On Friday, I got to try my hand at some of the J4 classes. I’d been placed in J3, but Abe-sensei decided I should sit in on some of the level-four lessons to see if they were too far above me. I first tried the listening class, which was difficult not only due to my lower vocabulary, but the resonant female voice on the recording (something I remember well from high-school Spanish). Next was 会話、or conversation, which I felt much more comfortable with since I’ve never had a problem talking (which anyone who knows me will attest to). Last was translation, which conflicted with 書道 (callgraphy). It really did seem like a worthwhile class: the idea was to learn how not to translate directly while still keeping the sense of the translation. The first exercise was a Japanese four-panel comic which had been translated into English; the idea was to translate it back into Japanese. For being a simple newspaper comic, it was difficult. I had to look up a lot of words, many of which didn’t apply. The other exercise was translating an English newspaper article into Japanese, whose first difficulty was the headline. Apparently, while English headlines are simplified sentences, Japanese headlines are big noun phrases. The example we had was about a political figure (whose name eludes me): “____ sports eye patch after injury.” I quickly realized that the Chinese girls in the class had no frame of reference for the word “sports” as a verb, and after some thought, I also realized that “to sport” is used almost exclusively by the mass media. Not only was that class above my level, but I had missed the first calligraphy session. Abe-sensei and I both agreed that translation was still out of reach for me, so at least I’d be able to take 書道 from the following week on.That evening was to be another ASU-organized party. Like the last one, it had a handful of Japanese students who were interested in making foreign friends, but it would be held downstairs in the I-House. Tom, my English neighbor, decided to take off and spend time with some of his university friends who’d also come to Japan at the same university as his girlfriend, while Paku, John’s Korean roommate, was simply absent. The party began with the standard self-introduction, and was emceed by Ayaka and Risa, while Haba-san (the dorm caretaker) took photographs on the sidelines. There was free food: pizza (expensive in Japan), doughnuts, fried chicken chunks (basically big-ass nuggets), soft drinks, and bottled teas. We had a four-person-team competition to see how many beans one could move with chopsticks in a limited amount of time — and my team inexplicably won, despite my clumsy fingers and most other teams being all-Asian (meaning they’d been using the damn things all their lives). There was also a bingo game, which we played until everyone won something — only one prize per customer, separated into boxes for men, women, students, and general. I won a deluxe bento box set, which would have been great had I not bought that container the day before. I ended up swapping my prize with Isou, who really wanted a good bento box and didn’t need the octagonal mirror she’d won. I didn’t need the mirror, either, but at least one of us got something we needed.
I saw Jaime’s girlfriend again at the party, and met a number of new people, as well as a couple people I’d met at the last party. We took photos, people exchanged phone e-mail and Facebook, and we generally had a good time. In addition, the office staff offered some of the leftover food to me. I bundled up some pizza and mini-sandwiches, but almost no one else seemed interested in taking any back to their rooms. Natascha bundled up some, Gabby took a small amount, and when the ladies said they were going to clear off that table, I packaged up the rest. (Incidentally, somewhere in there, someone took or tossed Natascha’s pile, so I said I’d share mine around when I got to eating it.)
After everyone headed out, we put the lobby back in order and headed back to our rooms. So many new people to remember!