"Taking Stock" by Victor Gekara - 13 December 2005  

Yes, it is indeed one year on and I agree that it just flew past. Before I realised  it, it is yet another of those depressing Christmases which, more than even  the new year, reminds me of all the things I might have accomplished as  opposed to how much I did achieve; I wanted to communicate to you a lot  more, but guess how many times I wrote; I wanted to actively train in the gym but believe me I am ashamed of the number of times I have been on the  treadmill; I wanted to play badminton every week and I am sure you know how  many times I did -zilch!

All said however, it has been a year of revelation; if not for the other Nippon Fellows, at least for me. The diploma in Research Methods came and went  and did so quite well, in my opinion, as the Nippon group scooped two  distinctions out of the total number of four achieved by the entire cohort. The greater development however is seeing the group of us gradually outgrow our uncertainty and timidity in seminars into confident contributors, not just in the SIRC seminars, but all others that we have attended during the year. We are steadily growing into individuals confident enough to participate in the process of generating knowledge. For this, I am sure all do agree that the rest of the SIRC staff collect all the credits. Sadly however, they must now wean us and watch as we continue learning to walk, good news however being that they will be watching and ready to catch.

The most stressful phase of the year and of the whole programme so far for me was the two months prior to our submission for progress review. The  stress on the brows of some of the Nippon Fellows was not lost on even the  security officers who could not help but wonder why so many people were  staying back so late into the night at 52 Park Place.

... if the expression 'buried in books' was to  be taken literary, I have no doubt that this is what it would mean, numerous mugs of coffee and even the florarization of the office desk ... just anything to keep the head clear and functioning at 2:00am. 
 ... and how about a cup of those Chinese herbs.......or did you say flowers? It might do the trick you know?  

 ...oh what a contrast... why don't you just  go home and watch TV or something?!

I won't even mention the night the alarms went off because of the confusion caused by the location of the Nippon offices - 52/53 Park Place!!! Stress or not stress, there has been significant progress for all of us and I think that we have all earned the Christmas social even to come in the next few days.

It hasn't been all work though. There has been a significant effort to balance  work and play as the following pictures will prove:
If, for even one moment, you thought that this is some marine squad a closer look will tell you that you know some of these impostors very well and you know that no living army will want to have anything to do with them.   

 Believe it or not, there even certificates of  excellence for the best impostors and looking  at the beaming faces of the onlookers, there  is no doubt in my mind that this guys believed  that they are in the army now, that is how  close they came to singing 'you are in the  army now.'
Earlier on the group had engaged in a very competitive game of bowling and, to be honest with you, the only reason my team lost is that there was a lot of foul play in the other team right from the begging but I know if I complain out loud they will brand me a bad sportsman who knows not how to lose gracefully!!! 

 One says, 'ok, you won in the bowling game but that is kids' play, let us see if you can do a Michael Jackson'. The other folds sleeves and says, 'come let's bloody a nose here', and someone from the side screams 'let the games begin' and I walk away thinking... Mmmm! I wonder how MJ learned his smart dance moves!!!

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  "One Year On" by Syamantak Bhattacharya - 24 November 2005 

Can anyone tell me just how the last twelve months flew by? It seemed only yesterday that I enrolled at the university and sat for the first lecture of Globalisation and Political Economy. We were learning the ropes in the Cardiff University and at the same time discovering the roads of Cardiff city. It all seems like just the other day.  The scene outside the window is exactly that of last year. The sharp showers of the autumn; the reds and yellows on the maple trees; the wintry chill in the air; the buzz of Christmas shoppers… Like clockwork, we have returned to where we started from. This October also brought fresh faces to SIRC; the second batch of Nippon fellows arrived at Cardiff. From the busy schedule of research, coursework, lectures and meeting deadlines we decided to take an evening off and have a social gathering with SIRC students, staff and their families.  We met at my residence on the 5th of November - the Guy Fawkes Day, the night of fireworks. All of us packed in quite neatly into our tiny apartment.  No, there was no place to do the Macarena, but we sure had a great time.  Our neighbours, who were also students at the university, joined in. In all, we were twenty-four representing eleven nationalities: Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Iranian, Egyptian, Kenyan, Tanzanian, French, British and Icelandic.

With kids running about and playing, the atmosphere became very lively.  The fireworks session brought out the kid in us, and we had our own firework display with lots of sparklers, roman candles, rockets etc. Compared to the giant spectacle in the Bute Park at the background ours looked tiny and insignificant, but, nevertheless, it was fun to light those ourselves and see from close. But the highlight of the evening was the food! Everyone came with one dish that was native to their own land. At the end what we had on the table was a global feast. Talk about Globalisation and the first thing that will come to  our minds is Chinese baozi, Japanese sushi, French chocolate torte,  Kenyan pilau, Egyptian Foul Medames, Mediterranean couscous salad and a  whole lot more. We had a great time and it certainly was an evening to remember. I am sure we can have more of these get-togethers and show that the strength of SIRC atmosphere is in its diversity not only from professional expertise but also from the cultural perspective.

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  "Reflections on the First Term" by Jessica Bernfeld - 9 February 2005 

I think I speak for all of us when I say that that the first term flew by!

Our courses wrapped up in the middle of December, and then it was time to buckle down and work on our final assessments due in January. While writing the papers, it was easy to see how much we have learned in the short time that we have been here. Thanks to our classes and weekly SIRC seminars, our research "toolkit" -- the theoretical and methodological instruments at our disposal -- has expanded greatly.

However, our time here has not been all work and no play. We celebrated the end of classes with the rest of the SIRC staff at a Christmas Social that was unlike any holiday party I have ever attended. The full day of pony-trekking through the Welsh countryside was a great chance for us to bond away from the rigors of the academic program. Most of us also took the opportunity to travel home to visit family and friends before the start of the second term.

This term, we are all taking slightly different classes and will be spending more time developing our individual research projects. We are all working on  different areas within the shipping industry, so it will be interesting to see  how we each incorporate the methods learned in our courses, and to  collaborate with and learn from one other. 

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