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Monday, May 31, 2010

Aisatsu: A Farewell to Mishima

Dear Mishima High,
Well, we had our month together and it was wonderful. We made many good memories that I will remember for the rest of my life. Now I am turning the page to a different chapter in my life.

I am very glad that I got to experience Mishima High school. My first day of school was terrifying but you all welcomed me with open arms. I improved my Japanese a bit during that short time period but I still had a hard time understanding when I left (Which is code for, I absolutely had no idea what was going on most of the time). I didn't talk much because I didn't know how to say what I wanted to and I wasn't exactly the flamboyant outgoing person I am when I actually speak the language. In fact, I don't think I have been that quiet of a person since I was born.
I appreciated everyone who had the courage to come and say hello and I felt so bad when it took me so long to learn names. All you boys seemed to shy to really talk to me much but those of you who did were highly appreciated and all the girls who surrounded my chair on my first day of school and continually tried to communicate with the gaijin even though we all know it is difficult made my stay at Mishima even better.

I will miss you all but as we know, I am not leaving Japan till July 22nd. I hope to receive emails from every one of you (yes, this includes you boys too). Maybe, just maybe, yesterday will not be the last time I see you. ;)

sincerely,
the gaijin






Thursday, May 27, 2010

QUIET! Testing in progress.

Mishima just finished quarterly testing on Wednesday. Let me just say this, as a gaijin these 4 days were lovely! As a student who actually has to take, and pass, these tests, it must be hell on earth.

My days played out nicely during this week: wake up, go to school, sit in the library and listen to music for 3 hours, go home and play for the rest of the day. It was perfectly relaxing and a well needed break. I just count my lucky stars that I don't have to take those tests otherwise my schedule would be completely different. If Airi is any indication my day would probably be as follows: wake up 2 hours early, study, go to school, spend 3 hours wracking my tired brain for the answer to each grueling question, go home, study, eat lunch, study, eat dinner, study, take a shower, study go to bed as late as humanly possible probably still studying even in my dreams. At least I get a good 3 hours break from studying in there. Then again, does bedtime count as a "break"?

So there you have it, testing week. Or should I say Satan's days? I must say, my hat is off to all the superhuman students who attend, and pass, a Japanese high school. I guess there is a reason all Americans assume that if you are Japanese you must be a genius...it's probably true.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Inside barbecue. hmmm....

We went to an interesting restaurant as a family today. Our table had a little pit in the middle of it with a grate over it. This turned out to be a mini fire pit although it was either electric or gas operated because we didn't have to build the fire itself.
The restaurant was buffet style so we paid once and got to order almost whatever we wanted (mostly meat but there was some vegetables available as well). They brought us our orders cut and seasoned but not cooked. That was our job! You know, people always say that Japanese people don't eat very much but oh boy when it comes to barbecuing I think these people could give even an American teenage boy a run for his money. We ate, and ate, and ate, continually adding more and more meat to that little grate over our fire until I felt like I had just finished Thanksgiving dinner and when we were all done with our roasted meat and veggies we ordered some ice cream to top it off! It was now that I realized that all of you who are expecting me to come back to America several sizes smaller are in for a surprise I have a feeling that the food here will do just the opposite to me!!

I did notice one thing today though that you all might find interesting and that is the tiny beverages. Here in Japan you have the option of water or soda or tea most of the time but the difference is the cup size. America's cups are huge. It takes me almost the entire meal to finish off my glass of water (for it is always water) but here my cup was tiny and there are no handy waiters to fill your glass as soon as they see it is empty. There is simply a spout where you get your own. Needless to say my family was astounded and amused as I got up 4 times to refill my teacup sized water glass and then promptly downed the whole thing in about 2 minutes. I guess they just don't understand an American's need for their beverages.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rain!

I don't usually like rain. The freezing cold rain that cuts like a knife which we get just after winter ends in Utah is not my idea of a "nice day". Once spring sets in you might get one or two 10 minute showers of perfect rain here and there but it never lasts. As soon as it's warm in Utah you can bet that there will be very little moisture till it's snowing again so I haven't really developed the greatest love for rain.

For some reason, all that changed today. Here in Japan it will start raining and continue for hours and hours on end. It could even last all day!
Before I thought of this as a hassle. I mean who likes putting on a huge bulky raincoat every time they go outside?! I certainly don't, and today I was just too lazy for any of that. As I unlocked my bike to return home from school I debated for about 3 seconds as to whether or not I wanted to go through that trouble and came to the decision that rain can't be that bad.
By the time I got home 20 minutes later, not only was I utterly soaked to the skin but I was enjoying that rain so much I didn't want to go inside. It was perfect! It wasn't cold rain. There was no freezing wind to drive the droplets straight through your clothes and chill you to the bone. Feeling the little splashes of water on my face and hands seemed to wash away all my thoughts about anything and everything and I reveled in the pure enjoyment of it!
I must have been a poor sight to all those passing me. The only one on the street without a raincoat or an umbrella smiling like a retard and riding her bike as slowly as possible, but who cares! This gaijin likes the rain and let's just say this, once rainy season comes on I think I will come home soaking wet a lot more often!

Friday, May 21, 2010

just "hanging out"

















In America when I tell you I am going to go "hang out with my friend(s)" I usually mean sit at home chatting for 4 hours. Maybe we will take this chatting to the mall but that is about as exciting as it gets in Utah. Hanging out with friends in Japan is an adventure and a party that can take up an entire day without you getting bored! For example: Yesterday.

Yesterday I got to hang out with a friend from school, Masami. Let me just say this, I have not had that much fun "hanging out" in a long time! It was the start of testing so we got out of school at about 11:00, (as soon as the tests for that day were finished) and we headed out to lunch first. I have been craving greasy American food like nothing else lately so we went for some McDonalds. (How much more American can you get?!). We spent the next 5 hours singing Karaoke, eating some donuts (sugar to contrast the previous grease), and shopping!

Karaoke in Japan is amazing. This was my first experience with karaoke and let me just say this: WOW! Why in heaven's name do we not have one of these places in Utah?!! We got a little room to ourselves with a huge TV and a huge, and I mean HUGE, book of songs to choose from. We rocked out to The Beatles, Franz Ferdinand, Blue Hearts, and much much more! Eventually our time ran out and we had to leave that little room of awesome but that is OK because in Japan, there is ALWAYS something else to do!
We went out for donuts!! There are no words good enough to describe these delicious circles of goodness so you will just have to use your imagination.

Following the donuts came shopping!! We rode our bikes down to the closest shopping mall and stayed there for an hour or so. That is the one thing that is the same in America and Japan, Shopping. You can probably figure out what that was like without a lengthy description.

To end my day after returning home from my awesome adventure with Masami I went to eat Ramen for dinner with Airi! Now if you think those little packages of dehydrated noodles and salt that call themselves ramen are tasty after eating ramen in Japan I think you need to get all your taste buds removed for you are not worthy to have them anymore. This ramen was SOOOO good and that bowl was HUGE. This is probably the only thing in Japan that comes in a huge serving size. A huge delicious serving size. ^^ It was the perfect end to a perfect day!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Irony Slap In The Face!

Today I attended a meeting with my next host family and a possible school for the months of June and July. I experienced my first subway ride all alone. This was extremely nerve-wracking as I was absolutely positive I would get on the wrong train and end up who knows where!

Anyway, the meeting itself went very well. We discussed what classes I would attend and buying a school uniform and various other things. Apparently I have been accepted at that school. Wow lucky! The rules in this new school are much more strict than at Mishima. It is a private school so students cannot wear any jewelry, nor can they have a part time job, or even a boyfriend. I decided I can live with this though because it will be interesting to compare private schools to public schools.
However, it was as we left that the surprise came. Michiru (my future host sister) turned to me and said, "So, I didn't know this before but apparently Takii High School is an all girls school."

The exchange program I applied for was for an all girls school but I got rejected and so I looked on the bright side with "well, maybe at least I can attend a co-ed school!" and I have enjoyed my co-ed experience. Now as Michiru pointed this out it was so funny to me that even though I got rejected from the exchange program before, the new "home-made" exchange program is starting to look scarily similar to what I would have experienced...huh.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Looks Tasty!






Japanese food always looks very tasty. They are much more conscious of the physical characteristics as well as the taste so everything must LOOK just as good as it tastes. However, sometimes you have to be careful because not only are they good at making real food look delicious but they have a strange obsession with making FAKE food just as tasty looking!

Japanese souvenir shops have some strange obsession with inedible but extremely tasty looking food! I have seen food magnets, food erasers, food coin-purses, candy that looks like sushi, and pointless imitations of food which have absolutely no use! The freakiest part about this is that they are so very good at making this food look real. Many of the things I run into look quite edible and in fact, extremely delicious. I guess the shop owners just love laughing at my dismay when I realize that bento is not even real. *sigh*

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kimono Throughout Kyoto















Kimonos are a commonly wanted souvenir by many gaijins who travel to this magnificent country. What we ignorant white girls don't know though is how very expensive kimonos are. I too wanted a kimono very badly. Everyone who knows me knows I love to dress up and feel like a princess. I love formal wear! Yet alas, a kimono is a bit out of my price range. >.<
So Shizumi and I decided to just rent one when we went to Kyoto to see the Aoi Matsuri!
Renting a Kimono for one day was not nearly as expensive as buying one and it saved me some trouble as I didn't have to dress myself. A nice Japanese girl styled my hair so beautifully and another nice Japanese girl helped me put on this extensive piece of clothing. My kimono had many MANY layers to it. I tried to count them as they were removed at the end of the day and this is what I believe I wore: 3 pieces of various underclothing, 4 straps to be tied around my waist in between various layers, and 4 belts of a sort which were also tied around my waist in between various layers. That is what I counted but there were so many I may have miscounted!

After...kimono-ing (?) me, we headed out onto the streets of Kyoto! We first visited some sort of...festival I think. There were many many little stands in the yard of a large beautiful temple of a sort. Almost everything (if not every single thing) was handmade so it was all quite amazing however, expensive. I only purchased one thing here and that was a water color sketch of myself which a girl who looked like she couldn't be over 25 did for me in just 15 minutes!

Eventually we made our way over to watch the Aoi Matsuri, which is more of a parade than a festival. It was a long procession of traditionally dressed people. The last person in the line (or well, almost the last) was a lady dressed in a Kimono which apparently has 12 layers! Geez and I thought mine was hot! I am glad I was not her!

My apparel got the most interesting results all day! It seemed to impress the older generations mostly. I had many kind old "obaasans" staring and telling me how cute I was but the little kids liked it too. One wide eyed little girl proclaimed "o-hime-sama!" as I passed (which translates to "a princess!") and a little boy, probably around 3rd or 4th grade professed his love for me. If only all the older boys could be as smooth as him!

Now I have finally returned home. Although I was very sorry to see that beautiful piece of clothing being carried off, I am glad to be home in one layer clothing that actually allows me to slouch (which I am presently doing). It is also nice to be able to take normal steps. Walking in that thing must be an art form because it was very difficult. Most of the time I just felt like a colorful penguin.

Friday, May 14, 2010

America vs Japan: High School greetings

The manner in which American high school students greet one another is initially the same as that of a Japanese high school students. Every morning as school starts you hear various "good mornings" echoing through the hall from person to person no matter which country you are in. However, this simple phrase is where the similarities stop.
A typical Japanese person will simply say the ritual "ohayou" then return to whatever they may be doing (which is usually studying for an upcoming test, or finishing any homework due that day). In some cases the "good morning" may be followed by comparing of homework between the two. Everyone arrives at school right as it is about to start so there really is very little before school socializing.

In an American high school, tests and homework are usually far from the students minds. The casual "good morning" is usually shouted across a lunchroom or a hallway and then quickly followed by the usual good morning hugs. When this exchange is between two girls then 3 out of 10 times the greetings are more of a shriek and the hugs usually consist of running across the classroom, hall, or lunch room to embrace wildly as if the hadn't seen each other in many years. As most of my friends are "theater people" my usual morning greetings everyday were an elaborate and noisy affair. Many people arrive at school long before school starts and use the extra time to socialize. Now I have to mention this, I attend a very small school (called a charter school) and the dynamics between the students is very different than at a normal school. This is probably the cause of this over-exaggerated student to student love. NOTE: I cannot speak for all schools as I have never attended a normal high school. All my comparisons of "American and Japanese high schools" is just my personal experience. It may not always be blunt fact.

One of my teachers asked me today what I think of Japan so far. I told him I love it here, everything is so amazing but there is just one thing I miss and that is hugs. My good morning hugs which were so casual before has now become the thing I miss most of all. I suppose I will become accustomed to this new idea of personal space, Japan certainly makes up for it in every other way possible. However, when I return, I want 50 hugs from everyone.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gaijinzilla, It's a sickness!

So, I started this blog mainly for my family back home and the Japanese class but turns out, a lot more people are interested than I thought. Not only do the majority of my teachers follow this blog but Mishima high school has asked permission to link my blog to their website as well as Osaka Girl's Senior High School (which was the exchange program I did not get accepted to). My homeroom teacher printed my last post about the Ensoku and read it to the entire class during homeroom today.
This was mildly embarrassing because of my light mocking of the boys in our group but I don't mind. Everyone who knows me knows I love to be the center of attention so this was fine by me.

I have also been asked to tell the class everyday something new I learned about Japan. Whether it be a name, a new vocab word, or just an interesting cultural note it doesn't matter.

So there ya go. The "Gaijinzilla" has spread! It must be a sickness because everyone seems infected by it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ensoku!










Today was the long awaited school-wide outing (Ensoku: Picnic, outing, etc). Each homeroom class planned a different thing in a different place so rather than staying together like field trips in America each homeroom had a different bus all headed in a different direction. This trip isn't like a field trip as you would think though. In America, our field trips are usually "learning experiences", I don't believe you can even go anywhere without linking it into your classroom discussions somehow.
This trip was completely education free! In fact, our homeroom class barbecued! We travelled to Shigaken and then split into groups to BBQ. Our group cooked a lot of meat. It was quite delicious, Beef, Chicken, Octopus, Crab, various other seafood. With a bit of vegetables and some pineapple on the side.

Once again I had a hearty laugh to myself as I noticed the oh so tough boys had no idea how to build a fire. It was quite entertaining to watch them put on their gloves and when they saw me start lighting the fire glove free they expressed their shock then quietly removed their gloves as well. However, I was in for a surprise. Charcoal is different from wood. It took me 3 times the time to get that fire going. This still managed to impress my group but it made me so angry because that fire just would not do what I wanted it to.
After barbecuing everyone cleaned up and played a few games in the field close by. I noticed something interesting too, in America the genders are always intermingled. No one is shy at all, there is absolutely no such thing as cooties. Here, the boys and girls are VERY separate. The girls always stick in one group and the boys keep to themselves as well. Sure they are friends and all but not close. I guess they are just shy. Who knows! I do know this though, if I were too afraid to talk to boys I would have missed out on some of the best, truest friends in the world.

The bus ride to and from Shigaken was extremely long (I think it was around 3 hours but I didn't keep track so I am not sure) but they pulled out some Karaoke. Yes, Karaoke and it all went quite quickly. I also took this time to learn a couple more names! I have gotten Shouko, Riyo, Haruki, and Decchi, down. but I still have a long way to go!