Tuesday, January 23, 2007

kaiwa

I was a bit apprehensive when I first learned I was coming back to Edmonton. I'll admit that in Calgary, I haven't done much to get involved with the East Asia / Japanese community, but I sort of chalk that up to part laziness, part apathy, and part ignorance. Studying and spending the last 4 years outside of the city haven't really opened my eyes to what's available there for me to get involved in. Edmonton, on the other hand, faced different difficulties. The first - a feeling similar to shame in the knowledge that I am back here. I had said my goodbyes and feel like I've had to wander back in with my proverbial tail between my legs. Second - the only group I've known about on campus to try and bring Japanese exchange students & Japanese language students together, is the Japanese Conversation Club (hereafter to referred to as kaiwa - short for nihon kaiwa or Japanese Conversation). My history with this club isn't a very happy one...

My first 2 years of classes, I was never able to attend the meetings because of work and other obligations of my time (ESL volunteering & such). My 3rd year, I was finally free to visit the club as I pleased. I even knew the folks running it (often volunteers in their graduating year), and thought I'd feel welcomed because of that. Instead, I quickly realized that I was an "outsider", and that any dreams of using the club to brush up on my Japanese were forgotten. Furthermore, under the leadership of one Josh Heinrichs, the club (as described by others who had been there for all 3 years) went from bad to worse, Had I had continued to attend the club, my impressions would only have suffered. As if that wasn't enough, I'd even tried on 2 separate occasions to have him add me to the club's email list, but Josh being Josh, failed miserably. Finally - although I wasn't around for it, last year, club leadership fell onto the responsibility of my dear Murasaki. I followed along with the club's progress on her blog, but always with a notion of voyeurism - this was a club that I had definitely not been a part of for my entire UofA career, and from Japan, it was even more out of my reach.

Thus, I didn't put much stock into the idea of joining up when I returned to the University earlier this month. In fact, I didn't think I'd have much contact at all with the Japanese department, or even get the opportunity to use much of my Japanese. What I discovered, however, was that the grad students I had known before Japan had moved on and been replaced by a few who are keen on keeping the undergrads busy. Neill, a man I'd heard about for years but never met, and a former UofA undergrad, has returned to the East Asian Department, and beyond his responsibilities to the department, has also taken on leadership of kaiwa. His goal is to bring as many Japanese exchange students and Japanese language learners together as he can, to facilitate learning and language exchange. Despite my hesitations, he has agreed to add me to his email list, to keep me updated on club activities, meetings, and other such delights. Scheduled weekly meetings fall on Tuesdays and Fridays. I have class during the Tuesday session, but maybe I'll brave another try on a lonely Friday sometime during this semester. . . if I can find the time.

And then, one afternoon while I was loitering outside Neill's office with Lora, he came out to inform us of a pizza party/EAIG meeting he had planned. Curious, I inquired that the meeting was all about, and they explained to me that this was another group he ran. Rather than focus on language exchange, this one is to share ideas and research about East Asia. The group extends membership to members of other departments that relate to ours, and while I think he has aimed it towards grad students, anyone (including Lora & myself) are welcome to take part. Yippee! I added myself to this group's mailing list as well, and tagged along to the meeting that ended up being a small group of 6 of us. Instead of talking much about research or even East Asia, we talked about the department, our trips to Japan, and just spent a couple of hours laughing over pizza & beer. (or in my case, donair).

Another member of this group, and a fellow grad student in the department of East Asia Studies, is my Japanese friend Yumi. She was an undergrad the last time I was here, and when I left, we had said our goodbyes assuming it would be for good. Instead, she applied for the Masters program and was accepted, and last week when I made my way up to the department, we surprised each other in the hallway. Catching up has been fun - a combination of English (hers is impeccable) and Japanese (although mine usually just makes her laugh). Also, since my Japanese linguistics class is combined with the Masters' class, both Yumi and Neill are there to suffer along with me every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. This gives us all something to groan about together, which usually is just an excuse to bond over beer & other goodies.

I never thought I'd be happy to be back, but maybe there's still some hope for my future with the UofA. At least I've found some activities to fall back on when I get tired of researching for all my major term papers.
walk to whyte

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I miss internet. sigh.

Just a short little note.. I know some of you keep checking in regularely, but since I've moved back to Edmonton... to my old life, to my old rut I suppose, I haven't felt much like writing. There are always moments of inspiration, but I'm hoping to transform those into more meritorious moments by throwing my creative energy into writing papers and hopefully finding a way to speed through this semester somewhat painlessly. It hasn't helped that internet at 'home' is sketchy at best. The few times I manage to steal a signal, I barely have time to check email before it disappears again, and this just frustrates me to the point where I want to throw my computer against a wall. (I don't of course - she's still my baby).

Being back in my old life... cut off from the world without internet.. I have to admit that these days I'm feeling extremely lonely and homesick in-a-way. By homesick, I don't mean a longing for Calgary per se, but rather that where I am now does not and cannot ever feel like home. In that sense, I wish I was somewhere happier and more comfortable, but until April 30th, I'm going to have to continue to make do. Those of you who want to help, please continue to send me emails. I check daily from campus and its always nice to know people are thinking about me. I know I'm terrible at replying, but if you can forgive that, it would mean the world.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A little gem - as emailed to Kristine earlier today.

Yesterday, as Lora and I entered our classroom in Tory, I found myself staring at the next generation of Japan-o-philes. Each of them sat giggling and vibrating with energy, but one face stood out from the rest. I couldn't help but stare as I turned to Lora and asked her inquisitively if she knew who he was. Lora answered that she didn't know, and went about choosing our seats. But I knew his face. I knew he looked so familliar, that I sat frustrated with my inability to place him. The thick wavy hair, his angular nose, even the smile that seemed to create that proverbial glint in his eyes. I wanted to talk to him, but thought I might gain a clue by sitting back and observing the mass-hysteria of the boy surrounded by a cluster of eager students waiting for Dr. Commons to arrive.

Since I myself was waiting for Dr. Commons, I decided to wait out in the hallway, to get the chance to speak to her before class began. I sat, waiting patiently, while a steady din of voices and excitement poured out of the classroom nearby. Suddenly, without warning, the mystery boy himself came marching out into the hallway to examine the situation himself. Turning his head left and then right, he seemed at a loss to discover that our missing Japanese Literature professor was nowhere to be found. And then, as he spun around and marched right back into the classroom, I literally smacked my open hand against my forehead and sat back smugly content with my powers of deducive logic. His walk. I knew that face was familliar, and I knew that somehow, I knew who he was. As I watched him from behind, he retreated into the classroom, and in that instant I recognized that the walk I had always associated with Kristine, was the walk I was watching now. And just like that, I knew I had come face to face with the infamous seiza-sitting Kevin Owen.

is it April yet?

Wish I had time to post a novel, but for now let me just say that it feels extremely strange to be back on campus. I walk around staring out at a sea of faces I don't recognize, and sit through classes that seem foreign to me. I don't belong here - or maybe I do, but I think it will take a while to feel like I fit in.

I've been back to the EASIA department, where I ran into most of my old profs who seem as surprised to see me, as I do them. Lora and I are all but inseperable again.. which has been my saving grace this week. I don't know how else I'd face all those old memories without her by my side.

I'm getting together with Richard tomorrow. We had a nice chat yesterday - but it will be nice to spend some time one on one again. And for a change, it won't end with me rushing off to Calgary. . .

I changed my cell # to an Edmonton number. Had to cancel my Calgary one for now, but I'm sure you all understand.

contact info is as follows:

11243 76th Ave
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada
T6G0K2

(780) 707-3904

well.. off to class.

Monday, January 01, 2007

another new years...

...but will it mean another heartbreak?

The last year was probably the best and worst I've ever had. So many new experiences and so many shattered dreams. My heart broken, and crushed, and stepped on, but re-built, mended, and filled.

I can only imagine what 2007 will bring.