Friday, 8 June 2012

Star-Spangled Banter IV: Ivy League Banter and Returning to the Sun


Tak Tak Takedy Tak is a student at that clever-clogs college with the unfortunate name: Brown. It’s one of the so-called Ivy League universities and is in Providence, Rhode Island, the smallest of the American states. Trivia: the Providence skyline can be seen in outdoor scenes in Family Guy, also set in the state.

Brown’s campus is very small and more verdant than the name suggests; lots of pleasant buildings too. It’s full of steaky, healthy-looking, ambitious Americans.

My favourite thing about Brown was, predictably, the student canteen. It was big and beautiful and it was all-you-can-eat. God bless the American appetite. They had just about anything you can think of, and it cost something like half a cent. Loved it.

And I had a charming time with the students of Brown, Takedy Tak and his friends.

After Providence, I left Tak Tak and took the bus up to Cambridge. No no, not the real Cambridge, Cambridge Mass-a-choo-sets.

I took the subway from the central train station to Harvard, passing MIT on the way. That was noteworthy, since Mashu, one of the scholars who had originally started the course with us in Japan (although he subsequently dropped out), had been a student there.

I was there to see Hervé once again, and to meet our mutual friend, the divine Mikaël who studies at Harvard. No, I’d never heard of it either. Indeed, a week or two ago, said boy-with-an-angel’s-name graduated from said-University-with-a-Cambridge-graduate’s-name and, unlike a former resident of the Elysée, can now call himself a Frenchman who really did go to Harvard. Mikaël, then, is almost definitely destined to maitriser à fond le système, accéder au pouvoir suprême, s’installer à la Présidence et de là…

Mikaël and Hervé had a dinner with a French literature professor so I amused myself in a bookshop where I met some author of some book about leadership. I also read a book about American Presidents’ attitudes to North Korea.

We did a night-time tour of the Harvard campus, including the formidable law faculty; we met one of Mikaël’s charming friends who, it turns out, had also studied in Paris. She was doing an LLM and is, like myself (fingers crossed), becoming a barrister.

After that we had a drink and I tasted decent beer for the first time in almost a year.

The next day we had a little tour of Boston, a very pleasant place. After lunch, we cycled to a lake and did a little tour. Then there was excellent hot chocolate. Hervé, who is usually so careful with words when it comes to food (it’s a very serious matter, and Hervé treats it with the sanctity it merits), described it as “the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted”. So there you have it.

And it was thence to New York, to Shereen, to the airport and home (to Japan).

It was a pleasure and an honour to see these marvelous places in this marvelous country, seeing old friends (future greats like Hervé, Mikaël, Shereen and Tak Tak), and making new ones.

Still, I felt a sense of relief descend upon me when I landed in Tokyo after a fifteen hour flight. It was sunny and crisp. My flight back to Fukuoka was relaxing, and I saw all of Japan beneath me: Tokyo and the bay, Mount Fuji in its sun-soaked majesty, Kansai, Hiroshima. Everything was clean and in its place. Everyone stuck to the script. For a tired mind: bliss.

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