Randomata: Useless Talent #5 - Pen Twiddling. In Tarantino`s `Grindhouse,` one character portends that you discover a use for every random useless talent, eventually. I spent most of my 3rd and 4th years at University working on my pen-twiddling in class. Since I`m a very punctillious student, I actually attended my classes and thus had ample pen-twiddling perfecting time. The upside of me not paying attention in class is that I now have an `in`, something to connect me with the students when nobody much feels like talking. Flicking the pen across my knuckles, around my fingers, dropping it as they teach me new tricks: class time-wasting distractions are truly the universal language english aspires to be. (I`m not sure what my useless talents #1-3 are, but I`ll let you know when I discover them. Juggling is number 4.)
Positivia: Following a couple blogposts in which I detailed what might be seen as Japan`s many problems, I`d like to offer a personal update. And I`d like to keep it mostly positive, if that`s all right with you (meaning me, my most devoted reader).
I have been doing better, probably because it is spring. That was by far the longest, coldest, and darkest winter of my life, literally though perhaps not figuratively speaking. But now we`ve had some early warmth and sunshine, and I`m starting to feel alive and awake again after 6 months of lethargy and mental hibernation.
The Cherry Blossom Wave has finally hit Hokkaido -
ASIDE: Every year, at the end of winter, news channels and papers start issuing Blossom Forecasts, with nifty graphics portraying the progress of the Nation`s most symoblic bud (though it`s not officially the national flower). People talk about the coming of Pink like an impending sports extravaganza. News cameras flash around the nation`s hotspots as a branch sprouts here, and there, and over there just a little. I only just learned how shortlived the blooming season is, as short as two weeks or even ten days. So, people schedule `hanami` parties, basically picnics in parks with lots of Cherry Blossoms, involving appreciation of the ephemeral and wondrous nature of nature as well as food and booze.
- so tomorrow I should be going to a hanami party with my Japanese tutor and some of her other students, as long as the weather holds. And just now I got a fax on my desk (yea... they still use faxes for some reason) inviting me to a party next Friday. INSERT PICTURE HERE - OR WAIT TILL NEXT POST AND INSERT IT THERE :)
With the better weather I`ve been able to spend some time outside, and to start training for the Sapporo Marathon in September, which is way too close and way too far away. Physical exertion + sunshine = happy. It`s much harder to be negative when you`re jogging along a river through the city, listening to music, surrounded by kids playing soccer, baseball, or tuba, and people playing in packs, pretending only the dogs need the run-around.
Oh, I`ve moved into my girlfriend`s apartment. That should significantly cut down the amount of time I waste on subways. Previously I was spending as much as three hours just moving around the city in the stuffy subways, from work to home and to her place and whatnot. Yuck.
ASIDE: When I build a city, I`m definitely sticking to above ground public transit, like Vancouver`s Skytrain. That lets you get to know the city better, and also lets you see the sun and daylight, and not feel like you are trapped in a dark and dingy tunnel (read cage). Any commute is weary enough without that extra hemmed in feeling. Tangentially, there will also be paved bike paths weaving through the city, with three lanes (one for passing), lights for the night, and plants or bushes lining its lengths.
Also beneficial to my health has been the change to a new school. Making a change of scenery has allowed me to see some of the changes in myself. I have learned how to fit in better in this work environment, how to deal with the teachers and students, how to stay relaxed but also eager to get more involved. My Japanese is also immeasurably better than when I arrived at my previous school, fresh off the JET.
Largely, though, the improvement is due to the different atmosphere at this school. I was warned that this school would be a rougher, lower classed, less academically able school. What I have found, so far, is very real people who engage with me much more openly than I`ve been used to in Japan. The students talk to me and joke around with me even if they dont`t know the words to say in English. At my previous school, with very high academic standards, it seemed that many students were afraid to talk to me if they couldn`t say something exactly right. Here, they use a delightful mix of both languages and nonsense, which is rather more interesting for me. Perhaps it is premature to say this, but I think the personality and behaviour displayed here would be more conducive to communicating in English in the real world, and in the future, even though students at my previous school score better on tests.
Anyways, the teachers are more relaxed, more human and less stonewalling. It helps that I am more relaxed as well, as I`ve become accustomed to being here and somewhat more confident. We had a hilarious enkai to start the term, including the traditional school dance performed (as per tradition) by male teachers in female lingerie. The other day I played volleyball with teachers and students for three hours until the dark of night. After lunch today, a bright young student who wants to be an astronaut was trying to teach me some physics.
The result is that I feel way more content about my place and my role here so far, and my body has been absolutely aching with relief (I`m pretty darn weak when it comes to volleyball - owwww).