土曜日, 12月 19, 2009

Two Weeks and Star Trek

So in my last entry it was Day One of Translation/Interpretation camp. I had every intention of writing something each night while I was there, but that was two weeks ago. Here's what happened:

The next morning when I woke up, I tried checking my email, and the internet no longer loaded. I checked every night and every morning after that, and there was no change. Some of the faculty had warned that directly after class, or after our 11pm curfew, it would be slow, but no matter when I checked, or how long I waited, nothing loaded.
Now this was not such a big deal. Tuesday evening after classes I had an early dinner, took a nap, and went down to the gym to play basketball. Other nights after finishing preparing for the next day, we would grab some beers from the convenient store and sit around the lounge area of our dorm floor. By "we" I mean the other participants, a few of which I knew previously, but many were new to me, and VERY INTERESTING!
One of the first characters I met was a Korean whose last name is Baek, pronounced the same as my last name! If that wasn't enough, the Chinese character for "Baek" was white, which I joked made us both "white Becks". And endless puns did ensue.
One man from Italy confirmed that, although I have no Italian ancestry whatsoever, I looked like I could have come from his hometown, Naples, so all those Japanese strangers who ask if I'm Italian: you're all off the hook. Another guy, Manny, who was as funny as he was tall, spoke very frankly and explained a lot of interesting things about real Mexican culture, which only makes me feel more embarrassed for never having been. Next Summer. Definitely.
I also talked to many more people from various countries on numerous topics which was all very international of me, but I balanced this out by returning to my laptop each night and watching episodes of Star Trek Enterprise. I've always love Star Trek, and Scott Bakula from Quantum Leap, but I somehow never saw this series, so I'm catching up now at a furious pace. In the last two and half weeks I've seen almost three whole seasons, but if you think I've been avoiding the real world, you'd be wrong.
On top of Star Trek, meeting people, translation camp and work, snowboard season has started! Last Sunday I got up at 5:00am with some friends, three people from three different countries, and we drove up to Mizuho Highland where we slid the day away on tons of fresh powder! It was so awesome that this Wednesday, the Emperor's Birthday, we're goin' again! Woooo!
Another thing keeping me busy are Japanese year-end parties called bounenkai (forget-the-year party). Because I travel in so many circles, I am obligated to participate in 4 this month. The ken-cho's was on December 4th and the restaurant we went to specialized in Suppon (snapping turtle). We ate its meat boiled in a soup, tried its eggs, raw in soy sauce, liver (also raw and surprisingly refreshing), and even the blood mixed with sake! Then there was the touch rugby bounenkai, and tonight is my English Lunch Club bounenkai, which I planned. Also last Saturday was an Exchange Party at the International Center. This wasn't a bounenkai, but since it was work, I had to stay late and MC the whole thing! Finally, this Saturday will be the Center's bounenkai, also planned by me. This one has 17 people, includes bowling, Chinese food, prizes and presents! Also since it's more formal than my English Club, I had to make seating charts, a budget, do all the preparation and receive approval for every step! Woo!
Luckily, Christmas will be just me and my girl. I got her a great present and she's planning the day for us, so i can relax about that one thing at least.
Next Sunday will be my last day of work this year, but I will pop into work Monday to pick up my much needed paycheck!
Hope your lives are as fun and filled as mine! Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!

火曜日, 12月 08, 2009

On the First Night of 研修...

Today was my first of five days of translation and interpreting research. We checked in before lunch, I ate with many new faces, and attended 4 hours of interesting lectures based on the meaning, atmosphere, and note-taking for interpreters.

Our guest speaker was an old man named Mr. Komatsu, who struggled to speak through the pain from pulling his back the day before, but in true samurai spirit, came to lecture us anyhow. He talked of many things I won't bore you with, but at the peak of his first lecture before all 115 students, he gave a hearty speech of how diligence and care-planning allowed him to translate, only one month ago, for none other than the Dalhi Lama, despite conditions where it was difficult to hear the man speak. He closed his speech with a heart-warming resolution in which "His holiness" gave him a scarf with Tibetan written, although it was made by Chinese people who, according to the Lama had no idea what it said, and stuck his tongue out in irony.

To any American this may seem like a harmless tale of someone who scraped through a tough time at work, but to the Chinese students this sounded like an endorsement of the Lama by Mr. Komatsu. In fact, Mr. Kotasu, whose speech was entirely in Japanese, only said that the Dalhi Lama was an interesting character and quite friendly, but when he asked for questions, two students felt the need to defend China. The first did not so much ask a question as clarify that the Dalhi Lama represented many anti-Chinese political views. Mr. Komatsu then carefully explained that while his Lamaness does hold those views, the speech which he translated for him concerned only religious and non-political views. Then there was the second Chinese student, who asked, rather pointedly, that Mr. Komatsu (who after speaking for over an hour and a half had demnostrated considerable knowledge of current world affairs) understood that Tibet was part of China, and the Dalhi Lama's comment regarding China and Tibet as being linked by that scarf, ignored the fact that Tibet was linked to China as a part of their country.

Most of us unrelated folk cringed at the awkwardness, but Mr. Komatsu calmly explained that his account had nothing to do with his own political beliefs (in which he had previously even gone as far as to subtly encouraged more foreign, including Chinese, immigration to Japan), and that what the Dalhi Lama said only struck him as friendly and well-meaning.

I take no side in the matter, but it was indeed a fiercely interesting experience for this CIR (Co-ordinator of International Relations).

After that I met a Korean first-year CIR named Baek (written with the kanji for "white" of all things :p) and for the reception dinner we shared drinks with my English friend Nick and talked about many things from our respective countries. All in all the day was more international than....well, the movie "The International".

火曜日, 12月 01, 2009

This month will fly.

What am I doing this month? A LOT!
In addition to my daily work load: I go to two elementary schools this week to give talks about American culture. I will take a group of foreign people who live here in Hiroshima to a small town to learn about the Japanese traditions of making soba, mochi, and shimenawa (pronounced "she-may-gnaw-wa"). I also have to MC an "Exchange Party" for the Hiroshima International Center, which is basically a poorly disguised Christmas party for local people from many different countries. Also, I get to spend all of next week in Shiga Prefecture studying translation and interpreting on the coast of Lake Biwa.

More than all that, I have bounenkai, which are "forget the year" parties. Most people have one or two this month, but I have four. Two are for work - one for my International Affairs office and one for the international center, one is for touch rugby this Saturday (after playing the Saijo team in Kure), and the last one is for my English Lunch group! Of these four, I am actually in charge of planning and hosting two of them, and each one costs about 40 bucks per person! :[

Then there is the matter of what little free time I have left. I wish I could say "One word: Snowboarding." but the truth is, I have other things like Christmas shopping and boyfriend/girlfriend obligations as well.

All this adds up to no time or money, and when I wake up January 1st, 2010, this month will probably be remembered as a blur, but most likely a very fun blur.