Archive for December, 2007

Love, Fun, Beauty

Three words, three photos, to sum up how things are.

Us at Windsor Castle: The flag is flying, the Queen is at home.


Pepé and the armed policemen



I am so happy to be with my *Twinkle* (who, incidentally, took the above sunrise shot).

Shock

I’m now at my parent’s house, a 150-year-old blacksmithy that sits at one end of a peaceful valley on the Welsh Border. No signal for my mobile phone, no broadband internet. I like it.

On Thursday morning I found myself faced with an impossibly long list of tasks to get through before evening. Looking at it, I felt worried. How would I get it all done?

As I ate my muesli, I considered how I might rid myself of this anxiety – it wasn’t very helpful, and had me feeling that I had to rush rush rush – not a good thing.

It was then that I remembered something. That something being, “I am going to get to the end of this day anyway, whether I have a lot of things to do or not. By taking one step at a time, I shall be moving towards tonight, and tonight I will have got through the day, and everything will be alright, the day will be over and I will have no cause for anxiety”

I found that tremendously helpful. Recalling the fact that the day was going to happen anyway regardless of whether or not I was busy took away from the me the responsibility of making the day happen. Without that responsibility, I was free to do the things I chose to do.

It turned out to be a mightily constructive day.


Yesterday saw me experiencing stress levels I’d forgotten actually existed.

There was a 5pm deadline for the Business Competition, and at 4.53pm I found myself scrabbling to complete our entry. I felt absolutely desperate, brain not really functioning under the extreme pressure. The situation wasn’t eased by the doorbell that was constantly ringing – my flat mate had locked himself out, but with just 7 minutes to go I couldn’t afford the minute it would take to go downstairs and let him in.

It was exactly 5pm when I clicked on ‘Send’. I’d just managed to do it (albeit with totally incorrect finances).

I could then breathe, although it took me over an hour to recover. My shoulders were incredibly tense, I was shocked – I’ve not felt that degree of stress for months, and was astonished by it’s force. Breathe, Joseph, Breathe.


It was later last night when I really went into shock though.

Skirting the south of Birmingham on the M42, we were faced with a sudden queue of vehicles on all three lanes of the motorway. We stopped, and then crawled forward about 50 metres to the scene of what was the most serious road traffic accident I’ve ever seen in real life. It had only just happened, and the emergency services yet to arrive on the scene.

There were several cars involved. A couple of them were only slightly damaged, and had come to a standstill across the two inside lanes. Another was right up the embankment, windscreen smashed in, bonnet scrunched up. The final one was on its side, sticking right out into the right-hand-lane; we had to drive around that one.

I was pretty shocked by this; seeing a group of people standing around someone lying on the tarmac. A couple of people sitting in a daze on the embankment. Tears immediately came to my eyes as I gasped for breath. I considered stopping to help, but there were a few other cars parked on the hard shoulder just after the accident scene; I decided that there were enough people there already.

A couple of miles later I felt better, just upset for those involved.

Ten minutes after that the motorway was once again lit up by slow-moving headlights, with the addition this time of a flood of flashing blue lights. The accident had occurred on the opposite side of the motorway, and had closed all three lanes. Traffic on our side slowed to a crawl as we passed the scene. It was pretty horrendous. Multiple cars had been beaten out of shape – one of them had no roof, cut off by the fire brigade. And then there were the casualties, bring strapped into stretchers, surrounded by police and ambulance staff.

We journeyed on.

It was only when we arrived home that I realised just what an impact the accidents had had upon me. I started to feel very upset; my body started shaking un-controllably.

It took me 5 hours to calm down. I watched a film – Brokeback Mountain which I’ve not seen before. That didn’t really help much – all that tension left me feeling even more wound up! At 2am I decided to listen to a relaxing audiobook and edit my Japan soc Christmas party photos – and with that, I was able to process what I’d experienced, and let go.

The thing that really struck me about the whole incident was the extent to which my body had subconsciously suppressed the state of shock, enabled me to function normally for a further 90 minutes until that time that it was free to let go. Given the signal that it was now safe to relax, it took just a couple of minutes for the impact of the two accidents to hit.

What amazing bodies we have!

Today, I’m going to visit a few friends around Herefordshire, before heading off to London tomorrow to see Tom, Miyu and baby Jay, who is here in the UK for the first time ever following his birth in August! Tanoshimi~!

You get what you give

It has indeed been a Wiggy Week of the highest order.

The Japan soc Christmas Party was a great success, with over 150 people attending, including our beloved sensei, one of our favourite tutors, and his wife who played a big part in making me feel that Sheffield was my home, before I’d even returned from Japan. I’ll post the photos soon.

Then there’s my friends who, in September, set themselves the goal of buying a house before Christmas. Today, they picked up the keys to a brand new home, and tonight we moved them in. They managed this despite having no money – in fact, they were actually paid £70 to buy the house!

Then there’s some other friends who today had their offer on a nearby house accepted – 10% less than the asking price too!

Yesterday, myself and my two business partners picked up the first bit of funding for our new business – £1000. My bankruptcy wasn’t an issue at all when we opened the account. Tomorrow we will submit our business plan to the White Rose competition, to put us in the running for another £5000.

Oh, and tonight I received an email about another competition whereby graduating students can win up to £5000 in acknowledgment of their extra-curricular activities. Naturally, I’ll be entering! Who says it doesn’t pay to not concentrate solely on studies…?!

I’m feeling a lot more confident re. the interview exam and the speech contest. It’s all in my head. I’ve been listening again to 5-hour-long audiobook of The Secret (modern day version of Earl Nightingale’s ‘The Strangest Secret’) for the past few days. Since I first heard it in the summer I’ve tried hard to put into practice the lessons given on the Law of Attraction – and today found myself laughing with joy when realising how effective those techniques have proved to be for me.

Gratitude. Positive thinking. Love for all others. It really works! The cynic in me that used to criticise these books full of techniques for self-improvement has been well and truly quashed.

Mr T has had his back operation – it was a success! Wellness wishes winging their way to you Mr. T.

Two more appearances in the media this week, this time starring alongside a lost Samurai, and in another article sporting a sexy blue T-Shirt in the CILASS newsletter.

Attended the university carol service a few days back. Just beautiful. Literally had me in tears. Amazing energy filled that huge hall – my hair was standing on end.

Mince pies and Port in the SEAS office today. Yum Yum Scrumptious.

Life is great, and I feel very grateful for that. Oh, and I do believe it’s only 84 hours till I can hold my *Twinkle*. :-)

Ok wigsters, it’s off to bed for me.

xxx love joseph

I’m through to the final

Last week I reported on my atrocious telephone interview which, after the submission of an essay, served as the second stage of the selection process for the 3rd Japanese Speech Contest for University Students.

Today, mid-Japan Soc committee meeting, I received the following email.

Gulp indeed. According to the leaflet, I’ll be one of just 6 finalists for my category here in the UK. Whilst that may make it sound like I can actually speak Japanese, I am more inclined to think that they felt sorry for me after I was turned down at stage 1 in 2005, and that they were suffering from a lack of entrants.

The date of the contest should make for an interesting few weeks. It coincides not only with the exam period, but also, Big Job Interview period.

They call this the “Christmas Holidays” – all I can say is I hope *Twinkle* enjoys listening to the same speech morning and night.

My topic, actually decided upon last Spring, is NGOs / charity organisations in Japan and their influence upon the democratisation process, a topic that happens to mirror that of my final year dissertation.

2008 sees the 10th anniversary of the NPO law, a landmark bit of legislation that came into force following the Kobe earthquake of 1995, which, in addition to leaving thousands dead, resulted in over a million volunteers flooding into the region from all over Japan to help out. None of these volunteers were covered by any kind of insurance etc as there was no established system for recognising NGOs – thus they couldn’t do things like set up bank accounts, rent photocopiers or claim tax back from donations.

The NPO law changed a lot of that.

By combining my experience working with Oxfam Japan earlier this year with my dissertation research, I hope to give a presentation that is at least semi-interesting. Hopefully, I will have prepared sufficiently so I won’t be quaking in my boots.

Oh, and by the way, I dedicate this speech contest effort to my sensei, without whom my university years would not have been anything like the amazing experience they have been thus far.

Ganbarimasu!

Squirming under the Japanese spotlight

I received feedback for my presentation today – it was very positive, and generous too in light of the fact that the hours spent editing the video somewhat robbed it of having any form of ‘balanced’ argument.

We had our final class with the lecturer in question today, which despite being great fun, left me reeling from shock having been made to realise just how much reading I have failed to do over the course of the semester.

Following that it was our final class with Nagai sensei, possibly the most gifted sensei in the whole world, mother to many a SEAS Japanese Studies student. In these lessons, we’ve been rehearsing for interviews for jobs with Japanese companies / organisations. It’s been tremendously helpful, yet at the same time has seen me feeling like I’m scrabbling for a handhold when hanging over the abyss of doom. I don’t know what it is, but sitting there in an interview situation (even when my interviewer is my friend and sensei of 3 years) I simply freeze. My brain refuses to budge. I clam up. Confidence deserts me faster than a herd of cows who wake to find themselves in McDonald’s after a heavy night out on the town.

Sensei was right, the Joseph in me just disappears, as I become a bumbling bag of nerves.

This is most unlike me.

The thing is, it’s all in my head, and I know it!

Thus, I have decided to treat this as an experiment. An experiment which, should I be lucky enough to be chosen for an interview at the embassy, will run for about 5 weeks. In this experiment, I am going to practice wearing my suit, and imagine myself in that interview situation on a regular basis. I shall ask *twinkle* to interview me, and my friend Will too. I’ll ask any other Japanese people I can find down south to grill me, put me on the spot, make me squirm.

I’ve found my public-speaking (in English) confidence has shot through the roof this semester – through repeat practice. I can do the same with Japanese.

I can, and I WILL.