Amazing day. A true adventure.
Following 20 hours of non-stop activity I am pretty out of it, but I’d like to note down a few things from today that really struck me as pretty damn wonderful.
It all started at 6am, I’m up to drive to the kitchen at the community centre where the sushi is prepared. 6.30am, I’m at our first outlet, stocking their fridge. I met them for the first time two weeks ago. We see each other for 5 minutes three times a week, so that means I’ve spent 30 minutes with them in total.
Today, they ask me about Japan – what’s it like teaching there? That’s a great conversation, all three of us fully engaged as the salmon wraps go on the top shelf and California Sunrise below. The owner’s sister-in-law worked there – yeah, loved it! Maybe we’ll move out there when the lease on this place expires! I leave there feeling really happy. Things are good.
At 7am I’m at the third outlet. We chat too. I like him. He picks me up on little errors, is often concerned about temperatures, but I’m confident in what I’m doing, and I feel he trusts me now. I can be frank with him, it’s great to talk. Meaningful ‘thank you’s and ‘goodbyes’ – real effort on his part to make eye contact, and say thank you with his face as well as words. I feel appreciated. I return with the same heartfelt thanks.
8.30am: I’m at uni now, in our CELTA portacabin. I love seeing my coursemates every day.
Does anyone have any sleep I can borrow?
We help each other out with lesson plans. We laugh and joke. We’re on this journey together, and I tell you, it really does feel like a true journey. The landscape is changing around us the more we learn. We’re all starting to come into our own. Caw blimey everyone should do this!
10.30am and I need to get down to the station for my train to London. I shouldn’t really miss a day of the course at all, but I need to apply for the visa in person, and today is the only day we have no Teaching Practice. “Good luck! Good luck!” my coursemates tell me as I leave via the back door.
10.35am: I’m walking down West Street, and see the university’s Pro-vice Chancellor of Learning and Teaching on his phone as he crosses the road a little behind me. I want to thank him – we got to know one another through my work as a CILASS Student Ambassador, and the last time I saw him was on stage at my graduation ceremony: he made a special effort to whisper his congrats and give me a big grin as I walked past – he’s such a nice guy. He asks me what’s next for me: I tell him, and he’s really happy. We say goodbye – I thank him for his kindness, and as he continues down the road, in my head I tell him that people like him are what make Sheffield Uni so welcoming.
We’re on the train to London now. Sitting opposite me is a man with an iPod, playing his music so loud I feel like I’m the one wearing the headphones. I can’t help but laugh at the irony of the situation: the headphone’s he’s using are actually mine – him having asked if he could borrow them a few minutes beforehand.
But the music doesn’t distract me for long: an Indian family come and sit in the seats surrounding us. They speak part English, part something else. The 19-year-old daughter, and mother start to play the card game Uno. ten minutes later I find myself bursting out laughing with the rest of the family as the mother, who is being thrashed by her daughter, keeps on making silly mistakes (like saying “Uno” – only to have it pointed out to her that she has two cards in her hand, not one!). The score at the end: 565 to 28. We all wish each other the best as we get off the train in London. (10 hours later we are to meet again on the return train).
I’m at the Japanese embassy. I recognise the security guards and like to think that they recognise me – of course they don’t. Once scanned, I’m in, press the button for a ticket for the visa section: no sooner do I have ’47’ in my hand than ’47’ flashes up on the “next” sign.
The chap taking my application for a spouse visa is very friendly. We chat about our respective degrees whilst he meticulously checks the great pile of documents I’ve provided. I accidentally give him the wrong bank book – he is wondering how I am going to convince them that 417 yen (£2) is going to keep me going for a month. I swap it with the post office book, we laugh.
Everything is in order, I reckon we can have this in the post to you tomorrow, he tells me. I’m delighted. In the midst of the mirth the person at the next counter turns to me, “hello Joseph!”. It’s a Japanese friend from Sheffield. Funny, I’d expected to see someone from Sheffield here. We sit down and talk about his plans for the summer – he’s off to see a match at Wembley tonight, then tomorrow, Penzance.
Before I leave the embassy, I ask if Stephen is in today. Stephen is the legend. He has provided me with so much advice, help and support as I’ve prepared for my visa application, and I want to thank him in person. He appears at the window, a little bashful as I thank him. “Looking forward to your next podcast!” he tells me. “Me too! (as soon as I have time for it!) I reply.
I leave, grateful, and careful to say goodbye and thank you to the security guards who I like to think know me, but who don’t.
I’m then getting off the Tube at the wrong stop and trudging for about 45 mins in search of the river Thames. I’m starting to slip into that old thinking mode: I’m tired, Im lost, I’m not going to find a cafe round here. But then I catch myself. I stop, stand still. How about if I approach this in a different way? How about ‘I’m heading straight towards the place I need to go, although I don’t know where that is yet. The exercise is good for me, I enjoy exploring London.’
suddenly, things are a lot easier.
Eventually I find myself in Trafalgar Square. There’s a bookshop, and in the bookshop, a cafe. Perfect. I order some italian milkshake, shake all the sugar off my chair and onto the sugared carpet, and get my pen and paper out. Time for some lesson planning.
The train journey had provided me with ample opportunity for brainstorming – an idea was now taking shape as to how this lesson could look. I scribble it all down. I’m there for two hours. Writing. Thinking. Listening to Patrick, the little 4 year old at the table next to mine with his mum and dad. He’s really happy watching the cars through the window.
Look! A blue one!
Oh, it’s gone now. Mum, the blue car’s gone!
The two Scottish businessmen on my right have been here since I arrived, slagging off their clients.
“I get angry with my colleagues too. They just can’t do it right, I can’t trust them, so I do it myself”.
I’m happy i don’t work for them.
I turn back to the child talk, it’s like the pot of gold at the other end of a rainbow that has somehow found itself with one foot in an oil-slick.
Piccadilly Circus next for Curry Rice. It’s a genuine Japanese restaurant. Not a Chinese Japanese restaurant or a British Japanese restaurant but a real Japanese one. The staff are Japanese, and so is the curry rice. It tastes like home.
I’m full, and standing watching the crowds go by. Wow! It’s exhilarating! So many amazing stories walking by! I want to film it and speed it up. But I don’t.
If I had a tripod it would be ok. I could pretend I was a film-maker then. But filming handheld I’d probably get arrested as a terror suspect.
I have two hours until my train – back to St Pancras International – and what a beautiful station it is since the trains to Paris came to call it home last November. I sit in Costa Coffee, still devising my lesson plan whilst trying not to listen to the conversation being held by the Japanese couple beside me. I can’t not listen! In the end, I move to the other end of the cafe.
I’m happy to see the train back to Sheffield is one of the new models = power socket for laptop = can work more on my lesson plan. I do. There’s a man opposite me who’s also got a laptop. It’s a Dell. Then a man on the table the other side of the corridor gets his out and starts to type. As if in response to this two more men then appear and plonk a shared Sony Vaio down. We look quite funny, A lady walking by stops and laughs,
“Look at you boys with your toys. Is this some kind of competition?!”
The man opposite me smiles and says, “Mine’s bigger than theirs!”.
I respond by stroking my MacBook in mock-seduction, “Yes, but it’s not necessarily size that counts…”
The carriage is filled with laughter. The woman moves on. We men now pretend that it didn’t happen.
On the two hour journey home I near the completion of my lesson plan. It’s been real fun, and I feel it’s a good plan. Yep, I’ve achieved a lot today.
As the train pulls into Sheffield a man runs down the aisle with a coffee, shouting “F*ck!”. We smile, pack our laptops away, and head out onto the concourse. I feel music is needed to accompany my walk up through town to the SushiMobile. Ah yes, I was going to associate this time with the new Coldplay album wasn’t I?
And then there I am, walking up past the illuminated fountains, listening to the first track on the album. …and I’d not noticed this before, but crikey, this first instrumental track really does sum it all up! There’s the sense of a great history of ‘stuff’ leading to this moment (a moment lasting several weeks), this moment marking the dawning of a new and truly exciting era. But it’s not all about anticipation, it’s glorious and exciting in itself, every bit!
I think back on the day. I’d met so many people, so many lovely, kind, funny, happy people. Even people who might in some novels be thought of as insignificant extras – like the man in the Post office who sold me the Recorded Delivery pack for my passport. I forget what it was that he said to me, but it was kind, and not in his job description – I appreciated that.
And now finally, I’m here, in bed. *Twinkle* is with me (via emails to and from her mobile), telling me to go to sleep and blog tomorrow. (I can’t, I need to let it out, it’s been such a good day).
None of this would have been possible without other people. And with only a couple of exceptions, that’s other people who were and who basically still are complete strangers, whom I will never see again. Together, this amazing pattern has been woven. Bloomin marvellous.
LIfe. I highly recommend it.
(OK *Twinkle*, I’ll go to bed now…)