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Of a long walk

Location: Yoshitaka residence - my room 11/6/2004 8:48:57 AM
Today started with waking up. Sweet. And then breakfast. Sweet. And then phone calls to all sorts of people back home. Super-sweet. *laughs* It's nice to be able to call my folks and friends and not have to worry about astronomical charges. I've already talked for over ten hours and have only paid about twelve dollars for it. Isn't that great? You've gotta check out Skype if you have a computer, broadband Internet connection, and a microphone. 2 cents for calling ANYWHERE... you just can't beat that. Not easily, anyway. o_O;

Mama was gone for lunch today, so at about 1:30 or so I set out for that walk I wanted to do yesterday. I was planning to hit up the dollar store and then swing back to the supermarket to grab some OJ (since I'm finally out), but alas, that's not what happened (and therefore I'll have to go out early tomorrow and get some OJ before I wither without my morning shot... *laughs*). I took a few new paths to where I wanted to go, but took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up walking straight out of Higashimurayama and probably clean through another town or two. I just kept walking for about an hour, not really knowing or caring where I was but making sure I knew how to get back. I just wanted to walk and check out whatever sights there were. Along the way I passed a cool shrine park thing (I took some cell phone pictures; I'll have to get some real pictures eventually) as well as countless vending machines (ha, betcha you'd never think to put those two things together in a sentence!).

I was trying to look for a soba place to eat, because I really felt like some soba, but I didn't really find one until I got to a place that looked ALMOST like downtown Cleveland, except it wasn't nearly as crowded. I happened to find a noodle restaurant that was quite upscale, apparently, because the average price of the meals was around ten bucks. o_O Fortunately I was able to find some きつねそば (kitsune soba, or fox-meat and soba noodles) for only 525 yen, so I got that. I wasn't sure what this "fox" soba was going to be like, because I had never had it before. It turned out to be these very sweet and kind of tough... um, things, that were in with the noodles. I'm not sure how to describe it. It wasn't raw meat, but it didn't look like a hunk of cooked meat, either. It was sort of like mincemeat mixed in with this dough stuff and fry-boiled or something. In any case, it was sweet and very delicious. On the way back I got one of those 100 yen cans of OJ (yumyumyum), and later decided for the heck of it I'd try some "Kirin Lemon," because it was cheap, it was lemon, and I hadn't tried it before. And now I know not to try it again: it's carbonated. It was pretty much a waste of 110 yen (I could only take two or three big gulps before it just became completely undrinkable), but you learn by making mistkaes. Now I know not to buy that if I get into a situation where I only have a little yen on me and I'm really thirsty. So, perhaps it wasn't a waste after all.

All in all, my excursion today took two and a half hours. Just like yesterday's nap. ^__^

I noticed, walking through the town that turned into a city, that cities are cities, no matter which country they're in, and cities are dirty. Maybe Takadanobaba is exceptionally clean or the place I went through was exceptionally dirty, but it wasn't very pleasing to the eye in some places. There were literally piles of garbage just... laying around. o_O But, you know, that's what you get in cities, I guess. It made me miss Nagano, which was so scenic and beautiful and just amazing. I looked out in the distance here and saw nothing but the tops of countless buildings, some of which shot up high and had English logos in big lit metal letters. It felt eerily intimidating, and for a moment evoked a sort of hopeless feeling from the pit of my stomach. Like it was an endless desert of human enterprise. And I missed Nagano even more.

Random thought: I could never be a parent at this age. o_O; Saki-chan isn't even my daughter, yet she demands (yes, demands) so much of my time sometimes it makes me wonder how teen/young parents could ever get anything done. Today after I got home she had me eat tomatoes from the garden, hook up the ladder in my room so she could climb up to the loft, play with badminton rackets, and show her Simpsons clips over and over and over. It was fun, but she simply would not take "I need to study now" or "I'm busy now" for an answer and demanded (in her four-year-old way) that I "hurry up" and do her bidding. *has to laugh* My heart goes out to all the young parents out there. If you don't think they have it rough, you should go get your head checked.

Mama wants me to show her how to do some word processing/formatting stuff on their computer sometime. Of course... that's my job. ^__^ I may need to buy them a printer cable, though, because they seem to have lost theirs. If we can't find it before Monday, I'll stop by the Sony shop right next to the school and pick up one for them. Which reminds me... the remote for my Clie is dying. One of the wires is shot, and I need a tiny screwdriver to open the unit up to fix it. But, alas, I was a knucklehead and had my toolset confiscated at the airport because I forgot to put it in with my other luggage (though it was returned to my parents, so no harm was done). I could really use those tiny screwdrivers now. o_O I'll ask and see if Mama or Papa has a tiny set.

So, yeah. I finished my book for Sci-Fi class today, but that was about it. I need to write my 1-minute Japanese speech and write a paper about that Sci-Fi book, as well as study Japanese grammar and kanji. It's frustrating sometimes when I say I'm going to get all this homework done but don't get around to it; it's not that I'm putting it off, it's just that it never seems to get done. It all gets done eventually... I guess just not as quickly as I'm used to/would like it to be done. I wonder what things are going to be like when I return to Case next year...

Anyway, I've used "I" FAR too much in this journal. I suppose it being my journal it's justifiable, but still... bad practice. Blah. Yeah. *laughs* Bath and bed. Though, actually, I'm on a roll with this website thing... 2 replies

No title
Posted by: Ksmith9505 11/6/2004 11:34:36 PM
I hate to break it to you, but parenting in your 20's and 30's doesn't get any easier. Have you forgotten your visits to MY house!! We enjoy your journal very much. Keep writing.
1 reply

Right. ^__^
Posted by: Gerf 11/7/2004 12:41:17 PM
Duly noted. *laughs*
0 replies

Of a delicious day

Location: Yoshitaka residence - my room 11/7/2004 9:38:42 AM
Wow... today turned out to be quite a delicious day. ^__^

I've been feeling a little tired lately; might be because of lack of sleep, might be because lack of nutrients. I don't know. In either case, I've started taking vitamin supplements on a daily basis (as opposed to whenever I felt like one); that helped in the past, and it should help again now.

I went shopping this morning (I was going to go yesterday but didn't because I had been gone far too long already); normally I don't go in the morning, but I needed to get some things quite soon. One of them was OJ... and as it turns out, they were selling SUNKIST liter cartons for just 146 yen. Not only is that dirt-cheap, but it's crazy-mad delicious OJ. I picked up three for good measure; I hope they stick with the Sunkist from now on, because it's beyond delicious. After returning home, I opened up my Clie's remote and found out that ALL of the wires inside the main wire (ther were six) were completely frayed. Yipes! No wonder it wasn't working. So, I taped them up and put the whole mess back together; it works just fine, there's just some electrical tape sticking out of it now. *laughs* Looks kind of stylish, anyway. I tried to do some kanji studying afterwards, but noise in the house made me go outside to study on the bench on the back porch.

And that's when I saw the praying mantis. I had seen them before crawling around outside, but this guy was really close to me. I pointed my finger at it, and it turned its head to look at me. It was the coolest thing! This insect was... well, yeah. I thought it was neat, anyway. It started walking toward Nana, and I said (actually, Kristin suggested), "Ooh, picture!" So I whipped out my cell phone and immediately before I clicked the "take picture" button, Nana decided OOHAPRAYINGMANTISLETSEATIT and gobbled it up. Well, more like chomped it and spat it out, but in any case, I felt sorry for the poor guy. Eaten by a dog. And not even eaten for that matter. Mreh.

I went back in after that and wrote out some drafts for my minute-long speech I need to give on Tuesday, and a little while later Mama called me to see if I wanted to eat some "interesting bread." I said sure and went downstairs and was greeted by a whole bunch of people. More adult family friends; one was an interpreter. We talked for a while, and I even showed them my planner with English and Japanese written in it, as well as the legal pad I have with my website designs. Then I showed them the website that came from said designs, as well as 3DMM and some pictures of home. Very fun. ^__^

At 5:30 I went over to the Onishi's house, and from there we went to a nearby Okonomiyaki restaurant. Okonomiyaki is hard to describe... but it's the stuff I ate with the Japanese guys during orientation. As a matter of fact, it was the same restaurant (well, one restaurant in the same chain). Very delicious: think Japanese omelette, but with more veggies than eggs. Or just look at the pictures. ;)

Afterwards we stopped by the Hyaku En Shop to grab some stuff. I managed to find a USB cable for just a buck, one that I later used to hook up my family's printer to their computer, and the other guys bought some other assorted things. After returning to their house, they showed me more magic, we played some DDR on the keyboard (I amazed them with getting insane scores on insanely hard songs), I showed them some videos, and they helped correct my speech for Tuesday. Best way to figure out what to say in Japanese is to ask a Japanese person! *laughs* But yeah... to continue with the deliciousness of the day (which also consisted of very good soba and udon noodles for lunch, as I forgot to mention), the Onishis gave me this calcium and lactic acid drink that was supposed to be very good for your intestines, these little bread rolls with peanut butter inside (*meelllllllllts*), and some other bread rolls with butter inside. Those peanut butter rolls were awesome! Oh yeah, and I fixed a problem with their Internet, too. The router was unplugged. *laughs* So I fixed Internet and I got a printer to print today... good stuff! The Onishis also gave me this white windbreaker-ish jacket (which was the third of three they tried to give me... the first was too big, the second was too small, but this was just right). They love giving me stuff. *laughs* They're some great folks.

I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but today I was complimented many times on various aspects of Japanese life. It started during the meeting with the family friends, when the interpreter (he's a great guy) said that I speak Japanese very well and quite fluidly, especially having only taken two years of Japanese before. Then during dinner, Kazuki mentioned that I use chopsticks very well, better than his own dad does. And then when they read my speech draft, the Onishis were amazed at my Japanese handwriting and my grammar usage and such. Then they said I was Superman. *laughs* I don't know why I decided to stick all this here... but I figured some people who read this would be interested to know that, at least in the eyes of the Japanese people here, I seem to be doing quite well. I personally don't think I'm as great as they're saying... but at the same time, it didn't sound like they were just trying to "be polite." I've heard that before... this was different.

But yeah, anyway. Sorry... I'll try not to do that again, or at least not too often. o_O;;

Tomorrow I need to practice my speech and type up a paper for Sci-Fi that is due on Wednesday. This has been a great weekend; I've been tired and I certainly didn't get my homework done in a timely manner, but the important thing is it IS getting done and everything will fall into place in good time. That, and I fixed my Clie and bought some dang fine OJ. Whew... life is good.

I'm just a little full now. o_O
Photos: Okonomiyaki with the Onishis 0 replies

Of getting back to school

Location: Yoshitaka residence - my room 11/8/2004 6:53:21 AM
Wow... these days just zoon right by. I keep on having to check the date... is it already November?! Man. The end

of the semester will be upon me before I know it. Well, actually, that won't be until, like, February or something.

But it still feels soon.


Today I broke out of my (takes a bath in mid-sentence) vacation mood and actually brought myself to school. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and half of Monday: all pretty much vacation. How cool! It felt oddly good to get back into the routine again, though; it's gonna be that way for a while, now.

Random notes from my cell phone:

- Car washes here are tiny... there's no way you could possibly fit a car in them. The solution? Have the entire car wash move around you. The whole car wash unit is on wheels, and you just park there and watch as your car is blasted and dried. Another interesting note: many gas stations have gas pumps that come down from the ceiling (to save space), and every gas station I've seen so far has a little gutter that runs around the entire place. I'm assuming that's to prevent water/loose gas from flowing into the street. Cool idea.

- On my walk on Saturday, I heard a bunch of parakeets and cockateils in people's houses. Brought back lots of memories from home. I miss my Chepster. *sighs*

- The crows/ravens/huge birds here sound almost like human voices. They're everywhere, and sometimes I wonder if it's a bird or some guy calling to a friend in a strange voice or something. o_O

- I wonder how many extra square miles of open space there would be in Japan if they had organized their road network a little better? And I wonder how much less confusion there would be... ah well.

- Yesterday after we ate dinner, we stopped at the Hyaku En Shop again. As we were backing into a parking space, Mrs. Onishi accidentally went to far and ran the back tires/fender into one of those concrete bars that say, "Hey, stop here." I was glad everything was okay, but what really shocked me was the uniformed guy who was waving people into parking spaces with a flashing orange wand came over, asked if everything was okay, and said that if there was a problem to tell him. As in, HE took responsibility for it because he waved her into the parking space and kept telling her to go; if Mrs. Onishi would have popped a tire or something like that (though it seriously wasn't that bad), the man would have paid for the repairs. Now THAT is just awesome. THAT is Japanese responsibility right there. *applauds*

I think I found out what made my stomach explode last week: the melon. We had melon again for desert tonight, and after eating a few pieces my stomach started getting weird. It's okay now, but I think that's what the offending food was. Boo, I like cantaloupe, too. Why couldn't it have been the octopus or something? *laughs*

Oh yeah, and there was an earthquake this morning. There may have been a very small one while I was taking a bath a few minutes ago, too, but I can't be sure. Earthquakes always make me really dizzy. Even thinking of them right now is making me dizzy... whoa, yeah, I'm going to stop talking about it.

I finished my Sci-Fi paper and my Japanese speech, and I'm all ready for tomorrow. Maybe I'll try and get to bed early. Every time I say that it totally doesn't happen, but might as well try to keep at it. One of these days I'll stop being tired. ^__^
3 replies

random feeling-ness
Posted by: badcheeso 11/8/2004 3:41:49 PM
glad found what's you sick.
I'm you out making feel

Please the we be a
excuse writing must having tremor.
2 replies

html maddness
Posted by: badcheeso 11/8/2004 3:43:19 PM
hey your html took away all the spaces in the missive above &#%*^^&(##@$
1 reply

Posted by: Gerf 11/8/2004 4:22:54 PM
Mwahaha... not my code, it's the way HTML works in general. *laughs*
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Of packages from home

Location: Yoshitaka residence - my room 11/9/2004 7:16:35 AM
Well, today's grammar test went pretty well (I hope), and the speech was okay. I think I sounded like a damp rag, but eh, what are ya gonna do. Got my essay all printed out, too; really all there is left to do is study for the Statistics exam on Thursday. Well, and the grammar quiz and dialogue in Japanese, plus all them Kanji... hm. Perhaps I should do some of that tonight. o_O;;

I got two packages in the mail today: one from my family and one from Case! I am now in posession of apple cider and hot chocolate, even marshmallows to go with the latter. Yo ho ho! I'll have to bust them out when the weather starts getting cold. My folks also sent some Thanksgiving stickers for Saki-chan; she sat down and played with them right away. *laughs* Case sent me a list of the JYA students as well as about a half dozen Observer newspapers so I could catch up with what's been going on back at my alma mater. The two packages at once deal kind of struck me with a slight bout of homesickness, as did the pictures my parents had sent through e-mail. I haven't had a breakdown yet, but these little reminders of home certainly do tug at my heartstrings a bit. But, you know, I think that's a good thing. I need to be tugged back every now and then.

Papa went to a meeting with the other host families today; nothing disasterously wrong to report, so that's a good thing. *laughs* During dinner we watched a famous Japanese comedy show on TV; boy, the Japanese have some very interesting tastes in comedy. Very silly but rather amusing.

I don't really have much in particular to say today, I guess. Just livin' it up like normal. Whoa, living in Japan is suddenly normal? o_O
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Of bank stuff

Location: Yoshitaka residence - my room 11/10/2004 7:01:09 AM
Wednesdays are always nice: I only have one three-hour class that is quite fun, and then the rest of the day is free. As usual, we had a great discussion in Sci-Fi, and I got to talk about AI/Internet stuff with some fellow geeks. Afterward, I decided I'd try out a restaurant that sold katsudon, since I had been wanting to try it. It was a hefty 530 yen, but it was pretty good. As far as money efficiency goes, though, that's not something I'm going to want to get every day. For the most part, I'll just stick to my 300 yen box lunch (bento) and sometimes a drink on the way home (I've laid off the anpan for quite some time now, mostly after reading the nutrition information).

I paid for a third of my health insurance today, too; the next payment is due sometime in... ah, I forget. But I'll get it done beforehand. Now I also know how to do it so I can get it done quickly next time. I wanted to convert one of my Japanese yen traveler's cheques into cash, but for some reason the bank had no idea if that was possible. I ended up waiting for about fifteen or twenty minutes as they called all over the place, from Narita to who knows where. Apparently, they just won't take traveler's cheques that are in yen. However, they'll convert them into dollars; so now the question is if I can convert dollars into yen. If so, then I just need to do one and then the other, because apparently doing both at the same time is too difficult... or something. I dunno, I figure if you had a cheque in yen and you brought it to a Japanese bank, of all places, they'd exchange it for you. *shrugs* I'll just use my American cheques next time. I don't need the extra cash right now, though pretty soon it may come in useful. The lady there who helped me with all this was very kind and understanding of my less-than-perfect ability with Japanese outside of conversation. Nice service. ^__^

Speaking of service, I wonder if I'll ever need to use my bank account. I've got 36 yen in there and could stick all my traveler's cheques in there, too, but I don't know if that would be useful or not. I suppose I might as well, because I could just pull the money out before I leave anyway and then exchange it back home. Or something. We'll see. Maybe I'll do that when I get some yen from my American cheques. Yeah. Bank it, yo.

I buy myself these snacks every now and then from the supermarket, but I find that as soon as I open them they kind of disappear. I try not to get them very often because I want to stay in shape (though I probably have been doing more exercise since coming to Japan than I have in a long time, mostly through walking) and want to spend as little money as possible (because Tokyo is expensive and I don't buy much anyway), but they are SO DELICIOUS (yes, that good). Oh well... they're gone for the most part, so I'll just do myself a favor and not get any more for a while. It's not like I'm hungry... Mama and Papa feed me very very well. It's just... you know, every now and then you need a munch of something.

Interesting: buildings seem to appear and disappear here very quickly. A week or two ago, a house on my way to the train station just kind of vanished. And also about a week or two ago, a titanic building in Takadanobaba just disappeared, too. I almost didn't realize it was gone until I said, "Why have I not seen that bui-- oh." *laughs* Crazy stuff.

Tomorrow = hard day. Not looking forward to it, but I want to get it done anyway. Gotta study now.
0 replies

Of a busy day

Location: Yoshitaka residence - my room 11/11/2004 7:07:30 AM
Happy birthday, Kristin! Sorry, I can't help it. ;)

Well, today is over. Yay. I wasn't looking forward to all the tests and things today, but at least they're done. I pretty much nailed the dialogue and I'm pretty sure I did well on the grammar quiz (got 9.1/10 on my last one). I seriously had a hard time staying awake during class... I was just so tired, and the stuff we do is the same exact thing we do every other day and it gets old and tiring and hephephep. Fortunately I stuck it through until the break, during which I slouched back and slept until class started again. Funny thing: as soon as we did something out of the ordinary (drew a map to our house, which we're going to present on Tuesday), I woke up and was running normally. I think it's just the droning repetitiveness of the class that kills me. Almost typed "kiss me" there. No, definitely not.

The stats exam was... okay. I know I screwed up one small part of it for sure (though I came to the correct conclusion, just using the incorrect procedure), but all in all I think I did satisfactory. I suppose we'll find out next week. After doing some examples on the board, I think I'm finally understanding all the new stuff we're doing. The teacher is blazing through it because most of the stuff is more or less review from the class I wasn't in Japan to take, so that's fine and dandy. I'll survive, though. And hey, even if I get a B in the class, it'll transfer as an A. Heck, if I get a C, it'll transfer as a B. At least, that's what they said would happen.

Today's random observation: Japan is COVERED in concrete and asphalt. Someone told me that if it could, Japan would just pave over every last inch of grass and soil. *has to laugh* Of course, that's mostly just Tokyo. Outside of Tokyo, though, you can find some places that are absolutely beautiful. Quite a few, actually. *recalls the awesome trip to Nagano*

I think I'm going to try getting to bed really early tonight. I think that would do me a world of good. See ya.
0 replies

Of a busy day and weekend

Location: Yoshitaka residence - my room 11/12/2004 8:12:39 AM
Whew, today was busy... and this weekend is going to be even busier. O_O

Started off with rain... the first I've seen in a long time, except for last night (which was just a little drizzly). I'm pretty sure I aced my two kanji quizzes, minus at least one little point (I wrote 世界史 as せいかいし instead of せかいし). Ah well. Friday's classes are always so much fun. The teacher even made an extremely amusing quote: the topic of blood donation came up, and she mentioned that she was type-O. Someone asked if she gave blood often, and she quickly replied (in Japanese, of course), "No, I never give blood... I WANT blood. I AM DRACULA!" and proceeded to run her fingers down the sides of her mouth like blood or fangs or something. She is absolutely hilarious, but not overly so. ^__^

Didn't really do much at work today, but promptly thereafter I went to meet the guys going to the Waseda student project help thingie at a campus bus stop. We got on a neat bus that had seats that would fold out to accomodate four people instead of just three, which was really cool. Sarah had said the bus would leave at 2:20; there was a little LCD clock up front, and I said to myself, "You know, I wonder if the bus driver will take off as soon as it becomes 2:20." And sure enough, IMMEDIATELY after 2:19 became 2:20, we were heading out of the bus stop. *laughs* It was so awesome.

We went to the other end of campus where the engineering schools were and were guided into a huge room network. There was a back room full of all sorts of computer equipment, and then three huge classrooms (that looked more like wood/metalshops, actually) that were all linked by doors, and each of those classrooms had televisions and a huge projector, all showing a PowerPoint presentation of what was going on today. Here's a brief rundown:

- The American students get split up and go sit with some of the Japanese students (of which there were... I dunno, 200, and there were nine of us)
- Everyone watches an episode of The Apprentice, a Survivor-like show that takes place in the business world
- Every ten minutes or so, the teacher stops the DVD and lets the American students explain in English, then explains in Japanese, then shows it one more time before moving onto the next segment
- Much discussion is discussed
- We get paid. ^__^

*laughs* It was interesting being in a place with so many Japanese students around my age, all watching a show in English and not really understanding much of it. It's not like I could understand much of a Japanese show without some explanation, of course, but it was interesting. I had to do a lot of switching between English and Japanese, because their English knowledge wasn't up to the level of other people I interact with (not that that's a bad thing, it just means I had to explain in Japanese more!). I have two pictures, but they're boring shots of the back room. Maybe next time when it's not so busy I'll be able to get some shots.

Once again, Mama and I talked at great length during dinner. We always have a lot of fun comparing different things in America and Japan, from cars to commercials to cruises and even other things that don't begin with C. Papa was off again, as usual, as was Natsuko. I'm used to not really seeing anyone very often. *laughs*

This weekend is going to be full to say the least. Tomorrow at around 9:00 I'm going to head off with Mama to a school where a lady is doing some singing in English and needs some help with the pronunciation. Then at 3:00 there's going to be a welcome party for me, during which Mama said there would be about 30 people or so. o_O Whew! That's a lotta people. Wah. *has to laugh* Hopefully I won't get too tired; I'm going to go to sleep early today to try and prevent that from happening. Might even wake up a little later tomorrow. Not sure. We'll see.

Then on Sunday, there's a Higashimurayama festival that I'm going to go to with Papa, and in the evening I'm going to the Onishi's house. Full full full. Fortunately I can afford to not really do any homework, since I'm kind of in a situation where big projects just got finished and I can lean back a bit... but only a bit. I've got Japanese stuff that needs doing, as well as... well, stuff for my other classes. Real descriptive Gerf.

Anyway, I'm going to take a bath, shave, and then go to bed. Might read for a little while, dunno. Sleep is gooood.
0 replies

Of volunteering and a welcome party!

Location: Yoshitaka residence - my room 11/13/2004 9:55:19 AM
The good: I had a smashing good time today.
The bad: I did so much that it's going to take a long time to type it all up.
The ugly: I've only got one hour before it's tomorrow.

Ready? Go.

Today I woke up a little later than I had planned to, mostly because I was really really tired from the previous week. Had some cereal, then around 9:30 I was taken to a school out... somewhere in Higashiyama (not Higashimurayama... they're different places ;) ). One of Mama's family friends and her husband drove me out there, and along the way we talked about college stuff. The school was an elementary school and was pretty quiet (since it was Saturday). I was led into a room with a bunch of teachers, and the "boss" gave a short speech about what people were going to do for the day, as is traditional Japanese style. He then gave me a chance to introduce myself in Japanese, so I did just that. It's funny how the comments of "Wow, you speak Japanese so well!" still keep rolling in, even after I explain that while I've only been in Japan for two months, I had studied Japanese for two years prior. *has to laugh*

From there I found out exactly what I was going to do: help a small, 8-some student English Conversation (英会話, "eikaiwa") workshop! I recognized a few of the kids from the concert I went to before (though likely only because they were the son and daughter of Mama's friend who brought me), but by the end it seemed like I sort of knew them all just a little bit. We did all sorts of activities, many of which included all these different kinds of stuffed animals. The kids knew an amazing amount of animal vocabulary... if we had to do some of the things we did in Japanese, I'd be lost. *laughs* First, however, we started with a game in which we all sat in a circle and were assigned numbers. Then the "President" (determined by a 10-person game of rock-paper-scissors) started the game by slapping his/her knees and then turning his/her hands over (while everyone continued; the pace quickened as the game progressed), calling out two numbers in the process. The first number is his/her own number, and the next number is the number of someone else in the group. The called person then has to do the same thing; it goes on until somebody screws up. Hard to explain in words, I guess... if I'm physically present sometime, let me know and I'll show ya. Good way to keep a bunch of kids busy! Another activity had all the stuffed animals set up on a row of chairs, and there were two teams, one on each side. One person from each side would go down the row, naming the animals as they went by (in English, of course... though even for an American like me, trying to do it really quickly is sometimes a challenge!). When two people met in the middle, they played rock-paper-scissors and the loser had to go to the back of his/her line while the other continued on. The first person to get to the other team's side first won a point for their team. We also played plushie bingo (fill your board with animal names, and then the teacher would call them out and whoever had the most bingos by the end won), musical chairs, and a several other games that would be too hard to explain in words. The kids were perpetually amazed at how tall I was and how big my feet were. More than one kid said, "Man, Americans are so huge!" *laughs* Yeah, us big-size Americans.

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera; I wasn't sure what I'd be doing at first, actually, and honestly didn't think I'd be doing anything camera-worthy. But as it turns out, I could have snapped some really decent pictures. Fortunately, my cell phone has a built-in camera, so I snapped quite a few. I'm wondering if perhaps at the end of my stay in Japan I should just suck it up and e-mail 'em all to myself so I can have them in a permanent archive on my computer with the rest of my pictures. Whether or not that will cost a fortune is up in the air, I suppose... and actually, it would cost a fortune. Meh.

Interesting note: Japanese children resolve SO many things with rock-paper-scissors (they say "saisho gu, sanken pon!" when playing). I wouldn't be surprised if they could play it for hours. They probably could. And they have. *laughs* It's addictive, that silly game. So much so that I had this crazy idea when I was taking my bath a little while ago that perhaps I could include it in the new iteration of Dragon Films as a silly sort of "built-in game" on the site. o_O

Anyway, I got home a little after noon, ate some lunch with the family and who I think are grandparents (though I'm not entirely sure), and hopped online to chat with people, since I knew I wouldn't be able to after 3:00. And then before I knew it, 3:00 came around. *laughs* What was at 3:00, you ask? My welcome party! Yeah, a little late, but better late than never! Mama said about 30 people were going to come; I'm not sure if there were actually 30, but I'm sure she wasn't that far off. As you can see in the pictures, we stuck two tables together (we actually retrofitted one table that is normally in the tatami mat room with extra "legs"--chairs-- so it was flush with the other table), and there was a LOT of food. And drink. It's amazing how much alcohol the Japanese can put away! *has to laugh*

Papa started it off with a short introduction of why everyone was here in the first place and talked a little about me, how my family was going to be visiting, and how I had a girlfriend; I swear... everybody is wholeheartedly interested in relationships over here!. *laughs* We had a toast and then dug in. Lots of very yummy food of all kinds... too many to list. I was a little unsure where to fit in at first, since I was the only American in this big group of Japanese who all knew each other, but eventually I sat down in a few places and got to talking with some people quite a bit. One lady had been to America when she was 26 and was so interested that she studied English quite a bit, and one guy worked for Panasonic and kept giving me thumbs-down signs and saying "NO SONY!" when I showed him all my Sony electronics. Of course, he was just being funny... though it's obvious there's some healthy rivalry going on! One of the daughters of the lady who had gone to America had drawn me a picture of a rabbit and a dolphin... they were actually outlines so I could color them in like a coloring book. *laughs*

At one point, everyone all but demanded to see pictures of Kristin, and, just like back home, they all (yes, ALL) said, "You two look like brother and sister!" and "It looks like you're the same person just about!" They also said Kristin was exceptionally beautiful and were very happy for both of us. Made me feel special (and I hope it makes Kristin feel special too!). I also showed them pictures of my family (by this time I had a nice crowd around Apsu), and they all thought my brother was strikingly handsome, my dad and I looked almost exactly the same, and my parents were very young- and great-looking. Japanese may not have the best eye in Western style, but they have a great eye in Western people. ^__^

Around this time I showed the crowd some stuff that I do on the computer, and even made a 3DMM movie with them called "Nihon no Yopparai" (Japanese Drunkenness), produced by Panasonic (not Sony). That made people laugh. I then showed the kids some movies that didn't have much English in them, and they were quite amused. Made me feel good.

Also around this time I noticed how a little alcohol can loosen Japanese lips like... um, grease on a... hinge. Yeah. For example: yesterday I called home because I was going to be home at 7:00 instead of 6:00 like I had planned. I said, "Sorry, but I'm going to be late tonight... about 7:00," and Mama had laughed and said that wasn't late at all. Tonight, she recounted the story to great laughter and amazement. *laughs* I don't know if it's only when they're a little loopy on alcohol, but the littlest things like that are cause for great amusement. Not that I really mind... for if you can laugh at yourself, you'll always be amused.

One of the guys there (it was the man I ate lunch with who I think was a grandfather) had gotten really wasted, and he talked about all sorts of absolutely silly things with me. For example, sometime we're apparently going to start a stand-up comedy team in America where he spouts Japanese while hitting me with a baseball bat while I say, "大丈夫" ("daijobu", "it's okay"), and after that do something or other involving lots of drinking and betting on sumo wrestlers. He was totally gone, but it was funny. I laughed and smiled so much my face muscles literally hurt when I stopped smiling. I think that's the first time I really dealt with somebody so drunk that they said things that just made no sense (though I was able to understand a pretty good deal of what he said, despite the drunkenness). Before he left to go to bed (he's staying the night with his wife in the tatami room), though, he left me with some rather wise words that reiterated what we had talked about during dinner: "Always fight for the world, never yourself." It was actually rather touching, and renewed my confidence in him. ^__^

And in a random twist of events, as it turns out the city slashed my health insurance bill by nearly half; now instead of paying 18000 yen I only have to pay a little over 10000. Sweet action!

Now I'm going to sleep and... sleep. Today was so busy... and tomorrow I'm heading out at around 2:00 to see the Higashimurayama city festival. Should be really cool! More pictures to come then. See y'all!
Photos: Welcome party 1 reply

camera - never leave home without it
Posted by: badcheeso 11/13/2004 11:06:14 AM
when i was traveling in taiwan, i never left the apartment without my camera. i never knew what i would see and many times i'm glad i had it. what i'm sorry about is that i was mailing the film home thru the inter-office mail system and the taiwanese security people confiscated at least one roll that i can remember and maybe two. now i know to carry the film home or at least get it developed and them mail them home.

with the digitals it's easy to share and save.

i would keep the camera in my shoulder bag and it also had a strap that i would put on my belt. that came in handy when i did some "rock" climbing while investigating a buddist temple.

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Of AMAZING festivals

Location: Yoshitaka residence - my room 11/14/2004 10:13:42 AM
Believe it or not, I was actually not really looking forward to today as much as I normally would have. Yesterday was so jam-packed, and today was supposed to be a really full day, too. And, you know what, that may be one of the reasons today was one of the best days I've had here so far.

Got up around 7:30, went down for breakfast at 8:00 or so, and ate with the folks who stayed the night. The grandfather seemed mostly sobered up by now. *laughs* Papa told me we'd go to the Higashimurayama festival (an annual event) around 1:30, so until then I took it easy, napped, and worked on homework and website stuff. Then 1:30 rolled around and I went with Papa and Saki-chan into downtown Higashimurayama where the festival was taking place. It started off so-so... there were some neat Japanese drums and carts with decorations and lots of stands selling all sorts of stuff, but for the most part it looked like any old carnival-ish thing in America. We got some cotton candy, which was a nice treat (I needed something sweet), and while I was eating it some random Japanese guy said, "Is that good?" We had a short conversation in English, and in that short time I found that he had gone to America before and was studying English. Neato. I also found that every time I was trying to catch up with Papa I was behind an old lady with a cane that I SWEAR wasn't there a second before. It was humorously annoying.

Then 2:30 rolled around, and I was literally moved nearly to the point of tears (they were welled up but none escaped). I'm going to cheat here and just refer you to the pictures. I could spend hours describing how cool it was, but if you just look at the pictures you'll see for yourself, since a picture is worth a thousand words. Basically, traditional Japanese music started up and all the carts started moving by, sort of like a float parade but not. There were dancers wearing masks, people dressed up as dragons and white foxes, people playing drums and very high-pitched flutes, and... gah, it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. One of them, anyway. A bunch of guys were also carrying this shrine around on their shoulders and chanting and bouncing and... man, I seriously don't know how to describe everything. Just look at the pictures. And at some point or another, watch the movies I took. All told, I took 50 pictures and videos today.

I'm sorry I can't describe it very well. When something is just so new and amazing, sometimes you can't really find the words to describe it correctly. That's why I took so many pictures: I knew I wouldn't be able to wordify the feelings. And what feelings they were! Like I said, I was literally moved to tears. These things just don't exist in America. We don't have the hundreds and thousands of years of history and tradition that the Japanese do... and I never longed for such a history until now. I was just so absorbed... for twenty minutes, I felt like I had been transported to a world where dragons and people with white faces and perpetually happy smiles lived, and where music and drums were part of basic existence like food and air. There was so much spirit there. When I had to leave, I realized just how difficult it was to hold on to those amazing feelings... they are not things you can take and go home with, like pictures and videos (though they certainly help). Those kinds of feelings only exist in the moment, and when the moment is over so are the feelings.

I wanted so much for that moment to last for a very long time. Not quite forever, though... unless I had a chance to bring someone along with me.

Saki-chan was hungry afterward, so we stopped at McDonald's and got her a burger and some fries. Yep, McDonald's is still McDonald's, just like it was last time. *laughs*

Then at 8:30 I went to the Onishi's house again, the first time in about a week. I was showed more magic (including an amazing trick called the "Black Hole Box"... I took a video of it and I have no idea how the heck it works!), we did a little juggling (I found some oranges that worked nicely), and they helped me with my Japanese speech I have to give on Tuesday. We even took a video of me doing some coin magic, and I showed them how to use Windows Movie Maker to do all sorts of spiffy stuff with it. I can only imagine what they're going to have made when I return the next time. o_O;

All in all, today was a wonderful day. I'm so happy to be able to experience all this. 今日、本当に感動しました。
Photos: Annual Higashimurayama festival 0 replies

Of nothing in particular

Location: Yoshitaka residence - my room 11/15/2004 6:29:42 AM
Well, back into the swing of things. Rather uneventful day, though I did manage to get a lot of work done on some things with my new website design. I think I'm making nice progress... but there's still a lot of work to do. o_O

Um, yeah. It was raining really hard this morning, but by the time I went out to school there was nary a drop from the skies. Riding the trains on Monday is always nice, because I can usually get seats both ways and therefore the going is nice and easy. But... yeah, nothing really happened.

Though I did realize today (as I've realized several times) that living here just seems... normal. Even though I'm thousands of miles away from the ones I love (and I miss you guys and gals...), I feel like I belong here. I was kind of worried that I may feel extremely out of place by coming to Japan and, in the future, moving away from home when I grow up and get married and all. But, you know, if I can live in Japan alone, I think I can live anywhere in the world with someone special. ^__^

I just wish I knew some more vocabulary. *laughs*
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