Monday, May 16, 2011


Yesterday after church (Tetsu had to work) I took two young friends into the city for a MacDonald's hamburger lunch. Both Joy-san and G-san are from the Philippines and I have written about Joy-san before. She attends church regularly now and every week we pick her up and take her home. She seems so happy chatting with the other young mothers during their babies' Sunday School time.

G-san is a young man who came to church last month for the first time. He speaks almost no Japanese having only been in Japan for a year. His English is fair. G-san had originally been working on the coast of Fukushima as a welder but he and other workmen were evacuated during the tsunami and eventually someone found him a job in our town. He was the one who wanted to eat MacDonald's hamburgers for lunch.

We had a nice afternoon, frustrating in some ways, enlightening in others. G-san wanted to buy a cell phone and asked if I could help him. We tried many different shops and talked to many different people but the bottom line was he couldn't get a cell phone. He doesn't have a credit card. He doesn't have a working bank account. His legally permitted time in Japan is too short (it is supposed to be extended every three months) to make a contract with a cell phone company. He doesn't know his own address. His alien registration card is expired! (That's a biggie!)

The cell phone people were very sympathetic and willing to do a lot to help him get a cell phone but until he gets his alien registration worked out there is nothing more he can do. After the frustrating cell phone session (G-san, Joy-san and me with varying Japanese language limitations) G-san treated us all to soy sauce ice cream (!) and we chatted a bit.

These two Filipino young people know a very different Japan than I do. G-san graduated from a two year college yet he works in Japan as a welder because he can't find a job in the Philippines. I was amazed that he hadn't gotten his alien registration updated but he has no idea where the City Hall is, has no idea what is written on his card anyway, has no way to get to the city, nor has any language ability to get things straightened out. I asked about the company where he works and lives... but he claimed that usually he was getting yelled at and told how stupid he is. (He has learned THAT Japanese word quickly.) It is really the company's responsibility to care for their alien workers but someone is behind on that. Giving them the benefit of the doubt I suppose the sudden flee from Fukushima has caused all sorts of other problems too.

Why? Why do you stay then? If you are being verbally abused, if you have family in the Philippines (a wife and baby), if you are afraid anyway of earthquakes and radiation, why do you stay in Japan?

But Joy-san smiled and her comment to G-san was,

"Gaman." (Endure, persevere, bear with the intolerable.) "You have to gaman. Close you ears to the abuse and just gaman."

and to me,

"Sister Tanya," (that's what she calls me)" life in the Philippines is hard for us. We make a small amount of money in Japan and our relatives in the Philippines think we are rich. We may not be treated well in Japan but we make our money and send it back to the Philippines and our families can buy a house!"

In my western thinking of fair and unfair, I questioned my friends' philosophy.

"But you have gone to college. That must mean something in the Philippines. That must get you a better job and a higher salary than someone who has only gone to high school or who hasn't been educated at all."

"Not really. Even a teacher in the Philippines, a professional, can only make $300 or $400 a month. G-san has to work in Japan and he doesn't mind being called stupid because he can send money to his family."

"Yes, I will gaman. It only hurts a little in my heart..."

No comments: