- [Somewhere near six hours before the end of 2006]
I am about to leave the house with Marta to go to the annual New Year's Eve party (that will be duly accounted later).
Time to make some sums and pondering over the 365 days that went by.
2006 has been quite a good year. Compared to 2005 it has been a great year.
I managed to change job, starting something new and certainly difficult, but quite stimulating at the same time.
I managed to move back to Florence, and to get a house and a new car.
I even managed to kick the football again! Yes the operation is definitely a thing of the past and now I only hope that I can play a little longer than for a couple of weeks as it happened recently (due to the business trips)...
Marta might come to live in Florence but in any case however the relationship will end up at least we managed to give it a clear direction better than the limbo in which we were suspended before...
Italy won the World Cup and Fiorentina had a great season too!
John also got married and finally went back to England, as he really wanted and dreamt of for a long time.
There is still quite a lot of room for improvement of course, so I still hope that 2007 will be a rising curve rather than a descending one! Of curse I'll give it my best shot as usual, let's see.
The end of 2006 also marked the beginning of some peace talks, first and foremost with my mum after Christmas, and with that friend of mine who spoiled the whole of November some time ago... Better than nothing...
Ok then, that's it have a great Year all of you readers! As for me I'll try to keep up the good work!
- Year coming to an End
- [28th December 2006]
It seems that the site has gone terribly quiet in recent days. It is surely because of the holiday season, I haven't been writing a lot too..
Well, there is very little to tell.
After the massive row at Christmas day the aftermath was quiet and I didn't speak to any of the participants since Monday. Better this way.
As for the other days, Marta arrived yesterday, today we went shopping in millions of places, there are quite a lot of things to buy for the house and we managed to find most of them, tomorrow there will be a massive cleaning/picture hanging/cables sorting out session.
Tomorrow we will see the other people as well to start thinking about the coming New Year's Eve party. We'll see what we'll come up with.
Just that really.
Oh, I almost forgot. The Japanese contractor FINALLY sent me a copy of the contract.
I signed all the papers and sent them by DHL today, hopefully I might even get paid, and at least for the next 19 months I will have a piece of paper that officially states my work.
At last! :)
- [25th December 2006]
And so this is Christmas, the day that boys and girls from all around the globe are always awaiting for, a day of total joy.
When I was a kid I remember the presents, the tree, the anticipation for the biggest day in the year.
I remember once I asked for a football, and although I wasn't allowed to touch it before the big day, I would sneak in the Christmas tree room to touch it, maybe bounce it a bit around the room before quickly putting it back into it's bag.
When I grew up, or at least the latest memories do not live up to those times. Alas.
Today the last episode of a nightmare that keeps repeating every year.
Everything went perfectly well until the very last moment where my mother decided to spoil everything starting a massive argument about the inheritance that my late granfather left to the family.
I won't go too much into details, I really do not feel like it at the moment, but hearing your mother uttering complete nonsense, yet again, that will eventually mean the ruin of a moderate patrimony is really too much.
All garnished by the ever nice "I don't care about my children" coup de grace, that left me high and dry (and out of the door because I couldn't bear it anymore).
Can someone please wake me up and tell me it was all a dream?
Where is my football? I desperately need it.
- Nightmare before Chrsitmas
- [21st December 2006]
Ok, I don't like Christmas all that much. I am a cynic sad person who doesn't like all the spending spree that ensues every year around the end of December.
It's fake, pre-packed.
I hate the fact that we all have to be happy and nice, I mean, I am nice all year around, why do I have to wait for Christmas to get some people in the elevator to return my "hello" or "how are you"?
On the other side the world needs Christmas. Both for economic and hope related reasons.
The first one is simple, the system as it is is clearly bound to fail, debts piling up year after year, but the show must go on and people buy more and more.
In Italy we reached the absurd point where IF you ask for a dilation of payments you get massive discounts on goods, while if you pay in cash you get only the full price.
THIS IS ABSURD!!!
Everyone is spending more than they actually have, and then complain for bank charges and interest rates that are bordering illegality.
The other point is more tricky. It seems that compared to when I was a kid, people have got more but they are also a lot more stressed/unhappy... Christmas is that time of the year when things are better, when things are meant to work out and be nice.
It's like when you take a pain killer, you need it to get some peace of mind/body and it feels bloody good.
How many times since I come back to Italy have I heard "Oh, come on it's Christmas!!". Today I have seen one of these ambulant sellers (there are scores of them in Italy, mostly immigrants), that got a sale on the sole account that it was Christmas, and the old lady didn't just walked away as usual.
I think that more than the five euro sale the guy needed the hope that the world might not be as bad as it is for him.
Suddenly people that you haven't heard is AGES send you cards, emails with wishes and even phone calls sometimes. Here kicks in another social stigmata, the fact that you feel obliged to reply to a certain mail, even if it is someone that you hardly remember...
Do I think like that because I always struggle with presents at the last time? Maybe.
I also have bad memories of the huge family meetings, where really we liked the luch and everything, but the games and talks later, until very late... Well, nobody really wanted to be there but we "had" to...
Tricky party Christmas, but on the other side, I would quite miss it if it wasn't there, as I did when I was living in Japan and went to classes on the 24th and 25th of December as any other normal day (as it is in non Christian countries).
I'd miss the contradictions, the present stress, the traffic on the day before Christmas, the stupid amount of useless trinkets that I always seems to get, the fake joy at a present that is clearly not nice at all.
When in the year can you get a concoction of all these features in one day?
I love Christmas!
- Home Again
- [16th-18th December 2006]
And so I am back home. Sunday was pretty much devoted to unpacking, cleaning, jetlagging and doing some grocery shopping. Plus I got my car back from my mother's place, which is always good of course.
On Monday I didn't really do a lot apart from going to buy that piece of furniture that I badly needed with my mum at Ikea.
Ikea has now become a classic spot for me, not so much for the quality of the goods that they propose, but because of course it is made easy to buy, and since I cannot stand waiting too much time on furniture that I do not know if I will still use when I move the house that I intend to buy in the future, it is a place that I like.
Eventually we ended up buying more than what was needed but it's not a big deal.
I got myself also a garage place for the car, so that now I can rest easy knowing that it is inside rather than outside in the open. It is a new car after all, and this area is not the best in Florence (to give you an idea before leaving from my window on the 6th floor I caught a guy having sex with this prostitute behind one of the big trunks where people drops litter, nuff said)...
I have also decided to start uploading in my ipod all the songs that I have. It's quite a major task to clean up more than 60 gigabytes of songs, so far I managed to organize 8 GB but it's a needed task also because the collection will be a bit cleaner this way...
Enough for now, no big thoughts on life yet, just a plain old "what I did these days" entry... But Christmas is coming, I can feel something brewing there already!!
- Wrapping up and a lot of troubles
- [15th - 16th December 2006]
Pictures from this trip are up, sorry for the delay!
Friday was a relatively calm day at the office, only one client to see a lot of goodbyes to say.
In the morning I wrote a huge complain mail to my boss, who is is Antwerp for work, hoping to stir things up a bit under the contract side.
Before leaving I have also had a talk with the president of the section that deals with textile and the general manager, they asked me about the contract and I also told them the same things that I wrote in that mail.
It was interesting to think after the meeting that we spoke completely in Japanese, both for the contract related problems and the work related ones!
Anyways they started making phone calls, in five minutes I felt as if I hit a beehive with a sledge hammer!
They are going to have a meeting on Monday, and they told me that money and contract WILL be done within the year...
Let's see, it was important at this point to vent my rage and let them know that albeit young I am a professional and I expect to be treated likewise.
In the evening great dinner with Enzaki san, Nakamura san and Uo san. Lovely food and company for the last supper in Japan, this year...
Or at least SO I THOUGHT!!!
On Saturday I woke up extremely early, did all the packing, it's now a precise and meticulous routine, and I didn't seem to be able to find the train pass from Yutenji (the place where I lived) and Shibuya... This put me in a foul mood because it affected my schedule and it was totally my fault for having put the tickets somewhere instead of the place where they were meant to be...
Anyways I got out and bought the tickets, a little waste of money (aroung 1,5 Euro).
I then got on the train and enjoyed the marvels of my Ipod, that kept me company until we arrived at Narita.
Here the tragedy.
The marvels of my Ipod are actually quite sweet, but listening to music completely lowered my attention threshold, and while getting to the check in counter I left PASSPORT, TICKETS and MILEAGE CARD all in the basket that is part of the trolleys that you use to carry around bags.
Since for some strange reasons you arrive on the ground floor, but the check in is on the second floor, and you cannot bring the carts upstairs...
As a result I lost everything!
I went immediately to the police, information counter, airline counter to report the loss, and I kept looking around the station like a madman!
Needless to say that I was sooooo pissed off with myself and the world for such an amateurish mistake, but the fact was that I was not leaving Japan, not even the next day, as the embassy is closed and there is no chance to get a replacement of the Passport...
Fortunately I asked one of the guys who handles the carts, who eventually got in touch with another guy that apparently is the responsible of that floor, and he had the stuff!! He found it but was waiting for lunch break to hand the package to the information counter...
So in the end I managed to get on board and get to Munich.
Here more troubles for me (cursed trip this one).
My watch is broken, it got broken the very first day of the trip, basically a small bit of metal got detached and wonders freely around the dial.
Well IT GOT BLOODY STUCK, and the watch stopped, shame that I didn't realize until it was almost too late.
I was infact in this business lounge and connected on the net on one of the free computers to check what Fiorentina was doing.
To my amazement the first half was already over, the match started at 18:00 so that meant that it was 18:45... But my watch told me that it was 18:00...
I managed to get on board this other plane as well, and arrived in Florence tired, stressed and all...
What a trip!
- Day Fourteen - Close to goal, major setback
- [14th December 2006]
I think it was 1999 when Manchester United won the Champions League, scoring two goals at the very last minute of a match that they clearly deserved to loose by at least 3-0.
Although the day as a whole was not special at all, the night was highlighted by the dinner that I have had with one of my colleagues, not the usual E. san, but another one.
He's around fifty, has got a lot of experience but he's very laid back in his attitude. Although he works in our team (technically) he doesn't do anything related to the things that we do, he's a sort of freelance guy.
We had a very nice sushi, and got talking about several things, among which my contract situation, which he thinks is totally out of order...
This conversation got sprang back to my mind later, when I arrived at home and I saw the mail from the main section of this company (the section that hasn't managed to get the contract done in three months), saying that I needed to give them more explanations, either than taxes and simplicity reasons, on why I cannot use the name that I decided three months ago, but I have instead to use my own name for the firm.
We had two meetings in which I explained STEP by BLOODY STEP why I had to do this and that, three months of mail asking for the same BLEEDING THING over and over, and yet they come at me with these questions.
I have sent a quite articulated mail to my actual boss (unfortunately he's in Belgium at the moment), strongly complaining about this situation, I haven't threatened any other form of protest, but I have the slight feeling that this matter might become nasty.
For the first time since I started I feel that I might have made a mistake after all. I knew it was going to be very difficult, but I wasn't expecting all this shit coming from that side...
AND NOW MR.IDONTKNOWYOURNAME stop coughing without putting your hand in front of your purulent mouth, I have enough problems as it is and I can do without your GERMS for fuck's sake! (forgive this digression, the guy next to me is spreading Ebola better than green monkeys, while keeping a very calm composure and everything, I wish I could hit him around the head with a sledgehammer!)
So in the end I feel like Byern Munich, they did clearly deserved a victory for all the efforts that they produced in that match, but the cup was lifted by Man Utd and not them.
Such is football, and life, but today I fee like if I have lost my Champion's League final.
- On work in Japan
- [14th December 2006]
There are too many people working in Japan. It's a conclusion that I had to come out with in the end.
I think that from my early observations there is a good 20% of the actual workforce that is completely and utterly not needed.
Mostly because they don't do any important job at all, just a lot of feet shuffling and paper passing, and a lot of phone calling of course!
The companies are full of middle-low-high-middle managers, and in response the suppliers adjust their structure in order to have a similar amount of people to interface with these figures.
So you have the "Manager of Production of Div.5 of ABC client", who follows a very small part of the business of ABC.
He doesn't have any power to take decisions, cannot work independently, and he is strictly linked to the decisions that are taken for him by his superior.
In the last three weeks I have met at least 30 people from our company, for each single one of them I have difficulties in remembering what the hell they are working on.
There are people who supervise the sales of fabrics to a certain division, but then there are also the direct salesman, and assistants and strange figures like me who are there just to add cannon fodder to the sales part.
The same is applied to production, outsourcing, shipping and so on.
As I said in a previous post, here a certain job is so linked to the client that they never produce any numbers to read how a company is doing, because all the numbers are in the head of the people who do a certain job.
They put in a lot of hours, but the efficiency is very low, having to loop infinitely in relationship related interlinks.
Yesterday I went to see a client who is a friend of mine. Nice guy, very hard to work with. My company is starting to work with them a little, when the person in charge of the project knew that I was his friend he has done everything he could so that we could meet and I could work for them as well.
I met him, talked about business, got some research to do for him, BUT, as it happens, even if I find something I will have to report to the guy in charge of the project who will then pass it to head of sales, who will then pass it to the sales people, who will then give it to the designer.
Am I the only one thinking that it's a bit awkward?
Oh well, we say in Italy "Paese che vai, gente che trovi" (Could be translated loosely as "You meet weird people in weird countries"), but I thought that a brief account could have been interesting for the people reading my pages...
- Day Thirteen - Noise
- [13th December 2006]
Another busy day at the office and visiting clients. I have learnt by heart the presentation by now and I feel really natural when talking about the several fabrics, fashion concepts and so on.
Part of the difficulty of starting a new job is finding the right pace. Like a runner, if you give too much at the start you are bound to fail, and eventually you will collapse before the finishing line.
If you start too slow, well, there's nothing that's going to bridge the gap between you and the rest of the group.
I need to find my pace now. This will be a matter of time, only that can solve the problem. Of course I have to hope that they will not want to terminate me in between! :D
Anyways as you know I have bought an Ipod, gadget that I dearly love. I am now listening to music while travelling in the crammed trains to go to work, and it helps a lot to get the time go by.
Having something to listen to made me realize how noisy is Japan.
It's incredible the fact that everything "speaks" (trains, traffic lights, buildings), and most of the time (but this is very common in Asia), the louder the merrier.
So I was walking around Shibuya, one of the young districts in Tokyo, and I COULND'T BLOODY LISTEN to the music in my ears!!!
I am not joking, everything was working, but still I would only hear the music shot at me from a shoe shop, or the words coming out of the loudspeakers of that huge TV screen positioned right in the middle of a building...
I then took some time to research the places that are likely to impair my ability to listen to my Ipod, and after the crammed places like Shibuya, we got the Train Station!! Here I think that it is also done because many people tend to sleep on the train, while still keeping a small part of the brain awake to listen to the speaker so that they don't miss their stop. This skill, although inbred in Japanese people, can be learned by gaijins as well, I am a clear example.
Anyways, digression aside, the train station is crap to listen to the Ipod.
Japan is noisy. It's "in your face" whit loads of bright and shimmering lights and high pitched and sharp sounds.
One of the things that I appreciate of my current accommodation is the fact that it's "quiet". No cars, no lights from Pachinko parlours, or people screaming about their new mobile phone offer or Udon dish...
There is also the noise coming from the antlike movements that are typical of the Japanese stations and generally of the crowded places around the world...
I never really thought about it, but it all must put a lot of stress on the brain, even if it is done at subliminal level, maybe it is also because of that that every return trip to Japan ends up with me being completely brain dead for at least 3/4 days...
In the evening I managed to rest at my place, I quite liked it.
- Day Twelve - Lawyer
- [12th December 2006]
Early meeting in the morning for the contract. More explanations about the Italian system, how does it works and how it is made, why I had to do this instead of that...
We ended up a three hour meeting with the further vexing request to send them and TRANSLATE the Italian articles of law that regulate VAT (Value Added Tax) and the likes...
I took it in an extremely light way this time, I was expecting that more problems would come out, and now the chances of me signing the deal this week are next to none.
In any case, since I don't want to be the cause of the delay, I quickly alerted my uncle, who sent me all the stuff by mail.
The rest of the day saw an incredibly boring meeting with a client, and a further dinner out with a lot of Hakkaisan Nihon-shyu (apparently one of the best sake in Japan) involved.
I really didn't want to get drunk for the second time in a row, but it was impossible to stop the flow of drinks, so in the end, once again extremely late, I crawled back to the hotel for a not so resting sleep.
Drinking after work is quite common in this country, I don't mind it but of course I cannot join all the discussions that we usually have, mostly because I am not Japanese and my level of the language is not that great.
So in the end if I am not in the mood (like yesterday) I am less of a party geezer and more of a "nodding drinker", where basically I nod slightly to everything that is said even if I don't really understand what it is said...
This trip is really killing me, the idea that I must be back soon (in one moth) is not very appealing, but such is life I guess...
- Day Eleven - Nanimonai
- [11th December 2006]
Nanimonai = Nothing at all...
This is what I have done today, hardly any appointments, in the evening went out with E. san and two new girls, of course the discussion felt on sex and positions and stuff like that... It occurred to me that if I wanted to get laid with someone every different night I might even have the chance given the present state of things.
E. san knows a lot of single girls, sometimes I wish I was more of a tart and less "serious" about life... Ohhh well, that's me really...
Aside from that nothing special to report...
- Second Weekend in Japan
- [9th-10th December 2006]
The second weekend was quite similar to the first, with the only difference that I actually managed to get some sleep this time.
On Saturday the weather was FOUL, strong cold wind and drizzling rain made walking outside impossible. Also the temperature dropped tragically, so I was left with my bonded corduroy jacket getting cold.
As a matter of fact I did go out because I had one of the major tasks of the day waiting for me, buying and IPOD!
And yes, I did buy it, even if I am flat broke, I had been wanting this toy for a long time, since all the severance money went into the company expenses (car, house, trips and so on), this is really my present to myself for having changed job, and since we are there for Christmas too... I got a black 80GB one, I am already loving it to bits, maybe is not the best player around, but I cannot care more, I wanted THIS.
Moreover because of the exchange rate I saved a whopping 130 Euro on this jewel... (in pizzaland because of the Euro the price is irrationally high, they sell it at 399US dollas in the States and 399 Euro in Europe, ok with benchmarking and all what you want, but it smells like a rip-off to me!!).
On Sunday the weather miraculously recovered and I managed to spend some quality time at my favourite praying place even (Meiji Jingu), and then some more Christmas shopping around Harajuku, where I got a turtle neck jumper at GAP and some presents for people back in Italy.
The holiday season will be in full blast when I arrive back, but by the looks of it I will have really little time to work on the presents... I hope that during the week I can get more stuff, there are a couple of things that I must buy still...
I was also meant to see my host family during the weekend, but I didn't manage. Mostly it was because on Saturday we had some things left to do at the office, and afterwards it felt a bit too late to call to go to see them, so I hope that next time I can see them, after all I will be here next month... :(
In the evening the usual sufferance listening Fiorentina's match on the radio (via internet), but we won so I went to bed quite happy!
- Day Ten - John's Wedding Cerimony
- [8th December 2006]
So it happens that John was really going to get married today, which meant that I needed to move towards Hiroshima in the early hours of the day, in order to make it to Miajima in time for the ceremony.
After a short boat ride I got on the island and then off to the temple premises where already several guests were arriving.
Fortunately I know Chie's family so I did all the salutations and then I finally met the groom, ready to get into the fray, before he changed to a proper Japanese kimono.
Needless to say that John was all over the place, totally in panic as you are expected to be in these occasions! Fortunately I was there to hold his hand (not in a gay way though, not today at least), and comfort him with my endless wisdom, by the time I arrived at the tale of my first stroll on the waters or river Arno in Florence, it was time to get started.
The ceremony followed a very strict ritual, as it is meant to be, Chie and John looked immensely good and after the Japanese ritual they dashed to get changed into traditional western clothes. I especially liked this thing because it meant that they wanted to mix the two worlds as their union really signifies.
The party was set to be on a boat that would go to Hiroshima directly and of course there was much drinking action, laughing, talks and so on, but all in all it was really great.
Then it was time for the best man speech, that, due to the fact that I am the only japanese speaking gaijin present meant that I had to do it. Of course I had something in my pocket already prepared, and I am happy to report lots of moments of laughing and a finale that saw even John's eyes watery and eerie just the way I thought!
We all finished off quite late, as you would expect and then we moved to another place (the few of us remaining), for more drinks and bullshitting, then called the night off around 5ish AM. What a wedding!
Now, this is what I wished to write about yesterday's accounts.
The reality is quite different as I didn't go at all at John's wedding, due to the fact that I had been stormed by appointments on the Friday and my boss wouldn't budge.
This meant that I couldn't go at one of my best friend's weddings, which is quite crap. It is doubly crap because John didn't have gaijin friends there apparently (I don't know because I wasn't there), and I know that he would have wanted me to be there just for the sake of saying "Hey,I am represented too!!".
I really let him down, as you know friendship is quite important to me, and I feel really bad about not being able to go.
I am sorry John.
As for the account of the day I had shitloads of appointments, and in the evening our boss decided to call in a meeting and a beer "Nomikai" (hitting on the booze) afterwards. He kept saying how he is quite strict and all of that, but in reality he's a nice guy, that I need to take my time and so on.
He is not that bad as a matter of fact, sometimes he's a bit too "old" in the mentality department, but it's ok. I know that there is a lot of stress on him because of me, it was him who asked the company to get me on board, so in a way he is risking as much as me that if this thing doesn't work the responsibilities are quite clear.
In any case I did tell them that it's not easy for me as everything is new, but in any case until I give that 101% I won't give up. It's just not me, while on the contrary it is very me to choose the hardest way (as usual).
I have been told that I must come here at the end of January again, I don't think it's very necessary but they want me to be there. Then I will go back one day before the shows in Milan and Paris, so basically before the end of February I will not be free at all... And in between the holidays I must find new companies that they don't know, that don't have any agents in Japan and that make a product by the extra cheap / almost china.
I don't even know where to start, and yet I must finish the office and my house refurbishing...
- Day Nine - Clouds Gathering
- [7th December 2006]
First of all happy birthday to my dad!
Today was a terribly boring day, I had NOTHING AT ALL to do all day and this is terribly bad because it gives me time to think about my present situation.
I am starting seriously to consider whether I made the right decision or not. On the other side I am also getting terribly good insights at the Japanese culture that normally tourists and paper experts don't get when they are here.
During my travels I have always tried to behave and be considered an indigenous. I still have nightmares about my lovely British accent who is going down the drain for example, it was something that at the end of my four years in Blighty made me terribly proud.
In the same way I have tried to be as much Japanese as I could be, and guess what, I am getting the "full Japanese treatment" now, and I don't like it all that much.
In the work environment there are several points that make me think.
First of all there is an almost maniacal connection between a certain member of the staff and the clients. They go to see the clients on daily bases, even twice or three times a day.
This means that inside the work groups you get extra specialists that hold the keys to a certain client, under every point of view.
They hardly discuss numbers and statistics, it's all in their heads...
I find this method extremely narrow minded, as if something happens to the salesman (goes to another company for example), the group looses all the work done in years.
In Europe, as far as I have seen, of course there are people dedicated, but they need to report and discuss with their superiors, which means that if they leave at least something can be salvaged.
Also when deciding what to show to a certain client, or what to do about a certain situation there is a very peculiar behaviour.
It seems that everything has been allotted already. I mean, this supplier can only give me this product, this supplier will give me this other.
So far so good, there are strengths and weaknesses among several companies, but this doesn't mean that we shout not try to show something "different" every now and then, just to give more chances or to get the clients to do something new.
Nope, this concept doesn't stick, better show them what they always did, you cannot make mistakes there!
No wonders why Asian countries copy all our creativity, they really cannot breed a creative process as their society teaches them how NOT to do it.
In practical terms all my choices are always different from theirs, but since I am Mr.Nobody-gaijin this translates in always not going for the things that I try to push forward. As a result, I am thinking: "yes I am the person who makes the choices from Italy and you systematically drop almost all of them, mmmmmmmmmm... What's the fucking point?!".
The point is that I look good, I am really a showman, nothing more nothing less. I can come up with sales points even when selling "turds", all in a limping Japanese.
But still I kind of feel "required" to come at work like they do, do overtime like they do, pretend that the things that we are showing are actually what I wanted to show them.
The way I see it, in this environment no one can really make a stand, personal skills are rendered useless, channeling all strengths in a badly patched up sense of "team" of "unity" (which doesn't quite work because we are humans and we are inclined to defy the establishment and look for better targets), where display of prowess is frown as you was a an Ebola bearer.
The fact is that Western society is based on different fundamentals, you are encouraged to be a star, not a team player. Even this approach is quite wrong, like all extremes, it ends up in a fight for survival where only the selfish and the strongest prevail.
But it's a game that I know better, and at least gives me a chance, while in the present conditions I don't feel I have any.
My judgment is always going to be subject to approval of this or that person, I have little freedom of action and although I see chances that can be exploited, they are going to be shut down either out of jealousy, spite, or simply because that's not the way they think it's right.
On the other side I have to get paid, I have to wait at least one more year before really being able to comment in full and take decisions, but the start is not so promising, and these three weeks are a real burden for me at the moment...
Let's hope that things improve, I am not going to give up so easily!
- Day Eight - Getting Tired
- [6th December 2006]
Wednesday (i.e. today) was meant to be a quite busy spot in this trip as there were more than three presentation scheduled.
In the morning I risked a very serious injury in the train, there were so many people pushing that I was forced against one of the posts in the train and my arm got caught between the post and me.
Of course the more people pushed the more the arm was hurting, I stopped to behave like a good gaijin boy, and did pretty much what HULK does when he transforms, gaining those precious centimeters that I needed to get my arm out of that awkward position.
The presentations are quite boring, I really don't know what to say, and to be honest it seems that these people care very little about my "stylistic comments".
On the other side this is very typical of the Japanese Society, where you have to be fed info by a lot of routes so that you can happily unload the burden of having to take a decision by yourself, with the risk that you might make a mistake...
So here comes my figure in, a strange gaijin who can eat everything, speaks a staggering, informal and funny Japanese, and is always covered when he talks crap because in the end "Japanese eyes are different".
Lovely, now please pay me.
In the evening (of course) we had to have YET another meeting, this time within the company where basically we re-run the presentation and explained what this client liked and what he didn't like.
After that apparently the vice-director allowed us to go out for dinner on the company account.
I thought it to be quite a strange occurrence, and on the top of that I was quite tired for the day, but I had to go anyways.
Only men were allowed, and on the top of that I witnessed a very strange "editing" of the people that were meant to be present, plus the choice of restaurant that was clearly aimed at finding somewhere "not so expensive".
I don't know if it is my boss who is particularly stingy, or if it is a custom, but I tend to go for number one rather than number two.
Anyways we got the free dinner and as soon as I arrived home I collapsed on the bed, I am almost at half of this trip and I feel quite knackered, I hope that I can bring my ass home allright, also because it seems that they want me to come back at the end of January again...
But that's in one year's time (technically speaking), so I shouldn't worry about it...
- Day Seven - Flies
- [5th December 2006]
2006 was a good year all in all for me, but if I have to move a criticism it would be that for a gazzillion reasons that I could not control, all the plans that I have made eventually went in the right direction but in their own timing, that needless to say, never coincided with the one that I gave myself, leaving me with fistfuls of flies, most of the time...
Today it was an important day for this trip, as we were going to see the other section of my employer that deals with the final goods and not the textile.
The main problem was of course the contract, in five months since we first talked about this project (me working for them) we haven't been able to sign anything.
The meeting was very civilized, and basically it all revolved around the issue that I am not able to give a name to my company. I won't bore you with the details of how Italian laws are pressed on, but generally speaking, there was no way for me to do otherwise.
I have sent several explanations to this matter, but none seemed to be accepted, yesterday I told the story once more, saying also that now I REALLY need the money, as both my accounts are completely drained.
They were quite sympathetic, and in the end they agreed to get the money coming in before the end of the year (this is necessary so that the turnover will not be accounted in the next fiscal year), which means that we must sign the contract before I leave.
In the end I got (yet again) a nice fistful of flies, or at least it feels like it. Since all my latest plans have gone pear shaped, I am quite sure that this one too will end up completely screwed up, as a matter of fact, like a good general does, I am starting to think what will I do when they will tell me that there wasn't simply enough time:
1. Threaten resignation, stop working for both sections.
2. Accept the situation and wait longer.
Another thing I wanted to talk about was the cattle wagons that I must get on when going to work. Here in Japan there are trains every two minutes, still, at rush hour, they get so packed that you get people REALLY showing people inside in the attempt to ride that train.
I have witnessed some skill and strength from people that I would have never though capable of mustering neither both of them, I have seen little women crushed to death in the mass of bodies and steam that rises from the coats and suits.
The perfect description of what hell would be if you get there by train.
Oh well, that's Japan I guess, I wouldn't take any of that shit if it was in Europe, but here it's quite normal, so there is little point in complaining, I need to get into work a bit later so that I can avoid the "cattle trains"...
- Day Six - Jesters
- [4th December 2006]
Today it was the big presentation day, so I saw that I would wake up early to have a decent breakfast and all.
Unfortunately during the night I had been haunted by the usual bad thoughts about my contract and everything, but in the morning I forced myself to cast the away.
The presentation itself was quite good, the president of our client really likes me and generally my "jester acting" ability comes in extremely useful when spouting the amount of fashion related bollocks that I uttered...
It's really strange life, I slagged designers for five years and it turns out that what I was criticizing the most (the skill of talking for hours without really saying anything), come in handy to describe Italian Fashion Trends and the likes.
Anyways in the evening I moved to the hotel, where I decided to have a MacDonald, I am not proud of the choice but I am really tight on the money side, the latest bank check that I did today was quite dreadful...
Let's hope that tomorrow the contract side will be sorted once and for all, so that I can be calmer on that side too, of course I will need the money to be paid as well... I have calculated that more than half will go for taxes, then another good 30% will cover the expenses that I had so far, leaving very little for me in the end...
But it is the beginning I knew it was going to be hard...
- First Weekend
- [2nd - 3rd December 2006]
This was the first weekend in Tokyo during this trip, technically speaking I only have one more weekend to do before I go away, but in reality that means two more weeks ahead of me.
It was a good weekend as I managed to see John and Chie both on Saturday and Sunday, so much talking, drinking and shopping have been on the table for us to enjoy.
It occurred to me that it will be hard being here by myself during the future trips, seeing them even for just one hours is a bloody good thing and I think that I will miss them.
On a more positive note I have an excuse to go to England in the future now! :D
Saturday saw a spot of shopping in Shinjuku followed by Guinness at our favourite(also because is the only one we know) Irish pub in Shinjuku, we then proceeded to a sushi place for a spot of dinner, but nothing more.
On Sunday I have spent most of the time in the hotel, only to meet John and Chie in the evening to go to the group most favourite Veggie restaurant (Rholan) in Ikebukuro, followed by the mandatory whiskey bar (The Quercus) where we also organized a dinner out on the 11th with Watanabe san (the owner).
Then it was back home time, on Monday (actually now, as I am updating the blog in the mornings), I have a huge presentation.
On a more negative note I have been worrying about all the contract stuff that I have to discuss on Tuesday. It had occurred to me that my bank accounts are completely drained, I have spent most of my savings and yet have to be paid for the past three months.
I hope that I get money, contract and everything done in this trip, it will be quite tragic if it was to be otherwise...
- Day Five - YOU WHAT?
- [1st December 2006]
After having slept with my clothes on until 3,30 AM and then went to bed until 6,30 the start of the day didn't look all that promising.
On Monday we are going to have this presentation and basically the line of work in the past week has been reviewing the fabric that I brought from Italy, discard a good 60% of them, then edit the selection a bit more.
At this point a whole day was spent cutting the fabric in little squares (it took ages as every square has to be like the rest), then we arranged them on the boards according to some "designer feeling" that I had, we then pressed on sticking the actual fabric on the boards.
At 19,30 we finished with the first set (after also sticking numbers on the back of the sample for easier recognition).
At 22,30 we finished everything, to then go and help our boss who was working on an excel list that I had done before, and BY HAND he started to join all the numbers to the actual name of the article and (in theory) he said that he's going to work until 12 after he goes back home (that given the time we left the office was not a lot anyways).
I am learning that office work in this country it's quite hard that it will stick to me. It's extremely regulated, slow, full of strange procedures, not meritocratic and most of all it really seems that you gain an higher respect and position if you put in a lot of hours.
My boss always arrives first of 90 people at the office, he opens it and start his daily routine. I cannot say whether this is needed or not, I have to learn a lot on how things work here, but the fact that I hate most is when for example we are eating lunch with the colleagues and he start telling me something along the lines of "Do you know that when you were sleeping I was already in the office!" (add a smirk of extreme superiority, glitterin eyes, due to the steam rising from the ramen bowl, and a little stuttering-laugh not too loud because we are in Japan, not too soft so that everyone at the table has his attention)...
I replied: "Well.... what time did you arrive? (that's where he's about to have an orgasm as he can prove that he's "the MAN")"
Boss:"Ah, I opened the office at seven, nobody is here until 8,30" (more smirking)
Lox: "Ah, you are really a good one (expression on my face as he shagged 3 women the night before, in order to rub in how goo is he), but I am sorry to tell you that I wok up at 5,30 because of the jet lag, so we were up together today!"
If he was about to explode in a "Nihonjin kick your ass any time" orgasm, that phrase launched at the end of the conversation I hope that provoked a sudden limp of the reproductive organs...
Maybe it's just him, the other people hate overtime, but in the end they comply quite strictly to society's rules. It's interesting because I always used to say that I would have dream to come living here, but if so it has to be in a place that is populated by foreigners.
Talking to one of the girls at the office, Mrs. T., it's weird to see that she is annoyed about the extra work, she doesn't seem to like life like that, but still she complies.
Well I guess that the opposite positive side is that generally there is a great respect of other people here, that leads to very little crime, and generally a very polite society.
Anyways we ended up in this ramen place (chinese spaghetti), while we were eating other guys from work joined, shame that while we were working they were drinking and they were totally drunk, so the conversation was quite strange, but even that got us to 12 PM and yet again I was late home...
IS IT POSSIBLE TO WALK INTO THE DOOR AT 8:00 in this country?!?! I am not asking for a lot, am I?
- Day Four - Better Now?
- [30th November 2006]
After having actually slept for more than two hours the night, I woke up quite fresh and moved to Harajuku where the office is. The day has been mildly boring, we basically had to cut all the fabric that we are going to show in small squares, and that, given also the fact that we had two appointments with suppliers meant that we actually left the office at 8,30 PM.
John called but of course it was too late to see each other afterwards, but after we finished Mr.E. told me that he infact planned a night out with two girls from the office in Shibuya.
This is the typical night where you just want to go to bed, I really had to force me to go, especially because there is this strange indescribable thing in Japan where basically you try to talk your way out something and the reply is a strange face that hints "come on" but followed by an uncomfortable silence that eventually bends even steel, and you end up nodding your way into the thing that you wanted to avoid.
Anyways I went, and as it happens with the nights that you can't be arsed to go out and someone drags you it was a bloody good one!
We went to this wine bar, where the two ladies were waiting for us, I don't even remember their names very well...
Anyways, it was really a good night, I made a show of my wine knowledge prowess, and generally spent some quality time.
Incidentally I have to add that one of the two girls was DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, and of course being my mind tireless I started to plan a life in Japan with her, working here, blah blah blah... Oh well, typical me.
Anyways we parted around midnight after 1 Guinness, and 3 bottle of (crap and expensive) wine, so I moved to the hotel where I could happily loose another night of sleep between the hungover and jetlag...
- 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