Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
So last weekend in Tokyo we went to the Square Enix store... it was a lot smaller than I expected, but they did have a lot of merch. They have a gigantic Sephiroth in the floor which is pretty sweet. I got pictures and video.
We also went to Akihabara, which would have been much better if my brain hadn't been fried from the train trips up there. Many of the shops were already closed when we got there, but it was pretty freakin' cool. We went to Super Potato which is this gigantic retro game store and we walked around a bit.
After that we hung out with my friend from junior high named Bryce. He has oddly been in Japan for a while... we haven't seen each other since I lived in the dorms at the U. His girlfriend Akiko is really cool... they're awesome together. I told Bryce they should make some babies.
We had dinner together at some place called Sazeria or some such... it was an Italian/Japanese restaurant. They had good food, free refills (apparently not common in Japan) and melon flavored soda. After that we got ice cream at a conbini (Convenience Store) and I bought a calling card and left Julie a voicemail. Then we sat in the park chilling for a little while and talking.
After that we went back to the Hilton. At one point I had thought I lost my camera because my backpack had been open but nobody told me and I couldn't find it, but then I finally found it.
On Sunday we went to Harijuku and saw all of the oddly dressed people, and then saw a shrine whose name I cannot remember, walked through a flea market, and then went to the Meiji shrine. The Meiji shrine was cool. There were a ton more of the Harijuku-jin over on the Meiji bridge.
We got maybe a quarter of the way in or less before a big group of Japanese students came up to us and said they wanted to speak English with us for a school project. It was fun. We talked all the way through the shrine and they showed us how to purify ourselves and explained all of the lore surrounding the shrine. We got to see a couple of wedding processions.
On the shinkansen ride back from Tokyo we ran into a couple of other people from the program and we all went back to Habikino together from Shin-Osaka station. The busses weren't running anymore, so we had to walk to the dorms and it was late and we were all tired. We got in at about 12AM.
The next morning I realized that I had slightly injured my right foot. It's possibly slightly sprained, but it is ok. I just need to take it easy for a few days and I am wearing my boots to give my ankle support.
That's it for now.
They gave us a welcoming party today and it was pretty cool, but short. Tomorrow there is an excursion to Shitennoji Temple which should be fun. There will be tea drinking and Japanese sweet eating.
At some point I will hook up with my friend John who lives near Kyoto.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Today we finally got access to computers. The rest our stay will be conducted on campus, thank god.
There is an AM PM conbini (convenience store) built into the building our classes are held in. Odd.
Oh, I dropped down to level 2 because 3 was way too hard. 8 hours of homework plus 16 kanji per day? No thanks.
The 2nd level class is too easy, for sure, but it is going way fast so it is probably paced right for my learning ability. I think that I will focus on JLPT 3 stuff since they will be giving us the same test at the end, so that will give me a pretty good marker for what I need to learn by December.
So this past weekend we went to Tokyo. Chris and Kim and Debbie are here.
Me and Jack Daniels (Josh) and Jose Cuervo (Christian) left the dorms at about 6:40AM on Saturday morning. We had to get over to Osaka station and walk to Chris' hotel (Osaka Hilton).
First we had to get to Fujidera station, so we hopped a bus over... we have been doing that all week so that wasn't an issue. Next, we had to go from Fujidera to Tennoji station. Keep in mind that none of us had ever been farther than Tennoji station on our own.
I had already asked someone if the Kansai bus passes would work on the train, and we were told they would, so I showed Jack and Jose how to get a Kansai pass. Then we proceeded to attempt to figure out which train to get on. I spoke some Nihonglish (Or Janglish, if you prefer) to the gate guard and he told us which platform to wait on, but we missed the train, so I had to ask someone on the platform (in Japanese) if we could catch the next train to Tennoji. They said we could (I think).
So we got on the train, and made it to Tennoji. Next we had to make it to Osaka. The Osaka JR loop goes to Osaka, but I didn't know anything about it before we got there, so I went to the JR ticket office to ask them how to get there. Fortunately the guy spoke some english. Jack and Jose sat outside waiting for me. I was able to buy 3 1-way tickets to Osaka station.
We wandered around the station looking four our platform, and found it. 8 or so stops later and we were at Osaka. I had already told Chris we were going to be running a little late (We had wanted to meet up at about 8:15). We got to Osaka station at about 8:15, but we had to get to the Osaka Hilton, which according to Google Maps was a few blocks away so we wandered down the street and got ourselves lost looking for it.
It turns out that the Osaka Hilton is literally across the street from Osaka station. We had to get a crudely drawn map from a construction worker that didn't speak any English to realize that it was back the way we came.
So we finally met up with Chris, Debbie, and Kim. The lot of us got our JR passes and reserved seats on the train to Tokyo. About 20 minutes before we were supposed to leave, we decided to go find our gate, only to discover in our horror that we actually had to transfer to Shin-Osaka (New Osaka) station to catch the train. I asked the way to Shin Osaka in frantic Japanese and one of the train ushers showed us the way. Once we got to the platform it was totally not apparent which train to take, so I talked to an old man in Japanese trying to ask him which train to take.
The problem with the Japanese train system is that the stops listed on the train are generally the last stop on the line, and if you aren't familiar with the line it is hard to tell which direction you need to go. Since we were in such a hurry I was frantically trying to sort it all out but my Japanese understanding is really limited even though I can form somewhat coherent questions.
We jumped on a train and I was watching the old man for any hint that we had made a mistake, but he didn't show any signs, so we shrugged and rode the train hoping that Shin-Osaka wasn't far.
We got lucky. The next stop or two (I wasn't paying enough attention) was our stop and the Shinkansen was already there. We managed to board right before it left.
It was a crazy trip to Tokyo and my brain shut down on me that night. I seriously could not think straight. Too much Japanese.
I'll write more about the Tokyo trip and post pictures later. Updates should be more frequent now that I have Internet access.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I got put in the 3rd year group... WTF?
I am honestly not sure how that happened... hehe
It seems too hard, but I will give it one more day and see if I might be able to make it work...
We have several different teachers this week... I believe they were provided by the YMCA or something like that (WTF?) because of the off-site H1N1 arrangement.
So they split us up into groups today and I got stuck in the hard one with 3 other people. The student to teacher ratio is awesome, but we will see if I can keep it up.
My teacher was sick (how stupid is that? let's infect the gaijin so we can have a freak out fest once somebody in our group starts showing symptoms of being sick).
Yesterday we said hi to this old man and he ran across the road and asked us where we were from. We told him Utah and he asked if we were from Salt Lake City excitedly. When we said yes he pulled out a picture in an abnormally fast fashion that was already to be shown in a plastic lanyard of some random Americans and said 'That is my garden!' haha.
A lady had her kids tell me Konnichi wa yesterday. It was cute.
Today some little kids said 'konnichi wa' and 'nice to meet you' and 'goodbye'.
So far so good... let's hope it keeps up.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The problem was that there was a LOT of stuff on there that we had not learned yet, so it was basically not possible to do well. The final section was much better, since it was mostly easy vocabulary with grammar points and I felt like I managed that one at my level but the others were total busts.
We also had a verbal interview with a teacher to get a feel for where we are at. It was short and seemed ok.
I am near Fujidera station right now at an internet cafe. It is about $4.00 for the first hour and $0.60 every additional 10 minutes so I am trying to make this fast. In case you cannot tell, I have no idea where the apostrophe key is on these keyboards so I am not using contractions... it feels funny. (That is what she said... haha) ;)
They provide unlimited drinks here at the internet cafe (Coffee, coke, etc...) I want Ryan to know that I am drinking Calpis right now and I also had Pocari Sweat at the airport. ;)
So far I have eaten Okonomiyaki (A kind of Japanese omelet, pretty good) and Takoyaki which I was not extremely fond of because it tasted really fishy. I saw a Baskin Robbins and it made me think of Julie. I got a picture of it on my iPhone.
I had some grape sherbet, but it was from a different ice cream vendor since foreign chains like Baskin Robbins are expensive. :)
They literally have us wearing facemasks around the city and have asked us not to go on campus until after Sunday when they can make sure we are not carrying H1N1.
Our dorm rooms are interesting... they screwed up on our placement... it was supposed to be Japanese style bedding (real futons) but they made a mistake when we originally signed up and said room 102 was the futon room when 101 was actually the futon room, so we ended up getting the room with the beds.
It is alright, though. We have a funky Japanese shower and toilet. The shower is separate from the bath, and it feels like you are taking a shower on the floor of your bathroom. The toilet has a heater, butt squirter and drier, and when you flush it you can flush big or small... and water comes out the top so you can wash your hands and that water goes back into the tank to fill it up. Kinda strange.
We also ended up with a crazy cellar like area where we could hide bodies if we wanted and there is a trap door underneath the kitchen table that is hiding a sort of cooler.
They took us shopping at a Japanese grocery store last night to get food for a few days. We had yakisoba for breakfast since it is the only thing I can cook that is remotely Japanese and it is one of the only things I can actually recognize in the store. The fruits are really freaking expensive but the vegetables are pretty cheap. Lots of stuff is reasonably priced here as long as you pay attention to what is happening. I am definitely going to lose weight here... no doubt about it. There is too much walking and not enough fat in the food. ;)
It has definitely been a challenge communicating, but it is fun too.
The buses here have change dispensers which I think is pretty cool. I saw a squatter toilet and it scared me. I hope I never have to use one.
I had some serious homesickness last night after we got our stuff unpacked in the dorms, but I am stuck here for 5 weeks, so I will make the best of it. ;)
Thanks for all the comments and support. I hope you are all doing well!
Tomorrow we get our grade placement and start classes.
Monday, June 1, 2009
I spent my time wandering around and fixing my laptop which blew up on
me randomly before leaving Salt Lake. I also called Julie a few times
on Skype. Incheon had free wifi which is always nice.
And now we are in Osaka waiting in the international lobby for
everyone else to arrive. I'm pretty tired but I need to stay up until
about 9PM so I can adjust my body to Japan's time zone.
On the flight from LAX to Korea they fed us steak for dinner and an
omelet for breakfast. The steak was awesome. In fact the food was
really good all around.
From Korea to Japan we got a scary looking bento box that was
actually quite good. The only thing I didn't eat was the sauce in the
fish-shaped tube and the tofu.
It's 12:30 right now and the rest if the gang should be here sometime
between now and 4:30. So far about half of the students have arrived.
Here are a few pictures. Enjoy.