sojourns in careerland

I think I'm finally going to do it - I think I'm going to change my major.

It's not that I don't want to be the globetrotting National Geographic reporter anymore. It's just that as I'm going through classes, I'm realising that my skills don't always necessarily match my aspirations. Which is part of the reason I've thrown around so many career ideas. There are a million possibilities I'm interested in, some that I'd be proficient at, but few I'd really be good at.

When I took my aptitude test my sophomore year of high school, two of the top ten careers that matched my aptitudes were pastry chef and mortician. Maybe I should have paid attention to those sooner - if one thing's for sure, people are never going to stop eating or dying. The job outlook for what I'm interested in now - social scientist - is a little less in demand, but I think it's something I could get excited about working on every day.

Anthropology is the area of social science I'd like to concentrate on, although I don't have a specific career in mind yet. I've already taken linguistic anthropology, and am starting my Japanese minor this semester, so the linguistic aspect is looking interesting right now. There are a few jobs outside the fieldwork/academic setting that I could go into, as well.

First there is Interpretor. Although I haven't started Japanese classes yet, I am very interested in mastering the language, and if I'm going to be taking it anyway, I might as well put it to use careerwise. Interpretors translate spoken words at conferences or interviews. You have to have a complete knowledge of the language and be able to translate it quickly. I'm not sure if this is the branch for me, but there are others. Especially not my area if the movie The Interpretor was any accurate depiction of the job. Apparently if you are able to translate an obscure language for the U.N., scary masked men will show up at your apartment, and then Sean Penn will have to stare into your window from across the street in order to "protect" you. Not sure which of those alternatives is creepier.

Then there is Translator. This is more my style - translators are often able to work from home, and there is less immediate pressure because you can take time to translate written words. In the case of Japanese, though, I would have to have a more thorough knowledge of the alphabet, and with 1945 kanji characters mandatory for proficiency in everyday reading, that is no small task.

There is also Linguistic Anthropologist. This could be closer to my original idea of traveling around, doing fieldwork, and writing reports. I'm interested in helping unravel the mysteries of the indiginous Ainu language in Japan.

Whatever option I choose could be an interesting career, I suppose. And there is some comfort in the following saying by Mother Gavrilia, an Orthodox nun: "What does God want me to do? Be here or go there? The answer was: God is not interested in where you are or what you do...He is interested only in the quality and quantity of the love you give. Nothing else. Nothing else." This, however, is a lifelong vocation. Anything else I do is just a job.

Right now I'm still in the mindset of "what I want to be when I grow up." But then again, I'll probably be in that mindset until one day I suddenly realise I'm old, and that last thing I was doing was the closest I came to an actual 'career.' "Ha," I'll say. "I used to want to teach English in Japan!" Maybe I'll laugh about it over a plate of pastries with my coworkers at the morgue.


on life in the library

My summer job, as it has been for the last three years, is to work in a small college library near my house. For me, it's the perfect part-time job, since I'm fairly organized, like to work by myself, and am interested in books of all kinds. But those aren't the only reasons working at the library is a pretty good job. I've decided that there are more perks to this job than you might first imagine, such as:

- First dibs on interesting books. If you see something you like that hasn't been put out on the shelf yet, it's yours for the taking (after it's been catalogued, labeled, proofed, and tattletaped so it beeps if someone tries to steal it, that is.) This is especially handy with books that look like fun, or even, in my case, the new Harry Potter book. While I have not read the first six volumes (these people do exist!), I'm tempted to read the last few pages just to see what happens. I figure that if I ever do decide to sit down and read the entire series, I'm going to know the ending long before I get there.

- You find humour in unexpected places. For example, the way Thomas Jefferson looks on the cover of a children's book with a barcode placed directly over his face. Or the barcode placed over a promoting comment on the cover of another book so that the previously praising statement now reads 'forgettable story! Brilliant!' Even the titles of some books are enough to crack me up. My latest favourite is At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig.

- There is time to daydream. It's amazing what kinds of story ideas, job opportunities and memories drift through your head when you stand there for three hours wrapping books in contact paper.

- Free muscle toning. You thought the extent of librarians' exercise was lifting date due stamps and flipping pages? Hah! With all the lugging stacks of reference books, pushing persnickity shelving carts and rearranging furniture, it's practically the next best thing to a membership at the Y.

So the next time you're attempting a comedian position, coming up with a short story idea, or heading off to boot camp, maybe you should consider a stint at your local library as preparation. And then again there are the books...



So...I've been scrambling a bit to come up with blogging topics lately, and I decided to let Enemy of the Republic interview me when she volunteered on her blog. The questions were more thought-provoking than your typical 'what would you do with a million dollars' type, so I've spent a little longer answering them -here's my best attempt.

1. You are a follower of the Orthodox religion. How does it meet your spiritual needs?

Although I would say that I should try to conform to the principles of my religion more than it should meet my needs, the rich history and theology of the Orthodox church is a very meaningful in my life. I believe it is the True faith, the original Christian church from the time of the apostles until the present. There are aspects of the church that are integrated into every part of my life - church services and daily prayers at home, ancient melodies sung in the services, and a history full of apostles, saints, angels and monastics that give modern Orthodox Christians an example of how to live everyday life. The idea of theosis - God becoming man (as Jesus) so that man can become God - is something to strive for in my spiritual life. No human can ever become truly God, but the pursuit of this, with the right intentions, can lead to a fulfilling spiritual life.

2. Is there a particular saint or icon that is especially meaningful for you? If so, why?

The icons in the Orthodox church are all beautiful and awe-inspiring, but for me especially the icon of Christ the Pantocrator. It is simultaneously comforting and intimidating. On the left, Christ raises his hand in blessing to show that he loves and cares for his creation. On the right, he holds the book of life to remind us that when our lives are over, we will also have to answer to him for the choices we have made. I also have a special place for St. Christopher, as a protector and the patron saint of travelers.

3. How does God and mysticism fit into today's culture?

Unfortunately, today's culture has strayed far from the ideal that God set up at creation - that we would be in dialogue with him, worship him, and care for His creation. Instead, today most organized religions tend to "box" God - to create their own personalized Saviour, and to pick and choose a religion that suits their ideals instead of the other way around. I believe that God has a rightful place in any society, past or present. It is my job to sanctify the activities that I participate in by giving God the honor and obedience that are already his. (Not that I have achieved this... it's much easier said than done.)

4. If you were to name two things about American society (not government), what would they be and why?

Hmmm...any two aspects of our culture? For one, I would say consumerism. Americans often take for granted all the amenities that are available to us. We're used to scouting out the latest electronic gadgets, buying the coolest brands of clothes, and sampling new restaurants. We're programmed to buy, and society tells us that more is better. I think that often we are so caught up in what we "need" or want that we forget that others are less fortunate, and also forget to be grateful for what we do have.

Another aspect that we offer, on the upside, is diversity. Although sometimes groups may clash in the U.S., it's interesting to see a country being built by people from so many different countries, cultures, and social backgrounds. The potential for language exchange, cultural awareness, and dialogue about world issues is exciting. The plethora of ethnic recipes, different styles of architecture and art are an added plus.

5. Is there an historical figure you admire? Why? Do you think our present society still can boast of some individual greatness? Who would some of them be?

I don't have any particular historical figure that sticks out as a hero in my mind. There are several I admire, mostly for bringing people together and fighting for justice. Marting Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, Mother Gavrilia (an Orthodox nun), Ghandi and Joan of Arc are all people I look up to for their willingness to fight for an ideal, to give themselves wholly to working for the greater good, and simply loving their people.

I think that there is always potential for "greatness" in today's society, if you define greatness as some or all of the above qualities. There are a few people alive now that I admire, but their names don't often show up in the mass media. I think that Wendell Berry has a lot of good things to say in his essays and poems about reverence for the created world, and love for family. I admire Zana Briski for her passion for children in poverty, and her work in exposing their conditions to the public through things like documentaries and her Kids With Cameras program. But mostly I think that the potential is there in everyone. It's our choice to change the world or just watch it spin by.


what's your global iq?

I tried this quiz from Newsweek magazine that featured 130 questions about current politics, sports, entertainment, environmental and economic issues. I scored a 43% - pretty average. If you've been keeping up with the news over the past few months (and know a little bit of historical trivia), it's an interesting evaluation. Give it a try!


the times they are a-changin'

Sometimes it's weird to think about all the things that have happened since I was born. In the past two decades kids have gone from playing with Razr scooters and Pogs to iPods and DS gaming systems. You even see 12-year-olds running around with cell phones. Google and Facebook have become verbs. Smashing Pumpkins and N'Sync are no longer new music.

It is strange to think that someday I'll look back and say, "Harry Potter - yeah, that was popular when I was in college," or "My brother was obsessesed with playing Halo." But then again, it's fun to see how things change. Like a quote I found by Colette that I really liked:

"I love my past. I love my present. I'm not ashamed of what I have had, and I am not sad because I have it no longer."

Maybe that's why I'm not too disturbed that my interests are constantly changing. Sometimes I think I'm a different person every day. Even the 'Visual DNA' widget in my sidebar is different from the one I posted a few months ago. When I clean out my desk drawers or look back in my old journals, I sometimes wish I could be as interested in a particular subject as I was then. And sometimes I look at what I was interested in, and I just have to laugh.

(Know what else makes me laugh? The word widget.)


taiko at its best

One of the many Japanese traditional arts I've become intrested in over the last few months is Taiko. A friend who was fortunate enough to be part of a taiko group in high school said I should check out this group. Even if you've never been into drumming before, their level of energy and artistry is almost incredible. Enjoy!


banana pancakes and the travel bug

The travel bug has bitten me - bad. I already want to go back to Japan, and it's the one country besides the US I've been to...there are so many more to see! And who knows when I'll even be able to travel again.
My latest interest, however, is Thailand. On the plane from Chicago to Tokyo, I sat by two very nice and interesting students about my age; one was a girl from Seoul, returning home from studying in the US. The other was a premed student going to teach English in Thailand for a few weeks, after hiking the base of Mt. Everest. It turned out the girl from Korea knew a bit about Bangkok, the Thai capital where the other student was going. We all talked about Thailand for awhile, and she said that if we ever visited Bangkok, to find Khao San Road, a mecca for backpackers from all over the world.
I looked it up the other day, and the street looks fascinating - kind of a hippie beach town meets a crowded strip mall. This site had some really cool pictures of the road. It's also fascinating to trace the road itself on Google Earth.
In my reading about the road, I discovered that street vendors often cook up a treat called banana pancakes, made right in front of hungry tourists and drizzled with chocolate sauce or sweetened condensed milk. I tried it for myself last night using this recipe, but substituting sour cream with a little sugar since we didn't have any yoghurt. The result was delicious!


sapporo, day 9

The last full day we spent in Sapporo, I spent the morning walking around the streets near our hotel and taking pictures. This door was just a few blocks down the street; I had never noticed it before. Susukino in the morning is a completely different place at night; there are just a few taxis on the street, and most people are going to work and school via bike and foot.
This is a Shinto shrine near the hotel. These are statues of Jiso, the Shinto patron of children and travelers. The shrine was dedicated to children who had died in childbirth, been orphaned, or died when they were young. People brought lots of trinkets and toys to leave at the shrine area before praying.
We attended the Shrine-jinja festival on the edge of Sapporo at a grouping of Buddhist temples. This festival is one of Japan's largest Buddhist festivals. We got to see lots of cool performances including yosakoi, taiko, and the dancing these ladies were performing (above.)
We also attended a martial arts demonstration and got to see the participants do all kinds of kicks and flips, and break concrete blocks with their feet and stone roof tiles with their foreheads. The kids above are watching the demonstration.
More pictures, as always, on flickr.

sapporo, day 8

We visited the Hokkaido Historical village, which had reconstructed buildings from around the 1920's. There were a lot of different styles of architecture, but the most interesting to me was that of the fishing village (above.) It was especially significant, because a lot of our Yosakoi movements mimic activities depicting fishing and rowing.

That evening we went out to MOS Burger for a delicious red bean parfait, and tried our hands at purikura and some arcade games.


sapporo, day 7

The seventh day was a free day spent sightseeing around Sapporo. Check out the rest of my pictures on flickr.