Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kevin's in Kobe

Here's the latest from the Land of the Rising Sun...

When Kevin and his coworkers go to Japan, they have always been treated to conference rooms for work and the executive dining room for lunch. For Kevin's second week, he is on his own. He now has a desk with all of the other employees in the cube farm, and he will have to buy lunch in the cafeteria. The employee caf at MHI is very different than American corporate cafeterias. When he walked in there was one long line that eventually split into two lines which corresponded to one of the two lunch dish choices. Somehow Kevin ended up in the chicken line. For about two dollars he got a big bowl of rice, cut up, cooked chicken stuff (that's really all he was able to say about it), miso and some type of salad. Not a bad deal, even for a penny pinching engineer. I think one of the most interesting things about this story is that there are only two meal choices. Can you imagine walking into a corporate cafeteria in America, or even a college cafeteria with only two meal choices for two dollars? I think people would be lessed than pleased.

After lunch, a voice comes over a PA in the cube farm announcing the daily exercises. Since the instructions for all of these exercises are in Japanese, Kevin has to be all shifty eyed and watch those around him for the cue to change from jumping jacks to toe touches to waste twists and so on. I can't imagine feeling anything but ridiculous doing jumping jacks in a shirt and tie in the middle of a cube farm, but he says that most people participate. When in Rome...or Kobe I guess.

Kevin went to Kyoto with some of his Japanese coworkers. He said the ancient temples and city were very cool and that it was interesting to see the juxtaposition with the modern part of Kyoto. For lunch, the whole group ordered Udon (a noodle soup.) Udon is made with one really long noodle, and by really long I mean about three feet. The noodle is not cut up so the usual way of eating it is to pick up the noodle with your chopsticks somewhere in the middle and start slurping (which is considered the proper etiquette). Between trying to manipulate chopticks, eat the noodle and slurp (which is totally counterintuitive for Americans since many of us were taught not to slurp) all at the same time, it was a tough meal. But hey, anything that is cooked and not part of an animal's gastrointestinal tract is a-ok!

Kevin also had the chance to go to mass on Sunday morning. There is a Catholic Church in Kobe that has an English mass. One major reason for the English mass is the large number of Filipinos working in Japanese factories. Apparently, most of these folks don't really assimilate into Japanese culture; they stick to their native language and customs. Kevin met an older American at mass who came to Japan in the 70s to teach English and has been there ever since. Kevin also went to a coworkers apartment and met his wife and sons. The boys are 8 and 4 and didn't speak English. However, they are totally fluent in the universal language of Wii. Kevin was schooled in tennis but redeemed himself with some baseball.

I really want to post some pictures (hint hint Kev!), but alas, there are none to be posted as of yet. Soon and very soon...

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