David Chart's Japan Diary

January 10th 2004

My second quarter at Yamasa has started, and I'm in C class again. Well, to be honest, 'again' isn't right. There's only one classmate in common (Hang), no teachers, and we are studying a different textbook. Given that the piece of paper stuck up at the beginning of last quarter said that the aim was to get to upper intermediate level, and the text book for this quarter says 'Upper Intermediate' on the cover, I think I can assume that I got to where I was supposed to.

Actually, of the eleven people in the old C class, five left, three went into B class, two into C class, and one into D class, which backs up my personal assessment that I was somewhere around the middle of class. Bizarrely, the student who consistently came top of last term's tests is the student who went into D class, which tends to support what I had been told about the tests not being that important in placement.

We've only had three days of lessons so far, so I can't say much about the lessons. It seems largely similar to last term, although our main teacher (Sakai-sensei) says that one goal is to improve our productive ability, covering general fluency and the ability to use the phrases and constructions most natural in a context, as well as accent and intonation. That sounds good to me. I've signed up for the pronunciation option class, as well as for Kanji 5 (I didn't forget all the Kanji 4 kanji over the break), composition, and a grammar class. The grammar class is for level 1 of the test; I should cover the remaining level 2 grammar in the main classes, so this will move me a bit ahead. I've not signed up for any conversation classes, because I get plenty of conversation practice with my Japanese friends.

My grand plans for doing extra grammar study, reading, and writing are actually on target, after three days. Still, that's better than being derailed already, and the longest journey starts with the first step. I'm not at all optimistic about keeping the scheme up for the whole quarter, based largely on past experience of my inability to sustain such plans, but the plan is ambitious enough that a small amount of slippage will still leave me doing lots of work, and even substantial slippage would probably leave me doing roughly what I did last quarter.

In other news, I felt my first substantial earthquake on Tuesday. It was strong enough to rattle the windows, and make me consider hiding under the desk. Not strong enough for the consideration to take more than a moment or result in a decision to hide, though. There have been a couple of other small ones, but this was the first to be completely unambiguous while it was happening.

My skin's also very dry at the moment. I'm not sure whether this is because of the weather (it's gone cold), or because I'm not eating properly. I'm going to have another look at improving my diet, but in the absence of time and a proper kitchen, it's really not easy. The fact that I cannot, in the supermarket, quickly determine whether I can cook a given product doesn't help either. Given that my main shortage is time, and that I am currently running a small budget surplus, the answer may be to eat out more. Of course, it takes time to get to and from restaurants, as well...

Monday is a public holiday (Coming of Age Day), so this won't make it onto the web until Tuesday. The holiday also means that we start with a three-day week, then a four-day week, and finally a five-day week; it's nice to be eased gently back into school work.