Holy crap!

According to the unofficial score report at the end of the GRE, I got an 800 on math/quantitative! That was a huge surprise–I was sure I’d screwed it up, and there honestly were several questions that I just made wild guesses on. However, I got a 580 on verbal, which puts me at a 1380–definitely not good enough, for my personal standards (I’d like to break 700–I want to match or surpass my SAT cumulative, which was 1470) and for the grad programs I’m considering. I’ll have to spend the next month cramming vocabulary, because that’s really what killed me, in the antonym and analogy sections–that and reading comprehension, I’m pretty sure. Oh, and that score doesn’t count the essays, which are worth another 800–I think I did fairly well on those (I aced one but didn’t have a chance to really bring my thoughts full-circle in the other, though it was a topic that interested me), but we’ll see.

I started the day off in a really embarrassing way…I left my apartment 10 minutes before the bus was set to arrive, instead of the 15 I know I have to allot to get to the bus station (but I never, ever do). A charter bus with Osaka listed as its final destination passed me on my way there, so I started running…it sat in front of the station for a few minutes, though, and I know that the person who got out to check tickets saw me walking/running towards the station, but s/he got back on and the bus pulled away anyway before I could get there.

I actually shouted, “No! Matte!” (wait!)–I’m sure that had to have woken someone up. But the bus didn’t stop, so I just stood there, silently going, “Oh crap oh crap oh crap…what do I do, I can’t catch a later bus, this day has cost me over $200, I really have to take this test, what do I do what do I do….” To make it all the more painful, when I looked at the other people waiting in front of the bus station, they were all staring at me. I was too silently panicked to care, though.

It was then that I noticed that another charter bus heading to Osaka was pulling up…it turns out that was the bus I was supposed to be on. So I climbed on board silently, completely embarrassed by my histrionics, and kept my mouth shut for the duration.

I slept for the first half of the ride, and woke up as we were approaching Awaji, so I was greeted by the view of the brilliantly blue water. The ride from Tokushima-ken to Osaka is really a beautiful one, especially if the weather’s right. (We also stopped at the highway oasis that has a coffee machine that offers soy lattes. I love that.)

I also couldn’t find the GRE building initially–I got really turned around because I didn’t realize that the 2 exits for the Nakatsu subway station were pretty much right across the street from each other, and I thought the map on the GRE website covered a much bigger area than it actually did. I then found a building that had a 7th floor, like the directions said (I thought 7F was a building number, not a floor number–whoops), and took the elevator up, only to find a locked/keypadded door for an architectural agency. It turns out it was the next (and much bigger) building. So yeah–I’m glad I left with plenty of time to spare. I’d heard the place was supposed to be easy to find, but after I found it after 15-20 minutes of searching, that’s when it hit me how obvious it was. Gotta love when that happens.

So I went in and took the test…it’s actually a pet peeve of mine when people don’t change the refresh rate on their monitors to something better than 60 hertz (70 or 75 is perfectly viable! Do people not realize what a strain it is to have the corners of the monitor flickering in their peripheral vision at all times?). All the monitors in the testing center were set at 60, so I could definitely see the screen flickering. I was really worried I was going to get eyestrain and come out of the test with a killer headache, but I ended up being all right. I also finished by 4:30 instead of 5, and that included taking an “experimental” section that they randomly offered to some test-takers with questions in new formats that ETS is thinking of trying out. As a result, I’m registered to maybe receive $100 or $200 or something in the mail in a few months, so here’s hoping for a very welcome surprise sometime next year. I wish those questions counted, though, because they were easy.

So, yeah, GRE. And now I have a month to improve on this. Pretty much none of the words I’ve been cramming for the past few days were on there…don’t you love when that happens?

Oh, I have a question for people reading this–are the test scores cumulative? Rather, if I do score higher than 580 on verbal next time, but my math isn’t as high, will my new score for each section be the highest out of all my times taking it?

Other stuff I did today…

  • saw a rainbow over Osaka, almost as soon as we crossed into Osaka-ken from Kobe
  • bought New York style bagels, twice (the first time for brunch, the second time to bring a few home, along with maple-walnut cream cheese–Bagel & Bagel is so wonderful)
  • bought food at Subway twice (ditto, except the first time was an early dinner, while the second time was to go)
  • went to Starbucks in the HEP5 (it’s interesting how therapeutic a mocha frapuccino has become for me)
  • went to Uniqlo and bought toe-socks
  • began to learn my way around Umeda and the train station
  • wandered in search of Japanese goodies for India and ended up stumbling across quite a few interesting places in the process

Oh, I’ve also discovered My Store. It’s called Loft, and it’s a 7-story department store (but then again, all department stores in Japan seem to be multistored)…the reason this one in particular has been so claimed, though, is because the entire 6th floor is devoted to stationery and paper and art supplies. THE ENTIRE THING. I had to drag myself away, literally, to go catch my bus home…I didn’t buy anything, but god knows I was so tempted to! The rest of Loft is comparable to what I’d assume IKEA is like (I’ve never been inside one–Atlanta’s first one opened just a few weeks before I left for Japan). If I were living in or near Osaka and had a car, I totally would have filled my place with the store’s merchandise. Even if I had a car here, I seriously wouldn’t mind driving to Osaka at some point just to load up on awesome things for the apartment. I definitely intend to pick up a few (ahem, “a few”) things from there when we’re in the city in December.

Okay, it’s been a really long day and I’m exhausted…tomorrow seems like it’ll be pretty long as well, with heading into Tokushima for the musical meeting and cleaning like mad before Julie comes over for our first violin lesson. I wish I could really sleep in…but that’s okay. Good night, guys.

GREat fun on a Saturday (har-har!)

You know…at this point, there isn’t much studying I can do that would have a big effect on my GRE performance tomorrow. Not that that helps, because I’ve had such a hard time motivating myself to study all evening, and while I feel really confident about the math, there are several sections of the verbal portion that I know are going to slaughter me–namely antonyms, analogies, and reading comprehension (geez, I could get through Saussure and Wittgenstein and Derrida just a few years ago, but I can’t answer simple questions on simple passages in a standardized test now).

A couple of things bother me on principle: I pride myself on having a pretty good vocabulary (it probably comes from being one of those hard-core spelling bee geeks in elementary and middle school, and I still get really excited about the yearly broadcast of the Scripps(-Howard?) National Spelling Bee on ESPN), so it’s humbling that I’ve never encountered or just don’t know quite a few of these words (I’m also learning that the meanings of many words are noticeably different than what I’d always assumed they were–“prodigal” was the big shocker; it means wasteful. Wasteful!). It also bothers me that in my years of reading these texts on media theory and reading the work of these major media and representational theorists, as well as more traditional literature, these words were virtually never in their writings. All this work for something I won’t end up using afterwards…bah. ;o)

I wish I could go for a run or something, except that it’s rainy and chilly.

Oh, so they delivered the December CLAIR Japanese correspondence test today–too bad I haven’t even begun working on the November one yet. Heh, oops…I’d better get on that next week. I’m glad I chose the intermediate level to refresh what I’d already learned.

So anyway, tomorrow consists of this:

0700-1050 – bus ride from Ikeda to Osaka
1050-1215 – wander around Umeda, try to scope out some stores to buy gifts from later, eat lunch, remind myself where the Hankyu Entertainment Plex/Plaza is so that I can raid their Starbucks
1215 – head 1 stop north to Nakatsu to find the testing center
1300-1700 – GRE (dun-dun-duhhhnnn…)
1700-1915 – wander around Umeda in a dazed, zombielike state and hopefully buy pretty Japanese stuff
1930-? – bus ride back home

Yay for 12 hours of sitting. Good grief. And all that traveling in one day, too…I’ll be sleeping well tomorrow night, for sure!

Sunday’s going to be fairly busy as well–the Tokushima JETs put on a musical every year, with this year’s theme being Peter Pan, and Joe’s arranging a meeting for it on Sunday afternoon, so I’d like to head into the city to do some shopping beforehand. (I definitely want to volunteer to help out with doing any visual work that needs to be done (programmes, sets), and it would be a lot of fun to actually be on stage as well…) After I come back home, Julie in Mikamo is coming over that evening for her introductory violin lesson! She’d approached me about it a few weeks ago. I’ve never actually taught violin before–I’m really excited about this, and so is she.

All right, so for tomorrow, I need to remember these things:

  • passport!
  • bus tickets
  • money
  • Prometric testing info
  • CD player, CDs, batteries (gotta do something on the bus besides study and sleep…)
  • camera, just in case

Okay, I should at least browse through some more of the “essential vocabulary” and jot down some notes to study while on the bus tomorrow, as well as get my stuff together and figure out what to wear. Wish me luck! I’m already planning on taking it again when I’m with my family in Osaka in December, but it would be nice to just get it out of the way in one shot.

[insert profound title here]

I’m in the community center, upstairs in the computer room, taking a quick break from GRE cramming to check in, since it’s been a few days. There’s an intermediate/advanced shamisen class meeting in a nearby room on this floor, and while the music is a little repetitive, it’s comforting to hear music being rehearsed–it makes me think fond thoughts about Georgia Tech’s orchestra, the Couch Building, our conductor’s cheesy but funny musical humor (“I can’t conduct electricity tonight,” “That’s so slow that it’s almost like you’re backing up, like you’re inhaling” (to the winds and brass), “It sounds like a flamenco dancer falling down a flight of stairs” (to the percussion), “That’s as flat as a mackerel’s ass”…and so on–hi, Ron and Pete!). I really miss them, as well as the whole orchestra crowd.

So speaking of the GRE, I am indeed heading into Osaka on Saturday to take this godforsaken test. 4 hours on a bus from the station here in Ikeda, with 2 hours to spare before the 4-hour test, then wandering around like a dazed zombie for another 2.5 hours before the 4-hour ride back home that evening. At the very least, I hope to eat vegetarian food (SUBWAY!) and maybe stumble across a store that sells traditional items so I can pick up “omiyage” of a sort for the relatives in India I’ll be seeing this time next month. I’m doing fairly well on the practice stuff–the math in particular; I’m glad it’s all coming back to me now! I have to spend tonight and tomorrow focusing on vocabulary and reading comprehension, though, because those are the two areas that are going to slaughter me if I’m not careful.

And speaking of India, I’ll be there in less than a month, and soon after, my family will be coming here! I’ve been talking to my parents pretty regularly to plan things out–I’m taking my laptop with me so that I can download the hundreds and hundreds of photos I’m sure I’ll be taking during the 10 or so days I’ll be there. It’s not nearly long enough, but it’s definitely better than nothing, and the fact that I’m going to see two Indian weddings (and then probably get hit with the inevitable barrage of, “So, Smitha, when will it be your turn? Huh? Huh? Huh?” questions–especially since one of the two brothers getting married is at least a year younger than I am, and I’m coming up on the Big 25 “Deadline” next year and haven’t even been on a real date–no, Random Internet People, that’s not an invitation of any kind), as in real weddings actually in India and not in Pittsburgh over 15 years ago, will more than make up for it. It’ll be great to see all these relatives, too–we’ll be in Hyderabad and Bangalore, so I can see both my grandmothers (who will be visiting India during that time), as well as extended relatives I haven’t seen since we were in India last time.

Plans for winter break (from school, but not from sitting at my desk downstairs) are still falling into place, though I do know I’m taking off a few days at the start to meet my family in Osaka. We want to go to Kyoto, and I brought up the idea of going volcano-watching, which they’re actually happy to do, as long as there’s stuff to do in those areas, so maybe we’ll head down south (since heading up north in winter when they’ll have come straight from Atlanta, City of Nonexistent Winter, is ridiculous) to Kyushu and check out Sakurajima and a few others.

Oh, something else rather important…my boss brought out the recontracting papers earlier this week. And she asked me immediately if I’d decided yet. I had to tell her no, but I couldn’t convey why I hadn’t, and how this is one of those decisions that I think about every single day, and how so much is riding on whether or not I 1. actually do apply for any masters programs that would notify me before the start of February as to my acceptance, 2. get started on requesting recommendations and my statement of purpose (yeah, really late in the game here…), and 3. if those do indeed fall into place, I actually get accepted somewhere (preferably not Georgia Tech again, since it would be much better to go somewhere else and I’m really frustrated and thoroughly disgusted with the blatant anti-arts attitude on that campus). And if I don’t…if I slack off too long…should I go back and try to find a job involving visual design or the web or Japanese or more than one of the above or none of the above? Or do I stay here and stick it out for another year? I’m leaning towards going home right now–but like Hannah has said, which I agree with, I’m not going to make the decision until the time comes for me to make it. So much can change between now and February 3rd.

Okay, I should get back to studying…wish me luck!

I just had a really, really great workout, which consisted of walking around Ikeda for 2-3 hours. Specifically, I walked west on the 192, across the Yoshinogawa (River–redundancy #1; kawa/gawa = “river”) via the Ikeda Ohashi (Bridge–redundancy #2; hashi/bashi = “bridge”), past my junior high school, back across the Yoshinogawa via the Miyoshi Bashi (Bridge–redundancy #3), and back. I’ve been sitting so often lately (sitting at my desk at the community center, or at my desk at the junior high, or at a random desk in the teachers’ room or principal’s office of any of my elementary schools, or on the bus or train, or on cushions on my floor) that I just had to get out and walk around, and the weather’s still unseasonably warm, which lent itself really well to my spending time outside. The leaves are finally beginning to change colors, so I snapped quite a few photos of the surrounding mountains. I wanted to take photos of the town, but that can happen another day.

Right as I started my trip, I happened to pass in front of a kimono store owned by 2 of my eikaiwa students–the husband is in my beginners class and the wife is in my intermediate class. They invited me inside to look around, and the wife brought me upstairs to show me their kimono show/storeroom, which was quite stunning. (Mom and Dad–she asked me to bring you by the store when you come, so she can show you different garments as well.) It turns out this store is over 80 years old, and was started by the husband’s grandfather. When I came downstairs, they presented me with a gift: a drawstring purse made out of indigo-dyed cloth (denim?), with a butterfly on the front. It’s really beautiful, and it was completely unexpected and very generous of them to do so.

So now I’m back, and just resting for a bit before I figure out what to do for dinner, and whether or not I have to hike down to the video store to return stuff today, or whether they’re due tomorrow.

Lindsay did all my dishes last night, apparently in return for my helping her move a trundle bed up and down 3 flights of stairs (her mom was here and needed to use it), and apparently because she just likes doing other people’s dishes on occasion.

This weekend I’m here alone. There’s a camping trip in Iya, which I was going to go on, but I backed out a few days ago because of my head cold. Lindsay’s there, though, and Hannah’s in Osaka, so it’s just a quiet evening on my own. I’m watching Contact (hahaha, “Viva Las Vega”…and why does Michael Kitz keep staring unblinkingly at Ellie?…and Hadden went to Georgia Tech! “Once upon a time, I was a hell of an engineer”–so great), which is one of my favorite movies of all time–I rented it last weekend and have to return it today, but hadn’t watched it before now. (I also rented Return of the Jedi this week–the 1995 pre-Special Edition version, of course, because I don’t consider anything after that to be canon :P–and watched it a couple of times, on my own and with Lindsay. This was my first post-ROTS viewing, and now that the story has been completed, this film is a lot more powerful and there are so many subtle elements that have a completely new meaning or dimension to them. And the ending…just…wow. I do have to admit, though, I almost was craving an older version of Hayden Christensen instead of Sebastian Shaw, to give it more closure–an older version, not the smirking version on the DVD. But anyway. I could write a long essay on ROTJ alone, or an even longer one on characterizations throughout the 6-film saga (haha, masters thesis topic! I wish…), but neither of those would fit the scope of this journal, so I’ll hold off.

All right, that’s all for now…I’m most likely taking the GRE in Osaka next weekend (whew–3 hours on a bus to take a 4-hour test, only to take another 3-hour bus back). I also have a lot of lesson planning to do–West Mountain Shougakkou would like me to do double-length lessons for all the classes I teach there in November, except that I’m doing four classes at West Mountain in November (as opposed to every other week, to make up for having no classes there in October or December), meaning I’m going to have to plan ahead by at least 4 lessons. I also definitely need to catch up on uploading all my photos, because I have a lot to edit and put up, as well as creating sets of the images that are already there.

More generosity

Got a head cold and have to sleep soon (should have been asleep an hour ago, but that’s the story of my life), but I just wanted to list these…

  • because I woke up feeling crappy, I took longer than usual to get ready and intentionally missed my bus and caught the train that left 12 minutes later but made me walk more than 3 times as far to get to my junior high. After getting off the train and turning to walk down the long stretch of road towards the long this-is-not-a-pedestrian-bridge Miyoshi Bashi (“bashi” being a form of “hashi” for “bridge,” so therefore, “Miyoshi Bridge”), I saw a car pass me and then pull over ahead, and when I came closer, I saw the window on my side was rolled down. An elderly gentleman called out to me as I happened to glance through the window, and he asked me where I was headed, and when I told him, he offered to give me a ride! And so I took him up on his offer (I know you’re freaking out, Mom and Dad–but this town really is that trustworthy, and it’s just wonderful), and we had a really warm and friendly little chat as he drove me the kilometer to my school, taking me up the hill and dropping me off right at the front entrance. I wish I got his name…but maybe if I catch the train again tomorrow, I’ll see him again.
  • the taxi driver taking me up to West Mountain(top) elementary school pulled over when we were halfway up the mountain, got out, and plucked 3 persimmons off one of the numerous orange-laden trees lining the road, and got back into the car and gave them to me, explaining that these were on his friend’s property and his friend always told him to take as many as he wanted. I’m now up to 43 persimmons from 5 people (Lindsay, my landlady, stern-looking but really kind-hearted woman from work, woman whose house is behind the bus stop close to my junior high where I wait 3 days a week, and today’s taxi-driving gentleman)…and I still have yet to eat any of them. I don’t think I should ever complain about not having to anything to eat as long as I have this growing stockpile, but I think that they’ve become such an entity that I forget that I can eat them.

Okay, anyway. Sleep!