Orient Expression

24 October, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — pyrotyger @ 5:13 pm
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

休み休み- resting at times; thinking carefully

It has been, I confess, far too long. Three weeks, almost to the day, since I arrived in Cambridge, and I have yet to update my blog with the very content for which it was created.

Suffice it to say that it was not due to lack of anything to say, but rather a lack of time in which to say it. When asked during conversation classes what we do in our “Free Time” most of the class laughed bitterly. Weekends, we have come to realise, are much like weekdays but without lectures – unless one elects to attend a seminar “for fun”. Only by failing to attend several such lectures today was I able to finish my homework ahead of time and bash out a few lines for your enlightenment, after which I will be hitting the books again.

Is this not what you expected, Mr McArthur? Were you anticipating an easy ride?

In answer to both questions: no, not exactly. Some of you may recall prior to my departure that I was – ahahaha! – slightly worried that my previous study would render the first few weeks somewhat less challenging than I would need in order to get myself up to proper studying speed, and that I might not be sufficiently motivated or terrified when the real work started to hit sometime around November.

Oh, the hubris born of blissful ignorance. Pyrotyger, you arrogant twit, you were so wrong. Not only are there several in my class of 16 younglings who have either spent quite some time in Japan or studied the language extensively in the past (placing me somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of ability), but we also found to our horror that everything we had learned up until now was horrible horrible lies, and we would need to work hard just to get the basics pinned down again. What a nasty shock that was, deliberately engineered though it may have been.

Still, at least my aforementioned fears were groundless…

The course is fast-paced, and seems to accelerate relentlessly. In the manner of secondary schools everywhere, lectures start daily at 9am, and homework is set each day to be handed in the next morning. This is actually a very good system when teaching a language, as frequent usage and the pushing back of boundaries are surely the most effective staples when learning any language. Just ask any two-year-old. You have to be strong enough to take the knocks though: there are few things as disheartening as discovering, every single day, that the arcane knowledge and understanding you had fought so hard to master yesterday turns out to be nothing but simple bedrock upon which today’s horrifying tower of Babel is to be built. And the next day, and the next… It puts me in mind of the scientist’s creed: the only way to learn anything new is to decide that everything you’ve learned so far is wrong.

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

In addition to this, there are seminars, supervisions and regular lectures on the history of S E Asia which, though interesting in themselves, do cause problems when the relevant lecturers decide to throw an additional assignment or essay in our paths. Rather like the coins traditionally baked into a proper Christmas Pudding, they are no doubt valuable and useful in themselves, but will choke you to death if you’re too busy chomping away to think ahead and pick them out. Lest we think we might be actually getting on top of things, of course.

Freshers’ ‘Flu’ has been doing the rounds but, short of a couple of irritating colds, I’ve managed to avoid the worst of it. Mind you, poverty and experience mean that I’m not out drinking every other night with the other freshers, so I’m less likely to find myself “in bed with ‘flu'” the next morning (just kidding guys!)

Regarding student life, then: there is plenty to tell you, many goings-on and exciting activities, but this perhaps isn’t the time. Stress and my ineptitude with long-distance relationships have taken their toll, and there have been a few hairy moments with my girlfriend. Hopefully though, we seem to be keeping our heads above water so far. If I can make it through the first month without dropping everything catastrophically, there’s no reason I can’t tackle the second.

I’ll keep chewing through the work for now, but Christmas Pudding is about more than silver coins and brandy custard. When I start to feel I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, it’ll be important to remember that.

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3 October, 2009

Present Tense

Filed under: Uncategorized — pyrotyger @ 8:51 am

My god, isn’t it quiet?

There are worse views...

There are worse views...

In spite of being a St Edmund’s College student, I’m billetted at Westminster College. As I arrived yesterday I was informed that most of the students here – mainly preachers on sabbatical – go home for the weekend. This made my first night here quiet and lonely, but at least I got all the hot water I could wish for this morning.

My big brother, the dysfunctor, and his wonderfully Japanese fiancee Chisako, were kind enough to turn up with a pre-made meal last night; an auspiciously authentic Japanese meal of seasoned rice and sour seaweed salad. Chisa reassured me with the same advice as my girlfriend: though my verbal fluency in Japanese is currently somewhere around zero, she is confident that problem will resolve itself within a month of actually being in Japan. Still, it would be nice to be able to talk to her with some facility in her own language, having studied it sporadically for the last two years or so…

Okay, time to bite the bullet. This little town has intimidated me for too long. I’m going to head out there and make it a bit smaller.

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