December 19, 2014: I Registered for the Next Two Courses, and Today Is My 8½-Year Anniversary of Moving Back to Asia
8½ years ago, I arrived in Incheon Airport. Combined with the time from when I was a kid, as of today, I have been living in Asia for 13½ years. Combine that with my time in the Netherlands when I was a baby, and that comes out to over 14 years, so basically, I have spent more than half my life outside of my home country.

As for more important news, I finished registering and paying for two college courses less than an hour ago—MTH 271 (Applied Calculus I) and CMIS 242 (Intermediate Programming [with Java]). Here is more detail about them:

  • MTH 271 (Applied Calculus I) is the only thing standing between me and my Associate of Science degree in Information Technology! I have 59 out of the required 62 credit hours, and have met every single requirement (including applying for graduation), except completing this course. I was enrolled in it briefly in the fall, but during October, life happened, and I dropped it (fortunately early enough to get a full tuition refund). Now I will try it again. Finishing this means I will finally get my AS in IT, my first DEGREE in a computer field! The course starts on 1/12/2015. On May 10, 2015, I will finish both this course and my AS in IT!
  • CMIS 242 (Intermediate Programming [in Java]) will run from 1/12/2015-3/8/2015. This is my 6th-to-last course towards my Bachelor of Science in Computer & Information Science (BS in CMIS). Another major benefit of this course, besides that I will further my knowledge of Java, the Swing GUI, etc., is that I have already gotten this course approved by NOVA to count towards the my Career Studies Certificate in Application Programming—in fact, this is the last course! In other words, in the spring semester, I will finish not only the AS in IT, but also a CSC in Application Programming. Combined with the CSC in Business IT that I already got last year, and my portfolio of programs I have written over the years in BASIC and C++ (which will hopefully have some more entries, soon), this is the beginning of an IT resume that might actually land me some kind of an IT job, or at least a job related to IT!
During that time, I will only be working part-time. This is extremely fortunate, because I anticipate that both of those classes are going to be hard. I am not a strong math student. Although I have gotten A's in every single programming language I have studied in college (Java, UNIX Shell, pseudocode/FORTRAN/Raptor, SQL, and C++), this course is an intermediate-level course, not a beginner- or elementary-level course, so I expect it to be much more difficult. It will take lots of hard work to complete these courses acceptably.

Once I have finished both of those, then it will be a simple matter of doing the following (balancing it with a full-time job):

  1. Taking one CMIS course in Spring Semester 2, balancing it with the latter half of MTH 271 (I will probably choose CMIS 170, because I anticipate that being relatively easy).
  2. Taking one CMIS course in the summer semester.
  3. Taking one CMIS course in Fall Semester 1.
  4. Taking one CMIS course in Fall Semester 2, and also CMSC 495 concurrently with that (the degree's capstone course).
  5. If I have successfully followed that schedule (not easy), then I will finish my degree in December 2015, and receive the diploma within three months.

December 17, 2014: Today I Ate Wild Boar (inoshishi, いのしし)
I went over to Clary's house today (another UEC English teacher, from Canada). He fixed my bike's chain, which had kept popping off. I reinstalled Windows on his laptop. And we ate wild boar.

Back in 2012, when I went to Jeju-do, South Korea on vacation, I had intended to eat wild boar, but it had never happened. Although wild boar (metdwaeji, 멧돼지) is a specialty of Jeju-do, the restaurants were either out of it, or the prices were outrageous. Fortunately, today's wild boar cost me exactly ¥0. So where did Clary get this wild boar?

Well, it all started when something was marauding Clary's friend's farm in Motegi, in the mountains of rural Tochigi Prefecture. So Clary and his friend set a trap!

They caught the inoshishi, sure enough, and slit its throat! Warning: graphic images follow (there is nothing especially shocking here to me, but one of my readers is a little bit squeamish).

In this photo, Clary and his friend are hanging the dead inoshishi carcass up to drain its blood. They are hanging it on a wooden tripod.

In this picture, Clary is holding the skin of the inoshishi:

They ended up burying the skin. I swear, it would have made a great rug!

The most graphic images of the gutting process (fair warning): Image 1 Image 2

The meat was absolutely delicious. I would definitely eat it again—and what a story! Apparently, Clary has once hunted a moose in Canada; the carcass was so big, it was impossible to reach inside and access all the parts of the moose, so he had to climb inside!

And what about the inoshishi heart? It ended up in that night's yakiniku. :-)

December 16, 2014: ITE 170 (Multimedia Software) and CMIS 315 (C++ Programming) Finished, Both with A's
I just got my grade for C++ Programming today—98.44%. I got my Multimedia Software grade on 12/13 (101%). Grade-wise, this has been a very successful semester. Actually, grade-wise, this has been a very successful year. I have finished five college courses (and passed Kanji Kentei 4-kyū) and balanced that with a full-time job most of the year. I am now >95% of the way to my Associate of Science in Information Technology from NOVA (thanks to Multimedia Software) and 85% of the way to my Bachelor of Science in Computer & Information Science from UMUC.

Just one more course (MTH 271, Applied Calculus I), and the AS in IT will be mine! And just six more courses at UMUC, and the BS in Computer & Information Science will be mine!

C++ Programming was self-explanatory. In Multimedia Software, I learned how to use Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and Flash. Flash was by far the most interesting. I also learned some ActionScript 3.0 with Flash. I definitely intend to play around some more with Flash.

December 14, 2014: Abe Shinzō Decides to Give Himself Four More Years in Power
Today was an election. It was not supposed to be an election (the next election was scheduled for 2016), but the Prime Minister, Abe Shinzō did not want to wait until 2016, because his approval ratings are down in the 40% range now, and if he waited until 2016 to renew his grip on power, his regime might not be able to stay in power. He did not want to wait until the next election and risk losing, so he simply dissolved the Lower House (the Shūgiin, 衆議院). This resulted in an election timed exactly to his liking (we the taxpayers pay the cost of the election—70 billion yen).

The timing took the other political parties by total surprise. He had earlier said that he was not planning to dissolve the Lower House, but this was a lie. Lie or not, the other political parties did not have enough time to mount an effective campaign, and today, Abe Shinzō, with his "Liberal Democratic Party" (neither liberal nor democratic, as I will explain shortly) appears to be winning in a "landslide," not because most people have any great love for him or his cabinet or party, but simply because the opposition is too fragmented and does not stand a chance.

As the reader can probably tell, I do not like Abe Shinzō. Here is why:

  • He has destroyed Japan's economy. Real wages in Japanese yen have declined for 16 straight months (he took power 24 months ago, so basically for 75% of his term in office, real wages have been declining). Last month, it was announced that we are back in a recession. Japan's Human Development Index (HDI), calculated by the United Nations, has dropped to 0.890 (i.e. less than South Korea's 0.891).
  • Despite wages declining, Abe Shinzō has targeted inflation. He believes that 2~3% inflation will help the economy. How exactly the economy is being "helped" by prices increasing 2~3% per year, when wages are going down, is beyond me.
  • In U.S. Dollar terms, Abe Shinzō's term in office has been nothing short of catastrophic. When he assumed power in 2012, the yen was ¥84 to the dollar (a strong yen). Now, it is over ¥118 to the dollar, so in other words, the value of the yen has declined over 41% in just two years!

    For an English teacher making ¥3,000,000 per year, this has a massive negative impact. When he first assumed power, an average English teacher would make $35,714.28 a year. Less than two years later, thanks to surprise currency manipulation by Abe and the BOJ (Bank of Japan), an average English teacher makes $25,257.00 a year—thanks for the more-than-$10,000-a-year pay cut, Mr. Abe!

  • Are declining real wages, inflation, and a massive 41% drop in the value of the yen not enough economic pain? Well, good news, Abe has you covered! Because he also introduced a sales tax increase of 3%! Now, I understand that this sales tax could help repay the massive national debt (over 200% of Japan's GDP, i.e. worse than Greece), but the thing is, little if any progress has been made on repaying the national debt. The government is just eating up the money.
  • So far, I have only discussed economic problems. But some say his foreign policy is pretty good. Let's take a look. Immediately after South Korea flew fighter planes together with Japanese fighter planes to defy China's air blockade of the Senkaku Islands, Abe gave the ultimate middle finger to South Korea—he visited Yasukuni Shrine, a shrine that commemorates war criminals who committed horrible atrocities against Korean people. He also gave his thumbs up and smiled in a photo in front of an airplane marked "731," another move that angered Korea. Why was that? Well, Unit 731 committed grisly medical experiments on Koreans during World War II, so gruesome that I will not type them here. So, needless to say, Korea is now feeling a little bit less like supporting Japan in the event of a conflict with China.
  • But at least Abe is great at cozying up with North Korea. He has lifted sanctions on North Korea in exchange for the return of abducted Japanese citizens. The funny thing is, none of the abducted Japanese citizens have been returned, even though this has been going on for several months, and North Korea says it needs a year to compile a report. North Korea is, however, enjoying the lifted sanctions, which are helping fund North Korea to arm itself with more nuclear warheads, manufacture more methamphetamine, and torture and kill hundreds of thousands of their own citizens in death camps.
  • Abe's diplomacy with Russia is also great. He and Putin have cozied up, and are even talking about mutual defense. The funny thing is, Japan and Russia have no peace treaty, and are still technically at war. Putting the cart before the horse?
  • And now, let's look at labor laws. Abe wants to abolish paid overtime. You know, because Japanese salarymen do not work enough hours already.
  • Abe also wants to have at-will employment like America (i.e. employees can be fired for farting or coughing). Actually, in theory, this could help the economy, because there is lots of dead weight (just go past any construction site in Japan—it is highly likely that at any given time, several of the workers will be doing nothing, and at least one of them will be sleeping in the truck). However, the potential for abuse if Japan gets at-will employment like America is just too great, because in this country, to a much greater extent than America, being fired is a huge stigma (good luck on finding another job).
  • Now, let's talk about human rights. Abe has decided to do away with freedom of speech. He has classified over 400,000 government documents and gotten his party, which controls the Diet, to pass a "State Secrets Law," meaning that many political discussions are now illegal! This can be used to silence the opposition.
  • As if that were not bad enough, his cabinet recently declared that anyone who has either worked overseas or studied abroad, should not be handling these documents. This is not just people who worked/studied in China/North Korea, but anywhere. So in other words, did someone study English in Canada? Too bad! That person cannot work in high levels of government. Did someone spend a year in Ohio, being sent on overseas assignment by Honda? Too bad! That person also now cannot handle classified documents. Get rid of the foreign influences!
  • He has immigration covered, too. Here are some priceless quotes from Abe regarding immigration:

    "What are immigrants? The U.S. is a country of immigrants who came from all around the world and formed the (United States). Many people have come to the country and become part of it. We won't adopt a policy like that."

    "It's not an immigrant policy. We'd like them to work and raise incomes for a limited period of time, and then return home."

    As an immigrant in Japan, this is severely depressing to have to watch. I came to this country when the DPJ was in power, and there was talk of immigration reform, something that Japan desperately needs given its shrinking, aging population. All those hopes were dashed when Abe won the election, and now, not satisfied with serving only one term, he is extending his time in power, meaning that for immigrants like me, hope is rapidly being lost.

Gee, what's not to like?

The real mystery here is why Japanese people keep voting for him. Sure, some of his negative traits, such as his xenophobia and World War II war criminal-glorifying rhetoric might appeal to the public, but the public surely cannot enjoy his economic policies which have plunged the country into a massive recession. Yet they just go out and vote for him anyway, because there are "no alternatives."

This brings me to my next point—since 1955, the LDP (the Liberal Democratic Party, or Abe Shinzō's party) has controlled the country for 55 out of the 59 years. This is a one party state, because the Japanese people almost never vote for any other party except the LDP.

I ask people "Why do Japanese people vote for the LDP?" They tell me that "there are no alternatives" or that the other parties "have no policies." I highly doubt that. Japan has lots of political parties. Before today, a total of 11 political parties were represented in the Lower House. There is the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the Kōmeitō, the Jisedai no Tō, heck, there is even a Japanese Communist Party! With so many parties to choose from, surely there have to be other options besides the LDP. I think most people are just so politically apathetic and lack critical thinking skills to the extent that they just go out and vote for the LDP every election without thinking.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Similarly, you can lead the Japanese people to democracy, but you can't make them think democratically.

Another major issue is that rural areas get huge numbers of votes relative to urban areas. Previously, Tochigi had five seats in the Lower House, and Tokyo had ten seats. Never mind that Tochigi has only ~2,000,000 people and Tokyo has >13,000,000. Logically, Tokyo should have 6.5x as many seats in the Lower House (the Lower House elects the Prime Minister), but they actually only have 2x as many seats. Giving this many seats to rural areas makes LDP wins an inevitability. This is a broken democracy, not a true democracy.

Even in Korea, democracy has worked. In the 1990s, liberals from the Uri Party (Uri-dang) controlled the government. Then in the late 2000s, the Grand National Party (Hannara-dang) won. In Taiwan, the Pan-Blue Coalition used to win all the time. Now, the Pan-Green Coalition sometimes wins. But Japan? The LDP has controlled the country for 93% of the time since 1955. No matter how the LDP mismanages the country (the economy has shrunken since 1990), people just keep going out and voting for it. This is so frustrating.

I think that Japan has a very dark future, because:

  • The current leader, who will probably be in power for the next four years if not longer, is an idiot.
  • The population is aging at a rapid rate. In Japan, recently, adult diapers outsold diapers for babies. This rapid aging of the society (due to extremely low birthrate of only ~1.3 babies per woman) puts a huge strain on the economy as many elderly people draw from the National Pension (Kokumin Nenkin, 国民年金) system without young workers to pay into it.
  • Public debt is over 200% of the GDP. That is worse than America. That is even worse than Greece!
It is impossible to be optimistic about this situation. Short of Mt. Fuji erupting and opening a crater in the earth revealing a lost civilization made of solid gold, I cannot see how Japan can remain a significant world or economic power.

So what should I do?

I think these are some good policies for me to adopt:

  • I plan to stay in Japan for at least another year and see how I can do, professionally-speaking. I am 28 years old now, so I still have some time to "get my foot in the door" before I hit 30 and job options start to narrow considerably. Due to the weak yen, very few foreigners want to work here, meaning the potential job opportunities are better than normal. I also do not want to return to the U.S. with my tail between my legs. I would rather give Asia a good, even ten years (15 years total in my life), save up more cash than when I arrived in Korea in 2006, and return with my UMUC degree in Computer & Information Science, than go back to the U.S. half-cocked as a failure. And who knows, maybe Japan will work out over the next year and a half.
  • However, my paradigm has changed drastically.
    • Rather than paying into the Japanese National Pension system, I will take advantage of the Japan-U.S. Social Security Treaty to transfer my pension payments back to the U.S. Social Security system. This system, although possibly doomed, is less likely to be doomed than the Japanese system.
    • I should abandon any ideas of investing in Japanese real estate.
    • Although I will continue to self-study Japanese, I should not go to Japanese language school. Japanese language school costs hundreds of thousands of yen per year. This would be worth it if I planned to stay in Japan for many years, but since this is looking increasingly unlikely, I am doubting that the investment would pay for itself. I do not want to repeat my mistake that I made with Korea—learning an ethnic language that is only spoken in a small part of the world, then leaving that part of the world, and then finding myself only speaking that language on occasional visits to the local restaurant. That is a waste of money and time.
    • I should emphasize computers over Japanese (actually, I have already been doing this—I will have finished five college computer courses this year).
    • I should not bother getting a Japanese driver's license, which would cost ¥300,000~¥400,000. Why bother getting an expensive Japanese driver's license when I might not even stay that long?
I will continue to give this country a chance, because I still have some goals on my "bucket list" that I want to accomplish here, and because things in Japan MIGHT get better. However, I should invest as little of my time and money into Japan-specific things as possible, because things look very, very bleak.

December 11, 2014: A Disappointment at the Gym, But Then...
UPDATE (skip this paragraph to read about my adventures at the gym): It just occurred to me after I wrote the following long post about my workouts and my quest to get buff, that my readers are still hanging as to whether I will stay in Japan. Tentatively, I have changed my mind and decided to stay in Japan for another year and see how it goes. When I am 29 and have my degree from UMUC, I will try to find a professional job, preferably in computers. If I find one, I will probably stay here longer. If I fail to find one, then I will probably go back to America.

And now, for the main post: I have been working out for over a month now at Big Tree (a gym in Utsunomiya), with the goal of getting "buff." I have been lifting weights (I can now lift considerably heavier weights than when I first started), using the stairmaster, and stretching three times a week, and giving myself a day off in between workouts for my muscles to rebuild (this is what fitness experts recommend). I went into Big Tree yesterday to get my official weighing and analysis of my muscle/fat composition, expecting some good news.

What the hell?! I lost 0.6 kilograms of muscle?!!!

I also lost 0.8 kilograms of fat, which is nice, but I do not need a gym to lose fat. I was awarded these coupons (¥100 for every 100 grams of fat I lost), which was little consolation:

I was very dejected after yesterday's bad news, that I had failed in my only goal—I had lost muscle instead of building it, despite lifting weights consistently. I mean, I had prepared for the possibility that I might not have gained any muscle, but losing muscle, seriously? I therefore scheduled kobetsu kaunseringu (個別カウンセリング, or "private counseling") for today.

Today, I did private counseling, and then realized, it was not nearly as bad as I thought:

  • I actually gained muscle in my upper body (1.28% overall). My right arm gained 0.08 kilograms of muscle, my left arm gained 0.01 kilograms of muscle, and my core gained 0.2 kilograms of muscle. So actually, I met my goal of increasing muscle in my upper body, the part on which I am focusing.

    Where I lost muscle was specifically in my legs: I lost literally 3.14% of the muscle in my legs in just one month! Well, this is not the world's biggest tragedy because my legs are quite in shape, and I am emphasizing my upper body, not my legs. Still, it is a little bit disturbing to have lost so much muscle from my legs.

    Fortunately, the answer quickly dawned on both me and my trainer, Mr. Nihei—although my upper body gets to rest every other day, my legs almost never get to rest. This is because I jog to work everyday, which is over 4 kilometers away. I usually do this in under 40 minutes these days. I then return, walking at least 4 kilometers back. This is obviously keeping my legs tired and the muscles are not getting the rest they need, so instead of growing, they are weakening. I had previously assumed that jogging was okay, that the only rest my legs needed was a rest from the gym weight machines, but I was wrong. The answer is simple: stop jogging the day after workouts, and start taking the bus on those days! In fact, in the case of my Teikyō University classes, my boss will even pay for the commute, so I should definitely start taking advantage of that and make my Teikyō teaching days one of my rest days!

  • I can improve the gains in my upper body by eating more protein (I have done nothing over the past month that was really special in terms of protein, so there is room for improvement). Trainer Nihei recommends that I eat at least 92 g of protein per day. I can get this from 250~300 g of chicken breast, or I can combine various protein sources like chicken breast, beef, pork, nattō, tofu, etc.

    According to Nihei-san (who is credible because not only is he a personal trainer, he is very buff himself), soy protein is absorbed into the body slowly and steadily over time, so it makes a good protein source when the body is not in urgent need of protein (i.e. on the second day). For the day of the workout, eat lots of chicken, beef, pork, etc. because that protein is absorbed more quickly when the body really needs it. I asked him about whey powder—he told me that whey powder is absorbed the fastest, and a protein shake is most effective within 30 minutes of the end of the workout.

  • He said that my cardio is in good shape, and I jog to work frequently, so I can cut the stairmaster from my routine. However, I should increase weight lifting from three sets of ten reps to four sets of ten reps, if possible.

  • The amazing machine that measured so precisely my body composition, weight, etc. gave me a "fitness score." Last month, that fitness score was 68. This month, it increased to 69. So I am making some progress. For reference, 70 is considered the beginning of "Regular" for fitness. 60~69, the range I am in right now, is considered "Not Enough Exercise." However, because I am only 1 point away, I think reaching 70 next month is feasible.

Now, after all this, I am much less dejected. I bought some protein powder, using the pro shop shopping coupons to lower the price:

I intend to use this only for quick protein in the 30-minute optimal window after a workout. The other protein will come mostly from meat and soybeans in my regular diet.

And here is everything one needs to know about my body fat/muscle composition, my weight, etc. Click to enlarge:

Here is my proposed workout schedule:

  • Monday: Work out.
  • Tuesday: Rest my legs. Take the bus to Teikyō University—UEC will even pay for the bus!
  • Wednesday: Work out.
  • Thursday: Rest my legs. Take the bus to UEC even though that is not paid for (I have to rest my legs for them to build muscle, even if it costs me ¥420 round-trip).
  • Friday: Rest my legs—the gym is closed.
  • Saturday: Work out.
  • Sunday: Rest my legs (easy to do because there is no work).

October 8, 2014: I Will Probably Leave Japan
Yesterday, my employment situation officially changed. I am still working at the same company (UEC), but my work duties will be different from now on. This is okay—it was my idea, and my boss agreed to it, so everyone seems satisfied. :-)

However (and this is not related to my job at UEC, but rather, my life in Japan outside of UEC), I want to let my readers know, I am now thinking very strongly about leaving Japan, probably in March of next year. This is not to say that I will not return to Asia to live, eventually—but when I do, it will probably not be Japan or Korea—it will probably be a country where racial diversity is tolerated or even embraced, like Singapore or Hong Kong. These are the main reasons:

  • Japan is changing, and not for the better. I feel like many things have gotten worse since I have been here, politically (especially in terms worker rights and foreigner rights) and economically. This is not the country that I arrived in on March 7, 2011. I could write an entire essay about how Japan has gotten worse over the past three and a half years, but I do not want to get bogged down as I write this.

  • My attitude has changed from one of desperation to stay in Asia to one that is more concerned with whether I am meeting my needs. When I moved to Korea in 2006, I used to have the attitude of "Must stay in Asia at all costs!" I had arrived in Asia at the age of 19, life was amazing, and put the lives of most of my friends in America to shame.

    However, somewhere along the way, they got professional jobs. They started using all the money from said jobs (which were often quite cool) to take cool trips, like to Japan.

    When I was 19 or 20 years old, people looked at me, studying in South Korea, spending the weekend in North Korea, having wild nights out, becoming proficient in an exotic language, eating live octopus and silkworm larva, and having adventures in Jilin Province, China, and envied me. However, tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis—times change, and we change with them. When I was 19 or 20, just being in Asia was enough to offset any negatives—I watched my friends in the US going to their boring colleges in Virginia, working sub-$10-an-hour part-time jobs, and I reveled in how exciting my life was by comparison. But things have changed. My life is now much more routine—I have been teaching English for more than five years now, mostly in small cities/suburbs, and most "adventures" happened years ago. Now that the adventure and the exhilaration of doing something cooler than my friends in the States has faded, it has been replaced with: "I can stay in Asia quite easily—I have an extendable work visa, savings, language knowledge, etc.—but is Asian Country X or Asian Country Y in MY best interest?"

    Monetarily, it is certainly not. The median entry-level IT job for a foreigner pays only 3.5 million yen per year, according to my research ($32,298 per year), which is terrible considering that most such jobs require bilinguals with a degree in a computer subject. Compare this with the salary of $34,420—the salary of the average American garbageman. Yeah.

    And even assuming that I get such a job, I will not be treated much better outside of work—Japanese society is highly discriminatory, and there is no criminal penalty here for racial discrimination.

  • In order to truly succeed in Japan (not just work as an English teacher for the same salary every year, but actually have a professional job with some prestige [in Japan, a so-called "male-dominated society," a man's job is pretty much his entire worth to society]), I would need to work/study extremely hard. Actually, I have already been doing this for several years—working full-time while studying part-time. The result is burning the candle at both ends for nearly 3,000 hours per year, which brings me to my third reason: with all the work/study hours that I am having to put in, I do not really have the time to enjoy the things that are interesting about Japan: the video games, the J-pop, the anime, or chasing the sexy, sexy gyaru. There is one Japan-related interest that I make time for, though—language study. But because I have to orient my studies towards the JLPT for career reasons, I do not have the time or mental energy to study colloquial Japanese, slang, or listening comprehension, things that are barely tested by the JLPT.

    And as an English teacher, I am forced to spend x number of hours per day speaking English, so I could actually get more Japanese "immersion" if I locked myself in a remote mountain cabin in West Virginia with only a Japanese dictionary, Japanese textbooks, Japanese media, and a Skype connection to Japan.

Okay, so hopefully we have established now that I have valid reasons for wanting to leave Japan. Now, I will write my plan for the next five or six months, before I leave Japan (unless I change my mind at the last moment, something that I could still do if I wanted).

My Exit Plan for Japan

Note: I will still be able to change my mind, and continue to live in Japan, as late as March. This gives me five or six months to meditate on this and decide whether it is really the best decision.
  • Work hard at my job. After this job, I probably will not teach English again. However, it is the only livelihood I have ever had in my life that allowed me to break $30,000 a year, so just in case, I should not burn my bridges.

  • Make a "bucket list" of all the things I want to do in Japan, that I can still feasibly do, and do them, because I do not know when I will be back, or for how long. For example, I have never been to an onsen (hot spring).

  • Pack up my stuff and be conscientious with the move—start much earlier than I did back when I moved from Taiwan to Japan, to avoid last minute "OH, SHIT!" feelings. Sell as much as possible.

  • Academics: if I play my cards right, I can get an IT/programming job in America immediately when I return! This would probably beat flipping burgers or stocking shelves! Therefore, I should aim to finish as many qualifications in IT/programming as possible before landing back in America. I have approximately one full semester before moving back (half the fall semester and half the spring semester), so I think that four or five courses is a realistic load. Here is my idea:
    • Course 1 (equivalent): Finish ITE 170 and the pre-calculus review, both of which I already started. With these finished, I will be only one course away from my AS in IT.
    • Course 2: MTH 271: Applied Calculus I—with that course finished, I can finish my AS in IT.
    • Course 3: CMIS 242: Intermediate Programming—with that course finished, I can get my Northern Virginia Community College Career Studies Certificate in Application Programming.
    • Course 4: CMIS 315: Programming in C++—it is required for my BS, and should be easy because I already took a more or less equivalent course in C++ back in 2008.
    • Course 5: CMIS 170: Introduction to XML—required for my degree, and should be easy, because it is only a 100-level course in a markup language. XML and HTML are both markup languages, and I already know HTML, so I think XML will be easy and maybe even fun.

  • Singapore: I have been to every country in Northeast Asia, and some countries in Southeast Asia. However, I have never been to Singapore, and I feel like I really need to go there and see it for a couple of weeks. The reasons are twofold. First of all, just for fun—warm, tropical Singapore will be nice during the cold Utsunomiya winter. Second of all, I want to assess its livability. I am interested in Singapore because it is a very diverse country, 40% of its residents are foreigners, and it has very strict anti-discrimination laws. Who knows? Maybe if I re-launch myself in Asia in the future, it will be in Singapore. However, I want to spend some time there, first, and test it out, before making that decision.

  • Then, when I arrive back in America, I will have:
    • An Associate of Science in Information Technology (AS in IT) from Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC)
    • A Career Studies Certificate in Business Information Technology (CSC in Business IT), which I already have, from NVCC.
    • A CSC in Application Programming, also from NVCC.
    With those three credentials, I ought to be able to at least land an internship, hopefully paid, which would be better than flipping burgers or stocking shelves. Then, in America, I can work on finishing off the last four courses of my BS in Computer & Information Science, probably during Spring Semester 2, or, if I want to take it slower, in the Summer Semester (which might be a better idea because I will be very busy with the international move).

  • Here is a tentative timeline:
    1. Now-December 23, 2014: Japan: ITE 170, pre-calc review, MTH 271, and CMIS 242
    2. December 24-January 5, 2015: A vacation to either America or Singapore, or maybe both
    3. January 6-March (Japan): CMIS 315, CMIS 170
    4. March-May 10 (America): Two more CMIS courses
    5. May 11-August: Last two CMIS courses, and maybe some other misc. things to enhance my programming resume
    6. Early October: I will probably have landed a programming job at this point. Work there for one year.
    7. Early October 2016 (age 29½): With probably between one and one and a half years of experience under my belt as a programmer or other IT job, go back abroad. The destination has not been decided, yet, but it has to be a place where I can almost definitely work with computers—either an English speaking country without a job already lined up, or a non-English-speaking country where I have a job lined up before arriving.

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