Instead of going to Kabuki on Tuesday I had a crisis about our oral exam on Wednesday. Apparantly our professor is slightly different than the other professors in the program. He's like that square surrounded by circles in the Sesame Street song "this one is not like the others". He's definitely got some hard edges. All I wanted was a review sheet for our oral exam, or, when I stayed after class to talk to him about the oral exam, all I wanted was a little direction.
Instead, when I asked for help with all of the grammar, I was told that even though I have a lot of experience with japanese, i'm in a rut in terms of forming sentences, I don't use new grammar, and the only solution is for me to practice everything, but that he couldn't help me with that. He made me feel guilty for asking for help, or sample questions, or examples of what he was going to ask in the exam. I'm willing, now, to chalk a little bit up to the language barrier, but I wasn't asking for the answers, just for practice with him instead of with other students.
It's been a whole saga though -
x first - we weren't given a syllabus, but instead recieve what we're going to cover the day before - so grammar quizzes, vocab quizzes, kanji quizzes, and tests... who knows when they're actually scheduled? This also includes homework assignments, so we can't actually work ahead.
x second - ok, so that first part really threw me.
x third - he kept our first test scores from us until yesterday
x fourth - we spent a week on chapter 1 of the book, and then the next week and the week after that we've done at least two chapters, sometimes three.
x fifith - he didn't provide us review sheets for any test we've worked on - he told us to study the homework, even though the questions he asked were from the examples he used in class not from the homework at all.
x sixth - apparantly every class this semester is doing some kind of a presentation/skit in front of all of the other classes next week. They were all told about these things the friday after we came back from Mobara (that's the second week of class, mind you). When I asked if we were going to do anything like this earlier in the course (at the same time as other people from other classes were talking to me about their projects) he said we weren't doing anything like that. Yesterday, when he missed class, our substitute wanted us to work on our skits. We looked blankly at her. What skits? When I asked him this morning about this, he proceeded to note that yes, of course, we were going to have to do a skit and we'd get information about it tomorrow. Tomorrow. so we'll have 10 days to write up a group project that most people have been working on for most of the semester, probably to memorize it, and then act it out more than once in front of the other classes.
x seventh - we've had the most homework of any of the classes here, even the higher classes. Most classes have about 2 hours each night (average). Our class is averaging 5 hours a night. On homework. Not on studying, but on *homework alone*.
Am I feeling like i'm starting to fall apart a bit becasue I haven't been sleeping that well, and I've been stressing out about trying to keep up with at least 5 hours of homework a night? Yep. Or at least I was until Tuesday, at which point I actually fell apart. It was a hell of a day, really. And after I fell apart and cried a bit on Megan's shoulder, I decided there was no way I was going to Kabuke since the IES trips have all involved more frustration and less enjoyment. Instead we went directly to the book district so I could visit my other temples (bookstores) again. By the time we got up there it was fairly late, actually, but we still found a children's bookstore and bought a half a dozen books, one of which is a translation of a Shell Silverstein book into Japanese! And Megan, Johnny and I all talked with the bookstore owner, but he liked Megan and I enough to give us a little manga book a piece to encourage us to read more Japanese. We came home after that much relieved, and after explaining to Sarrin (our RA and friend) about how distressed I'd gotten in my conference with our prof, she and Gu-san quizzed me for the next three hours on the grammar from chapters 1-6 as test practice.
Then we got to class on Wednesday and found that we didn't have a professor
I don't know if I've mentioned it but people in our program are dropping like flies. Seriously. There is not a single person here who hasn't had a cold at least once. And it seems as if it's actually not the same cold getting passed on but is instead some weird new virus every time we turn around. I've taken to hiding from the people who are really sick and washing my hands a lot. The IES staff memebers put salt in our bathrooms so everyone could gargle preventatively (ps - for people more medically inclined than i, does this work?)
But coming to class and finding out your professor called in sick? I couldn't have been happier. And since the program only consists of four teachers, we didn't have a substitute. Instead we had a review session for two hours, and we were let go after that. Megan and I went a grabbed a little tempura lunch from a quick place the next town over, and then she, Tebo and I went shopping.
Yep, you read that right, shopping. Oh, sure, we did review homework, and we spent so much time that morning going over grammar structures we needed a break. There's a place called Daikonyama that's like a little Tokyo Melrose - shops that can't decide if they really want to be high end or quirky/hippie so they're a mix of both, coffee shops on every corner, and not a single foreigner except us in sight. It was fantastic. We wandered into places with jewelry and clothes and yummy stuff and I wished I had better taste and knew how to guess size because I'd bring home my loved girly ones clothing, but since the sizing here is *completely* different there's no way I can even begin to guess. We did manage to buy matching headbands so our girl gang look is almost complete. And we stopped and had afternoon appetizers of mexican food at this silly adorable little cantina looking place - it was just guacamole and quesadilla, but it was super yummy.
After that, we came home, and could stand to look at grammar again. So we did. Until Tebo dragged me back out to get real dinner... to this cute little bar where I actually tried my very first Japanese SAKE! and it's MUCH better here. However I restrained myself to one taste and we headed back like good monkies.
Of course, today, we had our test
Not only that, but we have a written test tomorrow!! And a final next week!! So we practiced during lunch, I took the test in the afternoon, although to be honest there was 6 chapters of grammar and I did not know which constructions he wanted me to use, so I probably bombed this one too. No need to be encouraging, I'm trying to be realistic here, and this is very real. We also got our first tests back, and I got 66% (yes, that's out of 100%). Not good.
Marius, however, in true RA fashoin shed some light on the whole thing. He looked at me freaking out this afternoon and asked me if there was stuff that I could do in Japan that I couldn't do in the states. Things that mattered to me. And of course I responded yes - I came for two reasons, and only one of them was to improve my Japanese speaking ability. The other was to do research, to find more texts, to get leads on things I want/need to read and watch in the future.
And then he asked which one I could do back in the US. Guess what the answer to that is? I can practice Japanese in the same way I'm doing it now when I'm back at home. However, going out and researching? I'm not going to be able to do that when I get back, not with the same resources. So that's going to be my focus for the next week as long as I can keep on track. Not worrying too much about the homework that isn't really good practice, or freaking out about the test that won't count anyway because UT isn't going to give me credit for these classes, but instead focusing on getting back to the Diet, going to bookstores, finding the copy of Ougon no hou (that movie i wrote about ages ago) in some used DVD store in Akiabara, and most of all finding out MORE about the books here.
So my search tonight started in Akihabara
Unfortunately the advice Marius offered was late in the afternoon coming, so I couldn't make it back to the Diet by the time they closed. Instead Andrea agreed to go with me to Akihabara to see if we could find the movie I want to buy, and to get our denshi jisho - i'm now the proud owner of a nintendo ds light and a jisho program (which is actually the same cartridge that the electronic dictionary - denshi jisho - programs use)! Sadly the movie is too old for us to be able to find it in the "new" products portion of Akihabara. We're actually going to try and find the temple (either in Shinjuku or Shibuya). And just a word - this fantastic woman Andrea is so patient with me - she's willing to talk to me in Japanese and let me stop her when I don't understand - it's draining but really much better practice than even class since it's one on one.
So yes, that was my day. OH, and we had kaitan sushi! that's the sushi in boats that if you haven't heard of I'll explain another time. It was, however, fantastic. And now I'm going to head to bed so I can get up and study tomorrow morning!