Friday, December 30, 2005


I have entered a pleasant post-Christmas phase. The pre-Christmas stress and study have been transformed into a reading, sleeping, walking, breathing phase. My ankle feels mostly OK except for occasional moments - so much so I might have a New Year's Walk.

Nothing much more to say but: Bliss.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Crappy 2005

Well, all I can say is this job application process has been both the best and worst of this year. There was no phone call confirming that I have seized for myself my own dream job, and this was the day it had to happen. Of course there is no call to say I haven’t succeeded – but then it was pretty much promised ‘before Christmas’ – Conclusion: I have missed out.

Miracle aside, like them leaving the selection to after the New Year, I am pretty much back to square one in the planning stakes. I have a few workless weeks to consider exactly what I’m going to do with my 2006.

Not-so-momentary despair caught me earlier on, and the fact that there is any hope at all in this posting was the result of the computer automatically rebooting itself while I was in the process of venting here the first time round, wiping all my good work. Between then and now I have had a soothing call to Xin, an episode of ‘24’ and a cup of camomile tea, and now am feeling more myself.
It has put a damper on my recent language-learning surge. I had absorbed so much Arabic in the last 7 days, but I will be cutting it loose, and going back to my old friends Japanese and Chinese. My foray into Arabic was a revelation in terms of sheer speed that I could acquire language – surely the ideal skill for that job, damnit. I could already make out names, grammatical structures and meanings from Al-Jazera articles. And when it wasn’t Arabic, it was one of the other two. All my leisure time had been engulfed by language and quite frankly I am exhausted.
Time for a rest. Oh yeah, it's Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Two long days...

The end of this year has been defined by a few days that have been busier than many of my previous years. After my interview postponement, Wednesday initially looked to be a busy day anyway. I would be planning classes, in the morning, helping my sister move out at noon and doing language exchange in the evening. This was made even better by the one thing that could make me jump out of my seat, namely, a call from Wellington asking me if I would like to be job interviewed on Thursday (i.e. today). Naturally I was willing but needing to cancel all my classes on today.

So after yesterday, quite naturally came today. This time I would not be denied by the weather. I started off the bat with a Chinese translation test. Pleasingly, it was two news item (something which I had been translating a lot as practice). I was struggling for time but finished with 30 seconds to spare, and no time to check.

Then came a security check and interview. The interview was quite disappointing for me in some ways, as they asked many questions that I had never considered and didn't necessarily give the answer with the emphasis I would have liked. But all in all, it was solid, but not enough to make me feel too confident about getting a result. The psych test was loopy. It started with a IQ test, with a few curve balls and then brain-numbing multichoice test. And then it was off back home. No matter how easy it was to summarise in retrospect, it was a rather exhausting process.

I also had a pleasant chat with my fellow candidates. Out of those there today, I was the only one not with a foreign language from Europe. That could be in my favour. I am pretty sure I am the only person out of those there today who could learn effectively a language outside those they are already familiar with. This is another plus for me.

On the whole, compared to the pre-interview excitement, my surety has been dampened, which is good whatever the result. Either way, if I get the result I wish, I will stop all further reference to the job here.

Friday, December 09, 2005


I feel afluster. Things have happened quite fast lately, in a good way, and it nice to have a change of fortune.

The one thought that has crowded my mind is that of getting what seems like the job of my dreams: Being a linguist analyst. Last Wednesday I was flown down for a thirty minute interview. The interview itself just indicated I was one of the 30 (!) applicants that they were interviewing in the first round. The interview was mainly about language which was delightful as it is one topic I could talk endlessly about. One interesting aspect is that my core languages may not be the main skill, but rather the ability to acquire languages. THAT'S ME to a "T"!

They told me they'd get back to me on Friday, but were kind enough to call me on the Thursday, to tell me YES come for the second interview (now one of 10), which is this coming Tuesday. This will be much more involved, with a "psych test", a security briefing, a formal panel interview and an hour long translation test (from Chinese to English). Again I am being flown down. The whole thought kept me awake for most of last night continuing a dreadful run of sleepless nights.

Now, here I will demonstrate how loaded my expectations are. If I don't get the job, how disappointed will I be? And if I get the job, how can it possibly meet my expectations? But if I DO get this job, I may just be able to forgive all those damned principals for turning me down so many times. If I were teaching, I would never have noticed this job. In reality, I don't think there is much that could disappoint me in this job though. I have been yearning for a job that is a groove for me to adapt into and make my own, master it and progress to the top over a long time.

So now, till Tuesday, I will be loading my brain with Chinese and practising translation.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

So this is the aftermath...

Ah, another test down and another brain-numbing experience.

The day started with me easing into action, getting to Unversity with plenty of time to spare. Regrettably, I suddenly realised that through a little bit of confusion I had neglected to bring the requisite pencil, eraser and pencil sharpener!! (I had put it in a pencil case but then thought it to big and 'thought' I had transferred them to a bag I was taking, but apparently not). So I hustled around trying to find a place that sold pencils. There weren't any. I came in and started going to people asking if they had an extra one. Fortunately, they had extra pencils at the test room.

Also fortunately, unlikely the Chinese Torture test earlier in the year, this one had rest breaks between the sections (the Chinese test was a non-stop 3.5 hour obstacle course of reading, listening and writing). In fact the whole test, as expected, was run like a far too oiled machine. The over-efficiency meant that everyone was ready waiting for each start times, occasionally in stark silence.

My performance, like the Chinese test, is most certainly going to undercut pre-test predictions. Only the first section was anything to write about (I may have got only one or two wrong out of 60+ questions). The listening was the most disappointing as I will not even get near to the heights of my practice test yesterday morning - my lack of ability to gain composure returned. The reading was rushed nearer the end, but I should still have quite a reasonable score.

Likely result: Vocabulary and Characters 96%, Listening 60%, Reading 75%.

But I'll have to wait till late February or early March for the results. That is where they have forgot to oil the Japanese marking machine...

Saturday, December 03, 2005


My last two weeks have been engulfed by nothing but Japanese study (and a few minor things like work, eating, sleeping, and sadly, seeing Xin off to the airport). This period of study has been surprising to me, and has been something I am now quite proud of. The best thing of all: I have almost completely slain my Listening Comprehension demons. They are lying there baring breathing.

To put it in comparison, when I did the Level 2 test in 1998, I got 20% in the Listening, defying even the average result from random guessing (it was multichoice!). When I had begun my course back in July/August, every listening test had me struggling to break even at 50% - and this even after having a 'break-through'. Some nights, admittedly when I was tired after a day of work, I would be getting maybe 30%. When that course ended though, my listening skills faded and in the early stages of my preparation I would be lucky to understand even the Level 3 or 4 tests.

Recently though, I have been slaughtering tests. I just did a practice test and in the section with pictures, I got an unprecedented 14/15 and in the second section (without pictures where you have to rely on listening for the question, the listening segment and the four choices) I got 14/16.

My biggest discovery is that my problem was mainly mental. I used to get flustered and none of the words went in. I probably gained composure through the Chinese study I did earlier as I also exposed myself to a lot of listening and eliminated that weakness. It is surprising listening to listening tests that I had done previously. They are so easy, yet months previously I was all at sea. I now am dousing my brain in Japanese news and current affairs.

With this, I now have immense confidence in my ability to pass tomorrow. In fact, I would even be sure that I would have made a valiant attempt at passing the highest level (I have done the advanced level practice tests).