Monday, November 12, 2007

An old friend

Yesterday, I met with an old college buddy from my UCLA days, TY. He's here in the DC area to participate in a workshop for English language education in foreign countries. He heads a company that advises and directs aspiring Japanese students to appropriate colleges and graduate schools abroad, mostly in the US--I think. It was very nice to see him again, although looking at him reminded me how old we are getting. But it also aroused fond memories of my salad days at UCLA.

In the Fall Quarter of 1981, I had started my second term at UCLA and was full of excitement. Indeed, since I had matriculated the previous spring, I anticipated being in classes with people I might already know. It felt like I belonged. Unfortunately, there were not too many people I knew, and those I did know were chatting with those they seemed more familiar with. Oh well....

At least, I felt a bit more comfortable in a UCLA classroom. Or perhaps I should say, better prepared. I was shocked during my first quarter. The demands and expectations were far greater than I had anticipated--by leaps and bounds greater than at the community college I attended the previous few years--and it took me hours of studying just to keep up with my classmates, let alone the class. Indeed, I was surprised at having a full class from the very first day, caught embarrassingly unprepared. But not this Fall quarter. My notebook was open, my pencils were sharpened, I had previewed the first chapter of the textbook and looked up the kanji I didn't know. I was sitting in Akatsuka sensei's Advanced Japanese class in Bunche Hall at the ready. Sensei outlined her expectations of the course, and immediately directed us to the first chapter of the text book, just as I had anticipated. She pointed to one student, then another, both of whom struggled through the sentence they had to read. C'mon, sensei, call on me. I'm ready. But she called on someone in the back of the room. In a low baritone, this student proceeded to read one, two, three sentences in flawless Japanese.

What the fuck? Who the hell is this native speaker? Doesn't he realize he'll screw up the curve?

This was my first encounter with TY.

To be continued...

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