Global events

I’m not usually in the slightest bit interested in US elections, but this one’s got me excited. It feels like 1997 all over again, when Labour won a landslide majority, bringing them back into power after years of Tory rule.

I’ve been mightily impressed by what I’ve seen of Obama, such a refreshing change from the usual suspects. I’ve been thinking today how perhaps we actually needed eight years of the idiot Bush, to ensure that Obama got elected. I knew this cloud would have a silver lining.

I’m struck by the amount of truly international news there is at the moment. Elections, economic turmoil, Chinese food scares With my starting to teach again, I decided that I wanted to be a bit more in touch with world events that I have been for the past few years, in order to be able to discuss ‘stuff’ with my students. It’s been an easy change to make: I subscribed to the Guardian news feed on my iPhone, and set the BBC as my homepage.

I don’t find myself getting down about these things though. The global economic meltdown is pretty exciting in a way. I like the fact that there are calls for widespread change. It’s a healthy reminder that even the seemingly unchangeable can be changed if there is sufficient will. I see it a bit like a natural bush fire, clearing the ground for new growth. Obviously I’m not celebrating the fact that it’s hit some of my friends pretty hard (especially those with mortgages), but in the long run they’ll be fine. I like to see a big shake-up. Anything is possible. (Of course I’m probably slightly biased, having profited from a side-effect of the slump, that being Sterling hitting rock bottom earlier in the week).

I am saddened and shocked by the more ‘important’ news stories. For some reason, I don’t see these in the headlines. The many civil wars, the horrendous trampling of basic human rights, the killings in the name of some god or other. I was catching up with some BBC podcasts today, namely From our Own Correspondent. This long-running series provides a real insight into how Big News events are affecting people on the ground. It can be pretty harrowing, but I think is important for me to be aware. Being aware plays an important part in my maintaining my feeling of gratitude. And of course, it also shapes my actions.

Anyway, it’s time for bed. i have a date with Komozawa koen in about 6 hours. *Twinkle*s been in bed all evening with sickness and severe stomach cramps, poor love. I hope she’ll be feeling better in the morning.


Think I’ll take the next one

(part two)

What amazes me is how most of the time everyone does actually fit in when the doors close. Having said that this morning there was a whole leg sticking out of the next, which made the carriage look like some kind of hybrid centipede…

My magnetic sweet tooth

Try as I might, I can’t give up unhealthy food. Since I decided to not eat Japanese processed foods, especially those containing a lot of sugar, I have been bombarded with presents in the form of some of the most delicious unhealthy foods one could hope for. We’re talking delicious caramelised biscuits, chocolate-cream packed buns, apple strudels, chocolates, sweet pastry pies. They come from all directions: visitors to our home, students, colleagues returning from trips away.

Oh, and from the convenience store at lunchtime. Yes, I’ve become addicted to trotting across the road at 1.30pm and buying a pack of 105 yen chocolate-coated peanuts. …which they didn’t have any of today, which is why I bought this box of white-chocolate almonds instead. Eaten in about 5 minutes.

I use the excuse that I’m jogging three times a week and need the energy / deserve it. What a load of rubbish.

As of tomorrow I won’t do it anymore. I managed to give up buying alcohol. I can do the same with chocolate. Given the rate at which it flows into my life by itself anyway there’s really no need for it.

It’s a small, small world

Photographic entertainment is provided by yesterday’s Office Halloween party (sorry for the repetition to those of you who have already seen them in my site feed).

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For the past two weeks I’ve been looking for someone to do tandem learning with. That is, someone who will teach me Japanese in exchange for me teaching them English.

One might think that having just spent 4 years studying Japanese the last thing I’d want (or need) is more Japanese lessons. Not so. I didn’t put as much into my course in my final year as I could have done (a conscious decision that I don’t regret to split my energy between my course and extra-curricular activities), thus I failed to internalise a lot of the vocab I was learning.

I’d like to emphasise that this is in no way a criticism of our course, which was bloomin marvellous. If anyone wants to learn Japanese in the UK, Sheffield is the place to go, no doubt (n.b. I may be biased). But of course, you only get out what you put in, thus a lot of my course-mates have much better Japanese than me.

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Whatever, I’ve come such a long way, and am constantly delighted by the fact that I (of all people) have learnt to speak Japanese. However, I do tend to stick to the grammar patterns that I’m really familiar with, avoiding the use of complex structures. It was brought home to me just how far I’ve gone down this road when the other night *Twinkle* applauded my use of a complex pattern – it should be normal, not praiseworthy.

So I put the thought out there – I need a Japanese teacher – and tonight she presented herself (although I didn’t know she was a teacher until after we’d been chatting for a while).

She contacted me having seen my profile on, and requested a trial English lesson. We met at a subway station near my office and made our way to a nice little cafe. We chatted a bit more, with her explaining why she wanted to study English.

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Then she stopped, and with a mysterious look on her face said, ‘actually, I’ve got some photos to show you’. Confused, I took the envelope in her hand and took out the photos…

…and blow me down if it wasn’t Phil, my coursemate from Sheffield! I was stunned, and naturally clammering for an explanation.

She explained how Phil had been one of her first students shortly after she qualified as a teacher, when he was living in Tokyo a year or so back. It was only after she’d initially contacted me last Friday that she’d mailed Phil to ask if he’d heard of someone called ‘Joseph Tame’ who’d studied at Sheffield. Seeing that I was quite a bit older she assumed that we wouldn’t know each other …and thus was very surprised when Phil replied that he did indeed know me!

Spot Joseph

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So that’s how it went. We’ve decided to meet on a weekly basis for language exchange – my calls for a teacher have been answered. Thank you Universe!