Monsoon swoon

I prepared my application for the Master of Arts in Writing, Editing and Publishing as snow silently sang down outside my window. I had been working and traveling throughout Japan for almost a year. Even though I had valued every second of my experience — from working on small farms in Hokkaido to a fast-paced patisserie in downtown Tokyo — I felt that I needed a stronger focus. I took a deep breath as I submitted my application. I put on my jacket and stepped outside. The distant sound of music from the chairlifts and people laughing could be heard in the distance. My boots crunched on the icy path that was walled in by meters of snow. I arrived at the tired, Finnish-style, mountainside hotel and greeted my co-workers in the gift shop. I called out Irashaimase as customers entered in their yukatas or snow gear. Snow quickly melted off snow jackets and left small pools of water on the floor. My application rested in the back of my mind as I got to work.

The moment of realisation that I wanted and perhaps needed to do the WEP program was when a Japanese yoga teacher in Tokyo asked me to translate a textbook. I realised that I could do this, but it would be difficult, as I didn’t have the knowledge or skills. When I received my acceptance it felt as if my direction had become clear and I booked my flight back to Australia.

I arrived back home and attempted to prepare myself for what was to come. I was about to do a Master’s in an area that I had an affinity for, but talent? Skill? My first day of class in Professional Communication soon loomed. I walked across the Green Bridge and tried to breathe deeply. The Brisbane River snaked lazily below. Doubts were streaming through my head when suddenly a monsoonal rain broke down around me. I was still undercover, but not for much longer. Assessing the sky and my feet, I quickly took off my shoes and tied the laces through the straps of my bag. I took a deep breath and ran off into the campus. I jumped over puddles and turned corners with mud squelching between my toes. It felt liberating to be moving so freely about the university in what seemed like my own world; a wall of water muted everything and everyone. I arrived at the lecture room with five minutes to spare. I peered in through the open door and could see Roslyn Petelin talking to a student. I fumbled with the laces on my shoes but I had, in the excitement, over-knotted them. I tried to slip through into the room, hoping that no one would notice my muddy feet. I guessed that we had to greet Ros at the door. So I stood there, dripping like a drowned marsupial when Ros turned to me and asked ‘Am I supposed to know you?’ She had, in fact, just been chatting to someone she knew and was not greeting every student that walked through the door. I had been in Japan for far too long[1]. I fumbled through a surprised ‘no’ and slinked up to the back of the class. Some students were laughing, but I felt not ill-naturedly. I sat there trying to compose myself and sort out my shoes while I laughed quietly at myself. I had made it, I was there, and in my own way, I was going to get through this.


[1] As far as the author is aware it is not a custom in Japan to greet your students as they enter the door either.


Cieon Hilton is a current student at UQ and a volunteer with The Alumni Friends of The University of Queensland.