I live, I learn, I travel, I write.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A quick update

Osaka didn't happen this past weekend, we just didn't have enough time to plan for it. I went to Otsu and Kyoto on Tuesday, though... it was alright. We didn't do much of anything, but Heather and I just wanted to get out of Hikone for a few hours, and Niki had to go to Otsu to get submit her visa application. Kyoto is only a few more stops past Otsu, so we just decided to go a bit further. It was raining so we didn't go very far in Kyoto, but it was kind of nice to just walk around the train station there. It's HUGE. Here's a picture that my friend Lindsay took last time we were in Japan, in 2005:

So yeah, we were there for a few hours before we decided to head back (and to beat the rush hour on the trains here). I'm excited to go back and actually see Kyoto again. It's going to be so different navigating through the city by myself, and not with a tour guide.

On Saturday morning, some of the students from Shiga Daigaku came over to JCMU and taught us how to make Japanese-style curry. It was DELICIOUS. And easy! I'm excited to learn how to cook more Japanese food while I'm here. After the cooking event, I went to a festival at Shiga Prefectural University (different from Shiga University) with some of the other people in my program. It was pretty fun--there was a lot of cheap food and drinks, as well as little street fair-esque shop stands, and free live music. There was a Japanese ska band playing when we first got there! I wish we could have seen more of them, but they were finishing their set as we arrived.

Sorry that this isn't particularly interesting, but it's a busy day. I have a lot of things that I need to get done today, but I also wanted to post something, at least. Hopefully I'll pick up some extra time this week.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Classes, purikura, and the rainy season

So we started our first real week of classes here at 日本ミシガンセンター and, so far, it's been pretty okay. I know all of the material, grammar, content, etc., but my weakest point in the Japanese language (as it is for many people) is speech production. I am TERRIBLE at just producing speech and thinking of things to say on the fly, and I'm pretty sure that's why I'm repeating level two. Which, like I said, is fine. There's always things for me to re-learn, and I'm sure that I'll learn new things while I retake the course.

I haven't gotten the chance to do much sightseeing yet; there's a lot of work to do during the week, so it looks like most of my non-Hikone-area sightseeing will have to be strictly on the weekends. I think that this coming weekend, a few of us are going Osaka. I'm pretty excited for that--Osaka is HUGE and I'd love to see it again. I want to go to Kyoto a few times too... it's only about 30-40 minutes away by train, so that can easily be done in a day. One of the guys down the hall was also talking about going to Hiroshima, which I'm sure would be an incredible experience.

So one of our (myself and the people that I hang out with a lot here) favorite things to do when we go out and there's an arcade nearby is take purikura. Now, for those of you who do not know what purikura is... you are most certainly missing out. It's a photobooth, but not quite like the photobooths in the malls in the States. Instead, you step in the booth, pay for the machine, and pick different backgrounds in front of which you take the picture. Sometimes it's really fast, and sometimes it's a normal pace, but when you're done you select some of the pictures that you want to keep. After you're done taking the pictures, you go to a booth where you DRAW ON THEM BEFORE THEY PRINT. You can draw freehand, or put random little images all over them that come preset. Here's some examples of what I'm talking about if this explanation is less than satisfactory.

Sorry about the blurry ones, the pictures are really small when they print and I tried to take a picture of them but the resolution didn't turn out very well. The last one looks good because my friend Niki (top center in the last one) has a Japanese cell phone and the machine has an option to send the photos to your cell phone, and then she uploaded them to the internet from there. By the way, did I mention that these printed pictures are stickers? AWESOME.

Tuesday is supposed to mark the start of the rainy season in Japan. I don't know if this is a worldwide thing, but East Asia has a ridiculous rainy season where it basically just rains all day everyday for like 2 or 3 weeks. Okay, so the actual season is from mid June to mid July, and it doesn't rain EVERY DAY, but it rains a lot. I want to say that there are at least 2 weeks total that it's raining (though the days are not necessarily consecutive). I love it when it rains, but I have a feeling that this is going to lessen said love.

I'm beginning to feel like I don't need to write about my daily happenings (after all, that's what Twitter and Facebook are for) and I can just update about random cultural experiences that I'm having. I love it here. It's going to be a sad day when I fly back to the States.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hikone Castle!

Before I talk about my trip to Hikone Castle on Sunday, I'll recap my weekend. Friday night, we kind of stayed in the dorms, had some drinks, hung out, and just enjoyed each other's company a bit more. Pretty chill night--not particularly crazy or anything, just getting to know each other a little more.

Saturday I wanted to sleep in (I hadn't really gotten the chance to do so all week with classes, orientation, and jetlag), but it wasn't really all that successful. I think I managed to get to like 9am before I couldn't sleep anymore. I woke up, sat around for a while, studied a bit, and then wasted more time until we headed out for the party at Shiga Daigaku that we got invited to.

The party was definitely fun. I met a lot of local Japanese college students and chatted with them, got to see what their parties are like, etc. Afterward, everyone went out with them to do karaoke and drink more, but I wasn't really in the mood to get crazy so I opted to go back to JCMU, so I hung out with this guy Christian and we watched all the drunk people make their way back as the night went on. Then I hung out with two guys, Ahn and Tom, whose Japanese is better than mine and practiced/listened to them. It was nice.

Sunday, I went to Hikone Castle (彦根城) with Heather, Jackie, and Kailey. It was really, really beautiful and interesting... I'm gonna go ahead and let the pictures speak for themselves.

In the castle area there was also a garden and plum orchard, which were fantastic as well.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

First week in Japan

Alright, so I left off last time at heading to the airport. So, Jackie and I went to get breakfast in the hotel (it was complimentary, so we figured, why the hell not). After that we walked to the convenience store next to the hotel and while we were there we ran into Heather (a girl I had met at orientation before) and Ian, two people going to JCMU as well. So, we checked out of our hotel room and headed back to the airport afterwards. Basically we just wandered around at the airport after storing our luggage and headed to the "sky deck."

Okay, so this thing was completely bad ass. Basically, Chubu Centrair Airport in Nagoya has a deck on the top level of the airport where people can walk around and watch planes take off. It was really nice, especially since it also gave you an option to see the surrounding landscapes and cityscapes. So after that we headed to the shops to just waste some time, and ran into Tisch and his grandma (who was from Gifu, Japan, I believe). We ended up just walking around until Ian, Tisch, and his grandmother went to eat lunch and Jackie, Heather, and I did our own thing. Now, we were hoping that this would waste a lot more time than it actually did. It was basically the longest day EVER. In retrospect, it was fun, but at the time it just dragged on and on and on. Eventually, more people going to JCMU arrived, but the last flight coming in with them on it was delayed for about an hour and a half. We finally left and took a bus to Hikone, and settled into the college around 11pm.

The center is really nice. I haven't gotten around to wandering about it to take pictures, but I'm just gonna post some that Heather uploaded to Facebook for the time being.

That's the academic building of the center, where all of our classes are. We also have restaurant attached to it called Coco's that's open for lunch. JCMU students get $3 off any purchases there up to 10 times a month, so that's pretty cool.

This is Biwako (Lake Biwa), and the college is located on the shore of the lake.

Alright, so basically all week we've been doing orientation and welcome activities. One of them was a bicycle tour of Hikone with some of the guys from Shiga Daigaku (Shiga University, which is down the road from JCMU). That was cool; we kind of just rode around the town for an hour or two and got to see a little bit of it. The guys from Shiga Daigaku were really nice too... and really, really good at English.

Thursday morning we took our placement exams for language classes, and I choked on my oral interview, which is probably why I got placed into level two (the classes I took sophomore year and the first half of junior year). It's not a completely terrible thing, though--I could probably afford to re-learn some things. Also, I guess it's nice that I won't be stressing out too much over the intensity of the workload. It's a bit disappointing to not be in level three, but I'm bouncing back. Friday, classes started. So far, so good!

The first few days were pretty hell-ish as far as jetlag goes. It took me two days to get back on a normal sleeping schedule, but I'm still a bit tired right now. Though I'm sure that's partially due to being out last night.

I'll update again soon (probably tomorrow) with a lot of photos of the college, and my apartment, and hopefully some of the city.