Goodbye Days

So I had my Japanese exam this evening. I really was as unprepared as I thought I was and yet I found myself, very weirdly, enjoying myself. I’m sure that’s going to come back to bite me. But well, its doing wonders for my mood that I came away feeling good about it despite the whole completely unprepared for this aspect.

Perhaps this is one of those situations if you don’t laugh, you’ll end up crying.

I had been told the exam would start at 6pm. Naturally, I spent most of today distracted and fretting over it. I arrived at the exam 20 minutes early, sitting down outside the room to wait. There were only a handful of people, to my surprise. Time ticked by, well passed 6, with more people turning up and then finally the moderator appeared. More time passed and I was confused, so I asked the girls next to me and they said their exams were starting at 6:30pm. Could my Japanese teacher have at least given me the right time for my exam?! Like seriously, there I was with no idea of what I was being examined on and no idea of even the right exam time. At least I got the right room, hey. At about 6:25 there was a large group of people gathered and the moderator finally started calling everyone in by their languages. There was good mix of languages at various levels- Greek, Serbian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, French. Finally it was just me and a handful of other students. A bunch more were called in, leaving just me and two girls sitting next to me who were doing French Level 1. So…I was the only Japanese level 2. The fear that perhaps I had been forgotten about gripped me, and strengthened when the girls were called in and I was left sitting outside. Thankfully the moderator came out again to fetch me and she had a paper for me.

The exam started before I’d even finished taking out my belongings – it was very informal, no rules about bags at the front or anything. It was a nice atmosphere for an exam – a small-ish group, no heavy rules.

Firstly, before I could forget, I hastily scribbled out my essay – which to my surprise I had managed to memorize. I was painfully aware of how fragile my kana and kanji are though. They usually aren’t the neatest, but nerves were making my hands shake which was making it worse. Nonetheless, that task done I went back to the beginning started the exam properly. I could have laughed when I went through the exam paper. I have never tackled Japanese in this manner ever. There were three sections – the first section I was given a huge chunk of text to interpret in various ways – the first question involved fairly open ended questions that I had to give true or false answers to. The other questions asked to answer questions about the text, and yet another wanted me to suggest an ending sentence to the text. hahaha. I did my best though – highlighting the text and translating it to the best of my abilities. It was so overwhelming and yet fascinating – I could feel my mind working through it, sinking into the task, becoming utterly focused on it and even enjoying trying to interpret it.

There was a little bit at the end of section A then asking me to give the readings for kanji and their meanings which was unexpected – my teacher had said it didn’t matter about kanji. That was nice. :|

The next section involved verbs and oh I struggled here – there was one whole question on conjugating verbs and I couldn’t for the life of me remember how. I then had to fill in the blanks for a bunch of other sentences which was a bit better but then I had to translate from english to Japanese for several sentences. I have never translated from English to Japanese. ever. that was…interesting. again: hahaha. I’d definitely given up on doing well and was just having fun with it. I guess because it is not part of my degree I could afford to have fun with it – I didn’t have my degree class hanging over my head. I could just sit there and do my best and to my surprise I could make a guess for everything. I am certain that a lot of it is wrong but I felt pretty pleased that I could at least have a go. At the end of the day I had never done anything like this before, and I had no idea about the exam even – was I supposed to write on the question sheet? in the answer booklet? How? I had no idea what I doing in any aspect. and yet, I tackled it without panicking and I even enjoyed it. I was reminded of – despite all my complaining – just how much I love Japanese and I love how it allows me to use different thought processes compared to my degree. This is what I thrive on: problem solving. Taking a task, breaking it down, finding the solution. This is one of the reasons why I chose engineering – but this is also why I love doing Japanese. It allows me to problem solve in different ways, to test myself and think in different directions. Its more open ended, not quite as methodical, or rather there are different patterns to it.

I found myself completely absorbed so at 8:30 when I finally surfaced I was surprised to look around and find the classroom empty apart from another guy. I wasn’t sure if the exam was even over – the moderator hadn’t announced anything. But I felt pretty embarrassed to be left there – the other guy was even packing up and about to leave. So I decided to accept that I had probably done all I could and I handed it in. Who knows what will become of it – I am hoping that my essay will be enough to get me through. Although that’s a point – the section C was all that essay, however the essay question was worded slightly differently from what my teacher gave me. But I’d like to think that when my teacher helped me to write it she did so geared towards the exam- she wouldn’t help me write a totally unrelated essay? She’s help me get maximum marks? I really hope so.

I left the exam and walked home – even though it was dark and I know technically I shouldn’t walk home so late. I was feeling pretty hyper – pumped up with nerves and adrenaline, my mind still working away. Despite my anxiety I felt pretty good – I hadn’t sat there panicking, confused, I’d approached the exam and tackled it and did my best. I was also so glad I’d chosen to get it over with today – I could have left the exam until later in the week and on Sunday I was wondering why I hadn’t – but it had been a good choice to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Now that the exams for this are over its back to my daily kanji practice – an hour curled up in front of the heater mindlessly writing out kanji is strangely meditative and is something I enjoy. I am also going to sign up for a Japanese level 2 refresher course over April I think, as that’s more focused on speaking. It would be good to have the opportunity to have some more speaking practice as that isn’t something I will have access to otherwise, and its my weakness after all.

I guess sometimes I doubt why I am learning this language – its not like I have enough else to do. But I love this language so much and even though I’m progressing so, so slowly at learning it I need to keep reminding myself that I am making some progress. If I just keep on trying eventually I’ll get there right? I just must avoid going down the path of how is this going to be useful for my future kind of thoughts. At the end of the day its hardly a good business language to have and although I still cling to my hopes of moving to Japan… at my age I’m well aware I’m delusional. and yet, and yet. I just love this language so much. I love that country so much. I was talking to my family the other weekend and we were discussing our favourite places and I didn’t even have to hesitate – Cape Town, followed by Japan. I’m still that 13 year old dreaming of this fantastic, unique place, testing out the sound of this new, foreign language on my tongue, getting lost in it, becoming totally enamoured with it. You’d think 8 years later somehow I would have gotten over it but I never have. It stresses me out, it makes me feel inadequate, but I’m still besotted. More determined than ever to make progress.

So I do hope that I did better than I thought.

This entry is weirdly upbeat compared to the last bunch isn’t it? It’s what I was talking about in a previous posts – these ups and downs in my mood. Today for some reason was a good day. I had a few shaky moments but ultimately I managed to cope and keep on top of my negative thoughts. I hope tomorrow can be a good day too. Its such a relief to feel positive and fairly relaxed for once.