Monday, June 29, 2009

Hello everyone! It’s Saturday, July 4th! Happy 4th of July!!!! To me, it doesn’t really seem like it’s the 4th of July already, but maybe the feeling is different for all you people in the States! Even though Japan doesn’t celebrate this day, today is full of great activities, just like a typical 4th of July. This afternoon, Hokusei is holding a farewell luncheon for the host families and students, so I am looking forward to that a lot! There was also one at the beginning of the program that served as a welcoming party, so I imagine this one will be very similar. Also today, Kate’s host family is throwing a BBQ, and they invited my host family and I to come. I am pretty excited about BBQ food and hanging out with Kate, but I am skeptical about how the rest of the experience will turn out…lol. I don’t want to say too much about Kate’s host mom, but she can be very mysterious at times, so I am always weary of what is really going on when I am around here. Anyhoo, I am excited about it!!

Yesterday was a fun-filled day for sure. My favorite part of the day yesterday was cherry seed-spitting in American Culture class! Hahahahaha! I didn’t have my camera, so I won’t be able to put up any pictures, but I will do my best to describe it. According to Jason, cherry seed-spitting is very common in Indiana(????), so we did this in class as an example of traditions. Since Jason is 1 of 13 kids in his family, I guess they played this all the time to entertain themselves…haha. I had never done it before yesterday, so I didn’t know what to expect, but it was actually a lot of fun. We had a contest to see who could spit it the furthest, and we also had a “quick draw” event with spitting cherry pits. Instead of a quick draw with guns like cowboys generally do, when Jason said “GO!” we would put the cherry in our mouths and then try as fast as we could to get the seed out from the middle and then spit it at the other person…I can’t believe we actually did this in class, but I have to admit that it was a lot of fun, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I actually spat mine at Alyssa, my friend from Canada, and it hit her white dress! It definitely stained it, and I felt sooo bad! Even worse, in order to get her to play with me, I told her that I wouldn’t hit her with the seed…Ugh, I felt terrible, but what can you do?

Yesterday, we also had an exam in my Japanese class…no need to worry, I think I did pretty well. I thought it was pretty easy, and I was done within an hour, so I don’t think it was too difficult. On Monday, we have the conversation and interview exams, and then after that, we will just be spending our time practicing our speech for Thursday. Things really came to an end in a hurry. Really, it seems like just yesterday that we were trying on kimonos and running in the 9k. And in a week from today, it will be almost everyone’s last day in Japan! Gah! That’s crazy to think about, but I guess it is a reality…I am glad that I am not leaving. Yet.

I have actually been finding many reasons lately that have really made me appreciate the fact that I chose to stay another semester. Despite the fact that I will miss people at home, I have virtually the perfect situation here. I have a great-no PERFECT-host family; I am building deeper relationships with my Japanese friends; I get to continue learning this awesome language, and I get to go on the Honshu trip again! I am extremely excited about that, mainly because it’s going to be soooo hot when we go! Gosh, I love the hot weather. This past week, the weather was just okay; I don’t think there was one day where it was just sunny. Last Sunday, it was about 85 or 90, though, and it was sunny all day! I attempted to run in it, but it’s been so long since I have ran in that type of weather that I actually forgot how quickly you get wiped out by the heat.

Wow, I have so much to write about. Last night, I just hung out here at my host family’s house. We talked a lot during and after dinner-one of my favorite activities. Thursday, was a fantastic night! And if I can ever get these darn videos uploaded, you will be able to see just how excited I was about that night. See, the videos are about 15 minutes long, and they take FOREVER to upload, and sometimes the computers at school just can’t handle it, so that is why I have been having so much trouble getting them online.

Anyhoo, after dinner we were looking at the sheet that Hokusei sent the host families about today’s luncheon, and my host dad was looking at pictures from past cultural events when he happened to see the kimono try-on pictures. On one of the guys’ pictures, he pointed out what is called a “mon”, or in English, a “crest”, and I guess each Japanese family has their own design that is put on kimonos. How awesome is that?? He explained it a little to me, and then okaasan came back into the room and decided that it would be best to just show me! Wow! I have seen pictures from various weddings and stuff, so I know what her kimono looks like, but I had never seen it in the flesh before, so I was really excited!!! She actually has about 15 kimonos and yukatas, 5 or so of which she’s never worn…haha! もたいない!So, she has this huge chest full of kimonos, and she gets her most formal one out, and she shows me the “Ito” family crest. She also explained to me that you only get your family’s crest on your kimono if you buy one. Since kimonos are extremely expensive, most people generally rent them when they go to weddings and such. In that case, the rental kimonos have a generic rental crest. It’s definitely a special thing that my okaasan has her own kimono! I was just in awe as she showed it to me, and even more shocked when she wanted to put it on me! No way, are you serious! I was incredibly surprised, and I didn’t know what to say or do to show my gratitude! Gah, I felt so unbelievably special. I know that not everyone-heck, maybe no one else-will have this type of opportunity, so I am just soaking up all the joy that it brought me. I am still on a high from how amazing the experience was.

Before I came to Japan, I knew that I wanted to have cultural experiences, but I am going to admit that I didn’t really know what that term meant. I mean, it’s one of those terms that is fairly ambiguous when you think about it, and it could be defined in a number of ways; however, I didn’t expect to be trying on my host mother’s kimono on some random night after just having eating a meal. It doesn’t get much cultural than that. And also, just all the knowledge that they shared with me about the history of kimonos and the practice of putting a unique “mon” on every family’s kimonos just blew my mind. I really just find the Japanese culture so interesting, and there isn’t anything that I don’t want to learn about. I am just open to new information, and I am very glad to be living in a house where basic information is so openly shared on a regular basis. The best thing about all of this is that now that I have this information, I can pass it on to other people. That’s another thing that I am excited about doing when I get back for good. Yes, I can definitely wait until then, but I am looking forward to promoting learning a second language and passing on all my Japanese knowledge to anyone willing to listen. 

Well, that was a nice, long tangent, huh? Sorry!! Wednesday was also a FANTASTIC day!! I mentioned this before, but we had a 4th of July/Canada Day cookout on that day! It was also a thank-you party for all of our Japanese and Korean friends who so regularly give us so much and do so much for us. Kate and I organized it, bought all the food, and delegated on the day of the party, but without the help of pretty much everyone who came, it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable as it was!! We had tons of help from people when it came to preparing the food, cleaning, and setting up various things. Kate and I both feel like this was a big family event. Because everyone helped out at this event, just like families do at these types of events, it really felt like we were a big family just celebrating being happy.  I really had a wonderful time. I ate SOOOO much. Lol. Actually, the group as a whole did, too. I can’t believe all that we ate. Holy cow! There were about 40 people-maybe less-at the party, and we finished 4 lbs. of peanut butter-which was in the form of cookies, ants on a log, and plain to eat with apples-56 oz. of m&ms, over 6 lbs. of hamburger, 20 hotdogs, about 10 apples, tons of chips, guacamole, and so much more. I was incredibly full. Haha. However, the taste of that hamburger was just priceless. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. I was anticipating it for so long, and it didn’t disappoint! I loved every bite. :D

Again, I really enjoyed this day because we were all hanging out together and enjoying each others’ company. Also, I really enjoyed coordinating all the food preparation. Kate is much more experienced at it than I am, so she led the way pretty much, but I definitely want to do this again sometime! I actually want to start doing it on a regular basis.  Maybe I can talk my host mom into letting me help her cook dinner every so often. I am excited!!

Also on Wednesday a number of the BCA students went to a local elementary school to play games and talk to the children about our reasons for coming to Japan. They were very cute, and I was just amazed at how big the classrooms were! I actually have learned a lot about the Japanese school systems this past week, and I would love to find time to write about it sometime, but now isn’t the time! Lol. I really enjoyed this event, because we got to play various Japanese games with the kids, eat lunch with them, and practice our Japanese with real kids. It also gave me an idea of what next semester would be like for me, since I am planning to volunteer at an elementary school by my house.

Speaking of which, I recently visited the elementary school that I am planning to volunteer at on Thursday!! My host mom and I met there in the afternoon, and we talked with one of the main teachers about what I would be doing, how often I would be volunteering, and all that good stuff. I was really excited to get this process starting, and as of right now, I am planning to volunteer every week on Wednesdays, since I don`t have classes on those days. Also, I got a chance to see the Japanese classrooms that I will be helping in. The classes are fairly large! Each 6th grade class had 40 students…wowzers! That`s a lot, and I feel really bad for the teacher, because of all the grading and such that they have to do. Also, I helped the teachers with the English games that they were playing just to get my feet wet a little. I enjoyed it a lot, even though I was a little nervous. 

Let`s see…I bought my returning flight to Japan on Thursday…that was a whopping 1710 bucks…My bank account called and said, “Ouch!” I will be home from August 6th to August 18th. Gah, that`s only 12 days…however, I know it will be an amazing time, and there are many parts that I am looking forward to.

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