Monday, 11 June 2007


On Saturday (June 9th) I travelled all the way to Aomori & back, to examine some children. Jon Adams also made the trip, as we were due to OE KET as well as YLE. I was very glad for the company, as it was a looooong day of fast trains & platform-dashes. Think this doubled my shinkansen experience!

I left home before 5 to pick up Jon, then drove over to Ueda as dawn broke, to catch the first train to Omiya. From there, we whistled north through Sendai to Hachinohe at breakneck speed, before slowing down on the limited express to Misawa. Neither of us are still sure where we were exactly, because it was foggy. We could hear jets landing & taking off from the nearby US airbase, and we quickly learned that the first Trans-Pacific flight took off from here (the beach, as a matter of fact) to land near Seattle in the US. 1931 sound right?

We were met off the train by Sophie, who despite being French had the most lovely Middlesex accent! Speaking to Europeans - haven't done that for years! Next we were introduced to the staff at the school, and nobody was sure which language to use. They all realised my French was even worse than my Japanese, so everyone gallantly engaged us in English. Thank you beaucoups!

The children themselves were sweet, and in their way quite different to Japanese candidates that I'm used to examining. You kind of get used to the same answers for certain questions, so today was the unexpected ones (eg not "fish & miso" for breakfast). French accents, French words instead of English ones, French shrugs instead of Japanese head-tilting, fair hair & blue/grey/green eyes. All very different, and very rewarding.

And too soon back to the station & a zoom back across half of Japan. We wanted to get to know Sophie, and hear about her adventures in Greece. We wanted to know about Yann's multi-cultural background - Brazil, Gabon, Mauritius etc, and his martial arts. Really interesting people, but we couldn't hang around...and we'll not meet them again because the school is closing. We finally figured out why there was a French community there - the nuclear reprocessing plant is a French design.

A Grand Day Out, as Wallace & Gromitt would agree. Bon voyage mes amies!