Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Birthday - o-tanjoubi omedetou (お誕生日おめでとう)

こんにちは みんなさん。今日 は 私 の 誕生日 です。 二十一さい に なりました。

Translation: Hey all. Today is my birthday. I'm turning 21.

Haha too simple...I have to learn how to be more expressive in Japanese. Sorry for the long wait. This is my 4th day at Kansai Gaidai.

After 18 hours on a plane
(two flights) and 1hr 30min bus ride from the airport I'm finally in Japan. The experience so far is stressful, novel, and exhausting. I'm starting to get used to life here. I'm still in orientation week. Okay from the beginning, right now I'm placed in Seminar House 4 which is the newest and possibly the nicest dorm on campus. International students live in the seminar houses (1-4) while all other Japanese students live in apartments or commute. My dorm is a Japanese style dorm complete with tatami mat floors, low table, futon bedding (the most comfortable thing I have ever slept on), and a section to take off your shoes. I love the fact that you can control the heating and air-conditioning. For orientation week only, three students are places in a dorm. Two students who actually living in the room and one homestay student. I guess they want to encourage people to socialize so homestays don't feel lonely. In my case, I'm the homestay so I'll get the boot at the end of this week. My roommates are from Arkansas and Latvia.
What I find interesting about the dorms is that the bathroom is separate from the toliets. When you use the toliets you have to wear slippers. Even more amazing is that we are the only (I think) dorm that has modern Japanese toliets complete with music options and warm seats.
Japanese life is in many different from life in America. Of course it is a different culture but for some reason I feel comfortable here. I feel safe and for the most part welcomed. Random note...I love konbinis! There is one near Kansai Gaidai called 99 or known affectionately as kyuu kyuu. It is a very cheap please to get food, every day items, and school supplies. I always thought living in Japan would be very expensive but it really isn't unless you live in the major cities.During orientation, you are reponsible for feeding yourself. So many people go out to buy food. Its not that bad. Japan has really good ready-made food. Be adventurous! Try everything. One thing I love is Onigiri (rice balls.) They are inexpensive, filling and delicious. Curry and rice is one thing I also find very good.

(One of my meals...rice, curry, croquette, and banana juice = $4 meal well actually $3 because my friend gave me the croquette and I gave her some of my curry)

Today I wasn't sure how to celebrate my birthday. I started a tradition for myself where I would give instead of receive. But I really don't know people here. I made some friends but it hard to keep in touch since I don't have a cell phone yet. I have a tendency to isolate myself because I'm an introvert. I know I have the ability to be social but it really takes a lot out of me. So, I forced myself to go on a tour of Hirakata city and then dinner with a large groups of students and our Japanese student tour guides. I met new people, learned how to used the trains, and even sp
oke some Japanese. Dinner was at a place called don't quote me on this Asian Days which served dumplings and such. We did the-all-you-can-eat meal and I'm stuffed.
(A pork dumpling shapes as a pig and perhaps one of the cutest thing I have ever eaten)

I also had to take a placement test on my birthday. ah whatever...I probably did horribly. Tomorrow is registration time and time to pay the bill.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Various - iroiro (色々)

Four days until Japan. It feels stranger every time I think about it. I have been spending my last days catching up with friends. I only have one more friend to visit before I go and that will be it. I'm going to try to spend the rest of my free time just being home because I won't be here for a good 3 months. So for now I'm going to relax. I still need to pack though.

The next time I update...I'll be in Japan!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Snow - Yuki (雪)

I love living in Massachusetts and all but I hate snow. I don't like the cold, the wetness of snow, and shoveling it.

Anyways, if I count correctly I have 12 days until Japan. This week I am going back to school to visit my friends and hold a farewell sushi/birthday party for myself. It is a tradition for myself to have a tiramisu cake for my birthday too. Over the summer I learned how to make it and it was pretty good (very unhealthy though.) Last semester, I finally taught myself how to a simple sushi roll called makizushi where the rice is on the outside. So far I can make spicy tuna and avocado sushi. Eventually I'll experiment on making different kinds of sushi. How did I learn how to do this? The internet and practice. It wasn't too hard. The only problem I have is making time to cook since I'm usually a pressed for time studying or writing papers.

Study Abroad to do list
1) Pick up visa
2) call new insurance about coverage in Japan
3) call bank about opening the line in Japan
5) 勉強します (study)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

This Year - Kotoshi (今年)

Akemashite Omodetou Gozaimasu! Happy New Year! I spent the New Year sleeping in until 12pm :)

So I went to Boston on the 29th of December to get the Japanese Visa....I took the train to Boston, the subway/T to South Station, went through the security checkpoint in the Federal Reserve Building, took the elevator 14th floor to the Japanese Consulate only to find out that they were closed!!! Ugh...I have to go again this month to get the visa. I went all that way and spent all that money for nothing. I know that I should have done it earlier but they sent my COE (Certificate of Eligibility) two weeks before finals. After finals, all I wanted to do was vegetate for a week. Ack...I just have to go on the 5th of this month to get it and they better be open.

So for prepping for my Japan trip I am studying Japanese again. I'm working on my listening skills which are terrible by the way. To study, I have been watching this Japanese Language series called "Erin ga Chousen: Nihongo Dekimasu" which translate to something like "Erin's Challenge: I can speak Japanese." It is this Japanese learning series that teaches you Japanese...completely in Japanese and occasionally with English subtitles. This is for more serious and intermediate students but I find it quite entertaining. The series tries to make learning fun by including computer animated characters complete with annoying anime-styled Japanese voice actors. There is also a bunch of live action skits staring a British exchange student named Erin. In the skits she speaks Japanese slowly enough for viewers to comprehend. I like this show because compared with a lot of other Japanese learning shows it feels more modern and natural. The show also tries to introduce many aspects of Japanese life like a typical day at school or the layout of a Japanese house. Perhaps the most useful and unique aspect of this show is that at the end of every episode they feature non-native speakers speaking Japanese in their home country. (So far the show has featured Korea and Australia.) You can tell that their Japanese is not perfect but they try to express themselves the best they can. I found out about this show randomly from a link from a German Blog. All the episodes are posted on MegaVideo. Just type in "Nihongo Dekimasu: in the search engine.
Another thing that I'm doing is reading this book called 'Japanese in Mangaland.' The approach is to learn Japanese from manga text. Its funny for me because reading manga inspired me to learn Japanese. Anyways, this approach is more for the independent learner. It is not structured like a textbook but I think the chapters are written well. I'm reading the first book (there are three books in the series) and what I can tell that the author covers all the Japanese grammar points well. His examples and ex plantations are simple and easy to grasp. The manga pictures chosen for tho book could have been better (when it comes to manga illustrations I'm picky.) I like the fact that he goes into detail about the culture and history of Japan while explaining the grammar notes. Otherwise, reading this book is a good introduction for learning Japanese but to be a serious student you have to have some structure in your learning eventually. Interesting note: The book was originally written in Spanish!Study Abroad to do list
1) Try to get Visa...again
2) Apparently, my parents have a new health insurance plan. Now I have to call them to see what my coverage is for studying abroad.
3) umm...Start packing?
4) Practice writing complete sentences in Japanese...もう、書いてみて。