Friday, 13 May 2016

Chapter one (segment nine), 2016, December, Ulf

That was way too close.

With a sigh Ulf finished explaining the last problem and looked at the club members present. It seemed they hadn't caught up on his mistake. He guessed that as long as they believed the discrepancy between his real knowledge and his graded knowledge was a result of moving from Sweden to Japan he was safe.

They wouldn't understand anyway. Damn, most people involved in tertiary education won't for that matter.

Content before methods, and methods before context, or else the student would inevitably fail to create new contexts in which to try analysis. That was why he had forced the walking talking sessions onto the club.

And it had bloody better not be either the one or the other, Ulf thought as he walked over to a third whiteboard.

The Japanese education system excelled at content and pretty much nothing else. The Swedish counterpart lay at the opposite end on a scale of criminal incompetence with a stubborn focus on methods without any content to apply them on.

Even an idealised aggregate of the two lacked a systematic application of context, even though Ulf was bound to think Sweden was slightly better off. Those who gained understanding despite twelve years of sabotaged learning tended to have an easier time to apply knowledge and re-evaluate that very application compared to what he had experienced from cooperation with Japanese software developers.

What are you thinking?” Noriko asked from nowhere, and Ulf became aware he had been caught up in a world of his own.

I'm thinking I'll make you the best of the best,” he answered.

Best of the best? In what sense?” Noriko wondered.

Ulf looked at his short friend who had just taken a break from running through some essential data on Japanese history. Essential for the upcoming exams that was. As far as he was concerned it was worse than a monkey see monkey do approach. There wasn't even any doing involved. The exam would test their ability to mimic high performance parrots.

Knowledge, competence and experience,” Ulf said to give Noriko an answer. He knew he sounded cryptic, but the kids in the club needed to learn how to apply methods to their knowledge before anything else. Some of them already had, and come spring term he'd start giving them case studies to apply those methods on.

With a bit of luck the brightest of them would accuse him of being a first class moron when their second year started.

You always have those easy three step solutions to everything,” Noriko said.

They're models. Verbalised abstractions, but you wouldn't understand. Not yet at least, but I count on you to call me moron soon.

From the whiteboard he had left he heard conversations in broken English, a broken English that was a vast improvement over the atrocity they had displayed half a year earlier.

I'll give you your results old goat, Ulf thought. Two percent overall for the midterms and I think we'll get closer to five after the finals.

Because he had promised Nakagawa improved test results that day when he was scolded for the locker room incident over half a year earlier. While a five percent improvement wasn't much the club members only had half a year to adapt to his alien views on learning.

I was never this absorbed in work before. Why is it so important now? Then Ulf admitted to himself that he was running from his impending doom, or at least the threat to him and Christina.

I love you, and but for all the crap happening to us I'd tell you in an instant. Still, she'd give up on her career if he told her, and he just couldn't do that to her.

Ulf threw a glance in her direction, filled his mind with her strength and beauty and turned his attention to Noriko again.

In order to grow you need to know what you don't know,” he said.

Before she answered he looked at Christina again. I'm an idiot. At first I didn't tell you because of Maria, and now when my feelings finally are sorted out I still can't tell you.

Noriko looked as if she was about to voice her answer, but when she followed his eyes she closed her mouth again. Ulf could see how she looked at Christina, then at him and then at Christina again. In the end an expression of determination spread over Noriko's face and she tilted her head and stared directly into his eyes.

Really? Are you two idiots, or what? She should have dragged those words out of you by now.”

Meeting her eyes Ulf just shook his head. “Don't tell her that!” he begged.

Noriko screwed her mouth into a frustrated smirk. “You are two of the most important people in my life. If you believe I'll allow the both of you to hurt each other like this then you're sadly mistaken.”

Damn, this is Noriko here. She'll do whatever she thinks needs doing. Ulf still remembered her confession when she dragged her brother into the scene, not to speak about the spectacle at the amusement park shortly after.

We need to talk,” he said and grabbed her hand. “Now!”

Dragging her through the door only took moments, but it still wasn't fast enough to prevent someone from shouting.

Wrong girl, man!” the voice called out, but he was already outside and continued through the main entrance to make certain they were outdoors before he said anything more.

Outside lamplights blinked miserably in a rain that never seemed to stop these days. It was just as bad as an especially awful December week in the Gothenburg he remembered from his former life. For a moment Ulf regretted that he hadn't brought an umbrella, but now it was too late for details like that.

I have to make her understand how adults think. And what great adults we are Christina. What an awful mess!

Noriko,” he said and let go of her hand. “You really mustn't tell her. If Christina requests I say how much I love her I will, and if I do I'll destroy everything.”

Noriko stared back at him with incomprehension in her eyes.

Look, if she quits her career for me she'll regret it for the rest of her life.” Noriko, I hate telling you how life works. You should stay a child for a little longer. But Christina was more important to him, and in the end he decided to force his friend to grow up a little in advance. “There's no way in hell the two of us will survive that in the long run. Please, please, please don't tell her!”

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