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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  1. Hi Phil,

    All seems to be going well, Great news about the rowing medal, and good encouragement for Cambridge – I’m the little ‘wide one’ shouting for you on the sussex bank.

    Take care and keep in touch. Principal male (but not very good, as you probably know) role model


    Comment by Bhodrain — 29 September, 2009 @ 12:14 am | Reply

  2. After vaguely remembering your previous blog’s name, and googling many a synonym, I found the new one at last…

    With regards to the academic writing style you may be forced into, I say resist it at all costs. Your writing has a clear voice (though bias from knowing you personally and the unconcious association therein notwithstanding) that flits well between informational, informal, epigrammatical through to whimsical whilst remaining authoritative. 

    Even when reading through articles of only passing interest to me (re: foreign language) I still find myself at the end of them, having been coaxed along and educated throughout. And if that’s not germane to academia, I don’t know what is.    

    Comment by Greg Kapka — 29 September, 2009 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

    • Cor! With friends like you, who needs flattery? 🙂
      Well, thanks muchly for the complimentary advice – I will try to keep it in mind. Just do me a favour and keep your own blog current, you young ragamuffin!

      Comment by pyrotyger — 3 October, 2009 @ 8:26 am | Reply

  3. Yo Phil!

    Just catching up on my blog feeds. It scarcely seems worth commenting now, ‘cos we’ll be seeing you in the flesh here in Cambridge in a few hours. Nonetheless…

    I’m afraid the first years always get the worst accommodation and, speaking from experience, some if it can be pretty shabby. Whatever grumbles you have about your accommodation, I can pretty much guarantee that someone at Girton has it worse.

    You’ll be overwhelmed with dysfunctional administrative crap from the moment you arrive, but when you get some breathing space, make sure you get on first-name terms with all the administrative and support staff. In particular, pastoral tutors are a terribly underused resource; they can help you find your feet much more quickly, and they are your window into the university administration.

    [Pro-tip: the practice of “tipping” the porter has fallen into disrepute. These days, you have to rely on charm. Find out which football teams your porters support and monitor the RSS feed of match results. When they win, congratulate them. When they lose, look up their principal rivals at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_football_rivalries#United_Kingdom and tell jokes like: “Did you hear that the Post Office just recalled their latest stamps? They had pictures of players on them … and people couldn’t figure out which side to spit on.” (There’s plenty more where that came from at http://www.jokefile.co.uk/sport/manu.html) They’ll know exactly what you’re doing, but they’ll still appreciate the effort.]


    Comment by dysfunctor — 2 October, 2009 @ 11:12 am | Reply

    • Ohayoo aniki,
      Yeah, I’m a little worried I’ll lose track of something or drop the ball somewhere, but I’m trying to keep it together. This morning’s tasks are to get my Uni card, trawl through my pigeon-hole(s) and see what else needs doing. Beyond that, it’d just be nice to meet someone – so far Westminster College has turned out to be almost entirely abandoned, in spite of first impressions. It’s like Spending A Night In The Spooky Old House, only the hot water works, and the spiders are bigger. I understand it’s because most of the “residents” go home for the weekend.
      So, time to finish my breakfast and head up to Eddie’s. Who knows, maybe I’ll start making friends? *sniffle*
      Thanks for the tips, by the way. I might not be able to feign sufficient interest in local football results to garner any apprecitation, but I’ll do my best.
      See you later!

      Comment by pyrotyger — 3 October, 2009 @ 8:33 am | Reply

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