Post-student life begins

Sheffield Panorama 1

So yes, the change from student to non-student is going well. Having got rid of much of my coursework last night (I would have kept it had I been staying in the UK), I then advertised my last few books on Amazon – they were sold within hours and are in the post to their new student-owners. I’ve trawled through the backlog of emails, and moved all my uni work to the archives. It feels good. There’s now space for something new.

The dark clouds have parted, and *Twinkle* and I are stronger for the storm. That’s the thing, after really dark times, the sun shines extra bright. I’m loving organising the wedding, and having a lot of fun with the website (Apple’s iWeb and .mac do have their uses after all).

This evening I was able to attend a free life-coaching session courtesy of the university’s White Rose Enterprise Zone. That was good. It helped me shift my focus from what has passed, to what is now, and what has to come. And I was reminded once again of the importance of listening.

26 hours later

I was up at 5am today, for a jog to the top of the hill I’ve been meaning to climb for 4 years. It’s opposite my house and has great views of Sheffield. I had such a great time. Two hours of walking in peace in that huge park, taking photos, listening to the Radiant Vista’s Craig Tanner. I was so surprised to discover a woodland in Sheffield, and a huge green open space with a helicopter landing pad in the middle, bigger than a full-size football pitch.

I uploaded the original 6-photo panorama to Flickr which shows up the detail of the uni and all in the middle, including of course the beloved arts tower and ic. I uploaded this shot too – it’s a structure that stands on the top of the hill overlooking the city – I wonder what it was?

sheffield viewpoint_7341

I’m loving this space. I have a tonne of things to do, but I’m able to work on them without feeling guilty. I even have time to read the books I was given at Christmas, and I’ve started my latest Murakami audio book again.

Oh, and I started studying Japanese again! I really like the “learn Japanese through newspapers” book I won at the speech contest, and so am doing one of those short lessons every day. The learning never stops!

I watched a film tonight too, Pay it Forward. This was given as an assignment for my coaching course (I’m in week four now, and really feeling the benefits). The film had me in tears though. But what a great idea. I’m sold on it and will work to become more aware of opportunities pay it forward myself. I have a lot to pay forward, having been the recipient of so much goodwill in various guises.

Spot the Arts Tower
flower-framed sheffield_7297

Anyway, bed time for me. I have a lot to do this weekend, and then of course Monday is the event we’re all waiting for – Steve Jobs’ keynote from WWDC. We are VERY excited!

Into the recycle bin

Busy bee, spotted on the way back from the exam.

13 hours into freedom

So, I spent much of the afternoon feeling somewhat lost, before deciding that what was called for was assertiveness. I need to move on. No point in lingering in some in-between state. It’s too easy to comfort oneself with the idea that change takes a long time. It doesn’t. It takes a split second. The time it takes to make the decision.

Thus, I’ve spent the last few hours sorting through four years of handouts, reams of notes, kanji tests, pink essays, green essays and blue essays, and selecting a few choice morsels to keep. Included in my archive for posterity are select examples of all types of homework from the language course over all years, some classic examples of the handouts we were given, and the results of all the essays I handed in for non-language modules. This means that thousands of pages have been reduced to one folder’s worth.

Here’s just some of the work that will be going in the recycle skip in a minute.

my degree

You know what though, I am absolutely staggered how much work we’ve done. The amount of effort that went in to some of those modules (especially in the second year) beggars belief. How did they get me to sign up for all this?!

I’m glad we covered so much though. Not just in terms of language, but history, politics, social issues. I remember when I first went to Japan I didn’t have a clue about any of this stuff. It helps, to know one’s context. Still a lot to learn though, stuff that can only really be picked up by spending several years living there.

It would be nice to be there now really. Having completed the course it kind of feels natural that I go back to Japan and be reunited with *Twinkle*. No such luck though – 3 more months till that (very) happy day!

The end is nigh (in a good way)

Well, this is it then folks. In 12 hours and 29 minutes I’ll have finished my final exam on this four year degree course. That will be a big relief. And probably a little surreal – the venue is Sheffield Wednesday Football Club (I hope the pitch isn’t too waterlogged, or the papers will get really muddy).

I’m not in the least bit nervous about the exam. More, just wanting to get it over and done with. This is not due to some mad feeling of excessive confidence, but rather because I know that all I have to do is pass. I’ve done a fair bit of revision and feel comfortable with the thought of completing two of the three sections – the third section I’ll tackle as best I can.

The exam starts at 9am, finishes at 12pm. I think I might even give myself the afternoon off. ‘Stuff’ can wait until Thursday (maybe. I know how much I want to get this ‘stuff’ done).

It’s going to be a big change.

I’m looking forward to embracing it.

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.

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