I just got back from applying for my Certificate of Alien Registration, or Gaijin Card as it is more commonly called. I was told by my potential new boss that I would need to acquire one of these babies in order to obtain a working visa. He told me that he thought the "Takaoka Office" was near the "Takaoka Station." Emily said to just go to City Hall.
On Saturday, I went to the Takaoka International Center in Daiwa and the lady at the desk confirmed that I would need to go to City Hall. She told me that I would need to bring my passport and two 35mm x 45mm photos. She also gave me a map and put an "X" on City Hall.
This morning, I collected my photos and my passport, opened up my map, and walked out into a blizzard in hopes of finding City Hall.
I didn't have too much trouble getting to the place where my map was marked with an "X." I was, however, a little confused when I got there. My map said that I was looking for "Takaoka City HALL." The 8-story brick building in front of me had a sign out front that said "Takaoka City OFFICES."
Sure, you're probably thinking, "What an idiot! Of course this is the where Angelo needs to be! He should just go inside!"
That's because YOU weren't there. You see, I wasn't 100% sure that I was in the right place, mostly because all of the street signs, if there were any to begin with, were in JAPANESE. When you are lost to begin with, throwing in an extra complication just makes your brain shut down.
I looked at my map one more time, walked around a little bit, and then with the confidence of a japanese schoolgirl, I walked into the building.
Success! I was in the right place.
Crap! What do I do now?
I looked around the reception area for a couple of minutes trying to figure things out. There were a lot of people waiting around, for what I don't know, but they made me hesitant to just walk up to a desk clerk and ask about the gaijin card. There didn't appear to be a queue and I didn't see a numbered ticket dispenser, so I was at a loss for what my next move should be.
Five minutes after I walked in, a trio of Canadians (Yeah, Canada!) walked in, asked the receptionist where to get a gaijin card, and walked over to desk #5, which, at the moment, was empty. I overheard them, introduced myself, and sat back as they tried to apply for their gaijin cards.
When they walked over to the desk, an attendant ran over and handed them the application forms. The pair of Canucks applying for the cards, apparently the third was their guide, had their pictures ready, but unfortunately, one had forgotten her passport and the other had forgotten his address.
Thank you, Canada. Now get out of my way.
It was my turn. I pulled out my pictures, my passport, and Emily's gaijin card and started to fill out the application, which was in Japanese and English (for the most part).
There were some other things that the lady helping me had to know. She spoke no English and I speak no Japanese, so we exchanged a number of nervous laughs, hesitant OKs, and did our best to get through the process. She needed to know how many people lived in my house, so she drew a picture of a house and some stick people and threw out a few English words. I hope I understood her to mean "how many people live in your house." It would be really embarrassing if I really told her that I have two kids or that I have two wives.
When we were done with the form she gave me a packet of garbage bags, a city map, and some tickets to the art museum and Zuiryuji Temple. Then she gave me a certificate that told me to come back for my card (if it is approved) after February 14th.
That was it. It seems easy in retrospect, but I was sweating bullets while I was going through it. I kept having thoughts like, "I sure wish Emily had said that I need to go to the first floor of the HUGE red brick building with eight FRICKIN' floors!" and "WaaaaaaaaaHHHHHH!!!"
I just get so freaked out every time I am in a situation where it would be a hell of a lot easier if I spoke Japanese. I get so intimidated and apprehensive when I know that I should be able to understand (at least somewhat) the person talking to me.
I should really get used to the fact that I sound like an idiot and that people think I'm a dumb foreigner. I should just accept it, embrace it, and act accordingly.
I should think of the motto we used during my tenure at LCV: Adapt. Improvise. Overcome.
Except in my case it would be: Attempt. Give up. Charades.
Or I could just learn Japanese.
I've always been a proponent of other languages, but now I'm going to point to my experience trying to get my gaijin card at the Takaoka City Hall (or was it City Offices?) as the moment that solidified my belief in multilingual whatever it is.
At least I know that I will never look down upon a person that doesn't speak English again. I didn't make a habit of doing this before, but I have to admit that I got frustrated having to wait on Brazilian tourists when I was a server at Disney. I'll be a lot more patient when I go home (but hopefully I'll never have to be a server again).