weill in japan: day 15
Getting into a routine has its downside. Today was the third
consecutive day that I got up after 7:00 AM, despite the fact that I set my
alarm to ring at a more realistic 6:30 AM. Because of my continued late
start, I had to blaze in and out of the shower. My older brother Nori
arrived from his home in Kyoto for a visit in the morning, but I didn't get
to meet him until the afternoon.
first bad day
Milestone: Today was my first Bad Day in class.
Taking a lightning-quick shower, throwing on clothes, and getting ready to
leave the house in 90 seconds doesn't exactly make for a good morning. My
concept of "breakfast" has been reduced to coffee: a half-liter bottle of
coffee milk from a kiosk on the station platform, and a demitasse of espresso
from the vending machine between classes. Total cost: ¥260 ($2.25) for
about 200 milligrams of caffeine.
On top of it all, we have two hours of repetitive, mindless parroting of
stale material starting at 8:30 AM. It's getting to the point where I can't
take much more of this boring dreck, but fortunately the next two hours are
more involved and lively.
I don't think the caffeine worked today. I was on the verge of falling
asleep in class on many occasions, and it was nearly impossible to stay
focused. Maybe I just need more sleep.
On top of it all, I had a meeting with one of my professors this afternoon
regarding my brief speech in class last week. Every student is doing these
reviews: we listen to the tape along with an instructor, as he/she helpfully
asks me to identify all the mistakes I made. It's a humiliating ten minutes
to review a speech of about one minute on tape, repeated ad nauseum. It
didn't do anything for my mood today.
After getting back from campus, I was able to finally meet Nori, my older
brother who now lives in Kyoto while working for an American wine importing
company. We spoke for a while about my experience so far, and about his
business. The conversation was in English, as my host mother wants me to
help Nori maintain his English skills.
Nori's English is exceptional, the result of extensive study both in Japan
and in America. He speaks English much better than any of the bilingual
volunteers on campus, although his job with an American company demands that
his conversational English be excellent. All Japanese students study English
as early as elementary school, but the style of lessons is very repetitive
and doesn't accent conversational skills at all. Private study, including
study abroad, is a much better method to learn the language.
Despite the fact that Australia is much closer to Japan than America is,
students overwhelmingly learn the American style and pronunciation. Most
students learning English elsewhere in the world learn the British style
known as "International English," but the only sign of Japanese influence in
English here is the use of metric units for measurements. American music,
TV shows, movies, and the general cachet of all things American are seen as
very cool here. It's not uncommon for the occasional Japanese-language
variety show to include the odd American panelist speaking in fluent Japanese.
Game note: I have beaten an arcade version of Tetris, completing the
"normal mode" and getting one of the day's high scores. I fell short of the
high score table in "master mode," though.
Find: A 100-yen shop near Musashi-Sakai station has a refrigerator selling
cold 500-mL cans of Pepsi products and one-liter bottles of generic "USA Cola,"
all for ¥100 ($0.85) each. That's a much better deal than the machines
in the train station right next door.
Tip: If a cafeteria anywhere in the world offers something called "crab
croquettes," do not buy them.
Time to get some sleep, and hope for the best tomorrow on my first
C5-level vocabulary quizzes.