I have previously said that I would move to Hong Kong if the right opportunity came around. I still feel that way. Yet, I have never been to Hong Kong and do not have a trip planned in the immediate future. Tokyo, although I’ve never been there, is somewhere where I think I could do fine given my time in Osaka and Kyoto and my Japanese language ability. But I know no Cantonese, and my knowledge of Chinese culture, let alone the culture of Hong Kong specifically, is weaker than that of Japan. Hong Kong is not the banking and finance center that it once was, largely because of the increased importance of cities in the People’s Republic, but there is no doubt that it continues to play a pivotal role in Asia. And although I stand by my statement that I would move there if the right opportunity came around, I am unsure what that right opportunity would be, especially now that I have a family and am somewhat settled in New York. Would the right opportunity be the chance to be an associate in a major New York based law firm? What about with a British (magic circle) firm? With a consulting firm (like Bain)? Or maybe a global recruiting firm (like MLA)? In the near future, there are no immediate decisions I need to make regarding Hong Kong, but the more I continue to emphasize the fact that I am interested in business in East Asia, the closer the day comes when I may need to make that decision.
This week marks the 100th day since Hanna was born. I am happy to say that she is doing well. She is grabbing her toys now, is finally laughing, and is close to rolling over consistently. She sleeps well too, which is a huge help. It’s getting her to bed that is sometimes tricky. Her tiredness causes her to cry, but also seems to cause her to stay awake longer than she needs to. It’s fun to be a father and more and more people are thinking that she looks just like me. Hopefully some of her mother will begin to show with time. Here’s a recent picture of Hanna.
Of all of the summer jobs I had the best was during the summer of 2001. As if being a college student in Hawaii, as I was at that time, was not good enough, I had a job that many people could only dream of in college. I worked for the largest paid-tourist attraction in the State of Hawaii (the PCC) on the North Shore of Oahu and gave tours of Oahu to visitors from Japan as they made the bus trip from Honolulu to the North Shore. I was hired for the position because I had lived in Japan and learned the language and was the only non-Japanese person doing the job at the time.
My job was to basically meet my co-workers at the back gate of the PCC and be chauffeured down to Honolulu in a limousine with the other few bus guides that were scheduled to work that day. With beautiful beaches and the Pacific Ocean just outside our window we cruised down the Kamehameha Highway to Honolulu in style, often while watching movies in the limo and eating sushi. The trip took about one hour (an hour that we were paid for) and we were then dropped off at PCC’s Honolulu office in Waikiki. We would then be given our assignments as to which Waikiki hotels Japanese guests had signed up for tours that day. After getting on the bus and letting the driver know our hotel route, I ran into each hotel on the list and gathered up the Japanese guests I was assigned to. The bus sizes varied based on the number of visitors that day, but a larger bus meant more commission from the tourist shop we made a quick stop at just outside of Kaneohe on our way up to the North Shore. While on the tour I explained in Japanese the sites that we passed as well as general information regarding the PCC. Unfortunately, tipping is not customary in Japanese culture or I would have made out much better. But for one summer as a student, I was chauffeured around in style and, hopefully, helped make many tourists’ visit to Hawaii more enjoyable, if not at least more interesting.
I am amazed at how quickly technology has changed in my lifetime. This past weekend I was required to come into work to complete a project that had to be finished by Monday. Part of the initial groundwork was to review documents that were finalized in the late 1990s. In my mind, the late 1990s is not that long ago, although I realize that it has been ten years. Since I have started working at my law firm, I have never once sent a fax. I have scanned the document into .pdf format, emailed it to myself from the scanner and have forwarded it on to the receiving party. In reviewing records from even less than ten years ago, faxes were often how people communicated in business. Moving documents with handwritten notes on them was not possible unless sent by fax. I can’t imagine having to deal with fax machines today at work, much less waiting for it.
Another example of how technology has rapidly changed in my lifetime is how much time people devote in front of a computer on the Internet. I clearly remember going to my dad’s office because he had Prodigy on his computer. I thought it was so cool that I could sit at the computer and view last night’s sport’s scores. Of course, the dial-up system took forever to download each page and there was little to do other than read a few news articles or check the weather around the country. Yet, I enjoyed it then. Now, however, my (our) lives are very different. If a website takes more than a few seconds to download, I’m upset. Higher Internet speeds and faster computers have made us much more impatient as a people. And we want our content for free. I can download all of my pictures for access anywhere in the world on flickr, can blog from anywhere or anytime, can check my personal email messages, buy whatever I want on amazon (one of my personal favorite websites), keep up with friends on facebook, watch video clips of almost anything imaginable, and so much more. The need for each person to have a blog, as is the trend these days, is another example. I definitely have my online life at present, as this site evidences. I didn’t have one ten years ago. Conclusion: technology is rapidly changing our lives. I will leave it up to history to determine whether that’s good or bad.
It’s interesting how two people can have such various opinions on the same thing. Here’s an example. In my office I have a watercolor painting of the old skyscrapers of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge as seen from Brooklyn. I didn’t buy the painting, I merely claimed it for my office because it was sitting in a closet with other works of art that apparently no one wanted. I like NYC and thought that the wall looked better with the painting than as a bare wall and so I hung it up. Shortly afterwards, one partner came in and saw the painting and scoffed, “That junk has been floating around here for years”, then quickly continued to tell me something else. Around that same time, another partner came into my office and saw the painting, took a step back, and asked thoughtfully, “Wow. Where did you get that? I love this type of stuff.” I told him of how I found it in the closet while he was further examining the painting. I didn’t bother to tell him that someone else recently had called it junk, but I did find it rather amusing.
It is often said that to find what will be satisfying to you as a career, think about how you spend your free time. In doing so, I found that much of my free time – from the books I read to the news I follow to sometimes even the music I listen to – is centered on Japan. While I have only spent twenty-two months of my life in Japan, I have been studying the language for nine years now and did spend three years of my life in Hawaii, the most tropical, American-influenced, pidgin speaking part of Japan. Even today, as far removed as I may seem from Japan – working as a corporate lawyer in New York City – I spent my morning on the commuter train reading one American woman’s memoirs of a year spent in Japan with a host family. On the number 4 subway ride downtown to lower Manhattan, I listened to a Japanese podcast lesson on intermediate Japanese. When I got off the train at the Brooklyn Bridge station so that I could make the relaxing walk through City Hall Park and down Broadway to my office in the Financial District, I listened to a J-Pop radio broadcast out of Toronto that I found through iTunes. Maybe I feel that if I do not surround myself with Japanese I’ll lose it. When I left Japan I made a vow to keep up my language skills, and while my reading and writing is not what it used to be, I am still comfortable with my speaking ability, if not possessed with keeping them as sharp as possible. Ironically, with this much interest in one country you would think that I would have gone back to visit by now. Yet I haven’t. I have pressed forward in life pursuing other goals and have put desires to return to Japan aside. One day (hopefully this upcoming March) I hope to make the visit, if not live there again. But with my hard-working wife and baby daughter, there is no telling when that day will be.
Our house hunting may have to be put on hold for a little while. Not only have mortgage interest rates gone up, but banks and other lenders are now more careful as to who they loan money to. We have good credit, but without a large chunk of money for the down payment, it may be difficult to be approved for a mortgage in New York in the near future. Plus higher rates now mean that we would have to find something significantly cheaper than what we were considering just to have the same monthly payment. But I’m in no way disappointed. Sure, the prospect of buying a house may be exciting and we will continue to pay attention to what comes on the market, but owning a home would also tie us down for several years and I am interested in having flexibility and the ability to move on short notice in case the right opportunity comes up somewhere else. At this point, I feel that there is no reason why we shouldn’t consider moving somewhere else in the near future, especially if we can both find jobs that we’re happy with. Believe it or not, my wife has me thinking more seriously about moving to places I would have never thought of before. This is what having a family does to you, I guess. Hard as it is for me, I must admit that I have become slightly less interested in the excitement of the city and more interested in room, cost of living and quality of life. Geez, and I’m not even 30. We’re here for the next year and a half and then the world is ours. The only question is where do we go from here?