Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A birthday announcement

Today is my birthday and it will be the last one spent in Japan. After 3 years, I'm ready to go back home to America. Being an expat has been a wonderful and exciting adventure, but it's time to leave.

Last night I told my boss I was leaving the end of May. Just saying those words gave a new reality to this plan, and frightens me a little. I don't have another job yet, but will stay with my daughter and her husband while I work something out.

Six weeks will go very quickly. Wow! Can't believe I'm leaving! There's so much to do before then that my head is starting to spin.

I might have to rethink my blog name, although it seems to fit no matter where I'm living. Gambatte is Japanese for something like "keep trying to do your best" or "don't give up." So, even though I will be leaving Japan, I'll definitely keep trying to do my best.

More about this later.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

State of the art in Japan

Here's an advertisement for a new phone one of my students just bought. You can actually watch TV on the screen that flips into a horizontal position. It can also be used for web browsing, spreadsheets, Word documents, etc.

The phones in Japan are quite advanced and have all kinds of special features. There's even a phone that you can use to buy things from vending machines, convenience stores, and other places. Just wave a specially equipped cell phone in front of a sensor and the payment goes on your phone bill.

Some of the latest technology includes a bar code feature where you can use the camera to take a picture of a URL, which will then be automatically added to your address book, thus avoiding the need to type it yourself.

There are quite a few advertisements popping up around Tokyo that include a bar code type of "mosaic" pattern that can talk to your cell phone. For a picture of one of these mosaics and a more indepth explanation of this technology, take a look at the following article in the New York Times.

"In Japan, McDonald's customers can already point their cellphones at the wrapping on their hamburgers and get nutrition information on their screens. Users there can also point their phones at magazine ads to receive insurance quotes, and board airplanes using their phones rather than paper tickets. And film promoters can send their movie trailers from billboards."

There are many more articles about this Radio Frequency ID (RFID) technolody and its applications here and here.

Whether or not this cell phone feature is anything I want to use, I can't say. Maybe it's just one more way for advertisers to snag consumers, and believe me when I say, "Nobody likes shopping more than the Japanese."

Can this be true?

Yesterday I was teaching a lesson to a Japanese business man, probably in his late 20s or early 30s. The lesson was about ordering something over the phone and we were doing a roleplay where he was buying a sweater from Land's End.

When we got to the part about giving his credit card information, he appeared to be baffled. I asked him to just make up a credit card number and he said, "1234." Then I said, "Well, credit cards usually have a lot more numbers," and wrote on the whiteboard to show him a long row of numbers resembling most credit cards. He looked surprised to see so many numbers.

Then I asked him for the expiration date and again, the same look of total confusion. It took what seemed like an unbelievable amount of effort and simplification to explain to him the concept of "expiration date." Finally, I said, "Let's look at one of your credit cards as an example."

"I don't have any credit cards," he said.

Curious and wondering if it was just him or if it ran in the family, I asked incredulously, "Really? What about your parents? Do they have any credit cards?"

"No," he said, "cash only."

Even though it might sound a little strange, I had to step back for a moment to take it all in. Is it really possible to live in the 21st century without a credit card?

It's actually not such a bad idea, when you stop to think about it. In America, where banks send a slew of zero-interest credit cards out in the mail to recent high school graduates, and where so many people find themselves in mountains of credit card debt, a "cash-only" society might be a wonderful thing!

Update: From my experience so far, most Japanese I've met have at least one credit card. This student was probably in the minority.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Gratitude: Is it on your to-do list today?

I must constantly remind myself to be grateful for everything in my life--the joys and the sorrows.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Visual DNA

Want to know more about yourself? Take a stroll through Imagini and find your own visual DNA.

I used to teach workshops in self-discovery, and images were the basic communication tools we used to explore our life paths. Everyone holds their own unique symbols and images deep inside their consciousness, and the Imagini Web site taps into some of those images.

While it's fun and interesting to play around with those images, I don't necessarily agree with the interpretations because we each interpret life through our own life filters. By that I mean that while a rose, for example, could represent the exquisiteness of nature, it could also be someone else's symbol for a broken heart.

Anyway, enjoy Imagini !

Easter humor

OK, OK, I know I've posted this picture before, but it still makes me laugh.

And just for good measure, here's another one.