Monday, September 15, 2008

Let's Ecology! 10: The Recycle Movement Citizens Association

It had been a year since I graduated from college. I'd spent that time looking for a Real Job while teaching English part-time at two English conversation schools. I'd been offered a job at an ad agency, but they withdrew the offer without explanation after I'd already given notice at one of my schools.

My spouse, H, was pregnant with our first child and would have to quit work soon. With just the one English-teaching gig, I wasn't making enough to support us on my own. If I didn't find a Real Job soon, I'd have to give up and teach English full time. But I'd failed so many job interviews that I was even losing confidence in my ability to find a good English-teaching job. I was starting to feel a little desperate.

Out of the blue one day, H told me that a Mrs. Takahashi at our church we attended had told her that her husband owned a company and wanted to hire "a foreigner." I didn't have the slightest idea who Mrs. Takahashi might be. I couldn't recall ever meeting her. The job sounded promising, though. Being a six-foot-six-inch, blue-eyed, blond American, I felt pretty qualified on the "foreigner" angle.

But what kind of company was it? What did they want a "foreigner" for? H didn't know, but at that point neither of us much cared. I was fine as long as it was a real Job, and H was fine as long as it was full-time.

Next Sunday at church, H and I talked to Mrs. Takahashi. It turned out that I actually never had met Mrs. Takahashi. She was younger than I expected from the wife of a company owner, in her mid-thirties probably, and rather attractive. She projected the gentle and refined image that most Japanese women her age at least tried to affect, no matter what they're really like on the inside. Mrs. Takahashi had a nice smile, though, which made me think she was the genuine article. Like many of these gentle Japanese women, she was also intelligent, strong, and determined, but I didn't learn about that until much later.

We didn't have much time to talk, so I didn't find out what kind of company her husband owned. I did confirm that he wanted to hire "a gaijin who can speak both Japanese and English," though. Apparently, this was for some sort of international business that the company was doing. Mrs. Takahashi said she'd talked to her husband about me, and that somebody from the company would call that week to set up an interview. She also said in that odd Japanese self-deprecating fashion that her husband was a chibippage, a "short and bald guy," but I shouldn't let that bother me. I didn't see why it would and made some polite meaningless response like, "I'm sure he isn't" (although I supposed that if she said so he probably was). With her nice smile, she repeated the chibippage bit and then rushed off to wherever she was going.

Later that week, while I was teaching in the morning, H took a call from somebody at Mrs. Takahashi's husband's company and set up an appointment for me. There was something strange about the "company," though. Apparently, it was some kind of civic group, not a company. At least that's what its name implied: the Recycle Movement Citizens Association. "Then they probably don't pay very well," H said. I didn't care. It was a Real Job, and if the pay was at all reasonable, it had to be more satisfying work than teaching English. And I kind of liked the idea of working for a non-profit.

Next week: the Big Interview. More "Let's Ecology!" posts are here. "Let's Ecology!" is the story of my stint with a Japanese environmental group (or sort of an environmental group -- it's "complicated"). Look for new posts every Monday. The names have been changed to protect me from lawsuits. Everything else really happened.

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