Japan-Related News
My 4th Consecutive One-Year Extension
Posted on 25 March 2014, 15:30 JST

I just went to the immigration office this afternoon and got my fourth consecutive one-year visa* extension. This was a disappointment, but honestly, not unexpected. The Japanese Ministry of Justice does not like me, for some reason. Almost every English teacher is on three-year extensions by their fourth year here; I'm still on one-year extensions. I'm the only English teacher I know here in Utsunomiya who is still on one-year work visas.

Does this affect my plans? No, not really, because I plan to continue working for UEC for at least another year, so I will have somebody to sponsor me next March (unless they don't re-contract with me, which is unlikely). However, it's just a slap in the face from the Japanese government, considering that I'm in my 4th year in Japan now, speak Japanese at JLPT N3 level and write it at Kanji Kentei 5-kyū level, and there are lots of English teachers coming into Japan for the first time, who don't speak Japanese, who start off on three-year visas.

I don't see any need to end this post on a positive note, because there's nothing positive about arbitrariness and unfairness in immigration systems. However, I will note that at least this time, they gave me a reason (something the previous immigration office normally refused to give me). Their rationale was that I had changed jobs and moved. This is true, but:

  • One of the reasons I had left my job in Yokkaichi and moved was because Yokkaichi's immigration office gave me a string of three consecutive one-year extensions. So I moved in part to get away from a strict immigration office, and ended up with an immigration office that penalizes me for moving. Great, just great...
  • It's not like I just arrived in Utsunomiya and just started working here. I mean, I've been here for almost seven months now. I filed all the correct paperwork to register my move way back in August, and to change my employer not long after that. I have been on the Utsunomiya immigration office's radar screen for the better part of a year, basically.

Well, I'll wait until next year and apply again, hopefully (finally) receiving a three-year extension next year (i.e. the same length that teachers on the JET Programme get immediately upon arrival in Japan). This doesn't seriously change my plans as long as UEC allows me to continue for another year, but it is a bit of a slap in the face.

Here are some related pictures (all of the personal information on them is now void, so I don't have to worry about identity theft—all of my important numbers and addresses are completely different, now:

My Residence Card (the old one, no longer valid, which is why they punched a hole in it today)


The Postcard Telling Me to Go to the Immigration Office to Pick Up My Extension

*Technically not a "visa" extension, but a "period of stay" extension. However, most people say "visa" even though it is technically the incorrect term.

By the way, if you haven't already, please read the post below this one, posted early this morning! It is much more interesting, and much more entertaining!



Japan-Related News
Continuing to Be the Lightning Rod of Adventure, This Time on the Yokosuka Naval Base
Posted on 25 March 2014, 3:15 JST

“You sure seem to have a lot of interesting things happen to you.”
— Professor James Johnson, University of Maryland University College, Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, after hearing about my encounter outside the Taco Bell

I just got back from Yokosuka. It was my second day of classes at the Fleet Rec building on-base, where I am taking the course CMIS 102 (Introduction to Problem Solving and Algorithm Design) for my second bachelor's degree. First, I arrived at Yokosuka Station and got off the train. I took in the beautiful harbor scene—lots of navy ships.

I have the privilege of taking a college course next to the USS Kitty Hawk. I also have the privilege of taking a college course next to this submarine:

Wait a minute... What's that?

????

!!!!

Ummm...

Okay...

Anyways, I made it onto the base. I showed my United States Forces Japan ID card to the soldiers at the gate, and I got in, and then made a beeline for Taco Bell, #1559 on my map. I had been missing Taco Bell. I haven't eaten there in ages. There aren't any Taco Bells in Japan except on the military bases, because, you know, I guess Taco Bell just figures, "why have millions of potential customers, when you can have THOUSANDS?!" However, now that I have a base pass, I can get enough Taco Bell to last me through the week. I knew that I had to run, because I had class in less than an hour (I can only be on the base one hour prior to class) and Taco Bell was far away.

Well, I ran to Taco Bell. And I reached Taco Bell. And then I got my bean burritos, and started running to class.

I felt great. I was eating a bean burrito and running to class, when...

...all of a sudden, A BIRD OF PREY WITH A WINGSPAN OF AT LEAST 1 OR 2 METERS, SWOOPED DOWN FROM THE SKY AND SNATCHED MY BURRITO, RIGHT OUT OF MY HANDS, WITH ITS MASSIVE TALONS, THEN HURLED IT INTO THE STREET APPROXIMATELY 10 METERS IN FRONT OF ME!!!

At first, I was flabbergasted. In 27 years of being on this planet, I have never, ever, EVER, had this happen to me. But then, I thought to myself "Well, I lost a $1.30 burrito and gained a priceless story." And then, my anger quickly subsided.

I then went to UMUC and told the story. Rhea at the UMUC desk apologized to me that she hadn't told me about these massive, predatory birds (this is not the first time this thing has happened, apparently, as both Rhea and a US soldier attested), and Professor Johnson exclaimed "You sure seem to have a lot of interesting things happen to you!"

In class, we took a quiz. I think I did all right. We discussed Java, FORTRAN (FORTRAN has higher-precision numbers than Java, apparently, which is why it is still used in science and engineering even though it has been in development since 1954). We discussed various basic topics like declaring variables and concatenating variables. Mostly easy stuff that I already knew, but with occasional interesting pieces of information (I found out yesterday that Paul Allen, one of the co-founders of Microsoft, is the guitarist of a rock band, and they have released an album).

Well, we went to the computer lab. I finished a program early, so I went to get a drink of water. There was a door between me and the water fountain. Logically, I twisted the doorknob...

...AND THE DOORKNOB JUST FELL OFF!!!

Well, I got my drink of water, then went back to the computer lab to continue working on Raptor. I exclaimed to Jane, the girl next to me who is an Electronic Technician in the US Navy working on her AS in Computer Studies:

“I can't believe it. First a bird of prey snatches a burrito right out of my hands with its giant talons, and just now, I tried to open a door, and the doorknob just FELL OFF!!! I'm cursed today!”

Well, in the computer lab, I finished my program (created in Raptor) for calculating a saleswoman's total commission given the inputs of total sales for the month and commission rate. The professor asked me to help one of the other students write his program. Both the professor and the man himself requested that I explain to him the concepts in as simple terms as possible, because he did not have any programming experience, so I did my best.

At the end of the computer lab session, the man came up to me and said:

“Thanks, man! You really broke it down for me, Barney-style!”

Then he shook my hand. Then I made another Taco Bell run, picking up four more burritos (one bean burrito, two chicken burritos, and my all-time favorite, the Grilled Stuffed Steak Burrito), to make a grand total of nine burritos purchased in one day (it's a good thing nobody is sharing this room with me right now as I type this, I just let out a big one) and went home on the train. What a day.

More Yokosuka pictures follow. Here they are:


This is a dry dock near the entrance of the base. It was built in the 1800s and is still used.


Me on Howard Street


I couldn't resist taking my picture in front of the dock near the Fleet Rec Building, where I take my classes. I don't look like I'm in a good mood in the picture, but actually, I was.


This is some kind of US Navy ship outside the Fleet Rec Building. The sun is starting to get lower in the sky.


This is an aircraft carrier near the Fleet Rec Building where I take my class. Pictures are allowed (I asked).


Free Kantō Edition of Stars and Stripes



Japan-Related News
I Went to the Yokosuka Naval Base Today for the First Time
Posted on 16 March 2014, 23:55 JST

I went to the Yokosuka Naval Base today (well, at least the entrance). I wanted to scout it out so that I don't get lost when I go there tomorrow to get my official base pass and for class (CMIS 102, Introduction to Problem Solving and Algorithm Design). What a location! I will be taking my class right next to a harbor with the USS Kitty Hawk and a Japanese Self Defense Force submarine, which as of today, was flying the rising sun Japanese navy flag!



Japan-Related News
My Girlfriend, Mayumi
Posted on 12 March 2014, 22:20 JST

I should introduce my girlfriend to my readers. Her name is Mayumi. She lived in the UK for six years and speaks English well (her top TOEIC score: 855 with 460 on the listening section, which is very good). We have been dating since January (the first clear "date" was January 31, in my opinion), but didn't become "official" boyfriend and girlfriend until February 16. One time, for a date, we went to Oyama and sang karaoke. Another time, she came over here and I cooked her potato soup and Norwegian pancakes. It snowed that time.

Another time, she cooked me buta no shōgayaki (豚の生姜焼き), or pork fried with ginger. And last time, we ate Indian food.

Then she showed me how to make a Spanish omelet with 1/4 of an onion, a small potato, some milk, and some salt added to a couple of beaten eggs. So that's Mayumi.



Japan-Related News
Final Grade for CMIS 325, UNIX with Shell Programming, Calculated
Posted on 10 March 2014, 21:35 JST

At last, all of my points for CMIS 325, or UNIX with Shell Programming, have been totaled. I got 100/100 points, for a perfect 100% in the course. I am now only 27 credit hours away from a second bachelor's degree in Computer & Information Science, or 77.5% of the way there. My next course, which starts officially on 3/17, is CMIS 102: Introduction to Problem Solving and Algorithm Design. It will be an on-site course, so I will meet the other students face-to-face probably four or five times out of the eight scheduled sessions, on the Yokosuka Naval Base (well, assuming that my base pass is processed—I just sent all the paperwork for that yesterday via the KuroNeko delivery service). I do not believe it will be a hard course, because it is actually a prerequisite to another course, which is in turn a prerequisite to the UNIX with Shell Programming course in which I just got a 100%. This course is just a 100-level course; that one was a 300-level course and I did fine.

With spring break and the relative ease of this course, I will have some extra free time. I am not sure yet exactly how to spend this free time (I am waiting for a schedule from my boss), but I need to find some worthwhile way to spend it, or I'll end up spending all day on the Internet, everyday, and that would not be good.

March 11 Update: Today is the day after the class officially ended. I used my newfound UNIX knowledge to make a list of my classmates who participated in the final (required) conference (Conference 8), then saved it as Students.txt using the vi editor. Then I ran the following from the command line:
sort Students.txt | uniq | wc -l
The result: 23 unique students participated in the final required conference. There were 28 students originally, so I am going to infer that 23 out of the original 28 planned on finishing the course, or 82% of the students. This is actually a much lower attrition rate than with my Nothern Virginia Community College online courses, in general.



Japan-Related News
My Third Anniversary of Moving to Japan
Posted on 7 March 2014, 15:05 JST

First of all, sorry I haven't written anything on this blog in nearly three months. I'm not dead. I haven't quit my Web site/blogging hobby. I've just been so busy, and the new layout requires more effort to generate a blog post.

Today at 11:55 AM, I passed the three-year mark in Japan. Three years ago at approximately 11:55 AM, I touched down in Kansai International Airport near Osaka, went to Banana House (a gaijin house in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture), and started to prepare for a job interview that I had the next day with a school called Lick School in Sanda, Hyōgo Prefecture. I didn't get that job, but within 12 days of arriving in Japan, I succeeded in getting a job at Big Apple International School of English in Mie Prefecture.

Today at 11:55 AM, I was teaching class 5-1 (fifth graders) about New Zealand, the northern and southern hemispheres and how their seasons are reversed, the equator, etc. We also drilled mostly wh- question words with my homemade flash cards and I had them write down those words in their notebooks, because Japanese students often don't know wh- question words long after they've moved onto much more advanced material. Oh, and we played "Blind Bowling" where they have to close their eyes, cover their eyes, and spin around five times, then roll the ball in the direction in which they think the bowling pins are.

Now that my first three years in Japan are complete, I need to come up with a good plan on how to spend the remaining seven until I get permanent residency (eijūken). There are some areas of my life that are going well. My education in IT and Computer & Information Science is proceeding nicely, I am saving money (not as much as I'd like, but I'm still turning thousands of dollars in profit every year), in some respects, my Japanese is improving, although I am still an English teacher like the vast majority of civilian westerners in Japan, my current job both pays better and has fewer teaching hours than most other full-time teaching jobs, etc. Last month, I out-earned the people on the JET Programme! Many things are going well. Of course, many things need improvement, too, some very urgently. I have accomplished a huge amount since moving to Japan: I have completed three years of full-time work, 19 college credit hours (covering Java programming, computer applications and concepts, telecommunications, UNIX with shell programming, business, and personal finance) including finishing a Career Studies Certificate in Business Information Technology, upgraded my Japanese from 4-kyū (basic) to N3 (intermediate-low) and Kanji Kentei 5-kyū, worked some part-time jobs on top of the full-time jobs, gotten CTEYL certified for teaching young learners, created and maintained this Web site and overhauled its layout using Inkscape and other tools, built an Intel Core i7 computer with my own two hands, climbed Mt. Fuji and Mt. Gozaisho twice, vacationed on Jeju-do and scaled both Halla-san and Seongsan Ilchulbong and ridden on a submarine, won a Pedometer Challenge with 1,163,345 steps (~581 miles) in just four weeks, met the Governor of Mie Prefecture and a member of the Japanese House of Representatives in the Japanese Diet, picked up North Korean radio signals on my radio by accident, eaten whale, horse, sea urchin, etc., visited the Ise Shrine, the center of the Shintō religion before they tore the whole thing down and built another one), and more.

I intend to make a plan to address certain faults with my lifestyle, especially my (some would say "excessive") risk-taking (I need to start being more careful about taking risks if I want to avoid the Grim Reaper until I'm an old man). On the other hand, there are certain elements of my lifestyle that are excellent, and I should strive to retain these, and put them in the plan, as well. I'll draft this plan starting around 3/20 or 3/21 when school lets out for spring break. I just don't have time right now.

Right now, things are turbulent for me. I will not lie and claim that the last 24 hours have been much fun. However, I did accomplish something at 3:06 AM this morning—I completed the final project (and therefore all the coursework) for UMUC's CMIS 325, UNIX with Shell Programming. I wrote 476 lines of code in vi over ssh on UMUC's SunOS 5.10 nova server that formed a complicated shell program for the Korn Shell—my professor has already graded it and given me a 100% on it. This means I have 98 points out of 100 in the course, with the remaining two points probably coming through once the conferences are graded. I will likely end up with 100% in the course. Not bad.

I will likely take CMIS 102 starting on March 17 (with my first day in a physical classroom on the Yokosuka Naval Base on 3/24).

I am not going to upload any photos right now. The reason for this is that I'm busy, and there are so many photos (probably dozens) that I simply can't right now. However, starting this weekend, expect some photos to make it up here.

Click here to read old news. | Click here to read a brief explanation of what I do in Japan, and why I chose Japan.

© 2014 Charles Henry Wetzel