Sunday, July 19, 2009

日本, さよなら

This is not going to be a full blog post. While I could describe my last few days here in Japan and post some pictures, that will have to wait until I'm back in America.

I am just here to say goodbye. Goodbye to this wonderful, confusing, busy, cultured, ancient, kind nation that has been my home for over ten months now. Tokyo has become home to me just as much as Los Alamos or Galesburg. And my host family has become real family to me.

I have cried and will cry again before leaving, but as my program's resident director Watt-sensei said "I hope you too shed a tear or two before you leave. That's one kind of evidence that real contact was made".

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blogging as a form of procrastination.

It is finally that time. That horrible time when schools decide that they actually have to make sure we learned something. That's right: finals. It may be mid-July, but I'm in the midst of finals. Monday I had my final sociolinguistics paper due, today was my final group presentation in Japanese, tomorrow is my media studies exam, and Thursday is Ainu. Basically, yuck.

What does this mean for you? I'm blogging because I'm tired of looking at old powerpoints from the media studies lectures.

I will go back to Wednesday of last week. Despite a very bad morning, I decided to go to class and go through with plans I had previously made. It was a good means of distraction. Besides I didn't want to hurt the feelings of Mami's parents. They had reserved a really nice restaurant for dinner. This place had these little private parlors with a traditional set up (tatami, table with a pit under it so you sat at floor level) and a view of the garden. You can sort of see our view in the above picture. This dinner was meant as a farewell for myself and Jeremy (he leaves Japan at the end of the month).

The only way to get Su-chan to be quiet and to sit still at this fancy restaurant was to bring the PSP loaded with Anpanman episodes with us. Looks pretty cool in those headphones doesn't he?

Here is my main dish (there were several other courses, but this was the only one I remembered to get a picture of). This is the BEST STEAK I have EVER had. Seriously. Interestingly, they gave us forks and steak knives (even though the steak was already cut). I actually didn't notice until after I'd finished eating. I've gotten too used to eating everything with chopsticks I guess :P

Here is a picture of Jeremy and Mami's father (Jeremy is Mami's parents' host student if you don't remember). I was going to get a photo of the whole group, but my camera's batteries crapped out on me.

The best part of the evening came after dinner when the restaurant turned off all the lights so we could see the fireflies. It was so wonderful just to sit in the dark and watch them. Very peaceful. Except for the loud laughter of some rather inebriated men in a room nearby. Sadly, that was probably the last time I'll see Mami's parents before I leave. They are wonderful people.

So this picture gets lots of explanation. Last Saturday I went to Hakone, a place about an hour outside of Tokyo that is well known for it's onsen (hot springs). I went to what I like to call a hot spring amusement park with some friends (many of the same people that were are the Fourth of July beach party).

No pictures from inside as I didn't bring my camera and even if I had, would not have much to show for it since water + camera = dame desu (if you don't know what that means, I'm sure you can guess). There were a LOT of weird baths (chocolate, coffee, wine, sake, green tea, etc.). The weirdest of all was this bath with fish in it that would eat the dead skin off your feet. It tickled SO BAD! But it worked rather well. There were also water slides and some more normal baths.

Now the picture is of a plushie I bought of the place's mascot. It's called a spakoneko (spa kitten) and I thought it was adorable so I bought one for myself.

Other than that, life has been rather boring and more than a little stressful. I've started to feel that I have too much to do and too little time. Seriously. On top of finals, I have to cancel my health insurance, cancel my cell phone, close my bank account, pack, go to little farewell get togethers so I can say goodbye to friends and family (host family that is).

Just as a warning: this may or may not be my last blog post from Japan. I can't guarantee I'll have time in the next six days to update again. However, I will be doing at least one wrap up post when I get home so it's not like I'm just going to end it here. Thought I'd warn you though.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Just a few pictures.

So I decided that I'd stick a few of the Fourth of July photos that Cat took on here just for those of you who aren't on Facebook. I'll post about my recent exploits (which include a wonderful dinner with Mami and her parents) sometime later when I'm feeling less down. As a few of you know, I recently had a tragedy occur in my life so my heart just isn't in the blogging at the moment.

First picture is me, Paula, Peter, and Rachel (Tackett--not the Rachel I usually talk about here, that Rachel is Rachel Leppert--strangely enough I know FOUR different Rachels here in Japan). Not sure what we were going for in this picture, but Peter decided we looked like a band of super heroes. I think Cat's going to be drawing a comic about us now...

Me looking perhaps a little too eager with the sparklers. I believe these are the ones we put on the USA birthday cake we made out of sand.

And nighttime. Here I am lighting some fireworks. The wind was crazy so lightinng stuff with a lighter was super difficult. What we'd do was light a sparkler and then use that (because it wouldn't blow out in the wind) to light the bigger fireworks. I feel some of our pyrotechnics were a bit abunai (a Japanese word meaning something like "dangerous") but we all came away safely.

Hope you enjoyed this small selection of photos...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Two weeks and counting.

I've been putting off blogging for two reasons this time:
1. I've actually been busy so I haven't had the time.
2. I've been lazy with my camera so don't have much in the way of photos to show you so I was waiting for other people to post some up on Facebook I could steal, but they are being too slow.

So here goes.

A week and a half ago on Friday, my host family left to go on vacation in Hawaii. I found it ironic that they went to America while I stayed in Japan especially with my homecoming so close. Because of their absence, I tried to fill up my time with stuff that got me out of the apartment which meant I was super social.

The day after they left, I went to Kate's house for a birthday party. We ate really yummy food, played with kittens, cats, and one dog, then lit a bunch of sparklers out in the street. Super fun.

Here's the group gathered for cake. Me, Kerry, Megan, Rachel, and Kate. Kerry and Megan left before we broke out the sparklers sadly.

This is the birthday cake! It says "otanjoubi omedetou Kate" That first part just means Happy Birthday. Japanese people seem to favor strawberry cakes for birthdays. Interesting.

This is one of the kittens investigating a bag of dried mango I'd bought earlier that day. I would have more kitten pictures, but once again I have two reasons that I don't: 1. kittens don't stop moving when you're playing with them so they're hard to get good pictures of and 2. I was far more interested in actually playing with them than snapping photos. This particular kitten is my favorite. They're rescue kittens and are all up for adoption so they don't actually have names. Kate calls him Marumaru and I called him puff ball though. It's sort of the same thing in the end ("marumaru" gives sort of a round image).

No more pictures from here on. Sorry. If I get my hands (digitally speaking) on some, I will do a picture post later on.

The day after Kate's party, my program had a farewell lunch gathering that included host families. Tomo and Hiro came (with Ryo-chan, of course) since my family was in Hawaii. If you don't remember, Tomo is Mami's younger sister, Hiro is Tomo's husband, and Ryo-chan is their baby (he's six months old now! He wasn't even born when I first got here!). That was nice though not terribly exciting. It's our last official gathering as a group, however. In reality, that was probably the last time I will have every seen some of them. I'm not exactly best buddies with everyone in the group.

Then the week of classes started. It could have been worse, but I'm really tired of class already. Thursday was cool though because my Japanese class went on a field trip. This time we went to a disaster training place (not sure what else to call it). We were taught how to correctly use a fire extinguisher, what to do in an earthquake, and how to escape a smoke filled building. All of these came with us actually doing these things (seriously they have an earth quake room that they make shake while you hide under the table). It was pretty cool.

After the field trip, Rachel and I had plans to go to Harajuku, but it was raining that day and so neither of us were actually terribly enthused. Rain sucks.

Friday I was incredibly productive in a boring way. I got a lot of pre-leaving Japan stuff done (my winter clothes have been safely shipped to Knox on a slow boat). Not much to tell really though I was excited to get all that stuff done. That evening I babysat and then the family I work for fed me dinner since they knew I was alone for the week. It was okonomiyaki which is a favorite of mine.

Saturday was the 4th of July. I missed Thanksgiving, Christmas was pretty lame, I was NOT going to miss out on having some fun on the 4th. A bunch of us went to Enoshima for a day at the beach. We were super lucky as the weather was warm and surprisingly clear. I swam, ate hamburgers, then when it got dark we lit sparklers and set off some fireworks! It was so much fun! I hope I can get some pictures from that day at least to show you.

Yesterday (Sunday) I went shopping in Shibuya with Cat and....Connie! Los Alamos Connie! Connie that I hadn't seen since graduation! She's in Japan for an internship so we met up to hang in Shibuya. Cat knew a little shop with really cute (and really cheap) dresses that were nice enough for us to wear to the SILS closing ceremony. We ate at Mos Burger and just had a good time hanging out.

And that's about it. My host family got home around 7PM last night so I'm no longer home alone. Only two more weeks here in Japan.