I stopped blogging for a week because I have been very stressed and I did not want my blogs to become a disorganized mess nor did I want it to look like I was complaining.
Last week I had a three-day weekend and it was great because I got to eat with people from work. It is funny because you only see them in their suits or in their uniforms, so they look completely different when they are wearing "regular" clothing. I am incredibly grateful to have friends that are patient with me and my Japanese ability; I think that a stumbling block to learning a language is finding true friends who will stick with you and talk to you even though they will not be able to have "normal" conversations with you like they can with a native speaker. If I ever become fluent in Japanese, I will seriously remember the people who were patient with me. I know it is really hard to always include the language learner in a group, and I think so often in the U.S. we overlook people who struggle with English, but because I can understand how hard it is to learn another language, I really try to engage with non-native English speakers at home.
I also got a haircut that weekend. I just went to an average salon, nothing fancy, and it was very cheap because I used an online coupon. None of the staff spoke English, but it was fine for me to communicate. I was actually shocked that no one knew English at all because most of the Japanese people I know are bilingual, so I am accustomed to people who have a lot of global experience. The hair stylist was shocked that I was from America because they really did not know that people other than white people lived there. It was interesting dispelling some of the Hollywood stereotypes that they viewed the U.S. through.
I think my biggest stress at work is constantly having to ask for help either because I do not understand what is being said to me or because I do not know how to do something. I often feel like a burden to the staff which is probably one of the worst feelings in the world. I also make a lot of common sense mistakes to a Japanese person that are not common sense to me. I feel that they are understanding of this for the most part, however it does not reflect well on the hotel brand for a staff to be making such mistakes in my opinion. I have probably annoyed not only the concierge team with all of my silly mistakes, but the other floor service staff, but I promptly make note of it and am careful to not make the same mistakes again.
Another struggle is that I am not a quick learner in my second language. Actually, I am not even sure I am a quick learner in English. I read online that a good intern is someone who only needs to be told something once, but for me I sometimes need to have instructions repeated to me slowly multiple times because I just cannot get it the first time. I am trying to get better at hearing things correctly the first time both from my superiors and clients, but it is extremely difficult. In addition, my hearing in my left ear truly is really bad and that contributes to the distortion of my listening.
I could list more negative things, but I think that is all for now. I have probably gone through many thoughts such as thinking about quitting Japanese because I sometimes feel like I am just not getting it, to questioning if I really am fit to meet the demands of a hotel, but I know it is not healthy to dwell on such thoughts. I think it is good to have an accurate depiction of one's own strengths and weaknesses though.
On the flip side, some good things about the week was that I have been able to improve my listening skills and somewhat my formal speaking skills for basic business situations. Lately they have been giving me assignments to talk on the phone (in English and Japanese) and it has been very helpful for my professional career. Phone correspondence is very important in Japanese business culture, and is often the first impression of a company. In contrast, Americans do not stress the importance of phone correspondence thus there are many people who lack those skills. I hope that in the future I can get better at speaking on the phone.
In addition, I have been able to bond with some clients. Today I even received a present of a peach from a client! I was so shocked and touched; the other day before I received the peach he came up to the concierge desk and complimented me in front of my supervisor. I honestly only directed him to a few places and tried to converse with him with my bad Japanese, but he said he was impressed that our hotel did small things like constantly say "thank you," so he was touched by my service. I am happy to finally be able to bond with a Japanese guest.
I will be coming home in two weeks, and a part of me will be relieved, and another part of me will be deeply sad; sad that it is over and that I will no longer be able to see my new friends and enjoy my Tokyo life, and sad that much of my time was spent being stressed and unable to interact with others as fully as I wanted to. I will try to finish without regrets though.