The prime meridian at Greenwich, 2012.

The prime meridian monument at Greenwich.
An imaginary line running around half the globe (and a monument marking it). Greenwich, September 2012.

I went to visit Greenwich alone since my friends had wanted to go shopping and I had declined with something akin to horror. Shopping is fine when I need to buy something, but just wandering around looking at everything didn’t appeal to me much. They didn’t understand why I wanted to go see an imaginary line which arbitrarily ran from one pole to the other, so we parted ways gladly.

I got on trains, I got off trains, I walked up a hill and arrived at the observatory. I discreetly inserted myself into a group of students on a tour, and listened to their guide as he explained some of the exhibits in the museum. I was paying more attention to him than the kids were, and I think he was rather gratified by my presence. I looked at old telescopes. I wandered up old buildings, stared bemusedly at empty old rooms, chatted with one of the security personnel who talked about the Thames and the London Olympics. I took a picture of an American couple kissing across the prime meridian.

Far away from home.

I contemplated the line that marked the Greenwich meridian a fair bit longer than most of the tourists.  I got a few curious glances from both the security people and the visitors. It was just a line; you can jump across it and step on it and dance on it and nothing happens. It’s just a line, and also history and geography and astronomy and science and time all bundled into one.

It still remained a line after I was done staring at it. Shaking off my ridiculous melancholy, I went for a hot chocolate and bought a few postcards, then trudged back down the hill and through the park, and went to see what else Greenwich had to offer.

(This was written for the daily prompt border, mostly because it reminds me of how all these lines are arbitrary and important at the same time.)

find your way

If there was one thing that I was sure that I had always wanted since I was young, it was to write.

When I was younger (oh, a long time ago now, it feels like the distant past) I could write on and on and on, my handwriting a messy scrawl across pages and pages and pages. I was self-conscious about it — I almost never showed any of it to anyone. Handing in writing assignments was almost physically painful since it felt like I was giving a piece of myself away, but still I wrote.

Somewhere along the way, I grew up. I couldn’t write for myself any more, not even in hidden paper journals I’d never show anyone, or locked blogs only accessible to me, or password protected documents in password protected computers. The spark was gone, and I couldn’t find it no matter how hard I looked.

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The view from Arthur’s Seat, 2012.

arthursseat
The view from the peak of Arthur’s Seat. Edinburgh, September 2012.

We decided to go up Arthur’s Seat, my friends and I, that first time I visited Edinburgh. It wasn’t a difficult climb, but somehow we managed to choose one of the harder trails, and we kept being smothered by the wind as it rustled through the grass and heather. Barely anyone was using the trail, but when we came nearer to the peak there were loads of people on the mountain, and they were all coming up from the side pictured in the photo. I believe that’s Dunsapie Loch in the distance.

It was a sunny day, probably a bit warm for September. I can’t recall whether it was a weekend, but there were families hiking up, senior citizens, groups of kids. And us, of course, the perpetually awed tourists, some of us not in appropriate footwear, but I had given up trying to drill any sense into my companions.

The view was lovely. We could see very far into the distance thanks to the good weather, but my geography of the region was (and is still) too poor to be able to pinpoint any major landmarks.

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はじめまして!

When I was in university I took one semester of Japanese. I was interested in the language, sure, but what really prompted me to take it up then was the fact that I was short of language units. I needed two more units to graduate, and I had ran out of English language courses (long story; let’s just say I went in with qualifications a little too high and they couldn’t slot me in anywhere else).

I loved the class straight away. Oh, the sensei was a bit wacky (his major was apparently Japanese lit, and sometimes the examples he used were a bit too poetic and went over our heads) and the syllabus certainly wasn’t very kind to anyone who had no basics in an East Asian language, but the challenge of a new writing system and new sounds was something I enjoyed.

I had some exposure to Japanese before — it had been offered in secondary school but I had chosen French then — mostly in the form of classmates singing Japanese songs. The Sakura, Sakura folk song was one of the first taught, I think; I’m pretty sure the whole school knew the words, in Japanese, whether or not we took Japanese as an elective. Anime wasn’t something easily accessible then; I’m pretty sure Japanese would’ve been a more popular option if it had been.

I took to the writing system easily enough when we started. I found hiragana simple, though I kept confusing “ne” and “re” at first, but somehow katakana just drove me up the wall. They were used mostly for loan words and foreign names, and I remember grinding my teeth in frustration trying to sound out a name during a pop quiz, only to realise that it was James Bond, of all people, and he was waiting for a bus. Our sensei was a bit strange, really.

Kanji was what caused me most trouble, despite all the time I spent looking at the dictionary trying to match the radical and the number of strokes and figure out which reading it should be, and sensei’s sometimes slightly desperate method of matching the picture and the meaning. “It’s a gate, and it’s being pushed open by two hands, see?” It probably would have worked with kindergarteners, but somehow this method wasn’t quite successful with us.

In the end, I did well enough in that class. I definitely passed it, and even now my Japanese vocabulary is better than my French, despite taking French classes for years. (Part of it came from watching too much anime at one point in my life.) To be honest, though, it’s not like I know any functional Japanese. I remember nouns, but I can’t conjugate the verbs correctly, if I remember them at all. The formulaic phrases still stick to mind, so I’d probably be able to introduce myself, and then hastily add that I don’t really speak the language and does anyone here know English, please?

It’s rather embarrassing, actually. I normally don’t go advertising that I know Japanese or French at all, since I can’t really speak or read or write in those languages, but the prompt made me think of it. (Is it odd that Japanese was the first thing I thought of to write for the prompt? Sure, the other, more common meaning of radical registered first, but I didn’t even consider that I might want to write something about being radical. Maybe I’m being radical by not writing about the obvious radical, ha!)

よろしくお願いします