Finishing the Job

With the main target of submitting this term’s assignments fulfilled, the fifth and final week of Term 2’s latter half came around rather quickly.

Turning over to the final page on my schedule revealed a more forgiving outlook of the week, bearing considerably less pressure now that each essay and presentation had been completed. Still though, this week posed a different set of challenges than before; the Japanese language aspect of my degree for once would take precedent, with a speech on Tuesday, and then an exam to conclude the term on Friday. This week’s work also included finishing off this academic year’s flashcards, and so, many loose ends needed tightening before I could consider the term to be over.

It would be easy to coast my way towards the Easter break now that assignments were out of the way, yet as my schedule reminded me, I would need to maintain focus right until the very end. This week, there were important tasks that not only needed to be done, but needed to be done well.

For Tuesday’s Japanese speech, I was required to bring in an item of my choice, and speak about it for at least two minutes. I thought, considering the dramatic story of the recent half-marathon, and the injuries I sustained in training for it, talking about the medal I eventually earned would be a nice subject to share. After completing an initial draft, I was fortunate enough to have it read and corrected by many of my kind Japanese friends, and before long was able to finalise the speech; the final draft can be read here.

After considerable practice, I believed I would be able to recite the presentation completely off by heart. However, when the big moment came, I was disappointed to only get so far before having to pause and briefly scramble to find what I was supposed to say next. The convention of vertical text meant I made myself even more confused when I did glance at my transcript; I had absolutely no clue where I was, and if anything, looking back at the transcript made it even worse. It certainly wasn’t a catastrophic error, but it ruined the flow of my speech, and I was unable to nail that perfect run which I had practised hard for.

On another note, speaking in front of a silent group of my classmates meant after a few minutes I started to hear my own dodgy accent trying to sound Japanese- that was certainly a strange experience.

So the speech hadn’t gone as I hoped, although I couldn’t dwell on such a small percentage of the module for too long, especially when there were flashcards that needed making, and there was an exam that needed revising.

Despite the continued work however, it was undeniable that this week had an end-of-term feel to it. Following a therapeutic swim on Monday evening, I enjoyed a very relaxing walk around the city, sitting in Russell Square Gardens- usually the home of infinite laps and mental torture, and listened to music amidst the mild temperatures.

This feeling continued through each day, and I realised that for once, and certainly in a stark contrast to how the first term ended, I was feeling energised from walking in the city, rather than experiencing the opposite. It has certainly taken a while to get used to city life, no doubt has the warmer weather played a part, but nowadays I consider being a Londoner a much more positive lifestyle.

Perhaps this realisation was a result of the devastating attack in Westminster on Wednesday afternoon. In less than two minutes, lives were lost, many injured, and shock descended on the capital. It was an ordeal that took place three miles from my flat- yet the increased urgency of police car and ambulance sirens was definitely noticeable.

Most strikingly however, was the emergence of the Londoner consensus. Every person in London, whether a worker or a tourist, realised the need to keep calm and carry on. There was a unity in the will to continue, and all of us went into work the next day keen to be productive, and continue to play our part for society.

It is times like this I believe are important for reminding the masses to question their humanity. We are fragile, vulnerable little beings, and most of all, we cannot live forever. The more time passes, the more we forget these facts, and the less human we become. We lose track of how the everyday occurrences in our lives are so miraculous and fragile. On Wednesday, many lives changed, and some were lost. These are individual people; each had their own hopes and dreams, each with their own pasts, all of whom deserved their own futures. Our futures are not just plans, they are privileges.

It was following this that each day throughout the week carried a greater sense of value. I realised the eccentric everyday life I have to be such a joy. It’s the little things, the little interactions, like emphatically reciting a thousand stories all under one breath when walking back from lectures with Arisa, spamming Joe’s Skype with Morning Musume songs, and the infinite quest to make as many puns on Blair’s name as possible in Japanese- ソウりゃソウさソウさん!

Another charming feature of this week was the brief meeting with Gianni and his cousins, Emiliano and Steven, at Starbucks on a chilly Wednesday morning. It was a great sit-down with three great geezers- made all the more amusing by the barista’s sensational mishap on my name. I’ve had it all really, from “Elvis” to “Ellios”, not forgetting the marginally close “Warren”. This however took it to a new level:

With the cup faithfully preserved on my pinboard, I can only sit at my desk and marvel at the work of art all of these quirky little moments the year has created.

As the week progressed, the end never felt any closer, and that was because I knew Friday harboured so many tasks that would make the final day one incredible climax.

5am struck, and I flung myself out of bed, quite literally, in order to ensure I woke up. The new Formula 1 season was beginning and I was keen to see Practice with the new-look cars for the first time. I also carried the hope that this early start would open up time to try and fit in my scheduled thirteen mile run, which I had been contemplating how to try and fit into Friday’s schedule for the whole week. Despite this, it does not matter what time it is, sometimes you wake up, and your body simply laughs at you and utters “nah”.

Running a distance likely to go beyond two hours would have probably broken me for the entire day. Looking back, it was a wise decision to stay in. Wide awake, and wondering how early I could now allow myself lunch, I turned up to my final economics lecture of the year from 9am-11am, and weighted my notes to perfection, finishing the academic year’s work on the very final page of my notebook which has served valiantly since it all began in September.

There was no time to pause after the two hour test of endurance, as next was a quick run from SOAS to the park over the road from Dinwiddy to make it in time for this week’s basketball. With more people, we were able to play full 3-on-3 games, which paved the way for some incredible team work. Some of our build-up play made us essentially the Barcelona of basketball- it was remarkable.

I cannot deny that I am loving basketball, I need to get myself a ball soon so I can play in the nearest court in Hollingbourne.

The session however did not end without injury, although thankfully this one did not involve my knee. Instead, a direct blow from the ball meant I returned to my flat with one properly fat finger. This was rather irritating considering I had to write kanji with that very hand later on, although a bit of ice and some hot-pink tape tamed the twisted trouble on my middle finger joint. Here’s hoping it straightens itself eventually, even typing this now feels a bit painful- I wonder if I can find a specialist in fractured fingers, knackered knees, and aching ankles.

Regardless of the tiring rhetoric of injury, we soldiered on in revising for this last Japanese exam before all of my classes for the term would be complete. I met with Paul in the library at precisely 2:34pm, and we went over past papers before our march to the Senate House for the exam, which consisted of fifty five minutes of more finger-fracturing-fun (I’m really enjoying the alliterations today, I hope you are, too).

As for how the exam went, well, I believe I did what I could; disappointingly it will not be good enough for full marks, so I should take the feedback and use it to bolster my performance in the next exam. Improvement and refinement has been the way forward in this first year- it’s all about shaping myself up for a successful run next year.

Even once the exam had finished, I knew I could not consider the term over, I couldn’t relax just yet. I knew this thirteen mile run had still not been completed, fitting it in during the day was not possible without jeopardising everything else. However, every other task was now over, and there was plenty of daylight still left at 5pm. I briefly got back to my flat, had a slice of bread and a jam tart, and then set outside with absolutely no expectation to successfully complete half-marathon distance, yet with full intention to try and complete all thirteen miles, by running from Dinwiddy to SOAS and back five times, with a few laps at Russell Square Gardens to make up the extra mile. Having just about made it through Silverstone fuelled with Lucozade and Donkey Kong’s entire stash of bananas, running the same distance on some stale Tesco bread and confectionery should not have been achievable. Yet confusingly, astonishingly, and I suppose epitomising the story of this term- I did it, and did it damn well.

Starting on golden streets under the setting sun, and finishing in the cool night’s sky, I ran at a comfortably quick pace, faster than that of Silverstone, and certainly more consistent. My body felt so much less fatigued, even though it had been concentrating and exercising for fourteen hours already. Perhaps it stems from knowing the distance better, alongside incorporating more interval training for speed during the week. One thing’s for certain- progress is being made; it’s the work we don’t receive medals for which yields the greatest improvements.

It was then that I sat down in the courtyard back at Dinwiddy, and relaxed with a satisfied sigh- the second term was finally over. We had worked so hard, and fully deserve a rest. Compared to last term’s ending, I feel assured, and prepared for the next direction this year’s course will take us. I know exactly where I’m going, exactly what I have to do, and how to do it. I have seven-hundred flashcards to learn this Easter; the work is quite literally cut out. One of the aims of this term was not just to complete the assignments, but to set myself up to efficiently revise for exams. I believe that objective has been met.

Before we think of exams though, we have to of course reward our efforts for the past ten weeks of work. Taking the opportunities that had arisen, I gave myself a weekend composing of three things I had missed over the winter: Pokemon, football, and Formula 1.

Both days saw early starts at 5am, seeing Lewis Hamilton grab pole, only to disappointingly lose the race to Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. While the quality of the racing this year appears questionable, Australia is never usually a good indicator of overtaking-opportunities, while above all, it’s nice to have some competition in Formula 1 again, with Ferrari seemingly back on form.

Saturday also saw me travel to Orpington for a Pokemon Premier Challenge, the closest one to my vicinity. Even without any practice, and a team that could probably be considered archaic going into its third tournament since London back in December, I was looking forward to just having a few fun battles, and seeing some good people.

It was nice to see Matt again, once again doing a great job in organising the event for all of us. I saw Kane, a fellow Maidstone player, and Daniele, who I was delighted to see top cut for the first time- he’s one great guy, and without a doubt, the epitome of dad goals. Alongside the familiar faces, I met two absolute geezers, Mike, and Jamie, who were a great laugh throughout the day. It’s always refreshing to share the same humour with people, particularly in the environment of Pokemon.

My results didn’t make for a vintage performance, two wins against Neal and Karl, with three loses against Mike, John, and Jamie placing me 14th. I enjoyed the day though, and had a great return journey on the same train and tube with Alessio, who only lives two stops from me!

On Sunday, after packing my belongings, and tidying my room, my father and I made the Metropolitan pilgrimage to Wembley for England Vs Lithuania.

I had been looking forward to this one, we hadn’t been to Wembley in almost four years, yet it’s always a special experience going under the famous arch. Our seats were spectacular, right in front of the action.

While many dismissed the game as being boring from the TV, sitting pitch-side gave a real insight into the intensity, and technical skill involved throughout the 90 minutes. Also, I love being able to see the players up close, so I had a really enjoyable evening, one which was made brighter for longer thanks to the clocks finally changing to British Summer Time; the change is always a sign of good things to come as the summer draws nearer.

After fighting through the traffic, I finally made it back to Maidstone, and went to bed absolutely exhausted. The office in London is shut for a while, and the pressure lifted. I’m back in the tranquillity of the countryside, and warmed by the familiar surroundings of the Medway Towns once again. It’s been one dramatic term. So many challenges, and setbacks, yet ultimately it has been one huge success. We have planned extensively throughout, and carried out each task the best we could. Even if that best does not yield the results we are looking for, the feedback received will be of great value in future endeavours.

Winter gave to way to spring in these ten weeks, and practically every aspect brightened up. I’ve made some great friends this term, and look forward to finishing the year’s work with them when exams eventually come around.

For now though, I’m going to take a breather. To approach the next challenge requires a refreshed mind, and mine has pretty much melted. Good times await though in this break, the world around us will become luscious once more, and the days playing football at Palmerstone alongside other adventures with my friends will start to return to us once more after a harsh winter.

It’s been a tiring, and challenging week, but we finished the job, and more importantly, we finished it well.


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