Paul Revere's Ride
18 April 1775
Listen my children and you shall here ...
A cry of defiance, and not of fear
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forever more!
For, borne on the night-wind of the past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoofbeats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1860
Table of Contents
- Finding the Right Image
- Warning Shot
- "Yes! Congratulations!", "Well, yes, but maybe not."
- Contract Renewed. Well, Sort Of.
- Surprize: A New Venue
- My Quest for Six-Pack Abs and Other Health Concerns
- In Long Term Retrospect
- The WEAI, and Still Again!
- My Old Neighborhood
- Kintoki Yama - The First Leg of My Journey Southward
- Omuro Yama and Jogasaki Kaigan
- Tōkyō in Full Bloom - A Little Patience Pays Off
- An Important Border Crossing
- And Still, I Had Returned
- At Some Point You Realize that You Must Move On
- A Neoclassical Introduction to the Austrian Business Cycle
- A Long Neglected Task Completed
- IT Revival?
- The Hijri Month of Ramadan
- Surprize Ending!
- My Resignation
- Where Will I End Up in 2014?
VIEWING GUIDE: This is not a chronological listing of the highlights of 2013. It does, however, capture some of the best and worst of 2013 with a glimpse into 2014. I apologize for my self-indulgence with detail, but in the end this report is not just for you.
Recently it seems difficult to find a year on which to look back that has been very satisfying on the whole -- this despite, my having ended the old year (2012) and started the new year (2013) fully employed for the first time in several years. No, it is not, as if the past year (2013) has been filled with failure and disappointment. On the contrary, many good things occurred of which I am proud to report. No, the reason for my chagrin is that I will be starting the new year 2014 with still another cloud of unemployment hanging over my head, And, still again, the image that I have of myself and know to be true does not match the image that society has of me and has created through its own carefully designed lens. for I have been told that I am too old to continue and that the academic year 2013-14 will be my final year at King Abdulaziz University as a result.
So once again, my self-image and the image with which I am viewed by others do not match, and the stretch ahead will likely prove long and difficult. Accordingly, it is difficult to imagine that 2014 will not become still another year of yearning to move forward while society pushes me steadily back. If there is a sustaining thought, then it is that my accumulated savings are just a little more than they have been in past years under similar or worse circumstances, and that I understand better my alternatives to survive happily for just a little while longer.
I once saw my present as a well-fueled plane looking for a place to land. And now? I see it and my near future as a plane with limited fuel and land in sight, but no real notion as to whether there will be enough fuel left to get me close enough in order to parachute and swim to shore.
In June 2013 I was read a letter writtten in Arabic and addressed to my boss. Who initiated the correspondence, and why it was initiated was not clear. According to the letter my contract would not be renewed in the fall of 2013, and I was being given two-months advance notice. The apparent reason for my termination was my age. Further, I was told that I was not the only person affected and asked to place my signature on the letter to indicate that I had been informed of its contents. This, I did, whereupon I paid a visit to my friend in the personnel office of the university's general administraion to find out what had truly transpired.
My boss's story was confirmed.
There were two catches, however.
Why did they wait so long to tell me? And, why, if they had ignored the limit when they hired me, were they now using the limit to let me go?According to the university's regulations I was too old. Well, OK. It would be of no surprise to discover that a large national institution such as King Abdulaziz University had a maximum age limit for employment. There were two catches, however. Why did they wait so long to tell me? And, why, if they had ignored the limit when they hired me, were they now using it to let me go? It is not easy for someone with my resumé and age to find new employment, and it is not as if the university did not know my age when my contract was renewed in the fall of 2012.
So, I wrote a letter of inquiry to the vice president of academic affairs and asked him to clarify what was going on. Within several days my letter was returned to me with a note and the vice president's signature at the bottom. The note stated, "Your contract will [be] renewed". I was so happy that I delivered my second male-to-male kiss to the Saudi messenger of the vice president's note. It is Saudi custom for males to kiss one another on greeting, and it is not a custom that I have found easy to adopt. My first Saudi kiss was in Jubail in 2008. Was I becoming a Saudi?
Two weeks later, when I tried to pay the renewal fee for a new iqama (the Saudi identification card issued to foreign residents in exchange for their passport) I was rejected at the ATM machine where I sought to pay the fee. So, I tried another machine and was rejected again. I then inquired with the director of staff of my faculty whereupon he called one of his friend's in the personnel office of the university's general administration. When the call was over, I was told that my contract would not be renewed after all.
This was in direct contradiction to my note from the vice president.
So, I appealed to my students to act on their own and my behalf, and they responded en force.Shortly thereafter I began hearing rumors that I did not like my employer and was unhappy in Jeddah. So, I returned to my boss and asked him what he knew. He repeated the rumor, offered little new information, and reassured me that he would be happy to see me return in the fall. Who was spreading this rumor and why? I then went to the dean who stated that he had nothing against my continued presence, but that it was not his decision in the end. The rumor was repeated. My students knew nothing of this rumor, and they could not understand why I was being let go. So, I appealed to them to act on their own and my behalf, and they responded en force.
Numerous individual and group visits to the chairperson of my department from students from all of my classes in the current term and even some of my classes from the previous term caused him to write a letter to the dean requesting that I be allowed to remain. The dean then wrote his own letter and sent it to the vice president. This was not a matter of speculation, for I saw the recorded chain of correspondence and even some of its contents.
Soon thereafter my iqama was renewed for one year. Confident that everything was now in order, I cancelled a job interview in Thailand that I had been arranging in the thought that I would not be returning to my post in Jeddah in the fall. This was not an interivew that I had sought; rather, it was an offer that suddenly appeared in my email box from a failed effort to find employment in Thailand before my departure for Saudi Arabia in the late spring of 2011. I was delighted that my effort had not been completely in vain, even though the response was obviously far too late for its originally intended purpose.
Indeed, the failed iqama payment had nothing to do with the personnel office's decision. It was bank failure.
Looking back I am glad that it happened.Several days past, and another shoe dropped. I learned that my newly issued iqama did not mean that my contract had been renewed, and that the director of personnel had, in fact, not changed his mind. Indeed, the failed iqama payment had nothing to do with the personnel office's decision. It was bank failure, and looking back I am glad that it had happened, else I would have continued to believe that my contract would be renewed and would have taken no subsequent action.
In any case, it was too late to renew my effort to return to Thailand. The timely job offer had been discarded too soon. Alas!
Was it not obvious that the vice president and the director of personnel were finding it difficult to agree? Indeed, had I not become a hockey puck of interagency contention? Or, was it simply that someone had committed himself before fully exploring the situation? So, I dug in and wrote a one-page letter to the university's president in which I requested his intervention and further consideration. Enclosed with this letter was a three-page clarification indicating why I should be kept and numerous pieces of documentation supplied as evidence. At the suggestion of my boss, I had my letter of request translated into Arabic and submitted the letter, clarification, and evidence in person to the office manager of the president for review.
Had I become a hockey puck of interagency contention, or was it simply that someone had committed himself before fully exploring the situation?Several days past, and upon further inquiry I was told to report to the vice president of academic affairs, the same person who had intitially written that my contract would be renewed. Upon arrival I was handed a sealed envelope large enough to contain the packet that I had delivered to the president and was told to take it to the director of personnel. Upon my arrival in the director's office, his secretary opened the envelope, and told me to wait for the director to return. When the director arrived several minutes later he was handed the open packet, read a note contained inside, and called the vice president's office. Unable to establish contact, he asked that I wait. As idle waiting is not something that I relish, and I was feeling like an interdepartmentalat delivery boy, I asked whether we could meet on the following morning, and he agreed.
When I arrived the director of personnel called the vice president. Witness to the phone call was the assistant to the director, the assistant's assistant, and myself. When the call was finished, the director told me that my contract would be renewed, and everyone cheered. Then, I was told that the vice president would like to speak with me directly. The director of personnel had given me a definitive yes, and I had the vice president's signature that my contract would be renewed.So, I headed over to the vice president's office where I was informed that I could not be funded through the same sources as before, but that he was working on an alternative source and method of payment. When I asked, if this same alternative source and method of payment could be renewed at the end of the academic year 2013-2014, he replied no and that the sought after alternative method of payment was not certain. So, there I was, not really sure whether my contract would be renewed or not. This said, the director of personnel had given me a definitive yes, and I had the vice president's signature that my contract would be renewed.
I informed my boss of the new developments and we agreed that I would return in the fall, if nothing contrary was heard from the vice president. My students declared a victory, and I felt confident that my contract would likely be renewed. So, I contacted the faculty member in charge of scheduling and provided him with my preferred times and courses for the fall term.
And, so began the summer recess.
Several weeks before the beginning of the fall term I was contacted by the person in charge of scheduling about my status with the university. I explained to him that I had not heard anything from the university contrary to what I had heard at the beginning of summer recess, and that my iqama had been renewed. I then sent him another copy of my preferred times and courses for the fall.
When I received my first paycheck of the 2013-14 academic year in late August, it was clear that my contract had been renewed. Unfortunately, classes had arleady begun two weeks before.Several days before class registration began I contacted the person in charge of scheduling and requested my schedule. I was told to contact my boss. My boss informed me that there was no schedule and that he had purposefully prohibited any assignment. Apparently, he was still waiting for a written confirmation from the vice president that said that I would be rehired. When I asked him, if he had requested one, he said no, but that he would. I did not bother to remind him of our previous meeting in June in which we agreed to assume that no news would be good news, and that I would be rehired, if nothing further were heard. After all, my contract had been written such that it would be automatically renewed, unless cancelled, and the director of personnel for the university had stated in June in front of three witnesseses including me that it would be renewed. Moreover, I still had the written confirmation that I had received from the vice president several weeks before the director's pronouncement.
When I received my first paycheck of the 2013-14 academic year in late August, it was clear that my contract had been renewed. Unfortunately, classes had arleady begun two weeks before, and I was unable to receive a full teaching assignment.
As far as I know, my boss never did receive written confirmation either from the vice president or the dean.
More interesting is what followed.
When I arrived in the department for my new class assignments I went immediately to my former office with the expectation that everything would be as I had left it in June. Surprize! My key no longer fit into the lock, and everything that I had posted on the wall outside the door before I had left had been taken down. I then discovered that my office had been given to someone else, and that my new office would be in the student language club room.
In the student language club room?
My old office had been given to someone else, and my new office would be a desk in the student language club room!Try to understand that I shared my previous office with a teaching assistant throughout the entire previous academic year, and that the teaching assistant no longer occupied the office. Further understand that the new, sole occupant of the office was a Western native English instructor just like myself. Neither was he a Saudi professor, nor did he hold a Ph.D.
I felt betrayed and was in a state of shock. I said nothing. I simply did as I was told and transferred my things from my previous office to my "new office" in the club room. As I was tranferring my things, I was told that I should devote a portion of my time to the langauge club as I had such a small work load due to the late scheduling of my classes.
To rub things in, I discovered that a gift that had been given to me by a group of Saudi staff toward the end of the previous academic year and never opened had been opened. I showed the partially opened package to the department secretary, and he told me about the mice that had been eating candy in his own office. It would have been a good explanation expect for the fact that mice use their teeth and claws to open things and shred whatever is in their way. My present had been clearly opened by fingers, as nothing had been shredded.
Somewhere during my somewhat long, but very brief life I learned to make good of a bad situation.Somewhere during my somewhat long, but very brief life I learned to make good of a bad situation. So, I took it upon myself to revive what was clearly a once thriving, but now largely failed language club. In so doing I assigned myself the title of language club coordinator and created an organizational event for club revival. It was obviously much more than my boss had expected and only reluctantly did he participate in the effort. This said, my former students came to my aid, and the event took place. Unfortunately, it fell short of its primary goal -- a smooth transition of authority from me, the club coordinator, to the students and the creation of a student executive council that would be both enduring and effective. The secondary goal of information exchange succeeded in so far as there were attendees and a completed questionnaire from each.
As I had already spent my annual travel money in March to attend an economics conference in Tōkyō, I decided to stay in Jeddah during the summer. In order to insure that the summer would be well spent, I set a goal that would help me keep pace through the worst of times. I decided to obtain six-pack abs. Going to the gym every day would mean daily social contact and new friendships in addition to the fitness and diet routine that would keep me alert and active. So, I became a member of Fitness Time -- a popular, private gym in Jeddah. Indeed, FT promised to shut down for only three days during the last week of ramadan. In order to insure that the summer would be well spent, I set a goal that would help me keep pace through the worst of times. This was important, because I had learned the year before that depending on the university's recreational facilities for regular exercise of any kind was a foolish endeavor especially during vacation periods.
I got off to a great start with an early weight-loss of over two kilograms (about five pounds). By the end of June, however, I had stopped losing weight and realized that I would not achieve my goal along my current path. So, I went to the internet, began looking for an easy to implement solution, and found one. It turns out that by fasting every day for 10 hours straight the body can achieve several important objectives with regard to digestion, weight, and overall health. It was a timely find as well, because the Muslim holy month of ramadan had already begun and all of Saudi Arabia was fasting. So, I fasted right along with my host nation, albeit in a different manner and for a very different reason.
Although one complete digestive cycle comprises about six hours, it takes the body another four hours to rid itself of the undigested, and often toxic waste matter contained in our food and drink. in addition, fasting for long periods releases certain hormones into the bloodstream that facilitate the intercelluar health necessary for better mental awareness and muscular conditioning. With regard to fulfilling my objective of six-pack abs, fasting also appears to reset the digestive clock, so that the body knows exactly what it needs after each fasting period. The end result, is that I just ate something of everything, and my body told me automatically when to stop. Indeed, I was soon losing two kilograms for every three weeks of fasting and work-outs, and by September dimples were beginning to form around my mid-section.
My success did not end with my newly forming abs, for parallel to these inspiring results a muscle paralysis that had been causing me ever increasing bouts of vertigo disappeared.Part of my success was surely due to my self-imposed prohibition of nearly all processed foods, and refined grains and sugars, but this prohibition had already been in place before I started fasting.
In addition to my steady loss of weight and ever-growing muscle mass my digestion improved dramatically. The occasional bouts of diarrhea and the somewhat frequent loose bowel movements that I was having before I started fasting disappeared entirely. Surely, my increased consumption of pro-biotics also contributed to this marvelous result. I was beginning to feel like one of the fitness success stories advertised by Mike Chang whose online advice with regard to working out I had taken to heart. But my success did not end here, for parallel to these inspiring results a muscle paralysis that had been causing me ever increasing bouts of vertigo disappeared as a result of my effort to restore my shape and stamina. Indeed, I have not felt so well, since I returned to the gym at the University of Oklahoma in 1984 at the age of 45. When I shoot baskets after each work-out at Fitness Time I shoot both left- and right-handed, and am equally strong with either hand.
I am still trying to trace the source of the muscle tension historically, but it is really difficult to discover the point in my past where it began. I just know that the symptoms have been with me for a very long time, and that they have finally disappeared. Psychosomatic disorders are truly illusive.
I left Japan in 2000 with a multiple-reentry visa, as it was clearly my intention to return. My reason for leaving was clear: I wanted to achieve elsewhere what for some reason I was unable to achieve in Japan. Nine-years is a long time to work part-time, and I had found a full-time post in Hong Kong. Leaving Japan, I thought, would be a great way to enhance my resumé so that I might someday reapply to Japanese university with full-time employment experience on my resumé. Even this effort failed, however, as a large number of employment applications from Hong Kong over a three-year period yielded repeated rejection. So I set Japan aside and tried to establish myself in Hong Kong. There the story was very different, and the outcome was much worse.
In retrospect nine-years is a long time to have worked part-time and have only the acquisition of a foreign language and culture to show for it.In 2010 I was in Korea and needed to obtain a new work visa. As the Korean government required that I leave Korea in order to obtain it, and as my visa application was not a sure thing, I decided to expand my employment search across the straits and spend a full 10 days traveling to parts of Japan that I had never before visited including Hiroshima, Kyōto, and Ōsaka. So, I hopped on a ferry and rode my first hydroplane to Fukuoka, Japan. Although I did not find work, I was pleasantly surprized by how much Japanese I had retained during my ten-year absence and was heartily encouraged in my intended goal. Except for an invitation to reenter graduate school at the Fukuoka Kyōiku Daigaku (Fukuoka University of Education), I failed in my effort. Afterall, my goal was to earn money, not spend it -- this despite the opportunity to obtain a stipend at some later date.
My return home was not on a hydroplane, as the sea was very high. Indeed, I had everything to do to avoid becoming very sick. What is worse, I failed in my effort to obtain a work visa, was unable to secure the job, and as a result had no choice but to leave Korea for Thailand that same year.
My next chance to visit Japan would not be until March of this past year.
My next chance to visit Japan would not be until March of this past year.The first time I had attended a Western Economics Association International (WEAI) conference was in Hong Kong in January 2005 when I presented my first paper on government-generated artificial demand in Hong Kong's English language industry. The second paper I presented at a WEAI conference was at the association's annual meeting in San Francisco in the summer of 2012. As the reception of my second paper was much better than my first, I decided to present a third paper in Tōkyō in March 2013. Keiō University was hosting the WEAI's Biennial Pacific Rim Conference, and I still missed Japan. More importantly, I had just finished reading several works on central banking and sound money and was still riding high on Ron Paul's bid for the US presidency in 2012. Moreover, I discovered that the conference's roundtable discussion, a key feature of the conference, would be about the US Federal Reserve System and the Bank of Japan. So, I wrote a paper entitled "Central Banking: The Enemy of Sound Money" and submitted it for presentation.
When I discovered that the conference's roundtable discussion would be about the US Federal Reserve System and the Bank of Japan, I wrote a paper entitled "Central Banking: The Enemy of Sound Money" and submitted it for presentation.When I arrived in Tōkyō at the Haneda International Airport I was asked at customs where I would be staying. I told the immigration officer that I did not know. This was very troubling to him. After all, what Japanese would ever go on an overseas trip unless he had a planned itinerary before he left? Soon it became clear that he would not permit me to pass through customs unless I provided him what he was demanding, so I pulled out my conference invitation and gave him the university's address and telephone number. Somehow he was satisfied. Whereupon, I began looking for a café with a wifi-connection so that I could find a place to stay.
While on the net I found a Japanese inn called Kasuga Ryokan very close to the university. It appeared that there was a vacancy. So, I boarded a train, and then a taxi, and arrived shorly after formal business hours without a reservation. I was greeted with great suspicion by an elderly woman at the door and told that there was nothing available. Unconvinced by the woman's rejection I protested until another younger woman appeared behind her, and I was finally let in. George Kaufman portrayed Ron Paul supporters as an angry reaction without a clue and had the audacity to claim that free-banking had been tried and failed. I was then escorted to a third-floor, corner room at the end of a long hall way. As neither the stairs, nor the slippers with which I was provided were built for someone of my size, I had to do everything not to bang my heavily laden suitcase against the wall on the way up.
The conference would begin on the next day and the university, located just down the street from my new temporary residence on the other side, was decorated with kanzakura (cherry trees that blossom in cold temperatures) in full bloom. It was a very good omen. Delivering my paper was a real joy, but when I asked the discussants about the Ron Paul revolution in the roundtable discussion on the following day I was greatly disappointed. Robert Engle, the Nobel laureate, did not have much to say on the matter, and George Kaufman portrayed Ron Paul supporters as an angry reaction without a clue and had the audacity to claim that free-banking had once been tried and failed. The two Japanese discussants offered zero input. Several people came up to me at the end of the discussion to offer their sympathy, and a Japanese whom I met on the following day was simply embarrassed by his colleagues' silence.
During the course of the conference I went shopping at Isetan in Shinjuku where I purchased a bow-tie and learned how to tie it. I was having so much fun that I further acquired several bikini briefs, a two-sided silk ascot, a formal pink shirt, and a tall, thin, leather wallet. I was having so much fun that I further acquired several bikini briefs, a two-sided ascot, a formal pink shirt, and a tall, thin, leather wallet. Each of these gifts was symbolic in nature and would be lasting, but vain reminders of my Tōkyō past.
On the day before I had shared breakfast with my old friend Professor Dr. Peter P. Baron at a breakfast café close to his office near Tōkyō Station's north Marunochi exit. For our meeting I wore a gold tie that I had purchased in Tōkyō during a layover on my way from Bangkok to San Francisco the previous year. He recommended that I obtain a bow-tie for the conference. Did he really know something about the Liberty Moverment? After many, sometimes brief, sometimes long moments of heightened conversation with my former banking acquaintance I concluded that little had changed between us and that there was little more to be accomplished. He immediately agreed, and we were both very busy. I did not tell him that he had always viewed my aspirations with warm, friendly skepticism. Maybe I was wrong.
In any case, we had renewed our long-standing friendship and parted our separate ways.
The evening before the conference ended I visited my old Tōkyō neighborhood in Kita-ku not far from Sugamo Station just off the Yamanote line on the other side of the Somei Cemetery. It was at night, and I walked through the cemetery just as I had done so many times before on my way home from work. Finding my old residence was not immediate, but after a little while my memory started to click, and I found everything that I desired and more. One of the shopkeepers that I once knew was standing outside her shop, so I stopped, and we chatted briefly. We spoke Japanese, and she had no trouble remembering who I was. She even reminded me about my promise to return some day.
Some things in my neighborhood had changed a lot and others not at all. I took a few pictures, something that I refused to do during the last four years of my entire nine-year sojourn in Japan. Two of the pictures that stood out among the others included the inside of a former neighbor's garage, and a cemetery marker. Japanese are very fond of irony and separation. I also visited Ebisu, the neighborhood sentō where I regularly bathed. Although the outside looked just as before, the entry inside had undergone significant change. I did not bother to enter the bathing area, I just wanted to see if the plant that I had donated to the bath house before my depature was still there.
It was gone.
Knowing that I had done my best to promote the Liberty Movement, and having lost the desire to meet with my former Japanese friends, I decided to reward myself further with a mini-vacation to the south of Tōkyō.
On the following day I declined the Tour of Tōkyō offered by our conference sponsors, packed my bags, and headed off to Hakone.On the following day I declined the Tour of Tōkyō offered by our conference sponsors, packed my bags, and headed off to Hakone where I climbed to the top of Kintoki Yama, bathed naked at Tenzan Rotenburo, ate roasted squid in Gora, and drank plum wine before heading back to my lodgings. Early the next day I climbed Kintoki Yama for a second time, but along a different, much shorter route so that I could capture Fuji Yama on camera before it became hidden by another thick blanket of clouds similar to the one that had covered it the day before. That afternoon and one day early I quit the minshuku in Gora where I intended to stay for three and headed further south in pursuit of still another view of Mt Fuji and possibly more cherry trees.
It was already late in the day when I arrived in Itō along the eastern seaboard of the Izu peninsula. As I was leaving the ticket gate I could see the tourist office across from the station closing its shudders. So, I hurried my pace and called out as I approached. Within minutes the fine ladies who occupied the office had found me another minshuku that met all of my primary needs. The Harahirumaru Minshuku would be a far better residence than the one that I had left several hours before in Gora, and it cost less than the Kosuga Ryokan in Tōkyō. I was very satisfied and thanked everyone heartily. They even waited with me at the corner until the minibus from the minshuku arrived to carry me and my luggage to my new temporary residence.
On the following morning I set out for Ōmuro Yama. Except for Sakuranosato, the garden at the base of the mountain, the adventure started with a great disappointment. Not only was Mt. Fuji covered by clouds and impossible to see, but visibility at the top of Ōmura Yama was poor in all directions. It was also cold and windy. In contrast, the sunlit garden below was warm and filled with a large variety of different cherry trees at various stages of bloom. Encouraged by the garden I continued my journey southward to Jōgasaki Kaigan, a heavily toured coastal area frequented by Japanese. It was the first time in Japan that I truly felt like a tourist and allowed myself to be treated like one.
The park situated along the Jōgasaki shoreline is of special historical and geographical interest.The park situated along the Jōgasaki shoreline is of special historical and geographical interest, as it hosts a natural monument to the celebrated 13th century Buddhist monk Nichiren. The monument was the tiny island (manaita iwa) to which Nichiren was taken and abandoned for his condemnation of others' beliefs. Although he managed to escape the island and was later pardoned for his wayward path, he sought refuge far from the authorities that had punished him. I first learned about Nichiren when I was invited to a Sōka Gakkai prayer meeting and listened to its members recite the seven character chant namumyōhōrenkekyō introduced by Nichiren. The monk is credited for his missionary work and the founding of the Buddhist sect named after him.
Along the urban trail from Nichiren's manaita iwa many scenic spots can be found. As most Japanese keep to the trail, a little initiative into nature offers brief, but very real solitude and great photographic opportunity. There are also the vastly more popular, but far less rewarding suspension bridge (kadowaki tsurihashi) and lighthouse (kadowaki daitō). Surrounding the lighthouse are a few pleasant surprises, like the musical score and lyrics of a song called the Jōgasaki Burūzu (The Jōgasaki Blues) carved into a stone mirror.
It was in Izukōgen that I reach what had eventually become the primary goal of my southward journey -- namely, the cherry blossom festival of Sakuranamikidori.It was in Izukōgen that I reached the primary goal of my southward journey -- namely, the cherry blossom festival of Sakuranamikidori. For, it was here that I discovered a very long street flanked on both sides with severl hundred cherry trees in full bloom. Although the trees and I had to compete with the electrical wires and motorized vehicle traffic that are a hallmark of Japan's urban landscapes, a little patience and constant repositioning provided some great photo opportunities. After walking the entire extent of this urban floral paradise, I found my way to the Izukōgen Rotenburo, an outdoor hotspring, where I danced naked from one outdoor pool to the next in the company of others similarly dressed. I really enjoy the Japanese bath culture and the close proximity to nature that one feels in a Japanese outdoor hot spring.
Although I was eager to finish my trip with a bowl of hot nabe, a pot of seasoned water in which you place fresh vegetables, meat, fish, mushrooms, and noodles to your own taste, I was unable. So, I returned to Itō, where I found a local bistro, ordered something completely different, and drank sake and bīru (beer) in the company of Japanese youth while I reminisced to myself about my nine-year sojourn in the Kantō region of Japan during the last decade of the 20th century.
On the following day I returned to Tōkyō and marveled at the sudden change in the city during my brief absence. When I had left Tōkyō only three days before, the sole cherry trees in blossom that I could find were the kanzakura at Keiō University. And now, upon my return, there was not a direction in which you could look that you would not find a cherry tree in full bloom (mankai).
Before joining the festivities I dropped by luggage off at the Kasuga Ryokan where I had earned the right of return for my good behavior during the previous week. Whereupon, I boarded the train to Ueno Kōen (Ueno Park) and celebrated with many a Tōkyōite the annual arrival of the cherry blossom (hanami). I stayed until the last train.I boarded the train to Ueno Kōen (Ueno Park) and celebrated with many a Tōkyōite the annual arrival of the cherry blossom. I stayed until the last train.
In order to catch my early morning express to the airport on the following day I had to skip breakfast. I was heavily laden and perhaps needless to say, still very tired. My plan was to sleep on the train.
On my way to the platform a Japanese businessman carrying a thin brief case refused to yield to my heavy baggage on wheels trailing behind me and bumped directly into me. There was no apology on his part, and he was certainly deserving of none from me. The encounter was enough to keep me alert for the entire length of the ride to the airport and reminisce on why I had finally left Japan some thirteen years before. In a way it was a fitting end and an omen of what would follow several months later.
After an uneventful ride to the airport I had brunch near the boarding gate and enjoyed what might very well turn out to be my last Japanese meal in Japan. The warm sake served to me in the tail of the plane on my way to Hong Kong brought badly needed solace. I worked on my computer the entire way while listening to Katō Miriyah.
In the spring of 2007 it was clear that I could no longer sustain myself in Hong Kong. So, I went to the Hong Kong district court responsible for handling my case against Time Enterprizes, a small, slightly incorporated and unscrupulous agent for free-lance language instructors, withdrew my case, and left Hong Kong. I was officially bankrupt for the first time in my life and wondering, if I would ever return.
My passport was returned, and there was a deep sigh of relief as I passed through immigration to my freedom.It was now March 2013, six years later, and there was an extraordinarily long moment during which the immigration officer to whom I had handed my passport for permission to enter Hong Kong read the information on his computer screen. When he was finished he looked up and asked me the purpose of my visit. I told him that I had come to visit friends and was scheduled to depart in several days. Whereupon, he returned my passport, and I was free to enter. There was a deep sigh of relief as I passed through the aisle to freedom.
As my friend had been unable to find lodging for me before my arrival, I booked a room online before I left Tōkyō and would be staying at the YMCA in Tsim Tsa Choi, the highly commercial and well-situated downtown section of Kowloon. As my room overlooked Victoria Harbor between Kowloon on the Hong Kong mainland, and Wanchai on Hong Kong Island, I was very pleased with my location. So, I called my friend, and we arranged to meet in the lobby of the hotel that evening.
After having our picture taken we boarded a train to Mong Kok where we ate dimsum -- a Hong Kong specialty -- and sought to bring each other up-to-date. As he was very busy with the grading of final examinations, we did not spend a lot of time together and arranged to meet two days later on the day of my departure. This time we met in Mong Kok where we shared dabilḷō (Hong Kong style nabe) and drank warmed Japanese sake.
As my friend had treated me pretty much like a tourist, I wondered as I left Hong Kong why I had not spent the remaining several days of my vacation in Bangkok. That we had spent, off and on, nearly seven years together discussing a wide variety of topics did not seem to matter to him. As my friend had treated me pretty much like a tourist, I wondered as I left Hong Kong why I had not spent the remaining several days of my vacation in Bangkok. He filled in the time-gap with his story, just as I did in return. Whereas I asked many questions; however, he asked very few. In the end, I asked myself why we had even bothered to meet.
As it rained heavily for two of the three days that I was there, I made no further effort to seek out my other former friends, and spent most of my time in my hotel room preparing for a presentation that I was scheduled to give shortly after my return to Jeddah. To break my solitude from time to time I went shopping in Tsim Tsa Choi and drank coffee in any café where I could obtain a wifi-connection. As had been true in Japan, so too was it true in Hong Kong; my mobile phone was useless, and every effort to obtain roaming privileges from my Mobily provider in Jeddah was rejected.
Within days after I returned to Jeddah I noticed the appearance of fungi on my feet that I am sure I acquired while walking barefoot on the carpet in my room at the YMCA. My Hong Kong friend had recommended the lodging.
That all was not for nought, I now know that free passage in and out of Hong Kong has been restored. Moreover, I was able to indulge in the hot pot (nabe) that I so badly desired in Japan before returning to Jeddah, but was unable to obtain. I also managed to obtain a meal of cha siu fan (fried pork) in Tsim Tsa Choi, another favorite Hong Kong dish of mine.
In all fairness my trip to East Asia was emotionally exhausting. What began as a worthwhile challenge and valuable break from my daily routine in Saudi Arabia turned into an emotionally filled disappointment mixed with anger, joy, and exasperation.In all fairness my trip to East Asia was emotionally exhausting. What began as a worthwhile challenge and valuable break from my daily routine in Saudi Arabia, turned into a great disappointment mixed with anger, joy, and exasperation. I had spent nearly seventeen years in East Asia, not including the time that I had spent more recently in Thailand and Korea, and had very little to show for it. It was a long and difficult struggle to understand and acquire the culture, language, history, and society of the peoples of East Asia only to have been professionally rejected in the end.
Indeed, the many happy and unhappy memories that filled and dominated my mind during those ten days demanded an orderly reckoning, and I was unable. How stupid I had been! How smart I had become! What courage I had shown! What difficult trials I had endured! What patience had I shown! How much had I learned! And, all for not, but still, somehow very rewarding, for I had returned.
Knowing that 2013-14 would be my last year at King Abdulaziz University and having secured a full year to look for new employment I started my search in early summer for a post in Japan in the academic year 2014-15. After many long hours preparing the necessary paperwork for an opening at Ryūkoku Daigaku located just south of Kyōto along the rail path to Ōsaka, I sent my application by express mail so that it would arrive on the scheduled due date. The arrival was timely. Shortly thereafter I received in my email box the typical anonymous email that one receives from a Japanese to tell you that your effort has been in vain and that you should not bother to wait for an answer. About three-quarters of the way through my preparation I realized that I had been through all of it many times before and nothing ever came of it.So, I looked for other openings and started preparing still another pile of redundant paperwork for application. About three-quarters of the way through my preparation I realized that I had been through all of this many times before and nothing ever came of it. I quit.
Novermber 15th arrived, and I sent an email to the administrator in charge of facilitating my application at Ryūkoku Daigaku and asked him about its status. He responded that he had just received the decision and was preparing a formal response. He further stated that over 50 applications had been received for the position and that I was not among those who had been short-listed for a face-to-face interview.
Now, applying to Ryūkoku University (Daigaku) was not shooting for the moon by any means. Of the ten geographical regions into which Japan is divided Ryūkoku University is ranked 53th among private university economic departments in only one of them. Multiply 53 times 10 and add to this some large multiple of 10 to account for the number of public universities that are ranked superior to private universities, and you will have a pretty good idea about the level of university to which I was aspiring.
One can only guess what Japanese universities -- both private and public alike -- use as a benchmark for evaluating their candidates, but it surely is not the one that they advertise. Unfortunately, for both me and the many Japanese youth that I could serve, it is unlikely that I will ever apply for employment to Japan again. Good investments are not based on the level of one's sunk costs, but on the level of their expected net future cash flows. In short, I need to move on.
After returning from East Asia I set out to make good on a promise that I had made to the Islamic Economic Institute at King Abdulaziz University before I departed; I completed my slide presentation on the Austrian Business Cycle.
This would be the third paper that I would write on the matter in the space of a year and a half.The presentation and accompanying paper that would follow were inspired by a video conference that I had attended in the spring of 2012 in which a former financial expert from one of the world's largest financial houses speaking at the University of Paris, Sorbonne, attempted to throw John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek into the same theoretical garbage barge and sink it. This attempt was followed by a ten-minute long tirade in which I politiely listened to a Saudi surgeon sitting on the opposite side of the conference table curse the entire Western economic system. Although I well understood the source of his frustration, I was appalled by the theoretical ignorance with which it was being justifiied and decided to respond. Indeed, this would be the third paper that I would write on the matter in the space of a year and a half.
As I was uncertain with regard to the background and training of my audience, I assumed nothing and explained everything in my presentation. What is more, I was speaking in English to a largely Saudi audience whose English language ability varied widely. It took two one-hour sessions to conclude my presentation, and I was very happy to have been invited back for the second session -- this, despite important delays excused by a visit from the Japanese prime minister. The promised paper that I was told would be published in the institute's online journal has yet to appear. This said, my appearance at the institute was mentioned in an IEI online update.
As my presentation appears to have succeeded, I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to make it -- this, because it provided further incentive to write the paper that I can now use to promote the Austrian Business Cycle next year in the US where it may or may not be even better received.
It appears that no matter how you formulate the notion of money, Islamic economists reject the notion of a savings and loan market that has as its equilibrium price mechanism the rate of interest. This is unfortunate, but I have had no incentive to pursue the matter further, as I have been told by the university's vice president of academic affairs that I am too old and must leave the university by the end of the 2013-14 academic year.
Well, if you started at the beginning, this story does not need to be told again.
The memory of my recent journey to Tōkyō and Hong Kong was still largely with me. So, I decided to take advantage of another invitation to submit a paper and bring closure to the Hong Kong Language Needs Assessment (HKLNA) Project. The project had been the basis for a private research and translation company that I founded in 2002, but never got off the ground for lack of a research grant from the Hong Kong government. It would be a fairly easy paper to write, for all of the hard work had been performed more than a decade ago, and its contents were engraved in my memory. The title of the conference to which I submitted my paper was The Economics of Language Policy, and the location of the conference would be Venice, Italy. Not only did writing the paper bring closure to the HKNLA Project, but presenting it in Venice would have been my first step on European soil in 35 years! I was very excited and applied myself with great rigor and enthusiasm. By the time I received the rejection, I was already hard at work at the gym and well prepared to receive still another slight from the world's global language industry. As my paper could not have been more appropriate for the theme of the conference, I believed that my chances of acceptance would be good and my time well invested.
My paper was rejected, and I could not understand why. Had the organizers been looking for big names? Was the open invitation merely a disguise for a much more narrowly intended European audience? Or, were they truly as narrow-minded as the Hong Kong Ministry of Education who would entertain only that research that would promote its own political agenda?
No matter, for as soon as I had completed and submitted my paper, I learned from my own university that my contract would not be renewed. So, the paper was just in time to demonstrate to potential future employers an active and vital interest in the English language industry that went far beyond the actual classroom. It would be the perfect advertisement, I thought, for someone wanting to teach English in an economics department in Japan. Well, we already know how that turned out as well.
In any case, it took my mind off my troubled journey to Hong Kong. And, the mere thought of attending the conference helped me to get through my travail with my current employer. Then too, by the time I received the rejection, I was already hard at work at the gym and well prepared to receive still another slight from the world's global English language industry.
Although I had intended to revive my annually updated website that Apple Computer had taken down the year before while I was exploring America's not so Wild West, I simply could not find the proper motivation. Aggragavtion with my local internet provider left me with an important disincentive to start a new project whose completion might never be properly hosted.
As a result, the creation of a new website was put on hold, and I devoted myself to online discussions with those who were advocating a greater role for the state in social and economic affairs on the one hand, and who appeared to have little or no understanding of money, markets, property, and freedom on the other. After many hours of sometimes fruitful, but more often stunted dialogue, it became clear that my worst enemy was the ignorance of my interlocutors. After some 50 pages of labor I realized that I needed to write more than what I had written and could possibly write using the conceptual framework with which I had started. Indeed, I could not help but feel that I was arguing with people who had never advanced beyond their sophomore year in college. What is worse, many of these people were as old as I and had substantial real-world experience under their belt. It were as if they had spent their entire lives with their eyes closed.
It is at this point that I realized that I would be wasting my time to engage in many more long social media discussions, for I could reach a far larger and more open-minded audience by writing a book designed for those with the same mental ability, but far less exposure to our nation's corporate and government controlled mass media -- namely, America's politically minded youth.
After some 50 pages of labor I realized that I needed to write more than what I had written and could possibly write using the conceptual framework with which I started. So, I took an indefinite break and have yet to return. As the project is very worthy, I have little worry that it will not be completed. Simply the holiday season has set in, and I still do not have employment for the upcoming fall.
Although the month of Ramadan in the Hijri year of 1434 (July 10th and August 7th in 2013) was not my first experience with the Muslim holy month, it was my first time while living less than 100 yards from the public address system of what appears to be a very active neighborhood Saudi mosque. My nearness to the mosque was exacerbated by a recent change in the Saudi calendar from the more traditional Saturday-Wednesday work-week to the new Sunday-Thursday work-week.
After some shuttling between gyms I opted for the closer venue. I had never worked out late at night and decided to see what it would be like.During the first week of Ramadan I had to adjust to important time changes that had nothing to do with the mosque, but everything to do with my regulary scheduled workouts at the gym. I was given a choice between a brief two-hour interval between 4:00 and 6:00 PM at a more distant gym from which I was separated by heavy traffic congestion, or a much longer interval between 9:00 PM and 02:00 AM at my habitual venue. Either way, I would be working out with an entirely new set of people. Either way, my biorhythms would be disturbed, as I was used to working out between the hours of 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. After some shuttling between gyms I opted for the closer of the two venues. As I had never worked out late at night, I decided to see what it would be like.
Fortunately, I was not alone in my dilemma, as just about everyone I knew was similarly lost in temporal space. So, we encouraged one another with funny jokes and settled into our new schedules. The confusion in time also made for a great excuse to arrive late for just about any scheduled appointment -- not that Saudis are particularly timely in the first place.
After about 10 days into my new schedule I noticed that the length of publicly broadcast final prayer of the day (al Isha) had been extended, and I could not understand why. So, I stopped and asked someone, if the Saudi King had died and all of Saudi society was in a state of mourning. Little did I know at that point how bad things would get, for on the following day I was awakened at 1:00 AM in the morning to publicly broadcasted prayer that lasted uninterrupted for an astounding 50 minutes. For the next nine days my apartment would be subjected to no less than three and one half hours of daily public broadcasting with zero adjustment in decibel level no matter the time of day. Indeed, for the next nine days my apartment would be subjected to no less than three and one half hours of daily publicly broadcast prayer with zero adjustment in decibel level no matter the hour of day.
In self-defense I quickly rescheduled my workout time so that I would leave the gym at closing. In this manner I could cut out at least 50 minutes of what I had previously considered to be well-sung poetry at best and a pre-scheduled, unwanted, permanently set alarm clock at worst. My opinion of Muslim prayer changed dramatically during this final 10-day period, and I was one very happy lad when it was all over. Moreover, I now understood why so many expats leave Saudi Arabia during the holy month of ramadan.
Indeed, the summer before I was somewhere in the mountains of the American, not so Wild West where I listened daily to babbling brooks, rushing rapids, and the pounding thunder of waterfalls during the heat of the day; the buzzing of insects, the chirping of birds, and the crackling of a bond or camp fire in the early morning and evening hours; and the occasional cry of a fallen animal in duress just before night fall. When night fell, it was the soothing rustle of leaves blown by the wind and the muffled hoots of a night owl some distance over head that caressed my spirit and allowed me to sleep. There were no thoughts of allah or any other similarly conceived human creation -- only the magnificent beauty, charm, and invincible power of nature.
I suppose that I could end my annual review here, but it would hardly do justice to that with which I have been faced for the past four months.
In late September I began looking forward to my second paycheck of the new academic year and my housing allowance equal in worth to one full month's salary. When it did not arrive, I went to the staff director of my faculty and asked him, if he knew what had happened. So, together we walked over to the faculty's finance office where we discovered that my name had been purged from the system. I quickly found my way to the personnel office of the university's general administration and was told that my contract had been cancelled -- this time with no advance notice. From there I went to the president's office and requested an investigation. Was it because I had had a run-in with the vice president of student affairs, the boss of the director of personnel, over the availability of university sports facilities more than a year ago?
Several days later I was told that a solution had been found, but it would take some time to implement. Was this not the same solution that I had been told about by the vice president of academic affairs already in June?
The week before last I was told by my faculty that the strategic planning office was trying to have my back-pay transferred into my bank account. I was told that my check was ready, but when I discovered the amount I was aghast. It was for less than half of what was owed me according to my cancelled contract. Last week I was told by the same office that the matter was being turned over to my faculty. This week I was told that my check was ready, but when I discovered the amount I was aghast. The check was for less than half of what the university still owes me according to my cancelled contract.
On New Year's Eve day I paid my third visit to the president's office and was told to see the director of personnel on the following day. This I did. From there I went with the director's assistant to the university's office of records and archives where we dug up the correspondence responsible for my pay. From there I returned to the faculty and showed the dean what I had been given. A subsequent visit with the faculty's financial officer and the director of staff indicated clearly that my own department was at fault for the error.
It is now the second day of the new Gregorian year and the first day of the third month of the now already very old Higri new year 1435, and still I have not received full payment for the months of September, October, November and December. Still, I have not received my housing allowance for the academic year 2013-14.
When I first came to Saudi Arabia way back in 2007 I was told by a colleague to expect the unexpected. In this regard, Saudi Arabia has yet to fail me.
On January 1st I gathered in my home a group of former students and others who participated in the 2013-14 Language Club Orientation for a New Year's Day dinner. After the festivities were over, and it was time to go home, I explained to them that I was resigning as language club coordinator and would ask the chairperson of our department to turn over my club room office, desktop, and printer to the club's executive council.
At the time I did not even know, if I would receive a teaching schedule for the spring term. Fortunately, I have since received one, but it is the largest teaching load that I have had since I joined the department. As there were five additional faculty added at the end of the 2012-13 school year and not enough office space to go around my boss's statement appears clear: "I wish to discourage any further effort on your part toward founding a new language club". Well, this is OK, for I have now completed my report about my past effort and sent copies to my boss, the dean, and the sole member of the student body who volunteered to sit on the club's executive council. What is certain is that I do not want to attempt any further institutional change at a school in which I have no future, and in a department in which the level of clerical and administrative incompetence and/or reluctance is so very high.
In any case, I can hold my office hours in the student cafeteria with my laptop, if I do not receive a new office assignment. After all, a student club room should be for students, not office space for departing faculty.
So that I do not begin the New Year with a technical promise that I cannot keep, I will offer a quick glimpse into the usual sort of optimism that a New Year's wish should always entail and try to get this review posted in a timely manner.
This year's spring break corresponds with two important conferences in the US: the Austrian Economic Research Conference (AERC) in Auburn, Alabama followed by the annual TESOL conference in Portland, Oregon. I can make both with only minor disruption in my university work schedule. This assumes, of course, that I will receive one. Already I have submitted a paper for presentation at the AER Conference, but it is too late to do the same for the 2014 TESOL conference. No matter, for at the latter conference my primary concern will be finding work for the fall.
What is so neat about the AER Conference is that it will be my first time to meet with a group of Austrian economists and my first time to listen to Judge Andrew Napolitano speak in person. At the conference I will look for new employment as an economist under the Austrian umbrella, rather than a linguist under a banner of global commercial exploitation. At the AER Conference I will also inquire about running for the US Congress or helping someone else to do the same. Still another goal will be to encourage some of those at the conference to join me during the summer for the 2014 annual meeting of the WEAI in Denver, Colorado.
At WEAI I am still pretty much a loan rider.
Happy New Year!
Credits: The image of Paul Revere on his horse was obtained from the internet, but I do not remember where. There are hundreds of similar images that you can easily obtain, if you are interested. Just google for the words horse and paul revere, and then search for images.
Note: The Longfellow poem is much longer and please understand that there is a lot missing where the three dots begin.
Note: Also, links to the back years have yet to be properly catalogued as my Apple website where they were once hosted no longer exists, and I simply have not found the time and motivation to catalogue them. This said, the New Year transition from 2012 to 2013 is available. You have only to click in the approriate box at the top of the page!