Thursday, June 25, 2009

There's always something missing...

So my friend Rachel posted something similar in her blog, and I thought it would be kind of interesting for me to do the same since I have very little news of my doings to put up here (I do have a little news, that will come later).

Things in America I miss the most (in no particular order):
1. my cat actually pets in general but especially Quillo
2. anything involving green chile
3. being able to read signs, magazines, newspapers, books, etc. Believe me, there is something very frustrating about being pretty much illiterate
4. being able to invite people over. While it happens sometimes, it is a much bigger deal here. I could never invite a friend over without permission from the host family and advance warning.
5. my books, oh how I miss them
6. dry air (currently this is at the top of my list--I miss people yes, but sorry, right now you rate after dry weather, this damn humidity is making me melt)
7. not feeling like an idiot every time I open my mouth. No matter how much my Japanese improves, I still manage to feel stupid most of the time when I converse.
8. real classes. I never thought I would miss all the homework and papers and tests but seriously SILS classes are such a joke that showing up is painful (especially when it's so hot and humid! What is with class in the summer?)
9. The ability to hang with friends and have fun without spending lots and lots of money.
10. Hugs. Su-chan will hug me but he squirms.
11. Being inconspicuous. Being an obvious racial minority is very interesting but it gets old fast when people stare at you all day long.
12. Small school. I definitely know that I made the right choice in choosing a small school.
13. Not having to go to a doctor every time I have a cold.
14. Understanding what garbage goes where. Obviously I've gotten the usual moeru/moenai/pet bottles/cans set-up down, but you should see the garbage room at my apartment building. They separate out EVERYTHING and all the signs are in kanji. Mostly I make an educated guess and hope for the best.
15. The ability to call people. Not just people that I'm away from, but people in the same area as me. I miss being able to call and hash out plans because that take two minutes whereas by text it takes half an hour.
16. A room I can spend time in. My room here is tiny. There is a bed and now a desk and the world's smallest closet. All crammed together. I can't spend much time in there comfortably.
17. Big sky. There's too much in the way here.
18. Stars.
19. Quiet. There's an izakaya across the street so even late at night we get to here drunken business men.
20. Sleeping in. Having a 2-year-old in the house means that if I sleep past 8, it's a miracle.
21. No curfew. I'm not much a one for staying out all night but it's very annoying to be out having fun with your friends and realize that it's 11:30 so you have to go so you don't miss you last train. It's either be home by midnight or be out all night. Not very flexible.
22. American washers and dryers. My host family's washer is puny as in five days of clothes is a good sized load. Yet it takes five hours to do one load of wash.
23. A five minute commute. Sure my commute is comparatively short (about 30min where as many people have times that are an hour or more), but still, that's much longer than five minutes.
24. People. Obviously I miss my parents and friends and everyone back home. You guys are sort of a given.

Things I will miss about Japan (in no particular order):
1. My host family (this one is rightfully at the top). Mami is wonderful, Su-chan has stolen my heart, and even Goro has grown on me (especially after we had a conversation about Gyakuten Saiban which is the Japanese name for Phoenix Wright).
2. vending machines. Yes, they exist in America, but unless you've been to Japan, you just don't understand.
3. Sasodango. Mmmmmmm...delicious. The first thing I ever ate at my host family's and an eternal favorite of mine.
4. Public transportation. Ah Tokyo and its wonderful subways and trains. I have become so spoiled.
5. Interesting places to go. Harajuku, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Baba, Ueno, etc. Los Alamos and Galesburg just can't compare.
6. Potato stick thingies. Addictive. They're like a hybrid between french fries and potato chips.
7. Steam cakes. Amazing. Seriously yummy.
8. Onigiri. Oh no, I'm on a food kick... I guess I could make my own onigiri but they won't be the same.
9. Japanese curry. I am going on a curry quest when I get back to find Japanese curry tablet thingies.
10. Tea. Okay, let me explain since it's not like I never drink tea in the States. The varieties of tea you can buy from a bottle here are staggering. Jasmine is my favorite.
11. Weird fashion. I love that people actually go out in public dressed like total goths or lolitas. I always get a kick out of it.
12. Male fashion. The guys back in America are going to look soooo slobby to me! Seriously, what's wrong with wearing clothes that fit and look attractive. Nothing. Japanese guys, in general, understand this.
13. Hyakuen shops. You know how in American dollar stores, very few things are actually a dollar and most of the stuff is total crap? Well, hyakuen stores are not like that at all. I have gotten some very useful things at them including stationary, decals for my phone, a mirror, and a cute fan that I can use when I'm in one of the crappily air-conditioned classrooms at Waseda.
14. Politeness. People here are so polite. They will apologize to complete strangers for accidently stepping on their toes. They will ask if you need help if you wind up staring confusedly at a train route map that is entirely in kanji. Very nice.
15. Crepes. This country has an obsession with that particular french food. Also, kebabs. I put them in the same place because every time I go to Harajuku I think "crepe or kebab?" and wind up getting one of each. I'm such a pig.
16. Purikura! Must do it again before I leave...
17. Engrish. To quote Rachel's panda shirt "Laughing got tired" There's more but I don't remember...
18. Learning a language. It's been awesome to see my progress especially because Japanese is kind of ridiculously hard.
19. My keitai. Despite the fact that I can't understand how to use about 95% of my phone's features, I still love it. And I love texting in Japanese even though it takes me forever. And texting in general. I am an addict.
20. Being able to throw Japanese words into my sentences and be understood. There are few people to whom I can say things like "You are super genki today."
21. Onsen. So relaxing. And the one Mami and I go to near her parents is only about 700 yen. Try finding a hot spring that cheap in the US.

There is more, much more, for both lists, but those are the ones that were jumping in my brain today.
News! It's been a while. Not much to report though. Last Saturday was nice weather so my host mom rented a car and drove us all (herself, Su, Goro, and me) to a beach where we played and I swam (YES!). Below we have Su-chan and Goro intent upon their sand tunneling project.

Sunday I was babysitting Su-chan because Mami had a wedding to go to. Not much to report there. We watched Cars twice. That kid loves that movie even though it's in English so I'm not sure he cares about the story he just likes the akai bubu (red car in kid's speak).

Yesterday was pretty awesome. Rachel and I had a lady date. We did dinner and a movie. Dinner was Saizeriya (cheap and they had a drink bar so I had like three glasses of melon soda. Melon soda should be on that list of things I'll miss about Japan...) the movie was Star Trek. Which was AWESOME! Completely worth the exorbitant amount of money we had to pay to see it (1500 yen--about $15--and that's with a 300 yen discount because we're university students). Yeah, American movie ticket prices don't seem quite so bad anymore do they?

Tomorrow my host family leave for their Hawaii vacation which is a bit sad. I plan to use their time away to do some serious preparation for going home. Maybe get the non-necessaries packed up, etc. That way I won't be making a mess while they're around.

That's about all there is to report at the current moment though...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The blogging gets harder as time goes on...

I have become a terrible blogger. I totally apologize. In my defense, very little of interest is going on, however, that doesn't excuse me from taking so long to blog about the retreat. There's not a lot to tell, but it's something.

Anyway, last weekend was the ACM/GLCA retreat which took place at the same place where we had our last one back in November. There were less people this time though since a few people left after the first semester and several people just didn't come on the retreat. It was a lot of fun though. The weather was better this time so I actually ventured outside and went to the lake with a bunch of people.

While at the lake, we saw a swan that swam really close to shore where we were wandering about. Lydia chased some minnows and a bunch of us went wading. Cory, who is a photography junkie, brought his camera and kept taking photos of us. At one point we decided to take advantage of this and did a picture of us all jumping. We forgot that we were backlit by the lake though but it was really okay since the silhouettes look pretty cool too.

Eventually some other people from our program made it to the lake. Ian and Yuchen decided to take a dip so they stripped down to their boxers and got in leaving their clothes on shore. This was too tempting for us. Rachel, Lydia, Briana, Kate, and myself stole their shirts and Yuchen's hat. Really that was way nice of us since we could have taken their pants and shoes. That would have been awkward for them. Yeah, we're pretty tame pranksters.

In order to show off our spoils, we draped Rachel in the shirts and stuck Yuchen's hat on her. We decided that she looks like Ashton Kutcher in that hat. It's the hair...

The evening was time for a group meeting. We had five Japanese students that will be going to American colleges in the fall with us so some of us did some skits illustrating the challenges of small liberal arts colleges to them. We covered stuff like room mates and drunk frat boys. Many Waseda students live in rooms to themselves and partying here is much different than in the States. Plus, classes will be hugely different. Waseda is a big university and they're all going to small colleges.

After the group meeting we had a party during which we taught the Japanese students an American drinking game called king's cup. After that was done we played a Japanese drinking game and another whose origin I don't remember... That's all I'm saying about that.

The next day started way too early. I don't think any of us got more than a few hours of sleep (except for maybe Laura and Sarah who didn't drink and went to bed around 10 or 11). We had to get up in time for breakfast at 8am (in my case, I had to be ready 15 min earlier since I was helping with breakfast set up).

After breakfast we just hung out really. Played some cards, etc. until lunch and then after lunch we headed back to Tokyo. And that's it.

In other news, there isn't much. Classes continue which is beyond annoying. I don't like this class in summer thing especially since Tokyo is incredibly humid. Sometimes I wonder whether I really homesick or if I just want dry air.

I also had a really bad cold last week so I went to a doctor for the second time. I'm so glad Mami knew of one that speaks English. Being sick really impairs my Japanese. I couldn't even remember the word in Japanese for fever when I was trying to explain to my Tuesday Japanese sensei why I missed class.

Yesterday was kind of cool. I went to a cake buffet with some friends. The idea is that you pay 1500yen for 90 minutes of cake free for all. They had ice cream, jello, chocolate mousse cake, cakes with fruit, cakes with nuts, mochi with fudge on top, cream puffs, and more. So awesome.

And that's about all I have to say about recent times.