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Welcome to the Japan Journal

Location: Home 9/7/2004 9:32:58 PM
Welcome to the Japan journal! Here I will be documenting my stay in Japan as best I can. This section will complement the Japan Photo Archive, where I will be posting photos as often as I can. If you would like to contribute your own thoughts to the Journal, simply create an account by clicking "Log in" and you will be able to communicate with me and others right here. Or, if you would rather just correspond through e-mail, you can click the e-mail link for "Gerf" and drop me a line.

For rules, guidelines, and other useful information about this page and the rest of, check out the help sections found on the right hand side of any page.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope to year from y'all soon.
Photos 1 reply

hi from Mom
Posted by: Mom 9/10/2004 10:02:58 PM
Your site looks good so far!
Of course I don't know what HTML tags are...hope I don't use them by mistake! (Hey----do not bother explaining them to me at this point, either! Maybe later!)
Enjoy! Love***Mom
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Made it to Japan!

Location: NWEC - Library 9/11/2004 10:55:08 PM
Believe it or not, I actually made it to Japan in one piece! Unfortunately, I can't use my laptop around here anywhere... but fortunately, there are some computers here in the library that I can use. I'm going to try and see if I can hook my camera up to one of them and upload some pictures to the Photos section later tonight; right now it's lunch time and there are several Japanese classes immediately afterward!

Lots of stuff has been happening here, and it's really nifty. As soon as I can get the data off my laptop, I will do just that.a

Oh, and FYI, the time stamp for these posts are for EST; here in Japan, you'll have to add 13 hours to that to get "my" time.
2 replies

hooray! your first posting!
Posted by: Mom 9/12/2004 10:04:51 PM
Great to hear from you! Glad things are going well!
QUestion: Do you sleep on mats? Also, what does NWEC in your location line in the posting mean?
Looking forward to pics, but I'll be patient!
1 reply

Posted by: Gerf 9/13/2004 3:59:39 AM
The NWEC is the National Women's Education Center, which is a very nice facility/campus. There are classrooms, recreational facilities, dorm rooms (I guess that's what you could call them), and so on. I'll have pictures at some point. ;)
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Finally, an update!

Location: NWEC - Library 9/13/2004 1:54:08 AM
Finally, I was able to get my journal up here! I'm going to just copy-paste this for now... I'm pressed for time and I haven't been able to "proofread" anything yet. *laughs*

--> 8:41 AM - Cleveland Hopkins Airport
Well, here I am at the airport! I had to get up at 5:15 (after having gone to bed about 1:15... so... not much sleep), and that was a good thing because in the end it turns out that I needed that extra time to get my things packed. There was some weight concern and some last minute luggage shuffling, but in the end everything worked out. I had to leave a few things hanging around home, though... not too many, but I'll get them shipped over as soon as I know where I'm going to be. Fortunately, even though packing was a mess this time (two large wheeled bags, a duffelbag and my laptop case, all packed to the max), coming home should be much easier because I'll be able to ship things home BEFORE I leave, as opposed to afterward. Yeah, it's going to cost some money, but that's what travel's all about. Sort of, anyway.

Driving to the airport was interesting... we took the Parkway over so we could avoid the rush hour traffic, but apparently there were quite a few people who had the same idea, so we ended up being backed up on the Parkway for a while. Of all places. *laughs* At least we made it there okay. Niche had seen the movie "Napoleon Dynamite" with his friends the night before, and he was telling me how absolutely random (but funny) that movie was. Scariness. o_O

When we got to the airport, there was another shuffle as I tried quickly to find out where I had put the extra yen and traveler's cheques I had packed. I thought it was in my travel luggage, which wasn't a good idea, so we looked in all the pockets to no avail. When I was putting some folders back into my laptop bag, however, I noticed that I HAD packed them in there after all... so that was nice. The guy getting my luggage through the x-ray machine had also taught himself a little Japanese, so that was nice too. *laughs*

It's interesting... saying goodbye to my family wasn't actually that difficult. Maybe I'm still in my super-mellow mood (and I probably need a lot more sleep), but... I don't know. I'm not going to be seeing them for a long time, but, really, it's not like I'm never coming back. We'll always be in contact, and the'll be there if I need them to send something over; nothing is going to be crazy-mad different. Well, yeah, I'm going to be on the other side of the world, but, you know, it's okay. My mind might start changing when I start getting homesick or something, but I think the world will be just fine.

Going through security, though, my laptop bag got stopped and a lady came over and said she had to inspect it. The guy at the X-ray machine said something about "a screwdriver and two pliers," and I suddenly remembered that I had packed my computer repair kit in that bag... screwdrivers and pliers and all. *laughs* Fortunately, my parents hadn't left yet, so the lady was kind enough to just give the offending tools to them. That's okay... they'll ship them over later. And actually, they may not really be needed anyway. But I'd still like to have them, since they're very very useful. I'm quite glad they caught that, actually; lets me know they're doing their job. Security is very important, and even though I had no intentions of doing anything malicious with those tools, it's better to be safe than sorry... especially when hundreds of lives and millions of dollars are at stake.

Unfortunately, I had to move my CAT-5 cable to another bag, so I wasn't able to use the Internet access point. I mean, I could have used the built-in keyboard for $.25 a minute, but even then I wouldn't really be able to do anything because all my e-mail and IM programs are on Apsu. I'm actually kind of surprised they don't have wireless Internet available... maybe they're concerned about hackers and stuff. So I sat down by a power outlet, plugged in Apsu, and started doing stuff. No wireless access points around here... darn. ;)

An Asian lady sitting to my left has a little daughter with a plush bear. The little girl was looking at me, so I smiled back, said hi, and reached into my bag and pulled out my plush lion that I brought. I'm not sure if it scared her or confused her, but I know the mom was quite amused. They spoke English, but not all too well; it's nice that plushies are universally recognized. *has to laugh*

Well, still got a while before my 10:10 plane to Chicago. I'm not sure if I'll have time to do any computing while at O'Hare, what with getting to my next plane and meeting the Japan Study students there and all, but... we'll see what happens.

Might need to get some food before I hit the plane. I'm supposed to get lunch on the 747 to Tokyo, but that's not going to be for a while. There's a Cinnabon right here... and a Max & Erma's, too. Maybe I'll look for some grub. Or, actually, maybe I should just wait until I get to Chicago, since I could always get food there if I needed to. Ah, I'll figure something out. *laughs*

09/10/04 (though it feels like the 9th still)
-> 10:19 at home, don't know what time it is here - Seat 49H on flight UAL881, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, near Gulf of Shelekhova, south of Siberia
As soon as I landed in Chicago after a pretty pleasant trip, I headed over to the C concourse where my flight to Tokyo was supposed to be. The walkway to the C concourse is insane... there are all these wavy neon lights on the ceiling that pulse on and off in very cool patterns. Kind of makes you want to look at them and not notice where the heck you're going... which is usually pretty straight. *laughs*

Fortunately, there were a bunch of Japan Study people waiting at the gate when I arrived, and a few more came shortly thereafter. I'm actually impressed that, even though I haven't talked to all of them at great length, I sort of know their names: Nathalie, Megan, Becca, Nick, Cally, Rob, Morgan, and Betsy are all the ones I can remember right now. But seeing as I normally forget names the moment they are announced, I'd say that's pretty good.

This was my first time on a 747, and my first impression was, "Holy cow... is it legal to transport this MANSION in the sky like this? It's absolutely huge. There are two decks and more seats than I imagined. Lavatories, televisions, and stewardesses abound... the seats even have personal radios built in. Man, this place is HUGE! I was only able to get one picture, unfortunately, because they keep it pretty dark and I don't want to set flashes off everywhere.

Which brings me to a very amsuing point: this is the longest day of my life. Literally. We crossed the International Date Line just a little while ago, and for the entire duration of the flight it has been light outside. It's like we've just been flying in place with mountains and oceans cruising along below us; it doesn't feel like I should be thinking about getting some sleep. I did sleep a few times already, but since it's still sunny outside, my body doesn't think it's anywhere close to real sleepy time. There is even a neat GPS-ish map on the television monitors that shows us exactly where we are, how fast we're going, how cold it is outside, and so on. It even shows us where on the globe it is daytime and where it is nighttime; we've been in the exact center of the daytime arc for the entire trip. So, yeah, take a guess how cold it is. Just guess. Right now as I look at the screen, they're saying it's around -40 Celcius... and that's WARM compared to what we've been through! At one point it was something like -65 Celcius, which is crazy cold. Holy cow.

I'm sitting here with Megan and Nathalie, and they are very easy to get along with. We all have our plush animal here for the trip, and we all have relatively the same interests. Good stuff. I mean, it'd be interesting to sit with Japanese people around me, but then at the same time it'd be kind of... well, probably quiet. But then, I'll have nihonjin all over the place pretty soon. Like, in another two hours or so.

The food service has actually been pretty good. They've gone around offering drinks several times, they offer water constantly, and the lunch was quite delicious. I got some chicken with rice, which also came with a roll, some fruit, a salad, and a brownie. About the only thing I didn't enjoy too much in that meal was the roll, of all things. For dinner we got a box with a turkey and ham sandwich on an egg bun with an apple and almond cookie. Oh, and they've got OJ. Of course. Mineminemine. ^____^

It's strange to think that when we land, it's only going to be around 3:00 and we'll still have the rest of the day to do things. Kind of makes planning "daily rituals" difficult... I mean, this has been one loooooong day, but elsewhere it's been two. o_O

As nice as the plane is and all, I'm looking forward to landing and getting my stuff put... somewhere. I'm not entirely looking forward to having to lug around all my bags, but I don't feel so bad knowing that I'm not the only one (by far) who thought they weren't bringing too much but ended up with all sorts of baggage. Things'll be okay, though.

I wonder how people back in the States are doing. Dad's probably asleep by now, Niche is probably playing ADOM, and Mom is probably... I don't know, doing something. Kristin's probably online, too... I definitely want to get in contact with her as soon as I can. Gosh-darn airplane not having wireless. *laughs* Well, at least there are electrical outlets in the bathrooms should I need an "emergency charge." Heh, actually, I don't think I'd do that. But still, that's pretty cool.

Well, I think I might read more... or study some Kanji. Or grammar. Or how about all of the above? Sounds like a plan. Back to work...

--> 7:14 - NWEC Room 586
Whew... I'm here! There was so much traveling last night that I was just WAY too drained to type anything up. So, let's back up a bit...

We got into the Narita airport at about... ah, I'd say a little after 15:00. As I stepped out of the plane, I noticed something very interesting: it was an airport, just like any other airport. It wasn't in any way super-alien or somehow beyond comprehension... it was an airport. And when we were flying over the mainland, Japan looked like, well, a place where people live. *laughs* It's not THAT different over here in terms of what people do to get around at high speeds. I did notice, however, that the airport was very quiet and very clean. So quiet in fact that it seemed like we were the only people there... and at times we were. No music, no announcements... everything was very quiet all the way through quarantine (which we just walked straight through), immigration (about a 15 minute wait, but painless; the immigration officer asked where I got my "Speak Nerdy To Me" shirt from *laughs*), and customs (no searching or anything). And get this: their baggage carts are FREE! And they totally rock. If I could use one of those to carry my stuff around all the time I'd do so in a heartbeat.

I stuck with the Waseda group for the most part and we made it to the meeting point, dropped our luggage, and went to make phone calls with our free international phone cards (score!). Calling home is a breeze; I'm going to have to keep my eye out for the IC phones so I can make calls home more often. *laughs* Not TOO often, but, hey, the technology is there... might as well use it!

After that, we walked around and explored a bit. This area of the airport was significantly more crowded and busy... not so much that we were packed shoulder-to-shoulder, though. In fact, it wasn't much busier than a mall, say. We walked around and checked out some stores and restaurants, and ate at そば楽 (soba raku), a place with, well, soba and udon and all that good stuff. So, my first real Japanese meal was a small bowl of ひじき (rice cooked with seaweed and topped with some greens) and... dun dun dun... a glass of OJ! And here's the funny thing: the ひじき was 420円, while the OJ was 450円. *laughs* That's some EXPENSIVE OJ there! But it was worth it. I guess I really didn't need that OJ then, because I had had a bunch on the plane and stuff, but I thought I'd get it anyway. As it turns out, OJ was one of the LESS expensive drinks there. The rumors are true. BLING BLING BLING. Nuff said.

I've got more to write, but it's breakfast time now.

--> 8:26 - NWEC Room 586
Just got back from breakfast. There's a cafeteria downstairs that served some really cool food; I think we'll probably be eating there for the 10 day's we'll be here. I had a salad, bowl of rice, and a plate of this stuff that looked like egg-and-seaweed omelettes almost and a piece of bacon (that wasn't cooked nearly as much as it is in the States). Oh yes, and OJ, of course. At least while I'm here, there will be no shortage of OJ. Yay! That makes me happy.

Though we won't have Internet access while we're at this place. And that makes me not as happy. But... we'll see what I can do.

Wow... the guy who brought his cello (Rob) is playing it now, and he's pretty dang good.

Now, where was I... oh yes, yesterday.

After we ate, we got on a bus to go to the NWEC. It was another 2+ hours, though, but at least I had more legroom. Very tiring trip... but by the time I got off, I was 10,000円 richer. *laughs* Money for food. Yay for food. When we got to the NWEC, we got our keys (which are on these huge red plastic rectangular rods) and got to hit the sack. My roommate, Aaron, was on the flight from California which was delayed so he didn't get in until about midnight. We were able to sleep, but after waking up at 5:30 and not being able to get back to sleep we just decided we'd unpack and get settled in.

I glazed over a lot of details, which I want to mention in these "random observations"...

- Everything here is so clean. The streets are clean, the rooms are clean, the public restrooms are clean. It's so clean! That is really awesome.

- In the public restroom at the airport, you had to press a button to open the bathroom door, which slid open automatically. Then when you were done, you'd hit another button inside to let yourself off. And here in the NWEC, we've got one of those toilets that sprays your butt when you're done. *laughs* It's... surprisingly accurate. o_O

- Highways in Japan are HIGH. For a while, I thought we were just on one large bridge... until I looked down and saw streets and houses and all sorts of civilization below us. It seemed that there were only a few kinds of vehicles on the road, too... though of course there were a bunch. And almost all of them had LCD displays by the dashboard, most likely GPS. Sweetness. And there are lots of toll stops. Lots. o_O

- Even though I can't understand all the Kanji, I can still operate. That's a good feeling. *laughs*

Well, orientation begins momentarily. Time to head off to that now.

--> 16:04 - Room 586
Just got back from some intense Japanese language and culture studies. Well, I guess intense is kind of an odd word for that: the material was stuff we learned back in Japanese 101 (at least for the expressions anyway), but it was all taught in pure Japanese by teachers who didn't know English that much. Therefore, it was tough. *laughs* Fun, though. We learned some expressions, how to take off our shoes when entering a house, how to take out, set up, fold up, and put away a futon, and also polite table manners when eating a traditional meal with chopsticks. It's funny how in the classroom you can know so much Japanese, but then when you're put in a REAL classroom you kind of... forget stuff. I guess it's just so overwhelming that you're kind of disoriented and you forget stuff.

So... 勉強しなくちゃいけないよ!たくさん読み物もある。忙しくなるなあ。

Earlier, we had orientation about the program in general, host families, classes, that sort of stuff. We take our classes at this really nice facility a hop skip and a jump away across this bridge that overlooks a beautiful river full of fish and ducks and stuff. Wow... that was one long sentence! I'll have to get some pictures of that.

Every now and then outside I hear this explosion sound... a gunshot? Somebody asked about that today, and apparently there are rice fields nearby that are getting ripe, and the noise scares away the crows that would otherwise eat everything. I guess it would be like having to hear a train roll by every few hours... just this is more like every few minutes. *laughs*

Room service came to our room today... and left everything EXACTLY the same, except they made Aaron's and my bed. Even though he had stuff on his bed and next to it, it was all put back the exact same way. I guess that's the way it should be anyway, but... it still made me smile.

Wow... I can't remember anything in order today. Because this was a nice highlight: I got to use the Internet to contact Kristin and home! Yay! There are three laptops in the library that have public Internet access (though normally you're not supposed to use them for things other than library research), so I couldn't do EVERYthing I wanted to, but I was able to e-mail Kristin and my family and check some e-mails and such. I didn't want to suck up ALL the time on the computer because there were other people waiting (or at least it felt like there were somehow).

Outside of our building there are racks upon racks of umbrellas, and several bicycles. Yes, for free use. That's so awesome. In America, they'd get stolen immediately. *sighs*

Ate lunch with some second-year Japanese students from Waseda who are helping with the program here, though on my way in I accidentally got one of them (Jinbei) to spill his food all over himself. D'oh! The girl there actually knew a little Spanish, and I had fun trying to explain how a few Spanish phrases go. Sort of like how "hasta" and "ashita" sound very similar but aren't... but they're both used in phrases that mean "see you tomorrow." *laughs*

Tired now... I think I'll use this free time for a quick nap.

-->22:03 - Room 586
Boy, they keep us busy here! Just got back from a dinner at a やきとり restaurant (it's like a chicken shishkabob), where the food just kept coming! *laughs* The entire group went there, which consisted of walking through the city and taking a train, but for some dumb reason I had decided not to take my camera. Too bad, because there were a lot of great pictures I could have taken there and of a Japanese city. The food was pretty good, but it just kept coming so by the time the みそ soup came I could hardly eat anything else. Salad (which had these small fish in it, whole), やきとり, a soup with huge radishes and some sort of meat (which I later learned was pork intestine), some red rice with beans on it, and みそ soup... plus orange juice (though it was more like Tang), tea, and Coke (though I didn't have the Coke, of course). So much food for so many people!

Walking through the Japanese city was very interesting. Random observations:

- The roads are VERY narrow. I don't know how you could possibly drive cars both ways at the same time on those things.

- Vending machines are literally everywhere, and they all pretty much look the same.

- At smaller intersections, instead of having flashing stoplights hanging over the road, there are small things in the road itself that flash the necessary colors. Now THOSE things are cool... especially at night when you can see 'em flashing and stuff.

I've got reading to do, but I'm way too tired and will be going to sleep instead. Classes aren't until 11:00 tomorrow, so I can read everything in the morning. おやすみなさい。

--> 20:55 - Room 586
Boy... if I don't keep up with journaling the minute things happen, too much will pile up and I won't be able to get it all down! *laughs* But, of course, I'll never be able to get everything down anyway, so it's okay. ^__^

So, let's see if I can run through the day:

Got up early to eat a small breakfast: yogurt, bread, tea, and OJ; wasn't hungry. Reviewed Japanese in the packet we got; basic stuff, yet when I went to class for it later it became oddly difficult. Class wasn't until 11:00, so that gave me plenty of time to do things like call Kristin (eee!) and buy a 67-minute phone card (3000). Communication WILL open up. *laughs* Went to the first FACT class... it was kind of difficult because we had to give explanations of grammar in Japanese, which was a pain sometimes. Before lunch I managed to get AIM to work on the computers in the library, which I'm sure will be handy. Like I said, communication WILL open up! Just bought a salad for lunch, but somebody had an entire plate of しば noodles she wasn't eating and she let me eat them instead. Very yummy. ACT 1.1 - 1.4 classes were pretty tough, yet oddly satisfying at the same time. I signed up for the highest level of classes, so I was expecting some challenges there. Wasn't disappointed, we'll say. I didn't do horribly, but not the best, either. After those, some students from Waseda came over and we talked with them and gave じこしょかい to each other... which reminds me, I have to get my people's names and other info on a piece of paper to turn in. Then I had my host family interview, but it was right when we were going out to eat with the Waseda students so I thought I'd miss it; however, they hadn't started eating by the time I finished so somebody went to meet me. Had a great meal at a table full of Japanese students, ate some strange new foods, and had lots of OJ. Went to a supermarket and bought Pocky, got back. Now that I remember what I did, let's check out some of the cool details.

First of all, talking to Kristin is wonderful. Now that I have a larger phone card, I should be able to call more often and/or talk a bit longer. I suppose I should also call my parents, too. *laughs* I bought the card at a Seven Eleven (yes, they have those here... セブンイレブン), which marked the first time I actually bought something on my own volition from a Japanese store. They even understood what I wanted. That's awesome.

The Japanese classes are good reminders that we're here to study. We do get academic credit for it, so we have to be sure to do our best. Got some homework due for it tomorrow, even. On a similar vein, I looked over the course listing and found that a lot of the courses I had gotten signatures for back home just aren't offered this semester. Somehow I'm going to have to figure out what classes I'm going to take.

News flash: I officially have no idea what day it is 90% of the time. o_O

Talking to the students was fun; some of them were pretty shy, but others enjoyed talking. Afterward, we went out to eat at a restaurant somewhere down (up?) the street that was really really neat. I'm still kicking myself for not bringing my camera; I was in a hurry because the interviews were 15 minutes backed up and I was the last one to go, but fortunately the lady interviewing me called Jinbei and had him have someone wait for me as I trekked there by myself. It was very interesting walking down/up the Japanese streets alone on a Sunday night. It's pretty quiet for the most part, except for the omnipresent crickets... and they're everywhere. Whee. One of the Waseda students was waiting outside for me, and showed me inside where I sat down (after taking off my shoes, of course) with some other students. I was the only American at the table. o_O It was one of those places where you cooked the food right in front of yourselves on the table; we made these omelette-like things that were very good. Sadly, I can't remember their ingredients. One of the "dishes" was pretty much spread across the griddle and eaten with small spatula things; apparently it's a Tokyo food. The students there kept telling me my Japanese was very good... made me feel good, even though I don't think I can communicate well sometimes. But then, of course, I am capable of saying a good deal... better than not saying anything at all, anyway.

Listen up, America. Orange Hi-C over here tastes very much like real OJ. The Hi-C label said "80%" on it, which I think meant it was 80% juice. It's good! You hear that?

Japanese supermarkets are... well, supermarkets, I guess. Not quite as strange as the drugstore we went into, in which EVERYTHING is super-bright. That was very unusual. Got some very yummy strawberry Pocky for 180円. Clerks here are so verbal... they always say the same things, and they even count out the coins for you in their hands and stuff. It's amazing. Hard to explain without a visual example, I guess.

I'm just so tired anymore. I've got work to do tonight still, but I'm just so tired! Bah! Classes start early tomorrow, too. Maybe I'll take a quick nap or something first (while the guy next door plays his cello no less) before I study. I'd just fall asleep otherwise.

Random thought: if OJ is comfort food, then I guess I'm very, very comfortable. I don't consider it comfort food, though; it's more abundant here than I initially thought, and that makes me happy.

If I can get some free time with the computer, I'll put up some pictures. Now I've got class. Later!
1 reply

So much text!
Posted by: UNFDAardvark 9/13/2004 5:13:14 PM
More than I say in a lifetime :)

They didn't let you take a screwdriver and pliers? That seems just a little...well, paranoid; now, maybe a CROWBAR might be a little worrisome, but pliers? ;) Guess that's SOP for airlines nowadays. Jamie flew to Chicago a week or so ago for a wedding, and at the airport they said his name came up on some kind of possible suspects list, so they had to keep him waiting for an extra half hour and "interrogate" him about his plans, etc. Yeah, Jamie's actually a never know, do you!?? :)

So, let's see how well this works (playing fast and loose with word interpretation):

0 replies

Another backlogged entry, plus pictures!

Location: NWEC - Library 9/15/2004 2:29:28 AM
I fixed the glitch in my website so now I have pictures! Follow the link at the bottom of this journal entry to go to the Japan pictures. Descriptions will come eventually... because many of them warrant description. *laughs*

--> 14:32 - NWEC Library
And the quote of the day is... "That requires some serious red-neckage." *falls over laughing*

They seriously have us overscheduled here. There's very little time to actually breathe... we either have to study for a language session or go somewhere, and when we DO get free time at night we're so tired that we go to sleep really early. I suppose it's not all that bad, but it would be nice to be able to explore for a few hours. Or sleep. Or... chat with friends online and such. But, so it is.

Had some fish and rice for breakfast and some beef and rice stuff for lunch; it's funny how I can order all this stuff and A) not always know how to say it and B) not always know what's in it. *laughs* But then, even with American food, I don't know what's in it all the time. Chances are over here I actually have a better idea what I'm eating, because Japanese food isn't as crazily modified as American food. Not usually, anyway. I don't think. o_O

We changed teachers for our language instruction class today, and our new teacher is very fun. She's much older, but she's got an amazing sense of humor and I feel much better about the class. I'm not able to do everything flawlessly, but then, nobody really can. Some people have a much firmer grasp of the language, and some don't as much... it's a very varied group of people. By the end, though, I'm sure we'll all be able to bust out the 日本語 like it's second nature. Well, maybe not really, but you know what I mean.

Called home again today, which was nice. I wish I could communicate more readily with people. I'm waiting for a computer to free up right now because I want to see if I can get some stuff uploaded to my website. I just really need to keep in touch with people.

We've got a class tonight at 7:00. Oi. o_O

--> 16:39 - NWEC Library
Rats... I was heading to a discussion session and forgot a book, so I had to run back to my room, grab it, then run to class. Fortunately, I wasn't late. However, it was just an informal informational discussion about learning styles and stuff, and I didn't even need the book anyway. Unfortunately, in the process one of the straps on my right sandal broke off again. I'm going to need to get some glue to stick it back in there or something. Ah well.

I just found out that I'm the only engineering student here. *has to laugh* Everyone else is from a liberal arts college, though one other person is pre-med. I don't know whether to feel isolated or unique... *laughs again* That would seem to explain my different learning preference, I suppose.

One of the things we discussed was how the language instruction here was different than at home. Many people complained that it was very hard to understand and learn when everything, even explanations of unknown grammar, was in Japanese, but at the same time they said they wouldn't want it any other way. Now, I don't want people to necessarily hold my hand all the time, but I do feel I learn much faster when I can understand what I'm supposed to be learning. That is to say, when I'm learning how to program C++, I find it much easier to learn when I can read how it works in English. That allows me to make the appropriate connections in my brain, and then I can start thinking in C++. Likewise with Japanese, I like to be able to learn things in English so that I get the fundamental structures down; from there, I can build and expand very rapidly. It's worked before and I know it can work again... but I guess this "engineering" kind of thinking isn't the same as others here. Not a bad thing, of course... just interesting.

--> 20:13 - NWEC Lobby
Just saw a commercial for Pocky. Amazing. *laughs* I'm sure you'd like that, Kristin. ;) It was a commercial during some Japanese magic show... wow, they've got all this dramatic music and stuff that makes card tricks almost scary. *laughs* Very interesting.

Earlier today at lunch, Nathalie bought some ice cream and in the process dropped a 1円 coin on the ground. Now, normally not only would a person not care if they dropped a penny (well, I would... but another person may not), but in America nobody would go out of his or her way to pick it up and give it back to you. One of the workers actually left his post, walked over to the coin, stooped down to pick it up, and gave it back to Nathalie. That is Japanese awesomeness for you. *laughs*

Despite my best efforts, I can't get into the wireless network here. I'd have to start hacking my way in from this point, and I don't want to do any of that. I'm not entirely sure if I'd know how, either. *laughs* Apsu isn't loaded up with hacking software, anyway. I really, really, really wish I could get some more Internet, though. It's hard to not have contact with friends, family, and especially Kristin for so long.

It seems like we'll actually get some free time tomorrow, and that makes me happy. Even though it's so early, however, I'm so gosh-dang tired and don't want to do anything but sleep. I really feel like I should do some other things, like practice Japanese or something, but... *sighs* Maybe I'll just watch this magic with the guys here and then go study some Kanji or something. Call me spoiled or something, but... I guess I'm just really, really used to being able to hop on either Tiamat or Apsu and contact my friends and work on my websites and... do what Gerf does. Perhaps I'm more "addicted to the Internet" than I really thought. But... it's not WHAT is there that I need so much... it's WHO is there (just like "it's not WHAT you know, it's WHO you know"). *sighs*

At least I'm enjoying myself otherwise. I'm very excited about learning Japanese and getting to stay with my host family and even taking classes (although I'm not as interested as much now that some of the classes have changed on me)... and the food is yummy and the OJ is actually abundant, believe it or not. ^__^

--> 7:34 - NWEC Room 586
So this is something interesting: when the dining hall is open and serving food, they play music throughout the building (or at least the living areas). *laughs* Now that's a very awesome way to know whether or not food is ready!

--> 17:58 - NWEC Room 586
Hoo boy... now THAT was tiring. Today instead of class (well, perhaps I should say "before our evening classes") we went on a hiking trip/picnic with Japanese students that went from 9:00 to 15:00 or so. Oi. We started out going to the kitchens to make おにぎり, or Japanese rice balls. That was very interesting. You take hot rice from a rice cooker in your hands (yes, it's hot), push something in the middle (we had salmon and pickled plums), and then roll it into a triangle-shaped ball. Yeah, that's right: a triangle ball. *laughs* Before you actually eat it, you wrap a sheet of seaweed around it. Very yummy. They also prepared a bunch of other things: little hot dogs (which I didn't eat), lettuce with mayo (which I also didn't eat), boiled brown eggs (which, again, I didn't eat either), tiny tomatoes (which were awesome), Japanese pears (which were DIVINE), and probably one or two other things I forgot. Those pears are absolutely amazing. They're sweeter than pears in America, and they're shaped more like apples or grapefruits or something. Apparently they're about 250円 apiece... and we had a LOT there. Worth it, though. ^__^ We got to goof around with some of the Japanese students after we finished preparing our picnic food; I showed them that magic trick with the rubber band that jumps between fingers, and they showed me some amusing finger tricks and stuff. Hard to describe, I guess.

Oh, yes... and before we went to the kitchens, we stopped at Seven Eleven for some drinks. They have a large bottle of OJ there that is at least three times larger than the OJ I can get at the cafeteria for just a few more yen. Good deal!

Anyway, after that we packed everything up and set out on a hike. We walked for quite some time; I don't know exactly where we went, but it was through the city and then into a forest. I got to talk with a lot of Japanese students on the way, including one Japanese woman who had her own homemade medicine for bug bites (which later she kept putting on people left and right... it was pretty funny). Two other students and I actually kind of hung behind the whole group while we were hiking so we could take pictures and so she could describe things to us, and we actually completely lost sight of them. We tried crossing a bridge to find them, but it turns out they didn't go that way. Actually, the group was very close; we just didn't know on which of the many paths they had gone. We found them at the picnic area eventually, fortunately, and weren't too late for food. Yum. ^__^ The pictures of this event probably could describe it better than words could.

After lunch some of us climbed the nearby mountain. It took about 15 minutes to get to the peak, but when we got up there we could see an amazing view of Tokyo and the surrounding areas. There were a lot of trees in the way so we couldn't see EVERYthing... but it was still very neat. There was a Shinto shrine there, and our guide explained the story behind it and stuff. On the way up/down, we found a gazebo that was made out of wood. But, no... it was actually cement. Wouldn't have ever known had Tom, a program coordinator, not said anything.

The water fountain at the picnic area was amazingly humorous. It shot water straight up and the pressure would change sporadically, so people who got drinks there would randomly get their faces soaked at the same time.

And boy... those pears were GOOD. It's so nice to be able to eat fruit again. Well, at least for a moment.

Lots of people got bug bites, but that Japanese lady had some homemade medicine that she spread on people left and right. I guess it worked; I never really noticed the bites in the first place, but at least the stuff smelled good. One of the students also said I looked a lot like Clark Kent. *laughs* Up up and away, eh?

On our way back, we walked over to the bridge we had crossed before. A bunch of people who didn't climb the mountain were there, some with their feet in the water. Out of nowhere, two Japanese students picked up one of our resident assistants and tossed him into the water. It was great... unfortunately, I didn't get it on film. I was literally one second too slow. *laughs* Around the same time, that Japanese lady was talking to another JYA student with us, and she was laughing hysterically because he couldn't swim. She was like, "You no man," and he said, "Boy, I just got totally burned by an old Japanese lady." It was quite funny.

Walking back was rather... eh, uncomfortable. It was really hot, the sun was really direct (I probably got lots of sunburn), and we had a LONG way to walk. I did get to see rice fields for the first time... and scarecrows. Good stuff. We stopped at a little pavillion on the way and Tom said our culcure class for the day was cancelled, since we had done enough culture there in the park. *laughs* When we finally got back, many showers and naps ensued.

Class was actually good today. The teacher isn't my favorite of the four, but I actually got the first strike on several of the questions and did rather well, I think. Made me feel better. Tomorrow's going to be a lot of work, though... so many classes. Wah. I'll have to do lots of review after breakfast.

The guys next door came over for a while and we all listened to music and stuff while I rearranged my stuff (to make it look nicer) and worked on Apsu. Rob and Aaron played guitar for a while; now Rob's in his room playing his cello. I didn't necessarily know of all the bands and artists they were talking about, but at least I enjoyed the music. Not my favorite, but it's not like I despise it, either. I'm flexible.

Except with Internet access. Not having Internet access = だめ! Yeah, I probably wouldn't be able to do as much "cultural immersion" or something... but it's very important to me that I be able to stay in contact with the people I care about, and I'm willing to sacrifice some of my experience here for that.

--> 8:28 - NWEC Room 586
Woke up early today so I could call Kristin with my phone card (which actually had 90 minutes on it!). Eeee! That was so very nice. I feel a lot better after being able to talk to her. ^__^ Next up: parents. Gotta call them, too. *laughs*

Last night was amazingly restful. I don't know if it's this buckwheat pillow or if it was because I was showered or because I was wearing new pajamas or something, but I slept very well, woke up at 6:00 very, very rested, and in the meantime dreamt a LOT (though I can't remember anything, of course). I'd have this crazily long dream segment then wake up and realize that only an hour or so had passed. I hope that's not the last time I can sleep that well!

No OJ at breakfast today. I'll have to pick some up at the Seven Eleven. And, actually, perhaps I'll drink it on the way to the shopping centers up the street. I want to take a look around, partially to see if they have a place that sells Brastel phone cards and partially because I'm curious.

Something interesting I didn't mention yesterday: as we were climbing the mountain, we found these spikey ball things on the ground that looked a lot like buckeyes. They were actually chestnuts, and we could eat them if we wanted. Mine was... well, rather bitter and raw, but it was okay. Maybe it would taste better if I roasted it or something.


--> 12:32 - NWEC Library
Death is so imminent. We've been split into groups for our Field Exercise tomorrow, and we've got to navigate the Tokyo train/subway system to get to a destination and then come back. Along the way we have to interview people, ask for directions, all that kind of stuff. I guess after thinking about it for more than a few seconds it's really not all that bad, because I'll probably have to do it in the near future anyway, but... *laughs* It's still going to be quite interesting.

Ate a Chinese lunch and then went to the Seven Eleven again for some OJ. Gotta have my OJ! They've got this stuff called Toppo there... it's like inverse Pocky, with the chocolate on the INSIDE of a biscuit shell. I wonder if Kristin would like to try that stuff, too...

--> 15:23 - NWEC Library
Aha! Finally, I got the glitch in my website fixed and now I have managed to get all my photos online. It's going to be a while before I can get descriptions for all of them (there are a lot and several require some description for sure), but I assure you they'll come eventually. Awesomeness! I'm very glad I took the extra time to program the photo album with the capability of updating from anywhere in the world and not just my computer... otherwise, pictures would be tough to come by right about now. o_O;;
Photos 0 replies

More stuff from the Land of the Rising Sun

Location: NWEC - Library 9/16/2004 8:15:03 PM
And here's some more backlogged entries for your reading pleasure. I promise that soon these entries won't be QUITE as long... *laughs*

--> 23:08 - Room 586
Birthday party today... got some pictures, talked to Asuka-san about pictures from back home and such. Tomorrow we get to ride the Tokyo rail/subway system for a field report. Ate WAY too much today. Gotta pack because we're shipping our bags out tomorrow to our host families. Too tired to type anything comprehensible right now. *sighs*

--> 17:16 - Room 586
Sorry about not really explaining yesterday at all; I was so tired. I'm not feeling so hot right now, either, but I'll see what I can do.

Yesterday we had a birthday party for four people, complete with a cake, free ice cream for everyone, and presents. It was pretty fun; the pictures pretty much speak for themselves. I talked with Asuka-san quite a bit and showed her pictures of my hometown, Kristin, family, and so on. She seemed to like them quite a bit! I also showed people random videos from home, like me playing DDR and that Japanese Matrix video my friends and I were making. One of the guys here had bought this awesome Donkey Kong sticker collection from the local supermarket, which was so awesome. Yes, Donkey Kong stickers. Amazing. I might be going out with him and some other folks tonight to grab some stuff at the store... we'll have to see how that goes.

Today we had the "Field Exercise" where we got to go out and use the rail system to get to a destination and collect information. We really got to use our Japanese skills as we asked for directions, bought stuff, and asked people what everything there was about. Once again, the pictures really speak for themselves... at least in terms of how awesome the Sensouji Temple in Asakusa was. There were lots of people browsing through the endless shops and stands set up around the temple, and just as many in the temple area praying, throwing money into dontation things (I don't know what their names are or how to really describe them), and... well, doing what Japanese do at temples. It was really nice; definitely glad I was able to go there.

The Japanese rail system is something to behold. The trip to Asakusa was about two hours each way, during which time we had to switch rails three times or so. Maybe we were just lucky, but we never had to wait for a train when we got to the station: it was right there waiting for us when we arrived. Everything was amazingly prompt, fluid, and... well, flawless. The most well-oiled machine you could imagine. Well, you know what I mean. We saw all sorts of very interesting advertisements on the train, and I managed to get pictures of a few of them (partially because we needed to for our oral report afterwards, and partially because they were cool). I found one for the Lion King stage play, and another two for Final Fantasy VII: Before Crisis. Awesome stuff.

We ate lunch at a little noodle shop on the corner of a big group of buidings somewhere in Asakusa near the train station. The food was really cheap (compared to other places, anyway) and very delicious. I got a tempura soba bowl; I couldn't really taste the tempura too much because everything was so hot and it kind of fell apart in the liquid, but it was still delicious. Now, when I say "little," I really mean little. There was hardly room to move around in there, and instead of sitting down you had to stand and eat. I mean, it was LITTLE. *laughs* Shops like that would never do well in America... but here in Japan, they're all over the place.

Once again, look at the pictures, because they really are worth a thousand words. I could sit here and type for an hour and still not really describe things that well.

Maybe it's because I'm hungry or because I accidentally drank some fizzy drinks on my way back home (now I know Fanta is fizzy), but right now I'm just out of it. I think my body is starting to say, "Okay, it's been a week... time for this vacation to be over." But, no, this isn't a vacation. I'm gonna be here for quite a while, and there's really not a whole lot I could do about it if I wanted to. Well, I guess there is, but, you know what I mean. I think I'm just hungry. And I want to play video games. *laughs*

--> 21:38 - Room 586
Boy... talk about speaking styles. Things to keep in mind when talking in Japanese: a LOT. *laughs*

And now the moment we've all been waiting for: HOST FAMILY ASSIGNMENTS! *crowd cheers... kinda* Sounds like this is going to be one interesting year.

Family name: 吉高 (Yoshitaka)
Father: 太郎 (Tarou) - 48 years old, businessman
Mother: 英子 (Eiko) - 44 years old, housewife
Brother: 総一郎 (Souichirou) - 12 years old, junior high school student
Sister: 奈津子 (Natsuko) - 16 years old, high school student
Sister: Sakiko - 2 years old
Pets: Dogs outside
Commute time: ~60 minutes
Breakfast: 8:00
Dinner: 19:30
Alcohol: The parents drink; I have the option if I want to
Smoking: No
Cleaning: I clean my own room
Laundry: Family does it for me
Bath/shower: Anytime
Curfew: Midnight
Students hosted in the past: 2
Why they want to host an American student: They would like to learn about different cultures.

Sounds like an excellent family. Large, but I think I'll manage. Let's really, really hope they have Internet access. o_O;;

The hour commute to campus should be okay... it'll take around two hours out of my day, but I'll learn to deal with it. I rode the trains today and feel much more confident about them now, so that makes me happy. I think things will do just fine.

At least, they'd better... since my stuff is all shipped off to them. *laughs* I hope everything makes it there in one piece...

Oh yes, and カツどん is awesome. Yumyumyum.
Photos: The great field exercise 0 replies

I'm home!

Location: Yoshitaka residence - Kitchen 9/19/2004 7:56:38 PM
I'm home! Well, sort of, anyway. *laughs* I'm with my new host family now, the Yoshitakas. They seem to be really nice people. The father is very friendly and speaks some English, and even whipped up a delicious meal last night for dinner. Awesome! The mother is apparently a piano teacher and has two pianos downstairs. She's really good at playing! I don't know much about the kids yet, mostly because I can't understand the soon-to-be four-year-old very well, and the others didn't come back home until late last night, around when I went to take a bath and go to sleep. I'm sure we'll all get to know each other very soon, though. ^_^

Just got done eating some toast with cheese, bacon, and ketchup on it. Very interesting combination of foods... and very tasty. I woudln't mind having it a few more times! I guess I probably won't be having much cereal over here, so that'll have to be a sufficient replacement. I think it will be. ;)

Today's a national holiday, so everyone's taking it easy. I don't want to spend the WHOLE day online, so I'll call it quits for now. Maybe tonight I'll type up a bit more about how yesterday (and today) went.
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The return of the backlogged entries

Location: Yoshitaka residence - kitchen 9/21/2004 6:01:41 PM
Sorry about these backlogged entries. At some point, I should be able to get them up in a more rapid-fire manner. I hope. o_O;;

--> 17:45 - Yoshitaka residence: my room
I just got back from a rather long, walking-intensive trip to the Waseda campus. I rode the trains all by myself (though Papa helped me get there the first time) and met everyone at the Big Box. From there, we walked all the way to the place where most of our classes will be held, and then went around campus a bit. I found that I REALLY needed some sugar, so I got a can of pineapple/orange juice and then later a ガリガリ bar (think an awesome popsicle that was white grape flavored) and a big bottle of OJ. On the way back, Matt and I went around and checked out some of the stores and shops that we're going to be running into every day up there. I know I hardly ever spend money, but I think I'm going to start doing so a bit more... for food, if anything.

Earlier today, after I got done using the Internet and talking with Kristin (yay!), I went with Papa to a local fish market and then convenience store. Lots of fish and lots of... well, convenient stuffs. *laughs* Sadly, it's a good walk away, so I doubt I'll be able to go there often without driving the car, which I can't do. But that's okay... I'll be fine. ^__^

So, yeah... yesterday.

Yesterday I got up extra-early so I could spend some time talking to my family and Kristin on the phone one last time before I moved out of the NWEC. Looking back, the NWEC was a great place. I'm surely going to miss it. But, anyway, from there we all lugged our bags to the Musashi-ranzan station and hopped on the train that took us to Takadanobaba (did I spell that right?). From there we took a bus that dropped us off near the Waseda building we had our orientation in; that was another wonderful hike with all our suitcases. But finally we made it there, put our stuff down, and ate some pizza, ate apples, and drank OJ. Well, that's what I did, anyway. *laughs* We got a lot of useful information handed to us, including our Waseda Student IDs which are needed for just about everything it seems... kind of. Around 13:30 the host families started rolling in. They'd enter the big room we were in, and one of the student helpers would point them in the direction of their new host students. Mr. Yoshitaka met me there, and we sat down and talked about various academic and non-academic things. I'm glad I can communicate with him fairly well.

After we had a while to talk with our new host families, Michiyo-san gave the families the Japanese version of the orientation using fast-paced, hardcore Japanese. *laughs* I was able to make out more than I thought I'd be able to, actually, but it was still a bit too much for me. o_O

From there, Papa (he insisted that I call him Papa) walked me through the streets back to the station where I bought my teki (train pass), down the rails, and then down the (very narrow) streets of Higashimurayama to his house, which is a rather Western-style home with two stories. The family has two pianos downstairs (the mother is a piano teacher), broadband Internet access (yay!), a TV, washer, full kitchen; they're pretty well-to-do. I'm glad to be with them, too. ^__^ My personal room apparently used to be Natsuko's room; it's full of flowers and Snoopy stuff. I think it's a safe bet to say she likes Snoopy. *laughs* Not that I mind, though... I love Snoopy, too. Anyone who doesn't like Snoopy needs to be checked up on. *laughs again*

My first dinner was a mix of all sorts of cooking styles: American, Chinese, Italian, and, of course, Japanese. The food is great; the Yoshitakas are great cooks. Tonight we're going to have a party with the extended family, since it's Respect for the Elders Day, complete with that fish we bought at the market and cake. Yumyumyum.

Now, however, I'm tired and really should study some Japanese for my placement exam tomorrow morning. That and dinner is going to be pretty soon. Still busy over here!

And HOT. o_O;;;

--> 18:07 - Yoshitaka residence: my room
Saki-chan just came in with her "laptop" and is using it while I use Apsu. *laughs* She's hard to understand sometimes, but she's cute. ;)

--> 21:35 - Yoshitaka residence: my room
It seems I eat something new at every meal... or at least something that I haven't had in a very long time. Tonight for dinner we had Mama's grandparents over (since they live right next door), which was very nice. We ate all sorts of things, some of which I'll probably forget. But I do know we had some Chinese-style egg rolls, sashimi (raw fish), vegetables including lotus stems and amazing tofu (it beats the pants off American tofu), whole tempura-fried fish (scales, bones, fins, and everything... everything but the head, anyway), and some sweet bean/rice paste deserts. I had some of the OJ I had bought from the store earlier today, plus some milk. I find that I'm drinking a lot, and that I have no problems with buying drinks from vending machines when I'm thirsty. I don't know why... I'm just really thirsty. Plain water doesn't do the trick, either, unless it's from a fountain, of which there don't seem to be too many of. I can buy big things of bottled water from vending machines, but... I have no desire for it. Maybe I'll see if any of the Gatorade-like drinks are any good.

Japanese test tomorrow. I'd better study it up, yo. o_O;;

--> 9:01 - Waseda building #15, room 101
I'm sitting here about to take the Japanese placement exam. But room, lots of people. Not nervous one bit, really. I did some studying last night, but, you know, it's a placement exam, and as such there's really not too much I can study for.

I'm getting to know the walk here a bit better. I bought a bottle of OJ on the way, and I think I'll use that bottle in the future by refilling it with cheaper cartons of OJ when I walk by in the morning. I love my OJ!

I've also been fiddling with this wireless connection here. The connection is pretty weak in this building (or at least where I'm sitting, anyway), but it appears that Waseda does have some sort of wireless Internet. That makes me happy. ^__^ I'll see what I can do about getting on this network during the school day... that would be very, very convenient.

--> 20:37 - Yoshitaka residence: my room
So, as I type this, Saki-chan is wrapping my left foot in the curtain. *laughs* She just got done singing the ABC song, and is currently drawing stuff on my desk. She's so cute. She barges into my room without knocking or anything, but, you know, this is a good lesson of things to come in the future. ;)

And now she gave me a picture of a fish she drew. Wow. *laughs* When I have kids, I'm SO videotaping things whenever I can. ^__^ A little while ago we were talking about heaven and how many times we wanted to go there. It's hard to understand her sometimes, but I'm getting better. I think I'm getting better and better with everything.

Today was a very busy day. That placement exam was crazy-weird. Like... "Finish this sentence: The trip ___ good." What the muggle. I feel so dumb after taking that test... like I didn't know a thing about Japanese or anything. That and we had to write a 400-character essay about tobacco. I really hope I get put in a level high enough so I can get some credit at school... o_O

Anyway, after the exam all the Japan Study students went up to a lounge for lunch. We all talked about our first few days with our new host parents; some people had good stories, some had no-so-good. Compared to the rest, I think my situation turned out quite good. I'm quite happy with it. ^__^

On the way to the test, I had some extra time so I went and browsed through all (well, at least some of) the convenience stores on the way to see who had the cheapest OJ. *laughs* I swear, maybe it's because there are so many vending machines here or something, but I'm ALWAYS so thirsty, and straight water just doesn't cut it. I know my parents will read this and say, "Gerf, you need to drink more water!" or in Japanese, "ガーフ、もっとお水を飲んだらどう。" Well, sorry folks, but it's gotta have some flavor to it. It just doesn't work otherwise. *laughs*

Saki-chan is drawing a picture of my face now. *laughs* Gosh, she's so cute. Sorry this is so disjointed and random here... it's hard to type up a coherent entry with a 4-year old Japanese girl babbling in your ears. ^__^

Anyway, after lunch and stuff, we got reimbursed for our teki. Whoo, I just got another 100-some bucks back in my pocket. Score! The opening ceremony was at 3:00 until about 4:00; it was okay. Big important people talked, as did Tom. The Glee Club (men's choir) came and entertained us afterward, as did the school's symphonic orchestra. An hour later we had a reception that had sandwiches, pizza, drinks, cakes, and big plates of fruit. I didn't go for much but the fruit there... more specifically the pineapple. I ate a LOT of pineapple. So much that my tongue was kind of numb afterward. Weirdness. Went home but sort of got lost... fortunately, I ran into Tom and he showed me the right way again. That was pretty amusing. We had parted ways before, but I took a wrong turn and ended up running right back into him again. Very funny.

Dinner was kind of on my own today with Soichiro. We watched baseball and high school boys swimming and talked for a little while. Apparently Papa works until 9:00 or 10:00 on weekdays... whew. o_O

Which reminds me... I finally experienced a completely PACKED Japanese train today... and I was in the middle of it. Very strange experience, though I'm sure I'll get very used to it rather soon.

So many disjointed thoughts in my head right now. I'll have to go to sleep and get them straightened out.

I've got some new pictures up, too. Quite a few, actually. I'm going to start going through and adding descriptions to them, too, because many of them need descriptions. This will have to be an ongoing process, but I've gotta do it soon anyway, so no time like the present. ^__^
Photos: Nihongo de game! 0 replies

Today's shenanigans

Location: Yoshitaka residence - kitchen 9/22/2004 8:24:45 AM
--> 12:52 - Yoshitaka residence: my room
Today I woke up at 6:00 so I could chat with my favorite Kristin online. Yay! Got to talk to some other friends, too. I think going to bed early and waking up early is more my cup of tea, at least in Japan. Maybe it's because the sun sets so early and rises so early. In any case, that's the perfect time for me to hop online (especially because everyone but Papa is usually asleep), talk to people, and, when I get a cell phone, call overseas. At the meetings yesterday, Sarah said she often makes international calls on her cell phone because, while it's quite a bit more expensive than using a land line, it's so dang convenient. I may see if I can use my family's phone sometimes, though, because the toll is MUCH less, and all the charges can go on my card so the only thing I'm doing really is tying up their phone line. Either that, or I could get more people on Skype so I could talk to them that way. (You reading this, Kristin? ^__^ )

At 8:30, Papa and I went out to get me registered as an Alien. Before we left, I suddenly realized I couldn't find my passport photos, which made me very worried. We could get them taken anywhere at any time, really (they have passport photo booths all over the place), but I really didn't want to if I could help it, especially because I packed them SPECIFICALLY for this purpose. Fortunately, I found them and we set off.

I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but if so I'll mention it again. Japanese roadways are insane. I mean, absolutely, totally nuts. They're really skinny, they spider out every which way very often, and they are hardly named. Think of the intricate but random pattern that forms when you smash a baseball into a window: you get all sorts of straight lines that intersect all over the place. That's what the roadways are like. And not only that, but they are often dotted with people walking or on bikes, and sometimes people just park wherever and you have to go around them. I have a newfound respect for Japanese drivers. Dang.

Anyway, we got to the city office and filled out all the forms I needed. The representative there was nice and asked if he should use English or Japanese, so I said Japanese and actually understood just about everything he said. I got a packet of books and papers that I should probably read pretty soon (like, when I finish with this entry). Lotsa stuff. Probably not necessary to read, but I will anyway because I'm like that.

Afterwards, Papa and I went to the bank to open an account. I had a little trouble filling out the form there because it wasn't really made for American folks like me, but eventually I got it all filled out. My balance right now is 36円. *laughs* You wouldn't be able to do something like that in America... but in Japan, you can make an account with as little as one yen, so that's pretty cool. Now I can go deposit those cheques if I want. I'll also be getting a bank card in the mail soon so I can use the ATMs, or CDs as they call them here: Cash Dispensers. ^__^

Papa also showed me where the supermarket and post office were, which is good to know. After returning home I cleaned my room (on my own volition, too; bare wood floors get really dirty really quickly, even if you're not doing anything!), Mama and I went to said supermarket to get some food for lunch and for Saki-chan's party tonight. Things are expensive there... for a little bunch of green grapes, you almost had to pay the equivalent of ten bucks. Dang. Ah well, it's Japan, and food is a bit... different here. The supermarket is really cool: it's five stories tall, one of which is underground, and it even has a built-in parking garage. It's more like a department store, really... but here, it's just a supermarket. *laughs* Mama bought two cartons of OJ for me, which was awesome. I'm not going to ever run out of OJ here!

One of the neighbors is over now playing the piano and practicing her opera voice. I swear, if I wouldn't have known she was the only one there, I would have thought there were two people singing in the piano room at one point. It was almost creepy how polyphonic her voice sounded.

Anyway, reading reading reading. Though I'll probably fall into a digestive stupor immediately after starting, because I just finished lunch.

If anyone has any specific questions about what things are like in Japan, feel free to comment and ask. I know I'm just talking about what I'm doing and not really how things are different... it's hard to do that, though, because they're just so normal to me now. So, fire away! ^__^

--> 15:29 - Yoshitaka residence: my room
Saki-chan's birthday party is starting, more or less. There are several little kids running around now, one of which found great fun in climbing all over me. I've probably got footprints all over my back and head. *laughs* It's fun, though.

I finally saw it rain, too. A big storm just swept by overhead and dumped a good deal of rain as it went. I was tied up with the kids downstairs and wasn't able to close my windows in time, all of which were open. I ran up to my room and saw rain had gotten on the windowsill (and was still coming in), and that I had left Apsu and a few other things up there. Meep! I dried everything off and let Apsu air dry for a while before turning him on; he seems to be okay. Fortunately his screen was closed so no rain really got inside, just on the outer cover. That could have been disasterous. o_O;

Anyway, I think I'm going to play it safe and go back down in a little while when more adults are here and there is more order. Otherwise I'm going to get killed. *laughs*

--> 21:15 - Yoshitaka residence: kitchen
Saki-chan's birthday party was today. So many little Japanese kids. So cute. ^__^

Mama had some students over playing piano. Makes me want to play piano again. Maybe I shall.

My family really likes to challenge me with food. *laughs* Tonight for dinner I had a very, very "challenging" meal of all sorts of different kinds of sushi. What I can remember: natto, two types of tuna, two types of shrimp, two types of eel, squid, flatfish, and fish eggs. All raw. Veeeeery interesting. Check out them pictures. o_O

After dinner, Papa and I talked at great length about differences in Japanese languages, customs, and so on. One of the things he found very interesting was how I think that sushi is a very heavy food, but he thinks it's really light. I think french fries are light, and he thinks they're heavy. *laughs* He was also very amused with the phrase "Let us eat the lettuce," which I gave as an example of difficult English tricks. Tomorrow I'm probably going to walk to the supermarket and buy some stuff, like OJ and cereal, because he said that cereal was just fine for breakfast if I wanted some. In fact, they have cereal here... I just haven't eaten any yet. ;)
Photos: Saki-chan's birthday 2 replies

Posted by: UNFDAardvark 9/23/2004 12:53:10 PM
A bunch of things come to mind, but like many things that come to my mind, they have a habit of stubbornly staying there, so I'll settle for random things instead.

Start playing some Final Fantasy piano music, and see if anyone recognizes it. :)

A dinner composed entirely of raw foods, eh? Amazing. Especially natto. Are you sure you're still alive? I don't have the palate necessary to handle such things, much less the stomach ;)

Biggest question I have is regarding Japanese usage. More specifically, how much of all that 101/102/201/202 grammar are you using on a regular basis? How complex are the sentences you're (and they're) using most of the time? Who uses plain/polite form and when? How many counters do they actually use?? Where is it the good to see the Engrish advertisings that you have done the finding to? (don't bother trying to answer that one ^_-)

Others may pop up, but they will likely be dismissed in favor of flying an Apache attack 'copter into a tree.

BTW, Doak is up and running with remote-desktop enabled & 120 gigs free. You are certainly welcome to use it for whatever, if you actually need to (considering that you have this and everything.)
1 reply

In response to your stuff...
Posted by: Gerf 9/23/2004 5:53:55 PM
Funny you should mention the FF piano music, because I actually got sheet music for some yesterday and started practicing. Are you reading my journal before I even post it or something? ;)

I'm sure I'm still alive, even after the natto. Natto was the first thing they had me eat, actually. Very... strange, but I actually didn't think it was all that bad. It was exceptionally stringy, though. It was like eating something that spawned spider webs left and right.

Right now, the level of grammar I use on a regular basis is that of about 201 and some of 202. This is partially because I have forgotten a lot of stuff over the summer, and partially because I'm not sure what else I could really say using more complex forms. However, I've found that just sitting around and listening to people and talking back when I have the opportunity is indirectly improving my grammar and vocabulary without even thinking about it. Once the real Japanese classes start, though, I think I'll be able to start using much better sentences much more often.

Engrish is only spoken maybe 5% of the time. ;)

Watch out for them Apaches. They can take down trees and also web browsers. o_O
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A day on my own, pretty much

Location: Yoshitaka residence - kitchen 9/23/2004 5:55:21 PM
--> 19:34 - Yoshitaka residence: my room
I can hardly believe it... a day where nothing really happened! Whew! Haven't seen one of those in a while. I woke up early, as usual, and talked to Kristin and other folks online for a while, then did some reading and napped. Papa gave me a bowl of some wheat flake cereal with some Cocoa Krispies on top... very thoughtful. ^__^

The main thing I did today was go out on my own and check out the town. I browed through a few local markets, a bookstore, some convenience stores, and that five-story grocery store I mentioned earlier. I didn't buy any cereal or OJ like I thought I might; instead, I just looked. I did find some neato things at the supermarket, like all three Lion King DVDs (plus a bundle that had all three in one package), WonderSwan video games (yes, WonderSwan), a Lion King book, and an RPG magazine that had special coverage of Final Fantasy VII: Before Crisis and Advent Children. Awesomeness! There are some pictures in there of the two new FFVII titles that I'm going to snap with my digital camera and upload. Red XIII is going to be in Advent Children! Awesome! *dances* I seriously can't wait to see it... even if it's in Japanese. I'm going to see if by the end of my stay here in Japan I can read most of that magazine and book.

Got home, read some, played some piano. I decided I'd download sheet music to some video game tunes I like and try to learn them. Right now I'm starting on the Final Fantasy Prelude, also called by some "The Arpeggio That Would Not Die." *laughs* I'm quite rusty at learning new piano songs anymore, but if I put in a lot of effort I think I can do it. Not a WHOLE lot else to do... not yet, anyway. Except draw, design webpages, study kanji, add descriptions to my photographs, write... you know, nothing else. o_O *but has to laugh again*

It's still early, but I think I'm going to pretty much wrap it up for the night. Tomorrow I have to go to register for classes, and afterward I'll buy a cell phone with the Japan Study group. Yes, I'm going to be getting a cell phone. o_O Hopefully I'll be able to get one that's really cheap, because I seriously can't see myself using it very often. I would like a phone card, though, so I can call home on my cell. That would be awesome.
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A rather... odd day...

Location: Yoshitaka residence - my room 9/24/2004 6:33:52 AM
--> 18:12 - Yoshitaka residence: my room
Hmm. Today didn't quite go as planned.

Woke up, ate breakfast, talked to friends on IM for a while, then went to Waseda for the orientation/registration. The orientation itself was more or less an overview of rules I was already familiar with and why I shouldn't break them, which I'm also familiar with. Then we got our results from our placement exam. Out of six levels, I got put in level two. Level two. What the flaming heck. That made me rather irritated, to say the least. I have a strange reason to believe I may be trying to move myself up a level, mostly because I don't know if a level two here at Waseda will be enough to get me credit for a 300-level course at Case, which is, academically, the main reason I came here in the first place. *grumbles*

And then I tried logging into the Waseda network with my new username and password, and I couldn't connect. The wireless network still won't work, either. *grumbles again*

We got a free lunch afterward, though, which was cool, plus a lot of information about part-time jobs. Michiyo-san called me over at the end and said that she wanted to hire me to work with the Japan Study group as the computer tech guy, which will be excellent (or at least should be... *laughs*). She also mentioned the website again, which makes me happy. I don't know how much I'll get paid, but it has the potential to be a nice chunk.

After that we took a tour of the library, then went back up with the group to talk about buying a cell phone. Choosing a plan and phone is hard enough, but trying to do it in Japanese is even harder. o_O I finally decided on a plan that gave me 50 free minutes a month plus e-mail, and with my student discount it came out to be somewhere around twenty bucks a month, give or take. We went to this tiny little cell phone store to get them, all 20-some of us, and after waiting in line for about an hour or so I found out that I didn't have the right papers from the city office, and I couldn't get a phone. If I would have brought my passport along everything would be fine, but I was assured that I wouldn't need my passport anymore after getting these papers. *grumbles yet again* I'm heading back there tomorrow to get a health screening anyway, so I'll pick it up tomorrow (with my passport this time).

I'm rather flustered about that whole level two thing, though. That really... yeah. I honestly think I'm higher than that... but then, of course, level two in Japan may be level three at Case for all I know. We'll see what happens, I suppose...

--> 19:15 - Yoshitaka residence: kitchen
Well, maybe things'll look up for me a little today. The family just bought a wireless card for their cable modem just for me, so now I can get on the Internet from my room. That was SO nice of them. ^_____^
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