28 May 2007

a letter from kathmandu

All of a sudden, an email has been sent to me from Kathmandu, Nepal. It was from a manager of the organisation which was our client when I was staying in Nepal for my duty on an ODA (Japanese grant aid) project.

Honestly, it was a very difficult organisation as it was a public sector. Many people from the client side, especially the government people, were very difficult to deal with, like the politicians in Japan. However, the manager, at the same age as me, was literally a very friendly and reliable person. We were, perhaps, friends. He was more human like the typical simple Nepalese people are.

He mentioned in the email that, they are trying to make the most of the facilities we built in the project, and he thanked to ‘the gift from people of Japan’. I was so pleased to hear this. I can now regard my hard times in Nepal very worthy.

Unfortunately, ODA is actually a kind of business. It is basically supposed to help people in poor countries, but in reality there are more reasons. Even in our project, there were some businesses that I can’t talk about in here. I knew he was in a very difficult position. He sometimes needed to refuse our request against his will, due to some unreasonable reason…

But, we both know that we are good friends. I know he is a very good man. It’s such a wonderful thing that we still have a friendship no matter where in the world we are. In fact, he might still have many difficulties with our ‘expensive gift’. But, even so, we are friends and I know he is really thankful to the Japanese people!

20 May 2007

OMD live - 'architecture & morality'

It was magnificent!

OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark)
'architecture & morality'
date: sat 19 may 2007
venue: hammersmith apollo

I�ve never expected to see their concert, as they seemed to have ended their career years ago. OMD is, in my understanding, an 80�s electric/techno pop band. Though they had a huge success in UK, they are not well known in Japan � I�ve met only three people ever. When I found the concert information, I though it would be an amazing experience, as I�ve never been to this kind of concert. Actually, Pet Shop Boys� ticket was also on sale. They were more successful and famous, and I myself love Pet Shop Boys, but I was more curious about how OMD play on stage. And, it was definitely a right decision!

First of all, the visual set up was excellent. In this concert, they were supposed to play songs mainly from their most acclaimed album �Architecture & Morality� (1981). In the opening of the show, some beautiful architectural 3D images have been shown on the screen, which I�ve never seen at a concert. It was so atmospheric and had a huge impact.

Music itself had much more impact than I expected. The audience were quite mature, but incredibly excited! I haven�t thought their music was that exciting and danceable and they were such a live band! At the same time, all songs were played perfectly and beautiful. I really enjoyed the perfect harmony of music and vision.

Just before anchor, �Enola Gay� was played as everyone must have expected. This is probably their best-known song, which I believe even in Japan quite many people can recognise. However, I�ve suddenly stopped shaking my body to the beat. I don�t mean I don�t like this song. The screenplay was too strong. The actual images of bombing in Hiroshima have been shown. I suddenly realised that there was no Japanese around me, and the whole audience was getting high or dancing as if they had even not been aware of what Enola Gay means. I was so confused and had a very strange feeling.

This song is literally about Enola Gay, the B-29 plane who dropped the a-bomb in Hiroshima. During the interval, I regretted that I didn�t know the actual meaning of its lyric. I thought it�s really a shame. As soon as I got home, I examined it. Then, I got relief.

�� ah Enola Gay, you should�ve never had to end this way��

16 May 2007

i'm doing fine!

In the last article, I might have seemed very serious or maybe broken down, but I just wanted to motivate myself by writing my thoughts honestly and seriously, as I think this is how the blog works. Actually, a couple of my friends have given me heart-warming encouragement after reading it. I am so very pleased with it! Now I want to say I’m actually doing quite well and enjoying my life in London!

15 May 2007

after half a year

Just six months have passed since I started working for the current practice. I think it is fantastic that I could continue till now having got the work permit smoothly. I can also recognise some of my own improvement. However, I must admit that it is far behind from the extent that I’ve expected at the beginning.

When I started, I was planning to have a review with my bosses and ask them to raise my salary after three month or so when I realise it is time. But, the time is yet to come. I’m still working with a salary for the ones at around 25 years old. I myself still can’t think that I’m contributing more than that. I might be doing better than I’m realising in every bit of work with my ‘confident’ experiences, especially technically. But, at least my contribution is not recognisable.

So, what is a problem? It is apparent. I don’t really want to say this again and again, but the problem is literally my communication skill. It was much harder than I thought. Without beating this, I wouldn’t be able to go further ahead. Moreover, due to the lack of confidence in my English skill I still seem to be feeling inferior to others. I think Japanese people latently have inferiority to European people. Even some Japanese residents in London use the word ‘Gaijin’, meaning foreigner, to any non-Japanese people. I would say to them “Oi, it’s you Gaijin!” The word ‘Gaijin’ often means only Europeans, but not Indian nor Chinese. Anyway, I still haven’t managed to take that kind of feeling out of myself after all. Nobody in the office would think I am 38.

Last Friday, I heard shocking news. One of my colleagues has become a new associate. In an architectural practice, this is the common name for senior project architects. I knew she has been doing very well, but I was so surprised as she is still in her early 30’s, which is very young as an associate. I am, in fact, a bit interested in her. I was not only disappointed with the huge difference between us but also felt like she’s gone too far away from me.

I don’t mean my communication skill hasn’t changed at all. Though this is not only by the improvement of my English, now I’m basically relaxed at the office – I used to be very nervous at the beginning. I think this is the best improvement of me so far. I believe I’ve been making most possible efforts for this, like attending the office’s social events as possible - drink, dinner, film outing, tennis, cricket, and even snowball fight! This English blog is of course one of my efforts.

It seems the only thing I can do for my English is to continue. But, at the same time, it seems there’s more I can do as a part of my communication development. It is unclear, but I may need to think about ‘dignity’, particularly as a Japanese. The goal of my stay in England, to work as a project architect, has never been changed. Next time, after another six months, what would I be able to write here?

8 May 2007

manic street preachers - send away the tigers

The 'real' Manics is back! This is brilliant!!

When I go to a record shop for buying a new stuff, usually the album is played there and it makes me feel so good. This would happen in Japan, too. Similarly, when I went to HMV in Oxford Street today, the new Manic Street Preachers' new album was being played. I could recognise it straightaway, although I hadn't heard it yet. The music is really exciting and is more like punk as they used be. Actually, I couldn't help shaking my body to the beat!

The sound is apparently influenced by their best acclaimed album 'Everything Must Go' (1996). To be honest, last two albums were too experimental and I was a bit frustrated. But now, they have gone back to the basics and are playing harder. I'm getting so excited for their gig, end of this month!!!

7 May 2007

pet shop boys, actually/freddie mercury, literally?

Literally - this is the most mysterious English word for me so far. I have noticed quite a while ago that many English people use it quite often. However, I still can't understand the exact meaning, though I've already tried to use it in this blog a couple of times. It seems for me it is mainly used among middle class English people.

Last Friday, when I went out for a drink, I asked about the word to my best English friend NY. But... I couldn't believe what he said:

"I don't really know."

What!? You are the one, who speaks the word to me many times, aren't you?

Though he wasn't totally sure how the word is used, he told me that it is basically a connecting word and doesn't have a particular meaning, and is often used for emphasising the meaning of a sentence. But he also told me that the word is normally used to get back into the original meaning of the sentence, as English has a lot of phrases which have particular meanings. In other words, 'literally' is used when a sentence means as it is. So, this means, I wouldn't be able to use this word properly without knowing those particular phrases! I could understand why most foreigners, even if they are fluent, don't use this word.

There was another surprising story. 'Effectively', which is also a connecting word, is another mysterious word for me, but NY wasn't even aware whether it is 'effectively' or 'affectively'! This is, too, the word I've heard from him very often. He and another English friend, both are intelligent, couldn't explain what the word means properly.

As NY sometimes say to me, many English people can't spell lots of words correctly. This means, speaking and writing are totally different things. Literally, English is not that easy. (Is this the proper way of using it...?)