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New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve never been much of a new year’s resolution-izer.

I find that if my resolutions are only important enough to be made once a year, they are probably not all that important. I know, I know, it’s tradition, it’s just something you do. Well, blame my parents for instilling in me such a regard for “tradition.”

However, having thoroughly trashed new year’s resolutions, I am going to make some anyway. HA! Take that.

I will forgo the real cliché ones such as:

I am going to eat better
I am going to do more exercise
I am going to be a nicer person
I am going to keep in touch with everyone I know

I renew these resolutions every day of my life, and though the jury is out on whether I actually stick to them or not, there’s no sense in putting in the extra effort to make a “double resolution,” so to speak. Here are a few things I will do my best to work towards this year, however.

Learn the names of all of my teachers and students at school

I have probably learned 85% of the teachers’ names at my four schools now. My progress has been hampered because I do not deal with all of them on a day to day basis, and because I was given the names of the teachers in kanji only, meaning it was pretty much useless to me. (Fun fact: even if you know the regular pronunciations for the kanji in the name, there is no guarantee you know the name. Oftentimes the pronunciations are totally separate for names.) I have slowly gathered and sneakily written down the names of teachers I overheard during conversations in the teachers’ room, and through this method I have been able to compile a fairly decent list. Student names, however, have escaped me entirely. There are over 1,000 of them, but even if there were 100 I’m not sure I would know them yet. For some reason their names just do not stick, even if I do my best to try and remember them. Starting this year I will do my best to compile class lists of the students, and actually use them when I call on them in class. In this way, I hope to learn at least a majority of their names before third semester is over and they graduate to the next grade and switch up their classes.

Pass the 2nd level of the Japanese Proficiency Test

This is a long shot, but the test is in July (I believe) so I do have some time to study. I have bought books, and now that I have my iPod touch I will be able to study kanji and vocabulary more effectively with the wonderful applications that are available. If I am able to pass this 2nd level test within my first year of being in Japan, I will have high hopes of passing the 1st level, the highest possible, by my third year. This will allow me to justify leaving the country feeling fairly confident that I am fluent enough in Japanese to go to grad school and move on to the next phase of my six and a half year plan. At this point in time, I probably have about 500 kanji, 3,000 words, and countless grammar points to learn. If my calculations are correct, given six months (181ish days) I will need to learn 2.7 kanji a day, 16 vocab words a day, and an undetermined amount of grammar points. Of course doing that would allow me to ACE this test, and in reality I only need to pass it, which is a pretty big difference. Still, whether it is possible is, at this time, still uncertain.

Find out more about the town I live in.

As Cam put it on Monday at lunch: “We need to learn more about Nakatsu, find the places to eat and so on, and appreciate it more.” Of course I am paraphrasing because I don’t really remember the exact words, but I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments. From the outside, Nakatsu looks like a pretty crappy town. It’s fairly ugly, doesn’t boast much culture except a castle, (which are pretty much a dime a dozen in Japan) has the foulest smelling corner known to man, and generally at first glance just does not look like a very nice place to live. However, there is so much here that we don’t know about yet. We’ve only scratched the upper corner of the “scratch and sniff” that is this town. There are scores of restaurants we haven’t even heard of yet, no doubt there are museums, shops, and beautiful views we simply don’t know. Yesterday, for example, we visited a restaurant called “La Terra.” It’s an Italian restaurant with its own brick oven, and makes delicious pizza for a fairly decent price! They also have ginger ale with real ginger. It’s not that canned soda crap you usually get, but it had a kick! Delicious. After five months of living here, that’s the first time I’ve eaten there. That just goes to show how little I know about Nakatsu. I am considering writing a survey and handing it out to my teachers, asking them their favorite places to go in Nakatsu so that we might try them out and create a nice map of the “places to be” in Nakatsu besides the very few we have unwittingly stumbled upon.

Do more cooking

I really like cooking. Having said that, I don’t do enough of it. Living alone, it’s far more enjoyable to go out with friends than it is to sit in your lonely cold apartment eating the single serving plate you’ve just sadly made for yourself from whatever scraps of food you had in the fridge. Yes, I paint a pretty sour picture, but that’s really how I feel about it. Cooking for yourself just isn’t as much fun, and I don’t put as much effort into what I do when I’m just cooking for myself. I think the reason for this is that I know that whatever I cook, I’ll eat it and I won’t complain about it, because let’s face it: who am I going to complain to, myself? Oh yeah, that will definitely get results.

On the plus side, because I am alone and won’t complain about the food I serve myself, I can experiment, and don’t have to be afraid of messing up, allowing me to be a bit more adventurous. There is so much I have not tried to do yet, I am excited about the prospect of furthering my culinary horizons. Now if only I can get myself to pick out recipes and actually do the shopping…

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