Archive for May, 2008

Wedding invitations

Just a quick note to apologise for not sending out the wedding invites yet. I know it’s now only 7 weeks away and this is very disorganised of me. They will be going out over the next few days.

xxx

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The challenges of a long distance relationship

A misunderstanding this week between *Twinkle* and myself has led me to realise that, after 5 months apart, we’ve started to lose touch with one another’s realities. Whilst we do communicate regularly via email (just over 2,500 messages since we saw one another in January), these cannot give us a true picture of the daily mosaic of each others lives. Skype is all well and good, but the time difference and our busy schedules means that these exchanges are limited in number, and quality, with one or both of us being too exhausted for meaningful conversation.

This means we are losing the ability to understand one another’s feelings and reactions to the everyday occurrences that we do talk about.

Things have become especially difficult lately as the end of this period apart has suddenly been moved back by between one and four months. This is due to recent conversations with the Japanese authorities, who not only require me to go through a tedious 2-month-plus application process for my visa (whether it be a work visa or spouse visa), but also require that I have between £2000 and £3000 (US$ 4K – 6K) in my bank account for three months. I’m a student at the end of 5 years of higher education, so of course that is money that I don’t have – and I don’t know anyone who could lend it to me either. Even if I did, we couldn’t do the usual temporary transfer to get the required bank statement. It needs to sit there.

This means that I might even have to stay in the UK until the autumn in order to save up the necessary funds (even if I had a job lined up before I went to Japan I would need funds to keep me going for the first two months). Thinking of how difficult things are between myself and *Twinkle* at the moment, this is an horrific thought. Especially as we’ll be newly married in July.

It’s all a bit of a mess really. The only thing I can think to do is try not to worry about these disagreements that have resulted from a lack of understanding of our current situations, and instead focus upon the love and understanding that holds us together at a deeper level. I think it’s important that we not let the situation get the better of us. We are good together, and we know it. Just got to stay strong.

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Above the architecture section

Today, like yesterday, and no doubt tomorrow too, was a good day. I feel some important memories were made.

It was also a very happy day, as last night my brother’s partner’s daughter gave birth to a very cute little boy – really great news – congratulations to all involved!

Congratulations also to dear Michael (from the Waldorf years) and his wife on the birth of their baby. Another real cutey!

Somewhat less exciting than the birth of some babies was the selling, this morning, of my Claud Butler bike of 17 years. As a child I saved up for it for a long long time, and finally, when I was about 13 years old, it was delivered to school in a big brown box. I was so excited, as were my classmates. I remember having to attach the pedals, and rotate the handlebars 90 degrees. I still have the instruction manual.

I really loved that bike, but it can’t come with me to Japan. It’s the beginning of the big clear out. Soon, I’ll be giving away the ultimate student kit, including a whole kitchen (rice cooker, food mixer, pans, plates, cutlery, sieves etc), stationary, hanging clothes things, and 4 big springy clip things that have a myriad of uses).

Any takers? Sheffield or Hereford area OK. £10 donation to wedding fund appreciated.


This afternoon I had a 90-minute interview for the CELTA English language teaching course. I enjoyed that, and learnt a little about English grammar, something I’ve never really understood despite using it on a daily basis. I’ll hear tomorrow whether I’ve been accepted.

It sounds incredibly hardcore; prospective trainees are required to sign a declaration stating that they understand that they will have no life for the duration of the course.

As one of the instructors told me, “It’s incredibly demanding, and not everyone will make it to the end …but it’s fun too”. I could tell from her voice that the type of ‘fun’ that she was referring to was that that can be had by taking part in a team event that sees one walking 100km non-stop over 7 mountains in 31 hours. One of those experiences that at the time is pretty damn painful, but when you do complete it you feel a special bond with the group without whom you would have never made it to the end.


Following my interview it was back to Western Bank library which is now open until midnight. It’s funny, we’ve not studied in there this year, but just this last week myself and my classmate Jason have migrated back to the exact same spot that a group of us used to study in in our first year, on the mezzanine floor above the architecture section. It feels natural to complete the cycle, to end where we began. We even had Matthew join us from Japan (he left in our second year) – at least by email anyway.

I really enjoyed ‘studying’ today – although there was much laughter as I basically spent the first 8 hours re-enacting this video. I finally started to get my ‘stuff done’ at 7pm – this was made possible by my taking my Macbook home, and returning to the library without it (I was actually very productive during those 8 hours, it’s just that none of my activities related to my exam).

Jason had just received notice from the Embassy that he will be working in Osaka next year (on the JET scheme as an ALT), so in-between revising and talking about Apple’s OS 10.5.3 (released today) we chatted about this good news. I’m delighted that he’ll be somewhere that’s easy to visit, and I reckon he’ll love Osaka (he’s not been there before, and is happy with his placement). It has two Leica dealerships and an Apple store – what more could one ask for?!

It was during these conversations that I felt that this was a situation to be truly grateful for, one worth remembering. Sharing stuff with a friend, in a comfortable environment that carried with it a great sense of achievement. University really has been a blessing.

We finished our revision at about 10.30pm, joking that I was going to then rush home and download the new update for my Macbook, then spend half the night exploring the new features. Thankfully, it’s rather a dull update, so I should be able to get a full night’s sleep.

Night night nice world. Thank you for today.

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Mish-mash

Seems like the Internet doesn’t like wet weather. It;s been gradually dying as the mist has set in tonight. It happens in Wales too. After a heavy rain shower, one has to disconnect the router from the mains and put it in the tumble drier for a while.

Skype has been fun. I’d call someone and say ‘hello’ as soon as they answered, but due to the 10 second delay they’d hang up before they heard my voice.

It’s not the best of timing as I’ve got my weekly coaching call tonight. Looks like I’ll have to skunk off down the road to our rival, Sheffield Hallam University, and see if their connection is any better.

Condolences to Sophie on not making it through …but wasn’t she fantastic?! I think that with the exposure she’s had and the talent she has she’ll go a long way.

It’s now 7 days until the exam. I’ve started off revising the easiest of the three sections (newspapers). I’m happy with my progress, but am aware that I need to face my fear of the writing section. Tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow; as well as selling my bike in the morning, I have an interview tomorrow for the 4-week intensiveCELTA (Tefl) course after lunch. I tell you, it looks blooming tough. 9.30am to 6.30pm daily, plus a minimum of 20 hours preparation / homework per week. Five assignments too.

Things are slowly progressing on the job front. I’ll be sent a pre-interview assignment to complete for a Tokyo-based English school next week – but I’ve also been put in touch with someone who teaches in a university where apparently there may be an opening. If I were to get that job I’d be living in Kansai (3 hours west of Tokyo on the bullet train), and thus *Twinkle* and I would spend about ten days a month apart when she goes to Tokyo on business. Not ideal. If I wasn’t needing a visa I wouldn’t be having these problems. I need to call the Japanese embassy about the spouse visa option again. It’s finance that’s the problem there (need to show a regular income, not ideal if self-employed as *Twinkle* is).

The British Embassy in Tokyo called *Twinkle* today. She’s applied for a ‘visitors visa (marriage)’ – they want proof of our relationship. My response has been to post about 60 photos dating back to 2005 of us being a couple in a special web album. I’ve suggested *Twinkle* send them the link and the username / login I provided. They may say they want to see printed copies (because printed photos are more real than digital copies of the same photos?!)

I’m enjoying working in the library these days, but it is all a bit surreal. Kind of no-mans land, with routine gone, and the course over, but not over. It feels pretty weird.

Anyway, I’d best get down to the office.

xxx

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Speaking from the heart

Following a day spent washing socks and working on my final piece of coursework, this evening I was picked up by friends on their way to another friend’s birthday BBQ. It was great to see the James the birthday boy, even if our stay was somewhat brief. I was also delighted to bump into Lynne, my ex-classmate who I’ve not seen since the second year of our course (that was a big surprise!). I was torn between staying, and going to the house of another couple of friends, the daughter of one of whom was appearing on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent.

In the end, I decided to head over to support Sophie, and I tell you, it was truly inspiring, not only seeing Sophie impress Simon Cowell, but also watching all those ‘ordinary people’ realising their long-held dreams. I was struck by how ‘nice’ they were. Their attitudes of humility and appreciation. Big Respect!


Reading my Team Management Profile the other day, there was one bit that I didn’t identify with at first.

“You have your best ideas when in conversation”

Since reading that, I’ve been enjoying observing myself in conversation (partly as that’s one of the assignments for the coaching course I’m taking), and you know what, it really is when talking to others that my ideas come together.

When asked tonight what I’ll be doing in Japan, I talked a bit about the jobs I’m thinking of taking on in the first year. It struck me how when explaining why they would be right for me, I felt no passion. I was describing some mechanism for earning enough money to cover my expenses. I felt like a fraud, I was just talking rubbish.

Realising this, I switched from head to heart mode, and spoke again. I talked about how I love engaging groups of people, making them feel relaxed, causing them to laugh, teaching them something that would help them leave the room feeling just a little happier than when they’d walked in.

A medium-term goal then: to work with large groups of people, some form of public speaking. It could be on broadcast media, it could be in the flesh.

From here I worked backwards, seeing where the jobs I’m thinking of taking on could contribute to my reaching this goal. These jobs include teaching & training – both of which involve the presentation of ideas, the use of logical linkages and story telling. All of these skills would come in handy for public speaking. Seen in this light the jobs have a higher purpose, and are a good deal more appealing. And, just as importantly, my focus is back on my ultimate goal, which is leveraging my ‘brand’ (which could be a penguin called Pepé) to have a significant positive impact upon a lot of people.

This inspires me, excites me and gives me the energy to do what needs to be done.

Anyway, best be off to bed.

(That audition led to this)

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