It was the first time I'd been to that part of Japan, and pleasant surprises waited around every corner.
I got a couple of calls from the hotel I stayed at Sunday night, making sure I was on my way and letting me know they would have my dinner ready when I came in. When I got to the station, they sent a shuttle van over to collect me, and dinner--! Well, I was a little worried I had misread the amount I was paying for the hotel. They brought the dinner out in courses, classical music played softly overhead, and Christmas lights twinkled outside. Breakfast wasn't done in quite so formal a manner, but it was all laid out for me at a table with my name on it. The room was lovely. The hotel is right on the lakeside, so the sunlight reflecting off the surface in the morning filled the whole first floor with brilliance.
Then it was time for the translation/interpretation seminar, which really, I suppose, ought to be simply interpretation seminar. We students have ample opportunity to practice the translation part of the course in monthly workbooks and tests that are sent out, but even though there is a CD/cassette portion for interpreting, we can't get much feedback or practice different styles of interpreting well that way.
Truth be told, I was pretty nervous about spending a week in a "training facility" where everything necessary for existence is on campus, and people need to sign out when leaving it. Nevertheless, it was an extremely enjoyable experience. We got a sort of double keynote speech from Mr. Tatsuya Komatsu, who is, if not the most famous, then at least one of the most famous interpreters in Japan. He interpreted for the Apollo 11 landing, and more recently for the Dalai Lama. He told us a little bit about his experiences, in a way that most of us found highly amusing.... except for a couple of students from China/South Korea who somehow managed to take offense at the fact that Mr. Komatsu had friendly words with the Dalai Lama. But after that speech we separated into language groups, and he addressed us again on the topic of note-taking during an interpretation session.
From the next day onward we divided further into classes, and spent the day studying with a professional interpreter.
Meals were in a large cafeteria. It was awesome to have so many people to say hi to and strike up a conversation with! I remembered one of the reasons I really loved living in Japan in the past... here, you can run into all kinds of interesting people, particularly from other English-speaking countries but also of course from anywhere in the world. By the end of the week I felt that all of us, especially with regards to our classes, had bonded, and I wished we had another week to study and share together!
Evenings were free, so sometimes I went to bed early (oh, how heavenly!), once I hopped on a treadmill (hurrah for being able to exercise again!!), one time a few of us borrowed bicycles and ventured out to a convenience store (more for the heck of it than because we actually needed anything, but it was exciting!), one night a bunch of us played volleyball (I could feel my competitive side rising to the surface, but it was just a fun, fun game with no time limits and no scorekeeping), and the last night I worked on a short speech for part of our last class.
I never have a chance to interpret at my current job, but I feel really inspired by last week, and I want to improve my language and interp skills and try to become an interpreter. It's really challenging, but exhilarating at the same time!
Other awesome things... I finally kicked that state of unhealthiness and started exercising again, I started feeling normal and happy again (hey hey!), and I met a few amazing CIRs who encouraged me one way or another to do more with my position and time. Furthermore, I realized again that I won't be in inaka-cho forever, and I don't need to get caught up in the whirlpool of grumpiness that persists here. It was like a curtain lifted and a clean, sharp breeze blew all the murk and the cobwebs away.
I'm so thankful!