Perhaps it’s Something I Said?

About a week ago, I did a one-day job for the city of Nagasaki tourism…association? department?  Look, it was really cool whatever it was.  Aaaaand I ended up on tv, but I’ll get to that in a minute. xp

 

My school sent out an application for a job “accepting 3 students from Gaidai (my university; aka “Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies”) from intermediate or advanced Japanese levels.”  I had no idea what it was at first, but I signed up anyway.  It turns out that the city of Nagasaki is hoping to host training camps for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, so they’re expecting a huge surplus in tourists in coming years.  Therefore, I was part of a group of 12 foreign exchange students (English-speaking, Korean-speaking, and Chinese-speaking) who were sent out to evaluate whether or not there was enough of our respective languages to be understood by tourists from our respective countries (also checking for mistakes and providing suggestions to improve the sites in general) at tourist sites around Nagasaki.

We all met up at Nagasaki Station (about 20 minutes from my house by streetcar; and by that I actually mean 35 minutes because it takes me 15 to walk to the streetcar stop first xp) in one big group (Emily and Nick also came from Gaidai).  However, we almost immediately split into two groups (I also figured out why they insisted only higher level Japanese students could do this job; the explanations were entirely in Japanese and the coordinator didn’t speak English at all, in fact, she was Chinese).  I was part of a group with a Korean student (his name was Yan), two Taiwanese students (the guy’s name was “John” or Xiao Yu Wen, but I didn’t catch the girl’s name), and two Chinese students (Wang Chen and Fei Cuixia) who were all from Chodai (aka”Nagasaki University”).

It was a crazy hectic but really fun day.  I really hit it off with Fei as well.  She spoke Japanese, English, and Chinese, so we had a ton of fun talking and joking with each other the whole time.  (I thought it was going to be a really serious job, but even the coordinator didn’t care that we were goofing around as long as we were taking notes about the places we were going to).  She’s the first person I’ve talked to who really doesn’t mind if I start my sentence in English and switch to Japanese halfway through or vice versa (which is good, because I accidentally do that a lot now xD).  She even taught me a little Chinese.  We wanted to fit three languages into one sentence, so we said, “たぶん一起hangout” or “tabun yiqi hangout” which means “probably (Japanese) together (Chinese) hangout (English, obviously xp).”  Then we bonded over lunch because we both ordered Indian food that was way too spicy for us and shared a huge pitcher of water and a package of tissues.  (I was wondering the whole time if she is from the same place as Ryou though because the resemblance between their reactions and facial expressions is uncanny O.o;  she almost seemed like a female Ryou).

Anyway, so we went around Glover Garden and Kosuda Dock (I think that’s what it was called) to check the availability of English, Chinese, and Korean.  Glover Garden was fine, I had been there before, but there really isn’t much English.  Kosuda was more of a problem.  When we arrived there, we couldn’t even find it at first, even our coordinator didn’t know where we were going.  Once we actually found it, there was a tv crew waiting for us.  Oh dear. O.O(In our group, there were six people; out of us, the Korean student was the best at Japanese, I was second best and everyone else was at more or less the same level….except for Wang Chen, who barely spoke any Japanese at all).  So, there was basically nothing at this dock except a sign that said something to the effect of “use this wi-fi hotspot.”…..and that’s it.  All the information about why this place is important was provided through a digital pamphlet kinda thing.  It was reeeeally weird though.  The tv people interviewed the Korean guy….then they came over to me with one of those microphones that they dangle above you while you talk…and asked me what I thought about the digital pamphlet and the “future of tourism”  (all in Japanese of course).  I don’t even have a phone…I was borrowing Fei’s phone, and I had no idea what the place we were at even was…That was fun, being recorded while desperately trying to read some of the information quickly so I could give a halfway intelligible response.  I think I just rambled something about how technology is moving forward and that kind of digital pamphlet was useful for the future and it was easy to use and understand and stuff…(when I told Okaasan that I had been interviewed when I got home, she immediately turned on the tv, and lo and behold, about ten minutes later I appeared on Japanese tv for about 20 seconds with subtitles and everything [everyone, even news casters and interviewees are always given Japanese subtitles while they speak Japanese]).  Fei thought it was hilarious.

After that, we all went back to an office building together to have a meeting where each of our two groups gave a presentation to everyone about our findings and suggestions.  The Korean guy and I were the only ones who knew enough Japanese to give an unscripted presentation in it, so we did ours together.  But (this is where things got interesting) here was the breakdown of our group: there was Yan who spoke Japanese and Korean; “John” who spoke Chinese, English, and Japanese; the taiwanese girl who spoke Chinese and Japanese; Fei who spoke Chinese, English, and Japanese; Wang Chen who spoke Chinese and English; and me who speaks Japanese and English.  So, here’s the problem: Fei, John, and Wang Chen’s English was much better than their Japanese, but the Korean guy (you know, the most skilled Japanese-speaker in our group) only spoke Korean and Japanese, so during the presentation, they would tell me what they wanted to add in English and I would have to try to explain it in Japanese to the Korean guy so he could address the room with the more formal, accurate version of what I was trying to say (my Japanese is mostly casual Japanese and I don’t know a lot of really big words).  This is all happening while we’re standing in front of an audience which is basically like a corporate meeting, by the way.  My brain was so confused from hearing English and speaking in Japanese that once when Wang Chen said something for me to relay from English to Japanese for the Korean guy, I turned to the Korean guy and started my sentence with “The…” (which is really obviously English) and everyone burst into laughter.

Yup.  That was embarrassing.

And of course, a few of my classmates from school….and my teacher also saw me in my brief appearance on tv….the embarrassment continues… (I think one of my classmates actually filmed it. O.O

Overall, it was a ton of fun  and a good experience though.  I can safely say that that was one of my favorite days I’ve had here so far.  I felt like I had come so far with my Japanese (I was so proud that I understood practically everything that was said =) ) and I was actually doing a job here and doing it well.  Hooray for finally feeling like an adult!

Have a great Christmas everyone! ❤

I Prefer to Be Only Slightly Insane…

This post is just another sort of status update.  This one I’m dedicating to talking about my host family.

I want to start off by saying that I understand waaaaaaay more now than I did at first.  Okaasan can be pretty difficult to understand sometimes, but that’s just because she uses a lot of dialectal words and speaks really fast…and uses lots of big words I don’t know…However, usually I end up understanding what she’s talking about based on context and stuff, so I understand about 60-70% of what she says.  Everyone else is way easier, so I understand about 80-90% usually.  (Outside the family…that’s a different story however…).  Anyway, we end up talking for hours almost every night and I have to say that as far as learning the language goes, nothing beats a host family.  Even when I’m tired and don’t feel like speaking Japanese, I have to;  if I don’t, I might as well not speak at all because they don’t understand English at all.

At first, I was like “Oh god, what…I…uh….words….and stuff.” (In Japanese of course, because I’m sophisticated and stuff…I can make a fool of myself in two languages now!  Aren’t you proud of me?)  But I kept talking anyway and now I can hold a relatively intelligent conversation.  I’m sure I still sound like I’m 5, but as long as we understand each other, I think it’s fine…  I actually take notes on the new words that I hear when we talk so I can look them up later (unless it’s a difficult word, then I ask them to explain it in simpler Japanese…which sounds counter-intuitive, but it makes sense, I promise; for example “bus station”[kind of hard word] becomes “the place where people get on and off the bus,” but if I don’t know the word for “place”…how are they going to explain that?).

Anyway, onto more detailed stuff about my family members!

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The woman in this picture is Okaasan (and me, obviously).  I’ll explain the kimonos another time…  Okaasan is seriously like a second mom to me.  She looks serious in this picture, but she is always laughing and smiling; she has a great sense of humor and I always seem to be able to make her laugh.  One of our running jokes is that Okaasan is the “nicest person” because one night, Neesan did something mean and blamed it on Okaasan, but Okaasan overheard her and came back into the room, scoffing “Okaasan wa ichiban yasashii hito desu yo. Shiteiru yo ne” which means (essentially) “Everyone knows I’m THE nicest person.”  So now whenever she does something ‘mean’ like tickling me while I couldn’t see her (she did this recently and blamed it on Neesan, who was lying on top of me at the time), I say “Okaasan ga ichiban yasashii hito to omotta noni…” which means “Even though I thought Okaasan was THE nicest person (she would do something so mean).” xD  I love her to death and I don’t know what I’d do without her (and her AMAZING cooking).

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These next pictures are of Takumi-kun (I know he looks like he’s like 12, but he’s 18, I swear).  He is super sweet and we have fun with each other all the time.  Because he’s close to my age, I can be waaay more informal with him (and not feel bad about it).  For example, a few nights ago, we were playing a video game together and he was mocking me for getting a mediocre score (it was a rhythm game) after I said that I was good at games, so I had him try it and he repeatedly lost to his own high score, so I kept laughing at him.  At dinner, he suddenly said “poison!” in English while I was drinking and I was so surprised that I nearly spat out my tea.  He looked very pleased with himself, so when he was leaving that night, I said “Mata konaide ne” which means “Don’t come again,” but he said “Mata ashita kuru yo” which means “I’ll be here tomorrow” -.- Then he smirked and left.  Cheeky highschoolers these days. *shakes head*

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You can’t really see her very well, but this is a picture of Neesan (holding Shi-chan).  I talk to her a lot, too.  Usually I tell her and Okaasan about my day everyday (it’s good speaking practice to use a variety of words) and then she and I have good conversations while I help her with the dishes.  She usually is pretty good at teaching me new words and stuff, too.  I also learned a funny thing from her; after work, she always puts “-sa” at the end of everything she says while she talks about her day.  I didn’t know why at first, but then I figured out that -sa is kind of equivalent to the English word “like.” (Ex. “So he was like ‘Are you working?’ and I was like ‘Harder than you!’ and like, I couldn’t believe that he wanted me to stay after work, too!) xp.

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This is a closer picture of Shi-chan.  She is so precious and I love her, but despite being only a year and a half old, she talks CONSTANTLY.  Some of it is pretty cute though.  Whenever she sees me, she’ll say one of two things: “Nee-chan” or “Obentou.”  Nee-chan is  an affectionate term for an older sister figure, so it melts my heart whenever she says it and “Obentou”…what she means is “Obenkyou” which means “study” and she says this because while I’m at school Okaasan always tells her that I’m studying.  When I’m getting ready to leave for school, she sees me with my backpack and says “Shi-chan mo!” which means “Shi-chan, too!” so Okaasan has to carry her outside to say goodbye from the balcony until I walk out of sight.  While I’m gone, she’ll say “Nee-chan choudai” to Okaasan (which means “give me Nee-chan”) to which Okaasan will reply “Nee-chan morawanai yo!” (“you can’t have Nee-chan [she’s a person, not something you can ‘have’]”).  I’ve also been teaching her a couple of words in English, so she can say good morning and hello, but she tells me both regardless of what time of day it is, so I don’t think she actually knows what they mean. xp

I don’t have a good picture of Niisan, but as I’ve said before, he’s awesome.  He’s basically everything I would want in an older brother.  Kind, caring, patient, always concerned about me, funny…(I had to ask my family which numbers they liked and didn’t like for homework once [lucky and unlucky numbers was the theme] and he told me he didn’t like 13; I asked why and he said “Jason might come out!”xD).  He works himself too hard though since he’s got two jobs and lots of orders to fill from his shop for the holidays, so I’m always worried about him…

I don’t have a picture of Kaori-san either, but she has a fantastic sense of humor and I love talking to her.  She loves old American movies, just like me, so we kind of bonded over old Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn movies xp.  She’s also really patient with me, but she talks kinda fast for me sometimes.  About a week ago, Okaasan came home with a bunch of gifts from an event she went to and I asked her if she was opening a shop as a joke, but Kaori-san took it a step farther and said “No, she’s going black market.”  xD  By the end of that conversation, we were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe.  Takumi-kun said that we were dying. xD

 

Anyway, so that’s my family here.  They really are a second family to me and I love them so much.  If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d be as happy here as I am now.  A lot of the dorm students seem kind of lonely a lot of the time…Niisan says that I should just find a family in every country so that wherever I go, I’ll always be home. ❤

Love? Pah! Overrated.

Alrighty!  Story time!

 

A few weeks ago, I went to a cooking class that was being sponsored by Togitsu city (the neighboring city to Nagasaki that my University is technically in).  Gen and I had signed up, but we didn’t realize that we were the only American students who decided to go, sooo….everything was taught entirely in Japanese (the other students were mostly Chinese students from our school, older women, and a few young teenagers).

However, there were about 4 older ladies who came over to me and announced proudly (in English), “We’re studying English now!”  They then asked if I spoke Japanese, etc, etc. (They barely said anything to Gen, but he didn’t look “American” and he didn’t say anything back when they did talk to him, sooo…).  Once I had said a couple of sentences in Japanese, one of the ladies came over and hooked her arm through mine.  She said (in English), “My son is coming today.  I want you to girlfriend with him.”  Ignoring the “Um…NO” look on my face, she turned to the other older ladies and said, “Kekkon?  Kekkon wa chigau deshou?” (which means “Marriage?  Marriage isn’t the right word, right?”) and then to me “Yes, girlfriend.”  O.O

She proceeded to tell me more about her son, who apparently was 33….O.O

Aaaand I escaped as quickly as I could to start on cooking.  All the old women in the kitchen (they were all volunteer teachers in their 70s, I think) helped us make a great meal of soup, sweet potatoes, chicken, and salad.  (They all had different ideas about how things should be done though and about 4 of them were helping Gen and me, so I was constantly being corrected “No, no, thinner,” “Why are they so thin? Cut them thicker…” “No, I just told you to cut them thinner didn’t I?  Weren’t you listening?” -.-)  They were all speaking so fast and in dialect, so I was immensely grateful that I’ve been listening to Okaasan all this time, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to understand even half of what they said.

After the cooking was over and we had finished eating, I ran into the lady who was trying to set me up with her son again.  (I had already met him by this point; he had been helping out at our cooking station)  I figured she had probably figured out that I wasn’t interested by now, so we started having a conversation and I was saying that I was interested in Japanese cooking so she asked me (in English), “Is your dream to open a restaurant?”  and I said “No, I want to become an English teacher in Japan or other non-English-speaking  countries.”  To which she said (I should have known better honestly…) “That’s perfect.  My son is learning English.”  He was overhearing most of this conversation and at this point leaned around the person next to him to wave at me and say “Sensei!” (Teacher). O.O

I mean, he seemed nice and all….but no, just so much no.  The sad thing is that this is not the first nor the last time that this has happened to me since I got here.  Honestly, it’s not really that distressing, it’s just kinda weird when it happens.  I’ve warned my guy friends at school (luckily I have about 6 or 7) that if this ever happens when they’re around, they’ll become my boyfriend for about 10 minutes. xD

Hooray for standing out in Japan. -.-

It was pretty funny though.  Have a great week, guys! ❤

Is the Pen Mightier Than the Sword? I Don’t Know, But There be Ninjas…

Look, don’t ask about the title, I’m in a weird place today. xD

After that looooong post, I figured I should write just a real short one.  This is just so I can put up a few pictures from school.  I recently finished my Kendo class (it only lasted for half the semester) so we all took pictures together with our swords.  It was silly, but fun.  And the instructor was awesome and hilarious; he would always put English in his sentences (he taught us almost entirely in Japanese), but he would use it in the funniest way.  In Japanese, the way you make almost anything a verb is to add “suru” to it.  (It’s like adding “-ed” to anything in English; just read this: https://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/1443:_Language_Nerd).  So he would say “hit suru” or “swing suru” to make those words verbs in Japanese even though they are already verbs in English xp.

 

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Also, on a random side-note.  In Kendo, when you strike at someone’s head, you shout “MEN!!!” (which means something totally different in Japanese, but we would giggle when the teacher would say in very deliberate English: “I am now going to teach you how to strike a men.”) Luke (the guy next to me in the picture) and Austin (the guy with white hair) liked teasing the other guy in the class when they were sparring with him by saying “I like!” when he was about to strike. xD  The look on his face when he realized what had just happened was priceless.

Nothin’ But the Rain

Okaaaay, remember how I was going in order with all these posts?  Yeah, not doing that anymore.  I’ve given up on writing everything I’ve wanted to right up until now.  I’m just going to skip ahead to when I went to Yakushima (about two weeks ago) and go from there.  I’ll go back and write the stuff I did before that later, but I’m so far behind now that I feel like I’ll never catch up. xp

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Anyway, so Yakushima (屋久島).  Yakushima is an island off the southern coast of Japan that is a world heritage site.  It has one of the most beautiful forests in the world and it was the inspiration for the setting of the Japanese animated film Princess Mononoke. I’d wanted to go there since I decided I was going to Japan, but I wasn’t sure when I’d get the chance to go, but then one of the girls in my program (Sarah) said she was going there in November, but she’s only in Japanese level 1, so booking tickets for things (the websites are entirely in Japanese) and actually getting there was going to be difficult seeing as she can barely speak any Japanese.  Therefore, Gen and I decided to go with her.  We planned everything ourselves, booked the bus tickets to Kagoshima (a city on the southern tip of Kyuushuu), booked the ferry tickets from Kagoshima to Yakushima, and booked hostel rooms.  We went from the 13th of November to the 15th. We left on Friday afternoon after classes, rode the bus for 5 hours to Kagoshima and crashed at our hostel there (I just want to point out though that our bus was like 20 minutes late, so we thought we’d missed it, but there were these two little old ladies at the stop who apparently sold tickets who told us which bus was ours and when it was coming.  Poor Sarah had no idea what they were talking about…)

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Once in Kagoshima, we explored around a bit to find some food and then went back to our hostel….much wetter than when we left. (Did I mention it was raining in Kagoshima?).

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We stayed up late watching stupid comedy stand-up stuff on Gen’s tablet and then went to bed. Sarah and I were sleeping in a dorm with several other women (at least two of whom were from Spain.  I assumed as much since they were speaking Spanish, but I asked to be sure).  Everything was good…until about 6:50 am….when there was an earthquake.  I’ve never experienced an earthquake before.  I thought Sarah was shaking my bunk to wake me up.  Then everyone in the dorm started saying “Jishin? Jishin!” (Earthquake) and getting out of bed.  It wasn’t really that bad, but by that point Sarah and I were already up, so we headed downstairs to the common room to watch the news.  Gen and the rest of the boys in his dorm apparently just completely ignored the quake and rolled over to go back to sleep because he wandered down about an hour later.  We were watching the news and all they were talking about was the earthquake though….And all our friends from Nagasaki were bombarding us with messages on facebook asking if we were okay since we were near the epicenter.

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(This picture is of the news that morning talking about the earthquake)

Needless to say, we were fine.

We headed out to catch our ferry at 7:45.  (I was particularly proud of myself for remembering how to say “Where does the ferry depart from?” in Japanese xp).  We got on the ferry and rode that for about 2 hours.  I think normally it might have made me sick, but it was a jetfoil, so it felt more like an airplane than a boat.

By the time we arrived in Yakushima, it was about 10:30, so we started trying to find a bus to take us to the trail head…but it had already left at 10:20.  (It was raining this whole time, so the three of us were already wearing our ponchos and other rain gear).  We went ahead and found the hostel we were staying at that night even though we couldn’t check in yet just so we’d know where it was, but I figured while we were there we might as well ask the staff if they knew if there was another bus or taxis or something.  So, we went in and I asked this nice old man at the entrance about the buses and showed him where we wanted to go on our map.  He said the next bus wasn’t until 1, so I asked about taxis and he asked if I wanted him to call one up for us.  After that, he asked where we were staying and we said “here,” which surprised him, but since we were staying there anyway he let us drop off our bigger bags and let Sarah borrow some rain pants and a waterproof coat.  (Seriously, I have never met such nice people as I have met in Japan) .

Speaking of which, when the taxi arrived, the driver (his name was Seiji Jingushi) helped us put our backpacks and wet ponchos in the trunk and then I got in the front with him while Sarah and Gen sat in the back.  About 5 minutes into the drive, the driver asked me if I spoke Japanese.  I explained that we were all exchange students so we could speak to an extent and so we proceeded to have a lovely conversation and he explained some interesting things about the island (he was from Yakushima originally and had lived there his whole life).  He even stopped to show us the wildlife a couple of times.  We saw these two monkeys on the side of the road, but as soon as we stopped to look at them they started getting busy….so the driver said “Ararararara!” and drove on (it was hilarious; I love how Japanese people do that xD).  Once we actually got to the “park” entrance, we paid the driver, but then he actually parked, got out of his car, and walked us over to the information booth, explaining how much everything was, where the bathrooms were, and which paths he recommended we go on (it was still pouring rain, so he pointed out which paths were probably closed due to flooding).  He seemed really worried about us since I could speak okay, but I couldn’t read a lot of the kanji on the signs (neither Gen nor Sarah had spoken at all…).  He also gave me the time for the last bus off the mountain (all the trails start waaaay up on one of the mountains on the island) and his phone number just in case we missed the last one and got stranded.  I was so touched he was so worried about us.

 

After that, he drove back down and we started up one of the trails (I didn’t put my poncho back on because it was pretty warm with all the exercise…I eventually took off my jacket, too, but the hat Kaori-neesan lent me for the trip was super nice for keeping the rain out of my eyes)….but about half an hour up that trail, we found that it was closed due to flooding (the driver had warned us that it might be, but we wanted to try anyway).  So we headed back down and started up a different one.  I can’t even properly describe how beautiful Yakushima is.  Even in the pouring rain, I was having a blast.  Gen looked like he wanted to die though.

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After a while, the path we were going up looked more like a stream than a hiking trail.

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We did get to see a lot of really cool trees and stuff though.  The whole place was beautiful even though it was raining and covered in fog. We ran into a bunch of Japanese tourists on the way up and down, too, so I got to speak a decent amount of Japanese as well.  I love surprising people with my Japanese.  Once I told anyone that I’m an exchange student, we launch into awesome conversations (“where in Japan are you staying?  How long are you staying?  How long have you been studying?  Why do you like Japan?  Your Japanese is so good.”  I’m pretty sure that last part is a lie though. xp  It’s just because I’m the first foreigner they’ve met who can say more than “Konnichiwa”)

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(I have a lot more pictures, but half of them are sideways and I don’t want to fix them right now, ugh…)

Oh, and I also did……this:

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(Yes, that’s my thermos, and yes, I drank that.  I actually refilled it three times…What?  We were hot and dehydrated. Mom and Dad were kinda O.O though…xp)

We actually started hiking at about 11am and made it back in time to catch the last bus at 4:30, so I think we did pretty well.

This is us after the hike.  I asked one of the Japanese tourists who was also waiting for the bus to take our picture (I changed shirts…into one that was only damp, not soaking wet):

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(It also turned out that split three ways, the taxi was cheaper than the bus.  How often can you say that?)

We got back to our hostel and crashed, hanging all our soaking wet stuff all over the room to dry and eating convenience store food in our room.  Gen taught Sarah and I how to play a Chinese card game (I don’t remember what it was called though…)

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The next morning, we got back on the ferry (shown in the picture above) and headed back to Kagoshima, where we spent about 4 hours (and had some of the most amaaaazing ramen) until the bus for Nagasaki came.  While we were waiting for the bus, we saw a store with all the mascots of Kagoshima on the windows.  It was adorable:

IMG_1307They’re all pigs and they all represent different parts of Kagoshima’s culture (a famous university, famous hot springs, sake, fish, beaches, pottery, food, a space program [notice the pig riding a rocket], and bamboo).  If you spend any amount of time in Japan, you’ll see mascots EVERYWHERE.  There are mascots for schools, police stations, prefectures, cities, stores, construction companies, hospitals, etc.  I actually bought a little key chain of the food pig mascot for Kagoshima as a souvenir (this isn’t the key chain, obviously, but the key chain I have is of the pink pig in this picture):

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It was completely exhausting, but I had a blast.  Onward, TO ADVENTURE!

 

I’ve Always Had a Hard Time Getting Up When it’s Dark Outside…

So, funny way to start this story: on the day in question, everybody told me that I would be going fishing with Takumi-kun and Kaori-neesan.  So, I was told that I needed to wake up at 5:30 so I could eat breakfast, get dressed and be ready to go by 6:15.  So, I set an alarm and woke up at 5:30, but everyone seemed surprised when I came downstairs at about 5:40…(I had wondered why okaasan hadn’t come to check if I was awake…)  Apparently, the weather was too bad, so they weren’t going.  Instead, they decided to go to the aquarium in Sasebo(don’t ask me why…).

 

So Kaori-neesan, Takumi-kun, Kaori-neesan’s friend (I thought he was Takumi-kun’s dad at first, but apparently not) and I all got in the car and went to Sasebo. The friend (I actually forgot his name, whoops…) would sometimes talk to me, but he seemed to get frustrated that I couldn’t understand, so he would say things to Kaori-neesan who would simplify it for me. (About half the time, I understood him fine anyway, but oh well…) We actually arrived before the aquarium opened, so we just hung around there for about twenty minutes, then we went in.  It felt very much like any aquarium in America, except, of course, for the fact that almost none of the exhibits had any English written on them.

 

Now, normally, this would have just been another aquarium and I had just been to the penguin one, so I wasn’t particularly interested, but Takumi-kun is actually studying to be a marine biologist (researcher? I’m not sure what it translates to…).  He’s still in high school, but his high school specializes in marine research.  He does a lot of diving off the coast for schoolwork and they raise fish at his school, too.  So, Takumi-kun knew a lot about all the things we were looking at and sometimes he would describe what was special about the fish to me (he’s usually fairly quiet around me, probably because he’s not sure how much of what he says I can understand…but anyway, he was actually pretty talkative on this day).

 

(This is a picture of Takumi-kun, but you can’t really see him at all;  I just told Okaasan that I’d found the ghost of the aquarium xp)

 

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We fed some of the fish, got to touch some starfish and sea slugs and stuff in a big tank, and then we went out to watch the dolphin show they were having.  We actually stood on the roof of the building to watch the show because the lower floors were too crowded, but Nagasaki people are weak to the cold, so I stood on the windiest side because everyone got cold up there but me. =p

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After the show, we went back inside and they had a booth where you can extract your own pearls from oysters (they give you a knife and stuff to do it).  Takumi-kun and I went and did it together and because both of the pearls we got were about the same size and color, he said that I should have his and I could make earrings or something out of them for myself.  (He’s usually really shy, but he can be super sweet sometimes).

 

After that we went and grabbed some lunch and headed home.  They dropped me off to meet Gen down by Dejima and that was the end of our little adventure.  It was very low-key, but I still had fun and got to know more of my host family a little better. =)

And They Never Listen to Us…

Alrighty, back on writing these things….as they get more and more vague because so much time has passed.  Oh well, here we go!

So, at the beginning of October (I know, I know…) there was a three-day festival called Okunchi on the 7th, 8th, and 9th (if you want to look it up, it would be “the Kunchi festival”).  It’s one of Nagasaki’s most famous festivals; it starts and ends at Suwa Shrine and it used to be a sort of harvest festival.  The first day of the festival, the god(s) cross over where the spirit world and the physical world are closest in Nagasaki (the shrine) and then he(she/it/they…look I don’t know, ‘kay?) is carried down to Dejima wharf. (So that day, a large procession of people carries a large float down to Dejima)  The second day, the god(s) is blessing the weather, crops, etc. and the third day they carry the god(s) back to the shrine to cross back over.  That’s the explanation I got anyway.  The reason it’s so vague is that there is no plurals or gender in Japanese….and my host mom gave me this explanation…and she speaks absolutely no English whatsoever.

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So, most of Okunchi was during my school week, so I couldn’t go, but after school on Friday, I arranged to meet up with a bunch of people to go see the festival.  I was with the Chinese students I had met up with before as well as a couple of extra American students and a Korean student who is in my Japanese 4 class (his name is Hyok and he’s often my partner in class :)).  We met up with Niisan at the bus stop near my place and got on the streetcar together to go see the festival.  Honestly, I think most of the cool stuff was pretty much over by the time we went, but the fact that we all went together made it pretty fun.  We saw one performance and then wandered off to find street food…aaaaand subsequently lost half the group in the crowd.  Woops.

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But at the stalls, each of the people in our remaining group bought something different and we all shared; it was delicious.  However (funny story time incoming…), when I was buying my food (I bought grilled squid) Gen was helping me decide what to get and the old lady at the stall looked at me expectantly and asked if my boyfriend (Gen) and I were going to eat what I was buying together.  (I just want to point out that this is the first Japanese person I’ve talked to who didn’t seem surprised that I understood her and responded in Japanese)  I tried to explain that Gen and I were just friends…at which point she winked at him and said 「でも、かれしになりたいやろう?」 (Demo, kareshi ni naritai yarou?) which means: “But, you want to be her boyfriend, right?”  *sigh*  And he of course said no, but the old lady thought she had us all figured out and kept giving me this knowing look.  As we were leaving, she said we should come back once we had started dating.  xD

(By the way, this seems to be a common thing that happens to us a lot.  Since Gen is Asian, when people see us together, they assume I’m either his foreign girlfriend or wife.  Sooo…it’s hilarious to see the looks on people’s faces when I speak Japanese instead of him.  My Japanese is significantly better, so I usually do the talking xp)

They Never Tell You the Whole Truth…

So, today I met up with some friends to go to karaoke. After the school festival (yes, I know I haven’t talked about that yet, so this is out of order, but I just HAD to share this story while it’s fresh in my mind xp), I went home to change and eat dinner, then I headed out to meet everyone at Hamanomachi (a large mall in downtown Nagasaki). There were seven of us this time: me, Gen, Max, Luke, Cat, Nathaniel, and Shinji (he’s a Japanese student, but he spent time studying in Canada, so his English is REALLY good). Anyway, we all met up and started heading towards the karaoke place (as usual, Luke was trying his best to irk Max with bad British accents, mixing up British cultural references and complimenting the French xD). We sang for a while and it was tons of fun, but I had to leave early to meet my curfew.

As I was leaving the karaoke place, I saw a streetcar pulled up at the station, but I couldn’t see which line it was, so I poked my head in to ask the driver. I asked him “Which color line is this?” He said, “white” so I stepped on, but then he said “Where are you headed?” I said “Ohashi” and he waved his hand like he was saying no, so I backed out of the car, but then he looked confused and beckoned me in. O.o

I sat on the bench right behind the driver, but when I looked up at the people across from me, I saw Neesan sitting there next to a man in a suit. She waved at me and he patted the seat next to his, so I moved there. Apparently, Neesan had heard me talking to the driver, but she couldn’t see me, so she was trying to crane her head to get a good angle to see me and when he asked her what she was doing she said she thought she’d heard her family’s homestay student and he was like “What, where, who?” So when I sat down, he beckoned me over. This lovely gentleman’s name was Ichinose Makoto. He is Neesan’s coworker. We introduced ourselves and then he complimented my Japanese and we had a short talk about Japanese and English (he kept inserting English into his sentences, so I asked if he could speak English and he said it was too hard, so no). Then he started saying “Well, I’m from the Philippines; I came here, by myself, in a row boat.” O.o

I asked him to confirm his name for me since I wasn’t sure if I’d remembered it correctly and he said (in English) “Just call me MAC!” very enthusiastically (needless to say, I was confused but laughing at the same time). When I didn’t respond because I was laughing too hard, he elaborated that his first name was Makoto, so Mac should be his nickname in English (I said I would call him Mac-san, Neesan said I should call him Mac-chan, to which he immediately protested). As we approached his stop he said, “Well, I need to return home now, to the Philippines. I’ll swim there from here; hopefully I’ll get there by morning.”
(Neesan was laughing throughout this whole conversation, so I guessed it was probably a joke from the start. He said everything with such a serious face though that I couldn’t be sure :p)

Anyway, when we got home, Neesan told Okaasan about this whole conversation and then said that he’s the same at work. If they get a person who comes into the office (Neesan works in real estate) from Korea or China, he’ll say something like, “Oh yes, I’m Korean, too. These Japanese people are real weird aren’t they?” Once, after he did that, Neesan asked him if he’d ever been to Korea; he said “Nope.” xD

He may be one of the funniest people I’ve met in a long time. It’s rare to find someone who can make such outrageous jokes with such a straight face.

(Just to keep things in order, this happened today, October 31st.  I’ll get back to the stuff that happened a couple of weeks ago in my next post =p)

You Have that Vacant Look in Your Eyes that Says, “Hold my Head to Your Ear; You will Hear the Sea”

I know what you’re all thinking, and YES, I am perfectly capable of making jokes about my own lack of intelligence from time to time without outside help (I’m looking at you, Rachel -.-)

So, no pictures for this post really (just a street/bridge…because reasons); this is just an update on my boring school and stuff. =p

I took a butt-ton (yes, that’s a real word…now…..don’t criticize me, I’m an English major, we make up real words all the time) of classes my first week because the way the class registering system works here, you just attend all the classes you might-maybe-sort of want to take and then you just start dropping classes from there.  Now I’m doing 16 credit-hours a week.

Originally, over half my classes were taught in Japanese, but in two of them, the teachers talked so fast, had such bad handwriting and such thick accents that I could barely understand a third of what they said, so I dropped them (those classes were “Japanese Literature” [日本文学] and “Nagasaki and the World” [長崎と世界]).  Now I’m taking Martial Arts, Japanese 4, Japanese Film, Kanji 3, Japanese Contemporary Literature, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), Seminar in Japanese Studies, and “Japanese Culture” [日本文化].  Out of those…Martial Arts, Japanese 4, Kanji 3, and Japanese Culture are taught in Japanese, so I think it’s about half (feels like more though because I have Japanese 4, 4 days a week).

Thankfully, talking to my host family for hours and hours every night has improved my Japanese tremendously (especially listening), so classes taught in Japanese aren’t too hard.  The only one that’s kind of hard to understand is the “Japanese Culture” class because it’s a class for the NICS students; you know, the students who are like all in Japanese 6 and above.  I’m the only white person in that class, so I get singled out…a lot.  Gen is American, too, but since he isn’t white, he doesn’t stick out. I ratted him out to the teacher though xp.  The teacher was talking about the seasons and the beauty of the Sakura blossoms and stuff, so he asked me if I’d ever been to New York.  I said I hadn’t, but then I pointed over at Gen and pointedly said, “SO, you’re from California, right?  Have YOU ever been to New York?”  He said “no” and gave me a glare that could have wilted freshly cut flowers. xD

So, yeah, class is class basically wherever you go.  I wake up, ride the bus to school and sit in classes for a few hours.  My college here is more like a high school than a college though.  There’s only one building (technically there are three, but one is a tiny building for clubs and one is the gym, so I’m not sure they really count) and a bell rings at the beginning and end of each period through the speakers.

The food in the cafeteria is actually pretty great, but I’m so stuffed from Okaasan’s breakfasts that I’m usually not hungry for lunch.  I just hang out in the cafeteria during my free periods since it’s practically deserted if it isn’t lunchtime.  Otherwise, I hang out at the big table in the lounge since that’s where all of us pasty white people (mostly) gather to freak out about the homework we didn’t do and/or watch youtube videos together (today was Dylan Moran comedy shows and Weird Al Yankovic music videos, but it varies xD).

There are four floors to my school (good thing I’m in shape from all of Nagasaki’s hills) and all of my classes are on the second or fourth floor (the third floor is just teacher’s offices).

But yeah, I go to class five days a week and have a decent amount of homework though nothing like the piles I got back home.  In the evenings, I chat with my host family and they all gather around to help me with my homework (apparently watching me suck at grammar is very entertaining; for example, one of the problems I was given said [in Japanese] “Judging by Mr. Yamada’s dirty clothes, he probably_____” and I said “he probably didn’t go home” which made everyone dissolve into laughter for a good five minutes; when they could finally talk again, they said “maybe, but it’s really rude to say something like that!”  oops xD)

On weekends I tag along with my host family on trips or plan hiking trips and stuff like that with Gen or some of the other exchange students.  Oooor I grab my laptop and go sit in the park to watch anime and stuff.

Aaaaaaaand that’s basically my life right now.  Not super exciting, but at least I feel at home here. =)

Love you guys! ❤

If You See Something THIS Big with Eight Legs Coming Your Way, Let Me Know. I Have to Kill it Before it Develops Language Skills

This is another quick post about something I’ve become almost paranoid about.

Spiders.  Everywhere.  HUGE honkin’ spiders with multi-colored bodies splayed in bushes, hanging over walkways, strung on giant webs five feet across between trees and street lamps.

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(yeah, this is a close up of the featured picture.  They build webs between buildings and power lines.  I mean, what the hell?)

I swear I see a dozen of these things everyday, unless I stay inside, where there are only mosquitoes, beetles, and wolf spiders.  O.O

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(I walked through one of these webs on accident while I was hiking today…luckily no one was home; I completely freaked out though.  Gen thought it was hilarious, of course)

Honestly, I have never gone somewhere with so many bugs in my life.  There are bees and wasps and flies, too, but the things that really bug me (heh) are the HUGE spiders.  I don’t know if they’re poisonous and frankly I’m too afraid to ask because if they are, I’ll never sleep again. O.O

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They’re about an inch and a half across with black and yellow bodies and super long creepy legs.  I’m not usually afraid of spiders, but if one falls on me I’m going to scream and throw it at whichever friend is closest.  If you bump one of their webs, they scurry to the place you bumped within like half a second.  It’s freaking terrifying.