Tuesday, December 4, 2007

16. Konnichiwa, First Snow

At the beginning of the very first steps of our tiny little lives, it was filled with surprises and new things every day. I watch my little students at the kindergarten every day and how they are amazed by new things every day. I was pleased for them, and I also sort of envy them because as an adult, we often lose the freshness in our lives and, in some cases, refuses to explore more of the unknowns. However, there's a new first for me last Sunday -- the first snow in my life!

I couldn't tell you how surprised and joyful I was when I saw the whiteness outside the window. On the street, on the cars, on the rooftops of other houses, on the trees, on the window pane. It was as if the whole world has changed (emotionally too) over night. I was indulged in the happiness on seeing the snow and feeling the winter is really here. At that moment, I felt like a kid again, just like my students.

As I walked out onto the streets, it was cold and slippery, like ice-skating. And the wind was so bitterly cold. But I couldn't feel bitter at all, I felt as if it was the most wonderful morning I've ever had in New York. And the first snow is always clean. Pure and yet elegant. The whole city suddenly was dressed in white and nothing could have escaped.

This was also the day which I took Japanese Language Proficiency Test(日本語能力試験). After a nearly whole month of (not so much) cramming and the never-ending-Kanji(漢字, the Chinese characters used in Japanese) practice, it was time. Gosh, I didn't even finish all the practice tests! At 1:00PM I had to be at Columbia University for writing my 2-kyu (2級, Level 2) test. Just when I was running against time, the train broke down at Union Square. I think I said it out loud, "You gotta be kidding me!" Thirty minutes left before the exam begin and I am not even on the No.1 train yet. I walked in the snow, starting to sweat, breathing out mist and thinking, "Damn! I hope this isn't the end." And somehow, magically, I made it. It was Columbia's fault, or their right. We had to change classrooms and that made a long delay. So I made it alright.

The teacher was a Japanese woman. She tried to explain to us the mistake in a heavy accent and not so fluent English. But we all understood. She then began explaining the rules and announced that the exam to begin. And the rest was history. Some people thought it was easy (while someone so not-prepared didn't agree). But the fun thing was, this gave me a huge insight of how the Japanese test works in American, at least in New York. The atmosphere was VERY RELAXING. To a certain extend that I could almost not believe it. The students and the teacher were like soft of chatting at some point. Well, not that I was complaining, there were more than half of the examinees were non-Asians. And I'm sure they would all do very well. A (white) guy sitting not far away from me was talking in Japanese the whole time. (He was the one saying "簡単すぎ" which meant "too easy"). Oh well, I made it through safe and sound. Perhaps some laughs. What a nice experience taking a Japanese exam in American.

As I walked out, Columbia U. was decorated with beautiful snow and lights. Student were walking around. Two guys played snow fight and almost hit me! I mean, I should have joined them haha, but it was just too cold. I headed home straight away, feeling empty and tired. One of the biggest goal of the year has just passed, and I hate to admit that I wasn't putting out my best for it while I could have be. So many "would be", "could be" and "should be"s. One thing I know for sure, I will still continue study it until I can make it to 1-kyu. (My speaking is terrible BTW. Sigh.)

It's been two days. The first snow melted the next morning. Almost like a dream. But good news is, I heard that tomorrow is another snow coming. Can't wait!

Wan An!

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