Monday, September 3, 2007


Today was brutal. It was already hot when I met Ken at the nearest subway station at 8:30 and the heat and humidity seemed to get continuously worse as we ran errands all day. We dealt with the bank and the cell phone company in cool, air-conditioned offices, but most of the day was spent crisscrossing the campus of the University, filling out detailed forms and talking endlessly with scrupulous bureaucrats to find out what forms we had to use, how many copies they wanted and if they had English copies of the forms I actually had to sign. At the university, only individual work spaces were air-conditioned and the heat was oppressive as we went from office to office.

As an example of the elevated state of the bureaucracy, in order to get a library card I have to be accepted by the University as a "Visiting Research Scholar." As I understand it this is a mere formality, nevertheless, a recommendation must be must be made by the Dean to a full meeting of the faculty which will next convene in half a month's time. In order to receive the Dean's recommendation, we submitted a 10 page application, including a pledge by myself to uphold the confidentiality of certain unspecified materials that was written in a peculiar Legalese and must have been translated from Japanese Legalese. (Although, in due respect to good English prose, I will mention that it made better sense than some English Legalese I have read that was written by English speaking lawyers trained in English speaking schools of law.)

There were only two moments of excitement throughout the day. One was when I was choosing a new cell phone. All of the top-of-the-line models had features that I either didn't want or couldn't use, such as an over-sized screen for watching TV, a 5.5 megapixel camera, or a 10 gig hard drive for music that, unfortunately, only syncs with PCs. I picked out a terminal that - although modest by local standards - is pretty fly with a charcoal gray exterior and bright, metallic salmon inside the clamshell.

The other great thing was picking out the color of my bank card. They seemed to have anticipated how enjoyable this would be, because they had a large binder with 32 brightly colored cards all with amusing names - just in case you couldn't get a proper appreciation of the hue and saturation from the pictures in the brochure. Even the computer screen where you filled in the details of your account had a special drop-down menu specifically for choosing the color of the card. The choice was not easy as there were 4 or 5 colors that were really outrageous. Nevertheless, I settled on one called "Dreamy Purple." I'll admit the name also played a role in my deliberations.

Apparently, all banking is done by way of the card so that I can't even make an initial deposit before my card arrives in a week's time. So for now, I will have to keep my "settling-in" allowance - less my first month's rent, and other start-up costs - in cash in my apartment.

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