Friday, 12 April 2013

Across the Universe


Unlike all other classes at my university, which are conducted only once a week, Enjoyably Study Korean and its sisters are split into two partially overlapping sessions in a five-day cycle. You are free to pick whichever of the multiple offerings you like, as long as you take both the A and B courses. The other, it would seem, is more about ancillary aspects of studying the Korean language, while today's is a slightly more straightlaced rendition that aims to have us actually sitting down, scratching out unfamiliar shapes, and getting to grips with grammatical nuts and bolts. It's a principle I can get behind; I'll be the first to say that consistent patterns are the key to successful language-learning.

Then I studied another Asian language, Japanese this time. For the final of my four required academics, I was once more with the same group of Chinese people. I'm really getting to like them; maybe because they're all foreigners themselves and know that we all have a secretly desperate desire for friends, they seem not to be shy about just walking right up and introducing themselves. Anyway this class was all about Reading Comprehension, vital for both the JLPT (whenever I decide to take it) and also every aspect of my entire life. It's also a subject that has a lot of potential for excruciating boredom, but this class at least put out a little effort by having us conduct a series of quizzes. By making it an active process and turning the focus towards our own selves, it became ten times as engaging than it would have been had we been made to just, say, struggle through a passage.

In the late afternoon, Mother Russia and I went to check out the Astronomy Club's regular Friday activities. After a brief reminder of upcoming events, there was a half-hour break while we waited for dusk to fall. I can only imagine that this is going to cut more and more into their actual activity time as summer approaches and the days grow longer. In the meantime, we popped into English Club, because I felt bad for abandoning them on a day I'd regularly have joined in, and Mother Russia was a big hit with the guys. No surprise there. Her Japanese is better than average and, personal taste notwithstanding, nobody would argue that she isn't a striking young woman. Shiga is smitten. I had to laugh at that. She would eat Shiga for breakfast.

Finally it was dark enough to see the stars, but...! The sky was far too cloudy to see anything. Which was awfully bad luck, considering that at this time of year they're trying to lure in new students by showing them all the fun things they do. Luckily, they have a regular backup prepared for just this time at lunch, and inflated a big black tent-like thing in one of the music rooms, then usshered us inside. In the middle they'd placed some kind of pill-shaped machine that projected the basic pattern of the major constellations onto the surface of the nylon bag in which we sat, creating a celestial sphere around us. One of the older students then walked us through locating Ursa Major, the story behind Cassiopoiea, and other such things. Every once in a while the tent would lose some air and begin to sag in places, and the older students would expertly move to right it. It was a pretty fun time, although I did wonder whether the novelty would wear off if you weren't super into stars, and also where a student club gets the money for that kind of setup.

They also set up a small telescope outside and aimed it at Jupiter and Castor, which reminded me of the vastness of interstellar distances and heavenly bodies, the incomprehensible age of the universe, and the insignificance of both my own life and, really, all of humanity in comparison. That started to depress me, so it was fortunate that at that moment Mother Russia decided it was time to go home.

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