Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Hello all!!! Today is Sunday, May 31, and it is 6:46 pm. That will be important later. I now have my laptop in Japan, thanks to my dad, so I can update my blog from home. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I will be able to do it more frequently, it just means that I don’t have to spend hours at school typing on the computers there. I would like to be able to update it more often, but I don’t want to make any promises that I can’t keep! So without further adieu, let me begin… I’ll start with more recent events, and then work my way backwards…This morning and yesterday morning, I made donuts with my host family!!! The mix is apparently really popular, and it is from Okinawa, one of Japan’s southernmost islands. My host parents have been there before, so I am assuming they brought it back from the last time they went. Anyway, the donuts are super easy to make; you just crack three eggs in a bowl, pour in the mix, and stir it up. Once it’s even, you form little balls and fry them in oil. They taste amazing, let me tell you!! And what is weird about this is that we made them right after we had big meals. Both days, we had just finished a big breakfast, and then we made a ton of donuts to eat. Lol. We eat so much here, and actually, I am hungry right now…today, before the donuts, we had a ton of sashimi, which is raw fish, and I love it. Actually, when I see it on the table before a meal, I get really excited because it’s one of my favorites! We had three types this morning, tuna, and two other kinds…lol. I don’t know the names. Anyway, we dunked them in soy sauce and wasabi, as well as ginger and soy sauce. Yum! We usually always have lots of veggies at our meals too, and this morning, they were potatoes, carrots, bamboo shoots, this celery-like thing, daikon, and this really weird vegetable that is extremely chewy and has zero calories. We also had rice, onion miso soup, and an egg. It was a feast! Gochisosamadeshita! Another great thing about yesterday is talked a lot about in the video that I posted with this blog, so be sure to watch it! (I haven`t been able to get it on yet!!) Last night, I went with a group of 17 other people to the Sapporo Dome to watch the Nippon Ham Fighters play baseball!!! They are Sapporo’s professional baseball team, and I absolutely love going there. I knew before I came to Japan that I wanted to see a game, but I never thought I would have seen 3 in the first couple months of staying here. I just love being there, watching the game and (attempting to) singing along with the songs for each player. Everyone should go to a Japanese baseball game. Another special thing about last night was that they won!!! The two other times that I have seen them, they have lost, so last night marked the first victory that I saw there. As far as I know, everyone enjoyed themselves, so that was excellent as well. I got the discount tickets for this game and told everyone where and when to meet, so I hope they all had a great time! Many of the BCA students went, all of Jason’s secretaries went, our Canadian friend went, and our British friends went. For many people, it was their first time being at a baseball game. The score was 8-2, and we got to see a home run! Great times. I was also the only person to bike to the stadium….no, that doesn’t mean I am this super athlete; it just means that it is close enough to my house for me to bike there. :D That in itself is a rarity, because my house is in the southern part of Sapporo-Kiyota ku, Utsukushi gaoka for anyone who might know the area…lol-so it’s not close to the main parts of town. Not a complaint, just a fact. Friday was a fun day too. First of all, we had our 2nd exam in the Japanese class, but I think went pretty well. I’ll find out tomorrow. Since the exam didn’t take the whole 3 hours that class usually does, we got out early, and I had time to run and eat before the Ukiyo class at 1! Usually, I am rushing around the buildings, because there is only 1 hour between the end of one class and then beginning of another…I was definitely thankful for some downtime. On Friday, in the American Culture class, I gave a short presentation on what I knew about Country music! It went okay, I think. Lots of people in the class don’t really care for country music, which is fine, but they let it show during the presentation, and that wasn’t fun to combat…lol. I basically did a Powerpoint about some quick facts, Nashville, genres, themes in the songs, famous names and faces, and the typical dress. Like I said, I think it went okay, but I definitely had higher expectations for the audience’s responses, but you can’t always control that…The highlights included watching “Achy Breaky Heart”, and “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” on Youtube. I definitely told the class about my personal story with Billy Ray Cyrus: I went to see in him in concert when I was about 5 years old, and all I really remember is putting a rose on the stage after the concert was over…haha. After class, we generally go to Jason’s office for tea, and last Friday was no different. However, this Friday was a little sad, because once we left his office, we wouldn’t see him for two weeks!! He has the BCA Directors meeting for the next two weeks in the States, so he’ll be gone for a long time…I love how I think two weeks is a long time, but as of today, I have been gone for 78 days. :O Anyway, we had black tea, or koucha, and it was really good. We also carried on the tradition of watching “Macho Man” on Youtube one more time before we left. Lol. Then, a group of us headed for the cheese ramen restaurant that EVERYONE in our group loves. (JT, you’ve been there, right? The actual name is “Taishin”.) It’s soooooo good. It’s spicy to begin with, but we all add more spice to it, because spicy food is delicious! One of these days, I will take a picture of what it looks like before I eat it. Once we finished, we went to Odori park, which is in the heart of downtown Sapporo, and it’s probably the most famous park here. By the time Elias and I got there, it was like 9:30, but many other members were already there, playing the amazing slide! When I say slide, I don’t mean one that only lets one person at a time slide down it. No, this slide was like a cement mountain that you could run up and slide down. What fun it brought to all of us. Some people enjoyed it while they drank, but not everyone needs alcohol to enjoy life’s simple things! ;) Throughout the night, a different person was constantly missing his or her shoes, because Elias ran around taking them…I was that person twice, I think; however, no one was able to get the shoes off Elias’s feet. Maybe next time! I got home pretty late on Friday, close to 1 am, which is WAY past my bed time…lol. My host family said right from the beginning that I didn’t have a curfew, so for them, the time that I get home doesn’t really matter. For me, it was super late though, and I paid for it the next day. I am still pretty tired. Last Monday, I went to a Calligraphy demonstration at Hokusei, and it was really interesting. I could see myself doing it again some time. Actually, I really want to do it again, so maybe Kate and I will get supplies or something and do it on our own. In Japan, Calligraphy is especially applicable because of all the kanji they use in their language. In the demonstration, we practiced a couple basic strokes and then wrote out various kanji which used those strokes. It’s a very interesting art form, and I was glad that I went. We even got a neat gift with the kanji for quiet on it. It looks something like this: 静 Also on Monday, I met with Satomi, one of my Japanese friends, to practice Japanese and English. Since we both want to learn the other’s language, we figured this would be an excellent idea. It was actually Satomi’s, so she’s the genius behind this wonderful idea. Actually, we meet every Monday at Tuesday. It’s nice because I learn certain things in the classroom, but I also learn things from her that the classroom doesn’t cover. These meetings work both ways too. Last week, I taught her the rules to baseball, in English, so she would understand the game that we saw yesterday. Up until then, she didn’t know the rules. Anyway, our meetings are one of my favorite parts of every week. I know I am not going backwards now, but every Tuesday, another Japanese student, Mame, and I get together to go to the gym to train for our race coming up!! Some times other students come with us too, which is nice. Mame is a super fast runner. If she hadn’t just started about 6 months ago, she would definitely be better than me…not that I am good or anything, just more experienced. Anyway, we generally lift weights, run, and do some ab workouts. We spend almost two hours there, so we are definitely getting our daily exercise! About a week and a half ago, my host family’s daughter, Yuki, and her brand new son, Souta, moved in here to stay with us for a couple weeks. In Japan, it is tradition for the mother and new baby to stay with parents or other family for the first couple weeks. Actually, rest is the main reason why this is done. Japanese mothers don’t leave the hospital for a week after they give birth! A week! Wow! That seems like such a long time when you compare it to 24 hours, huh? I am sure it is much more expensive, but still, I like the idea of mothers getting the rest they need. Anyway, the last week or so has been really different, in a great way, than the past 6 or 7 weeks here at the Ito house! It’s nice to live in the same house as a baby; I’ve never done that before, I don’t think. He cries as much as a newborn does, but it really hasn’t bothered me that much, and for those of you who know the fire alarm story about me not waking up, then you know that his crying won’t wake me up. I’ve held him twice, and I hope to be able to do it again, soon! He’s gorgeous, by the way. I really wish that I had a picture of him! Also, I have loved getting to know Yuki. Her English is very good, even though she doesn’t think so, so I get to talk to her a lot. She mainly speaks in Japanese, but when I don‘t understand, she can translate it. We’ve talked about the life of a Japanese high school and college student, her “oppai”, her family vacations, and a bunch of other stuff. It’s just nice to be seeing her every day and sharing meals and stories with her. Actually, I feel like I have a real family here. I mean, I do at home too, but really, I have a family here. Every night, we eat dinner together, talking about our day and our plans for the next day. We laugh together and share silly moments that only families can share. Some of these feelings are new to me, but I am definitely loving every moment of family life. I look forward to coming home every day to see my okasan and everyone else. I look forward to seeing their kids and grandkids. I am really anticipating playing baseball with the older ones. There isn’t a set date that it will happen, but now that I have a glove here, I know that it’s a definite possibility! I love it every night when I hear okasan say, “Natari, gohan daiyo!” Basically, “dinner’s ready!” I love that. Seriously. I love how every morning at breakfast otosan shows me the weather report in the paper. And he always makes sure to say “Natari, ittekimasu” every morning before he leaves. That’s basically goodbye. And then, as I am leaving, I always say to okasan, “Ittekimasu,” but she always says, “Hai, itterashai. Have a good day!” Ah, she’s so sweet! I could go on and on about all the tiny little things that I love about staying here, and I am so grateful that I can say that….okay, the sappy part is over. Haha. Today is Wednesday! I am writing a big document in word, then I will copy/paste it onto my blog. Last night, we had a huge celebration for Yuki and the new baby because it marked the 21st day that they were both healthy. In Japan, it’s traditional for families to celebrate that milestone. We had sushi galore for dinner; I can’t even remember all the different types we had. The best part about it was that we made it ourselves. There was a big plate of rice in the center, and we would put some rice on the squares of nori, sushi wraps, and then choose from raw tuna, salmon, other types of fish, egg, squid, shrimp, or this one very expensive seafood. Sorry, I don’t remember all the names. Anyway, it was a fantastic meal, and I was glad to be a part of the celebration. Yesterday was also Tuesday, so I met with Satomi and my other conversation partners. It went pretty well, but lately I feel like I am asking for an English translation a lot…urg. On Monday, Satomi, and I also met to talk about various Kanji. She actually taught me a bunch, and my favorite one is this: 一期一会 In Japanese, it is “ichigo ichie”, which translates to living life as if every moment is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Wow, I am so glad she taught me this! It’s such a great way to look at life, especially for someone like me, who is in a position to really live that. This is something that I won’t soon forget! Sunday was a very exciting day for me as I was able to talk to family from home, twice in one day! In the morning, I called my aunt, uncle, and cousin, and we talked for close to 20 minutes, I think. It was really nice to hear their voices, and I wish I could’ve talked with them for a longer time. That night, my mom called me! We talked for close to an hour, but then I had to go to bed…silly 13-hour time difference, lol. This was only the second time I talked to her, so it was nice to be able to tell her what was going on here and find out what was going on at home. I think family contact every once and a while is a great thing, and this time it gave me the quick recharge that I needed to keep going here. I haven’t wrote about the Hokusei bus trip to Toya Onsen yet…and I need to. This was the 2nd weekend in May, and I have put tons of pictures up from it already. I had wasabi ice cream on this trip…hahah!! It was pretty darn tasty. For those of you who have had wasabi, the ice cream has a hint of that flavor, but I think it tastes more like ice cream than wasabi. It was good, and I was extremely happy to find it. Before I came to Japan, I read about all the weird flavors of ice cream, and I decided that wasabi was one that I really wanted to try. It was definitely a goal for the trip, so it’s nice to be able to cross that goal off the list. Let’s see, we also went to this Ainu museum to make traditional instruments. That was a lot of fun, and I can actually play the instrument I made. From here, we drove to the onsen resort hotel, and then had dinner. This hotel was beyond anything I could have imagined; it was my first time at such a resort. Basically, you go to your room, change into a robe, put on some slippers, and you don’t need to leave the hotel again until you leave for home…haha. The food was buffet style, and it was very good. I tried a lot of different things, but the one that is sticking out is a new fruit that I like called a litchy. It looks like a plum, but you peel the skin to get a white ball of fruit. It is very sweet, but also light. Yum! The first night after dinner, we went swimming in this awesome pool for a couple of hours, and then headed to the onsen. Funny story about this…from the swimming pool, you go into the place where the indoor baths are, then into the locker room. Well, as we were trying to go into the locker room, we were told that we had to take off our bathing suits outside, shower, and then go in without a towel. We did see many other people doing it, but still, we had to do it, too? Really? Ok, I guess that’s what everyone does, so we‘ll do it too. At the time, there were three of us; me, Kate, and Leslie, a friend of another BCAer. It was my second time, but I didn’t feel any more comfortable doing it than they did. In the end, we just did it as fast as we could. We showered, then went into the locker room to get the towels, and came back out into the bath area to get washed up for the ofuro. Indoor onsens(hot baths) are called ofuros. Anyway, we then washed our hair and bodies so we would be super clean before getting into the bath. Once we were ready, we found one that we wanted to go in, and, looking back, I think it was the hottest one there…lol. These baths are EXTREMELY hot. I mean, I love hot tubs, but these are almost too hot. Once your body gets over the shock, though, it’s so easy to relax. We stayed in for about 15 minutes, maybe less, because we were so hot. I felt instantly dehydrated, so I wanted to get some water asap. We got changed, and then went to a table by the pool to relax a little bit. By that time, I was exhausted. I think it wasn’t even 8 pm, but I was ready for bed. Hah. I think the hot water really just wipes you out, but after this trip, I have a new appreciation for onsens and ofuros. As weird as it sounds to non-Japanese people, I really like going to the public baths. It’s definitely a cultural experience, and I have learned to appreciate the benefits of it. I don’t want to get into too many details since this is a public blog! :D That night, there were also fireworks, and we watched from the onsen outside of the hotel. Now that was a cool experience. There were about 20 of us outside, watching the fireworks together. After that, I was definitely ready to relax and put on some clothes! And drink a lot of water. We went back up to our rooms, got changed, and then hung out with a group of Korean students. There were some Japanese, too. We talked a little bit, took a lot of pictures, and then went to bed. Well, I did. It was around 1, and we were waiting around to play Uno, but I was laying down in my bed, and I was so exhausted that I wanted sleep over Uno. Haha. The next day, we ate breakfast there, and then left for a volcanic museum, Mt. Usu National Park, and Showa Shinzan, which, I think, was a crater or a volcano nearby. Some of the views we saw on this trip were incredible, and they really made me appreciate seeing new places in Japan. Before this trip, I had forgotten how much I like going to new places, so it was nice to be traveling around to new spots. Hokusei does this trip every semester, so I am definitely going back next semester. From all the places we went to, I was able to get stamps!! Yaya!! I had to search for them pretty hard at a couple places, but it was worth it. :D My book is nowhere near full, but slowly I am added new places to it. One last thing about this trip. It was put together by a girl named Miira. I think that is how it’s spelled. She is a Hokusei graduate, and former Manchester study abroad student!!! I couldn’t believe it when she said something to me about Manchester! I was wearing a Manchester shirt, and she came up to me and asked if that’s where I went to school. As I said yes, she told me that she studied abroad there about 3 or 4 years ago!! How crazy is that?? Wow, I was definitely surprised. I wished that I had more time to talk with her about it or get a picture with her or something, but we just didn’t have enough time. I’ll have to ask around to people at MC to see if they remember her. About two weeks ago, I bought a denshi jisho, and a grammar book to increase my Japanese knowledge! Before I made both purchases, I went to Odori park to look at the Lilac Festival. While I was there, I ran into another BCA student, Kayla, and we found a bench to sit on and chatted for a little bit. As we were talking, this man walked by and started reading my shirt. I waited a second and then said, “wakaru?” That is basically asking, “do you understand it?” He said, “sukoshi!” Haha, that means “a little”. Well, he then felt the need to start up a conversation with the two of us that lasted for about 20 minutes…I wasn’t scared or anything, mainly because I wasn’t alone, but still, it was a little weird. He was drinking sake, so I am sure he was drunk, lol. He wasn’t threatening or anything, it was just that we didn’t know what to expect. For the most part, we just laughed at his silly jokes and his impression of Barrack Obama, “Yes we can!” Haha. How we “got away” is pretty funny, too. He had just asked us if we had boyfriends, and we said no, so he sat down next to me, and then said that he would be right back. Well, we waited for a minute or two, and we didn’t see him anywhere. We took that as our cue to leave the park, so we basically ran across the street around the corner so he wouldn’t be able to find us, if he tried looking. It was an unexpected occurrence to say the least, but I think he was completely harmless. With that being said, Kayla and I were both glad that the other one was there. After this, I went to one of the biggest electronic stores in Hokkaido, Yodobashi Kamera, to buy my denshi jisho, which is an electric dictionary that I used to look up kanji, Japanese, and English words. It’s been really helpful over the last two weeks, and I am sure it’s going to become more priceless the more that my Japanese improves. Well, I think this is a sufficient blog update. Hope you didn’t fall asleep reading it!