Monday, July 11, 2005

Back to the desk...

This week I am with the International Relations Division, which means I get to sit at a desk all week. That might sound boring, but it's a welcome break from running around and touring facilities. I have had some great experiences so far, but I need some time to organize my research and reflect on what I've seen and learned so far.

It's also not so bad because there are a few days this week when I will be gone from the office. I am moving out of Society Hall on Wednesday. I really hate to leave, because I have 2 bedrooms and a washer and dryer, but I'm not too upset, because I'm sure the new place will be comfortable enough for the next 6 or 7 weeks. It has AC and a TV, so I'm happy.

Maiko came down this weekend, but we didn't do much. It was nice to take it easy for once. We did a little shopping, went out for dinner once, and cooked the rest of our meals, so I didn't blow too much money this weekend. Well, I guess I did buy a DVD player... I know, I know, I am only going to be here for another 2 months (less than that, actually), but it was only $50, and I can probably sell it when I leave. If I watch more than 5 or 6 DVDs on it before I leave, I will wind up saving money over seeing things in the theater (it's like $15 to $20 to see a flick here!). The only problem is without a Japanese ID, I have to have someone come with me to the rental store to rent one and convince them to let me use their account.

I am glad the hurricane wasn't too bad in Florida. My mom is still down there working for FEMA, helping people get their lives straightened out from last year's batch of high wind and rain. There are still people living in government shelters from Hurricane Ivan, which hit almost the same area less than a year ago. Keep dry and safe Mom!

And we have terrorist attacks going on in London. I don't get to watch the news in English here, but the Japanese news is really good about telling you what's going on, writing the important points on the screen, using visual aids, and using subtitles (no dubbing!) when interviewing foreigners. I went in the U.S. Naval Base the day before the attacks and when we passed the next morning, it looked like they had beefed up security.

While Japan may not be Al Qaeda's number one target (though it is certainly on the list somewhere), Japan is still probably vulnerable to terrorist attacks a la Aum Shinrikyo. For those that don't remeber, Aum released sarin gas in the Tokyo subways in 1995, killing several and hospitalizing thousands. Cults are on the rise here, and they are currenlty a bigger threat than Islamic extremists.

Regardless, I read in the news today that the Tokyo subway system has beefed up security, but I don't know how they could ever make the world's busiest network of underground trains 100% secure.

On a completely unrelated note, I have been reading manga recently in order to study Japanese. After hearing some Americans who have lived here for 20 years speak Japanese, I have realized living here alone will not gurantee fluency in Japanese. I have been reading 'Da-rin wa Gaikokujin' (my darling is a foreigner), written by a woman married to a multi-lingual American. I was intrigued by Tony (the American) after seeing him on Japanese TV. He speaks 5 or 6 languages (at least). I can't attest to his ability in any of his other second languages, but his Japanese is excellent. The first two books were pretty funny, but the third reads like a textbook on differences in English and Japanese. I think it should be required reading for advanced students of Japanese and beginning Japanese students of English.

I have also begun going over a study guide for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (level 2 - the second hardest). It's amazing (and frustrating) how many grammar patterns are in there that I don't know. The vocabulary isn't too hard, but some of these patterns I don't think I have ever heard anyone use in conversation. Maybe I just chose not to hear...

Not much else to report now. I will try to get back to posting later this week...


Ross said...

Cults are on the rise in Japan? What kind of cults? Do you have any links?

mom said...

Hurricane Update: Dennis wasn't as bad as last year's Ivan. The Panhandle was hit again and two counties that were nearly destroyed last year were hit again. We have a disaster declaration for 13 counties right now. The response was rapid and large - MREs, truck loads of ice and water and plastic sheeting for temporary roofing. Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) were poised to deploy into damaged areas. It's been a busy week. We're working 12 hour days, 7 days a week for a while. We're still managing the recovery from the '04 storms. Another Hurricane (Emily) is heading through the Gulf .. and another is forming in the Atlantic. Florida is a target!