On the Job Frustrations

Originally published on 8 June 2006. This post is part of a longer series of posts about my first ever solo journey to Japan!

Hello there. Yesterday was beautiful outisde, but it was a frustrating one at work. Apparently there’s lots of stuff my colleague, Anna, and I have done wrong. We were told the other day that we’re required to wear makeup–and eyeliner, unfortunately, is not enough (which is all I normally wear). So I had to go buy eye shadow, and I grabbed some mascara that I (luckily) had packed to bring with me. Not a huge deal, but kind of annoying.

So back to yesterday. While we were cleaning, I was told I was vacuuming the wrong way, I’m not supposed to use the broom and dustpan everywhere except at the entrance, I should have moved the rugs, and various other small things. Then there was the daily meeting.

Yuri is the boss. She can be fun. But she has to be firm at work. I know and respect that. But I’m not sure how effective Japanese methods are with Americans. Japanese people beat around the bush a lot, which I think is good in some cases. But in doing that, it’s not always clear what they want, and sometimes you don’t know for whom the message is actually intended. As a result frustrations build, and it eventually explodes.

At one point, Yuri singled out Anna (not the first time this has happened), which I personally think is very rude to do in front of other employees. Not to mention the fact that it’s embarrassing to the person being singled out and for the other people in the room. Then Yuri asked me if I had any suggestions for Anna. I’m sure that made Anna feel pretty bad, and it made me feel bad because I know it seems to her that they are treating me better. The whole 15 minutes was pretty excruciating. Then we moved on to various other things we’ve been doing wrong. I’ll spare you those details, though.

So then Anna and I had our Japanese lesson with Yuri. I’m glad they’re willing to teach us Japanese, and I want to learn, but I don’t think their methods are effective for everyone–namely me. The whole lesson is in Japanese, and not small words or phrases with pictures or objects like we do with the kids. She’ll say long phrases that I guess we’re supposed to be able to figure it out on our own, but I don’t. Then if I ask what a word means or ask a question about something, she’ll just say that she’s teaching or that she doesn’t want to tell me in English. But how can I learn what words mean if no one tells me at least once, or gives me a hint? It was just very frustrating.

The rest of the day was much the same. I just couldn’t do anything right. And if I asked a question, Yuri or Yoko just looked annoyed and gave pretty condescending answers. Anna and I want to do well; we aren’t messing up on purpose. I just hate feeling like anyone thinks I’m incompetent. I think they have different expectation of us that what we have of ourselves. But in other ways, they underestimate us. It’s just frustrating.

So about 8:15, right before the last lesson of the night, I apparently made the biggest mistake I could have possibly made. I stayed seated. We have this one man who has a private lesson. He’s the president of a major cosmetics company, and we have to be extremely formal with him. He’s very friendly and so nice, but Yuri makes a huge deal about how polite and proper we have to be. I didn’t think much about it, because I know my manners and I know how to act. At least I thought I did.

So he walked in and Yuri and the other teachers all came out to greet him. So far so good. I gave him his nametag. No problem. I was kind of in the background behind everyone else, just because of how the front area is set up. He went into his lesson and everyone else went back to their work. A few minutes later, Yuri came out and scolded me. She asked if I knew who that was, I said yes. She told me it was “so rude” for me to be sitting down handing him his nametag. She looked at me like she usually looks at Anna, which was kind of scary. I knew I was in trouble.

She left again and came out a few minutes later to instruct me on how to act when he comes out of his lesson. I have to have his shoes waiting, take his slippers when he takes them off, have my outside slippers waiting to walk him out, STAND when he comes out of his lesson, hand him the shohorn a certain way, etc. I could only nod, because I knew if I tried to speak I’d cry. Finally, Yuri just stood there looking at me, and I finally lost it. Then, of course, Yuri said it’s not right for me to be crying when he comes out of his lesson.

So I went to the bathroom, and when I came back Yuri said maybe I needed about a 10 minute break. So I went to the office and drank some water, trying to calm down. (Of course, by now my make up was all gone–another strike against me for sure.) Yuri changed after that, though. I think she realized how hard she was being on us, and she did try to talk to me and was extra friendly. I just told her that it seems like I’m not doing anything right, but I want to do things right. I don’t like to do things wrong. Everything seemed to get better after that. I think it was just a rough day for everyone.

Just to add things, our shower in the apt is clogged (and disgusting. I’ve tried drain-o, scrubbing, etc.–I’m not sure what else to do), and I had to unclog the toilet this morning, too.

Oh the bright side of things, it hasn’t rained yet today, I have sushi to eat for lunch AND supper, I got some much-needed stuff from the store, and I rode my bike around for about an hour and a half or so today, which was enjoyable and relaxing. Today is a new day, and I’ve learned a lot this week. Prayers are always welcome, especially about the job for the rest of this summer.

Everything will be fine. God is taking care of me. Y’all know the song “Praise You in the Storm” by Casting Crowns? It’s on the radio online right now. Pretty encouraging!

I love and miss y’all. I do like it here, but just like everything else, there are plenty of frustrations to go around.

Love you, Whit

10 June 2006 Update

Hello there, everyone! My internet isn’t working at the apartment, so I’m writing on break at work. Speaking of work, it’s gone a lot better the rest of this week. I still seem to mess up a lot more now than when I started, but it’s ok. The prayers and encouraging e-mails have worked wonders. Thank y’all more than you can possibly know. I am so, so thankful for you all.

I wish I could e-mail you my pictures from my day off yesterday for me, but that’ll have to wait till next week, or whenever my internet gets fixed. I went to Geku (the outter shrine, which is the less important part of the most important shrine in all of Japan and possibly the world–or so I am told!), and to the Shinto Museum.

So that’s that for now. I didn’t want to leave y’all with a negative e-mail and then not write for a few days. Just wanted to let you know I have not been fed to the ettiquite dragons or sent packing quite yet or anything. Thanks again to everyone who prayed for me or sent an e-mail or just read the whole long tale from the last e-mail I sent.

I have Sunday off (tomorrow) and my day off next week is Tuesday. Hopefully my internet will be up and going by then! Love y’all.

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