|JOURNEY DOWN EL PONGO, etc.|
Posted on 23 June 2014, 23:45 JST
This put me into a more adventurous mood. I also saw that the storm ditch, which normally only has a trickle of water, had gotten so full, it had become navigable! So I did what any guy in my situation would do, and got my inflatable rowboat!
The fast current from the storm carried me a surprising distance. I made it from near my house to near the 7-Eleven, cruising through the drainage ditch, and past a rice paddy.
I saw a Funada Hajime political poster. And then, I saw...
...a fearsome waterfall—EL PONGO!
(well, at least that's what I call it after El Pongo from Fitzcarraldo)
I bagged up my cell phone and my Nintendo 3DS, to keep them from getting wet (unfortunately, the Nintendo 3DS did get wet, and the backlight on the lower screen is now not working—I hope that when it dries out, the backlight returns). Then I prepared to go down EL PONGO!!!
AHHHHHHHHHH~!!! EVERYONE, HOLD ON FOR YOUR LIVES!!!
WE'RE NOT GONNA MAKE IT~!!! AHHHHHHHHHH~!!!
(wakes up, gets the water out of my ear, and checks to see if I'm still alive)
Whew, I'm still in one piece.
It was then that I found myself in a bizarre new world...
I STILL DON'T HAVE HELM CONTROL!!! WE'RE DEAD IN THE WATER!!! COMM'S DOWN! GET IT BACK! WE CAN'T TAKE MUCH MORE OF THIS! Get us out of here! Thrusters are down...
I STILL DON'T HAVE HELM CONTROL!!!
WE'RE DEAD IN THE WATER!!!
GET IT BACK!
WE CAN'T TAKE MUCH MORE OF THIS!
Get us out of here!
Thrusters are down...
Oops, slight overreaction. I looked it up on the Internet later, and it's called a "hammerhead worm," which is a type of "land planarian." They are predatory terrestrial worms that live in some areas of the world, such as this one. They are often about a foot long, like this one, and attack earthworms, grab them, pump enzymes into them that dissolve them, and digest them from the outside. Lovely.
In other news, Nakahara Sensei gave me my questions sheet from the Kanji Kentei I took on Friday. I still don't have the official results (that will take about another month), but I re-took the test in my spare time using the questions sheet, and then scored myself using the dictionary, jisho.org, and some help from some of the teachers at my school. I got 163/200, but I'm going to estimate that my real test is probably somewhere between 150~160/200 because I will no doubt have made some handwriting mistakes or careless errors that I didn't even realize that cost me points. Still, 140/200 is passing. I am now 95% sure that I passed this test.
Finally, the last accomplishment for today was finishing Goosebumps: Ghost Beach. Why would a grown man read a Goosebumps book? Well, simply put, when I was in elementary school, I never actually finished one of these things. Now, I have, in its 119 pages of glory.
It wasn't a bad book. Jerry and Terri go to New England to stay with their distant cousins (who are much older than them), Agatha and Brad. They run into three local kids named Sam, Louisa, and Nat, and find out about a haunted cave. They eventually go into the cave and find an entity named Harrison Sadler. Harrison Sadler says that Sam, Louisa, and Nat are ghosts and must be stopped. Sam, Louisa, and Nat say the same thing about Harrison—so is Harrison a ghost or a human? It turns out that Harrison, for all his creepiness, is a good guy, and the three children (Sam, Louisa, and Nat) were the real ghosts, and planned to kill Jerry and Terri. Jerry and Terri manage to escape the cave, and the cave caves in, trapping those three ghosts. However, Jerry and Terri are ultimately doomed, as it turns out that Agatha and Brad are also ghosts (as the children are tipped off by a German shepherd which can sense ghosts).
It definitely wasn't the best book I have ever read, but I can understand the appeal of it to elementary school-aged kids. I'm glad I bought it for $5.38 on Amazon Kindle and read it; not only was it mildly entertaining, but it was some good early '90s nostalgia.
|The Kanji Kentei 4-kyū, the Tsuyu (rainy season), etc.|
Posted on 21 June 2014, 23:45 JST
First, here are some pictures from this week:
As for other news, this week, I took the Kanji Kentei 4-kyū exam. If I passed, I will be certified for 1,322 kanji (the same amount that a Japanese 8th or 9th grader is expected to know). To study for this exam, I fed all the official on'yomi and kun'yomi for the kanji and the kanji themselves into Anki (all 316, combined with the 1,006 Kyōiku Kanji that were already there from when I took and passed the 5-kyū back in 2011), and memorized them. I also sat down outside of the classroom where I would take the exam the next day, and took a previous exam, from 2012, to test myself (I got exactly 142/200 or, if very strict about one of the kanji's appearance, 140/200, which is exactly the pass mark). I also read up to page 213 of the 303-page book that I had on the Kanji Kentei 4-kyū and also read the last seven pages (the kanji tables) in their entirety and fed the special readings from page 296 into Anki and memorized them, as well, and read all the yojijukugo pages, as well. I also wrote many pages of notes, some by hand, some by computer, and re-read all the notes in the packet before the exam.
I think I passed. I will have to wait about a month to see the results, though. This test has a 52% pass rate. Most of the people who take the test are Japanese native speakers. If I pass, this is something to be proud of.
Very few westerners ever break what I call the "1,000-character barrier." Basically, many westerners can speak and understand Japanese, but I have come to realize relatively recently that just because they can speak and understand it does not mean they can read and write it. Many foreigners who appear fluent or near-fluent in the spoken language often only know a few hundred characters. It is difficult to retain more than a few hundred characters without using a spaced-repetition system (SRS) like Anki.
Someday, I hope to get certified for over 2,000 kanji. That is full adult literacy. There are currently 2,136 kanji in the Jōyō specification, which is what high school graduates are supposed to know (though many actually do not). If I passed this test, I will officially know about 62% of these. Though I will comment that most things are written below a high school graduation literacy level, so even with the number of kanji I know now, I can read the kanji in most things fairly well.
|8th Anniversary of Leaving America and Becoming an Independent Adult|
Posted on 18 June 2014, 16:05 JST
Today is June 18, 2014. In addition to being the 199th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo at which Napoleon was defeated, it is the 8th anniversary of me boarding a plane in America and departing for Seoul, South Korea (I did not reach Korea until June 19, so tomorrow is my 8th anniversary of moving back to Asia). As of tomorrow, I will have spent eight continuous years living outside the United States of America, in Asia, and that combines with the five years from when I was a minor to make 13 years in Asia. When combined with the ~10 months that I spent in the Netherlands as a baby, that makes 13 years, 10 months, or literally more than half of my life spent outside America. I am truly an "overseas" American.
Stepping onto that airplane and coming back to Asia (and ultimately Japan) was the fulfillment of a dream that I had had since I was 14 years old. When I was 13 years old, I moved back to America from Hong Kong. At that point in my life, I had spent five years in Asian countries (two in Korea as a small child, three in Hong Kong as a middle school student). I had spent more than 1/3 of my life in Asia, at that point. I was very hopeful about living in America. During three years in Hong Kong, I had formed a very romantic image of America.
However, the reality did not live up to the image. By the time I was 14, I was definitely disappointed about moving back to Fairfax, Virginia.
It was because I had grown accustomed to the wonders of Hong Kong--a world class city of 7 million people, one of the most important cities in Asia, a gateway between the West and China, with Shenzhen and mainland China right nearby, a place where cutting-edge Japanese video games were released almost immediately, a place where I sometimes snuck out at night and saw "the nightlife" a place where I could practice Chinese almost any time I wanted to and have it be understood, and a place where most of my friends were overseas Americans, like me.
I had been transplanted from this world into Fairfax, Virginia--a boring, suburban "bedroom community," where the local school only offered European languages (offer Latin, sure, why not study a dead language, but offer Chinese, no way), where people doubted me when I said that China was going to be the next superpower, where everything was closed by late evening except for 7-Eleven, where it was difficult to get to any place worth going without a car, and where rents were so sky-high (often ~$1,000 for a studio apartment) and the minimum wage so low ($5.25 an hour), that it seemed like I would never be able to move out of my parents' house.
It was at approximately age 14 that I decided I had to move back to Asia. I was already tired of Fairfax. I thought "If I'm going to move back to Asia, why not Japan?" After all, I had become fascinated with certain Japanese things over the past few years. I had begun to self-study Japanese and learned all the hiragana and the katakana, completing the programs prgmHIRAGANA and prgmKATAKANA for the TI-83 graphing calculator, written in TI-BASIC, which allowed display of all the hiragana and katakana on that calculator, and which I eventually put into the Japanese quiz program that I made, NihonGO! Japanese Kana Learning System. I had heard J-pop on the radio on the planes between Hong Kong and Japan and America and Japan, beaten many Japanese video games, and enjoyed some anime, too. I desperately wanted to move back to Asia, especially Japan, and practically worshipped everything Japanese.
However, the road to getting back to Asia was long and hard. I had to go through four difficult years of high school. High school is difficult for many people, but it was especially difficult for me, because I desperately wanted to study either Japanese or Chinese; although these languages were offered at better high schools such as Thomas Jefferson and Lake Braddock, I went to Robinson Secondary School, where only European languages were offered. Spanish was instead being forced down my throat. I desperately wanted to move back to Asia, but the law said otherwise--I had to stay with my parents until I was 18, even though, at that point, I had become accustomed to Asia, spent more than 1/3 of my life there, and desperately wanted to return. I desperately wanted to save money so I could afford Japanese lessons and/or move back to Asia, but the Early 2000s Recession from 2002-2003 made finding a job almost impossible for a high school student. I desperately wanted to move back to Asia, but was being prevented from taking any steps to do so.
However, in 2004, things started to improve--the Early 2000s Recession was over and the economy had improved. I was able to find a steady job at Domino's Pizza for $5.50 an hour, and later that year, at 7-Eleven for $8 an hour on the night shift. I also turned 18, which meant that legally, there was no barrier to me moving out/moving back to Asia provided that I had the means to do so. Suddenly, I was saving money at a fast rate, and was working with Koreans, who often taught me some Korean. However, at this point, I was thinking more about using the money I was earning to buy a manufactured home.
After researching the manufactured home idea, I realized that parts of it would be difficult. And suddenly, I saw the light--I should use this money to move back to Asia instead. I started to take very serious steps to move back to Asia. I started taking Korean classes through the Fairfax County Adult Education system at Marshall High School in the evenings (these had not been open to me before I turned 18, but after turning 18, I was eligible, and they were cheap). With the Korean teacher Lee In-ae, I learned elementary Korean in Levels 1 and 2). I practiced this Korean at local Korean businesses, like in Burke Center Parkway. I was starting to save a lot of money--at age 19, I had over $20,000 saved. In early 2006, I finally took a major, drastic step--I applied to both Yonsei University's and Sogang University's Korean schools. I was accepted to both, but ended up choosing Yonsei University Korean Language Institute.
And finally, on June 18, 2006, I got on a plane. And arrived in Seoul, South Korea the next day. It was the fulfillment of a dream, to move back to Asia, that I had had since I was 14 years old. It was literally one of the most important days in my entire life.
Now, I should explain, I ultimately decided not to stay in Korea. I moved to Taiwan in search of work that I could do with an associate's degree, then finished my bachelor's degree, then moved to Japan, so the dream of moving to Japan was not completely fulfilled until March 7, 2011, but the most drastic step was on June 18, 2006. Not only was that the day that I moved back to Asia--it was also the day that I became an independent adult--I was using my own money earned at low-wage jobs in America, and refusing any significant money for my living expenses or tuition from my parents, once I was abroad. On June 18, I declared independence, both as an independent adult (including financially), and from life in America.
Posted on 14 June 2014, 23:55 JST
Two weeks ago, I bought an inflatable rowboat from the "recycle shop." Stay tuned, and I will post photos from my "exploration" of my local river.
I acquired this rowboat for ¥1,080 from the "recycle shop" in Tsuruta-machi. I have dreamed about having an inflatable rowboat since I was living in Korea, to explore local rivers and lakes and get unique photos. The day I bought it, I took it to the Tagawa and accidentally woke up a homeless man sleeping under a bridge with my loud pumping to inflate the boat using my hand pump. He woke up and started yelling, so I apologized and went farther down the river. I was able to test the boat in the Tagawa, but it was not until the next weekend, in the Komanyū River, that I was able to really enjoy the rowboat. I not only spent a couple of hours in the boat on the river, but also created a chart of all the Kanji Kentei 4-kyū kanji with radicals that are not the first part of the character (this will help me on the bushū section of the test) while on the boat on the river, and called my girlfriend to inform her that I was on a boat, and to call me "Captain Charles." I would like to take her out on this boat, sometime, by the way. She only weighs about the same as four sacks of rice, so I think the boat could still stay buoyant even with both of us aboard.
|CMIS 320 Starts Tomorrow|
Posted on 25 May 2014, 23:30 JST
Tomorrow, CMIS 320 (Relational Database Applications and Concepts) starts at UMUC. This will be an online course. Okay, it actually starts on 6/2, but I will be able to access the course (and start on it) tomorrow, so I consider that its effective start date.
I therefore decided to go ahead and finish up studying the 316 Kanji Kentei 4-kyū kanji (one fewer thing to have to worry about over the next month). This is the exam that I will be taking on June 20 of this year, with my junior high school students at my school. I finished cramming them today. Over a couple of years, I have fed all 316 kanji for the 4-kyū into the Anki program, complete with the English meaning, the kanji itself, on'yomi, and kun'yomi. Then I used a Nintendo DS-based kanji quiz program to test myself. See how I got 28/30? Not bad. That means I retained them. If I can pass this exam, I will be certified for an official 1,322 kanji, versus the 1,006 that I am officially certified for right now.
On Saturday, I taught a man named Toshiaki. I asked him how his visit to his grandmother's grave in Fukushima had been (he was visiting it for the jūsankaiki, or 12th anniversary of her death). I'm glad I asked, because as it turns out, when he and his sister were at Fukushima Station, they saw this, and his sister was able to snap a picture of it:
I'm wrapping up the weekend now. It's Sunday night. On the weekends, that's when I allow myself to drink. Lately, I've been cooking Korean pajeon and drinking shōchū on the weekends. shōchū can be made to taste like Korean soju by watering it down to about 20% or less, and adding a few lumps of sugar and mixing them until they dissolve. Soju is basically the same as shōchū, just sweeter and with a lower alcohol content. Here is the "soju" and the pajeon from last weekend:
Speaking of food, I taught my students on Wednesday some food words for their lunch that day. I also taught them adjectives and "Is n. a n.?" grammar in the same lesson.
Tomorrow, I can start CMIS 320. I think of tomorrow through July 6 as a sort of "trial by fire," during which my time management skills and other resources will be severely tested, because I will have to balance studying for the following things:
I usually get off work at 4:30 PM and can go to bed as late as 1:30 AM, so that's a potential nine hours. Passing all three of these things during the "trial by fire" period is possible, I think, if I have discipline.
|Takydromus takydromoides and CMIS 320|
Posted on 15 May 2014, 21:20 JST
A Japanese grass lizard (Takydromus takydromoides) that I photographed:
I also signed up for another (online) college course today. This course is CMIS 320 (Relational Database Concepts and Applications). I had originally been planning to take CMIS 242 (Intermediate Programming [in Java]), but I decided, I need something a little bit easier because I will also be taking the JLPT N2 in the middle of this class. I think that an introductory-level course in relational databases will be easier than intermediate-level Java, so I will save intermediate programming (in Java) for later when I do not have to worry about an impending JLPT N2.
Here are some definite benefits of CMIS 320:
My slightly modified study plan is this: study hard for the JLPT N2/Kanji Kentei 4-kyū until July 6. Pass both of those tests, keeping up with CMIS 320 along the way. Once the tests are done, continue to work on CMIS 320 and reviewing a significant portion of precalculus (in preparation to take MTH 271, Applied Calculus I) until 7/27. Then, on 7/27, I will finally be back on schedule!
|CMIS 102 Grade Released: The UMUC Spring '14 Semester Is Officially Over|
Posted on 14 May, 2014, 21:30 JST
|End-of-April 2014 Study Plan|
Posted on 30 April, 2014, 21:00 JST
It is the last day of April, now, and I have come up with a study plan for 2014 (a little bit late, I know, but better late than never). Including the study I have already done, here is a list of what I plan to study this year:
Click here to read old news. | Click here to read a brief explanation of what I do in Japan, and why I chose Japan. © 2014 Charles Henry Wetzel
Click here to read old news. | Click here to read a brief explanation of what I do in Japan, and why I chose Japan.
© 2014 Charles Henry Wetzel