Final exams, day one: Guerrilla Christmas Party.

After a few days in which the weather briefly warmed and Katou-san confirmed he’d pick me up on Saturday to drive me to Fujigaoka to catch the airport bus, it was time for my final week at ASU, which also meant final exams. I also had my last 書道 class that Friday, in which we made t-shirts with iron-ons of our choice. (I chose to put a huge 団結 in older-style kanji on the front of mine.)

My exams actually started on Tuesday, and would only run through Thursday. Tuesday came all too soon, and my first test was for J3 listening class. We listened to a recorded article while trying to answer questions on our test paper. The speech was evenly paced, but still brisk enough to require multiple plays. After a couple times, Tabata-sensei would pause the cassette (yes, we’d been using cassettes all semester) to let specific passages sink in. There were a lot of words we wouldn’t have known without a vocabulary list we’d been given the previous week, but we were allowed to use that (and only that) for the test. I managed to finish up with the last playback, double-checking to make sure I’d gotten everything down.

I had no exam in the second slot, but had to be back by 3:00 for our final 演習 (workshop) class. This meant there was a three-hour gap I had to fill, and I really didn’t feel like hanging around campus for that long. The next school bus wasn’t for a while, so I decided to just walk back. This gave me a couple hours before the next campus-bound bus left. With nothing else to do, I began packing. I managed to completely stuff one of my large suitcases to the point of bulging, yet it was surprisingly light. I also packed up my duffel bag (the larger of my carry-ons), putting mostly heavy or fragile things into it, such as my Xbox 360 and my tengu mask. I even had time for a little lunch before heading out to the bus stop and catching a ride back to campus.

Let me take a moment to explain our 演習 class. Whereas J1 read stories and answered questions, J4 watched videos and wrote descriptions, and J5 gave ten-minute opinion speeches, J3 was tasked with making the ASU 留学生別科 home page for the following fall semester’s students. This might sound intriguing until I also mention that there were only three of us. Previous years’ endeavors had many more hands to work on their pages, but with a trio, there was only so much we could do. I actually tried to get out of the class and into J4, thinking it’d be more of a challenge to my language skills, but was denied — I’m guessing mostly because that would have cut their number to two. I ended up volunteering to do student photos, I-House photos, campus photos, Nagoya photos, and an explanation of public transportation (mostly the subway). The other two picked more specific, single topics each. This meant I ended up taking a lot of pictures and saying very little, and my initial designs had to be cut back due to our meeting only once a week (and my lack of genuine motivation for that class).

We’d had our last real class on Monday of that week, but were still not quite finished with our individual pages, much less the front page that would link to everything. Thus, instead of an exam, Nakarai-sensei had us write a final report, then come in after the other Tuesday exams were done to finish up the page. I had a particularly frustrating time, since my raw photos were large and I hadn’t time to make them smaller, so saving and re-saving took a long time, especially spread across nine pages (English and Japanese versions of my four main pages plus one for student photos). The other two put the front page together with minimal (but critical) input from me, and we copied the whole shebang onto the teacher’s own USB drive. It might not have been an exam, but it sure as hell felt like one.

This also meant we had to walk home again in the now-cold weather, since we’d missed the next bus or two and didn’t feel like waiting. An unusual side note is that Isou, the girl with whom I’d exchanged bingo gifts at the welcome party so long ago, had asked me the day before if I still had the mirror I’d traded her for. Apparently, she’d dropped her own mirror and was wondering if I might want to trade back, since she hadn’t ever used the bento box set. Sure, I said, since I hadn’t really needed either in the first place. The box was smaller than I remembered, which was good, since I’d have to get it home somehow.

Fried chicken and cake, the traditional Japanese Christmas dinner.

I settled into the library (warm and better internet) to browse the web for a couple hours (forgetting to eat in the process) when a girl from one of the ICC groups unexpectedly popped into the library and informed me there was a Christmas party upstairs. What? I hadn’t heard of any upcoming ICC parties, but she assured me there’d been a notice. As if I needed any more prodding, she mentioned there was also cake, but I was already packing up. Once I got upstairs, I saw John, who told me he was as surprised as I was — apparently, no one in the dorm had known. The girls had brought various kinds of fried chicken (from different venues), as well as a couple types of fries and a couple shrimp cutlets. Since I hadn’t eaten, I dove in. There was indeed cake as well, and pretty elaborate — fruits and icing and all — so I had a piece of that, too. It wasn’t as lively as some of the previous parties, but everyone seemed to have a good time. We also played bingo. I got an early win, but my first-choice prize ended up being a decorated hand towel (very girly) which I swapped for something that looked more foodlike (praline-filled chocolate). There were a lot of bags full of random snacks and such left over afterward, so they told us to take another if we wanted it. I grabbed one with a だるま in it. (I’ve been wanting a だるま for a while.)

The party was packed up and its leader left early, the remaining members sat down for an impromptu meeting, and I retreated to my room to study a bit before bed — but there wasn’t much to study, because the next day’s tests would both be on-the-spot writing.

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