Final exams, day two: Fridge-clearing feast.

Wednesday’s tests would be back to back, with an hour for lunch instead of a massive break in between. My first test was J4 会話 (conversation). Curiously, the class had seemed more about writing conversations than speaking them, moving steadily away from talking to writing as the weeks had progressed. Initially, we’d experimented with different formalities and some impromptu stuff, but in the end I wrote more for 会話 than for my other classes, and spoke less.

Despite having told us the week before that we could use our dictionaries, Hazama-sensei opened by saying she’d changed her mind, which was not a good sign. For the test, we were given three pictures, which looked like photos or ads taken from a magazine, and had to describe the scenario and characters for each, then write a conversation. We’d done this before, but only had two conversations; this time it was three. There was also one more section: every class, we’d had what Hazama-sensei had called トークテーマ (talk themes): each of us would describe, in turn, something personal (e.g. “the worst date or vacation you’ve ever had,” or “a time when you frightened yourself”). It made for some interesting anecdotes — sometimes amusing, sometimes a little depressing — but for the exam, she’d told us that we needed to think of one story told by another student that left an impression on us and write about it. Not so bad, really, except on top of three written conversations, it was more than enough for the two hours we had for the exam. I ended up writing the descriptions and characters for the pictures first, then doing the last part, then going back and writing the conversations — and even then, I didn’t adequately finish the third one, even after taking a few extra minutes.

The next test was J4 作文 (composition). I was always of two minds about this class. On one hand, I always felt really stupid after leaving due to the high number of mistakes I made on assignments. On the other hand, I couldn’t deny its usefulness. Thus, I wasn’t sure what to expect for an exam. We were to write two short pieces: one hearkened back to the early part of the semester, where we’d examine a chart and explain it to the reader, while the second was a little more creative. Now, I know the very basics of Doraemon, but have never seen nor read any of it, so when Suzuki-sensei asked what we’d choose from Doraemon’s pocket and how would we use it, I was in the dark. Instead, she wrote a second option on the board: If you could choose any thing or system from Japan and take it home, what would it be and why? I thought for a moment and said I’d take home the way the Japanese do construction work. The speed and efficiency with which they build things, open stores, and repair roads and bridges is amazing when compared to American work. Despite how I usually felt after leaving that class, I walked out feeling like I’d done better on my composition test than my conversation test.

I had been considering a trip to Osaka for December, but when I really thought about it, I realized that while I had both the time and the money, I couldn’t justify going away for a short weekend so close to tests and my trip home. However, I’d brought two gifts for friends to Japan with me: one was a shirt for my friend Miki in Osaka, and the other was a belt-clip watch for Takeuchi-sensei in Okazaki. I’d forgotten the latter when I visited Yamasa in September and hadn’t found a good excuse to go back since, so after class, I headed down to the post office to send both shirt and watch.

Once I got back, it was time for dinner, and I still had plenty in my fridge. I’d meant to eat some of it the night before, but had been ambushed by free fried chicken. Thus, I found the biggest frying pan I could (which I think might have been a wok) and carted a bunch of ingredients into the kitchen. Most everyone had gone out after I did — I know, because I met them on my way back — so I the place was pretty quiet for a bit. First I borrowed a bit of oil and salt and fried up a couple potatoes Katou-san had brought the week before, but those were just my appetizer. For dinner, I put some margarine into the pan/wok, then emptied a bag of (thawed) frozen broccoli crowns and a whole tray of yakiniku-style beef into it. The meat juices combined with the margarine, and everything fried pretty nicely. I added a touch more margarine later, then decided to put the sauce in while it was cooking, and the mixture pretty well coated and saturated the broccoli and beef. Just before finishing, I microwaved two single servings of sticky rice to act as a bed. It was, in a word, delicious. I devoured half and put the rest away for later.

The rest of my night involved me finally getting my last class registered for my final semester at WVU, some studying for the next day’s kanji test, and the last of the downloaded TV I’ll watch here. My cough also returned, exactly one day after I’d finished the meds. Regardless, three tests down, two to go.

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