kind of on a short time limit. My current visa expires at the end of May, so I'll have to renew it, and I have to move out of my apartment by April 25th, so I have to find a company that will sponsor my visa, and cosign my apartment lease pretty soon. I hope I wont have to settle for something less that I want to get a visa and apartment.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Gland Canyon

Gland Canyon
They probably should have
checked the spelling before they
had it set in stone.

I know, I know. You've all been refreshing your browser windows every 30 minutes to see if I've updated my bolg. At least those of you who are still reading.

Well, I've been pretty busy. I don't know if I've mentioned it yet, but that job that I thought I had, well, I don't. I'm too young. Apparently, some schools set an arbitrary age limit, under or over which they are reluctant to hire even qualified teachers. So these last two weeks I've been applying to everything I see. The result of this is that I've had 6 interviews in the last week, and I have at least 5 more next week. The exciting thing is that there are some pretty neat jobs in this bunch, including some non-teaching positions.

First, I have been applying to some ALT positions, kind of like what I've been doing for the last year, except for private schools, which pay much better. Generally $2800 to $3500 a month. Most public school positions pay $2200 or less, averaged over 12 months.

The next step up is a position as the head teacher for a small foreign language college. The current head teacher is really trying to sell me to the management, but he's concerned that my age (again, too young) will be a setback in terms of the management's ideals. If I don't get full time with them, I should get part time, paying about as much as my full-time position did.

The most exciting for me potentally, are two interview I have set up, one Saturday, and one Monday, which are not teaching positions. The first is for what I guess would be a DotCom, which has a variety of online business, mostly to english education, as a sales person. I don't know much about the position itself, but it doesn't include teaching.

The second is a result of a tip that my friend Sunny gave me. She was an exchange student from Korea at Asia University, the school that I studied at 4 years ago. She currently has a job working with Korean trading company in Tokyo, which she found by using the government employment agency. Yep! The unemployment office! There is actually one in Tokyo that is specifically for foreign residents. I was a little apprehensive at first. I'm not too confident in my Japanese skills, and the information on the web said it was for foreign residents of Japanese ancestry. But I decided to check it out (Since Sunny doesn't have Japanese ancestry) and found that they are really quite good.

After a quick registration, I sat down with an employment councilor and an english translator, and they asked me some question, mostly in Japanese about what I wanted to do and about my work history. After that, they searched through a huge database of employment requests sent in by companies. We picked out about 7 or 8 of them, looked them over more throughly and called two of them. One manager asked to talk directly to me, and in Japanese, he told me a little about the position and asked about my computer background. Mostly he was concerned that I understood Japanese and Unix. I have done some tinkering with Linux, and Mac OS, beneath the surface is basically a kind of Unix, so I think he was satisfied enough to schedule an interview for Monday. The other one we called, didn't want to talk to me. They just wanted me to write a Japanese resume and send it to them so they could check my Japanese ability that way.

Some other jobs that we found were sales positions, and a position at a real-estate company that works with foreign residents finding monthly apartments and stuff, which could be interesting.

So I have a full schedule of interview, plus my third attempt at the drivers test next week. Don't stop reading!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Driver's License Getting pt. 2

Driving course
Here's the course for the driving test. There is a practice time for an hour before the testing starts where you can walk through the course. The place that I failed at is right behind me.

Today was part 2 of my driver's license getting adventure: the driving test.

I knew it would be difficult, but after talking to a girl who had tried it 3 times already, and attended a practice session last weekend, I got the full picture of the difficulty. Errors that would be one point off on the Washington State driver's test, like running over a curb, are immediate failure on this test, and things that they wouldn't even care about, like staying close to the left curb while making a left turn, are points off.

So, out of the 15 people that tried today, 12 people failed, (including me) and none of the first time people passed. The mistake that I made that failed me immediately was made as the tester was explaining a small error that I was making, so my concentration of other things was broken. But he did say that my shifting was very good (even though it was the first time to drive a stick shift in Japan, which is on the opposite side of US cars, and even though I haven't driven a stick since we sold the Subaru about 4 years ago.) But driving a stick, kept me from making the mistake of turning the wipers on when I tried to use the turn signal, and I didn't make the serious mistake driving on the right side of the road like the person before and after me.

I did meet some cool people this time though. One guy who was trying to get his license had lived in the US for the last 5 years, first at Evergreen State for an English language program, then at Ohio State for college. The girl that had taken it three times is from Shanghai, and just finished a masters degree at the university right on the other side of the hill from my apartment. So I'll be seeing them next time, and maybe for practice this weekend.

My next attempt will be next wednesday.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Driver's License getting

This week I decided to use my copious amounts of spare time to get a driver's license. I have an international driver's license, which until about a year ago, would have allowed me to drive in Japan for as long as I had a current one. Last year however, the law was changed so that after a certain period, you can't use an international driver's license even if it's valid. None of the descriptions of these changes that I have read have been entirely clear, but it seems that you can't use an international driver's license after 90 days of living in Japan, and you must leave the country for more than 90 days before you can use or renew an international driver's license.

So the only option is to get a Japanese driver's license. Unfortunately, laws governing exchanging a foreign license for a Japanese license have changed recently too. It use to be that all you had to do was show up with a Japanese translation of your license, take a simple written test, probably in your own language, and they'd issue you a Japanese license. The laws have changed however, so that now only citizens of a few countries are eligible for a direct license exchange. In order to be eligible for a license no questions asked (well, ten questions actually...), your country must pass certain overall standards for traffic safety, and give licenses to people who are licensed in their own country. The problem for the US is that the national government does not maintain records of the type that Japan needs, plus each state has its own licensing policies, making it very difficult to meet Japan's licensing department's requests. Since the US doesn't meet Japan's qualifications, we have to take two simplified tests of our knowledge and driving skill.

So begins my process. I started by getting my Washington State Driver's License translated into Japanese by the Japan Automobile Federation (Like the AAA in the US) in the middle of last week. I planned on going to the licensing center last friday, but when I woke up, if was very cold and snowing, so I went back to sleep. On monday however, I did wake up, at half past seven, and headed for the licensing center. Unlike in Washington, where it's usually located in an old strip mall or something, this licensing center was a huge complex of buildings, with a large driving corse. I arrived at 9:30, just before the application period closed at 10am. After submitting my paper work, waited for about an hour and a half until I was finally called to the window for a few questions. About 10 minutes later, I was given back some paper work, and told where to go to pay the fees, and have my picture taken. At 11:30, two hours after arriving, everyone was finally called in for the written exam. It was a ten question true/false exam, in any language you wanted to take it in, (I choose English) and we were given 30 minutes to complete it. There were questions like "If you are traveling through an intersection, and an emergency vehicle is approaching behind you, it's okay continue traveling because you were in a hurry" and "If you approach a pedestrian or bicycle crossing, and there are people crossing, you must stop and wait until they have crossed the street", and "If the traffic light is red, but there are no cars coming, it it okay to go trough it". I was the first to complete the test -- about three minutes after we started...

After everyone was done with the test, we went into another building to get our tests graded. In the same lobby, there were another 800 or so people (told you it was a big place), who were taking the full test, waiting for their test scores to appear on a large screen. When the scores appeared on the screen, about two-thirds of the crowd screamed happily, and the other third stormed out angrily, often being chased after by a friend who had just finished screaming and jumping up and down. It was interesting to see how everyone else has to do it, kind of funny to watch, since passing the written test in Washington isn't much harder than the one I had just taken, and also relieving that I didn't have to take the same test that they were all taking.

A few minutes later, someone came out and told the ten of us that we'd all passed. No one was screaming and jumping up and down this time. They handed us all a a map and certificate that we'd passed the written exam, and a date and time to show up for the skills test.

It was now 12, and the driving corse was open for walking, so I too a walk around it. There are stoplights, traffic signs, fake railroad crossings, and two small hills, and some narrow streets to simulate many of the small neighborhood streets in Japan. Most of the corse is apparently done at a pretty slow speed until the last section, were you must speed up to 40kph (25mph). So basically, if I don't run any signs, hit any curbs, or forget to use my turn signals, I should be all right. Oh, and I have to drive on the left side of the road, and the stick shift will be in my left hand, and the turn signal in my left. But other than that, I should be fine.

I'll let ya'll know on Thursday if I pass.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Welcome to March

Today was my first day of nothing. I started by doing a little job hunting, and then went up to Tokyo to meet Ai. I bought another suit, which I'll have to pick up later this week, and went to Ai's university to go to an interviewing and entry sheeting seminar. (I had to sneak into the library with a fake student number though.) I bought a couple job hunting weekly magazines that Ai's mom recommended, but didn't see much in either one, but we met her at the station on our way home, and in 30 seconds of looking through it, she found a few more. Wow, she's good. I did a little favor for her so she owes me a bit, but she'd help me anyway.

That's it for my short stupid random post that says nothing. You can tell I didn't work today huh? I'm not to tired to write! I have no milk, and it's too late to get some. No 24 hour groceries nearby.