So as most people know, living in a new place, much less a country, is not all roses. I remember when I first moved to Oakland after 3 months of living at home with my parents in Arizona post-graduating and job searching, desperate to get myself back to the Bay Area and get my career started. I finally found myself a job as a junior programmer at a start-up company, which survived the first dot-com bust, that developed Lawport, knowledge management software for law firms by wooing them with my name in the credits of a Game Boy Advanced game from my summer internships in Seattle, even though all I did was get Japanese font to appear on the screen.
With the salary they offered me, I found myself an affordable apartment with parking in Oakland in between two BART stops on different lines, so that I could always get home on the next train from the city. I didn’t know anyone, so I found myself scouring Craigslist in the W/W section and PlanetOut’s profiles, trying to find a companion. I spent a lot of weekends visiting my relatives in the south bay, none of whom were my age, and I wasn’t interested in the heteronormative world of my high school friends. Facebook was still working out its kinks, and MySpace was boring. My only regular friend was a gay college buddy, and we would go out for drinks every now and then. Sometimes I would hang out with my coworkers after work. But I found the people around me were so different that it was hard to connect. All that changed when I found a Craigslist ad that really spoke to me, a woman who just wanted to find friends in the area as well, but also politically conscious and wanted to find her people of color community. I sort of knew where they were, but my friends were still in college, so I had no one to go with, and this person seemed like the best there was in a while. When we met, she was smart, pretty, and fun to be around. I was a nerd still hiding behind outerwear sized too big for me and money-pinching. From then on, I grew and developed my identity as an Asian-American soft butch who worked in tech, found hair stylists that did my hair in ways I didn’t know I would look good in, paid attention to the shoes I wore, and went out to the bars and clubs in the City. I also found a dragonboat team to train with, where I met more lesbians, though older, and as I gained more confidence and went out more, I eventually found a community and partners where I could be myself, and at times, discover more of myself. But I still felt I was searching for something.
I always found myself really excited to be doing something related to Japan, from the Japanese to English localization project I did with Ubisoft on their Dogz product from their flagship Petz line, to translating bug reports from the testers in Japan that Hudson had hired to QA Diner Dash for XBLA. When I worked on Marvel vs. Capcom HD, I was hoping for a lot more correspondence with Capcom Japan, but was disappointed to hear how this was a Capcom America project that HQ didn’t really give a shit about. Nevertheless, we did the best we could, even with a misanthropic programmer whose genius was insurmountable, but whose attendance was unpredictable. With the most unintrusive attitude I could muster to keep him on task and track his updates on days when he was present, I was able to get him to finish the upres algorithms before he completely went AWOL. The rest of the team worked really well together, and I have fond memories of their personalities and quirks (as well discovering my aversion to some of those quirks…)
These anecdotes aren’t so comparable to many others, but they are mine. In this new chapter in Japan, I’m bringing a lot of the confidence gained from these small accomplishments, which certainly help in times when I don’t feel so useful at the school because
1) the students’ level of English are said to be not ready for ALT classes
2) the students are busy studying for tests
3) classes are cut because of sports events
4) teachers are so busy they forget to include the ALT in team-teaching
It’s been a little rough recently, as I’ve been pretty vocal about how available I am since the beginning. Sometimes I wonder if my approach is too aggressive or forceful, or if my approach is so improvised that my teaching style becomes unpredictable and can’t be taken seriously, so I’ve taken a step back for the teachers to decide. With all this idle time, it’s easy to shift from thinking, “I don’t have time for this, it’s not my fault,” to “What if it’s my fault?”
At least I’m not being used as tape recorder.
These are the same questions I ask myself when I’m not participating with the groups that I’ve put myself in: kyudo, fixie bikes, adult English conversation, the International Association, the lesbians in Sendai and Fukushima, except the question that I’m asking myself these days is, “Do they understand what I’m saying? Did I just ask something offensively?”
How do I stop feeling like I’m losing a little bit of confidence every day?!