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Friday, April 30, 2010

how fascinating can a gaijin be?

People here are so funny. I guess it isn't rude to openly stare in this country because I get that a lot. The girls are all so entertaining though. Everyday I am approached by a new group of girls wanting to know all about me. Today as I was walking down the hall a girl I have never seen before ran to catch up with me then handed me a little Japanese candy saying "a present for you". It was so cute! I actually held a pretty decent conversation with another group of girls. I didn't stumble over my words and we were able to communicate without any hitches. I was quite proud of myself. I also showed my pictures of Utah to the International Exchange club. They were very impressed and kept saying that they want to go there.


On a completely different note, here is a handy tip for the Japanese students back home:
Some of my most commonly used words are these. Chigau and Onaji (different and same) I have found these words to be the easiest way to explain why I do or do not know how to do something. "Amerika wa chigau" (America is different) is my favorite phrase. and "Amerika/watashi no gakkou wa onaji" (america/my school is the same) is a phrase that saves alot of useless instruction for whomever you may be talking to. So there ya go, Vocab lesson of the day!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

food









All my meals in this house look like they came from a gourmet 5 star restaurant! The Japanese tradition of sitting down to eat together for every meal is so nice. We eat breakfast and dinner as a family and if there is no school then we eat lunch together as well.
Meals are perfectly balanced and the proportions are perfect. There is no "left-over day" because Shizumi makes just enough for one day. Here are pictures of my meals from the last 2 days.

1st picture: Tuesday's Dinner
2nd picture: Wednesday's breakfast
3rd Picture: Wendesday bento
4th picture: wednesday dinner (gyouza)

The last few pictures are actually of me making Gyouza for the first time though. Shizumi taught me how!

4 M's: Movie, Mall, Matsuri, and Kaiten Zushi...wait...


















I had today off school so we filled it up to the brim with other activities. First, Me and Shizumi went to a Matsuri (or festival) for the upcoming Children's Day, which is on May 5. It was very similar to the usual little festivals in America yet at the same time it was COMPLETELY different. The games were different and the food was different. My cultural snack of the day was Taki (or, squid) on a stick. It was actually pretty tasty although hard to chew. There was also an absolutely awe-inspiring Taiko performance. A Taiko is a tradition Japanese drum and it was a high school club that performed for us. Apparently this club is very well known for being amazing and I can certainly see why. They were fabulous! My pictures just can't do justice to how awesome the performance was!

After the Matsuri we all went to go see a movie and geez was it crowded! Yeah, that picture of all the people...those are the people waiting in the huge winding line in front of us! When we got to the front they had 4 seats left (just barely enough) but I find it interesting that in that movie theater there are assigned seats. You don't come early to get a good seat. You buy your ticket early to get a good seat. We saw Alice In Wonderland and yes, that IS the American Alice in Wonderland but there were subtitles. It seems that unlike America, Japan is actually open minded enough to accept media from other countries.

The Mall...or was it a department store...hmmm...oh well. The vastly enormous building that sells everything and anything had 4 floors! the 4th floor was an arcade and movie theater and all the other ones had absolutely everything you can think of for sale. It wasn't like the Provo Mall either. This thing was so complex I easily would have gotten lost had it not been for the map which Shizumi picked up. Also in this "mall" was something I have never heard of before. A little lounge for which I assume you need a membership to enter. Here they have drinks and comfy chairs so you can sit and rest before continuing your shopping spree. It was quite refreshing

It was in this maze of a building that we ate lunch and dinner. Dinner was okonomiyaki which was absolutely delicious. This is another Osakan favorite apparently. As you can see, the waiters cook it right on your table!
Lunch however was even more memorable. We had kaiten-zushi (you told me to try it and I did Mrs. Fullmer!) this little restaurant consists of a little conveyed belt which goes all the way around the store and you just pick up whatever sushi you want off of it. Then, when you are done they charge you for all the empty plates you have. Each plate is color coded and there is a little key on the table so you can see how much it will cost. That beloved little conveyor belt brought us some freaking TASTY sushi! Although, every once in a while something really odd would make it's way around. like, for example, a little bowl of fries! Don't ask me why, Airi didn't know either.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Random Pictures and Random Stories





Calligraphy was the first class I experienced at Mishima. The teacher speaks very little English but we were able to get by. That class is my favorite one though. I started with a very basic lesson but after a little the teacher asked me which character was my favorite. When I answered "ai" (love) which is the very first character that came to mind the 3 girls around me gasped and then started laughing because apparently ai is a very difficult character. So I chose a different one, however, about 10 minutes later the teacher looked through all my practice tries of the easier character she suddenly decided to let me try "Ai". These are my final 2 practices of the character and the teacher seemed so pleased that she had me show them to the entire class and proclaimed to everyone that this is my first time learning calligraphy.

The second and third pictures were taken today during lunch hour. The 2nd is simply a picture of me with some of the new friends I have made and the 3rd will probably make no sense to you even when I tell you that it is supposed to be an O-Bento. One of the girls put it together and for some reason, that was the funniest thing in the world to us. we laughed about it for a long time :P

Japanese High School: A Little Cultural Note













Everyday when I get to Mishima, rather than waltzing right through the front doors. Airi and I must go around to the back door which leads into a locker room of types (this "locker room" is for boys and girls) here you take off your outside shoes and replace them with the school slippers and you put your regular shoes and your gym clothes in the locker.

Rather than moving individually from class to class you have a homeroom class and you spend much of your time with them. Also, only a few classes do you actually leave to another classroom for. For the other classes, the teachers are the ones who rotate around. The style of the lessons are very lecture oriented. There is little to no discussion and the teachers tend to talk very quickly (I think this is in order to fit as much information as is physically possible into one hour.)

Mishima has a courtyard similar to Merit's except awesome. It is much bigger and the plant life there is gorgeous. During the lunch-hour (which really IS an hour, not the measly 30 minutes I am used to)you find many art students there.

The only unfortunate thing about Mishima is the bathrooms. It is here that I first experienced the joys of the "squatty potty" seriously...I don't even think I can describe how fun those things are... xP However, if I thought THAT was bad, I wasn't prepared to clean one. My group after school was in charge of the bathrooms so my first day at school was quite...memorable.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gakkou

Today was my first day at school. It has been raining heavily all day so Airi's and my 20 minute bike ride to school was...fun.
I went to the school yesterday to talk to one of the teachers and work out my schedule and I thought people were curious then! Today when I got to school everyone stared at me as I passed. I am the only English speaking exchange student (there is another from Taiwan but he is not nearly as interesting I guess.) All day various students would peek their head in my classroom door to see the new gaijin student.
At one point in time I had literally a circle of giggling girls all around my desk trying to ask me questions in English AND Japanese. Every time I say anything, the immediate response is usually "KAWAII!!!" which I have now heard more times than I can count.
The boys were much more reserved however I could see them stare at me whenever I ran into them in the hall. If they hadn't seen me already that day you could see the surprise in their faces as they exclaimed the usual "OH!" which I have found is a vowel Japanese boys seem to like. Then they would turn and start animatedly talking to whomever they were with. A few of the boys (with the help of an entire possy cheering them on) got up the courage to catch my eye and say hello or "welcome to Mishima" in one case.

The attention of all the students at Mishima is not the bad kind though. It is kind of entertaining actually to be such a novel item. All of you who know me know I love being unusual and standing out. Well, I think this is the most I can/have/will ever stand out and it is hilarious!

Unfortunately I forgot my camera today so I don't have pictures yet. But tomorrow I will bring it and take lots of pictures! However, for all of you who are wondering what my school is like...it seriously feels like I just stepped into one of those shoujo manga I used to enjoy reading so much. The style of the school building is VERY similar to that depicted in most manga (think fruitsbasket) and the reactions of everybody here seems like it came right out of a story book. It is so very cliche yet I am loving every minute of it.

Tomorrow I will post all my pictures and I will go into a more detailed description of how classes are run but for now be satisfied with this: I love my Calligraphy class (my teachers seemed to think I was very good as they kept commenting on everything I did and even showed the entire class the kanji I had written) and I think I have a new found love of P.E. as it is the only class I can understand.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"hyaku en shoppu" (this is for you Mrs. Fullmer)








upon the advice of Mrs. Fullmer I went to the "hyaku en shoppu" or dollar store with shizumi-mama while Airi was at school. and all I have to say is this: you were right Mrs. Fullmer, it IS way cooler than our dollar stores. they had everything there! Including, yes, alcohol. however, as you can see in the last picture, there is also non-alcoholic beer for whomever may be driving. lol

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Of all the things to make high-tech...




Everybody knows how high tech the Japanese people are and it is totally true. Every electronic thing I have seen so far has been really crazy awesome! However, of all the things to be so very high tech that I can't figure it out, why in heaven's name does it have to be the TOILET?!
Sure, the padded and heated seat is really nice but those other buttons just confuse me. Although, I guess i should look on the bright side. It is not one of those disgusting little "squatty potties" that I ran into in the Beijing airport. Although, if I am gonna have to ask my host family how to work something I would rather it not be the toilet...

I made it!










The very first Japanese phrase that was directed at me since my arrival in Japan was from an adorable little old lady. It consisted of: "kawaii!...Wakai!...kawaii!" (and in all actuality, it was referring to me but I am not sure if she was talking to me or the person next to her. Probably both). This translates into: cute!...young!...cute!

When I got to my host family's house I had about 3 hours to take a breather and unpack my suitcases a bit before Airi took me to my "welcome party" which was hosted by the young women of the ward. I stumbled my way through communications the whole time. Airi actually speaks english fairly well so using our combined skills we are able to make ourselves understood and she, in turn, acts as my unofficial translator for the other girls if I don't know how to say something in Japanese. It works out.

We ate an Osakan favorite (according to Airi) called Takoyaki. The name of this tasty food is translated into: Octopus Balls.
now, I could tell you that this is simply a tasty fried ball of batter with octopus chunks and other tasty ingredients inside. but something tells me your own imagination could do a much better job filling in the blanks...