EngRish GiRL

A GiRL still spinning from the fast pace of Tokyo suddenly finds herself a rookie among the best and brightest in British academia. By no means a proper ENGLISH girl, she can express herself only as EngRish GiRL, the silly mix of America, Japan and Britain that she has become.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What's in a year?

Well, maybe not quite a year. I actually ended up finishing my program at Cambridge within about 9 months. And I realise now (as I've noticeably adopted the British spellings of certain words) that 9 months is definitely enough time to really settle into a place. For all of the rationalising I've done in the past year, believing that I was a victim of year-long jetlag caught between worlds of Tokyo (where I really belonged) and Cambridge (where I was biding my time), why did I not just believe Cambridge to be a real home?

Perhaps the first I actually realised (and admitted) this to myself was in May while I was in Tokyo doing my research interviews, and I woke up one morning thinking that I missed my "routine"-- waking up early, drinking a cup of tea, writing or studying all day, running at dusk. I won't venture in the slightest to claim that it was an exciting routine, but I not only became used to it... I grew to like it. I don't doubt that it has something to do with the weather, too. Admittedly, English summer weather is extraordinary! Bright sun and no humidity, green everywhere, and the smell of really fresh air. I can't get enough of being outside these days (and have the tan lines to prove it!), and to be quite honest, the thought of the sticky hot summer of Tokyo isn't as appealing as spending some quiet days here.

Finally, maybe in this type of highly intensive academic environment, everyone is really busy pursuing their own goals, so it takes more time to settle into some good friendships. But at this point, I do think I've made some great friends here and some friendships are even just getting started, so it's even more disappointing to leave.

It's even funnier to think of the next step. What will I do when I'm not fretting over my dissertation or memorising relatively useless facts about Japanese diplomatic history? What will I be thinking when I'm breathlessly making my way through the crowds of Tokyo in the sticky summer? What will I miss most about Cambridge life?

At the end of every big change, which for me has seemed to occur once a year in my "roaring 20s", I always find myself thinking that I can't believe how much time really passes in one year. And inevitably, I say to myself, next year can never compare to the changes this year. Yet I'm always proven wrong, and the next year brings even more surprises.

EngRish GiRL is leaving EngRand... but guaranteed she will not be the same Jo-Lo in Tokyo as before...

Friday, May 12, 2006

The home stretch

Onigiriman, thanks for still checking my blog and reminding me that it's been horribly neglected! Have I lost weight? Maybe I've just grown up... I have been told by a certain insensitive Frenchman that I was a fat teenager. Hrrmph.

Perhaps many of you can empathize with the reason (for neglecting my blog, not being a fat teenager). After thinking and writing in front of the computer all day everyday to finish my thesis, I really just couldn't bare to write "for fun". However, as of today, I have a first draft finished (minus the introduction and conclusion because, well, I hate writing introductions and conclusions), and at a meeting with my supervisor this morning, I was told that it is "really quite good" in the most dignified Oxfordian way. So I have no choice but to believe it :-) The worst is over-- now it's just editing, cosmetic changes, charts & figures, bibliography and the less mind grueling tasks of the process. 2 weeks, 2 exams, and I'm outta here.

Flashback on the past month-- most of it was spent in Tokyo. First, S came to visit Cambridge on 3 of the most gloriously sunny, beautiful days of the year, lucky him. We then headed to the west of France for 3 days for "meet the parents (Frenchy style)." They were absolutely lovely, as were his sister, brother-in-law, and their adorable baby. A true Frenchy storybook family. Communication was a slight challenge, given that they speak no English, but we still managed to get by with my broken French and S playing interpreter. I then went back on a well strategized trip to Tokyo to conduct interviews for my thesis. I interviewed quite a few top level Japanese government officials and also some scholars, journalists, etc., which kept me pretty busy everyday, in addition to the actual writing part. Given that I didn't really work nights or weekends, I accomplished a lot-- enough, anyway, that I am ahead of schedule right now. And in the process of what ended up to be quite interesting work and very good information for my paper, I could spend time with S, which couldn't have been better. Long distance is finally over! This is the last 2 weeks we are spending apart until he comes to Europe again for a last travel stint before I start working, and I couldn't be more glad. It looked doubtful, even impossible at times, but we actually made it through. I learned two important lessons: I am very happy to still be with S, and I will never have another long distance relationship in my entire life. Anyway, the love life certainly wins a smile in this entry :-)

So what's the next move? In less than 2 weeks, I leave Cambridge for a jet set before settling back to Tokyo and in my new job in early July. Targets = Lyon, Toulouse, Athens, the Greek islands (Cyclades), San Francisco.

Will I miss Cambridge? Absolutely. I've finally grown used to the food, the weather, the stinging nettles, the bike, the work, the people... Perhaps it's the nostalgia of knowing the end is nigh.

As a foreshadow, I think at least that it's not the end of student life...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

So many words...

A friend pointed out to me yesterday that if I write 1000 words per day, I can finish my thesis in just 15 days! Is it over optimistic? Probably, but it's not a bad way to look at it. Today I wrote 800 words. Not bad for a start, I guess. Writing, reading, running, packing. That pretty much describes the extent of my life at the moment. But that will all change tomorrow when S arrives; at least then the notes and books can crawl back into the dusty shelves from whence they came. Now, can anyone teach me to speak French fluently by Saturday?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Spring has finally sprung!

Cambridge is an entirely different place under the rays of the sun and 2 less layers of clothing! Grass is green (well, it is even green in winter), flowers are blooming, and the days are longer. Now I know why people would actually want to live in this country!

Anyway, it was a great time of year for my "mum" to come for a visit. We spent 3 days exploring Cambridge, including lots of red bus fun, and then another 4 days in London, where we hit every major shopping area and almost every restaurant in the Mayfair area, including a Polish-Mexican restaurant which I highly recommend. Sounds a bit strange, I know, but the Polish food and Mexican food are actually separate menu items-- they just happen to be served at the same restaurant. It's the best food I've had so far in England.

Now that I'm older, mother-daughter time has taken on a whole new set of characteristics. We still bicker, snap at each other, and get plain old sick of each other (particularly after 7 consecutive days), but all in all I think the time seems more valuable. Maybe it's because now that I'm living abroad there is less of it... but in any case, the challenge of motherhood is a daunting one, and I guess only until you grow up a little do you become aware of just how hard it must be.

Back to Cambridge life. I am on to thesis-writing mode. In two weeks, I leave for Tokyo to conduct some 10-15 research interviews with everyone from the former Minister of Defense to the bureau chief of the Financial Times. I'm picking their brains on too many topics which I have too little space to cover. But this is what my supervisor wants, so I'm doing it. Target finish date is mid-June, but I question whether this is plausible or not, especially with S visiting in the middle and a short trip to France to "meet the parents..........."

And finally, the after-life has been decided-- that is, the after-Cambridge-life. I've accepted a job back in Tokyo with a US-headquartered employment search/headhunting company as their Tokyo Marketing Executive. Don't worry, I won't be snatching people from their desks and trying to make them quit their jobs. I am simply the marketing person, doing brand building, PR, and fulfilling the corporate marketing duties in Tokyo for the company. Money is good, hours are great, and the people seem friendly. We'll see how things go. I start July 10th, which means I will ironically be going back to Jo-Lo in Tokyo. Tanoshimi ni.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sore neck

You know you have been working for too long when your neck feels an ominous pull, your butt aches from a hard desk chair, and you are beginning to go cross-eyed. You know you have been avoiding work for too long when it comes down to this.

Believe it or not, I have been working almost non-stop, give or take 2-3 hours for eating, exercising, and showering. The thesis deadline is looming, along with that of two other 5,000 word essays, and I realized the necessity of getting a move on.

The good news is, there is good news! I have landed at least 2 very high profile research interviews while I am in Tokyo in May, so that should add a little bit of authority to my thesis. It's funny how all the meishi (business cards) you acquire and never think you will use eventually come in handy. The value of meishi exchange as a Japanese custom has never been felt as now.

On the side, I'm stressing about a job. I interviewed and have a tentative offer for a marketing position in Tokyo, which they are willing to hold for me until July. There are no huge red flags, only a couple of small ones, but still I am hesitating and don't know why. I think I should just take it. If I absolutely hate it, there is nothing to stop me from moving on, right? God I stress over these things way too much.

Time to move from desk to bed. Lucky for me they are less than one meter apart from each other!