last step before the fall
weill in japan: day 29
The class is unhappy, the midterm is about to happen, and the future of the
course is up in the air.
Yesterday, our third period began with a
discussion of our concerns with the course's content and methods. Several
students have expressed their displeasure with the repetitive nature of the
class, and the midterm will be no exception to this rule. The "interview"
section of the exam simply consists of answering prewritten questions by
reciting a section of the textbook verbatim. No independent thought
whatsoever is part of the test.
Although we've already started the next unit, the future of the course is
being left up to us -- at least on paper. Today at the opening of the third
period, we were given two large-format sheets of paper. One contained the
syllabus of everything we've done to date, with blank spaces in the fifth and
sixth weeks. The other sheet contained several blanks for us to write things
that we would like to learn. Of course, these suggestions are optional and
will be accepted at the discretion of the course staff. Somehow I'm doubtful
that things will change. Although we're being given the option, it's very
hard for students to effectively rewrite the lesson plan on a few days' notice.
Somehow I would think that the professors should be in charge of
planning worthwhile lesson plans.
I have seen few courses crash and burn like this one has so far. It's
getting to the point where if someone were to ask me for advice about going
to ICU, I'd say "don't come for the classes." Other classes' students are
complaining of high homework volume, although boredom doesn't seem to be as
much of a problem outside of our class. The focus for many students has
shifted to recreational activities, especially as just 2 1/2 weeks remain
in the summer program.
Project work also seems to be a question mark as the course continues into
the second half. We have had one group presentation assignment, but it
was centered around the same data as all other groups. Outside another
classroom, several oak tag posters display brightly colored posters
illustrating the surrounding area. Although it seems to be even more
unproductive busy work than the poster we made on
Friday, the other class's project smacks of
creativity. We were told in the first week that a PowerPoint presentation
was in the schedule, but I don't know how that will pan out.
It's unusually expensive to call a mobile phone from a pay phone. When
calling today, it cost 30 yen (25 cents) to leave a 30-second message on a
voice mail system. I didn't even have enough time to give my phone number
on the message as the coins dwindled down. At least the remaining 120 yen
($1.00) that I put in the machine was returned to me.
It's a good thing that I checked my bank balances on-line today. Postal
Services ATMs, which accept my ATM card, withdraw only from checking. Net
result: my checking balance for the past few days has been less than negative
$100. Fortunately, I can straighten everything out on-line.
Some students in the dorms are having a competition to see who has the
most outrageous outfit. One woman wore a common shirt that says "Financial
disclos (sic) is like a bikini / What it reveals is interesting /
What it conceals is essential." She was one-upped by a male student wearing
a blue bodysuit reading "Ganbare Nippon" ("Let's Go Japan") that he
picked up from the World Cup merchandise clearance racks at a department store.
Something tells me he won the grand prize: drinks from everyone else
Milestone: I have used a word in real life that I learned from a video game,
without any awkward moments. One elder in Final Fantasy IV (Japanese) uses
the term gosenzo to refer to his ancestors; I used the same word with
my professor on the bus when discussing my family. Word understood, mission
Used book and CD stores are a Good Thing. They sell used discs for
¥1000 ($8.30), substantially less than the ¥3000 ($25) that a new CD
typically costs in Japan. If I cared about manga, I could get it for half
price at these stores too.
Time to wrap up studying, get a solid night's sleep, and be ready for the