A day of disappointments

※ This article discusses the 7th of October 2016.

With little sleep, I got up in the morning and we headed to Rokkodai 2nd Campus. I asked at the International Students Center whether I can be accepted for the intensive course in any way and she rejected and pointed to the other available Japanese courses. I accepted this decision and felt misunderstood. I concluded with two points:

  • My advisor does not really care about reading what I write in my forms.

  • I should have responded with "No, I won’t take the J-CAT test" via email 24 hours ago immediately. This way my advisor might have forwarded the form right away in time to the intensive course administration. I hesitated, because Japanese people don’t like confrontative behaviors (to the best of my knowledge).

In the morning I attended the regular Japanese class. I was bored because we covered content I learned in February 2016. By the way, Martina got accepted for her intensive course.

After her intensive course was finished, I remembered that we will meet at 12:30 to meet her tutor and head to Sannomiya. Today is the deadline to register for the National Health insurance system and we need to provide the documents to our Faculty. Our destination was the Chuo ward office. Kobe (because of its size) is distributed into 5 wards. We need to register for Health Insurance in our ward. I showed up at 12:20 where Japanese classes take place and waited for her. I couldn’t find her. Because the location for the meeting was not fixed, I thought we might meet at 12:30 at Rokkodai. Waiting for her, it was already 12:27. So I ran down the hill and arrived at approximately 12:32. At Rokko Station I again could neither find her or her tutor. However, a train just left. I wanted to look for her past the ticket machine, so I bought one and entered the train gates. Again, I couldn’t find her. Trying to act rationally, I thought it would be the best to head to the ward office as fast as possible. Possibly I can catch up.

At Sannomiya, I left the train. I looked up the Chuo Ward office the day before, but I don’t have mobile data available now. So I knew the approximate location. However, without a floor number or anything, I won’t be able to find it. First I tried to get some temporary connection at Starbucks. I failed (you need to sign in with a password in some way). So I went to the street and asked a person in uniform where to find it. He seemed to recognize "ward office", but didn’t know the location. He guided me to an information center. With my best English and Japanese skills I tried to speak to the ladies at the counter. They didn’t recognize what a "ward" is. So I pointed out that it is a administrative unit and it is specific for Chuo (probably I said "Chou"). After two ladies could not help me out, a third lady immediately recognized what a "ward" is and gave me a map showing "Chuo ward office" on it. The other ladies recognized that I meant "ward" (I really think the two ladies just did not pronounce ward in their life and therefore did not understand it). I headed to the building with the information that it covers several floors.

First I ended up in the Kobe Library, but soon made my way to the ward office. At my destination, I looked for the floors. Floor 2 said "Foreigner’s information". So I took the elevator, but recognized that on Floor 2, I have been before. Actually it was the place we visited on Monday. An official person was distributing people into lanes, but I could not find "Foreigner’s information". But the map next to the elevator showed the floor descriptions also in English. Floor 7 is dedicated to the National Health insurance system. Do you remember that on Monday we visited floor 2 and 7 as well? I went up there and there were two sets of people: Waiting people or people at the counter. I didn’t want to bother them and if I really need to register now, I won’t be able to discuss terms and conditions in Japanese. I decided that "we might have done it on Monday already" and headed back to Sannomiya. I wanted to describe my problem to the Faculty and with the possible option to extend my deadline. It was roughly 13:45 and I expected the Faculty office to close at 17:00 (hopefully also at this Friday).

I arrived at the office and opened my laptop. Where is Martina? Let’s write her an email and call for help. I received an email half an hour ago from her. Apparently, we registered for the National Health insurance system on Monday. Our tutor did not mention that. We will receive our National Health insurance document(s) by mail. Our tutor did not tell us that. Martina met with him at 12:30 at Rokko Station. I was wrong that classes end at 12:20, they end at 12:10. So she met her tutor and they went to the ward office. They have been there for 50 minutes to eventually find out documents will be sent by mail. Then Martina went home to the Residence to take the documents from the mailbox. Then she got back to university on her own. Luckily, she knows my mail box secret and therefore picked up my documents as well. I closed my laptop, submitted some other documents to the Faculty office and went to the cafeteria. If she arrives that the campus, I will see her.

Indeed, she just arrived as she wanted to attend Japanese class at 15:10. She had all documents with her. We shared our thoughts on that incident and submitted the Health Insurance document at the Faculty. I joined her Japanese Kanji class, which started with a Kanji test (Yay! I knew 0.5 out of ~16 Kanji).

After class, we wanted to attend "Academic Writing". The course has an English description and takes place at 17:00. Perfect, because it indicates classroom language English and it won’t collide with other courses. Remember that I am writing my bachelor thesis and I hoped for some English practice. Furtherore I needed more hours per week, because without the intensive course I probably have too little hours per week for the Visa. Searching for the lecture hall, we had no experience with Rokkodai 1st Campus (on Thursday I took some photos, but of course wasn’t interested in the structure of the Faculties/Graduate Schools). We looked up the course description, the faculty and you cannot find out where the lecture halls at the faculty are located. So we headed to the building. However, we got lost and found out that at 17:00, club activities often start. We saw people practicing instruments for orchestra and saw Baseball players. We also discovered buildings like the Faculty of Business Administration.

With approximately 20 minutes delay, we arrived at the right building. We asked some Japanese people where the lecture halls are located and they wanted to know for which course. "Academic Writing" did not tell them anything and a nice man lead us to the Faculty’s office. They are not aware of any courses like "Academic Writing" (only at different sessions; not now). Apparently they got somehow confused that graduates (I said we are "graduates") were looking for an undergraduate course. I was not specifically aware that this course is for undergraduates. Apparently it takes place for 1st year students in "Intercultural studies". When we said we come from the Faculty/Graduate School of Science, it felt like we are aliens. He lead us to the lecture hall and after a small introduction we sat down. It is held by an English professor who pointed out that this course will be too easy for us. He described to the Japanese students what a paragraph consists of. It needs a main topic, an introductory sentence, several arguments and a conclusion.

The class was kind of nice. Japanese people are really struggling with speaking English. They know the vocabulary and grammar, but are just not used to speaking it. The English professor is funny and fluent in Japanese and English. His English accent is wonderful which was my main motivation to stay. Indeed, the speed of the class was very slow. He explained sentence structures and exercises several times with different words, so all Japanese students can follow. I focused on learning his accent. He also made some references to typically Japanese issues and compared it with Europe. In these situations he asked Martina and me for our experiences in Austria. Overall the class was really pleasant and we decided to attend also upcoming lectures.

However, at the Faculty’s office it was pointed out we won’t get a grade (I don’t know under which assumptions). Is it worth going for an easy class on a Friday evening without getting a grade?

When we got home, one Japanese student followed us. He also needed to go to Sannomiya. He was comfortable with speaking English as he spent 2 weeks at Oxford university. He was a gentle, clam, male student and we shared some thoughts on Japan and the university. We also stopped briefly at the International Students Center to take a photo of this wonderful night view at Rokkodai. At Sannomiya, Martina and I dropped by at a coffee shop - before going home - and we got some delicious toast bread.

The evening was okay, but in general: A day of disappointments.