Monday, December 8, 2008

Smelling Burnt Toast

I honestly can’t remember much about last week, as I sit here and ponder. My brain has perhaps scorched such memories as it ran the Gauntlet yesterday. I wrote the Japanese test, and I’m not sure how much I’m legally allowed to “write and publish online” about it, but I’ll share a bit that I think is probably safe. Long story short about that one though: statistically I can’t do worse than 25% given how it was all multiple choice.

Uh, at some point in the week I had great conversations with my students, cooked some lemon chicken with Junko that I overcooked and it became dry even though it was immersed in liquid, ate lunch with Richard at a tasty BBQ restaurant again. I might have had the super spicy ramen too; it’s almost frightening how little I remember from last week. Oh ya and Jessie’s birthday Friday night.

I do remember Saturday though, trying to go through some listening examples for the test. The more I studied these examples, the more freaked out I became. They spoke at a normal speed and they only spoke once. Here’s an example on the website concerned buying movie tickets roughly translated: One person says the separate movie ticket prices for adults, students and children, where the other person then said how they wanted 1 adult and 2 student tickets. You had to add it up and mark your answer. (4400 yen) Even if they asked me that in English I’d want them to repeat it at least once. Rattled, I ended up not studying too much at this point and played video games for the rest of the day to try and relax for the next days’ massacre.

I got up early Sunday and traveled over an hour to the test site. It was a bit eerie to be on a train full of foreigners; I guess I’ve been here too long to feel that way. The type of people and languages varied like the colours of a rainbow, even if it was a predominately Asian rainbow. One dude from Malaysia started talking to me, but I wonder if it was his accent that had me completely fooled; I totally didn’t understand him for the most part. I.e. I heard him say “irei” instead of “kirei” which is a huge difference.

Anyways, now that I looked like I was screwed on this test to him because the most basic level of communication was now broken “kanada wa kirei” (roughly: Canada is beautiful). Enough about that, I had my taste of a Japanese university and those kids got it rough. I hardly fit in my seat because of my size and my feet were numb all day from the temperature. It was broken into 3 parts with breaks in-between, and I didn’t know if I was shaking from the cold or my brain being rocked after a while; it was one hell of an ordeal.

I then understood why the listening part was only played once because I would have died if they did it a second time. There were hardly any questions but the level of stress involved probably shaved some time off my life expectancy. I was really happy with the first part of the test I guess, even if questions boiled down to “either you know it or you don’t” which I guess is the case when you’re looking at a Chinese character; that would explain the punishing time limit.

It was great to look at a question, and remember exactly where I learnt the answer from; most were from my kanji textbook, and some from my listening tapes. I love it when things click. This however was not a common thing, and I did what I could to try and piece things together as the obvious gaps in my level prevented me to understand a lot of what I was looking at. Forget looking at the question instructions too; I could maybe understand half of it, and waste 5 minutes deciphering it. Well that’s enough on that, again I’m not sure how much I can talk about the test without getting in trouble so that’s enough about the test.

I went home, ate fast food and drank pop and played video games until midnight in a deep funk; I hardly touched the computer. Today I feel a bit better, although I don’t know if I could feel worse than yesterday. There WERE questions I did know and it was a good feeling. I have come a FAR way in just 2-3 months; I can’t imagine writing that test before that time. Now that the storm has settled and the “get the hat out of Tatsuno” feelings have passed again, time to start planning my long-term future.

Short term though, what I want to do now (after Christmas break of course) is get a car, then drive to a real city regularly. Somewhere where I can see a tutor that can teach me, and possibly start going to a gym while I’m at it and meet new people; all this recent cold has me hibernating and starting to gain weight again. I’m wondering if I’d be able to survive in Canada anymore as I’m much more susceptible to the cold. Either way, time for me to relax for a short respite; although Neal talked me into Tokyo this weekend and then on the 18th I’m gone to Thailand before exploring Taiwan in January.

"The tighter you squeeze, the less you have." -Zen Saying


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