Orient Expression

28 September, 2009

Kokorogumi – anticipation

Filed under: Uncategorized — pyrotyger @ 7:53 pm

The word 心組み kokorogumi means anticipation or preparation. The individual kanji mean “heart/mind” and “assemble/grapple”. As a word, I think it’s a beautiful example of why I find the language so beguiling. As a compound of concepts I think the word is a very apt post-title as I enter my final week before starting at Uni.

And no, I’m not entirely prepared. I have pretty much everything I need, save a few items of stationery that I can find anywhere, but at my (rather excellent) leaving-do on Friday I realised that I wasn’t at all mentally prepared, even though Uni and Japanese are pretty much all I’ve thought of for weeks. I had an idea of what to expect in some sense, and that was the foundation of my emotional preparation. The plan changed recently when I was told that I would not be accommodated in St Edmund’s College as I had previously thought, but at Westminster College, a United Reformed place just down the road.

Though it’s a minor change, it does present a slew of minor inconveniences that I hadn’t anticipated. Having supervisions, the college library, the Combination Room/Bar, the gym and everything else move from right outside my door to 5 minutes up the hill has thrown my mental picture a bit, so I’ve lost that target and am left feeling more anxious than anticipatory.

Given my “previous life” of Christianity in some form or other makes me a little wary of the social challenges that will face me every day in the communal kitchen, probably in the guise of a kindly proferred cup of herbal tea, although I’ve been assured by the poor beleaguered lass dealing with the room-contracts foul-up (don’t ask) that I’m unlikely to have anything more unpalatable than a Lapsang Souchong infusion shoved down my throat. Still, I’m entertaining a friend’s suggestion of painting a goat’s-blood cross on my bedroom door, just in case…

More practical concerns are dominating my time now; namely the Japanese course’s preparatory reading list, and some attempts at regaining my fitness at the gym. More on the latter in a moment.

Right now, I’m fighting my way through the history of Japan, from all-but-undocumented prehistory to the modern day. I say fighting not because Japan’s history isn’t interesting – it really is! – but because the style of the relevant books is so desiccated and academic. I realise more and more that I will not only have to get used to reading this stuff constantly, but I’m probably expected to write this way too. No comments from the back there – I’m not that bad.

I can appreciate the need for such work to be so formal and avoid expressions of opinion or biase wherever possible, but I wonder if there’s a way to liven it up somehow. The illustrations in Mit”Premodern Japan – A Historical Survey” could certainly use some work – a full-page black & white photo of a Joomon urn in the opening chapter managed to set the tone for the whole book, it seems. Don’t get me wrong, it’s well-written, and the facts themselves are really fascinating – I get to the end of a chapter and reflectively think “Wow, there was some really interesting stuff in that.” Then I look down the barrel of the next chapter and want to vomit. I guess that’ll be a part of life for the next four years.

Anyway, there’s still plenty of reading left to do, and fitting that around fond farewells and last-minute organisational stuff (anyone want to buy a car?) is difficult, but I’m glad to say that my interest hasn’t waned. I’m still doing the right thing.

Back to the fitness, and I keep wavering between thinking I’m going to captain the Cambridge boat team and thinking I’ll be laughed out of the college team’s training programme. My times are pretty good, but I’m competing with folks ten years my junior, and it’s only going to get harder. I’m convinced that if I stick to the training and do as I’m asked, I’ve a good chance of getting into the college boat club – there can’t be that many people passionate about rowing, surely – but it’s going to take serious commitment. I’ll just have to see what being a good rower means to them, and do my best.

And, to that end, I was invited to attend the Concept 2 Grimsby Indoor Rowing Championship on Sunday. I was invited by a nice chap who keeps trying to get me to come when he sees my challenge times at the gym, but I’ve not managed to turn up before. It’s the first time I’ve actually competed in anything, so I was incredibly anxious and totally unprepared. People come from all over the region to compete (next one’s Newark – sorry guys, but I’ll be busy studying!) and there were some phenomenal displays of athletic determination there. Frankly I was embarrassed to even compete, but fortunately I had trouble finding the venue so I didn’t arrive until 5 minutes prior to my race and so I didn’t have time to think about it too much…

Go me!

Anyway, I didn’t exactly embarrass myself in the Open Mens 1 Mile event, and I gave them a show. Seeing my position on the big graphic display was enough to kick me into overdrive far too early (clearly a novice) so I dominated for the first half, and then started seeing stars and thinking I was about to reenact the John Hurt scene from Alien. I had to slack off and got my arse handed to me, finishing in fourth, or third for my category (thank god one of them was technically a Light Weight). It was still my best ever time for the mile, so I think to some extent I earned this bronze beauty.

If I were superstitious, I’d call it a good omen. I’ll just go ahead and say it’s good motivation though. Go me!

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