Thursday, May 7, 2009

Clearing out and starting over

I talked to my mother this week. She asked me what I've been doing. And I didn't know quite what to say. It seemed I haven't been doing much.

But that's not really true, of course. It's just that there is nothing too terribly unusual or interesting to write about. Mostly I've been working on sorting through stuff that we have collected over the years in Fukuoka, 12 years of books, cds, textbooks, grades, student reports, financial records, boxes of letters and photographs, suitcases and bags full of old clothing – just a big pile of junk taking up space. Some of this stuff goes straight to the trash or for recycling, some of it we've been putting on Yahoo Auctions. The photos we have been going through a little at a time, pulling out stuff that I have been scanning and archiving.

With my stewardess class in the Summer of '99

We've also decided to close our music store, CDJam, which has been limping along the past couple of years, mostly neglected but at least paying the cyber rent. For the next few weeks we'll be selling everything at 50% of retail, and after that finishes early June we'll be finding ways to clear out the outstanding stock.

In anticipation that I may need to work, I have been applying for a number of teaching positions, mostly in the Gulf. You may have seen this week reports filed for Children's Day showing Japan's under-15's to number just 17 million, or 13.4% of the island's population. Schools are consolidating or closing, the number of full-time jobs in nearly every sector of the economy is declining (replaced with underpaid part-time jobs that include no benefits), and the number of unemployed PhD candidates from Europe and North America arriving in Japan is making the university ESL market more competitive. Besides a not so promising outlook, the hiring season here won't begin until fall (with the next academic year beginning in April), which means hanging out and hanging on with not too much to do.

The Gulf, however, is continuing to grow in all the ways Japan is not. Native and immigrant populations are expanding, revenues from oil are mostly stable and other sources are being developed, universities and colleges are growing, many of them implementing English-medium programs in which all subjects are taught in English. That means nearly every university has, in addition to an English department, an intensive remedial English department. Salaries are not what they once were, but still decent and with all the perks – free housing, insurance, annual airfare, lots of vacation, and no taxes. And now is the hiring season, with the academic year beginning in September.

So far I've had four nibbles (Hamdulillah), two in Saudi and one each in Oman and Qatar. One wanted an interview, but never got back in touch and has been silent ever since. One has said (off the record) that the department wants to make an offer but that it may be a couple of weeks before they get to sorting out the paper work. I'm in the process of scheduling an interview with the third and with the fourth I have a telephone interview scheduled for next week. In preparation, I've been researching the universities as well as writing answers to interview questions. So far I've got eight pages of single spaced text.

Here in Fukuoka I've lined up some part-time work through a Japanese publisher and provider of language training. When I applied I thought I'd be teaching conversation classes in the downtown area, where the company's office is located. Instead starting the end of this month I'll be teaching the same textbook at the same university where I used to teach but, because of the university's decision to outsource their English education, making less money.

On Friday we're off to Kobe to meet our friends from Thailand, the ones whose wedding we attended. They're here visiting another friend who has been in Japan doing medical training and we're going to do a bit of traveling together for a few days in southwest Japan. Look for some photos next week.

That's what I've been doing. I hope mom is reading.



  1. Whats that smudge on the middle of your forehead? A tika?

  2. I used to have a mole there. Lots of Buddhists and Hindus said it was a sign of good fortune or good karma. A few years ago when it started to get old and dry and nasty I had it removed.

    No tikas in Japan, I'm afraid. Only black teeth.