Friday, May 25, 2007

The Final Chapter

In order to wrap up the blog post-return, let's talk about my last week.

Monday, May 14 - On the Market
Today, I had a mission. My mission was to complete my culture class and forget that it ever happened. In order to do this, I simply had to approach the teacher's office door and rid myself of the monsterous paper that I had written. Once at the door, I trew the paper in and ran like it was going to explode. From there, I simply had to kill time until my shopping extravaganza with Kazuki. While doing this, I sat with Haruki and Koichiro for our last encounter. Once it became time to begin heading to the station, I wanted to make a pit stop at the convenience store. On the way out of the lounge, I stopped by to take a picture with Mariko, my first Japanese friend, and Mie. After that, I ran into two other girls who I had recently met. Once out of the lounge, I ran into Suzuka before leaving the CIE. I continued running into various people all the way up to the gate where I could finally progress toward the station.

Upon meeting Kazuki, we began to puzzle over where was best for us to begin our shopping experience. We decided to begin at Tanmabashi where we could not decide where to go and ended up walking to Osaka Castle in search of souvenirs. By the time we reached the castle, we were quite thirsted and we stopped by an icecream shop where I ordered a lime-clear frozen drink that was one of the most awesome frozen drinks I have ever had. Next, we progressed to the two stores at the castle where I purchased a statue of a cat that would give good luck to my family. From there, we progressed toward the station, but obtained another lime-clear before we left. On the way to the station, I saw and band of girls playing outside. They were the first girl group I saw in Japan, so I took a picture. Noticing this, they decided to try to talk to me in English. I told them we were off shopping and they suggested that we go to Namba for that particular activity. And so, our next location was decided.

In Namba, we went to the central shopping center and wandered around. Most of the shops were for girls, so we did not have much success. However, we found a store featuring Okinawan wear and I found a neat looking statue that I wanted. There were two of them facing different directions, so I chose the one that I liked best since I did not want to pay $30 for both of them. When I went to buy the statue, the clerk told me to wait and ran off to the stand where the statue was. She came back with the other statue and boxed both of them up. Apparently, they were a set sold at the displayed price. I was pleased to pay the original price for both when I thought that it would have been more.

After dinner, we returned to Hirakata where we went to have seafood pizza at my suggestion. At the restaurant, we seemed to have difficulty in tagging a waitress. After one finally came we made our order, waited, and ate. After dinner, Kazuki had to go do homework, but before he departed, he bought me a guidebook to Hirakata so I would have something to remember it by when I returned home.

Tuesday, May 15 - Don't Test Me!
Today was probably my last scholastic Japanese test ever. It was a long one too. I have no idea how I did since they didn't give it back, but I have high hopes. After the test, Nao wanted to meet for lunch, but that wasn't until 2:30. I decided to defeat my paper for Human Resources during my free time. I was able to do so and happily removed it from my person at my teacher's office. After that, I found Suzuka and her friends outside. She was with an extremely shy girl who I kept playing around with in hopes to make her less shy. We all stood around and had fun until Nao finally arrived. Nao came with her friend Aiko and we all went off to lunch. Aiko had to do some research about the American social class system, but I was not able to be of much help since I have a social studies deficiency. After we finished lunch, I returned to the lounge in order to await my appointment. While waiting, I ran into many, many people who kept me entertained until my company arrived. My appointment was to meet with Ayumi and Miyuki. Ayumi carried with her a gift that she presented to me since this was our last meeting. It was a small Japanese wind chime. From there, we puzzled over what to do next. We eventually decided to go to karaoke since that was the only suggestion we could think of without sitting there for an eternity. We went, we sang, and we left.

Wednesday, May 16 - Say What?
Today began with meeting Masami and Nana for the last time. When I went fishing for lunch, I noticed that I had become completely bored with the menu. Fortunately, today would be my last time dining in the cafeteria. Also fortunate, they were serving a special meal today. I ordered the dish known as sukiyaki, which was pork over rice with fried tofu and a raw egg. I wasn't sure how I would like the egg, but I gave it a shot. The egg had a slightly unfavorable taste to it, which I believe was just that particular egg or how it was prepared. My meeting with Masami and Nana consisted of our usual talking during lunch and departure.

After the meeting, I went back to the CIE where I ran into Yusuke, who wanted grammatical help with his Human Resources paper. Being that it was a six page paper, he felt like he owed me something, so we went to the convenience store so he could buy me a drink. I also discovered some packing tape that I needed for my package that I wanted to send for over a month. Yusuke also got that for me. From there, I returned to the lounge where I found Suzuka and her friends Yumiko and Hikaru. Yumiko was another really shy girl. In fact, since our first meeting, I had been trying to help her get over her shyness. I noticed that she would always rub her hands while sitting around me, so I would always pull them apart and place them on the table. By this point, she was able to not rub her hands, so I had apparently made an impact. I initiated a game at our table with the empty bottle from Yusuke. I would place it in front of someone and say, "ippon!," which meant one |long object|. From there, the other person had to do the same thing to another person. At first, when the bottle reached Yumiko, it would sit there until we could get her to participate. After we played for awhile, we were able to get her to participate by herself. At that point, introduced two origami figures that Suzuka had made into the mix of our game. This seemed to bring Yumiko's shyness back, but she would attempt to participate every now and then. Eventually, it came time for class, so I had to take my leave.

In Negotiation, we had our final, which consisted of a questionnaire about our negotiation checklist. It was a strange final to say the least. I hadn't really used my checklist since I didn't know what to put on it other than what I already did to prepare for a negotiation. At least I had some answers I could put down.

After the test, I waited for another friend named Nao who apparently doesn't take very good pictures since I think she looks better normally. We had met a week ago and she wanted to go to dinner. On the way there, she told me that her friends were joking that we were a couple since we were going to dinner. At dinner, I noticed that she had some traditional Japanese habits because she insisted on doing everything for me including ordering, getting the drinks, and even paying since this would be our last meeting. After dinner, we walked home since her appartment was on the way to my dorm.

Thursday, May 17 - Let's Try Again
Since my first shopping experience didn't bear so many purchases (which I don't place blame on anyone), I wanted to try again in Kyoto. To accompany me was Nao - the original. On the way to the station, I both took pictures of the town for my memory and ran into my friend Nick who suggested that I go to Shijo in Kyoto for shopping. It was good to have the suggestion, because Nao had no idea where to go. When we arrived at Shijo, I had no idea where to go, but I had been there once before with Kenji. I started noticing things that looked kind of familiar in my chosen direction. Eventually, we ended up where I was hoping to end up. I didn't end up buying too many things, but I did get a few things. Next we had lunch and then went for icecream at a Baskin Robins. From there, we went to a shrine since Nao wanted to see one. It happened to be the shrine that I went to for a festival with Albert and Yusuke. After that, we were perplexed as to what to do for our last meeting. We eventually decided upon the seeming default of karaoke.

After karaoke, we returned to Hirakata where Nao wanted to get a purikura with me. Purikura is a popular activity among Japanese girls which is known in English as 'print club.' In purikura, the people enter a booth fit for about five people and select a variety of backgrounds for a picture. Next, the camera shoots pictures at timed intervals for each background. After that, the people move to another section of the booth and decorate the pictures with touch pens and preformatted designs. Finally, the pictures are printed. We got 24 pictures for about $4 with six different shots. I can unfortunately share only one online. After that, Nao had to attend her friend's birthday party. I went to the vending machine restaurant for the last time and then went home.

Friday, May 18 - Clear Across Town
Today, I was to go to USJ (Universal Studios Japan) with Einar, Nabil, and Todd. When I woke up, Todd appeared highly uninterested in joining us. As it turned out, he never actually wanted to join us and said that he would simply to avoid us trying to convince him. Nabil had said that he might come at 3:00 since he was on a date prior to that. He also did not end up coming. Back at 9:30, I was making my way to USJ to join Einar and his friend Simmie who was visiting from Iceland. When I got there, I had to pay my $55 to get in and wait for Einar to come find me. USJ seemed smaller than the real US, but we still had our fun. We began with a 4D movie of Shrek. It was an interesting experience. The seats bounced us with the movie and we occasionally had water spew on us when the donkey sneezed... From there, we encountered a parade with the peanuts. Next, went to see the Terminator show that was pretty much the same thing that we had in America with a guy who didn't look like the Terminator. Next, we went to ride Spiderman, which was suggested by my friends. The line was 70 minutes long and ended up being the longest line in the park. The ride was worth it, however. After that, we went to the Hollywood Dream, another suggestion by my friends. Simmie seemed apprehensive about the idea of a rollercoaster, but we made him ride anyway. It was fun. Short, but fun. Next, we went to Jurasic Park. They had a video of some fat American guy wolfing down a hamburger and smoking as an example of how not to behave on the ride. It was kind of funny. After getting spat on by a dinorsaur, we fell down a waterfall which seemed scarier than the actual rollercoaster, ironically. Next, we went to the Waterworld show. They had some really dangerous stunts in it. When the bad guy came out, he shot water with his boat at the booing crowd. We were on top, so we were spared the hydration. Lastly, we went to a Sesamie Street movie since that was all I had time for before I had to go. It wasn't that great, especially since I couldn't understand what they were saying.

I had to leave at 5:30 in order to honor my original plan for Friday. I was to go to Demachiyanagi in Kyoto to meet my friend Aya for dinner. Aya had helped me obtain a CD for my sister earlier and I didn't want to leave her with that being our only meeting. Demachiyanagi was on the opposite side of the Kansai area from USJ, so I wanted to try taking the SUPER GOD TRAIN that doesn't stop at Hirakata. Despite it's super goddom, it still took about an hour and a half to get over to Demachiyanagi. It just so happened that I would be right on time. After arriving and having some difficulty finding each other with the stations many exits, we made our way to the restaurant where we dined and chatted. I was given praise for my ability to teach English in an easily understandable way.

After our meal, we parted ways and I went back to Makino. It was raining by the time I got there. In Japan, when it rains, you get wet; unlike in Georgia where you just wait five minutes and walk home in the sun. After I waited for probably 15 minutes, the rain stopped for awhile and I made my way toward the dorm. It eventually started raining again, so I hid under a building for awhile. Soon, Nabil rode by on his bike and spotted me. He gave me his umbrella saying that his rain coat would be enough for him before speeding off. Indeed, he is a friend who will be missed.

Saturday, May 19 - A Farewell
Today was graduation. We had everyone's names read and everyone got up to pick up a certificate jacket. The actual certificates were delivered to our mailboxes in order to make life easier for everyone. Next, we had speeches from the school president, the consulate of Australia, a teacher from our program, and a Japanese teacher. Next, we had a reception with many people. I hung around with my friends and got many pictures of them all. Next, I went to the lounge to meet with Rieko and Yuka who really wanted to see me one last time. Rieko presented me with some postcards of Osaka and a set of chopsticks. She then proceded to cry over my leaving. The meeting was not too prolonged, so I soon met up with Nabil so we could gather the men one last time for a night out.

We met with Nabil, Todd, Einar, and added Simmie to the mix. We all went to Round One for one last gaming session. After Round One, I started getting messages from Miruku who wanted to see me one more time. Since I was with the guys already, I offered her to come join us. After some convincing, we waited up for her to get there and everyone went off to dinner. Next, we all went to karaoke. It became too late for Miruku to take the train home, so she got her mom to come pick her up. The boys all departed home while I waited with Miruku for her mom to get there. We chatted some and I gave some more English tips. She expressed her interest to visit me when she studies abroad. When her mom arrived, we said our farewells and I headed home.

Sunday, May 20 - The End
Today, I was to pack and prepare the appartment for inspection. I had to do some tricks in order to get everything in the suitcase and I was just barely able to zip it up. I guess it was good that I didn't find a horde of souvenirs. After packing, I went to meet with Nao who wanted another last meeting. We went to some arcades to play a game or two before going to dinner. I got something that was served in the cafeteria, but I amazingly didn't like it as much. Nao sampled the meal and seemed to agree. After that, we went to karaoke for one last time before heading home.

Monday, May 21 - Home
My journey started with the inspection. There seemed to be some wear and tear on the tatami mats under our beds which was strange since no one touched that area. Everything seemed to check out. Soon after the inspection, our cabs arrived and Todd and I made our way to the bus stop with our luggage. Next, we boarded the bus after waiting for it to arrive and went to the airport. We waited for our tickets and then sought out food. Next, we went to the boarding area where I had to go through an extra bag inspection via random selection. There were no problems, especially since I told them what to expect. Next, we sat at the gate where some old white guy seemed to stare at us periodically. It was real creepy and I hoping he would give me a reason to hurt him. Fortunately, there were no incidents and he was out of sight/out of mind after boarding the plane. Todd was sitting behind me due to an odd twist of fate and I was sitting beside another Kansai Gaidai student who I had never really talked to until the plane ride. I talked with Liz for most of the flight. The flight itself seemed much smoother (not referring to the constant turbulance) than the flight to Japan. Before I knew it, we were back in America.

I started becoming nervous about customs since I had heard so many horror stories about it. I handed the guy my slip that I filled out on the plane which I had checked the food box since I had food. He asked what kind of food I had and I told him that it was just candy and cookies. He said, "Is that all?" and he let me pass. From there, it was apparent that customs was over. I brought my bags to the reload point and went through another security checkpoint before going to my gate.

The flight across America was a nightmare. First, the plane was delayed at takeoff because the pilots had apparently had a night out and required rest before being allowed to fly. Next, during the flight, one of the flight attendants spilled orange juice all over me and just gave me a 'sorry' and threw napkins at me. Then one of the passengers started getting sick and we had to make an emergency landing at Colorado Springs. The Paramedics took him off the planes within ten minutes, but we had to sit there for at least two hours and wait for the breaks to cool off. When we finally got back in the air, I was ready to blow up the plane, but had to suffer through it for another two and a half hours. The flight across America ended up being as long as the flight from Japan, which was just unacceptable Once on the ground, I had to wait 30 more minutes to get my bags and then take the hour and a half drive home.

All in all, it was nice to see my family again. I feel that I have brought my trip to Japan to a nice close by seeing all my friends one last time and doing all my favorite things one last time as well. I will hopefully keep in touch with many of my friends with email and maybe even see some of them again during their travels. I trust that this blog will serve as a great memory for the experiences that I have had as well as a great advertisement for anyone thinking about visiting Japan as well. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and can perhaps write one yourself about such experiences (save the last bit about the plane).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New Experiences

I feel a lecture coming from Mom after I write this one...

Friday, May 11 - Swaying in the Breeze
To start the day off, I got to have an oral test for Japanese. With all that I had going on (10 page culture paper, 6 page human resource paper, oral exam, culture test, etc.), I had studied the test material beginning after my night out with Miruku. Despite this, I was able to fully memorize the entire speech so that I would be ready to answer the questions that were to come. Naturally, I was nervous, which caused me to trip up a whole bunch, but I was able to say what I wanted to eventually. I took the liberty of finishing my culture paper so to not die the following few days. I also had to do another negotiation, which the teacher specifically selected because it was unlikely that we could come to an agreement. After two hours, the class gave up and we all went our merry ways.

My merry way consisted of going to dinner with Junko, one of my classmates who is going to America on the 16th, along with Niels (also in the picture) Wei, and Dan, three other classmates. We gathered in the lounge, where we got Kie (another classmate) and her friend Eriko to join us. And so, we traversed over to the station to begin seeking a place of dining. Being it dinner time, the restaurants at the station were fairly occupied so that a six-person party was difficult to fit. When we finally found one, we were glad to settle down.

For some time now, I had been thinking, "I've been in Japan for four months and I haven't tried sake yet!" Being that 1. I was now 21 and legally able to drink in my country of origin and 2. everyone else ordered a drink, I took the liberty of joining the fun and getting some sake. Since I didn't know how I would like it, I got a small one. When I took a sip of it, I knew that it was strong. From my previous two experiences with alcohol, I was able to clearly distinguish the taste and it was plentisome in the sake. I was a little disappointed that the alcoholic affect had already began to set in before I finished the sake. However, Niels reassured me that he could drink beer all night long and never get drunk, but with sake, it's all over. Despite my new achievement, I also consumed a beer and two cocktails.

From there, I closely observed everything I could about what was happening. I was drunk, and I wanted to know why it was such a popular activity. Moving was odd. It was like I contined moving even after I stopped for awhile. If I held still, I felt mostly normal. My speech was normal and I could control everything that I did. Most of all, I remember everything. Either I was only partially drunk, or I don't have the same effects as the common drunk. That night, my trips to the bathroom consisted of ridding myself of the excess liquid that I consumed. After the dinner was over, I took a bus with Wei that went halfway to the dorms. From there, we walked home. I was easily able to navigate the streets with only slightly wavering every now and then. When I got home, I performed my nightly duties and went to bed, curious as to what might become of me the following morning.

Saturday & Sunday, May 12-13 - surprise, Surprise, SURPRISE
When I awoke, I felt the effects of the previous night as follows: I woke up an hour too early, and I felt slightly groggy. I had no headache, I had no sickness, I had no hangover. Therefore, I deem my first real experience with alcohol as a responsible and successful endeavor. This was fortunate, as I had things to do today.

I was to meet Nao at Osaka Station. I used my excessive planning skills to end up arriving there about 15 minutes early. Because of this I predicted (correctly at that), that she would be late. After waiting around for about 25 minutes (15 early and 10 late), we met up and made our way to Kobe. Our first planned activity was to visit the Kobe Zoo, which to my surprise had a $6 ticket. The zoo had some fairly interesting animals to see. After the zoo, we walked around Kobe for awhile before retiring to her house, where we would be dining with her family due to my saying that I enjoyed my time with Kenji's family. When we arrived, there was no one there, so we had to find stuff to do. First, she wanted me to fix her computer, which was difficult because A. it was a Mac that I have no idea how to use and B. It was all in Japanese which I cannot read. Despite this, I tinkered around with it and eventually found something that fixed her dilemma of the icons being too big. After that, she had me play the piano for her until her parents arrived.

The family consisted of the dad, the mom, the sister, and the sister's husband. After a brief introduction and conversation, Nao left to pick up her friend, Hiroko, who would also be joining us for the festivities. At that point, the sister's husband and the father attempted to talk with me. In the beginning, I was able to understand what they were saying. They were talking about how they began drinking and smoking early and therefore were bad boys in response to my explanation about having gotten drunk for the first time the day before. After that, the father began philosophizing about how beautiful the Japanese language is. At this point, I could no longer follow what he meant because such deep discussions are beyond the scope of my language knowledge. Fortunately, Nao soon returned with Hiroko and was able to attempt to explain.

For dinner, we had takoyaki, which, if you remember, is octopus encased in a batter. It was a little strange, however, in that there was no tako (octopus) to include in the takoyaki. Therefore, we were essentially eating batter balls with various other ingredients. After dinner, we all had some cake that the family bought for the evening. Once that was done, we cleaned up and Nao, Hiroko, and I headed into Nao's room to socialize and do various things. After awhile, it became apparent that I would be unable to go home since it was getting too late for the trains. Thus, I became an unexpected guest, but no one seemed to mind.

To break away from the timeline for a while, Over the past few entries pertaining to Nao, she had been progressively (at a very fast pace) been becoming more and more interested in me. First there was the strange way we met, then the giving of a birthday present, then the holding of the arm on the way home. I could tell from her stories that she seemed to have trouble expressing her emotions in that she was a little too friendly with guys. A great example was the story about her and the ex-boyfriend who lied about their relationship status. This lie was probably a product of her continuing to see him like nothing changed except for the physical aspect. Another situation was that she has an interest in a foreign person who wanted her to get a web camera to chat with him over the internet. I pointed out to her that she was about to spend a hefty amount of money just for one person, so he was basically controlling her. It seemed that, despite my shooting her attempts down, every time I altered her way of thinking, she came to adore me more. Hence, I felt that she would become lost in her emotions again.

The next day, Nao and Hiroko (also known as Toshi chan) had to get ready for their part-time jobs. Nao would be working from 10:00-2:00 and she wanted me to wait for her at her house. During my wait, I played the piano (keyboard with volume control) in order to recall all the songs that I had forgotten since my leave to Japan. After working hard for an hour and a half, I was actually able to revamp myself to about where I was before I stopped playing. At that point, Nao's mother came in and asked if I wanted some food. Nao's mom was having some trouble making me toast. With the assistance of the father, they discovered that the toaster had been unplugged. After remedying the problem, the toast was made and eaten. Nao's mom left with Nao's sister to go somewhere while I was eating. After I finished consuming my breakfast, I returned to my study at the piano.

I returned to the piano, but only for about thirty minutes. At that point, my two hours of sleep proved to be insufficient, so I slept for an hour, waking up upon Nao's return. After she came back, we returned to the place where she had been for the past four hours in order to eat lunch. Once finishing lunch, we returned to her house where we hung out and chatted for awhile. When it became time for me to go, she took me to the station and I headed home.

I later asked Nao if she got in trouble for my stay, but she said that her parents didn't really say anything. I got the impression that her mom liked me and her father seemed rather indifferent.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Now Where Did I Leave Off....

Before you read this blog, please revisit the entry entitled "New Music and New People." I have added two new paragraphs concerning an event that I was confused about for awhile that now holds pertinence to the following stories.

Saturday, May 5 - To Namba We Go
Today I was to go meet Keisuke on a trip to Namba. We had been looking for some friends to go with us, but we were largely unsuccessful in doing so. I was able to get Nao to agree to come, but she couldn't join us until later that night and she would have to bring her friend.

My arrival at Namba Station sent Keisuke on a hunting trip since I ended up on the wrong side of the rather large station. After he came and rescued me, we began our journey of trying to find stuff to do. Our original plan involved Saki and Chiaki, but they apparently could not join us, so we had to find stuff to do with just two people. First, we looked around in a popular department store, but everything in there was rather dull and boring. After we walked around for a bit more, we stopped by some arcades in order to have some fun. Next, we went to a cafe where we enjoyed a triple chocolate drink while waiting for Nao to arrive.

I had earlier spoken to Nao online about our venture and did some information fishing. As I discovered, her friend was a guy, but she was not dating him. When they arrived in Namba, I discovered that this friend was one of the exchange students at the school. From there, we all went to eat okonomiyaki for dinner. After dinner, Keisuke had to leave since he had another appointment to attend to. Nao, Matt, and I went to karaoke. It seemed that Nao did not want to sing in front of us except for the few songs that she sang with one of us. Matt and I had several songs that we both knew, so we got to sing together a few times.

After karaoke, we went to the station in order to head home. Nao had to go a separate way. Matt began asking how I knew her, so I described the rather odd circumstance of meeting to him. From there, he casually stated that she was his girlfriend. Unfortunately, this information was inconsistent with the information that I had previously received. However, I thought that it might be best to approach the incompatibility from the other side since it could cause trouble if I brought it up to him. Therefore, I pleaded the fifth and we returned home peacefully.

Later, I asked Nao about the mismatched information and she verified that they were not together. She explained that they used to date, but she broke up with him because of the future distance problems. She expressed her concern about his statement in that she thought he might still believe they are together. After later asking him about it, she found that he did indeed lie about it. Through my psychological analysis, he wanted to get back together with her and perceived me as a threat to that goal. Unfortunately for him, his untruth pushed that idea over the edge by making her mad at him for lying about such a thing and therefore making her not want to talk with him anymore. (These events all happened over a series of days over the span of a week).

Sunday, May 6 - To Dinner
Today was the three weeks in the making plan to go to dinner with Miruku and friends. She brought Yuki and two other friends. She tried to invite Albert along, but he was sick. We met halfway at Kyobashi Station and made our way to the restaurant. Miruku said that the restaurant that she reserved was a little expensive, but looking at the menu, the prices were still less expensive than in America. We all enjoyed our meals while talking. After eating, we stayed and chatted for about two hours. Yuki's father had previously gotten upset with her for going to dinner with some guy (me) because he is very strict. Therefore, he mandated that she be back home by 9:30. However, 9:3o came and went. Apparently, Yuki has a bit of an attitude when it comes to being told what to do. This amused me, as it is against my image of a Japanese person to do such things. After we left, we all went to the station and parted ways.

Monday, May 7 - Otanjoubi, Omedetou!
Today was my birthday. As a present, my Japanese teacher gave me.... a test! A test that I later found out on which I got the highest grade out of all my other tests. As another present, I got to go to my favorite culture class and stare off into space and then do a similar act in my human resources class, but with a little more attention every now and then. After class, I was to meet with Nao, who insisted on getting me a present. She was officially the only person who gave me a present and also officially the person I knew for the shortest time (5 days). She got me a kimono for males since I asked her to get something Japanese. After that, Nabil appeared and insisted that we celebrate my birthday, so Nabil, Nao, and I went to karaoke. This time, I was able to get Nao to sing songs on a consistent basis and by herself - an interesting development considering that she used to date Matt and would not sing with him and now Nabil, who she did not know at all was there and yet she still opted to sing.

After karaoke, Nao realized that she would not be able to get home since the trains would stop before she could reach home. Fortunately, she was able to find a friend to stay with who even lived near the dorms. So we all walked home together. Using the excuse that it was cold, Nao took my arm in order to keep warm. This was a fairly consistent act all the way home. Hence was my birthday.

Tuesday, May 8 - Alright, That Does It...
All I can recall from this day was that I gave up on getting my sister's birthday present from a site that hadn't shipped it for three weeks, so I had one of my Japanese friends help me choose from another site that was in Japanese.

Wednesday, May 9 - Nada
I don't recall anything particularly special happening this day other than meeting with Masami and Nana again for lunch.

Thursday, May 10 - A Glass of Milk
Today I got to go to karaoke with Miruku; this time unaccompanied by friends. Miruku is part of a gospel choir, so I was expecting a treat. Sure enough, she had a voice. Throughout our singing, I assisted her in pronouncing English at her request. After karaoke, we went for dinner where I continued to assist her with pronunciation. She also perused her dictionary for English cliches and I attempted to explain the meanings to her. After we stayed in the restaurant for awhile, we finally left to head home.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Man, You Trippin'!

Thursday, May 3
Today, I got to get lost; as I expected. I was to go to Shiga, an area near Kyoto, home of the largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa. I was to meet my friend Kenji, who I had previously went to Kyoto and Round One with for the first time. I knew that I would get lost on the way there because he had to type an essay in his cellphone message about how to get there. So at 8:30am, I began my jouney.

The first leg of the journey was simple. I took a bus to the station and got on the ever-so-familiar Keihan train to go to Tambabashi. From there, Kenji had given me multiple warnings of which trains not to get on at the station. The train he told me to get on had signs pointing to it everywhere, hence giving me no trouble to find it. From there, I went to Kyoto station. At this point, Kenji's instructions told me to ride the JR line to my goal. Unfortunately, this station was at least the size of an airport, making his one sentence explanation very unhelpful. In fact, he was even lost when I called and asked him where the hell I was. After a good while, I finally discovered my destination with the help of various staff. Strangely enough, I had to go downstairs to reach the gate despite the fact that both Kenji and one of the staff said I would have to go upstairs... The last part of my journey took me to Oumihachiman in Shiga. The train conductor was almost impossible to hear since his voice was so quiet, so I had to watch what station was coming next. When I finally arrived, I happily got off of the train to find Kenji waiting for me outside of the ticket gate.

Our first stop was Lake Biwa. As we drove to the lake, I surveyed my surroundings. Shiga was much more rural than the other places I had been. Much of the land was devoted to growing rice. When we reached the lake, we were both famished. We drove around for awhile until we found a restaurant near the lake. It had a rather neat menu. It was here that I finally had my first helping of curry rice. We also had a nice view of the lake.

I had been thinking about the factors about my overnight stay with Kenji. Previously, he had been living in an appartment near the school, but now he lived so far away. It seemed odd that he would make this move by himself, so I asked him if my theory was true. As it turned out, I would in fact be staying with his family, not just him. This of course made me a little nervous since I would be indebted to people I haven't even met yet.

After lunch, we dropped by Kenji's house to deposit my bag before going off to karaoke. His Grandmother was there since she was 86 years old and couldn't really go anywhere. Their dog, Rin, was also there. At first, Rin didn't seem to like a stranger coming to the house. The Grandmother acted about how I expected; greeting me and then taking on a motherly role with Kenji asking if such and such was done and what we are going to do. The house itself was much bigger than I had anticipated. I had always heard how small Japanese houses were, but with the exception of the narrow hallways, the house was actually quite big! Just beside the house was a small temple that was managed by the family. The temple lacked a bell because they had to give it to the government during war time in order to make guns. Buying a new one would be very expensive.

Next, we went to karaoke. After that, we went back to his house where we played some games with my Nintendo DS until the family came home and it was time for dinner. And so I proceded down the stairs to meet the father and mother of my friend. Kenji's dad was a high school English teacher before he retired, so he would occasionally talk with me in English. These speakings were preceded by him saying 'ah!', tilting his head to the side, and staring into his mind while he put the sentence together. Despite his slow compiling speed, his sentences were very clear and easy to understand. Kenji's mother, like his Grandmother, spoke only Japanese, but with two English speakers around, I was able to keep up with what she was saying and respond back.

For dinner, the family planned the interactive experience of rolling sushi. As commonly thought of by foreigners, there was raw fish provided, but only as one ingredient. Since I was not keen on trying such things, I just stuck with the other ingredients, which were plentiful. After dinner, Kenji and I took the dog for a walk. This was my third encounter with Rin and by this time, she had gone from barking at me to jumping with excitement when I came near. This surprised everyone because Rin had taken a liking to me so quickly. After our walk, Kenji's sister finally came home. By that time as well, the family had prepared a bath for me in order for me to experience a Japanese-style bath.

First, I had to take a shower to clean myself. The shower was absolutely wonderful since there was actually water pressure as opposed to the gravity-based shower at the dorms. After that, I was to enter the bath in order to warm myself. It felt nice to be in the hot water, but I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do in there, so after awhile, I exited and got dressed again.

Next, the family wanted to hear me play piano. At this point, I hadn't played piano at all for three months with the exception of the short time I played for Kenji prior to his family's return. I did what I could to remember songs. For the most part, I was successful in playing.

It was becoming time for bed. I was to share Kenji's room. I noted that our countryside location created a lovely cacophony of frog noises outside the window. They were very Japanese frogs because they would all start and stop together. When they stopped making noise, it was like a window of sleep time. By the second time they stopped, I fell asleep.

Friday, May 4
Today started out with another walk with Rin. After this, we waited for the grocery store to deliver food as is custom to that particular town. While we waited, the Grandmother showed me some of the calligraphy that she used to write and asked me to take one. I chose the one that read, " White Clouds Flow Freely Without Roots," which is a Zen concept that the clouds can flow without anything holding them back. From there, we made our farewell from the household, but not before taking a group picture.

I went with Kenji, his father, and his mother. We had to drop his mom off at school where she taught as a contract worker since she had already retired from her real job. From there, we went to see tanuki statues, which are statues of raccoons. There were many stores to look at in the area. After window shopping some, we went to a museum of tanuki figures and from there, we went to lunch. I was very hungy. After lunch, they took me to the station where it was time to go.

The trip back was much easier than the trip there. Kenji pointed me to the correct train to go back to Kyoto Station. From there, there were a plethora of signs that pointed to my destination. In fact, the actual journey there was much shorter than the journey I had originally took. At this point, I had some trouble getting a ticket since the machines I went to would not take my 10,000 yen bill. After asking about it, I was pointed to the green machines that would take my money. From there, everything went smoothly all the way home.

Nabil wanted to hoist me away again that evening, but I elected to stay and do nothing since I was tired from my travels. I stayed at home and chatted with some Japanese friends online.

New Music and New People

Tuesday, May 1
Today's main event was going to karaoke with my friends Masami and Nana. I had met them previously on my 'nine people in one day' meeting experience. We went to the place that I called 'the expensive one' because depending on the time and people configuration, the price can get way out of hand. Apparently, our configuration was well made and the price was actually lower than the other place's when split up between us.

This place had a few different songs than the other, so I took advantage of the variety and tried singing some more Kana songs. I wasn't very good at them since I had never tried to sing them before. Masami tried singing English songs. For the most part, I could not understand what she was saying since she was still deep in the process of learning English. Nana exercised her shyness by singing so that I could barely hear her.

After karaoke, Masami and Nana wanted to go home since it was dangerous for girls at night due to drunk Japanese men wandering around. Before they left, Masami made me borrow a CD of My Chemical Romance. This was ironic since a Japanese person was trying to get me into an American band. I took them to the station and headed home.

Wenesday, May 2
Today in Japanese class, they had a group of student teachers come in and present a lesson on Kansai dialect. My perceived title of this course was, "We're Finally Going to Teach You What the People Around You Have Been Saying Now That You're Leaving." On top of that, it was made like a super cram session so that it was quite difficult to actually grasp most of the concepts. Although the student teachers tried to make it fun, having the fun was actually more work than I wanted to do, so I was eagerly awaiting the end of the class.

After class, I went for another sid-down in the lounge where I was again constantly met by various people one after the other. I probably met another 7-9 people in one day again. Always busy I am... Even as I was trying to go home, I was followed by a new person who wanted to meet me. I wonder if I can pack my popularity with me when I go home.

While I was leaving the CIE, I noticed that two girls were looking at me. They didn't say anything as I was passing, so I continued walking. After I walked past the neighboring building, I heard someone running behind me. It turned out to be one of the girls who was looking at me. When she reached me, the first thing that came out of her mouth was "can we be friends?". This, on top of the whole running after me thing was very shocking to me, as Japanese girls do not typically act in such a way - in fact, I don't think any cultural group of girls do. After I recovered from the surprise, we introduced ourselves; I as Michael, she as Nao. Since I was hungry, I described my exiting campus as going to a restaurant. Since Nao had gone through such trouble to meet me, she decided to tag along.

As we were leaving campus, her friend Hiroko (the other girl who was looking at me) passed us on her bike. She expressed her opinion of our going to dinner as being 'fast' and my rebuttal was that I was hungry. Nao and I talked on our way to the restaurant as well as while we were in the restaurant. While we talked, I disclosed that my birthday was soon when the topic of age came up. I also expressed an interest to see Kobe again after she made known that she lived there. From our conversation, we made plans for her to show me around Kobe two weekends later. After dinner, she boarded the bus and headed home.

At the dorm, Nabil gathered the troops and we marched off to karaoke again. Such occurences seem to be the only times that Todd ever leaves the dorm other than school or buying food. I wonder why he came to Japan since he just sits in front of his computer all day. I'm over here making myself go places and he just rots at home. In fact, after we were at karaoke for awhile, he apparently got bored of singing and just sat there until we left. I don't get it, and I probably won't.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

More Randomnity

I absolutely love Japanese advertisements! I can't read a word on them, but I can blow my nose with them!

Also, here's another lesson about Japan:

And here is how Japanese people learn English:

Monday, April 30, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Moving On


Monday - Met People
Tuesday - Met People
Wednesday - Met People

Today was the day of our Japanese mini drama, aka, skit. I had been working on the script's development with my French partner Judi for the past two weeks and now the time had come to present it. As most of the events as of late have shown, the skit could not go through without complication. As if by necessity, I had become sick. My throat was scratchy and I felt sick all over. Knowing that I could not miss the presentation, I made my way to school in order to fullfil my duty.

The skit itself was simple. My fears of having a coughing attack were never realized and I remembered all of my lines except one, which I simply had to glance at the English version of the script for a moment to remember what came next. From what I could hear, it sounded like Judi had several mispronunciations of her part and had much more trouble with the lines in general. In case of such an event, I had prepared a powerpoint to go along with the presentation in order to semi-distract the audience. Unfortunately, when it comes to grading, Judi will have to face judgment since the skits were videotaped.

I went through the rest of the day suffering through my other two classes. In Human Resources, one of the Japanese students was being followed around by a camera crew for some job hunting interview since she could speak remarkably good English. I tried by best to not look like I was dying while the camera crew was there. After they left, we had a group present their project to us. When class was finally over, I inched my way home, having developed a slight fever by then.

It was not my intention to be afflicted by this illness for long. After I got home at 4:00, I went straight to bed. As could be expected, my sleep was under constant interruption from waking up since I was sick. After sleeping until 10:00, I got up to take a shower. From there, I went back to sleep. I continued fighting my way through sleep until 5:30, when I figured that I had slept all I could. I still felt sick and a little nauseous. I wasn't sure if I was sick to my stomach or if I was just feeling strange for not having ate for 16 hours, but I figured I needed to try eating something, so I had some bread. After eating and not getting sick, I sat at my desk wondering what to do with all the time I had. I looked over at my bed and suddenly wanted to go back to sleep; so I did. I woke up a little before 9:00, making it so that I slept about 16 hours total. I noticed that the sick feeling had disappeared and my fever had gone with it. My throat was still messy though.

Today, being Friday, I had my long break between classes. I discovered as the day progressed that my voice was beginning to fade. It was ironic that I had to talk to people all day. All I did was sit in the lounge and mind my own business and everytime one person left, another person came - including people I didn't even know yet! By the time the day was over, I had almost no voice left! My fever had also started creeping back, so I went to bed at 9:00.

I was still sick, but my fever had died completely. Unfortunately, my voice problem was at full quantity. On top of that, I was very susceptible to coughing. Despite that, I was to go on a trip to Kobe with my fellow sick friend, Shiori. We went together as the coughing crew - both of us with colds. On the way to Kobe via train, Shiori would constantly nod-off due to being tired. Due to the ebb and flow of the train, she would eventually fall on me, which I thought was funny. After we reached Kobe, we visited the area called Sannomiya, where there was a festival being held for the people who died in an earthquake 12 years ago and to celebrate their foreign community. After we watched some of the festival, we wandered around for awhile until we came across some European-style tour houses. Shiori has a particular interest in such places because she went to England to study abroad; therefore, we went on a tour. We got a discount to see three houses for $10 as opposed to $15 since we were students. It looked like Shiori was in a dream world as she wandered through the houses. There were some rather interesting things to see as well. After we finished the tour, she found another area with more houses. I requested that we go elsewhere since I wanted to see some Japanese things too. That saved another $12 dollars and me from getting bored. Next, we headed off to the famous China Town. Our visit primarily consisted of us doing a walkthrough. It was pretty nice. As an ending to our journey, we went to Kobe tower. It was very pretty at twilight. From there, we trekked back to the station where we started our journey back home. She again dozed off and fell on me, but this time, she realized that she fell on me and apologized. I told her that it was better me than a stranger, at which point, she elected to rest her head on my shoulder to prevent such from happening. At Hirakata, she stayed on the train to go to Kyoto where she lived, and I went to Makino to save myself some walking time.

Sunday - It's a do nothing, catch up with my blog/do homework day! My voice is a little better and I have a cold X_x