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Friday, July 23, 2010

Tadaima!

Well, I made it home. After approximately 35 hours (according to my mom) in planes and airports I arrived home safely yesterday night, or well, I guess midnight means it was this morning.
Being at home seems so very, familiar. I thought when I returned everything would seem different but rather, it is Japan itself that seems different to me now. Being home, I feel almost like my 3 months in the land of the rising sun was just a dream. A marvelous, difficult, beautiful dream. One thing makes this dream different though...memories. This trip will not fade away into something that is barely tangible as I continue through my life. It may seem far away now that I am sleeping in my own bed and well, talking in English again, but this experience is something that has been such a big part of my life that it will continue to structure the rest of my life which is yet to come.
I referred to this trip in a previous entry as a "chapter of my life". This chapter may have come to a close but it has been such an integral part of the story of my life that I know I will never forget it.
One day I will travel back to the Land Of The Rising Sun but for now all I can do is thank all of you who made that trip as amazing as it was. I love traveling, I love Japan, and I love all of you. ほんとうに ありがとうございます!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Farewells








You know, some of my friends thought I was crazy for wishing to attend school when I should be enjoying summer vacation and who knows, maybe I am. That wouldn't surprise me. Anyway, last day of school has finally come for me. After 3 months in Japan and 2 at this school it felt weird to think of that being the last time I would see those halls or trek up that impossibly long staircase to my homeroom class which has been on the top floor both times.

The imposing feeling of the last day did not get in the way of my usual joking around with my friends in my homeroom class. We laughed and joked as if nothing were happening. As if I had been there for years and I would be there for years.

The farewell ceremony which the teachers put together was lovely. My host family couldn't come since it was at noon but practically my whole homeroom class came. The principal, my friend Juri, and I all gave speeches. The principal gave his speech in English for the Australian exchange students but for me he used simple and slow Japanese almost as if to say that he had noticed how much I had learned in my stay here. Juri started crying halfway through hers which of course forced me too wipe away some tears of my own. The students laughed out loud when I said "classes were fun" since they had caught me sleeping through them multiple times but I wasn't lying when I said how much I loved their school. It has been an amazing experience at both Mishima and Takii. Japanese school is so very different from American school that it takes a little getting used to but I loved every minute of it! People ask me why I decided to by Takii's uniform even though it is quite expensive and I always reply "because lots of people go to Japan. Few people go to Japanese high school." My uniform is my absolute most treasured souvenir and I think it will continue to be so.
Thank you Mishima, Thank you Takii! I love Japan!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dinnertime! gaijin-style ^^

Since coming to live in Japan I have been plagued by the feeling that I am really not contributing to anything at all. This normally wouldn't bother me. At home I certainly don't have a problem lounging around on the couch while indifferently observing my mom breaking her back over some chore or another. Yet for some reason, it is really troubling when it is a different family I am living with.
Anyway, I decided to remedy this by offering to cook dinner for my family. It was simple yet difficult to decide what to make. My repertoire of dishes which I know how to cook is limited to scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, and anything out of a can that just needs to be reheated. This made choosing simple yet frustrating as I realized my own failure as a girl (no offense if any of you, my readers, are in fact some psycho feminist). I hate making decisions more than I hate failing as a female though so I had no problem with this. I made mashed potatoes, baked chicken (thanks for the recipe mom! It actually turned out fairly edible!), and corn (and yes, it was frozen packaged corn).
My host sister and I went grocery shopping on our way home from our...well...shopping trip to get the ingredients. I had hoped to make home made macaroni and cheese too but I was easily convinced otherwise when I saw that cheddar cheese was approximately $6 for a tiny brick so small I would probably need two or three for the dish.
My American side was shocked when there were no baggers to do all our work for us after our purchase. Merely a little table with the plastic bags on it for the customers to place their groceries in.
Dinner itself turned out okay I guess. I am not a gourmet chef but it was edible. The chicken and the potatoes needed a lot of added salt and pepper but the corn was actually quite tasty. Maybe that is just because of the liberal amount of butter I added to it before sticking it in the weird Japanese microwave-oven thingy.
The potatoes couldn't have been all bad though since my host mom asked for the recipe and hey, I got the opportunity to not feel like a worthless couch potato which would be worth it even if I had made packaged Ramen and burned it. I am such a good person :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mountain Adventures

On Saturday I went hiking with a bunch of friends from church. The plan was, hike up to the Onsen which was apparently pretty famous. Play around and soak our tired muscles in the naturally heated water and then hike back down. Pretty standard right?
Well, it would have been standard if things had actually gone according to said plan. *sigh*
By taking a couple wrong turns and following a couple wrong paths we managed to not only miss the Onsen altogether but we ended up just making a big loop and ending up basically where we started, adding many miles and quite a few hours to our hike. We started out at approximately 9 and made our way out at about 4:30. How is that for a killer hike? For the beginning parts of this trip "hike" is quite an understatement. It was more like a "climb". We weren't walking uphill. We were literally climbing up the mountain through a "rock garden".









Now, I am not a big fan of really hard hikes but I love nature and I am inclined to look on the bright side of that adventure. The scenery was quite breathtaking and I actually got to see my first real wildlife when we stumbled across a family of wild boar!




























To top the day off, when we stopped at McDonald's afterward I forgot all about the adorable baby pigs when I met some adorable Japanese boys. ;) These are the first boys to be brave enough to talk to me and I definitely appreciated it. We exchanged emails and hopefully we can keep in touch.











So all in all I had a fairly bitter sweet day. There were mistakes, sore muscles, and no onsen, but there was also beautiful nature, cute animals, and cute boys. I guess it all kind of evens out.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Saying Goodbyes: The Beginning of the End







Tuesday was my last day to see my old homeroom class before they went to Canada, today was Mel and Kiera's last day at school. Now I have said my goodbyes to them and it will probably be a while before I see them again.
I loved all my friends from 2-1. They were all so amazing and friendly and cute. My nervousness at transferring schools was quickly set aside as I realized just how great these girls are. Within the first week of transferring to Takii I had almost 2 whole weeks filled up with various play-dates with various people. We soon developed a communication understanding between us, everyone had a feel for how much Japanese I knew and I had a feel for what level of English they are at. We were all able to help each other because of this. I cannot even count all the things the people in this class taught me and not just Japanese either. They taught me how to loosen up around people I just met, how to enjoy lunchtime to it's fullest, my playdate experiences taught me not only that Kyobashi station really DOES have a "big escalator" and that when you plan to hang out in Japan you better not wear heels. I made so many friends in that class, I know everyone's name and most of their email addresses. I consider all 17 of them to be my good friends and I will miss my new "good friends" very much.

Seems funny that I was just barely writing a post the other day about going to classes with the other exchange students and now I am writing one about saying goodbye to them. Our day today seemed kind of unreal. It didn't really hit me that that was goodbye until after it was over. I just can't really imagine them not being there.
They too helped me greatly with my Japanese but in a different way. They say when you teach something you are much more likely to remember it. Well it must be true, helping them with their Japanese in turn improved my Japanese greatly. Although we enjoyed teasing each other about how "my country is better", being with them has inspired me with a desire to visit Australia as well as a need to one day see my new Australian friends again.

One of my favorite quotes is "Goodbyes are only painful if you know you will never say hello again". No matter how sad saying goodbye is now, it is not the end of the world because I know I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. Friendships that, against all obstacles, won't be kept apart. I will see my new friends again. This is not "goodbye" this is "See you later".

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Aquarium Time!!!












I got excused from school today in order to go to the aquarium with my host sister!! We had a great time! We saw penguins, sea otters, dolphins, jelly fish, a GIGANTIC whale shark, and lots lots more! We also go to touch the sting rays and even some small sharks (at least, I think they were sharks)!
It was so cool! the aquarium was built so that at the beginning you went up a super long escalator and then you work your way down from the top to the bottom. almost all the tanks were super deep. As deep in fact as the building. The animals were all super active so it was so fun to see them all!

We also got to ride on this enormous Ferris Wheel. It was so tall that it towered over some of the tallest apartment buildings. In fact, it towered over pretty much everything!

It is kind of interesting to note the ratio of various other gaijin in tourist hot spots like this. In Kyoto, which is the very historical city with lots of shrines and temples, you see a lot of, well, white people. All the Americans, Brits, and pretty much any white person, who goes to Japan wants to see the traditional temples so you find them all congregated in Kyoto. However, at places such as USJ and the Aquarium we ran across many Koreans, Chinese, etc. I'm not quite sure why this is, it's just something I have noticed.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Special Class Schedules for the Special Exchange Students

Right now there are two girls from Australia attending my school as "real" exchange students. I am in fact just a tourist visitor and cannot be defined as an "exchange student" but Takii tries to make my trip as close to an exchange program as possible.
Before Mel and Kiera came I attended classes like a normal student. Just the usual run-of-the mill Japanese classes.
However, these girls get a special schedule set up for them. They go only to English and Oral communications and various other fun classes such as Calligraphy or cooking. When they aren't going to classes they get to play on facebook or do homework in the International Room. Now that they are here I get to join them for many of these classes. Although I don't have "spares" (free periods) it livens up my schedule and, needless to say, makes school a lot more fun! We go together to Calligraphy, Japanese Culture, Cooking, various English classes, Japanese class (which takes place off campus and I will explain more about that another time), and sometimes we just watch a Japanese movie together. It is great fun! I have become very good friends with Mel, in fact, I jokingly refer to her as my Aussie twin for it is almost scary how alike our personalities are. I will be very sad to see them go back to Australia but I am definitely glad I got to meet them in the first place.

Today's cooking class creations. The ugly ones are mine ;)


Shodo class (Calligraphy)! In case you are wondering, in this picture I was making the ink I used to practice.


Melanie, Myself, and Kiera at the ATMs in the post office. We stopped by on our way back from our Japanese class.


Japanese Culture class!


Me and "my aussie twin" (also taken during Japanese Culture class)