Today has been one of those days that has had the usual context removed. One of those days that exists outside of the routine and framework that I’ve built.

Most days when I wake up I have a list of certain things I need to do. Each of these things usually comes with its own emotional context, which may be a construct of my unconscious relationship with the building that it’s in, the people it involves, the physical actions I’ll have to perform.

Wednesdays tend to be weak in context in the first place, as I have no classes, no set routine. It’s the day for odds and ends. Today’s odds started with the notification from the embassy that I’d not been offered a position. I didn’t have any prior experience to attach this news to, and so it’s been kind of floating around all day (I visualise the news as being on a piece of cotton hanging down from the roof of a cave for some reason. I think the Japanese government is the cave).

Then there was a mini-rehearsal for tomorrow’s dramatic debut of the Alison Quartet, a new theatre group that has been established by a few of us from Japanese Studies for the purpose of presenting hard hitting messages in a moving, yet humorous way. U-Card holders can see us for free, we’re performing in CILASS Collabratory one at about 1pm tomorrow. It will be videoed so extracts of our performance may appear on YouTube afterwards.

This afternoon I’ve been to a couple of leaving ‘gatherings’ for two members of university staff who finish work today, and who will be very much missed by their respective departments, and by me.

The first is Mark Morley, who just for the Google Record, is one of the most friendly, enthusiastic and funny members of staff at the University of Sheffield. It’s Mark who’s been the secret power behind the Student Ambassador Network’s Tech Group, as well as the source of enormous amounts of good humour that permeates the entire department. He’s the kind of person who you’d like to keep in your pocket (if he were pocket sized), so when you’re feeling slightly down you could pull him out and ask him to say something . If he did that, you couldn’t help but smile.

The second gathering was held for Jenny, beloved SEAS secretary, who retires today. I recently wrote about the family feel at SEAS – and Jenny has been right at the centre of that family. In a way she’s been a kind of surrogate mum for some of us who are a long way from home. She’ll be missed.

Seeing these staff retire / leave for other departments gives me a feeling of finality, like the final bit of this uni thing has begun with earnest. Tomorrow will reinforce that no doubt, as it’s our final in-class assessment for Japanese language.

I’m in the library now, looking out on Weston Park, which is currently undergoing a makeover. The workmen have gone home though, and the birds are a tweetering, beckoning me out.

I think it’s time for a breath of fresh air.

Notification from the Embassy

Well well well. Just got a phone call from Mother to let me know that I didn’t get the job as CIR on the JET program. The letter finally arrived this morning.

Initial reaction is of course one of disappointment. They don’t disclose why they turn people down, but I’m guessing it’s either because I’m delusional in thinking that I was up for the job, or because of my insistence that being near Tokyo (where *Twinkle* is) is important to me (and there are very few positions available in that region). I knew this was a gamble, and it was recommended that I not do that by friends currently on the scheme as it makes them nervous of offering you a position in case you turn it down – but I didn’t think it fair on them to lie.

It was in any case a very worthwhile experience, having had to attend that interview and all. I learnt a fair bit through that and am grateful for it. And, whatever the reason for it, I’m sure they made the right decision. I’ve emailed the program director to thank her for considering my application in any case (I know her through having done some advertising for them).

The next reaction is one of excitement. I now have this big blank canvas that is my life after July 25th. Ok, so it’s going to be Tokyo-centred, but other than that…?

One issue now is actually getting to Tokyo – having no savings and a wedding to pay for means I’m going to be pretty broke. Well, very broke actually.

Looking at job vacancies in Tokyo most specify that the applicant must currently reside in Japan. That’s not really an excuse to not update my CV and get on with looking though, although it’ll have to wait a few weeks until my dissertation is out the way.

Hmm. I’m intrigued to hear how this story will unfold. I guess I’ll just have to watch this space.

Final assignment received

Things are happening.

We were given our final assignment today. A translation piece. Thus, all I have to do now is that story (by the end of May), finish my dissertation (by mid-May), perform a drama (Thursday), take an exam (4th June).

I feel pretty motivated and will work hard to get these done as soon as possible.

I emailed the embassy this morning enquiring about my application. They tell me that notification was sent two weeks ago, to my home address and to my flat here in Sheffield. Hmm, that’s strange. I wonder what the reason for that happening is…

Anyway, this means that I should get a second notification tomorrow.

It’s funny, I’ve long thought that things happen for a reason …but reading Murakami novels does make you see huge life-changing consequences lurking beneath every little thing that happens!

Wondering what’s around the corner

I’m about a third of a way through the 27-hour audio version Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicles.

Murakami is the first fiction author whose books I’ve read more than one of – this is my third (following Kafka on the Shore & Norwegian Wood).

I’m finding this one as involving as the previous two, and I’m wondering, is it now reaching that point where it start to teach me whatever it is I need to learn from it?

If I think of Kafka working in the library, I’m back there on the carpeted floor of the Mongolian Yurt on day two of my stay last summer- thankfully not being skinned alive (not the most relaxing bedtime story. I could hardly bear to listen to it). If I move on a bit to Hoshino trying to open the stone I’m bumping along on that 9-hour car journey back to the capital, Ulaanbatar. I almost feel like I wouldn’t have survived that journey without sharing in Nakata’s own journey.

Norwegian Wood (which sees me clearing the path on the Welsh Garden Project site) led me, I realised afterwards, to finally come to understand an old Japanese friend of mine. I’d lost contact with her, abruptly, and I never figured out why. When listening to Norwegian Wood, she popped into my head once or twice, and i recognised her in the characters portrayed. It felt good to have closure on that.

As I listen to Toru tell the story of his marriage to Kumiko, I can’t help but think of my own marriage. It’s something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot in any case, as is only natural. What does it actually mean to me? This feeling of responsibility it contains – is that coming from within me, I mean really within me, or is it more a product of outside influence?

How will our life differ this time from last time we lived together? Then, I was a student, on a temporary stay. This time it will be very different. There will be an element of …permanentness.

How will this affect my attitude towards life in general? In a way I have had it easy for the past 8 years. Ever since I split up with my ex in fact, and left Torquay for Switzerland. But even then,despite the fact that we’d bought a house together, deep down we knew that it was only temporary. Since then, I’ve lived knowing that even if I made absolutely no effort at instigating change myself, my life would change in a big way anyway, all by itself, within a maximum of 12 months.

Switzerland: I was on seasonal contracts.
Japan: My visa would expire
Bristol (UK): My Access course would come to an end
Sheffield: I would graduate

And now, as of August 2008, I will not have this safety net of prescribed change. If I want things to happen in my life, it will be entirely up to me. If I let myself drift along (as is only to easy to do), I may be happy in the short term, I will get things done, change will occur …but I’ll feel somehow unfulfilled. I don’t think I’m the kind of person cut out for that. Many people are, and that’s great, I’m not knocking them for that, but I feel like I am so absolutely packed full of energy just bursting to be channelled into ‘stuff’ that I’d be stifled by having no prospect of guaranteed change or progression.

In a way, this is another reason why i want the CIR job in Japan. With an annual contract (renewable up to 5 years) there’s that time limit. It would push me to make the most of today, every day, and never put off trying to realise dreams for some tomorrow that will never come.

I sometimes wonder where this excitement has come from. Did I always have it? According to my beliefs, yes, I did. I have always been a little hyper; “OTT” was how I was described to my parents by my teacher as a teenager (I felt terrible about that at the time, like I’d really let them al down).


I hope to get a reply from the embassy this coming week. It’s nearing a month since everyone else was informed. I can only assume that my application is continuing to give them grief due to my request to be near *Twinkle*. In a way though, I feel the longer I wait, the better the chances that this will all work out for the best.

It feels a bit like sitting in the bottom of a well though, waiting for a line to be cast down. It’s not a well of doom and despair, just a well of contemplation and nervous tension, wondering what the view is going to be like when I get out.

Ho hum. Start of a brand new week in the morning.

Dissertation dilemmas

The experiment two nights ago worked.

I created a new user account on my Macbook with access only to my word-processor (Scrivener), then reset my admin password to something like 673hdhsa568fdje8sosjyr8jdhs7si which I wrote down on a piece of paper and put in my sock drawer. I then went to the library, and could do nothing but write.

I have a deadline of Monday to turn this thing around. I’ll do it.

This morning I was listening to Macbreak weekly, when Andy Ihnatko gave his pick of the week: Freedom.

It is the most wonderful piece of Mac software in the whole world. Basically, you launch it, and then tell it how long you want it to block all Internet connections.

It then shuts down your wireless and Ethernet, and there’s no way to turn it back on unless you do a restart. I really don’t like restarts so this suits me very well.

I’ve spent about 11 hours in the library today. Just came home for beans on toast, then will go back to write another chapter.

A lot of my time has been spent reformulating my question, and then rewriting what I have already written to suit my new argument. I’d started off by seeking to show how wonderful the 1998 Non Profit Organisation Law was. After doing that for a bit, I discovered that actually, it had been a bit of a flop. So then I switched to showing why it had failed. But I didn’t like that, it was negative, and I was getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of reliable data on which to base my argument (civil society is notoriously difficult to define, let along quantify).

Finally, in despair I emailed my tutor – and got the green light to change my title again. I’m now assessing the changes that have occurred since 1995 in Japan’s third sector, including the effects of the NPO law, and many other factors that have brought civil society to where it is today. I’m happy with that.

The thing is, 3 new laws come into force in December, and the whole situation will be turned on its head, meaning that my dissertation will only be current for about 6 months! Well, at least I’ll have graduated by then!

Ok,better heat up the beans.