Today was taken up by the JLPT practice exam: five hours of fun for the whole family to enjoy. Annoyingly I had to travel on three trains for over an hour to get there, but I consoled myself with that fact that it would be good practice for the real thing, and that I would be paid ¥2000 for the privilege. On the walk down to the test site I found myself surrounded by hundreds of Gaijin, all heading to the University campus in Kunitachi (where the test was being held) for the same reason: to have their dreams and self-belief shattered into a thousand million pieces, by the language which refuses to be tamed. One young Indian girl summed up the mood when she told her mother that she was ‘deadly nervous’.
When the test finally began I tried comforting myself about the fact that I understood less than 20% of what the invigilator was telling us, with the knowledge that the first part of the test was kanji and vocab: an area which I felt reasonably strong in. 30 minutes later I felt as strong as a kitten in leg callipers, a situation which was not resolved as we progressed through the grammar and listening sections. In between each part of the test we were given a 25-minute break, during which time we were expected to go to the toilet, as doing so during the test (i.e. leaving the room to do so) was strictly forbidden. In between the grammar and listening sections I was struck by an unquenchable thirst, and so faced the following dilemma: do I have a drink and risk my notoriously weak bladder; or do I avoid nourishment and hope that fainting wasn’t on the list of things that would result in expulsion? I took the risk and visited the vending machine, although by the end of the listening test I was in considerable pain. Or at least I would have been, had the insane difficulty of the exam not sufficiently numbed my brain, creating a mild sedative effect. It’s safe to say that as far as relaxing Sunday’s go, today was in a league of it’s own.