Sunday, January 18, 2009

Why are you so sleepy?

Doushite sonna ni nemui no?

My Facebook friends are posting old pictures of themselves. Some of them are Prom pictures. They are laughing at their frizzy bangs and mullets and puffed sleeves, but that's just fashion. I think they all look beautiful.

I was trying to think of what I was doing when my friends were going to the prom. I found part of the answer yesterday when I worked as an exam monitor for the Center Text, or The National Center Test for University Admissions. It's a 2 day, standardized multiple choice test in as many subjects as your university(ies) of choice say you need to take (anywhere from one to nine depending on your school. I had to take six for mine). Most universities in Japan pick who they will take either based on this exam, or a combination of this exam and a secondary exam. It doesn't seem quite fair for 18 year-olds to have their lives decided by a one-shot deal, but since schools vary in difficulty, you can't really be entirely fair by just looking at school records, so maybe it's kind of fair in its own way. Since it's a one shot deal that will determine your future, you study for these things, in addition to doing your schoolwork. You take several practice tests during your last year in high school (and the year after that if you decide you want to sit the exam again, as opposed to picking your universities based on the scores you get the first time around), and the time between your practice tests, you study for them. Don't get me wrong, I had my fun in high school (though there was no prom), but I did spend a lot of energy in academics, like a lot of people in Japan trying to get into a competitive university.

I was an exam monitor for Day 1 of the test, which was Civics, Geography/ History, Language Arts (Japanese), and Foreign Language (English, French, German, Chinese or Korean. Nearly everyone sits the English test). You could pretty much tell which students were 18 year olds taking the exam for the first time and which were older kids sitting the exam the second or third time around by what they were wearing. Nearly all the 18 year olds showed up in their school uniforms. School uniforms in Pumpkin City and the surrounding areas are very plain. I don't know what you've seen in Japanese anime and manga, but here, in nearly all the schools, they haven't changed much since I went to high school, that is, navy blue pleated skirts and plain jackets over white blouses. No one wears makeup. Eyebrows are left mostly alone. Hair styling involves the use of elastic and pins, not gels and wax.

As an exam monitor for a life-determining test, I passed out question booklets and answer sheets. My partner for the day gave most of the instructions. Once the exam started, I couldn't read or listen to music between the times I glanced around the room every so often to make sure no one was copying another person's answers or anything, and sometimes got kind of drowsy. I noticed some of the examinees looked kind of drowsy too. Maybe it was because the room was a bit warm.

However, there was one girl in the front row who was actually honestly asleep for no less than 10 minutes (out of about 90) during not one but two subjects (Language Arts and English). And what I would really like to know is

1) Why was she THAT sleepy? Did she not sleep OK the night before? Was she bored because the questions were too easy?

2) Just exactly how well did she do in the test, and what university is she shooting for this year?

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