Monday, 1 April 2013

New batch

I had an enjoyable, if mostly unexciting, spring vacation, but soon the new semester will be upon us, and the winds of change have brought the next generation of adventurers to our doorstep. With the memories of my own arrival still so fresh in my mind, it was funny sitting on the far side of the fence, watching everybody timidly venture into the common room and begin trying to carve out their niche. The five all-new Japanese students, who will be here for the next year, arrived a week in advance, so as to be acclimated themselves before being hit with the responsibility of helping out the others. The relief force of foreigners drifted in over a period of three days leading up to the weekend. And after all, when we have a perfectly good tatami room that's longing for love, what's a weekend with a slew of new housemates without a party?

The old guard had one for us when we first arrived, and this one was predictably similar. It began with a paralyzingly awkward battery of self-introductions, as entire civilizations rose and fell in the outside world, and then gradually progressed from everybody being too shy to talk or eat the food to crawling all over each other and dancing spontaneously. For reasons that he never made clear, Overly Lengthy and Dramatic Appellation from Spain spent about twenty minutes making everybody write down some phrase in their home language, which just turned into fifteen variations of “I have a parrot on my shoulder” after I started and everybody copied me.

On the whole, I'm very pleased with the new batch, because they're all friendly and good-natured, they all seem to have basically the right attitude towards Japan, and not one of them is fucking stupid. Well, Jason Biggs is a bit of a stereotypically oversexed handsome Italian dickweed, but he also knows better than to question anyone who's already been in this house for six months. There's been a change in the language dynamic that's a little strange, though; to the surprise of exactly no one, the Europeans have very limited Japanese skills, while the two Koreans and countless Chinese are much more advanced, except this group is much more outgoing than their forebears, resulting in a net increase of Japanese being spoken within these walls.

What's different this time is that while previously the spread was fairly even from bottom to top, now we're seeing a fairly even split in ability between “basically fluent in everyday situations” and “aware that Japanese is a thing.” The non-Asians in the last feed could at least order at a restaurant and talk about themselves; some of these guys have literally never studied it in their lives. I'm never quite sure what to think of that. On the one hand, I applaud the guts it must take to dive into a new environment you know nothing about. On the other hand, how the hell do you develop enough of an interest in a country to make the considerable financial and chronological investment of studying there for a year, without ever feeling some compulsion to maybe add “What time is it now” or “Where can you get good blow around here” to your repertoire? So my faint hopes of finally getting a halfway decent dorm for language-learning have flickered out, but things are still better than they were.

Oh, and I'm not the only Canadian anymore, either. What treachery is this?

After the better part of the group had retired to the upstairs and the atmosphere taken on a bit of a different tone, I sat down with Cough Medicine and both Finns for some serious talks of power brokering. As I've mentioned, I've spent a lot of time thinking about what obligations, if any, I hold in respect to my dorm kouhai. I've spoken with the two new (Japanese) student leaders who will be nominally in charge of day-to-day business, neither of whom is confident in their ability to run a bath, never mind a dorm, and assured them that I will share of my substantial experience and decision-making acumen should they desire to draw upon it. I've decided that if nothing else I'm going to start taking a more hands-on approach with affairs around here. No more “not my responsibility, doesn't affect me” business, even when it isn't, and it doesn't. Basically I'm trying to say that we're all going to be a lot happier if I'm calling the shots, and the only problem with that is that Anarchy in the UK is a power-hungry fiend just like myself.

Cough Medicine: Well I was thinking about that, and in my mind it was always either you or him who was going to take over. Except that you actually speak Japanese.
Big Finn: And you don't have your head up your asshole.
Cough Medicine: My advice is, Facebook politics. Look at what he did, he organized this entire party and he wasn't even here.

He's built a more robust powerbase than I have by virtue of actually trying to build one, but I've garnered support on an individual level. The Chinese are swing voters, so to speak, as are a couple of others on the fringe, but unless I managed to mess up that grab pretty badly there's no way he could pose a significant threat to my base. He has: the Taiwanese girls and a couple of his personal friends. I have: Basically everybody else. Just as importantly, I'm more experienced in these kinds of politics, I have access to crucially useful skills and knowledge that he doesn't, and he's playing on my turf. If I decide to play, I'll own this dorm, and I just have to decide whether or not it's worth the effort.

Numbers slowly dwindled until only Mother Russia and I remained, at which point we decided that a 7-11 run was of the utmost necessity. Just as we left the dormitory we discovered a small unattended box on top of the shoe lockers, which I investigated by ripping in two. It transpired to contain a couple small pieces of cake, which we ate half of before putting it back where we found it, good as new. On the way, we came across a shopping bag containing an ancient and battered industrial-strength surveyor's tape, which I promptly began unreeling. It slapped onto the ground behind us for a good sprint until the mechanism caught, wrenching it from my alcohol-addled fingers. We left it where it fell. Ultimately we passed out on my couch, setting the rumour mill ablaze the following morning.

Rude Boy: Have a whitw girl sleeping on my schulter rught nao, teying to decide on an appropriate reaction.
President: Lol ur drunk again

I have a good feeling about this semester.