Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Plan B

Two months from today, I'll be leaving the country. The fear is starting to set in. I still have no work lined up. I have no idea if I'll make any friends in the isolated town that I'll be living in. It scares me.

At the same time, I wonder - what am I losing by opting for this "Plan B" in my life.

I used to be super-keen about my career. I was so passionate about libraries, about the human capacity for learning and organising information, and about innovative ways by which we can use technology to share and enjoy our experiences, stories, and life lessons. When I became an information professional, I was determined to go out there and change the world.

But that's all changed. I know it's partially me - I don't have the age and wisdom to embody the kind of grace that I imagine is necessary to successfully manage change in a fraught industry. I used to think that all I needed was the willingness, enthusiasm, and knowhow to make things better, and the world would be right behind me. I was naive, and know now that it's a little more complicated than that.

However, I spent the evening with a group of young librarians, and whilst everybody is generally positive in their attitudes to their careers, I do keep hearing the same kinds of stories, the same experiences that I've been through in the past. And I don't envy any of them their jobs.

So, in lieu of attaining anything vaguely resembling a "dream job", it's time for Plan B. Life's too short to be frustrated at the same thing - I may as well risk a different variety of frustration. Hopefully, it'll at least vary the nature of my disillusionment with life, and who knows - perhaps I'll discover some new alternative career path that I never considered before.

One thing is for sure. When I step on that plane, it'll be goodbye to Plan A.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Similar but different.

It's interesting how much has changed, and how much is still the same, when I compare my life now to how it was six months ago.

In December 2011, I:

1. Submitted my application to the JET programme. I'd known people who'd done it, secured excellent references, and highlighted my experience working in multicultural partnerships, literacy programmes in schools and libraries, and a far-above-average outgoing personality and ability in public presentation to diverse audiences. I was pretty confident.

2. Put in my notice at my high school, where I worked as the head of library services, that I would not be renewing my 1-year contract. I felt that it would be unprofessional to take up a new contract, only to leave six months in. Plus, the school principal was the provider of one of my references.

3. Agreed with my partner S that this was something that we'd do together, keeping our fingers crossed that the JET programme does all it can to send couples together in their placements.

4. Panicked a little about my impending unemployment for the following six months, but trusted that I'd be able to pick up work easily, as I have done in similar situations in the past.

5. Dreaded the Melbourne Summer.

Now, six months later, I:

1. Am going to Japan in August. My application was rejected without so much as an explanation or even an interview. I reserve the right to toe the line between arrogant indignation and graceful tenseness when it comes to this issue. However, I am going anyway. The plane tickets have been bought, now that we know our destination, and the die is cast.

2. I have just given my housemates six weeks notice that I'll be moving out. I've already done some preliminary packing, and slowing weeding out my books and clothes that I can pass on to the salvos. It's suddenly starting to feel very real.

3. S has been officially given her destination (which we had already known for weeks) and we'll be living together in the inaka. This is a serious adventure together, and it's awesome to have such a wonderful person to make this trip with.

4. I've managed to work steadily for the past six months, juggling casual work back at my school, and at a public library service. All the perks of permanent work, but without the mandatory 8am starts every day, or paid leave. However, I am somewhat apprehensive about my employment once we get to Japan. I've already contacted numerous agencies, but I suspect the fact that I already have a designated place that I'll be residing at is working against me. I'm also concerned about the lack of Japanese language. Although no Japanese language is required to be a JET ALT, most other work seems to require basic Japanese. Of which I do not possess.

5. It's bitterly cold in Melbourne. Which I don't mind. I am more apprehensive about Japanese humidity. Humidity is one of the things I hate most in the world, along with spiders and social injustice (not in that order).

I wonder how different my life will be another six months from now.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Because I am unoriginal, I am copying Susanne's blog for today's post.

1. The book I am currently reading.

There is no dog by Meg Rosoff. I was fortunate enough to see Meg recently talk about her new book at <href="">The Wheeler Centre</a>, and even more fortunate to work with somebody who had an ARC. So far, I'm loving it - well written and darkly humourous - just how I like it.

2. The last book I finished.

Thyla by Kate Gordon

A fairly common paranormal plot, but with an inventive Tasmanian twist that makes it an entertaining read.

3. The next book I want to read.

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood.

I've been meaning to read this book for ages, and it's on the top of my bedside pile.

4. The last book I bought.

Daywards by Anthony Eaton.

I just realise that my entire list thus far has been YA. Am I being too predictable? :-/

5. The last book I was given.

The Shattering by Karen Healey.

This was a freebie at the Reading Matters conference, and I'm thrilled to have an advance copy. I think I'll read it very soon.

What are you guys reading at the moment?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Picture perfect...

One thing I want to get better at is photography, and I figure that Japan is certainly going to create opportunities for this. I found myself out in Studley Park yesterday, with a camera, so I thought I'd get back into practice.

Kew Asylum

Grimes Cairn

Yarra Falls Chimney

This is one of my favourite areas in Melbourne - natural beauty meets historic Melbourne.

More photos here

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On sluts, shame, and cultural sensitivity...

Okay, three big concepts - probably way too much to tackle in one blog post. Let's divide it up.

Part one: The Melbourne Slutwalk.
So, back in January, a Toronto policeman was giving a talk to young women about sexual assault, advising them that women can avoid being victimised by not dressing like sluts. Word spread, and just over two months later, people took to the streets of Toronto with the first SlutWalk. Their message was simple - the woman should not be blamed for sexual assault. The implication that a victim would do something to provoke such an attack is grossly offensive.

This spurred on numerous other SlutWalks around the world, and one of the first in the Southern Hemisphere occurred here in Melbourne a little over a week ago, where over two thousand women - and men - marched in protest of slut-shaming and victim-blaming in society.

This evening felt like something of a SlutWalk debrief, as I attended this month's Cherchez la Femme for a packed-out session that explored the issue further through a panel discussion. I could blog on that alone, but I want to get to my main point.

Part Two: Sexual Harassment in Japan
Okay, read this article. I'm sure I don't need to comment on it - you get the idea. I also had a look at the 2010 JET Programme Manual, and it reads (amongst other things): "Be aware that inviting someone to your home, flirting, and the way you dress, move or sit can be misunderstood and seen as an invitation to take liberties."

An invitation to take liberties - sound familiar?

Part Three: You can see where I'm heading with this.
Yes, I understand that we're going to another country.
Yes, I understand that we need to be culturally sensitive.

I'm not going to go over there and wear shoes indoors, or boycott places that serve whale-meat, or loudly proclaim "ching-chong ling-long ting-tong" in the library.

However, there's a difference between being culturally insensitive, and fighting social injustices. And it's campaigns like the SlutWalk which make me realise that there are some issues that transcend what it means to be culturally sensitive.

Because we live in a world when men have privilege over women. It's not a matter of cultural sensitivity - it's a matter of respect, understanding, and empathy.

No woman should be labelled a "slut" and judged accordingly - regardless of what she wears, or if she is a blonde independent woman a Japanese society - and, certainly, no woman should be fearful of their life, or feel that their behaviour or appearance might invite sexual attacks.

With a SlutWalk scheduled for New Delhi in a few weeks, it seems that this message is starting to permeate more conservative Asian cultures. Hopefully, it won't be long before we see a SlutWalk in Osaka or Tokyo - in which case, I'll be there.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Talking the talk...

I've been feeling a little anxious of late. I've been spending much of the last week at literary events - really awesome literary events - and the realisation is hitting me that I won't be able to enjoy these kinds of events for a year.

In fact, I won't be able to enjoy simple communication.

That's right - I'll be moving from a place where I work amongst shelves full of knowledge and literature, bringing information to people, and having a background in information management and English literature, and spend far too much (yet not enough) of my spare time engaged in literary activity... becoming functionally illiterate.

When S and I first applied for the JET Programme, we read that no knowledge of the Japanese language was necessary. Which was fortunate, because neither of us spoke Japanese, and my Japanese vocabulary consists of about five words - most of which amount to "hello", depending on the time of day.

And now, we're going to be living in the "inaka", where pretty much nobody speaks English.

Worse still, I've been told that, since I have a non-specific variant of Asian in my appearance, people will assume that I can speak Japanese, and will treat me like I have some kind of mental illness if I have no language comprehension skills. (Whereas, S - who is white and blonde - will undoubtedly have endless praise heaped upon her for the results of two month's Japanese language tuition from the CAE)

Kinda serves me right, coming from a Western country that has a long-standing tradition of treating its non-English-speaking residents as second-class citizens.

(Of course, I'm being somewhat facetious, and assuming the worst - it helps lower expectations, and hopefully everything will be pleasantly accommodating and wonderful when I get there.)