Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Departure Difficulty.



Leaving Japan proved to be more stressful than anything.  I didn’t have time to enjoy my last hours in Suginami-ku before heading for the airport because all I was worried about was packing and making sure my apartment was clean.  On the seventh we had a check of the apartment to make sure it was cleaned to the standards of two Japanese women (Dean Inou and Morimizato-sensei) and they were hard to please.  We were given a long list separated by room on what needed to be cleaned and how it needed to be cleaned, sometimes including which cleaner to use.  I envy the boys rooms in that they had more hands to help with the cleaning while I was by myself to do my whole apartment.  However, I do not envy them in that they seemed to be having the most troubles.  Out of our four rooms I got the “silver medal” according to Moromizato-sensei meaning that one of the guys rooms was cleaned and up to par before me, and I’m okay with that.  I’m sure my room would have gotten the gold had there been more girls to go over everything.

After my apartment was up to standards and I passed out for a couple of hours, I started to stress over the second leg of the cleaning/packing race.  I did not realize how much stuff I had until I was still trying to pack it or get rid of it literally minutes before we were going to leave, which was difficult considering the Japanese trash system I explained in an earlier post.  I couldn’t just toss everything I wanted to get rid of in one big trash bag and toss it out.  I had to sort, rinse, and properly separate all of my “garbage”, and Ms. Inou was there in the trash room to make sure we did everything right, even sending me back to my room when I hadn’t properly sorted or washed thoroughly enough.  That is one thing I will not miss about Japan.

When I did get everything crammed into my two large suitcases, one smaller carry on, and one backpack it was quite a task to get to the airport.  First, I had to get all of my bags downstairs.  Fortunately, the apartment has an elevator that I was able to use on my two trips down.  Then, we had to walk everything over to the school so we could get a group photo.  Next, we had to make the trek to Ogikubo station.  It’s not usually a hassle getting to the station because you can just go down Kyoukai-dori, cross the main intersection, and turn a corner.  However, when you have a group of ten people with all their bursting at the seams bags rolling down a narrow, cobblestone road it can be slow (and very loud) goings.  We were creating a suitcase symphony for a not quite appreciating public.  

Once we got to Ogikubo station, we had to get all of our bags downstairs, through the gates, then back upstairs to the platform and onto a train to go down two stations.  it was at Kichijoji station that we had the most problems.  We got off the train on the first floor and needed to get down to the first floor.  The easiest way for us to do that would be to take the elevator.  However, the elevator would always stop at the third floor first and get full before coming back down to the second floor and then the first floor.  Because of this, it was hard for us to get all of us downstairs with all of our bags in a timely manner thus making us miss the 10:00am highway bus to Narita that Mineyama-sensei wanted us to catch literally by a couple of minutes.  Because of this, we had to wait for the 11:30 one instead which wasn’t really a bad thing because it gave us time to catch our breath and get something to drink.  Once we got to the airport, we were able to say our goodbyes although most people were going the same direction.  I even ended up in the same terminal as one of my classmates, though he was on a different flight.

The last thing that I ate in Japan was an onigiri with umeboshi filling.  I think it was an appropriate ending to my stay in Japan.  Red and white like the flag, it symbolized an end of a journey and an end of a way of life that I’d gotten used to and I’m going to miss.  But, that’s for my next post when I’ll give my final thoughts on my adventure in the land of the rising sun. 

Goodbye Japan.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Laundry/Packing Prequel

One thing I've had to get used to while living in Japan is a new system of laundry.  Yes, there is a washing machine, but there is no dryer so everything must be hung on the patio to dry.  It was a little annoying at first because that's more work for me to do in the laundry department.  It means I have to take each individual article of clothing out of the washing machine and either clip it up or put it on a hanger then take it to the patio to dry.  However, I've gotten used to it and it's sort of become a ritual.  In the morning before school, I can toss a load in the washing machine, wait for about an hour for the clothes to get washed, and then take them out to the patio.  Then, when I come back from class usually the clothes are dry and if not, then they are definitely dry by evening.  Heck, I don't even have to do laundry in the morning.  It's so hot at night that if I put laundry out at night it's dry by morning.

One of the downsides is that air drying clothes just isn't the same as machine drying.  Since the heat is unregulated it leaves my clothes not as soft as if they had gone through the dryer.  Though, I guess it doesn't really matter if it ends up dry in the end.  They are not uncomfortable or anything.  They just feel different.

I know this was kindda a short post, but it was something that came to mind while I was packing.  I really don't want to take my laundry detergent back with me so I am washing EVERYTHING just so I can get rid of it.  I don't need the extra stuff in my suitcases on the way back.  My carry on is already almost full of souvenirs.  The more I can fit in there, the less I have to put in my suitcases that might weight them down.  I'm really not trying to go over the weight limit because I bought too much stuff.  Although, I've honestly not bought too much because of this.  I've seen pictures of all the stuff my classmates bought and I know one of them said he might have to mail some back to America.

Anyways, yeah, I've started packing.  It's kindda sad.  But I've got exams and stuff.

I'm done typing now (in the land of the rising sun).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Yukata

Today I decided to venture to Seiyu and buy a yukata, a Japanese summer kimono.  I've been eyeing them as I go up and down the escalator shopping for other things, but I had never stopped on the women's clothing floor to take a proper look.  I always thought, "They can't possibly fit me" and went on my way.  I'm a good eight inches taller than the 5'2" average Japanese female according to official statistics by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (thank you Wikipedia).  Anything made and sold in Japan couldn't possibly fit someone my size and height.  So I usually passed by, gazing longingly as I made my way up to another floor.


But I really wanted a yukata.  We're going to a summer festival on Sunday and I wanted to be dressed appropriately and festively.  I can't go to a Japanese summer festival in Japan not dressed in a real Japanese yukata.  That would be blasphemy (or something along those lines), not to mention less fun and exciting.  So, before class started, I asked my female teacher, Moromizato-sensei, if it would be difficult for me to buy a yutaka, knowing that I'm much taller than the general population.  However, she told me that I wouldn't have to worry because yutakas are made really long to begin with.  The way they are worn requires you to pull it up and fold it at your waist and other such things in order to look right.  So, if I were to buy one it would already be long enough because they are made super long on purpose.  Of course, this made me really excited.  I could wear a yukata!


So, after all my classes were over, I dropped off my books at my apartment and headed to the store.  Up on the fourth floor I stepped off the escalator and headed onto the battlefield determined to come away with a right and proper yukata.  However, being the person I am, I was also scared.  How did I know which one to get?  There were different prices and different brands.  What if I bought one that was too short?  What if I bought a kids one?  So many worries!  Fortunately I was able to hunt down a nearby sales associate to ask for help in broken Japanese.  I let her know as best I could that I was looking for the longest one they had, and soon she was going around the aisle checking the tag for sizes.  Before long we discovered that the longest size they had was 165cm.  


I had no idea what that meant.  Would it be right for me?  She started saying something in Japanese about a little short, or ankles or something.  She motioned to one of the manikins wearing a yukata in the process as well and asked me if I was okay.  I tried asking her if it was okay if it was short but I don't think she understood my broken Japanese as much as I couldn't completely understand her perfect Japanese.  So, I told her everything was okay and thanked her.  Whether it was too short or not I would deal with it when I got home.  


Once the sales associate had gone back to her work I returned to browsing through the 165cm yukatas.  There were many pretty patterns to choose from, so finding a nice one wouldn't be a problem.  I just had to narrow down my search, which was a pretty easy thing to do in the end.


Did I want one that came with geta?  No.  I was already worried about whether it would be long enough and by looking at the shoes I could tell that they would be way to small.  


Search narrowed.


Did I want want with a pre-tied obi sash?  Yes.  I was already worried about whether it would be long enough.  I didn't want to struggle with tying a sash properly as well.


Search narrowed.


Did I want one for 9900円 or 4000円?  4000円.  I was already worried about whether it would be long enough.  I didn't want one that was too small and expensive.


Search narrowed.


Now, all I had to do was pick the right pattern.  There were many to choose from.  Pinks, purples, and blues.  All sorts of pretty flowery patterns with matching sashes and pre-tied bows all ready for me to pluck off the rack and take home with me.


Oh?  You want to know which one I chose?  Well, you'll just have to wait and see after the summer festival as I continue on my adventure in the land of the rising sun.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nerd-gasm

"You never know how much of a nerd you are until you engage in nerdy activities" is the lesson I have learned today.  Today, we went to the Studio Ghibli Museum and the life sized Gundam exhibition, and boy was I excited today.  All day I had a huge smile on my face as I was captivated by the magnificence of the architecture of Ghibli museum and the magic of Miyazaki's art and then  by the grandeur of the giant Gundam Mobile Suit and all the exhibition had to offer.  Literally, when I walked into the white, brightly lit room containing the copious amounts of Gundam figurines, I said, "Heavenly light, angel chorus!"  It was nerd paradise.  It's been many years since I last watched any of the Mobile Suit Gundam series and yet I was so enchanted by everything even though it was in Japanese.  The nerdy mind is a wonderful thing.

We started off going to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka and it was simply amazing.  The building was overgrown with ivy and there was not only greenery everywhere but also Miyazaki characters, most notably the giant robot soldier on the roof from Castle in the Sky.  Unfortunately, but understandably, there was no picture taking in the museum.  Oh how I wished I had been able to take pictures inside because the architecture inside was just as amazing as the outside.  There was a spiral staircase encased in a cage, a play room for kids with the cat bus from Totoro (which I wanted to play in but was for kids 12 and under), and even a room with a history on animation.  Along with taking a tour of the museum we also watched the short film that was showing today.  It was the story of a boy who sells his vegetables for a magical seed which when he plants it turns into a small planet with it's own orbit and eventually it's own atmosphere and such, like a mini earth.  It was pretty interesting to watch especially since there were no English subtitles.  Over all, I would definitely come back if I were able.  It was a pretty amazing museum full of magic and wonder.

After we were done at the Ghibli Museum, everyone split up and a few of us went do Odaiba to see the life sized Gundam.  It's so amazing and large, and the nerd inside of me died from a heart attack.  It's really cool because it lights up and stuff, which looks really cool in the dark.  Inside the shopping mall behind it on the top floor is a Gundam exhibition of sorts.  They show a short film where you get to watch a Mobile Suit space battle as if you were out in space with them.  Then they have an exhibit with another large replica of just the bust of a Gundam and a piece of a Moble Suit that looks like it's been damaged in battle.  Also, there's a place where you can get your picture taken to look like you're sitting in the cockpit, and another place where you can choose a character to take a picture with.  In the section where you can't take pictures, there's a timeline of the Mobile Suit Gundam universe that starts with the original series and leads up to the newest one.  There was also original art, a model of the life sized Gundam, and a touch screen with all the characters and information on them.  It was pretty cool and nerd-tastic.

All in all, this was one of the best field trips we've had thus far in my opinion, but that's probably because I really like anime.  No matter, it was all very interesting and fun and I can't wait to see what else Japan has to offer as I continue on my journey in the land of the rising sun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Flavor Flaaaaave!

One of the things I'm going to miss about Japan is all the interesting flavors you can find for snacks.  Green tea this, and red bean that, taro those and so forth and so on.  It's really amazing what you can find at a convenience store or at the friendly neighborhood Walmart owned Seiyu.  So, here is a few of the snacks that I've bought and liked while here in Japan.  It's not a very long list, but it's something.

1.) Morinaga brand Matcha クッキー from Seiyu
Sandwiched between two slightly sweet and crisp cookies is a matcha green tea cream.  It's not too sweet nor is it too bitter.  Just two or three of these cookies go perfectly with a cup of unsweetened green tea.  I'm sure they'd be even better if I had an actual cup of perfectly brewed matcha to go with them.  I like to call these my homework tea cookies because they seem just a bit more special than regular cookies.  I like them so much that I even restrict them to homework time, therefore if I want to eat these I must be doing homework with a cup of tea.  If I remember I might just bring a box of these back with me...

2.) つぶあんぱん from Tamaya
Inside what looks like a plain roll with black sesame seeds on top is hidden the tasty gem that is red bean paste, one of my favorite flavors of Japanese sweets.  Now, tsubuan pan isn't some specialty of Tamaya, the little bakery in my neighborhood, but I think that theirs is the best.  I've tried tsubuan pan from a bakery on the other side of the station, but it just wasn't the same.  It wasn't as good as Tamaya's which will always hold a place in my heart.  If I could transplant Tamaya near my university in America, I would.  Though, that would probably be a bad thing for my wallet.

3.) Conpeito from Nakamise Shopping Arcade at Kanmon Temple in Asakusa
Conpeito is a traditional Japanese candy that are like little explosions of sugar and color.  I don't know their exact history, but I once heard that they were introduced by Spanish missionaries or something.  I don't quite know how they came to be, but I like them.  Different colors are different flavors, so it's not like you're eating a mouth full of flavorless sugar crystals.  I'm sure there must be somewhere to buy them other than the temple, but I haven't looked.

4.) みたらし団子 from Seiyu
Mitarashi dango is a Japanese treat that, like mochi, is made from pounded sweet rice that is formed into balls.  However, instead of having a filling, mitarashi dango is stuck on a skewer and covered in a sweet and salty sauce usually made of sugar, soy sauce, and something else I think.  It's very chewy and quite satisfying as a snack.  Although you buy it at room temperature I prefer to refrigerate mine first so it can firm up a bit.  There are other types of dango with different toppings or with stuff mixed into the dango themselves, but I prefer the mitarashi dango.


Now, pardon me as I continue to snack on my adventure in the land of the rising sun.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Elementary School my dear Watson


On Thursday, July 5th, a group of us went to the Yokohama Adventist Elementary School to help with their English class.  Many of us expressed interest in teaching English in Japan on our applications for the ACA summer program, so sensei thought it would be a good idea if we could actually get a taste of the real thing.  So, we left the apartment around 6:40 in the morning for Ogikubo Station, the station closest to us, to start our journey.  Three trains, a van and a little over an hour later, we arrived at Yokohama San-iku Elementary School out in the boonies of Japan.  We were greeted by students who were also arriving at school at that time, some even coming up to a few of us with a handshake and a well enunciated "Nice to meet you!"  They seemed so excited to see us.  I knew it would be an interesting day even though I didn't know what we would be doing exactly.

Once in the school we were given a tour of the building.  It consists of two and a half floors.  I say half because the main entrance is between the upper and lower level but isn’t really an actual floor.  The lower level has classrooms for first, second, and third grade while the upper level has the administrative office and fourth, fifth, and sixth grades.  There are also rooms for Home Economics and Music, a gymnasium and a library.  Everything was so clean and organized and, yes, all the students wore a uniform.

Our job was not so much to teach the students as it was to aid in the teaching.  We weren’t set as teachers, in charge of a whole class of students.  Instead, we were guests in the English class for several grades.  About ten students would come into the English classroom at a time and would sit in a half-circle in front of the chalkboard where the five of us were standing.  The teacher announced why we were here, and then said a prayer in English, which the students would repeat line by line.  Afterwards, each of them introduced themselves in very simple but accurate English.  They told us their name and either their favorite color, snack, food or sport depending on the group.  Then, we introduced ourselves telling our names, where we were from, which school we went to, what we were studying, and our favorite color, snack, food or sport depending on the group.  After the introductions, we played a few rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors, each of us visiting students taking turn being the “king”.  Then we moved on to the more interesting part.

Before we came, the English teacher had surveyed the students and asked them what questions they would like to ask us.  The questions ranged from simple ones like “What kind of animals do they have in America?” and “What’s your favorite Bible verse?” to more complex questions like “How is America?” (a very loaded question indeed) and “How do you feel when you see a Japanese person?”  Fortunately, in our meeting before hand, she went over the questions the students had prepared for us so we would have time to think up answers and so we wouldn’t be surprised.  After each question the kids asked us, we got a chance to ask the kids questions.  We didn’t ask them anything too serious or difficult.  Mostly questions like, “What’s your favorite anime?” or “What’s your favorite subject in school?” or “Where’s a good place to visit around here?”

After we had gone through all the English classes for the morning, it was lunch time.  The school provided each of us a tasty looking bento and we each were sent off to eat lunch with a different grade.  I chose to eat with the first graders because after lunch was origami time for them.  When I got to the first grade class, they were in the middle of singing their lunch song.  All the tiny little desks were set up in a circle with one bigger desk empty for me.  I was like king of the first graders.  They even gave me a welcoming gift of a dried flower, laminated for posterity.

When both the song and prayer were done everyone opened up their bentos and started eating and having a funny little debate with one boy being the head of it all.  He would shout out things like, “Who likes korokke?!” or “Who likes so-and-so-san?!” (all in Japanese of course) and kids would enthusiastically raise their hands.  This went on for the entire lunch period with him asking if they liked different things, sometimes getting into arguments over who knows what.  It was so interesting to see that even though they were so young they already had personalities.  They were so lively and interesting to watch even though I didn’t say much.

The girl sitting next to me was especially expressive.  She would get into arguments with/threaten the question asking boy and would get up to walk around the room to talk to other kids.  I tried to speak with her a little but when she found out I couldn’t say or understand much in Japanese she took it upon herself to be my ambassador to the others.  Whenever one of the kids would come up to me and say something, she would promptly take them aside and explain to them in hushed tones that I didn’t understand Japanese.  That didn’t stop a boy from coming up to me and asking me what one plus one was (in Japanese) it took me a few seconds to realize what he was asking before I could answer him correctly.

When I was done eating, my little ambassador informed me that it was okay for me to get one of the books and some paper to make origami.  So, I grabbed some supplies and went back to my desk.  I wanted to make a crane, but I couldn’t remember how to and it wasn’t in the book I chose, so I made a frog instead.  A few of the kids crowded around my desk to watch for a little while before scurrying off back to their desks and chattering among themselves, sometimes looking back at me.  Before long, it was time for me to go, but not before they all rushed towards me with their own origami creations: a flower, a couple of origami hearts, a failed attempt at a heart that ended up being a wrinkly circle with a heart drawn on it, and a crown. 

They were all so cute, I wish I had made more of an attempt to speak to them in my broken and imperfect Japanese but I wasn’t confident enough in my language skills.  However, it is an experience and a memory that I wouldn’t go back and change.  Maybe one of these days I’ll be confident enough to hold a conversation with a first grader as I continue on my adventure in the land of the rising sun.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Japanese Garbage - Level: Hard Mode


Americans have it easy. All you have to do is toss all your trash, no matter what it is, into a large black bag and set it out on the curb or take it to the dumpster and let someone else take care of it. If it's too big to fit in the bag you still set it by the curb or the dumpster and forget about it. It only gets a little difficult if you decide to recycle. Not so in Japan.  The Japanese take their garbage disposal very seriously.  In fact, there are nine categories that you are required to sort your garbage into or else the garbage police will call you and tell you you did it wrong.

Okay, so there's no such thing as the garbage police, but it's the trash collection people who will call you.  Inou-san, the dean, emphasized this point because it would be a hassle if we did the trash wrong and then they called the hospital which would in turn call the school which would in turn get in contact with us at the apartment because we didn't sort the trash properly.  Trash is serious business.

The first group that garbage must be sorted into is "Recyclable Resources" which is split into five sub-groups which I will now quote verbatim:
Paper: Paper consists of newspapers, flyers, magazines, books, miscellaneous paper (paper boxes, wrapping paper, paper bags, memo sheets, notebooks, pamphlets, calendars, etc.), cardboard and milk cartons.
PET Bottles:  PET bottles, such as for beverages and soy sauce.
 Glass bottles:  Bottles for food and beverages.
Cans:  Aluminum and steel cans for food and beverages.
Plastic Containers/Wrapping:  Plastic bottles, such as for shampoo; plastic cartons, such as for eggs; plastic bags and wrapping for confections; plastic trays for meat and fish; Styrofoam, etc.

 Not only must you sort them into these five groups, you must also know how to dispose of them properly, which I will again quote verbatim from the packet we were given:
There are many things being thrown away that can still be reused.  Collection of recyclable resources is conducted so that such items will not be treated as garbage but handled by making the best use of them as recyclable resources.
(1) Paper (Newspapers, flyers, magazines, miscellaneous paper, books, cardboard and milk cartons) should be separated according to type and bundled with string.
(2) For PET bottles, remove the caps and labels, rinse the inside, crish them and place them in transparent bags that allow the contents to be seen, or in the specific net.  You can also dispose of these items at collection boxes in front of stores.
(3) For glass bottles, remove the caps, rinse the inside and place them in the yellow container.
(4) For cans, rinse the inside, crush them and place them in the blue container.
(5) For plastic containers/wrapping (Plastic containers/wrapping refers to plastic wrapping, containers and bags used to package foods and daily necessities, which are no longer needed after taking the product out of the packaging.  Look for this identifying mark (I've placed it to the right).), rinse lightly and place items in transparent bags that allow the contents to be seen.

Aside from these five, there are four more groups that you must sort your garbage into: combustible, noncombustible, oversized garbage, and items not collectible as oversized.  However, I don't want to make this post about garbage unbearably long because I think you get the idea.

So, you enjoy your easy American garbage while I continue to sort on my adventure in the land of the rising sun.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Japanese Apartments

Japanese Apartments
 Since there aren't any other girls here for ACA I get to have an apartment all to myself.  When I heard that we'd be living in a Japanese family style apartment I really had no idea what to expect.  I'd heard that their living spaces are small and there's not much room for anything and I'd seen that their tubs were so small that large Americans like myself couldn't fit in them properly.  However, living in a Japanese apartment really isn't so bad.



First off, it's got a (mostly) full kitchen.  I say mostly because the oven isn't much of an oven.  It's more like a toaster oven, so I'll probably only use it to make toast.  It's not like I need to bake a cake or anything anyways.  The apartment runs on gas, so that means both the stove and oven run on gas.  Not only that but you have to push a button to turn on the hot water before you can use it in the sink.


A Japanese bathroom is uniquely different from one I'm used to in the States.  Every component that you would find in an American bathroom is separate with the addition of a washing machine.  The toilet gets it's own room, the shower and tub have their own room, and the sink shares it's space with the washing machine.  This is done, I believe, for hygiene purposes.

What I find interesting about Japanese bathing is that they don't bathe in the tub.  You must first clean yourself either with the shower head or by using a bathing bucket and the spigot that comes out of the tub, as seen here, or the wall.  Then you soak in the small but really deep tub.  It's quite relaxing.  What else is interesting is that you can start filling up the tub by a push of a button.  You don't even need to be in the bathroom to fill the tub.  You can do it from the kitchen if you so desire!  This way you don't have to wait for the tub to fill up when you're done taking a shower and can just hop in.


The bedroom is pretty decently sized.  It fits four desks and two bunk beds, has a balcony and an A/C unit.  It does not, however, have a closet.  Fortunately, there are drawers under the beds where you can put your clothes and standing clothes racks (seen on the left of the second picture) to hang things.  And since I'm the only one living here I can use as much space as I want, not that I do mind you.

The interesting thing about the beds is that they each have two curtains on them, one along the long side and one along the side facing the desks, and there's an outlet on the wall for each of them.  The curtains are useful for if you want to sleep but your roommates want to stay up so you can just close them and shut out the world.  The outlet would be useful if I had brought my alarm clock or could use my phone, but for now I have no need for it.

The balcony isn't there for kicks and giggles.  It actually serves an important part to Japanese apartment life.  On the balcony is where you dry your laundry.  A long pole runs the length of the patio where you hang clothes either on hangers or using clips for them to air dry.  This means that you can't just wait to do all your laundry at one time or you won't have any dry clothes.  Just from walking around the neighborhood here you can see clothes hanging outside most of the time.

That's basically it for my Japanese apartment.  It's not very big, but it doesn't need to be.  It has everything I need and it's comfortable living for one person.  Now, if only the trash system wasn't so complicated.  But, I'll save that for my next post as I continue on my adventure in the land of the rising sun.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Frustrations and Realizations

Being in a country where you know very little of the language is quite frustrating.  Many of the signs I can't read because they're covered in kanji, and the ones I can read in hiragana and katakana I don't know what they mean.  Shopping is embarrassing because the most I can say to the cashier is hello but I can't understand anything they say to me that isn't the total of my purchase so I just nod and make affirmation noises like I know what they're talking about.  I attended a meeting at church where I could barely follow along based on the Engrish and a few Japanese words, and the one lady who could speak English would only give me the basic premise of the conversation every once in a while.  I got lost on my way to the store once but didn't want to ask for directions because I knew I wouldn't know what they were saying.

But although I am constantly frustrated I believe that the frustration will push me to learn more.  I want to be able to read basic street signs.  I want to understand the cashiers.  I want to understand what's going on in meetings.  I want to be able to take directions.  I want to know more Japanese, and since I am in Japan I cannot give up when it gets hard.  I can't throw in the towel and focus on something else because the reality is that no matter where I go there will be Japanese.  My sensei or the church translator can't follow me around to let me know what's happening.  If I really want to live and work in Japan one day I'm going to have to do it on my own.  It's a scary prospect but I must get over my fear of the unknown.

Japan is a whole new country full of different food and places worth exploring, and if I'm to have a proper adventure in the land of the rising sun I'm going to have to "buck up mister" and "put [this] big brain of [mine] to work."  I'm not going to learn Japanese by beating myself up over my current lack of knowledge. That's almost the stupidest thing I've ever heard.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Pilgrimage to Mecca


Thoughts in the Columbus Airport
Sleep?  Who needs sleep when you're about to take the trip you've only dreamed about for as long as you can remember.  Sure, travel sites suggest a good nights rest before a long haul flight, but that's what the flight is for, right?  So what did this traveler do before embarking on her hour journey?  I stayed up all night, still packing, still making sure everything was in order, still calming my nerves and not eating so that I wouldn't barf when the inevitable nausea would set in from the excitement of traveling to Japan.

We started out on the road to the airport around three to the sounds of Weird Al's album "Straight Outta Lynwood".  My mom said it would calm my nerves, and I sang along to all the songs I knew by heart to little effect.  I was still feeling anxious.  I knew that these feelings wouldn't go away so easily.  I am making the longest and farthest trip away from home (university excluded) in my 21 years of life.  It's one thing to travel to Grand Cayman where everyone speaks English, all the food is familiar, and I'm traveling with a large group of my friends.  It's another to travel half way around the world to another time zone, another country, and another culture.  Sure, it's the place I've been dreaming about visiting but it is still a massive change.



After the Journey
After many hours of sitting/napping in planes and wandering around airports, I finally made it to my mecca: Japan.  I stepped off the plane relieved that I had made it all in one piece, passed through immigration like a pro and headed down stairs to baggage claim to wait for my luggage. 

And wait. 

And wait. 

 And wait. 

My luggage never made its way down the black belt of shame and I just stood there dumbfounded like the others who were missing bags.  One of my fears had come true.  I was without bags all the way in Japan.  Fortunately I was smart enough to pack a change of clothes, my toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant in my carry on along with a small washcloth and a small bottle of body wash.  This way I can at least be clean tomorrow.  I can only hope that my bags get here by tomorrow or at least Friday.

Other than that setback, everything seems to be going well.  I've got an apartment to myself because there aren't any other girls this summer (I'll post about it later) and the guys seem nice, so it should be fun.  My adventures in the land of the rising sun have only just begun!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Yatta! and Feelings of Excitement and Nervousness

As of yesterday I have a ticket to Japan and all the money I need for tuition thanks to the gracious donations from my family.  I love them ever so much.  Now that everything is underway I keep thinking of things I'm going to need or things to look up.  For instance, I looked up the average temperature while I'll be in Japan (The high is 80), and I'm also thinking about getting a plug converter.

Other than things I'll need I also have feelings of excitement and nervousness.  I've never been so far out of the country before.  Sure, I've been to Grand Cayman where I had to go through customs/immigration, but that's not that far away.  Japan is half a world away with a 11/12 hour time difference.  Not only that but I'll have to ride on a huge international plane for nine hours.  I've never been in a plane, in a confined space that long before and it makes me a little nervous.

What also makes me nervous is the Narita Airport.  I'm afraid that when I get there I won't understand what people, specifically airport personnel, are saying to me.  What if I need to know something important but I don't understand.  What if I get lots in the airport trying to find my way out of the terminal.  What if I spend so much time in customs that I miss Mr. Mineyama, my program coordinator.  Maybe I worry too much and I'm fearful for no reason, but I can't help but worry.  This is going to be a long trip and I have a lot of things to think about and a lot of stuff to do to be physically and mentally prepared.  I've been waiting for this moment for as long as I can remember and it's going to be one heck of a ride.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Disappointment and Hope

"Dear Gilman Scholarship Applicant:

Thank you for your application to the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.  The screening process for the Summer 2012 scholarship cycle has now concluded.  During the Summer 2012 application cycle, the Gilman Scholarship Program reviewed more than 2,600 applications for over 500 awards.  This was a very competitive application cycle.

All applications have been reviewed.  Unfortunately, you were not selected to receive a Gilman Scholarship.  We applaud your decision to study abroad and wish you the best with your international experience.   For other possible study abroad scholarship opportunities..."

 Despite this setback, things are coming along okay.  I've still got one scholarship to hear back from, I'm slowly getting more money for tuition thanks to various family members and my grandpa is letting me use his frequent flyer miles.  Still, it was quite upsetting to read the rejection e-mail from the Gilman Scholarship people and it still  kindda is.  But, I'll get over it eventually, and if I can't make it to Japan this summer there's always next summer.  However, I must not think in the negative.  I have to believe that I can make it this summer.  It's the moment that I've been waiting for for as long as I can remember.  I will go to Japan.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Gilman Scholarship

So, I've officially applied for the Gilman Scholarship and I'm so nervous!  I totally dropped the ball and didn't put on my calendar when the due date for that application was.  So, when I went to check and saw it was three days away I freaked out.  It was the only thing I could think of for those three days up until the night it was due.  I was writing my essays like a mad woman and I payed extra to get my transcript the next day.  Then when I submitted it I was still nervous because I knew if I had payed closer attention I would have had more time and could have written better essays.  But, now it's all out of my hands.  I just have to wait until the end of April to see if I'm awarded the scholarship.  Until then, I'll be waiting for the Global Scholars application to open up.  I made sure to put that on my calendar.  I will be more prepared for this scholarship, that's for sure.  I don't like feeling stressed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Cost of Education - Part 2

Monday I finally went to the financial adviser for ACA to see if any of my financial aid would transfer over to the summer, and it turns out it will.  None of the government money will transfer since I use it all up during the regular school year.  However, the stipend I get from my father working for the South Central Conference will go towards my trip since I will be attending an Adventist university.  The adviser said it should cover 70% of something, but she's not sure since she doesn't have the chart on how all the pricing breaks down for this year.  So, I'm just setting my sights on it covering half.  That would be $2290 that I won't have to worry about paying.  The addition of the subsidy cuts down my overall costs to at least $4595 with my current estimation of airfare on the price thermometer to the right, and that's quite alright with me.

Also, Gilman finally posted their summer scholarship information at the beginning of February even though they said it would be posted in the beginning of January.  So, I've started work on that.  I just need to request my transcript and write a couple essays.  They shouldn't be too hard once I actually sit down and do them, but school work takes up so much time that I barely have time to think.  Fortunately I have great professors in the English department to look over my essays and help me submit the best that I can do.  Also I've a friend who received the Gilman scholarship last year, so she could help me too.

It's been quite a process, but fortunately it all seems to be coming together.  The next couple of months will be hectic.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Cost of Education

Education is so expensive.  Or rather, receiving an education through an academic institution is expensive.  There are plenty of things we can educate ourselves on that cost little to nothing.  Just having access to a library ups your educational ability.  However, obtaining an education overseas comes with a lot of expenses I've discovered.