Saturday, April 21, 2007


Back in the early days of my employment at my former company, I actually had more than one foreign coworker. For the last 6 years of my 12 years there, it was pretty much just my boss and I and the Japanese staff. The loss of foreign coworkers was a direct reflection of how poorly the company was doing. We started off with my boss and 3 full-time "permanent" teachers then whittled down to 2 within a year then finally there was just me.

When there were 2 teachers, I had a series of long-term comrades in arms that began with a Canadian fellow who had Chinese parents. He spent a lot of his down time designing a kendo dojo which he was dreaming of opening up when he had saved enough money and returned home. He drew diagrams, made lists, and asked me endless questions about what I thought would be best which I was unqualified to answer. This was clearly a big deal to him though his parents wanted him to take over the family business back in Canada.

According to my coworker, his plans became derailed after a night of caution-free behavior related to the arrival of a Victoria's Secret package. His Japanese wife got pregnant and other priorities took over. He quit his job at the company we both worked at and returned home to take over the family business while attending graduate school for a Masters degree in education. I wondered what became of him after this derailment but a search on his name on the Internet allowed me to discover that he has achieved at least part of that dream. He is now the chief instructor at a martial arts academy.

My second long-term co-worker was a young woman (also from Canada) who mainly was in Japan because of her husband's business. He worked for a Japanese company that sold equipment related to ice sports. I remember her mainly for two things: curling and a great desire for a house. In fact, her long-term goal mainly seemed to be purchasing her own house. Any time she talked about buying something to enjoy her time in Japan and we encouraged her to just go ahead and buy it, she'd say that not buying that thing would allow her to buy curtains for her house or there was money for a lamp for her house squandered. Her whole lifestyle was so wrapped up in saving money for the house that I think she enjoyed her life in Japan far less than she might have.

She and her husband planned to stay a certain amount of time in order to save a fair bit of money for that planned purchase. He was also a bit locked into staying in Japan helping buy zambonis and whatnot for the local sports agencies. Their plans were somewhat derailed when the rhythm method failed them and she got pregnant. Her husband had to rush a transfer back home since she refused to have a baby in Japan. In the end, I think she was just as happy to have a reason to push ahead the deadline to leave, though I'm not sure she wanted to have a baby at that point in time. However, I'm not sure they saved as much as they'd hoped to save by the time they left.

My final long-term coworker was a rather goofy fellow who pulled some of the funniest stunts on the phone with students I've ever heard a teacher pull and get away with. For one thing, he constantly lied to students about himself in an attempt not to be bored. He told them he liked ska music and dancing but he didn't even know what ska music was nor did he dance. This caused a bit of trouble when he had to answer follow-up questions about his hobbies.

This fellow wanted to be a writer and told us he wrote a story called "The Man With the Golden Penis". He eventually returned home, got Lasik surgery so he wouldn't have to wear glasses and spent some time back there before returning to Japan again for a short time. I'm not sure what became of him but he did call us about 3 years after he left to see what we were up to. I always had the feeling that he was checking for any job openings with us as his writing career wasn't taking off as he may have hoped.

I'm also someone who has been derailed. My husband and I originally planned to be in Japan for 5 years and then to pop back over to the U.S. Five years has turned into 18 now mainly because I had a job I really liked after the first 4 years which allowed me to learn and grow a lot professionally in terms of editing, laying out, and writing books. I learned a great deal about graphics and desktop publishing but after the years went on, I stayed there because it was comfortable, I liked my boss and the pay was decent. Poor health also kept me there because it was easier to remain there than to undertake something new considering my problems. Fortunately, failed birth control has not been among my derailments. ;-)

I guess that almost everyone finds themselves derailed in life and very few of us ever chart a life plan which unfolds precisely as we'd expected in our youth. When you're young, you have no idea what obstacles will appear in front of you and force you to swerve and change your path.


Absolutely Tokyo! said...

I loved your story about derailments. I've had quite a few of those in my lifetime. At first, they scared the crap out of me, but after a while I realized they gave me an opportunity to grow and become someone I now admire a lot more. I think it's called "aging with grace."

Shari said...

I'm one of those people who adjusts to change with great difficulty. I tend to change kicking and screaming and only when absolutely necessary. I think this is a bad thing, mind you.

However, the derailing I've had in Japan hasn't really bothered me (yet) though. I can't say that I haven't benefited in many ways from being here, particularly in terms of having much more time with my husband than I would have back in the U.S.

I've just started reading your blog and admire that you have the courage to leave when you know the time is right even when your future is not certain back home. I'm pretty sure I should have gone awhile back but didn't have what it took to move on and now it's all that harder to go.

I think you're aging with more grace than I. ;-)