Friday, 9 October 2015

Book Review: The Accidental Office Lady by Laura Kriska

I've seen this book a few times (in Kinokuniya), but never bothered to pick it up. But, since it's available through overdrive, I decided that, why not, since I'm already looking for a job.

Really, I don't know why I do this to my self. First, I take that class which basically made working in Japan sound terrible for ladies (no career path, really tough time when you're a mom, etc). And now, I read a book that reinforces that idea. Good thing the book was written a fairly long time ago though, so I can hope that things have drastically improved since then.

The Accidental Office Lady is the story of Laura, the first Western lady to ever work at the Honda head office. According to her, she has deep ties to Japan, being born there, and having gone for an exchange at Waseda. But of course, this is what, 1980s Japan? And things don't go as smoothly as expected. Among other things, Laura has to wear a uniform, is bossed around by the queen bee of the secretaries, and has general problems fitting in to the culture.

One thing I didn't get about Laura was how fluent in Japanese she was. In the prologue, she talks about how her "first words were Japanese", on some days, "spoke Japanese exclusively", and generally gives off the impression that she's very, very fluent in Japanese. But as the book goes on, she talks about having to have people explain things in English and Japanese, which confused me. Isn't she supposed to be fluent? How is there a language barrier? I'm guessing that she's like me, ok with conversation, but unfamiliar with business/office Japanese. This was a huge motivator to actually go practice keigo.

One thing I did understand, in fact it's one thing I worry about, are the cultural differences. By the time I graduate, I'd have spent 5 years in Japan, but assuming I can get a job, I don't know if I will be able to navigate things smoothly. Reading about Laura's experience makes me fervently wish that things have gotten better, or I have no idea how I'll last for long periods of time.

Basically, this book is like a worst-case scenario for me. Assuming I can get a job (big assumption there), I'll be going in ready to adapt to the situation as and when it needs be. You know, to change the things you can, but accept the things you can't. But you know, if things turn out to be more egalitarian, I would be thrilled.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Company Warning: Worldwide Media (Singapore)

I hate that I have to write this post, but I have to. It's the same thing as that post about my brother's bullying - I'm not here to write a vendetta post, but this is something that I need to share. I'm writing this because I want to make sure that my kouhai's (especially those in Singapore) know about this company, so they can make informed choices.

I'm going to go into a lot of detail here, so if you want a summary, just read the parts in bold.

The summary: My cousin introduced me to a translation job from Worldwide Media (in Singapore), and it was the worst experience of my life. It was about three months of stress that I did not need at a really bad time. There were also problems getting my pay, although I did get it in the end. 

Now, I imagine some of you might have a few questions even before I start. Like:

Why are you writing about this if you got your money? Why are you complaining?

Because I do not want anyone to have to go through what I did. Or at least, if you choose to take this, you go in with your eyes wide open.

Why did you write it only after the whole thing was finished? 

Because if I wrote it while the entire thing was happening, I would have been too emotional and couldn't be fair to the company. I'm here to tell the truth, not to slander anyone. So I waited until the whole matter was concluded and I managed to get some distance from it.

Ok, so let me go into the details

The Job
The job basically consists of a team of translators and designers turning a Japanese travel guidebook into an English guidebook. My cousin's cousin and I were in charge of the Tokyo guidebook. The job was supposed to be from April to July (4 months), and I figured with Golden Week and the start of school not being so rushed, it would be reasonable.

But April came and went. And then May too. Each time my cousin asked, she was told a few more days, until eventually, the books came.

In June. Oh, and there were 40 more pages than what we were originally told (from 178 to 218 pages). And they didn't even tell us if this meant our pay would be increased (we were supposed to be paid by the book, not by the page), so my cousin had to renegotiate everything. It's partially my fault for my section, but I was so scared of doing work I wouldn't be paid for that I refused to do more than a few pages (and I refused to submit anything to them) until the payment terms were confirmed.

That meant we had a month till the original deadline (assuming I worked without confirmation of payment - which I didn't. I accept full responsibility for that). So my cousin negotiated for us to have till the end of August (giving us 3 months), which was about 1 month less than originally. To make things worse, this shifted our translation season from the relatively slow-paced beginning of the school year to the end of semester, which you may recognise means "exams". Along with a class trip just before the exam season.

And then due to some problems, the deadline was moved up, I think about 5 days? What I remember is that my plans for translation (which were done to minimise interference with things like my internship and Church camp) were totally undone when the company moved up the deadline with no prior notice. I spent all free time at the Church camp doing translation work, which was greatly annoying because I hadn't seen most of these people in two years.

The Summary: Through late delivery of the original books and arbitrarily moving up the deadline, the company cut our translation time by a month and moved it to possibly the worst time for students. To put things in concrete numbers we went from 178 pages in 4 months to 218 pages in 3 months. 

Payment Problems

You'd think that even though the work was stressful and rushed, we'd get paid on time, right? I mean, the payment deadline was set by the company after all.


This is actually the part I could start ranting about, with screenshots and videos and all that. But I'm not going to, because this post is not me trying to take revenge, it's me giving all of you (translators, and designers, if you're here), a warning. So here's the summary of what my cousin (and a few of her translators) had to go through:

- Working without a deposit or a contract (I disapproved of that from the start, but my cousin was persuaded by Cecelia, the ladyboss - who also insisted that most communication be done through phone calls, that she could be trusted.)
- The company did not pay us by the deadline they promised, and blamed their client. It's something that mystifies me, because we're working with the company, not their client. They are responsible for paying us, not the client. Our pay should not be dependent on their client. Our pay is dependent on us finishing our jobs (which we did).
- When my cousin called to politely ask to talk to Cecelia, she was scolded by one of Cecelia's subordinates. I've heard the call, and I can vouch that my cousin was perfectly polite the whole time. She just kept asking when she should call back. If you want more details, email me or check my cousin's post (which I will link to when it's up).
- One of the other translators was scolded by the head designer (who apparently helped Cecelia set up the company) for being "selfish". Reason: Instructions were not sufficiently clear, and a few pages of translations and labelling were handed in in jpeg. The designers apparently did not want to do anything but copy+paste (I have a lot of respect for designers, since my cousin and bestie are ones, but face it - they're not designing the page from scratch here. They're substituting Japanese for English words, and possibly changing the font size). So the translators had to redo the thing (I'm not sure why there weren't original word documents, but things happen), and then get scolded for not handing it in during the weekend.

The summary: Yes, we were eventually paid, but only after a lot of stress. 

The part where I talk about our faults

I'm trying to be fair to the company, so I also thought about things we might have done wrong. So far, what I can think of is:

- Incorrect labelling for the first few pages, that were fixed ASAP when brought to our attention.
- A few of the new translators did not translate the background - for pattern sort of words because we didn't know that they were included.
- My cousin is a very empathetic person, so she always tries to understand how the other party is feeling, and wants them to understand hers. Explaining her emotions is not the most business-like of things to do, but I still don't see how it warrants her getting scolded.
- The company threw a party to apologise (which was weird, since I think most of the translators are not based in Singapore) and very few people showed up or something like that. I know I couldn't make it, because I was't in the country. That might have offended them or something like that.

That's all I can think of, actually.

Who to avoid
Ok, this is the part I struggle with the most, actually, because I want to give you guys sufficient information, but I don't want to dox anyone (Although to be honest, everything was only a google search away). So this is what I decided to do. I'm going to give you the link to the company site, which should have all the relevant information. If you're approached through LinkedIn and you're not too sure if that person is from this company or not (I think the chief designer, who would be recruiting the other designers, isn't on the site), email me and I'll try to help (I only know who the designer and the boss though).

Worldwide Media Website. The projects we worked on are the Rurubu Travel Guides

If you're the sort that has a lot of free time, can handle stress and don't mind bending to the company's whims, you could consider taking the job. We did get paid, and if you ignore all the stress-related stuff, the pay wasn't bad.

Personally, I'd never work with Wordwide Media (or any company) again without:
1. Upfront deposit
2. Contract stating payment (trust me, that was an issue for a while) and payment deadlines, which should really be "on completion" not "when the client pays us".  Oh, and a clear and non-negotiable deadline for the delivery of the original books.

Summary: Stay away from this company unless they drastically improve the way they treat their freelancers. Or, if you don't mind working with the stress and possibility of delayed payment. 

Short, slightly impassioned rant time: I was told by a few people that having freelancers treated poorly is the norm in Singapore. I was also told that complaining is going to make me seem unprofessional, and quite possibly hurt my chances of getting employed. Too bad, I don't care if it's the norm. This is wrong, and it needs to be called out. It's not just the delayed payment, it's the way we were treated, as though we didn't have any worth just because we were freelancers. I don't believe that keeping quiet will magically change things. I do, however, believe in people deserving information about their future employers, so they can make rational decisions (hello, economist in me). I might be the only one making noise with no effect, or I might help a few people say no to terrible jobs.

What do you think will happen if one day, enough people say "no" and a company that treats its freelances badly no longer has any freelancers? They will either have to pay the us (general 'us' here) well enough to make the stress worth it, or treat us right. Delayed payment, stress over whether you're going to get paid the promised amount, being blamed for things that aren't your fault - these are things we should not have to put up with.

Let's change things for the better.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Year 3 Semester 2 Has Started!

The new semester started on Wednesday (30/9), which means I have one and a half years of student life left. Where did the time go? It feels like it was just last year that I came to Fukuoka, but I've already been here for two and a half years!

And of course, it didn't help that summer break didn't feel like summer break. I was back in school on the 29th, which you might realise is one day before the semester actually starts.

Yes, I love school that much.

And I have two papers due sometime this month, and I'm currently doing my best to input the data:

Filling it in one box at a time
To be honest, after that scare of not having the data, I'm just glad that there's something I can do, even if it involves me searching many extremely thick books for a certain set of numbers. Times the 350-400 companies that we plan to analyse.

So, I've been in the various Hakozaki libraries a lot this past week, and I expect I'll be spending a lot more time there this month.

Apart from the papers, which I can probably write a lot about (when it's done, I'll probably do a long blog post or something - please learn from my mistakes), I've more or less decided on the classes I want to take this term. My biggest problem is trying to decide between Italian II and Economics in Japanese (reading in Japanese). I've taken both classes before (well, I took Italian I, but the teacher is the same), and I like them both, hence the dilemma on what to take this term. I have till Monday to decide.

Other things going on this month:

- Talk at TUFS! I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again because I'm way excited. I'll be at TUFS on the 12th to talk to the kouhai's about Kyudai! So if there are any students at TUFS now, and there's something specific you want to hear about/see, leave me a comment/send me an email. I'm open to suggestions - lessons, campus, do I need to go and search for photos? Or do you want me to do an extended Q&A session?
- Kyoto kimono show: I've gotten my tickets :D
- School. Lots and lots of school which makes me wonder why I'm even doing non-school related stuff.
- I really, really want to go to Huis Ten Bosch sometime this month. I know I have a lot on my plate and don't need more (not to mention that I'm running out of money), but I want to go see the wine festival and that Where's Wally thing. I guess I'll have to see how good I am at time management for these three weeks.

I'm not too sure what's going on next month, but I know I'm going to be helping out at the Saga International Balloon Festival, and obviously, there's NaNoWriMo.

Oh, and I think that I'm supposed to be applying for internships during the winter months. Keywords "supposed to", because I can't really picture myself going for interviews and stuff right now.

This is going to be a packed semester. I'm half-excited, half-scared.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


So very, very recently (I guess a lot of you know the date, but let's try to keep it a secret), I turned 22.

Unlike last year, when I had this huge Studio Ghibli themed party, this birthday was very quiet. It was my first time celebrating a birthday alone, and my brilliant friend Nic suggested I take a photowalk. It turned out to be a great idea. I was feeling a bit down the day before, with school and all the assignments starting to feel overwhelming, so taking a day off to take photos and read was a good idea.

My aim for the day was to take pictures of the little things that caught my eye. So basically, flowers and bees and butterflies. And books. 

I don't know why, but normally, I'm always walking about, just trying to get through everything, I guess. Taking ten minutes to just tract butterflies was strange, but it was a good strange. I was a lot calmer.

I didn't intend to be a "how many book pictures can you take?" (Only 2, apparently), but I'll admit to not hesitating when in a fairly nice book-setting moment.  Ok, I'll keep quiet now and present the rest of the photos without commentary.

The cosmos fields haven't flowered yet (I want to go back when it's flowering and they have the night light-up!), but Nokonoshima was still really beautiful. For once, I actually took out my earphones and just walked around, listening to whatever BGM people had on. I don't know why, but whenever I'm out, I always have my earphones in, whether it be for music or for podcasts. I'm not going to lie, I like the constant music, but having my head clear for a few hours isn't a bad thing either.

I had a really relaxing day. Not all the photos turned out well, but I'm happy with quite a few. But the day was more than the photos and more than having time to finally read, really read without feeling the need to study; it was time God used to calm me down and remind me just Who is in control. Thank you for another year, Abba Father :D

To God be the Glory, for the Best is Yet to Be.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Liebster Blog Award

My good friend Nic has apparently nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award. I've done it for the book blog, but not this one, so I'm pretty excited!

First things first, Nic's Liebster Blog Award post. Go over and read it! Apart from answering the questions, she also went to search about what this blog was, and shares what she found out.


  1. Thank and link the person who nominated you – Answer the questions given by the nominator
  2. Nominate 5-11 bloggers who have less than 200 followers and link them.
  3. Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer – Notify all nominees via social media/blogs.

So 1. THANKS NIC (But I'm sure you knew that already)

2. Nominate bloggers - this is the part I find the hardest. I don't think I can reach 5, but here goes. 
  1. Inas: Ok, Inas is a vlogger, and I'm not sure if she even makes anymore videos, but hey Inas!! Consider this a plea from me to restart your channel XD Hope you're doing well in school, ya?
  2. Charmaine: My cousin from With a Leap of Faith
  3. Bekah: Hey Becks! I know Nic also nominated you but... (Blog: BekahLIME)
  4. Teann from It Keeps Getting Better: I don't think I've seen you do this, so it'll be fun! 
  5. Whitney from Just About Everything I Can Think Of: This reminded me, I've been following her blog through Google+, now's probably the time to do so via GFC too
Ok yay! I actually have five bloggers to nominate! Could it be that I'm *gasp* making friends? The other bloggers I know, like John Asano are probably too big to qualify :p

As for my questions, I'd like to ask the same questions that Nic asked me. So just scroll down to see them.

Q&A Time
1. What kind of music do you listen to?

Uh, lately I've been listening to a lot of Colton Dixon. And Vocaloid (though my vocaloid songs are the story-based ones)

2. Is there a certain trend to the kind/type of characters you like in a story? (looks, personality, background etc.?)

Um, not a Mary Sue/Gary Stu? To be honest, as long as the character isn't annoying and overly perfect, whether I like him/her depends a lot on how she's written, the story, etc. There's no one type.

3. What other interests do you have besides what you write about on your blog?

I like to read and write stories too. And I like taking photos, though I've shared them here. I like playing the piano too. I could probably think of more if I continue - oh, I like to sew and knit, though I haven't had the time lately. I tend to get an interest in EVERYTHING.

I'm not good at them though.

4. Have you been to any sort of theatre production/stage show before? If so, what was it/were they?

Does From Eve to Mary count? That's the MG play. And I'm pretty sure I saw a few AC ones too. And I saw Wicked in Singapore the last time, and I'm pretty sure when I was a kid I saw Disney on Ice or something on Ice or something at Disneyland. In Japan, I've seen Les Miserables at Hakataza - that was good!

5. If you could choose one superpower to possess, what would it be and why?

I'd take Rogue's superpower so I can have all of them.

6. Do you consider yourself an introvert, extrovert, or a mix in different situations?

Mix, definitely. MG and AC taught me the happiness that can come from being with large groups of people, but I do need some downtime too.

7. What would your dream habitat be like?

Nic, what kind of question is this? House? Climate? *brain overloads*

Uh, I don't know. I'm sorry, but I keep changing based on the circumstances. Oh, but it's gotta be with family and friends.

8. Do you play/have an interest in any sports? If not, are there any specific sports you'd like to try?

I like Golf and Kendo, though I haven't practiced kendo for ages, because I kept hyperventilating.

I want to try dancing one day.

9. One thing on your bucket list.

I don't have a bucket list? But I do want to go to every prefecture in Japan, and every Disneyland in the world. Now that Shanghai got one (was it Shanghai??), I'm missing one location =.=

And as you can see, I like travelling :p

10. Besides English, are there any other languages/dialects you've learnt/are fluent in? If not, what other languages would you like to learn?

I also speak Chinese (Mandarin, and some Hokkien), and Japanese. Although at this stage, my Japanese might be better, because I don't really get the chance to use Japanese.

I also learnt Bahasa Indonesia last year, which means I can do a self-introduction, and ask people for directions. And say that I don't speak Bahasa Indonesia. Basically the survival stuff.

I want to learn all the languages!! Cantonese, Spanish, French, Russian, etc Ok, but first, I guess I should get a better grasp on some of the ones that I've taken classes in/am taking classes - that would be Ancient Greek, Latin and Italian.

11. Why do you blog

Because it's fun, and because I like to share things with each other :D

And one new thing to share with everyone: Today, a very nice lady from the finishing school I'm attending gave me 7 kimonos! I really, really need to find an occasion to wear them XD

Friday, 25 September 2015

Friends and Food Picture Spam: The fun parts of my Singapore Trip

I'm back in Japan! 13 hour flights are awful, and going back for only 9 days (and for a research trip) means that I didn't have nearly enough time to meet people/rest. I'm actually more stressed now than before the trip :p But, the trip was fruitful (let me know if you want to hear a summary of what I learnt - or not. It might be boring), and I managed to meet a few of my friends. It's a good thing they were either:

A. Working
B. On recess week (lucky Singapore uni students

Under interesting stuff I ate, there was the Banana Chicken from Swensen's

The chicken was actually really tender. And I like bananas, so.... I just wish the sauce had more to a kick of it. It was kind of bland.

Oh, but I know a place with awesome sauce. It's Old School Delights!! I went there with Nic and Bekah for dinner when I was back in Singapore (I spent about 4 days in Malaysia for a conference + factory visit)

The place is really adorable!

Although it seems like we were born just a little too early. Anyway, the tables had so much stuff from our childhoods, from toys:


To the comics we used to read:

And ordering was done on a portable whiteboard!!

While I have no photos, the Black Pepper Chicken and Chops was fantastic! The sauce was a little sweet, and even though my dish was the Fish and Chips (fish was good, the tartar sauce tasted like mayo), I asked for the Black Pepper sauce and dipped everything in it.

Everything but dessert, that is.

Dessert was a warm chocolate banana fudge cake and it was awesome!

Happy bunch ^^
After that, I managed to meet Amanda, Pone and Dinh!! We went to Tim Ho Wan for Dim Sum with my senior and classmate, and I managed to persuade them to come to my house for tea and more talking later. Time passed so fast - by the time I noticed, it was 10:30 :p

Also, my Japanese classmates have never seen me this hyper before. It's the company I tell you - I'm actually quieter in Japan, although it doesn't seem like it :p

Incidentally, the lanterns at China town this year include a huge, multicolour Merlion. I assume because SG50
 And after one of the conference (IOT Show Asia), we went to meet my cousin for dinner! Turns out, she had to do loads of overtime, so we started first. We went to Lau Pa Sat in the CBD for satay, and despite the fact that we sat down and ordered from the first stall, the satay was good! Really tender, and not dry at all.

Lau Pa Sat at night. 
At least we ordered so much satay that it was enough for 4.

My pretty cousin and I - The haze is really bad in Singapore now.
One day of contacts was enough. I switched to glasses for the night, and it was much more comfortable.

Oh, and another offering from Swensen's - Milo Dinosaur dirt pot. I wanted to have this, but the first time we went to Swensens, the staff forgot to put it on the order...

Good thing there's a Swensen's near Suntec City, so we managed to go there for lunch!!

And on my last night, we had steamboat!!


I had my family and friends over, though all the photos with my family are on my camera. And I don't have permission to share those photos. Friends though, don't mind. 

Love you girls! Thanks for coming!!!
 Bekah couldn't make it (Boooo), but she sent a box of the cutest macarons through my uncle!

Look at the LINE characters! 

If it weren't for the fact that I had to go back the next morning, I wouldn't have been able to eat them. Too cute! But I had to. 

And they were delicious!
The next day/yesterday, I flew back to Singapore. Despite the plane leaving Changi at 8am, I didn't in arrive in Fukuoka until 9:20 pm. That's over thirteen hours, which is seven more than what I'm used to. I blame the two transfers (one at Hong Kong and one at Taipei).

On the bright side, I bought Terry Pratchett's Snuff at HKIA's Page One. 

And I like this outdoor camera thing the plane has. 

And that would be a really quick update on the Singapore trip. I think Nic nominated me for the Liebster Blog thing, so that will probably be my next post. And then I have so many things going on in October that I'm questioning my own sanity in taking them up, so there's either going to be more posts that normal, or I'm going to go into shutdown mode and not blog at all (I've got 2 papers, and I'm going to TUFS to talk to the Kouhai's, and probably to Kyoto as well).

I was pretty sure I wanted to blog about something else today, but then I forgot what it was =.= Or did I originally plan to blog about this and then forget but somehow remembered? I guess I'm more tired than expected - wish me luck for my papers (I've got one that's in the "DANGER" zone right now). Oh, and a warning on a company that I recently freelanced for - that's another post coming up.

I believe that's all. I've really got to start doing things regularly, instead of dumping them into one big post :p 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

ゼミ合宿 (Zemi Class Camp) Day 3

I'm in Malaysia! For my sub-zemi - we're attending an industrial show, which has been quite interesting so far. And now, time for the last part of my main zemi's camp.

So, most of you have heard my election-day story, where I had not enough sleep. Well, I probably mentioned in there, but I'll mention it again. The third day of the camp started with me waking up before 6 to go fishing.

Fishing isn't even my hobby. I have got to stop taking an interest in so many things.

Although I'll have to admit, I got some pretty nice shots of the sky.

My senior was actually planning to fish just outside the bay area, but when I scrambled up, I realised that skirt+ocean breeze = bad idea. I was going to wait at the bottom, but they (senior and classmate) were nice and came down. We ended up fishing among the parked boats.

And still, I was the first one to get up and start walking around. I actually decided to climb a sort of wall-like thing (that didn't have so much of a breeze), because I thought I could get a better picture.

You can decide whether that was a good idea.

Then it was back to waiting. One old man walking about actually came and started talking to us, which was pretty interesting.

And then we called a fish!! Apparently, it's a very small 関アジ (seki aji). But we had to release it.

When we were done, it was back to the hotel for breakfast, then back to Fukuoka! But first, we made two stops. One was to a wine factory:

The wine part was only from a distance

I think walking around the place was more interesting than the factory. Although sadly, I couldn't go pick the grapes.

The view from the top of the hill was pretty impressive though. Although climbing it was hard work. And of course, we took a class shot there. I'm not sure how, but I managed to use a timer to take a not-that-terrible picture.

Obviously not the class shot. 

After the wine factory, we went to visit some sort of shrine, which is apparently really important? I'm not sure. But it was big, and there were a lot of torii.

 Since I'm Christian, I just wandered around snapping photos while everyone else did their thing.

All in all, it was a pretty fun trip. I never really talked to my senpai's before this, so actually interacting with them for three days was a bit scary, but fun. They were all way nicer than I expected. 

And now, I should go prepare for Day 2 of the Trade show thing. And other zemi related things...