Wednesday, 23 June 2010

PostHeaderIcon Paperwork Despair

I've not been in the best state of mind recently and I'm often feeling exhausted and irritated after work.  I'm sure the late nights watching the World Cup and the humid, sluggish days have not helped matters.  Still,  I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past few days after it became apparent that I've turned into a miserable git.  I'm not entirely sure why this is the case but an experience at my town hall two minutes ago has led me to diagnosis the culprit as Japan.  It's not so much the country's fault as it is with my long vanished patience with dealing with the people and the language barrier.  I find it increasingly difficult to communicate with my work and when I require their help it usually involves exceptionally difficult Japanese.  I have been trying to deal with the process of extending my visa for another year.  It means I need to get the following forms completed and processed before I drive to the city twice to get a stamp or two:

依頼書 ---> 契約団体マニュアル?

That probably looks more intimidating than it is to non-Japanese speakers but it's still bloody difficult.  The only parts I can remember myself are 証明書 for certificate and マニュアル for manual (most katakana is English already).  Luckily, some people on JET sent an email around to tell me the things I require so I don't have to try and translate lots of information on an immigration website.  However, I still had to find all the Japanese terms and write a letter to my boss telling him what I require.  Incidentally, the forms I can get at the town hall are probably the easiest part of the process.  The most excruciating part is trying to get a written contract and statement of earnings from my employers.  My Board of Education is so loose and lazy when it comes to the paperwork for my job.  In previous years I've had to print pages out of the JET handbook and demand that they give me a re-contracting form or some form of contract.  I have yet to receive a new one since April when the new year started.  I told my boss (I'm the only JET I know without some form of designated supervisor) that I actually need them to stay in the country when he started to Aaaaah and Hmmmm about the paperwork.

I have a free morning at work on Wednesday (which I usually use to update this) so I decided to take the plunge and get my forms from the town hall.  I always feel nervous before any situation in Japan where at least an intermediate grasp of the language is required.  I set off with my notes, pen, dictionary, signature stamp, foreigner card, pension book and some tax form.  I was pleased to see that the usual desk staff of Arsehole Akira and Miserable Minami weren't there.  Sadly, there was a woman of about one hundred rotations of the sun infront of me.  I didn't mind and sat down expecting to be held up for about forever as she argued about a fence or something.  As I was sitting there another woman came in and walked straight over to another part of the counter.  Another worker ran across the office in a series of welcoming greetings.  I was a bit pissed but I assumed she was expecting her or the other staff member didn't see me.  I waited patiently until either of the women finished their business and I would be next.  It just so happened that both of them concluded things at the exact same moment but both of them lingered at the desk shuffling paper.  I became concerned about the way things were going as the madness of this rural bureaucracy descended into chaos.  One of the staff members retreated from her position and went to process some piece of paper.  At this moment, a citizen strolled right into the town hall and took up half of the free available space at the desk.  Just as I was about to stand up and take the other position the new woman was told to come over to the other desk by the only remaining staff member.  This is when I started to get angry because I was so close to the desk that she had to squeeze past me.  I eyeballed the staff member who basically ignored my existence but she didn't even nearly make contact.  I decided then that I wasn't going to be polite about things so I stood at the available space at the counter.  It just so happens that the other staff member never returned in the remaining ten minutes I stood there.  Instead I stared at a massive office of about 25 people and hoped that one might come and help me.  During this time, another old woman from the street sat down in my old chair.  This made me feel awkward because I was wondering if I was not standing at a defunct and non-operational counter.  If I bottled it and sat down again, would she now take my place in the invisible queue of life?  I stood my ground and hoped that the rough sounding woman beside me finally sorted out her car details.  Things became worse when an elderly couple came in and took the two remaining seats facing the counter.  I was stuck on a lonely island of social awkwardness... that was a metaphor about my predicament although it is quite relevant to Japan as a whole.  Anyway, my exciting trip to the town hall concluded when the one remaining staff member confirmed her foreigner blindness by ignoring me completely and went straight to the queue of corpses on the seats.  I could and should have been more assertive but it was the last straw in relation to paperwork and interactions with Japanese people.  I could feel my brain rage as the last drops of patience evaporated from my bitter shell of a body.  I could have said something in Japanese or English but it would have been rude of me to do so.

The next task of today is to phone a language school and berate them.  They specialise in teaching English since... it's rural Japan.  There are only a few people in Kochi who want to study Japanese and they are spread out.  However, I heard this one school has personal Japanese lessons.  Since I have not been taught one hour of the language in the 3 years and I have nobody to talk to, I decided to spend a fair bit and attend a few hours a week.  The problem is that the company don't want to respond to my nice emails, even those that I wrote in Japanese.  I asked them last week if I could come this morning to set up some lessons.  They haven't replied to that or another I sent on Monday.  This is another fine example of my patience and effort vanishing into the humid skies.  I am actively trying to study Japanese.  To do so I need to drive a two round trip to attend the school.  The lessons will probably cost me £15 an hour... or about £75 a week.  I am taking time off work to learn the language of the country I live in.  The main reason I am doing this is because I have no friends or colleagues to comfortably converse with.  I sent an email in Japanese about studying Japanese to a language school and they won't reply.  I'm close to giving up altogether and developing a case of Tourette's Syndrome where I spend my days shouting swear words in English at everyone I come across.  Trying to be Japanese about things is a failure.  It's time I start foreigner smashing my way through life.


Naomi said...

One might think your good friend and ex employee of said language would help you with such things especially if he wants to watch the world cup in your house. Alas... probably not.

Noah said...

Naomi, if Craig wants to ask me for something, he can.

Naomi said...

I was under the impression that he already did.

Ahoy hoy said...

No need to fight over little old me. I got an email from them this afternoon! It was the same email they sent 9 days ago!

Lt. Columbo said...

i actually feel your frustration when i read your posts. i can relate as russia has created a certain bitter/pessamist in me, hence why i just love ranting and reading other rants (which probably means ive gone wrong in life somewhere).

i hope you forigner smash the balls out of them next time, taking down every culturial barrier with you as you go

Ahoy hoy said...

I managed to get everything sorted cheers. I'm just waiting on my new visa...

Also, I can't drive my new (old) car until I get a parking space form from the POLICE. It's so stupid.

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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.