Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

When I stayed in New York, I had my account of a bank to use debit card service. Someday I needed to deposit some money. I usually went to bank counter, but this day I came to an unattended service site, so I had to deposit my money with ATM. I had withdrawn by ATM in New York frequently. Although I didn't know how to deposit to it, I thought I could use it on the same way of ATM in Japan.

I operate the ATM for saving money, and then it opened a slot. I guessed I could put my money into the slot and threw them into it. However this machine didn't seem to count my money as Japanese ATM, which counted thrown money automatically and show the amount of money and goes to confirmation process. However, American ATM didn’t seem to care about my money and finished process, and I heard the sound that my money dropped into something like a postbox and were scattered on the bottom. I was afraid whether this machine could acknowledge the money of mine.

I thought that I should have seen how other customer's do to deposit cache to an ATM. I decided to wait someone to do so in the bank, and then I saw someone put the money into an envelop which was in the corner of the bank and she wrote something on it, sealed it, operated ATM and put it into it's slot.

I realized that I should have used the bank’s envelope, and I had to think how I should do next for the problem. This was an unattended site, so I thought that I should call the customer service center of the bank. But I hesitated it, because my English skill is not good and I thought I couldn't explain my situation to them and I might not be able to understand what they say.

Before I decided to call the bank, I tried to call a Japanese life support service office in New York, which I contracted before visiting New York for helping my New York's life. I called them and explained my situation to its staff. I expected that she would do something for this problem, but she said that she could nothing for it, because banks didn't allow a substitution for their privacy policy, so I should call the bank by myself. However she said that she would try to contact this bank’s Japanese staff who she knew privately. I got some comfort and waited for her reply. After a while, she called my mobile and said that he was absent unfortunately, so I had to do by myself.

I decided to call the customer center of the bank and called them. The staff of the bank was very kind. He told me that he needed to have my account number and some personal information for confirming my identity. I gave him them and explained my situation. Fortunately he understood my situation easily, but I had difficulty to understand what he would do for my problem because of my poor English skill. I had to ask him to give his explanations repeatedly. Finally, I could understand that they could distinguish my ATM from my account number and deal with my money correctly, and he told me that I must check my balance sheet next day, and if it wouldn't have this dealing then I had better call them again. I deeply appreciated him.

I made sure of my balance sheet next day and I found that I had no problem. I realized that my mistake came from being in use my Japanese way in New York. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Expect of the new government

The Democratic Party of Japan started to administer the government around a month ago. The new government is putting out new policymaking, and it showed some new aspects of Japanese political landscape. One of examples is that the government decided to call off many expensive public projects to control costs. However, some of these projects have people who get a lot of profit from them, so these people and the government have serious conflicts. The government’s hasty actions make it seem to be selfish and self-righteousness, so it is no surprise that they provoke antipathy with these people.

However, I basically agree with the new government’s decisions in spite of the conflicts and its haste. Because, first, I think that the new government make rational decisions about these issue. Second, I think that the government has some reasons of its haste on the time-critical situation. For example, they need to get off their decisions before some people pull the wires behind the scenes. It's a kind of strategy, so they maybe prospected that it made some conflicts. Third, The new government advanced a contrary idea to “Nemawashi.” Many traditional Japanese politicians have such a custom. Nemawashi means a kind of secret negotiation to control some people’s profits before political decisions. I think that this Japanese custom disturbed many political decisions ever or made some necessary arguments opaque. In fact, I felt that although the new government made some conflicts, they made some arguments transparent.

I expect that the new government will take new approaches. Maybe they bring good things and bad things. I want to believe that the new government will continue to try to make these bad things better.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Woody Allen's movie

I watched a movie the other day. The title is "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" directed by Woody Allen. I have not watched his work for a long time. I think he has become an old man rather than when I had known him once. When I watched his new movie, I enjoyed his unique describing human characteristics as well as before.

For example, one of the main character women met a man in Barcelona where the story was set in. He was an artist and romanticist. He told her (and her friend) about sexuality, so she said that she hated him who was impolite at first, but they spend together sometimes. One day, her friends traveled from America to Barcelona and she met them (one of them is her finance). They told about how useful their new electric gadget was and so on. She heard their talking, but she seemed to be bored them. Maybe she thought it was a kind of snobbism and her new Barcelona friend had never told about such topics and more honest and innocent than them. She might feel some distance from not only her American friends but also realize a mediocre life of herself. Finally, it made her fall in love with him.

However, romanticists maybe had their own burden. In his case, it was his wife’s passionate personality. She couldn’t help but involve with their emotional relationship and violent which is caused by it. She couldn’t endure such a situation, so she went back to her (mediocre) world.

This movie described another women, but I focused to this woman here, because I sympathized her. She wanted to have a romantic experience in Barcelona while running away from her dull life, and she finally realized she should live her life. I think that she had known that both were a kind of fantasy. There is no mediocre world as well as no romantic world. I think that there are variety ways of life in the world. Therefore, she might have been going to proceed her own life while she got some power from Barcelona’s experience.

I felt that the director described a theme of human life by weaving out from little details of human characteristics and activities. I like this movie.

Monday, April 20, 2009

"change" in New York

I went to a super market last night. I bought some groceries and drinks. The store clerk input the all prices of goods on a register and said that the price was ¥2,267. I had a ten thousand bill and some small changes, so I gave her ¥10,267. I expected her to give back ¥8,000. I could have given just ¥10,000 and get ¥7,733 change, but I wanted to have less small change, so I took this way.

I sometimes do a little more complicated way. For example, when I have to pay ¥2,276 and I have some thousand yen bills, a five hundred yen coin, some ten yen coins, some one yen coins, and I have no other bills and coins. In this situation, I will give ¥2,531 and I expect to get back ¥255 change (2 one hundred yen coins and 1 fifty yen coin and 1 five yen coin). I think that many Japanese shoppers like to do the similar way to have small change as less as possible.

I did the same way of paying while I was in New York before. I heard that New Yorkers hate it. They say that most of New Yorker’s didn’t like to use small change in shops and they sometimes willfully got no change. However, I did it and enjoyed their reaction.

According to my “research”, I had no problem in most of super market by this way. They coolly input the amount of my paying to their register, and smoothly gave back the collect change. At small deli store, they also had register machine, but some clerk hesitate my paying. They didn’t try to input it to their register and said I had paid a wrong amount. However, most of Korean deli clerk (there are many Korean deli store in New York) make smile and gave back collect change immediately.

When I went to a Starbucks, I gave $10.53 for the price of $5.43. I expected to have $5.10 change. At first, the store clerk input $5.43 to his register without watching my amount, and he found that it was different after that. He got upset, but he maybe realized my purpose, then he seemed to calculate in his mind for a moment. Finally, he gave back me $6.47. I had to tell him that the change was wrong.

I think that someone like to do this way, but someone think this is a curious way and don’t like it. It’s a personal problem. I hope many people to accept this way in the world.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wi-Fi service in New York

When I was staying in New York, I needed to use my computer and the Internet. Fortunately, New York City has a lot of Internet connecting services that were provided by public organizations and private companies like AT&T, T-mobile and Verizon. For example, I could use Wi-Fi services, you know it is a wireless Internet service, at many parks in New York for free, Bryant Park or Washington Square Park.

I often went to Starbucks Coffee Shop with my computer, and did my works that were computer programming and web site maintenance. Therefore, I needed to use Wi-Fi service there. I knew that AT&T provided Wi-Fi service there, but it was not for free. I had to pay the fee to AT&T. I registered my credit card number on AT&T site, and I got the account for their Wi-Fi service. The price is about $20 par a month. I thought that it was my necessary expense for my job.

One day when I complacently used Wi-Fi service in Starbucks, a young American woman spoke to me that she wanted to use the Internet, and asked me if I used Wi-Fi service there for free or not, so I answered that I paid a fee to AT&T. Her face was distorted with agony like she would want to say that it was bad. Just then, a American man who stayed at the next table, I didn’t know who was he, interrupted us and told her if she bought a Starbucks card, then she could get a free account for Wi-Fi service with it. She appreciated the gentleman and went to the casher counter straightly. I’d like to know about the card more, but I couldn’t ask him detail by shaming my ignorant, so I searched the information about it in the Internet stealthily.

I found that the Starbucks card is a kind of prepaid card for Seatbacks’ products, and they gave an account of AT&T’s Wi-Fi service through the card number. Therefore, it is not for free, but we could get the same price of the Starbucks’ products by it.
Additionally, this service had some limitations. First, AT&T provided their service at a lot of place and shops except Starbucks, but this account was available at only Starbucks Coffee Shops. I thought that I just needed this service at the Starbucks, and there are a lot of Starbucks in New York, so it is OK for me. Of course, I could use it outside New York City. Actually, when I went to Boston and Washington D.C., I could use it in both place’s Starbucks.

Second, if I have not used this prepaid card for a month, the service has become to be unavailable. I had to buy something at least once a month by the card to continue the service. When I could not have connected to the Internet once, I found that I had made it be unavailable by no using it for a month. However, I bought a cup of coffee by the same card after that, and then my account became revival immediately – I thought that they maybe controlled accounts through online cash registers of Starbucks’ shop. Therefore, I thought that it was not big problem.

After I knew it, I closed my pay account of AT&T, and I bought a Starbucks card, and I got a new account with it. I didn’t always like Starbucks, but I thought that it was a good service for the Internet user like me. I hope Starbucks provided the same kind of service in Japan.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New apartment's troubles

I moved to a new apartment in Kyoto Japan two month ago. I decided to rent it quickly, because it has a roof balcony. I thought that I might be able to enjoy it. However, after I had moved, I found many bad things in this room.

First of all, this room had ill-smelling like a drain. It didn’t make always, but it often happened all of a sudden. I thought it came from under the sink. I asked agency to fix it. At first, they said that sensibility of smelling is a personal problem, so they don’t have responsibility of it. I still complained of it many times, then, they send a plumber at last. When the plumber came to my room, he said that I was lucky, because he happened to have another work near here, so he could come to my apartment on this day. I felt angry but patient it and I explained the problem. He opened the door of sink box and took off the cover at the bottom of it, and said that some air brew into my room from somewhere that connected under the bottom of the sink box to drain pipe. I asked him to bung up this route of smelled air, but he said that it was impossible, because they must rebuild this building to fix it, and he knew that this building’s owner didn’t have enough money to do it. Additionally, he said that I should not run my room’s ventilation fan, because it made the smelled air pull into my room. I thought that he was wrong about rebuilding and I couldn’t accept that I couldn’t use my ventilation fan. However, I didn’t complain him, because he looked a dangerous man. Then he sealed around the sink’s hose with tape. I thought it was nonsense, because smelled air came from under the sink box. When he went out my room, he said, “I think someone who dead in this room left behind his dead smell... Ho-ho-ho, it is a joke. You don’t mind.”

Second problem was the air conditioner’s trouble. The air conditioner had a lot of vibration from first time. This vibration made loud noise. I asked an agency to fix it too. They sent an electrician two weeks later, but he couldn’t find why it vibe. He fastened it to the wall by screws, but it couldn’t stop vibration, so he said that he would call a customer service of the maker. The maker’s customer service gave a call to me a week later. Then he came to my room and checked it out for a while. He said that the part of fan was broken. This air conditioner had a horizontally long cylindrical fan inside it and it had a hole on the surface, so it didn’t spin at a constant speed and it made vibration. Additionally, he explained that this fixing was very difficult, because this fan was set on deep inside, so he had to remove gas which is special for air conditioning from it and dismounted all parts once, and then exchange the fan and he had to make all parts up and fill new gas again. He said that he would estimate the price of fixing it and would give it to the building’s owner. I had to wait for his reply for a week. Then, he called me and said that the owner allowed to fix it. He arranged to fix it the next week. I had to patient the noise of it for almost a month, but I thought I was lucky, because it had been fixed at last.

Third problem is that this room affected my physical condition. My throat had a pain more and more when I lived there longer and longer. I became to cough up a lot of phlegm. In addition, I suddenly awoke from sleep due to unknown reason at midnight and had terrible palpitation every midnight. At first, I wondered which it was caused by this room or not, so I stayed a hotel for three night as a test, and I found this symptoms (pain, cough, phlegm and palpitation) was from this room. I couldn’t find the actual reason of it, but I thought it might be made from antiseptic substance. My agency had a service of dispersal it in this room for disinfect and pest control. They strongly recommended it before I took contract this room, so I paid twenty thousands yen for it. However, I think that I might have an allergic reaction by this antiseptic substance. Anyway, I never have had good sleeps for almost two month since I moved this apartment.

I decided to leave this apartment and move to another one this month. It is difficulty to find a good apartment. I remember now that I had some impression that was not good when I saw this apartment at first time. Contrary to my impression, I had decided to rent it, because I thought I could enjoy the roof balcony of it. I studied from this trouble that I should place more important on my impression and less on my wishful thinking.

Friday, February 13, 2009

New York's barbershop

I had been to barbershops in New York. I usually went to cheaper barbershops whose price of cutting hair was about only 14 dollars, so I didn’t expect good services and quality. However, I couldn’t help but have feeling that their services were terrible.

First of all, they told me to sit on a chair signed “Children”, so I had to bear the narrow space. Second, their job was terribly rough. A lot of cut hair dropped into my shirt. They didn’t care about them at all. They covered over my clothes and my neck with something, but large quantities of cut hair mercilessly dropped into my clothes – I didn’t know why it is. I felt uncomfortable it, so I immediately went back my room after barber and washed my body and my clothes for clearing cut hair.

On the other hand, I sometimes go to cheap barbershops in Japan, and I have never had such experiences. Japanese barbers are very kind and give me a good service. Even when cut hair falls on my face while cutting my hair, they try to clear them as soon as possible.

I have a theory about the difference between Japanese culture and New York’s culture. At first, I had thought that these cases are appearance of this difference. On my theory, New Yorkers think their job is a thing outside themselves, so they think that their job is other thing from their own personality. They think that they sell their own techniques or services (for example, cutting hair) as products. However, Japanese people think their job is a part of themselves, so they think that their job is directly rerated to their personality. Therefore, I think that Japanese people try to appear their job with kindness or politeness.

I think that each one has its own advantages. On the former, we can judge the shop by just their own technique, but on the latter, we have difficulty to judge the shop, because we have difficulty to judge the relationship or personality. On the other hand, we have much more comfort on the latter in many cases.

However, in my cases of barbershops in New York, their services were too terrible to judge their own technique. I have to say that my theory is not useful in this case.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Taxi driver in New York

When I was staying in New York, one day, I had to move to another condominium that my English language school provided, because I have extended my study and staying but they couldn’t give me the same condominium because of their plan for renovating it.

This condominium was in a large hotel, so doormen usually called a taxi for me at the door of hotel, but at this day unfortunately, no doorman were there. When I went out of the door with my many luggage, A taxi came in front of me and the taxi driver beckoned me in his car, so I went to his taxi. He got off his car and helped me to put my luggage into his car. Just then, other taxi drivers came to him and started to complain something to him.

They said that he wedged himself into their line. They argued together in front of me. At first, I embarrassed and couldn’t find anything to do, and I thought it was their problem, so just saw their arguing.

However, they didn’t seem to stop their conflict, so I realized I was wrong to do nothing. I pointed the first taxi driver and I said “I choose him!” and I gestured to shoo away other drivers. My taxi driver shouted “He choose me,” and opened the taxi door for me, then we could go to my new condominium.

After that, I thought that I should have decide it more quickly. Additionally, I thought my taxi driver might have a bad manner as a taxi driver if he accentually had interrupted in the line, but I wondered what I could do for it if he had been a bad driver. If I had taken a taxi in front of a hotel in Japan, I wouldn’t meet such a situation.

From this small incident, I thought I needed more decision ability in New York, but I wondered what is my responsibility for my decision. I cannot find any answer about it yet.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Final day's troubles - 2

At the previous time, I wrote about my first trouble when I was leaving New York. This is the second trouble at that time.

I had to change from the “A” line of subway to the “Air Train” at Howard Beach station for JFK. I got on the “A” train. However, when this train arrived at Jay Street station, the announcement in the train said something. At first, I couldn’t understand this, but I could guess this announcement said that this train couldn’t go ahead any more and all passengers had to get off this train.

I got off the train and I was going to the ticket gate with anxiety. The station’s staffs gave transfer thickets to passengers there, so I asked one of them “I wanna go to JFK. I need to go to Howard Beach station!” She said “You have to get on shuttle bus, and take on the train again”. I took the transfer ticket and went up from the station to the bus stop.

I carried tow small bags and one suitcase. I was afraid of this situation, because this was not Manhattan. This was Brookline. I wasn’t familiar with this place, and I heard that this place was more danger than Manhattan for tourists like me that carried many luggage.

I found a shuttle bus on the road, and I asked the driver “I wanna go to Howard Beach. Is this bus OK?” He said “Yeah. But not express.” with grinning. I asked “Which station will this go to?” He said “Utica.” I thought that we had to get on this bus and took on the “A” line at Utica station again if we wanted to go beyond Utica station. Howard Beach is beyond Utica station. I thought I should get on a taxi here, but of course it is difficulty to catch a taxi on the street of Brookline. I couldn’t help but get on this bus.

Actually, this bus was going slowly. I realized what is his grinning when I asked him. I got upset, but I couldn’t have any good way else. I think that I should have gone back to Manhattan and took a taxi, but I couldn’t find this way at this time.

The bus arrived at Utica station. I was hurry to go down to the platform of subway, and I took on the first “A” train. After a short while being on this train, I realized that any tourists didn’t get on this train. I was afraid that I took another wrong train. Then I asked an old man “Excuse me, sir. Is this train going to Howard Beach station?” He said something, but honestly I couldn’t understand all what he said at first, but I catch he said that “A” line has two terminal stations, but he didn’t know this train was wrong or not, and if I had a wrong train, I had to change another train at Rockaway blvd station. He said that he would get off Rockaway blvd station, and when he got off he could confirm this train’s destination and he told me that. We got off there and he told me that this train was wrong, and maybe the next train went for Howard Beach. I apologized to him, and then I spent some minutes for waiting for the next train. I felt these minutes being very very long.

Fortunately, I arrived at JFK at 11:20 a.m. I could on time check in my plane that would departure at 12 o’clock, but I couldn’t buy any souvenir at the airport.