Trev's Love Life
Signe and I are doing well, despite a high-stress weekend trip to Osaka and Kyoto. We went to Kyoto Saturday afternoon, and unbeknownst to us, this weekend had two major events: the opening of the imperial palace, which only occurs once a year for one day, and a huge shrine festival to rid the spring of the evil spirits of winter. We did not make it to the former, but the latter was a blast! The main shrine area, Maruyama Park, was packed with party goers and when we went to Kiyomizu Temple, one of the more famous ones in Kyoto due to its amazing view and wonderful cheery blossom viewing, the lit-up nightscape was magnificent. Unfortunately, we did not make reservations and there were no hotels available in all of Kyoto. After a very stressful and tear-filled discussion of our options we decided to store our stuff in a coin locker, hang out in Kyoto and take the last train to Shin Osaka to sleep at a hotel there. It worked out well in the end, but our feet were in an awful lot of pain from walking around non-stop all weekend. The rest of the month was stress-free though, relationship-wise. Studying was another matter altogether.
I have been studying for quite some time for the Foreign Service Written Exam. Last weekend, when Signe and I went to Osaka, the main purpose, in fact, was to take the exam at the Osaka/Kobe U.S. Consulate General in the Umeda district of downtown Osaka. We were able to find a nice hotel on Friday night to stay that was about a five-minute walk from the Consulate. On Saturday at 7:30 AM we arrived at the Consulate for our 6-hour, one 15-minute break only, fun time test! I feel that my studying really paid off. The test consists of five sections: A General Knowledge section, a Job Knowledge section, a timed Written Essay section, a Biographical section, and an English Expression section. When you start the test you choose a "cone" that you will want to work in as a Foreign Service Officer. I chose the Management cone. Management officers are the people that work behind the scenes at most embassies and consulates to hire Foreign Service Nationals, manage the budget, buy what needs to be bought, etc. The General Knowledge and Job Knowledge sections are combined to make what is basically a long slightly political science-oriented game of Trivial Pursuit. Reading The Economist magazine every week and reviewing the U.S. Constitution really helped me there. The Written Essay was a 50-minute timed essay on a given topic. I would tell you the topic, but divulging anything about the contents of the test is considered a breech of the Non-Disclosure Agreement and would ruin my chances of entry to the Foreign Service. Before the test I wrote five practice essays on various topics and posted them to my blog for critique. I want to thank everyone that commented on my essays and gave me writing advice. I applied it to the best of my ability on the test and feel that I did well on the essay. The Biography section is a mystery. It uses some crazy techniques to figure out what type of person you are. Let's hope I am a good one. ^_^ The final section was an English test which was a little taxing, but not hard at all for a native speaker of English. I find out my results of the test in July. If I passed, I will go to the U.S. next year for the Foreign Service Oral Assessment, a one-day interview and teamwork exercise, that will test how well we work with others, among other things. If I fail, I will be going back next April. In any case, I cannot stop studying now. I will focus on the Oral Assessment until I know my results and continue to keep up-to-date with world events. I am also thinking of getting the Rosetta Stone language learning software (http://www.rosettastone.com/) to study Arabic. In this day and age, it is an important language to know.
English is also an important language to know, or so believes the Japanese Government. School starts up again this week after about two weeks break while the guard changes at the schools. We lost five teachers and gained four, but nether of my Japanese Teachers of English have changed. April is the start of the Japanese school year and we have new textbooks this year, so we will have to change our lesson plans up a bit, but it is nothing too drastic, I believe. My three-year position as an Assistant Language Teacher in this sleepy little mountain town will draw to an end in less than four months. We still do not know where we will be going from here, but our options are opening up. The good news is that Signe has been accepted onto the JET Programme on her third try. If she accepts a position on the Programme we are guaranteed at least three more years somewhere in Japan. We might turn it down and instead take private position in nearby Miyoshi, or I might start work at elementary schools in Shimane starting in August. Our options are still wide open, but one thing is for sure, we will stay in Japan for the time being.
My dad got us an XBOX 360 for my birthday, but it turned out that it was busted and had to be sent back to the U.S. for repairs. We should be getting it back soon, but what e were able to play on it was really fun. I bought a couple on Dead Or Alive 4 arcade joysticks to play the game with and it is really fun. We also have a couple of other games, and the neatest part is that you can connect it to the Internet to download new small games, like puzzle games that Signe and I like to play. It is nice to have and it is fun to zone out every now and again and play a game or two while lying on the couch. Guilty pleasures.
I just finished reading a book of poems by Bill Collins, the 2001 U.S. Poet Laureate, entitled "Picnic, Lightening" from a line in Lolita. My mother-in-law gave me the book and I was really glad to have read it. I especially liked "Some Days" (http://www.upress.pitt.edu/htmlSourceFiles/pdfs/0822956705exr.pdf) among others. I have also started reading some Haruki Murakami books. I have finished his first two novels and am on his third, "A Wild Sheep Chase." I love his writing style, it is like riding a rollercoaster full of apathy and anticipation. I have also been trying to keep up with The Economist every week and when I find time I read political science journals that I have started to subscribe to like Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, Harvard International Review, World Policy Journal, etc. The educating continues...
Things are A-OK on the computer front. I still idle in #fansubs on EFnet most days and log into Achaea to MUD a little bit each night, but besides that I am not doing much. The Shimane JETs! website (http://www.shimanejets.com/) is finally starting to pick up again and the crises we have been having with it the past few months (domain name transfers, crackers from Turkey, etc.) have subsided.
Trev's One Point Japanese Lesson
I hope your desire to learn Japanese has not subsided though. Last time we were introduced to the all important te-form of Japanese verbs. We will now build off that knowledge to learn how to conjugate the informal, or dictionary, form of u-verbs.
u-verbs are so called because they end in -u. That means that the possible characters an u-verb can end in are: -u, -ku, -gu, -su, -zu, -tsu, -tzu, -nu, -fu, -bu, -pu, -mu, -yu, or -ru.
The present positive tense is simple, it is just the verb stem + the -u ending, like:
no-mu to drink
oyo-gu to swim
mo-tsu to have
hana-su to talk
To change these into the present negative tense all we have to do is take the final 'u' and turn it into an 'a' and add -nai. Using our example words:
no-ma-nai to not drink
oyo-ga-nai to not swim
mo-ta-nai to not have (be careful, the 'a' line form of tsu is ta)
hana-sa-nai to not talk
To then change these verbs into the past negative tense is easy. We just take the present positive tense and change the -nai to -nakatta. So:
no-ma-nakatta to not have drank
oyo-ga-nakatta to not have swam
mo-ta-nakatta to not have had
hana-sa-nakatta to not have talked
So far, so good. Now comes the part where we will use our te-form song from last month! If you don't remember it, go to http://trevreport.org/ttr/tTR060307.shtml for a review.
To form the past positive tense of an u-verb first we convert it into its te-form. Therefore, for our sample verbs we have:
Now, all we do from here is change the final 'e' to an 'a.' So the past positive forms of these verbs become:
no-nda to have drank
oyo-ida to have swam
mo-tta to have had
hana-shita to have talked
Now that you know te-form the mystery of conjugating u-verbs is gone!
Present Positive: end in 'u' line
Present Negative: change te-form ending from 'e' line to 'a' line
Past Positive: end in 'a' line and add 'nai'
Past Negative: end in 'a' line and add 'nakatta'
Good job everyone and keep up your studies! Japanese can be a fun and rewarding language to learn.
P.S.: To my first Japanese teacher, I am sorry I couldn't make it to Hirakata last weekend. It was quite hectic. I hope to return again and meet up with you in the future.
Well, that is about it for this time. Thanks for reading, and if you get a few minutes drop me a line. I always like hearing from you.