Besides doing some networking and finding out that it's not too bad when you do it in the area you are really interested in, I'm also doing some volunteer work, also in the field that I'm interested in.
The organization is called Japan For Sustainability. They basically gather information about green initiatives happening in Japan and report them out to the world. There is a team of volunteers researching and reporting on what's going on to generate articles in Japanese, while another team translate them into English. There's also a team translating feedbacks coming all over the world into Japanese to publish, and several other teams doing things like maintaining the website and doing promoting. It's all done by volunteers, and given the site gets 100,000 visits per month, it's doing pretty well. I found out about them at the Eco-Products Expo in Tokyo, and they recruited me to do translation work.
Anyway, so I've been spending a lot of time translating since beginning of February. And, like a lot of other things that I've been doing, it has proved to be quite interesting experience.
First of all, it's giving me an opportunity to work people in Japan. I've been living in the States for such a long time (with very little opportunity to interact with other Japanese folks), and I have never worked in this kind of Japanese setting. I knew, of course, how different it was going to be compared to working in an American setting, but even so find this experience interesting. I feel like I'm getting some kind of rehabilitation to be introduced back to Japanese society. I don't know if going back to Japan to settle is something that I'd do anytime soon, but hey, I should stay open for any possibility, right?
Second, I'm finding out that I enjoy translation work. I had never done any formal translation work before, and I wasn't particularly considering start doing it, either. I agreed to do some volunteer work to help promote green initiatives, and the work involved just happened to be translation. I had no idea that I was going to enjoy it so much. I always loved reading and writing, but selecting words or phrases that perfectly match to the original writing is really fascinating me. Sometimes it seems like a great puzzle, sometimes like an art. You might think that you already know what you enjoy and what you don't, but you really never know what else you like until you try out something new.
And finally, it's interesting because I'm reading about something that I'm already interested in: green initiatives. I think it has to do with the fact that Japan is much more homogeneous, but often initiatives get implemented and be adopted fairly quickly in Japan. So green initiatives in general, I'd say, is a bit more advanced than in the States. And learning about them is quite encouraging and interesting.
Yes, it's true I make no money doing this, but so far it's been definitely worth it. I highly recommend taking the opportunity and doing something new, just to see what else you might like doing.