Gaijin Bubble – Being a good husband – Taking action

himonya sunset _2475

Sunset from our front door

The intense feeling of ‘being a foreigner’ is starting to fade. These past few weeks there have been several occasions when I’ve been out and about, and completely forgotten that I’m a member of the 2%(ish) minority population of non-Japanese residents in Japan.

Upon arrival back in Japan last September I often found myself thinking about how the Japanese person serving me at the supermarket might be perceiving me, or wondering whether I was being spoken to in deliberately gaijin-friendly Japanese at the bank. Having been away from the islands for over a year I found I’d regressed to those times when I didn’t understand Japanese at all, when I perceived myself as a nail sticking out. I was very much in Japan, and I felt it keenly whenever I stepped outside the door.

It would seem though that after about 4 months I’m becoming acclimatised. The areas of Tokyo I frequent (mostly Gakugeidaigaku, Shibuya and Kudanshita) and those areas outside Tokyo I infrequent (Saitama to see my in-laws) are no longer overwhelmingly ‘Japan’, they’re just ‘home’.

I think part of the reason for this is I can now get by with very little effort in any of these places. Initially, going from A to B, buying such-and-such in such-and-such a shop required planning, thought, and conscious effort. Now I can walk and shop in these places without thinking. I usually use my time spent walking checking blogs, writing emails and studying Kanji. Unless I’m somewhere that will stimulate my senses (such as a park or an area of notable architecture/interesting people) I don’t like to not be doing something else whilst walking.

I appreciate that this must seem a bit sad. Walking around eyes glued to the screen. But I don’t see it like this. Not only do I get enourmous pleasure from following the antics of my friends, acquaintances and role models around the world, but I also give myself the freedom to use my time at home (when I would otherwise be checking blogs etc) to do things that are far more constructive. I’m the kind of person that can waste hours and hours watching mindless crap on YouTube – I know I have this weakness and so have created a web usage technique for myself that prevents my doing this – it’s called using an RSS reader (NetNewsWire to be precise) on the iPhone. It discourages endless link-clicking, thus I limit myself to about 250 web-based stories a day (over half of which I only read the first line of).

Hmm, seem to have gone down a rathole there. The magnetism of the iPhone. It draws you in no matter how far away you started off. All Mumbles lead to the iPhone…

Anyway back to my gaijin bubble then, that thing that makes the difference between being in Japan surrounded by Japanese people and being on planet Earth surrounded by human people.

My gaijin bubble is thinning out. Gaps are appearing in its liquid walls. I’m finding myself interacting directly with the people around me without any awareness of there being any difference / barrier between us.

And it’s awareness that’s the key. When I recently spoke to someone about the fading of the film, I found that in that instant, just by voicing this ‘fact’, the film became even more translucent.

It’s all my perception.

I know this. I’ve always known it, only a lot of the time I choose not to acknowledge it.


Recently I’ve been pretty down on myself regarding my Japanese ability. It was just before New Year that it hit me hardest. I’m not sure what brought it on, but it’s likely to have been my experience at the office, as that’s where I struggle the most with clear communication. Thus, New Year at the in-laws saw a pretty quiet Joseph, a passive participant. I surprised myself.

I decided to stop that this morning. I decided that I could speak Japanese, and that I was actually pretty good at it. It shouldn’t have come as any surprise then when a couple of hours later I found myself watching Joseph explain to a colleague, in Japanese, the workings of the new database (new as of this morning when I completed phase one of the merger of my new Access database with an existing Access databases – the two miraculously agreed to talk with each other).

Hey, I’m not that bad at Japanese after all. I just thought I was pants. That’s pretty cool. What else can I think into existence?

Ah yes, the problematic relationship with that colleague. How about a resolution? Hey presto! at 3.30pm it was solved, the problematic relationship made a 360 degree turn. It wouldn’t have happened had I not decided that there was ultimately no problem between us.

I’m currently on my second listen of The New Psycho-cybernetics, which I’m finding very inspiring [what is psycho-cybernetics?]. I’ve Mumbled about it before, and I’ll say again what I said then: there’s nothing in this book that you haven’t read in The Secret or any of Anthony Robbins’ books. Nonetheless, I like the approach, and it motivates me to act. It’s this book that has encouraged me to shift my perception of things like my gaijin bubble or ‘lack of Japanese language skills’.


This past week has (not unsurprisingly) seen an abundance of blog posts containing reviews of 2008. I considered writing one myself, but decided that it’ll be easier to get someone else to do that for me when I can afford to outsource the revamp of my website and the drafting of my autobiography 🙂 But still, I found other people’s reviews pretty thought provoking. Some were in the form of meme’s, encouraging the authors to not only list what they had achieved, but also to detail how they thought they’d changed over the previous 12 months (for example, see this one by my friend the talking orchid).

This got me thinking about how I’ve grown over the past 12 months. Of course, marriage has been the biggy for me, and I must say the last 4 months since the wedding have taught me a lot about myself that I didn’t necessarily want to know. I’m fortunate to live in an age in which emotional intelligence is considered a great asset and not some feminine weakness, and thus I am encouraged to act on bringing my behaviour back in alignment with what I know is ultimately right, rather than what is merely considered ‘ok’ by society at large. *Twinkle* has no complaints, I’ve not been a bad husband, but I know I can be a better husband. There have been times when I have held my love back when I have (unreasonably) felt threatened or undermined by her behaviour. She deserves my love and support at all times, no exceptions.

I’m also glad I had a few ‘serious’ relationships before meeting her. I recall times when, if challenged, I would only be able to rest when my partner was feeling thoroughly wretched.

How horrendous is that?

However, whilst of course I am very sorry to have hurt my partners I am also grateful to have had the opportunity to learn in situations where the stakes weren’t quite so high, thus *Twinkle* doesn’t have to put up with all that kind of crap (it’s not a path I recommend though. If possible just be perfect from birth).

Anyway, It’s taken New Year to make me act on this one. It’s only too easy to get into sloppy patterns of behaviour. Once in that rut one can forget what life was like when one was free, acting in accordance with high-energy spirit. The effort required to ‘be nice’ when one really doesn’t want to be nice isn’t actually an effort at all, as the benefits (which are soon felt) are so great they act like helium balloons, pulling you up. The only effort is in making that initial decision.

This reminds me of Wayne Dyer’s work – he often speaks of high and low energy cycles. (There is a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem is one I often mention – I reccomend the audio from Audible)

Going back to changes seen during 2008, I’m also happy to have seen a considerable progress in my dealing with fear, although I don’t see last year as having been the real milestone – that’s this year when I begin to act with courage in the light of firmer foundations. My self-image still needs considerable work. I’m far too fearful down on myself if I really want to realise many of the dreams I have.

Ironically, by stating these things I’m only making the situation worse. It’s time for an end to ‘recognising’ things. Whilst recognition is the first step, it alone will not bring about any change.

OK. so let’s make 2009 the year of Action Without Fear.

You might think it silly to have to label a year like that. But I’m greatly encouraged by such statements. I love words. I love quotes. I even have an online collection of them at http://thanks.tumblr.com (although I’ve not added to it recently).

I only have one excuse left now.

I haven’t got time.

That’s a load of rubbish too though. Look at me, I’ve just spent two hours sitting at the kitchen table mumbling.

Many of my goals are related to online ventures. In the past week I’ve taken positive steps towards establishing 3 of them, doing things like purchasing domain names, contacting web hosts, and building a prototype site.

I’ve also taken action towards resurrecting the student of Japanese within me, by sorting out my various Anki databases.

Today, I made enquiries about taking time off work in order that I can dedicate a day or two a month to making these things happen, and that’s a distinct possibility.

I’m going to keep a record of action taken, and review it on a weekly basis. I need to do this to keep myself moving forward.

Anyway, I’d best be off to bed, I’m doing another photo shoot at the nail salon in Shibuya tomorrow night, and need to figure out what I’ll be doing for backdrops.

tatta.

Our first professional engagement as a couple

The lack of broadband at home has finally driven me out to an Internet cafe. I would just use our iPhone, but it’s a bit tedious when it comes to long texts, and also I needed to use Skype …although now I’m here I find that you’re not allowed to talk in this place. Oh well. I could talk via Skype on my iPhone, but need a wifi network for that.

Anyway anyway, with time ticking by I need to be brief. Not only am I paying by the hour for this connection, but also I’m starting two new jobs tomorrow, one of which requires some prep.

The Hanpane Rally 2008 (“Volume 1”) was an unforgettable experience for *Twinkle* and I. It had been organised by a group of about twenty people in their twenties looking to promote the idea of young people going into business for themselves – *Twinkle* was the main co-ordinator, reporting back to a couple of people in their 40s who took overall responsibility.

*Twinkle* first mentioned it to me a couple of months back, something about a rally at which we’d be MCing. She sounded pretty relaxed about it so I didn’t think much of it.

Fast forward to last night, 6.30pm. We’re backstage at Nakano Zero Hall, an audience of over 550 filing into their seats out front. I’m crapping myself as I try and learn my lines (in Japanese) for our introduction, lines that we’d only written a few hours beforehand but not had a chance to even glance at due to frantic last minute prep. Hair cuts, clothes shopping etc. I hadn’t quite realised just quite what an undertaking this was until the last minute when reports came in of the number of tickets sold. (I was pretty shocked when we arrived at the hall an hour beforehand -the audience were already queuing outside the front door).

Things got even more stressful when the DVD player that was being used to project our videos onto the big screen crapped out at the last minute, and calls went out for a laptop. Macbook came to the rescue – there followed an intense five-minute crash course in (English) Mac basics for my friend, whilst I simultaneously tried to think what alerts might pop-up on screen during the show (calendar reminders, backup programs etc), and rehearse my lines.

It was all pretty surreal. I made a half-conscious decision that none of it was really happening, as if I really thought about what I was going to be doing I probably wouldn’t have been able to talk at all.

But there was that part of me that also knew that everything was going to be absolutely fine.

And it was.

*Twinkle* had written a bloomin’ good script. It was very natural, very her, very me. She was the serious MC who knew everything, and I was the comedic husband who feigned ignorance. Despite the fact that we hadn’t been able to learn our lines (and thus were overly script-dependent), it (apparently) came across as being pretty natural. The audience seemed to warm to us right from the start, with*Twinkle*s professional delivery of the long narratives, and my insertions of odd bits of English and overly casual Japanese (and multiple mistakes). We got quite a lot of laughs, and a lot of people later remarked on just how well we engaged with the audience.

It’s a shame we didn’t have a chance to listen to the main speakers – we were too busy backstage learning our lines for the next section.

The two hour set flew by, and before we knew it I was telling everyone to get home safely. …The relief was immense. We’d done it.

The after party took place just down the line in Koenji, in a mad little Japanese restaurant populated by sailors. Our guest speakers served to further dismantle my old prejudices against millionaires, all being the nicest, most interesting and engaging people you could wish to meet. They were inspirational too, with stories of Scottish adventures, business challenges overcome – and books published from personal blogs.

The thing that struck me most about them was the fact that they were really no different from anyone else I know. I find this very exciting as my family are all waiting for us to become very wealthy. That’s one of our goals, not for the sake of being rich and owning ‘stuff’ or having a high status, but because we want to help as many people as possible, and another way we can do that (apart from giving our time and energy and love to friends, family and others) is to become wealthy, and then distribute that wealth.


It doesn’t really matter to us that our MCing was at times pretty unprofessional.It doesn’t matter that I stuffed up my lines and pronounced words incorrectly. We learnt so much through the experience – not just about MCing, but about each other. I respected *Twinkle* enormously beforehand, but last night found myself in awe at her ability to deal with it all in such a cool manner, and to be so confident in what she was doing.

But actually, in reality, last night’s event wasn’t really all that much of a big deal. OK, so it’s the largest group of people we’ve addressed live, …but they only numbered about 550.

It’s what the event taught me about *Twinkle* – by seeing her pull together an event like that – and us about Us as a couple that I find so exciting.

She was bloomin amazing. Co-ordinating so many people, not only on the day but over the past couple of months, and then making sure everyone knew what was going on in the hours leading up to it whilst simultaneously learning her lines. I couldn’t have done it. 

And it wasn’t just that she did it, but that she did it without getting stressed.

This was our first professional engagement together, and it’s shown us that whilst as individuals we are pretty good at what we do, as a couple working together towards a shared goal we have enormous strength. It’s also taught me what fun it can be to work with *Twinkle*.

Today we’ve talked about our marriage quite a bit, about just how much of a blessing it has been.

We’ve been told that following last night’s performance we’ll be called upon again for future events like the Hanpane Rally. I find this very exciting as public speaking is something I enjoy a great deal, and any opportunity to further develop the necessary skills is welcome.

Anyway, I must get out of here. I’m over my hourly limit and now paying by the 15-minutes!

Start my full time job in 10 hours – Ganbarimasu!

xxx

Married Life: Day 9

When in the past I’ve asked newly-wed friends if marriage changes things, most of them have said ‘sort of but not really’ or ‘no’, having been living together before the marriage for an extended period of time.

It’s my experience that it changes everything. But then, our marriage occurred in rather unusual circumstances, and so the changes I feel can not necessarily be attributed to the act of marriage itself.

Unlike most couples I know, we married after not seeing one another for 11 months. After we married, one of us moved half way around the world to join the other. We then moved into a new apartment together – not the first time we’d lived together, but the first time we lived in a place that had more than one room (it has two), allowing for us to be a little more expressive without fear of being squashed between walls (i.e. we can hide from one another if need be in the other room, separated by a frosted glass sliding door).

making bread in a wok
twinkle and homemade bread_9486

It’s been exciting. Fascinating. A bit scary at times. Everything has been up for discussion.

I found myself feeling moved by *Twinkle*s concern for me, her wanting to hear my take on things, her concern for my feelings, and her willingness to compromise. It’s not that she was never willing to listen or compromise before, but I felt that now she was taking it to a whole new level.

I wondered, was this the result of conscious effort on her part, because we were now married?

When I asked her, she said no, she was just being the same old *Twinkle*, but then she said to me, but you’re making a special effort, aren’t you?

I laughed at that – I was just being me! Then we both laughed. It would seem that if indeed neither of us have changed the way we act towards one another, what’s happened is that marriage has either changed the level of appreciation of the other, or it has changed our perception of what is a ‘normal’ level of care to show towards the other.

There’s a strong sense of responsibility that we both have, responsibility to make it work. The wedding left us feeling that a lot of people were investing in us, believing in us, were with us, giving us strength but also helping us appreciate what a big commitment it was that we were making. Now it’s time for us to act on that.

I think one of our most important roles is to help the other get through the difficult times. I’ve been struggling with self-doubt and a sense of insecurity re. my potential work. *Twinkle* has been doing a wonderful job of helping me see the ‘reality’ of the situation, that is, reinforcing what I know is the case anyway (that I will do very well in my work), and helping me take action to make abstract job prospects into concrete appointments with students.

twinkle_9480

Likewise, *Twinkle* sometimes gets discouraged in her work, and then it’s my turn to bring her back to a bright reality, where she is capable and doing the right thing. (It’s also my job to make sure she gets out of the house on time in the morning).

The fact that we are now married means that long term plans have become a lot more meaningful. In fact, planning in general. We’ve spent several hours this week sitting at the kitchen table making our short, medium and long-term plans. It’s a fairly long process, and is often hijacked by actions that need to take place now before the planning can proceed further (e.g. contacting the phone company to find out what my new phone contract will really cost on a monthly basis).

There’s also a lot of secretary-type stuff to do (I’m definitely the secretary around here). Things like setting up savings plans, sorting out various insurance policies, creating budgets. I had thought that all of this could be done in a single day, but with documents missing and uncertainty as to what current arrangements are it’s taking a lot longer. For me, this is all a part of the marriage package.

So to sum up, it’s all good. An exciting adventure – can’t wait to see where it leads us next!

Anyway, I am now going to attempt to make a loaf of bread in the manner demonstrated by my daringu wifey last night.

TTFN

Married for the second time in a month

As mentioned on Twitter this morning, *Twinkle* and I got ‘married’ again today. I was in bed, asleep in the north of England. *Twinkle* was in her local town hall, Japan.

I was happy (I mean even happier)

All she needed was our original wedding certificate, my original birth certificate and copies of my passport. With that, she created a new family register (koseki tohon) in the name of ‘Tame’. She also officially changed her name to Tame.

The Japanese certificate will take a week to arrive at our place in Japan, house, then another week to get here. The embassy in London have said that they may be able to process my visa application in a week, so if all goes smoothly I should be flying out in the first week of September.

fingers crossed.