Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Friends, Romans, Foreigners, Lend me your Ears...

Name that Japanese-related Quote

"Sweep the leg."


After I graduated from college, I spent a year in Austin working on my own terms. I held more contract, temporary, and part-time jobs than most people do in their lifetime, and I did it all to maintain my own schedule and keep control of my own destiny. Not a bad idea if you can pull it off. There were some rocky times, I can tell you. Although I went to a private high school, I was far from what you'd call an "advantaged" child - my parents worked themselves to death so that my brother and I could at least enjoy an advantaged education, if not an advantaged lifestyle. Where we were middle-middle class, most of my friends were upper-middle to upper class.

So I had certain expectations from my life that I needed to compensate for; I wasn't going to be another civil servant working the 9-5 for minimum wage, eating fast food, and struggling to make rent. I just refused to let it happen, regardless of how much time I needed to spend working. Now, I don't want to come off as egocentric this early and have you click out to the next "foreigner in Japan" webpage - on the contrary, I don't believe anyone is "too good" for any kind of work (maybe with a few exceptions). You've got to try it at least once just to know what you're dealing with.



Case in point - craigslist. Craigslist was invented in 1995 by a simple man named Craig for use in the San Francisco area. What is it? Online classifieds, but unlike those you see in online newspapers or other websites, craigslist reduces everything to the essentials. No advertising. No extraneous information. And this is what makes craigslist so unique, why it is so popular and so widely-used, and why I have tremendous respect for the creators.

Craigslist really took off in the past few years, expanding all over the world. That kind of expansion gets the attention of advertising companies, who offered Craig and co. $10 million for the website. They turned it down, knowing that the site was popular because of its lack of sponsorship. Selling it to a capitalist machine (yeah, I think Craig is a communist) would do nothing but reduce the usefulness.

So why am I bringing this up? Craigslist was in Austin. Well, craigslist was in every major city, but it really took off in Austin with online job annoucements, gig information, buying & selling, personals, apartment locating, and trades.

See what I mean...

I must have worked more jobs than I ever thought possible. And I really wasn't working long hours or very hard. I made my own schedule, cancelled when I needed to, relaxed when I wanted to, and had all the time for running in the world. I wasn't rich by any means, but I could indulge when I needed to. The only complaint I really had about this lifestyle was the lack of transition between on and off hours - there wasn't one. I worked until midnight some nights (starting at 8 or 9 or something), and other days I wrapped up at 2:00 PM or didn't do anything at all.


Jobs I found on craigslist

1. Moving jobs - I couldn't do more than a few a week as my arms got pretty sore (even for someone in shape, it's tough work). When the university students were moving in there were ads everywhere requesting emergency help for the day-of. I didn't have a truck or another person to help - I advertised myself, and it worked out fine. I got paid as low as $15/hr and as high as $30/hr.

2. Manual labor jobs - digging holes outside, clearing brush, yardwork, lifting heavy things, helping people pack, etc. About the same pay as moving jobs, but sometimes I'd get a bartering deal and the lady I was helping would exchange 2-3 massages (legit, they were therapists) for a few hours work - that's a pretty good value.

3. Donating blood plasma. Avoid it if you can, but you can get paid as high as $60/week for two donations. It can be rather painful.

4. Tutoring - my primary source of income. I never worked for less than $20/hr, and I got paid as high as $45/hr (could have gotten more). You'd be surprised how many students, high school and college, are looking for last-minute help with a report, an exam, homework... Also, never underestimate just how many parents want their children to excel in a certain subject. The SATs are an exceptionally profitable exam. I even started teaching ESL with some Koreans who posted, just looking for a conversation partner. If you went to college, you're perfectly qualified to tutor a high-schooler.

5. Modeling jobs - no experience necessary if they do a call over craigslist. This will rarely happen (unless you're willing to compromise yourself and do porn or something similar), as most photographers deal with agencies to avoid searching themselves. Hey, craigslist is quite an effective agency. You don't have to be a pretty boy or a hot girl, it just depends what they're looking for. I arrived at 9 AM wearing a white shirt and pants, got paid $200 for one hour's work of posing with a food dish, and got to eat the food afterwards. Out by 11 AM.

6. Stock video - basically, if you look human and can walk, people will pay you to be in a natural setting for a video shoot which they hope to sell to producers or television stations as stock footage. I was paid to skate in an ice-rink for two hours, pretending I was this cute girl's boyfriend... so brutal. $40/hr here.

7. Acting jobs - voice work, being an extra in movies, and paying actor roles for major motion pictures. Being an extra pays next to nothing (minimum wage), but if you get voice work or talent work, it's always profitable.

8. Poker dealer - I taught myself how to deal Texas Hold 'Em, and there were a ton of people requesting a professional dealer for private parties. Good tips, nice food, good connections. $10-$20/hr + tips. Also works if you know blackjack.

9. Travel advisor - obviously this doesn't work for everyone, but one family hired me to talk to their children to get them excited about going to Rome and Egypt. I kid you not. $50/hr.

10. Promotional work - there's actually a huge call for this with marketing companies, even in small cities. And it has its perks. I've been a mascot for an environmental organization, a GEICO spokesman, a Men's Fitness counselor, and a consultant for a corporate team-building exercise. Always some free merchandise involved, and sometimes you can expect a tip.

11. Online expert - an online internet company interviewed me as a marathon expert (having run my first one in 3:00:57, qualifying for Boston, and running Boston in 3:04:46). $150 for one hour's work. Simple outdoor interview. This can work with any subject, just be "excellent at something". (Tao of Steve)


I'm sure I'm forgetting a few but you can see the variety that craigslist has to offer.

"I am a true laborer: I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness, glad of other men's good, content with my harm."


I had enough money and time to...

1. Eat the Subway value meal every day for one year

2. Go to a Lake Charles casino twice (of course, this was a stupid move)

3. Travel home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

4. See my friends whenever I wanted

5. See all the latest movies

6. Eat out almost every night

7. Shop at Whole Foods regularly

8. Sign up for Gold's Gym, and work out regularly

9. Run the Boston Marathon


Ok, so you're thinking "yeah, you've done a lot (or you make me sick), but what does this have to do with Japan - your country NOW?" Got me there. Craigslist is here, and I want people to start using it more. Foreigners, Japanese people, people abroad coming here, START POSTING. Prove to me we can use craigslist as an effective tool like I did. The Osaka craigslist is a joke right now - only one posting maybe every two days. And we can petition for one in Hiroshima if we can prove that Osaka and Tokyo will work:

Craigslist Tokyo
Craigslist Osaka

I tell you where this would be the most useful - more than part-time jobs or even connecting with fellow foreigners, apartments for people coming to Japan would be incredibly helpful, especially if you don't know the Nihongo to rent. Tell your Japanese friends, have them tell their landlord friends, they'll tell their business friends... Eventually all jobs, apartments, personals, and items for sale will mysteriously appear online, as if out of thin air. Try it, for me... please?

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