Well, contrary to my expectations, the typhoon party was a raging success. As we had been warned about the possibility of a typhoon off the coast of Japan disrupting the last days of orientation, it seemed as good a name as any to give to our first proper party. During one meeting, the subject of alcohol was raised. With booze strictly forbidden in the dorms, “sleazy” bars off-limits, and drinking on the street frowned on by the Japanese, a student asked what options were open to us. The unflappable Japanese teacher suggested going to an open-air park. Taking him at his word, that was exactly what the American students (including Jesse, the guy who broke off from his diahrroea story to invite me) managed to organise.
We wandered off to a small park down the road from Seminare House 4, and drank and mingled. I made a good few friends that night, and probably forgot a few as well. Although Jesse and his mates were pretty close to the “jock” stereotype of innumerable American teen movies, they were also a bit deeper than that. They were very concerned about creating litter in the park, and stayed behind to pick up others’ beer cans and cigarette butts. I’ve always been able to get along with most people, and it’s nice to find that even the most stereotypical people have more dimensions than you see at first.
Of course, the pursuit of such youthful hijinks meant that I (and probably a few others) had to face the opening ceremony with a ferocious hangover. A can of iced coffee later (a great boon if you need a pick-me-up and cool-me-down at the same time), I sat through the ceremony completely unfazed. The highlight was the university president’s translator, who spoke English with a voice like one of those American stand-ups from the 50s who made jokes like “Take my wife. Please!” We then repaired to the cafeteria for the buffet, where I was cornerned by a student from the Leeds contingent called Mark. This individual then proceeded to subject me to a barrage of invective concerning the country currently sheltering and supporting us.
The violence of his expression and tone was quite breathtaking. Imagine, if you will, the monologue of a serial killer, recited at double time in a reedy, camp American accent with odd Irish inflections on some vowels. It wasn’t the theme of his rant (that the Japanese drink, fight, steal and consort with prostitutes at least as much as us, if not more. Wow, what a shocker) I disliked, but the high-handed, patronising tone he took with me and Ilkka, another Leeds student. I’ve met people like him before, who acquire knowledge not for its own sake but to browbeat others into submission. His innate air of superiority instantly marked him out as someone from whom I do not wish to learn anything, even if he had anything to value to impart. So sorry, Obi-Wan, but I’m not going to be your Padawan learner. Sad, I know, but life’s tough like that.
On a more positive note, I’ve fallen in with a great gang of people; the same lot I went out with on my second night here. They’re mostly Americans, and therefore love my accent. This probably isn’t helped by the fact that I tend to play it up when I’m being funny, or drunk, or both, until I sound like a character in a Richard Curtis film. But they’re brilliant. We have the same sense of humour (which meant we spent a couple of hours today talking about bizarre sexual practices), and one of them, Janey, is awesomely good at Japanese, which for once doesn’t make me jealous but inspires me to do better every second I’m around her. The only way is up.