Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cheers to a Day of Gloom

I can't say I'm in the best of my moods right now. In fact, the reason why I'm sitting here having a German beer at 5 pm in the afternoon at a recently discovered Internet cafe in Shibuya is I'm feeling like crap.

An e-mail from someone received earlier this morning noted 3 things:

1) To enter an academic career that highlights writing, one has no excuse but to produce things to prove one's competency in scholarship.
2) Given the increasingly competitive nature of the job market in academia, one needs to finish dissertation writing as soon as possible b/c there's no guarantee that the job search could be done within one year.
3) To best help one get focused and write, the best place to reside in would be Cambridge, Mass b/c there's absolutely nothing to do there.

And the reason why I'm feeling like crap is:

1) Even though the only way to prove my competency in scholarship is to produce academic writing, currently, the idea of "academic" or "scholarly" competency means very little to me. Nor does it - I believe or I hope - define who I am, what my characters are, what I'm aspired to become, or where my dreams lie. So what's the point of "proving" it? For what purpose and for whose glory?

2) Even though it is true that in order to compete and survive well in the increasing competitive market of academia, one has no choice but to sit down, get focused, and get that dissertation done, at this point, a job in the academia offers absolutely no appeals to me. I need and want and love and thrive in the presence of human interactions. Unfortunately, academia is one the worst places to look for human interactions. On the contrary, it sometimes is a resourceful pool for meeting some of the weirdest, EQ-less, and warmless figures on this planet.

3) Even though it is true that Cambridge, Mass has absolutely nothing to offer besides academic excellency and geniuses in extremity, going back there would only help me feel further lost, depressed, and SMALL about myself.

I've been told that getting a Ph.D. degree is just like getting a driver's license. There really isn't much of a grandiose meaning or significant purpose in taking the driving test and passing it, but if one wants to drive, one has no choice but to take it.

4 years ago I wouldn't have believed in that analogy or laughed at it, because I always thought that there inherently lies in some kind of noble cause or truth in the field of academia. 4 years later from the first day I entered the field of academia and doctoral learning, I've come to realize that that may be the best analogy that summaries the intrinsic truth about doctoral degrees.

I'm grateful to be in Tokyo here where other windows of opportunities and facets of the world, cultures, and peoples have been opened up to me. More importantly, it offers me the space and time to really think back on the dreams that I once had and the values that I once believed in regardless of how much people around me may say otherwise. It makes me sad to think that for some people whom I call "colleagues" in my fiend, they would never come to appreciate that or even recognize that. But being here, day by day I've become more ad more affirmed of one thing - the world is big and the possibilities/opportunities are infinite out there if only one has the courage, an open heart, and freedom of mind to dream and explore.

For now, I'm grateful for the good German beer that accompanies me in this afternoon of gloom - "Salitos," it's called. I recommend it for a taste if anyone ever gets a chance.

梅ちゃん at 5:30:00 PM


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Say Goodbye to the Shoe Box・Say Hello to 11 Tatami Mats

Nomad on the move again!

This time, the whole housing search only takes 3 days.

It's not easy to be a foreigner living in Tokyo when it comes to certain issues. But when it comes to looking for a "regular" place to live, being a foreigner - aka "gaijin" - really is the worst place one could find him/herself in.

When I say "regular," I mean anything that's NOT a horrendously luxurious "mansion" apartment (in Japan, all apartments in nice, high-rise buildings are called "mansions") in Roppongi Hills/Omotesando/Aoyamo OR anything that's as horrendously tiny as my currently shoe-box-sized room if not smaller.

(and I just realized over shower earlier tonight that my current bathroom is exactly one tatami mat large ... i'm so good at counting anything in tatami-mat unit now after seeing 10+ places over the past 3 days that I don't know what square-meter means anymore ...)

So one may resort to one of those "gaijin" magazines in the city like the Metropolis for clues on finding a reliable but generally overcharging housing agency who serves the poor foreigners (whether financially or mentally) with short- or long-term contract options and NO key money/guarantor required for, or one could really test out the power of google search engine - for both & - and see how many legitimate and seemingly "un"-sketchy links may pop up under the search words such as "weekely mansion, Tokyo".

I did both, and yes, I did find reliable but overchraging housing agencies catered towards option-less foreigners (b/c all foreigners find paying the key money a unjust cause against mankind) or foreigners who refuse to bow down to the discriminatory treatment that they are subject to when it comes to housing search. I also found both sketchy as well as legit companies that do respect foreigners' resistance against the key money/guarantor tradition yet continue to overcharge in general.

In any case, eventually a lovely new shelter for the global mad is found. 6 tatami-mat-large room + 5 tatami-large kitchen/toilet; 5 min walk to the station, 10 min train ride to Shinjuku; a few nice bakeries/cafes in the neighborhood, buck loads of eatery places and 100-yen shops and small fruit/vegetable stores; the best sunlight ever and 4 large windows on the surrounding the 4 walls. I even saw Lumine department across the street from the station and of course one of my favorite Japanese-run cafe's, Doutor.

Whether this lovely new shelter will be good for a 6-month stay or another whole year of residence is still subject to the mercy hands of a few scholarship sponsors. But for now, I'm happy to be out of this current place with fickle Internet connection that 9/10 times prevents from entering a post on blogger or maintaining my last bit of human contact with friends overseas on MSN.

Goodbye my shoe box & hello my 11 tatami mats.

Content for the new beginning.

梅ちゃん at 1:25:00 AM