- [27-31 May]
So here I am, in Japan, writing from the hotel (well I find it hard to call it HOTEL, it's more like a "flesh-bearer parking space"), at 3 PM of a Thursday.
The faithful reader might think "he got fired", everyone knows how long are working days here in Japan.
Well, the answer is that I did not get fired or resigned YET, I am just quite sick.
Physical problems are far from being the most important ones, the trip was centred on the need of talking to someone in charge about my position and contract, as things were turning pretty sour, and to be honest still are.
It turns out that one of the greatest pages of Japanese mentality was about to unravel in front of me, much to my amusement (I will write a chapter of my book only to speak about these things that happen only here!!) but also to my dismay.
I'll start from the end, also this trip will prove USELESS to come to a final conclusion, with that it's now a grand total of 8 months since I cannot reach a firm point with them.
I arrive on Monday, send some mails to the colleagues once I arrived at the flea infested place that I call Hotel, because in 8 months they still haven't sorted a japanese mobile phone for me..
One of my colleagues (Mr.T fron now on), a very good guy who works "outside" the area of influence of my direct boss (Mr.Y), sends me a mail telling me that the director (Mr.X) asked him to speak to me...
I start worrying, this is it, they are sending a person that has a great relationship with me so that he can prepare the coffin...
In reality is nothing like that, but we need to schedule a "secret meeting" outside the company during working hours (and everyone knew apart from Mr.Y the head of our team), he tells me that Mr.Y has been reporting really bad things about me to Mr.X, but since Mr.X knows what person is Mr.Y he cannot believe him too much and then send Mr.T to ask me what is my opinion, because maybe he is thinking about taking me outside the direct control of Mr.Y, but surely they do not want to quit my contract.
I tell his everything, how Mr.Y is lucky to be in Japan where no mobbing charges exist (he's being mobbing me in a very serious way recently), how in 8 months I am was never put in the conditions to do any real work, how I do not like his attitude towards the suppliers and clients, and of course how the contract that we signed is proving very bad under the money point of view, as we agreed on a figure and so far it has been that figure minus 20%.
Mr.T reports (secretly) to Mr.X.
Mr.X then comes up to me (secretly) and tells me that on Thursday (today) he wants to speak to me privately... Shame that his English is not that good, I start to get really worried.
Mr.T tells me that on Wednesday he will talk to me again.
On Wednesday we go to see a client and we talk, he tells me that he misunderstood what Mr.X told him the week before, he CANNOT take me outside Mr.Y influence because that was Mr.Y decision to employ me and he has full responsibility and control over my contract TOO (if to renew it or not)!!
We talk again about the job and all the problems, I ask him to tell Mr.X to cancel the appointment with me, I want Mr.T (who speaks good English) to be there too, so that we minimize misunderstandings.
In the evening we go out with Mr.T and Mr.E (the other colleague of mine, great chap) we talk all evening about it, and basically it comes out that Mr.X has spoken with Mr.Y telling him to be nicer to me and to let me do what I want under the job point of view!!
The also Mr.T and Mr.Y got together talking about me, so now Mr.T knows his version of the story. I take one evening explaining where Mr.Y ideas are wrong (in my opinion of course).
In the end they are going to have other meeting all over June and in July when I come back we'll talk again!!!
Talk talk talk, that's all it seems possible to do here, the person above me will never change his attitude, and surely now that he knows that other staff got their hands in this situation he will probably be meaner than before.
On the other side the people I have spoke with are all quite keen to work with me, they understand that my "way" of working is a positive one, and would like to have more interaction, which lacked because the person in charge was filtering everything...
As for me me head still hurts. Tonight huge dinner with Mr.X, Mr.E, Mr.Y, my old agent Kutsunugi san, the PRESIDENT of the company.
Unfortunately Mr.T is away for business, but I managed to get the promise that we will not talk about this issue.
Tomorrow is the last day, I am SURE that Mr.Y will want to talk to me, I'd be surprised if he does not, now the heat is on him, but he is also a very stubborn and proud person and will try to prove me wrong.
As for me this is exactly what I wanted to achieve, start some talk about these problems without involving him, the situation helped me a lot because I never requested anything so I cannot be accused of backstabbing.
As for the Japanese system, it's great to see that the director by playing his cards in this way DOESN'T get his hands dirty, but nonetheless manages to control the situation, and Mr.T cannot get any blame either because he was informally asked by a superior.
Nobody takes responsibility for anything, it's a crazy society this one!
Clearly Mr.Y will hate me and Mr.T forever, but fact is, he cannot vent it publicly because he has no grounds to do that!
We'll see what happens, still I feel like a fool, I was not prepared to live such an experience, no matter how much I thought I knew this society.
One thing is sure, I am quite unlucky in the choice of my bosses, this one is similar to the one I had in Ratti, a "one-man-show we do what I say only" type, strange to find in a Japanese person, so in that way I am even more unlucky!
Oh well, I'll live on thinking that bad luck must be evened out with some good luck!!
- Tears in Heaven
- Suspended above the ground at an altitude of exactly 11125 meters, moving quickly at the average speed of 900 Km an hour over Siberia, close to Stanovoy Mountains to be precise, I have just finished what is becoming a classic of my recent air travels.
Fist of all the spot of bad luck, that I solely blame on me flying Economy and not Business anymore.
To be very honest it is just another way to winge about the fact that Business Class trips are a distant memory, I used to have similar experiences also when times were better under the flights point of view.
Anyways, the spot of bad luck us the fact that the person next to me, a classic Japanese man, has one of the worst breaths that I have ever let my smelling papillae feel in, say, thirty-two years.
It's really foul, it smells like damp muddy dog with an hint of your "grandmother stale biscuit", garnished with mouldy lemons.
It's really SHITE, twelve bloody hours next to this guy, the stench comes in waves, it's really unbeatable.
In a total belligerent way I am taking to letting all the nastiest smells out of my body or clothes, firstly by removing my shoes (that should be banned by Nato), then by eating very garlicky food, and finally, by releasing the mighty lethal gas known as F.A.R.T.
Nothing works though, his breath is simply too strong, now it even gained an hint of gone off potato.
Anyways, if this might satisfy your curiosity for such a strange title (when did I even made normal titles anyways), I am afraid that the explanation has yet to come.
As I was saying, on the top of being quite unlucky in meeting the companions of these trips, as you know I cannot sleep so I watch the movies that are kindly presented on board.
Economy doesn't have any selection it's either that or that, so I watched already two films that I had already seen. No problem, it's good training for my English.
The recurrent happening is the fact that there is always a classical love movie, one of those movies that you will NEVER EVER go to see.
Fine, no probs.
Every flight I ride, every time I watch one of these masterpieces, well, I cry.
Yes I get all soft and soppy, and shed one or two tears.
Mind you, only a couple!
I am quite tempted to go and see one of these in Florence, in a proper theatre, to see if it is just the travel, stress (and stench) factor, or if I am indeed moved to romantic heights by these stories...
Anyways two hours to go, then other two to be at the hotel where I will be able to enjoy the short single bed, the Barbie sized wardrobe, and all those welcoming Tokyo noises.
- The starting line
- [Thursday 25th May]
Tonight, a bit unusual for the group as we normally see each other on Tuesdays, we met to play RPG (or Role Playing Games).
The evening was pleasant and helped me taking my head away from the pressing problems that I will have to face in the not so distant future.
Going back home I realized that RPGs always marked the "beginning" of a trip for me, by that I mean those three days before the actual trip takes place, the three days where you start thinking of what to take with you, what to leave behind, cleaning the house, throw away things that are not "already walking" but might be inclined in doing so if left too long loitering in the fridge, doing all those things that a good traveller does before leaving.
It's a funny feeling, usually I start getting more nervous and irritable, a sort of "meditation" that I have to do as during the trip it's going to be just me by myself and the rest of the world needs to shut down a little...
In a way RPG night marks the end of the "kid Lorenzo" and welcomes me, as a starting line, to the "must be grown up and responsible" version of me.
I also cut my hairs today, need to be presentable to my Japanese employers, especially as we are going to argue again about the contract, the job, the money and everything else.
In a typical Lorenzo' style I have been playing in my head the movie of me storming out of the office upset and screaming, the images of me accepting everything, the images of me winning the bout, the images of me simply doing nothing in the big open space office that I will occupy next week.
Needless to say that the situation is grotesque. The person that got me into this mess is a complete idiot, he doesn't have a clue of what to do with me apart from being pedantic and generally obnoxious.
I could go to see the bosses above him, but they are the people that have never been convinced of me working for them, any complaint will mean an automatic end of the relationship.
Not that I want to continue, mind you, but I'd like to leave the job with my back a bit "covered" and not unemployed and having to pay for a bigger house that I rented because I needed the extra space for them.
The economics behind starting this business are feasible only with a certain level of income, which is quite high compared to other jobs that I could do "off the street". For example working in a shop in the centre of Florence would probably not be enough to pay the full rent of the house, not to mention car, utilities, garage and food.
This makes moving to a different sector quite hard as well.
I am a bit lost at the moment, I just wish that this race that I have officially started today doesn't turn out to be too hard to complete...
- [13th May]
A late post.
This even took place more than a week ago, but I took a longer time than allowed to download the pictures, so here it is!
Nothing major to tell, the Sunday was rather slow, went to see some football and then in the late afternoon we met at Stefano's place.
Me, Chiara, Elisa and Francesco, Stefano and Rita and Simone, unfortunately Mariachiara (his girlfriend) did not come.
This was a bit strange and Simone was deeply interrogated (this is the fittest term that I can muster) about the absence of his other half, but it is not for me to tell the world I guess, so I will skip on the reasons of it.
Going back to the Barbeque it was a very nice dinner, pork steaks and sausages helped by some salad and tomatoes with mozzarella.
It was a long time since we were all together not for role playing games, we even thought that Stefano has "something" to tell us (like getting married), but it was not the occasion apparently.
We finished quite late, decently drunk and certainly full of food.
- Disposable Luck
- [Friday 18th May]
Today something happened that made me think about the major unknown to men systems in life that regulate our daily routine, and why not, our whole existence.
The occasion was Alessio's birthday party, which was held in "La Guerrina" a pub near the stadium where we usually go.
While the party was nothing more than a chat between friends and girlfriends, an event marked my evening.
After ordering the mandatory Guinness, I got a scratch card from the bar-lady.
In a total absent-minded way I took out my ten cent coin, or whatever it was, and proceeded to scratch the silver coating.
I have to say that I quite hate these cheap shot marketing ploys, they are a waste of money, I am sure that people would quite happily pay 20 cents less than having to enter a "FANTASTIC prize draw".
Anyways, in this case, as the Guinness usually requires more time to be poured, the trick is quite clever, because assuming that there is an empty bar, or an almost empty one, you do have time to concentrate and do your thing.
After the scratching it came out that I won the prize, an inflatable cushion, branded Guinness of course...
This made me remember of a very similar occasion where I won an hand warmer (it must have been 6/7 months ago), buying a Guinness. They were holding a similar campaign and even in that occasion I won the prize.
According to the lady it's not that "usual" to win.
Now, after the usual little spot of theatre "look how lucky am I!!" when I got back at the table, and after listing ALL the uses that this cushion could have (and I mean ALL), I started thinking that in both occasions I have been blessed with an uncommon luck that I most certainly DID NOT want!!
So the present feeling is that I "wasted" my rounds on two stupid things, I could have use it better on, say, a lottery ticket! :D
The pondering goes deeper to create a sort of sod's law rule:
Lucky things happen to you when you are not thinking of them and quite always when they do not make your life any better or worse, in short they are wasted in front of your eyes, but they are easily recognizable as lucky occasions so that you can sulk.
It must be this way.
The same applies for my job. When I changed job last year I was fed up with the company, but I got to a point, after two years of looking for the right occasion in vain, where I was actually quite enjoying the job again.
Then the first job offer came and then the Japanese company (alas) came too.
Two months after that I received another 3 job offers.
Now I am in desperate need of another job, as this one is just turning even more sour than the previous one, but of course nothing comes.
It seems that the more you look for something the more it eludes you.
Same story with girlfriends, when you actively look for one she never arrives, when you stop you get the same effect that honey has on bears...
Well I have two useless gadgets now and the feeling that I wasted my luck, next time I am going to have Kilkenny, good return for this marketing campaign huh?!
- Is it worth it?
- [15-17 May]
From Monday to Thursday the director of the team where I work came from Japan because he wanted to go and see some suppliers to discuss the coming season's business.
His coming also meant that we were going to discuss about all the contractual and work related problems that have afflicted our relationship in the first half of this year.
Endless mails have been exchanged during April and May, but if a typical Japanese way nothing was really sorted.
The account of the three days is rather boring, I did almost nothing all time, just sat there listening to my boss talking about what he wanted to have made, what price, what delivery and so on. I had to spend also two nights away from Florence, in Biella to be precise, where a lot of suppliers are based.
We also went back to Ratti, my previous employer, once again is quite hard for me to go there, there are so many friendly faces that I miss, but on the other side there are also a lot of bad memories, so all in all it is better that I left them.
Five years of your life cannot be forgotten in a second, so I guess that I will feel like that for a long time to come!
Contract wise there have been two major "meetings", one held in my car and one held in the lobby of the hotel.
The first one was to talk about the job that they expect me to do. To make long things short the guy told me that since I have to learn their job he is not going to give me any responsibility whatsoever until I know how to work, in any case the tasks that he will allow me to deal with in the future are, in my opinion, only a part of what I should really do.
I told him that I did not agree with what he wanted, but he is calling the shots so I cannot do anything but comply.
The second round took place the day after and was by far the more "emotional" of them all. Basically this time I was confronted with the money point of view. My boss took out a simulation of what I might have had to pay for taxes in the future, so that we could calculate how much to pay me.
When we decided the amount they told me that 20% of that amount was linked to a commission, but unfortunately in the first 9 months of this job no commission was ever paid to me.
This brought me to complain quite a lot...
Well, he took out the excel list and started telling me that all the calculations were wrong, and that they were paying for a lot of things that normally I should pay by myself (like rent, utilities and so on)...
While technically they give me a contribution for all these things, he made a mistake reading the excel list and he went on for ten minutes saying that basically they were paying me enough.
Needless to say that when I realized the mistake (quite blatant actually) I told him "But, look here, this subtraction is quite evident, it's not like you say! Before talking about things that you do not know you should at least read things in a correct way! I am not trying to steal anybody's money here!".
FIVE MINUTES of silence followed.
I mean FIVE minutes are a lot, I kept looking at him, he kept looking at the excel sheet. Then he admitted the mistake, saying that he will talk to the directors of the company, but in general I would not get what I asked for. He then changed subject (and I let him do it as there was no point in arguing)...
It is clear that I must finish this pantomime that I am living. It's a joke. Now it's quite evident that they do not trust me, do not trust my skills or capabilities, there is no respect at all.
Will I be lucky again to find another job soon?!
Oh well, we will see, time to refresh all those CVs around the net...
- Japanese Monday
- [Monday 14th May]
And so it is the first day with the responsible of the team that I work with in Japan came to Florence to go and see some supplier, actually one supplier only to be precise.
This is the first of a three day trip around Italy that will certainly see us talking about the contractual matters that afflict my present work related life.
The day was quite boring, mostly because there was no real need for me to be there if we save the need of having someone to take the Japanese guy from the hotel to the company.
I did absolutely nothing, or very little, but that doesn't strike me as a surprise anymore, because I am getting used to the plastic wall that is put up every time I say something to my Japanese contractors.
I just hope that during this three days we do manage to talk about it, it would be quite disappointing if we don't.
Of course I am not going to start discussing about it, not because I am too good for that, just because it is not my responsibility anymore as I have written quite clearly what I expect and what is not working in the present relationship.
We will see, still I am quite stressed, and the coming trip to Japan in a fortnight is even less appealing than usual... :(
The day saw a nice lunch and differ together with the salesman of the company that we went to visit (I quite hated him when he invited also for dinner, I was planning to find an excuse to leave my boss after work), and we did the usual mumble jumble about the Japanese market, exchange rate, dry touches and casual-elegant look (yes both casual and elegant at the same time)... 'Nuff said.
- Paris NOT on a business trip
- [4th-6th May]
Finally after many years of wanting to go to see Paris not on a business trip I managed to go for a couple of days to actually see the city.
It is quite strange, thinking back, that in the last ten/fifteen years I have always been to the capital of France on business trips.
This means that until recently I quite hated the place, as it brings only memories of things made and done in the name of the god of business.
Yeah nice restaurants and hotels, but no chance to see all the works of art that cluster Paris.
It is quite lucky that Chiara is half French, and of course her parents have a little flat near the centre of the city. Well, actually in a rather central part of it.
So off we go, cheap flight from Pisa airport and by Thursday night we were near Hotel de Ville in a small, but rather nice, apartment in Paris.
The trip was focused on doing some shopping around, and of course trying to see as many nice places as possible. I wanted to go to the Versailles palace but the weather was quite shite and we decided not to go.
On the other side I managed (finally) to see Notre Dame from the INSIDE, instead of passing by it quickly without having time to go in.
Other places visited featured the Museum of Orsay, St.Eustache, St.Germain.
I managed to find a great jewellery box for my watches and rings, some strange spices that I had to buy and some other little amenities that I assume I could find only in France. Chiara on the other side tested my resistance by trying on a gazzillion clothes that of course she did not buy, but since we were on holiday I didn't complain TOO much. :D
We also bought a selection of cheese from a typical cheese shop, I can't wait to eat them!
The two days went past quite quickly, we had typical French gallettes for dinner on the first day and on the second night we went for a typical restaurant near home (we were knackered from walking all day), apparently a famous place (so Chiara sold it to me, but I suspect a white lie there being uttered).
Either than that the main and interesting point was that my view on Paris is now changed, I quite like the place, I understand why so many Italians moved there, although Italians moved everywhere so it's no surprise to see so many of the everywhere.
On Sunday we were back to Italy. Before leaving France we even managed to see a mouse happily moving among the tables of a bar at the Airport of Orly, but we thought it was something to do with French people being very animal friendly! :D
- The Spider
- [Tuesday 1st May]
The third episode of Spiderman was the major highlight of the 1st of May bank holiday. Chiara doesn't get any proper holiday, as she works in an hotel and therefore normal holidays are doubly workdays for her.
This meant a very slow start of the day, some cleaning, washing and ironing (long due). Then in the afternoon I did a bit of work, in Japan of course it is not bank holiday so I thought I'd behave Japanese.
Things on the work side are not developing positively, but I will dedicate a full post later about it.
Then it was time for dinner (quite frugal, I have nothing in the fridge), and around nineish I went to pick Chiara up and met the other people at the Cinema.
Federico was rather nice to go two days in advance to pick up the tickets at the cinema, the 1st of May was infact the first day that Spidey 3 started in Italy.
Surprisingly the hall was not full of people (due to the fact that they are showing the film in 800 cinemas around Italy).
Generally speaking this is the worst movie of the series so far, but it is not a BAD movie, it's just too long, a bit slow, and leaves several open doors for a possible number four.
Special effects are great (of course that would explain the 250 million dollars bill to make the movie), plot is a bit eerie, but all in all an enjoyable view.
And VENOM, one of my favourite "baddies" ever, a great character, it was brilliantly made in the film!
- Lox, Lorenzo... ME!!
- A little introduction about the author and the blog itself. Plus contacts and CVs... You never know!
- A Selection of the best pictures that I have taken all over the world during the years, all nicely indexed by year and geographical area. Jolly good!
- History of this Blog
- A collection of all the articles that I have wrote so far, divided by month/year.
I have had the bad idea of writing my e-mail address on the board before, so this time I'll try to prevent some spam to get to me by putting this little image.. Let's hope it does the trick!
A reminder to Myself
Left and right
Like day and night
That's what makes the world go round
In and out
Thin and stout
That's what makes the world go round
For every up there is a down
For every square there is a round
For every high there is a low
For every to there is a fro
To and fro
Stop and go
That's what makes the world go round
You must set your sights upon the heights
Don't be a mediocrity
Don't just wait and trust to fate
And say, that's how it's meant to be
It's up to you how far you go
If you don't try you'll never know
And so my lad as I've explained
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
You see my boy it's nature's way
Upon the weak the strong ones prey
The human life it's also true
The strong will try to conquer you
That is what you must expect
Unless you use your intellect
Brains and brawn, weak and strong
That's what makes the world go round