Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An Early Homecoming?

***I now CAN vouch for the truth of #5, because it's happening to our friend. See below. It's such BS!***

Wild rumors abound about the financial state of my employer and I am beginning to seriously wonder if my husband and I will be coming home early.

Our employer, Nova, has had serious financial problems for some time, and may now be bordering on bankruptcy. Immediately before we came, a handful of teachers were arrested in a minor drug scandal, (two of whom came from my branch) triggering a flood of negative press. In addition, Nova has fought, and lost, a number of student lawsuits regarding allegedly dishonest cancellation and refund policies, causing the Japanese government to suspend part of their operations. The suspension currently prevents the company from offering long term contracts, which is supposedly where the majority of company profits derive from.

There are a number of online message boards claiming that Nova is going under and will be completely bankrupt in the coming weeks or months. At first I scoffed at this idea, because they are always making such claims, but now I'm not so sure. The past two weeks have brought a series of strange, foreboding events that are difficult to dismiss. For example:

1. Teachers outside the Tokyo and Osaka metro areas were paid late this month, and trainers (teachers who train other teachers) have not been paid at all. Their pay is currently ten days late. The powers that be keep pushing the pay date back, and so far they've changed it four or five times. Needless to say, the trainers are furious and many have supposedly resigned, although none in my area have. The CEO has sent a couple of faxes, but none of them say why the pay has been delayed. In one fax he claimed that prospects look brighter for next month, that it is always darkest before dawn, and to carry on business as usual, blah, blah, blah. I've never seen a vaguer statement.

2. New teachers normally receive pay advances to help them make ends meet until they receive their first paycheck. This isn't available anymore.

3. The company is closing anywhere between 50-200 schools. Sadly, I know this not because they announced it to their employees but because I read it in the news. The lack of communication from head office is appalling.

4. A company recruiter presented three choices to a new recruit scheduled to come to Japan. The choices were to come to Japan and hope for the best, to resign before coming over, or to wait until October 16th "to see what happens." October 16th happens to be the day after payday. I know this because a new teacher started at my branch this week and his friend is the new recruit. He still came though.

5. I've read on message boards that a few teachers have been evicted from their apartments because Nova didn't pay the rent. If true, that is the most infuriating thing I've ever heard because the company deducts rent from the teacher's monthly check and charges nearly double. I've also read that Nova has been evicted from office buildings for not paying the rent.

**Edit: Unbelievably, this is true. Our friend and his two roomates found on eviction notice on their door yesterday stating they had seven days to leave! The company has been withdrawing rent money from their paychecks, but hasn't payed the landlord in god knows how long! The tenants don't know what they're going to do yet. In perhaps the most hypocritical move of all time, the company has kept our friend on probaation because he was late twice. Ha ha ha ha! If this happens to my husband and I, I'm going to sit outside my branch and tell everyone coming in what happened. I'm scared!**

If something does happen to the company, my husband and I will happily come home early or possibly draw Japanese unemployment (how strange would that be). However, I would feel terrible for our students and for the new teachers and staff members.

What do you think? Are we coming home early? October 16th is D-Day I guess.

If you're interested, click here for a recent news story about the situation.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dorky Video Tour of Our Apartment

Below is a video my husband and I put together when we first arrived in Japan. I realize that we make a lot of inaccurate statements, but remember it was our first month or so in the country.

"Take This Job and Shove It:" A Concept Foreign to Japan

A handful of Japanese staff members have recently told me that they tried to quit their jobs at our company, but couldn't. Your reaction, like mine, is probably:

"What do you mean, they tried to quit their jobs?"

What seems like a simple process to foreigners, i.e. putting in notice, working the designated remainder of time and then not coming to work anymore, is apparently not so simple to Japanese people, or at least not so simple for those working at my company.

It seems the Japanese staff members contacted upper management to put in their notice and were somehow guilted or bullied into working three or four months longer than they'd intended. The management tossed around threats of bonus cancellations, accusations of company disloyalty and other unfair nonsense, nonsense that was apparently successful as at least two of the staff members still work for the company. An employee who tried to quit a part-time position at my husband's branch three months ago, now works full-time and serves as a temporary manager. She is supposedly still trying to quit.

I really don't get the crazy Japanese work ethic sometimes. That, and their penchant for jumping in front of Express trains.

Is this "trying to quit" a Japanese thing or a phenomenon found only at my company?

Ironically, our company is currently having financial "difficulties," and employees (both Japanese and foreign) will be lucky to receive their regular wages on time (or at all) next month, much less bonuses. But that's a completely different blog post...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Vacation Bitch Rant and It's a Small World

*Rant about my brother-in-law and husband's friend deleted in a fit of guilt and paranoia *

In perhaps the strangest case of It's a Small World, one of my blog reader's Bloom in Japan not only lives down the street from me now, but will be working at my branch. I assume he found my blog when researching Japan, but who knew he'd be placed so near.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

5 Weird Facts About Me

Months and months ago, Random Musings of My Life tagged me with a 5 Things meme (that's what they're called right, memes?) but I didn't notice until now. So here it is. Better late than never!

1. Until I was twelve or thirteen, I swallowed rather than spit when I brushed my teeth. Eventually I got scared by the warnings on tubes of toothpaste and finally broke the habit. It sounds disgusting now, but at the time spitting seemed disgusting to me.

2. Despite the fact that I failed my first driving test for the following reason, it took months of post-license driving for me to figure out that one is supposed to yield at a green traffic before turning left. It didn't click until my friend shrieked this information, after a near miss at a traffic light.

3. I used to have an imaginary friend that I could only see in the mirrors above the vegetables at grocery stores. Every time I went shopping with my mother, I'd look up at the mirrors and have an inner dialogue with my non-existent girl friend. A few times I tried to pretend I could see her in the shower door mirror at my grandparent's house, but it didn't feel right, so I quit. I haven't said hello to her in awhile. I wonder if she's in Japan.

4. I love ketchup and have no problem sucking it out of packets. This is most common on road trips, when I'm eating fast food and have no convenient object to squirt it on. I also like ketchup on potatoes, crab cakes, beef, chicken, pork, various vegetables, etc.

5. I sometimes have strange, nonsensical ideas about things. For example, I used to be certain that a person's age resided in his or her knee. It wasn't anything physical, for example a creaky knee belonging to an old person, but rather the idea that the number itself, invisible of course, lurked beneath the surface of the knee. I imagined that on every birthday the old number flew out and the new one flew in. Sounds crazy I know. I also occasionally compare taste to strange things. For example, I once quit drinking a frozen pina colada because the taste reminded me of a head concussion, and in the past I wouldn't drink Guinness beer because I thought it tasted like dirt and grass.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Alcoholism Anyone?

Japanese girl I just met in a bar/restaurant:

"I think you are strange because you drink so much beer."

Different Japanese girl in a different bar/restaurant:

"You can drink a lot can't you?"

Japanese man in bar/restaurant, as gleaned from his broken English and friend's translation:

"Ladies usually drink from small glasses, not from the huge mug you're holding."

Student in a conversation about free time activities:

"I think you are probably strong drinker."