Archive for April, 2006

Shrinkage

That tumble-drier should be relabelled.

It has three settings to choose from. These are:

1) Fragiles

2) Colours and Whites

3) Permenant Press

They shouldbe labelled

1) Occasionally blow cold air in and not dry your clothes at all

2) Occasionally blow a bit of warmish air in, and dry one sock, leaving the rest of the load soaking wet

3) Blow a constant stream of nuclear-powered boiling hot air in, evapourate all water within 45 seconds and then spend the remaining 59 minutes 15 seconds cooking your clothes using the built in grill, so that when you take them out your boxer-shorts actually snap in half, and your T-shirts are just the right size for a 2-month-old foetus.

Washing Day

..again. Must be the third time this year I’ve had to wash my socks. It’s costing me a fortune.

Yesterday morning I went to the reception of this student block to pick up a parcel that had arrived the previous day. On seeing me, the staff began to whisper amongest themselves… “that’s him isn’t it?”

What had I done? Had they discovered my deep dark secret connected with the purple stains on the hallway carpet? Or had I been spotted on CCTV letting my herd of pet giraffes into this secure unit late at night?

Thankfully, no. I had won a DVD player, as a reward for reporting more faults than anyone else on site!

Broken cooker, broken Kettle, numerous breakdowns of the boiler, light bulbs that needed replacing, a flooded kitchen caused by a knackered washer, broken extractor fan in my bathroom, broken extractor fan in the kitchen… I’m just waiting for my bookshelf to fall off the wall and the floor to dissapear beneath me – based on experience I’d say that neither are that unlikely, despite the fact that I live on the ground floor and there’s no basement.

So that was a nice surprise. Of course, once I am presented with my prize (which I’ll pass on to mum and dad as I have no use for a DVD player), it will probably work fine for a few days, then the lazer will accidentally go into overdrive and cut the unit in half…

buzzing

What a day. It’s been great. Another day to feel so happy to be alive and well.

Boy though am I bushwacked. I guess it all began at about 8am when my alarm clock (the theme tune to that classic 1980s Thames TV program Rainbow) woke me up in order that I could phone the Japanese Embassy in Korea – Yes, I can exchange my tourist visa for a student visa there in September, provided I first get a re-entry permit from immigration in Tokyo first. I wait with baited breath to hear whether or not I can go to Japan in July. If not, no probs, gives me more time to read and study in preparation for my long-awaited return to Japan as more than just a tourist.

Got the results of my Kanji test (73% or 76% I forget which, and I’ve misplaced the sheet on which I wrote the result!). Jolly good jolly good. A bit of socialising, mock exam, and then suddenly the week was over. Crikey, only 15 days of classes left.

The thinking continues. We have so many ideas for ventures in Japan… tonight when doing background research for a business that we’d really like to start, we struck gold, totally by accident. I don’t want to say any more, but I do want it to be recorded here, as Friday 28th April being the day that we discovered this vast untapped market. OK, OK, so there are some Japan-based companies in this field, but they really are lame. We think we can do much better! I MUST fulfil my promise to my family to be the one that becomes rich (without sacrificing happiness and principles).

Oooooh I can hardly wait to graduate! It makes it all worthwhile. *Cough* is so enthusiastic too… it feels like life is just beginning, I’m so happy. Oh, and I love my department at uni.

And it’s a bank holiday weekend!

no anchor

woahhh I’m all over the place. Combination of events have thrown me way out into the stratosphere. Good job I had my laptop in my rucksack at the time, and a very long Lan cable attached, cos there’s not much out here for entertainment except dodging a few dud satellites.

So what’s up?

1) Essays. Reading lots about topics such as Minamata Disease or the Japanese media (or in my case, both), is a right kick in the goolies. I think we should have a whole module in our final year devoted to telling us the good things about Japan, if there are any, so that we don’t all graduate asking ourselves “…Why???!!”.

2) This morning’s Kanji Test. I am pleased to say that it went really well, that is, comparatively speaking. When one bears in mind the fact that the thing I’m comparing it to is last semester’s test in which I managed to get 2%, it is hardly a surprise that it went ‘comparitively well’. I’d say 60 something % at least. Anyway, that was pretty stressful, but at least it’s over. Hurray!!

3) Only 13 days of classes remaining. Scary. Then it’ll be summer. This time-flying business is somewhat disconcerting.

4) Our business plans. *Cough* and I have been thinking a lot about the business that we want to set up once back in Japan. The whole new perspective that this puts on the next 18 months is taking some adjusting to.

5) I had the misfortune to receive an email from CrissCross (Japan) telling me that Metropolis magazine, the most popular English-language listings mag in Japan, has started a weekly podcast [please note deliberate lack of links]. This in itself isn’t so bad. It’s subscribing and then listening to the thing that has such a traumatizing effect. I think they must have put an ad in the print version a few months ago reading, “WANTED. Complete Twat to present show that will make you want to leave your iPod to soak overnight in a bucket of Ultra-Strength Dettol”. I only managed 9 minutes of the half-hour show. I can’t face giving episode 2 a go.

6) My monumental decision to learn how to use Dreamweaver properly. Having used it for about 5 years now to build various websites I guess it’s time I learnt what a CSS style sheet is, and stopped stealing code from other people’s websites. Anyway, I bought a book off Amazon Today. Oh, and two COMPLETE strangers in town told me how much they liked my hat. One of them then went on to talk about the location of the clitoris and how best to stimulate it. This would have been somewhat disconcerting had we not been in a bookstore at the time, and had she not been with her boyfriend (who had a sheepish, guilty look on his face as he tried to pay full attention to what she was telling him, poor lamb). The other person who commented on my hat did not say anything about female genitalia however as he was holding a bucket collecting money for the local children’s hospital, and it would probably have been a little inappropriate.

7) A bolt from the blue. I can’t say too much about it at this point, but basically today I found myself applying for something happening in Japan this summer. It’s half-expenses paid – I have to cover air-fare, transport and food.

What this means is that, should I be one of the lucky 40 to be accepted, I will be leaving for Japan almost 2 months ealier than I had planned, we’re talking mid-July, i.e. just 6 weeks after exams are over.

Transport is not a problem. I phoned my LEA, who received my application for funding for next year last week (yes, that’s right, next year last week), and they said if I was to buy my ticket now I’d simply need to send in the receipt and they’d send me the cash (minus the excess). A few weeks of gardening work would give me enough to live on for the duration of the three-week program (were I to be accepted), then I’d probably spend the remaining 2 months WWOOFing to pass the time without spending money. I guess it would have to be Hokkaido – the heat during those few weeks in the south last summer nearly killed me.

Oh, there will then be the small matter of having to leave Japan and re-enter on a student visa (I can’t get that until september, so I’ll be going out on a tourist visa in July). I’ve been instructed by the embassy in London to phone immigration in Tokyo in the morning, then the embassy in Seoul to check that I’ll be able to exchange my visa there.

So yes, this is all somewhat unexpected – watch this space.

If I DO go back to Seoul I’d better avoid the British embassy, as the last time I was there I ended up causing a real uproar by accusing the resident “Korean Friendship Association” of having a pigeon as its mascot rather than a dove. I still haven’t really got over the embarrasment of being found out as the sender of what I thought was an annonymous email .

There’s a lesson for us all there – you know who you are (and so do I!)

Anyway, *cough* is starting to growl. We only have one LAN cable, and two laptops. Best hand it over before she insists on spanking me.

Come to think of it though, I could just have a look at what offers Amazon has on today, or perhaps check my email account again. Maybe see who’s visited TGW today…

Back to School

And only too soon the holidays were over.

I sort of got done what I set out to achieve. 2 out of 3 essays-type things written. The last one isn’t due for a couple of weeks, so there’s still plenty of time to panic.

And in 7 weeks, it will all be over. I’m almost in the mood for printing out a countdown calender (minus Richard Whitely), but I shall resist. I’m really looking forward to reading all the books I’ve had on my shelf for the past two years but up until now have only had time to dip into for essay purposes. Then there’s the books for next semester at Rikkyo Uni – I managed to obtain a rather lame reading list for my core modules, and will attempt to get hold of second-hand copies so I don’t end up spending all my time (and money) over there on sorting all that out.

That’s one thing that concerns me – getting all my stuff to Japan. It’s mounting up. This week it will increase by another 2 kilos when my 2nd external hard drive arrives. My existing 160GB external drive is nearly full of ‘stuff’, whilst the 60GB drive in my laptop is packed full of photos, and 34,000 emails. Well, 34,473 to be precise.

Crikey, I wonder how many months of my life they have robbed me of?! Still, when you are as desperate for a girlfriend as I was you’d do anything…

I remember when I bought my first PC. I asked the man in the shop if I’d be able to add more hard-drives in the event that the one it came with got full up.

“Full up? Good heavens no! It’s a 10GB drive you know – you’ll never have that much data!”

I guess he wasn’t accounting for the 17,059 photos I’d take in the 7 years following that conversation (TGW visitors only get to see the ones that are (a) any good (b) not pornographic, oh, except for the ones featuring horse cocks of course.)

In other (non-boring) news, *cough* and I have been getting dead excited about the future. Not that we’re not excited about the present, coz we are, but anyway. The other night we went round to our friend’s house, the very same friend that is about to receive a Centenary Achievement Award for services to students, and had a jolly good time.

I must say, I really do find him a true inspiration. He’s the kind of person who really believes in dreams, and his own ability to turn them into reality. His success is down to a few things in my mind:

(i) The ability to dream. Now most of us can do this, but only following copious amounts of cheese-eating and 8 hours kip. This fella dreams in his waking hours too, but not in a wishy-washy way, more in an energised “we could do this, and this, and this…!” type way.
(ii) He ACTS upon his dreams, no matter how far-flung they seem. This is where most ppl fall down in my mind (myself included).
(iii) Infectious enthusiasm, enthusiasm, enthusiasm, and the ability to motivate others. Teamwork is the key behind many of his projects, and he has the necessary leadership qualities.
(iv) Lots of hard work. I swear he never sleeps. The number of projects that he’s involved in at any one time, plus the fact that he is in his final year of an architecture degree, well, it just makes one wonder where he gets the extra hours from. Perhaps he’s an alien…
(v) A girlfriend who is extremely supportive, and as hardworking as he is.

Anyway, the four of us had a really great night the other night, talking about everything from buying bits of the moon to planting sakura trees all over the university grounds. We talked of the future plans for one of his enterprises, and the success of Japan Soc – at midnight tonight, in addition to getting my student loan (hurray!) I stand down as Secretary of Japan Soc, a post I’ve had for 18 months. On that subject, I’m looking forward to The Golden Gnomes Union Awards, I understand Japan Soc has been shortlisted for several awards following its entry (by my own fair hand) into 10 different categories.

Anyway anyway, upon leaving our friend’s house, *cough* and I felt thoroughly energised re. our plans for the future, which we started working on a few months back. They ultimately end up with us not having to work for money, and having lots of free time to shag.

Basically, it all starts in September when we both return to Japan. I’m determined not to waste a cost-free year there hanging out in bars all the time (just 6 days a week)… oh no, no sireeeeeeee. Not only will there be the minor matter of uni, there will also be study needed for the Level one Japanese Language Proficiency Test which I’m planning to take in Dec 2007, the Speech contest in Feb 2008, the Podcast, and more importantly, a lot of groundwork for our enterprise which we want to get going as soon as possible after I graduate. No doubt this will mean having to hold down a regular job whilst getting the business going for the first six months / year maybe. *Cough* will also be working as of late this year to raise sufficient capital to get it all going.

Thing is, it’s all very well thinking “I will set up my own business one day” – but that day will never come unless one acts upon it – and there’s no time like the present.

It will all be made a lot easier due to a change in Japanese law that’s coming into effect on May 1st 2006 which makes it much cheaper to start a business.

Another good thing is that I will leave uni without any debts that require immidiate repayment. The law states that I only need repay my student loan (which will amount to about 20,000 pounds) once I’m earning a certain amount – and when living abroad it’s up to you to inform the loan company when you have reached that threshold. Naturally, it’s in your interests to repay the loan as soon as possible, as the interest, even at the low rate that it is, is horrendous. I’m so glad they only send a statement once a year – it’s scary! I won’t have any overdraft to repay either – the benefits of a Baked Beans and spaghetti diet.

We are also fortunate in that we have numorous contacts in Japan who can advise us on setup stuff, and provide us with introductions to prospective (rich) clients – one of whom is my brother-in-law-to-be, who owns a very successful Tokyo based business which he set up only a couple of years ago.

*Cough* and I also believe we’ll make a great business partnership :-)

So yeah, this is all really great stuff, because it puts a whole new perspective on uni, it makes me feel like all the effort really is going towards something tangible. Up until now I have felt rather dissilusioned with one aspect of this course, that being what support is given to you once you graduate. The number of Japanese Studies graduates I see around Sheffield is in a way, rather depressing. It seems that people struggle so hard, and then go on to… teaching English? What a waste of talent. Of course I may be wrong, but this is the impression that I get, and come to think of it is a problem that was acknowledged by my department during a staff/student committee meeting. It’s not actually the department’s fault – the university has a dedicated careers service that is responsible for this very thing. However, due to factors like language and distance, they don’t tend to be very hot on the Asian scene.

So yeah, my whole impression of next year is shifting away from being university-centered, and more like a ‘normal year in Japan’, where I get on and do what I really want to do, whilst also attending uni.

Of course, things may turn out completely differently, uni may be just as hard as it is here, but for the time being, this is damn exciting, and we can’t wait.

ooh, 12 minutes past midnight. Best check my bank account…!

[edit] Woopeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! I’m RICH!!!!