I’m not sure how February managed to pass so quickly. It seems to have disappeared in a haze of Japanese language learning. I can’t wait for the end of term on the 21st March, but I’m really not looking forward to the exams and speech contest. I have not signed up for the next course as the dates don’t suit so I’m going to have to find a different school to study at for a while. I’m also looking for something that isn’t as intense as I don’t really want to spend so many hours a week studying Japanese.
Friday’s classes were really tiring as they started with the weekly tests and then an hour and half of speaking Japanese. We speak a lot in class but this was different as five strangers were brought in to chat with us. It wasn’t as terrible as I was expecting but I didn’t really enjoy it. The conversation was about the work practice of after hours drinking in Japanese companies. It was interesting to hear about some of the cultural reasons behind this but I did find it hard trying to explain the cultural differences in Northern Ireland.
This week we are being taught how to be polite when people accuse us of things that we didn’t do. I’m not really having a problem with this as I don’t know very much impolite Japanese and since these conversations are happening in a classroom I am not likely to speak polite Japanese with a bad tone.
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It’s that time of the year again when I need to think about conferences. This year I am hoping to attend YAPC::NA in Florida. The deadline for talk submissions is February 15th – which seems earlier than previous years – and I have just submitted my talk proposal. I wasn’t able to attend YAPC::EU last year and I’m not sure if I will make it this year. But YAPC::EU takes place in Sofia towards the end of August and the talk submission deadline is the 1st July – so I have time to decide.
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I am back to school and back to struggling with Japanese again. The first class of the new term was terrible as I found it incredibly hard to understand the new grammar. The lesson also contained about 200 new words that I did not know. In my first few terms every new verb and noun was explained in class, but not any more. Now that I am considered to be an intermediate student I am expected to go through all the class material in advance and look up the meaning of anything I don’t understand. I am also allowed to use a dictionary in class. This does mean that the classes progress faster as explaining every new verb in Japanese using words that we have been taught before is time consuming. But it also means spending many more hours a day studying by myself.
I am managing to keep up with homework, kanji, essay writing, and grammar but I am not good enough at conversation. I have a good memory, so I can memorize the weekly conversations we are expected to learn by heart, but my general conversation ability in class is low. I have a disadvantage. Everyone else in my class lives with someone who is a native Japanese speaker. The women who sits beside me is Chinese and she only communicates in Japan in Japanese because her husband and his family don’t understand any Chinese. I rarely communicate in Japanese and my fellow students were surprised to discover that I was not married to a Japanese man. It seems that the only reasons they could come up with for a woman living in Japan for this long was that she was married to a Japanese man or that she taught English. And since neither of these things is true for me I get to remain mysterious. Aided by the fact I find it hard to explain my situation in Japanese so I don’t always try.
Today I am working on kanji. This week’s kanji is much too difficult to remember as all the words are new and the concepts are a little confusing. There are far too many ways to describe construction and building in Japanese. Of course there are many ways in English too but today it’s Japanese I am sulking with.
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It would have been nice to wake up today feeling better but my flu is not yet gone. There are things I would like to be doing, and people I would like to talk to, but they will have to wait until I have a voice and feel less like a zombie.. . .
Christmas Day is not a holiday in Japan. Even though I have been here for 7 years it still feels odd not having a traditional Christmas with traditional food. I have been able to buy a turkey and ham and we are going to cook those for our friends at the weekend. We would have done this sooner but Marty is working all week.
Yesterday, I went Marty’s work to meet him for lunch. We didn’t try to find anything Western to eat and went out for my favourite sushi. It’s an odd looking Christmas lunch but it tasted amazing.. . .
I never expected thyroid hormones to have such an impact on my daily life. Silly really, since I studied hormones at university, but reading about them and experiencing them are quite different. Now that it’s much colder I have become hypothyroid again. This is to be expected but I do wish I lived in a country that adjusted medication for the winter. At my last health check the doctor was surprised stating as always that I shouldn’t be like this on medication. But, anyway, it happens every winter even though my Japanese doctors act as if their will alone should stop such things.
I’m aware of them today as I’ve made a mistake and taken too much medication. I usually avoid doing this through routine. I take my medication as soon as I go into the living room in the morning. This morning it was really cold and I dashed out of bed to grab my laptop and went back to bed again. An hour later, when I went back into my living room, I took my medication. Given that I’m now incredibly warm it seems I forgot that I taken it when I got my laptop. There is no heating on in the apartment, it’s about 7 C (44F) outside, and I’m as warm as I feel on a summer’s day. Having an overactive thyroid must be great for the heating bills, but probably not so good for the extra food you would have to eat to burn this hot.
Short term memory problems are a issue when hypothyroid and really I should have a better system for taking tablets. I also like to think I can change things through my will alone so I have been ignoring my short term memory issues. Even I noticed that I spent quite a bit of time yesterday walking around the living room in circles. I mentioned it to Marty and he tells me I’ve been like this for a while. But it amuses him to see me behave like a caged polar bear, so he didn’t point it out.
I have been attempting to deal with the mountains of laundry and got annoyed that my hormones also cause a problem with storage space. I have too many clothes. I need to keep them in different sizes as my weight can fluctuate horribly over the course of the year but I’m not sure where I’m supposed to store them. I’m also annoyed that I’m bigger in winter as winter clothes are bulkier and it would be nicer if these were the clothes in smaller sizes.
Hormone changes happen gradually and it can be difficult for me to see when I’m deteriorating. I don’t want to slow down in the winter and I do a great job at ignoring the changes. The most noticeable change is sleeping patterns. In the summer I would sleep around 7 hours and 45 minutes if I was left to waken naturally. Now I’m at 9 hours and 15 minutes. It’s not so bad though, two winters ago I was sleeping more than 12 hours a day in December.
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I had never managed to buy gluten-free bread in Japan. There are shops that sell bread made with rice flour but any I have seen also contain wheat flour. Yesterday, when I was out looking for cranberries, I came across gluten-free bread. I was stunned to see the bread and then I saw a whole shelf of gluten-free products. The biscuits cost more than $10 a packet, so I didn’t buy them, but it was great to see that I had the option. The bread I bought is made with rice flour and states clearly on it that it is gluten-free. It was in the freezer in the store, and was still rather hard when I defrosted it, but it made great stuffing.
I was shopping in Nissin World Delicatessen in Higashi-azabu. It can be expensive, but it is sometimes the only place to buy certain foreign food. Like parsnips, which I do miss. But I didn’t buy the ones I saw yesterday as the concept of paying up to 1,000 円 ($10, £6) for a single parsnip is outrageous.
I managed to take a blurry picture of the shelf of gluten-free products, but if anyone is interested, blurry or not, it gives you an idea of what you can buy.. . .
December may be my favourite month, but in recent years it has not been a good month health wise. The change in seasons causes problems for my thyroid disease and I still struggle with pace. I know that I need to slow down but I resent it. It’s strange how lying on the sofa reading a novel seems like such a luxury until it’s all you have the energy to do. I did manage to do a few things today but I’m finding it hard to concentrate. I hope tomorrow is a better day.. . .
It’s December and I finally get to play Christmas carols and songs. Not that anyone stops me playing them sooner, but it’s part of my traditional build-up to Christmas to start now. December is still my favourite month though living in Japan has changed how we celebrate Christmas. Marty will have to work on Christmas day but I will cook a turkey dinner on the Saturday after Christmas and we are going to stay with friends on Christmas Eve.
I’m going to spend part of the evening writing cards while trying not to drive Marty too mad as I sing along to carols.
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I was useless at blogging while I was in Europe. I had so many people that I wanted to catch up with that I didn’t have much time to spend on my computer. I’ve been home for a week but I still haven’t managed to get into a routine, which was not helped by spending all of Tuesday at the clinic having a comprehensive health check. It was an odd experience. I had more tests carried out in one day that I’ve had done in the past five years. Some of them were horribly invasive and others much stranger than I was expecting. No-one warned me that during a barium x-ray I would end up on a table hanging on by my hands so that I wouldn’t fall on my head! The table kept tilting me into odd positions and it wasn’t easy holding on with an arm that had been subjected to multiple blood tests earlier in the afternoon. I also wasn’t expecting the ultra-sound to be painful but it seems that to find my kidneys and liver you have to push really hard. It will be interesting to see the test results though I’ll have to wait for a about a month for those.
I’m hoping that things get back to whatever normal is in the next week but I suppose with the holidays coming up it’s not that likely.. . .