Make your own free website on Tripod.com
continuedpage
Jeana and Kevin's Miharu Diary
| Home | History | Miharu 2007 to NOW | Intl Exchange WHY | Interesting Stuff | Japan Links | Miharu - STILL Our Home | Visitor Info | Contact Us | Photo Gallery

Click here to go back to previous page

5.  The latest thing is that now they tell me that my last contract (the last one I signed after I knew it was going to be my last year, and without really understanding what I was signing because it was ALL in Japanese again) denies me the right to my return airfare to the US at the completion of my contract.*3   Now, why would I knowingly sign away my right to return ticket home?  That had to be a mistake, right?   It never occured to me that they wouldn't pay the return fare,  because when they sponsored me to come to Japan in the first place they signed a letter of guarantee as my sponsor in which they submitted to the Immigration Department promising to pay such return fare.  So, I am pretty sure that when I go to the Immigration Department or Foreign Labor Relations department, they will have to honor their sponsorship responsibilities, but in the meantime, it is SOOOOO frustrating to deal with their INCOMPETENCE and SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED SHENNANIGANS!  Anyway, they did finally come around on the annual leave thing, after I screamed long enough.   The squeaky wheel gets the oil, even in Japan.  Wait til they hear me scream about return airfare.  I am TRYING really hard to be nice and patient, but they make it DAMNED difficult. 

 

(*3  This section was added in January 2007 when I posted the article.  In a new development, as of Feb 2007, the BOE has authorized return fare home.  It came with the usual crazy nonsense but, nevertheless, it came.)

 

6.  They never tell the truth *4 - they just tell you something at the moment, then totally deny that they ever said it later.    And don't even think of trying to CYA with a memo or mail.  They refuse to put anything in writing, even an email, so even when you THINK you have agreement on something, if they won't write it down, you have NO proof later.  That way they can deny anything and everything.  

 

(*4 In the Japanese translation, it was translated as “They lie”, which (as Bill Clinton will attest to) is NOT the same thing as “not telling the truth”.  In Japan, it is impolite to tell the truth if the truth is unpleasant or might cause bad feelings, so usually people just say whatever they think will please the listener.  In Japan, this is called TATEMAE.  The truth is called HONNE.  In the 20 years I have worked for Miharu, I never got as much TATEMAE has I have seen in the past 3 years. I know, I know – how DO they get anything done when no one says what they are actually thinking….  So, you can see why I became increasingly frustrated.  I can’t tell the difference between TATEMAE and HONNE!)

 

7. Absolutely NO ONE has*5 any responsibility or authority. (*5  should read, no one “takes responsibility” or “has authority”)   The BOE says that it isn't their decision, it is the decision of MIFA.  MIFA says that it is the BOE's decision.  The BOE says that it is the Town Council.  The Town Council says that it is the BOE's decision.  The BOE says that it is the Mayor.  They Mayor says that it is NOT his decision - vague on who's decision it is.  The only thing that everybody agrees on is that it is NOT their decision.  It is somebody else's decision, but no one knows for certain whose decision.  But of course this could all be a big lie (see item 6).  

 

8.  After they do something really terrible to you, like pull the rug right out from under your feet, they INSIST that you say "thank you" and SMILE and act like nothing is happening.  Even while the Titanic is sinking, they want you to smile as you are drowning.   Don't even THINK of asking for a life jacket..... they didn't see any iceberg....... They will drive you CRAZY with their unrelenting resolve to act as if EVERYTHING IS FINE AND DANDY.  *6  And they will be so nice to you while they are stabbing you in the BACK - it makes you think you are crazy.....   (*6 The whole Titanic analogy did NOT translate into Japanese very well.  For clarity, it is an analogy!  Because 20 years of my life’s work is going down the drain, so it FEELS LIKE I am on the Titanic.  Get it? =Do you understand? )

 

9.  The Administration is absolutely incapable of telling you what taxes you might possibly owe in the coming months - until about 6 months AFTER the taxes are DUE, and sometimes YEARS later, at which time you STILL OWE the taxes....(*7)  I am not kidding.  They don't know what you owe for income tax until AFTER the tax year is over.  And they won't even give you an estimate so you know how much to hold back in savings for possible future payments.  Is that crazy or what?  And they don't know what you will owe for Health Insurance until 6 months into the year.  Same goes for Local income taxes, etc..  It is no wonder this country is millions in DEBT.  They don't even understand the concept of tax withholding!  (*7  This is a procedural issue that really had nothing to do with the current administration.  I apologize for including it here!  But it has been a major seed of discontent in our relationship (between myself and Miharu government) so I think it requires some consideration. )

 

10.  I worked nearly 60 hours a week, without overtime pay and MOSTLY without compensatory time off for 6 years.  For 20 years I used almost every vacation I had, as well as my annual leave to go home, to lead a group from Miharu to the States or take a group from the States to Miharu.  Basically gave up my personal leave for 20 years to WORK for Miharu exchange, and then they LET ME GO, without ANY DISCUSSION WHATSOEVER.   Without so much as a thank you! (*8) 

 

(*8  Seriously, when they told me that they were not renewing my contract, it didn’t even come with the standard “Osewa ni narimashita!” which is a shocker because Japanese use this phrase for anyone that does them the slightest favor.  I didn’t even get an “Otsukaresama” which is given to anyone who is working.  I mean, it really HURT my feelings that I didn’t even rate either of these polite phrases.  It was just  “Sit down.  We are not renewing your contract next year.  Please be out of the RLH by end of March.”  Hey, it was COOOOOLD!  How would you feel after 20 years?)  

 

11.  I took a negative balance business and turned it around to the BLACK in only six months, ran it in the black for 3 years, and then GOT CANNED for it.  They told me that there is NO money to pay me in the budget, BUT I offered to work for NO BASE SALARY.   And then they turned around and got 30,000 USD in a grant (*9) from the Miharu Government (more than my annual salary, which I have always said was TOO HIGH).   No money = another BIG LIE!  

 

(*9 For the record, at the MIFA meeting last week (Feb 2007), the BOE representative made a BIG POINT out of telling everyone that the 4,500,000 yen in the municipal budget is NOT a “GRANT” to MIFA, but that Miharu is paying MIFA to do a job.  So, I guess that makes it more of a salary?  Or a payment for services rendered.  Whatever you call it, a rose is still a rose, and horse manure still STINKS!  Oops!  Hyperbole Attack!   But if calling it something else makes it easier for the taxpayers to buy it, then “more power to them”!)

 

12.  Last spring (2005), at the HEIGHT of the ludicrousness, they decided that I should ONLY work exactly my required work hours, which happen to be from 8 am to 12 pm and again from 5 pm to 9 pm.   Well, what happens, do you think, when there is a major event like the Haunted House that starts at 3 pm and needs to be set up and costumed and volunteers need to be coordinated as they report in at 1 pm or 2 pm?   What am I supposed to say?  "Sorry, I am not on duty til 5 pm.  You are on your own til 5 pm?"   Technically I am NOT on duty in the afternoons, so in the past I have adjusted my schedule accordingly so that I could attend and assist at the appropriate times.  But last spring (Feb/March 2006), I was forbidden to do so (by my supervisor, Matsuzaki).(*11)  So, after they figured out that International Exchange does NOT take place only between those hours, they did what any reasonable adult would do – They apologized for their mistake, and agreed to allow me to schedule my hours around actual WORK to be done.   WAIT>>>>> that never happened.(*10  Note for my Japanese readers – this is SARCASM.)    They just decided to CANCEL all the events and classes that might require me to work in the afternoon, without any regard whatsoever that they were cancelling the only source of income for the House.  And then, when there was no income and no funds to pay the bills, they YELLED AT ME  "Why is there no money?"   Hello,  because you cancelled all the classes.......  Someone, I am still the one that they blame.   The Secrectary actually told other members that I (ME) cancelled the events because I didn't want to do them.   ME?  Not want to have a party?  Not likely!  Well, if it was a MIFA party, that might be true!    

 

(*11:  It was so ridiculous that Matsuzaki and the Kaicho (Ishikawa) refused to authorize me to even wax the floors on Mondays because it would require me to work on my off day, and then I would want compensatory time.   So, we didn’t wax the floors!  Then, when my old professor from UW-EC help a cooking class at the RLH in March of 2006, I didn’t participate because it would have required me to work a 14 hour day, and since I was not eligible for overtime or compensatory time according to Matsuzaki at that time, I refused to work more than my required 8 hours.  It is true that since May of 2006, the BOE has reversed their decision and reinstated my annual leave and to a limited extent my “flex time” (but I am not allowed to call it that) and allows me to adjust my hours to suit the actual work/duties of the RLH.  However, since the BOE rarely believes anything I say, when I have asked MIFA to contact the BOE and formally request my “attendance on the job” for events that require me to work outside of my required hours (for things like prepping for parties or public festivals), MIFA has declined to contact the BOE on my behalf, so I have declined to work in the afternoons.  Hence, no Thanksgiving, no Valentine’s Dinner, etc.)   

 

I could go on and on and on and on.........

 

DON'T TRUST MIHARU!  IF YOU DO DECIDE TO WORK HERE, DON'T STAY MORE THAN ONE YEAR because they will find a way to make your life miserable! 

 

Yours truly,  Jeana Schieffer

 

 

Dateline:  Jan. 23, 2007   Miharu, Fukushima, Japan

 

So, a reporter (Mr. Shiga) from the SeikeiTohoku just left.  It appears that someone let the cat out of the bag and turned me in to the press for posting this article above.  I wonder who?  (Could it be the same little bird that gave the wrong scoop to this magazine last year?  Initials are K.K. I think.)   Gosh, I didn't think anyone but my friends and family ever read this home page.   Now, I find out that my enemies are watching me closer than I thought.  So, am I paranoid or are they really out to get me?  (Now I will be in even bigger trouble because the Japanese readers of this page will NOT get the joke!!!!!   Come to think of it, the reporter had a Japanese translation of the article that he didn't show me. *1  (*1 At first I feared the translation would be less than professional, but it was actually not too bad.   A few errors and misunderstandings, but generally OK.  Better than expected.)

 

The reporter wanted to know if I had anything to say (in defense? Or in support of?), but what is there to say?  I wrote it last year when things were really, really bad and it exists as a testament to "my original state of mind" for the sake of history.  I didn't want to forget the original feeling of helplessness and frustration I experienced.  Think of it as a kind of online mental journal.  It is a brief and irreverrant synopsis of 3 years of communication breakdown.  

 

Hey, I stand by all the facts - and the sentiment is totally consistent with my state of mind AT THAT TIME.  (Anyone that has ever met me, knows that I tend to be very emotional.  Not my best trait, but then who is perfect!)  But when you are reading the article, please remember that I was frustrated and angry about the turn of events/state of affairs at that time, and that it came after THREE YEARS of trying to work with my hands tied behind my back (let them try to translate THAT one!) and almost 7 years of begging for direction and clarification on a thousand different issues.  

 

Furthermore, while it is true that we have resolves most of our differences on specific issues, I fear that the fundamental problems remain,  so that whoever replaces me will unfortunately be facing the same problems all over again.    LACK OF MEANINGFUL COMMUNICATION AND LACK OF PERSONAL  RESPONSIBILITY and LACK OF REAL SUPERVISION are a recipe for disaster!

 

Anyway, over winter vacation, I finally got some restful sleep, so I found some perspective.   I realize even more than before that what we have is a fundamental difference in values.  With a little more time than it takes to grow a sequoia (again, a joke that my japanese readers won't get), the Japanese really do come to see reason and "do the right thing".   Hitting them over the head to get their attention was not a good strategy.  But it is sooooo hard to resist the urge when you feel like no one is listening......and patience was never one of my strongest virtues!   (LOL!)

 

In conclusion, it would be foolish to remove the article at this time.   Hey the cat is already out of the bag.   But I wanted the reader to know that it was written last spring or early summer, and that as of this month (January 2007) I am in a better state of mind.   I understand that our disagreements are based on a fundamental lack of communication, and not because anyone is deliberately "out to get me" or "being mean" or "dishonest".  The name calling was totally inappropriate and I apologize.   My family and friends will recognize my "style" of hyperbole in this.   (I did some name calling in the original article, for which I apologize.  I have removed the names to prevent hurting any more feelings.)

 

Dateline:  Jan. 29, 2007  Miharu

 

No one from the Yakuba has said anything yet about the reporter.  But my supervisor at the Yakuba did offer to translate the notes from our last encounter into English...Hmmmm.  And Miharu has decided to pay for our return to the US after all.  So, why is it, that when I ask about these things I am treated like I am a money-grabbing sneak.  The initial answer is always NO, before they even know the facts.   If they would just say - "let me look into that" and then do the research and come back with a reasonable answer.   Oh. well...   Some progress is made.   Real communication is occurring with more frequency.   Too bad that it is so little so late.....

 

The reporter the other day expressed his concern that my relationship with Miharu was ending so acrimoniously.   How dumb do I look?  This is the same magazine that wrote a scathingly critical article last year  lamenting that Miharu hadn't  kicked me out of the RLH already. )  His response was "he cares about how the tax dollars are spent."   Wow, I won't even TOUCH that can of worms....   

 

We agreed on one thing - it is unfortunate that I have been left with bad feelings about this administration.   But it is unavoidable, as it takes two to actually communicate, and no one in this administration is interested in REAL communication with me.   So, we will go our separate ways and agree to disagree.  Americans are OK with agreeing to disagree.

 

Feb. 10, 2007


An ad in today's Fukushima Minpou and Fukushima Miyuu today for the upcoming edition of the SeikeiTohoku announces that the RLH Manager home page contains "criticism".  Doesn't say what I am criticizing, but in the next line, announces an article that is very critical of Mayor Itoh.  Hope that the readers don't get the idea that I am the one who is critical of HI.  My article is about the CURRENT ADMINISTRATION after all.   Mr. HI is a one in a million guy – with a vision and a sincere love of his community that is an inspiration to me daily.  My only regret in all this, is that my writing has brought him under the microscope again.  I am sooo sorry for causing him any kind of grief.    

 

The article concludes that none of these problems would occur if they changed the RLH manager every year.  Well, yes!  If you objective is to give the American person a nice paid vacation in Japan, and the Miharu people a new “Monkey in the zoo” to observe each year, that would be a good way to do it!   On the other hand, if you want real quality educational programs and a good return on your investment, that would no be such a good idea.   I guess it depends on your objectives, but since NO ONE in the local government will sit down and expressly define the objectives of the position, it’s hard to say. 

 

Frankly, people this is a perfect example of the type of  OSTRICH style management (stick your head in the sand and hope the problem goes away), that I am complaining about.   Hey, I live here and pay taxes, too!   And, as a taxpayer, I am also concerned about how our taxes are spent.  I don’t think that MY working 60 hours a week for 40 hours of pay (and I am not talking about just making coffee) for over 7 years should really be a problem.  The real problem is that we are not allowed to have a frank and open discussion about the issues  - Instead we just ignore our problems.  Many people have tried to start a dialogue with MIFA and the city about the issues.  But all their letters and questions have gone unanswered.  Attempts by MIFA members to get information about MIFA and the BOE's long term plans for the RLH at the Annual Meeting last year were abruptly cut off in an unfriendly manner.   

 

And I realize that writing my opinions down makes it seem more serious.  Being picked up and run in a local tabloid does NOT help.  But frankly, it already IS serious to me.  This is 20 years of my life going down the drain..... how much more serious could it get?  

 

Anyway, I never meant to hurt anyone. (Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I am all bluster, but really a softie at heart.) I just wanted to work as hard as I can so I can repay the taxpayers of Miharu for the chance to work and live in Miharu.   I didn't care if I worked 24 hours a day until it killed me,  (Yeah, I am that stupid.) because I loved my job.   I just needed a little COMMUNICATION and feedback, and it would have been nice if it came from official channels, but official channels were (are) down.   And since official channels are down, I choose to blow a little steam on this blogpage.   If my Japanese was good enough to really say what I meant, I would probably blog in Japanese, but at least I realize that I cannot express myself well enough in Japanese to even try. 

 

Anyway, for the record, I still love Miharu.  I will always love Miharu.  It's just that I think I deserve a little consideration for all the work I have done for 20 years, and all the stress and frustration I have been subjected to for the past 4 years.  They could have at least included me in a discussion about where our Sister City program is going in the next few years, right?  Am I wrong?