Sun Rise Letters

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I had an amazing trip around Japan this break. I'm kind of sad to be back in school, actually. Of course, who wouldn't be, after going to some of the most amazing cities in the world. Here are some descriptions of the places we went, the times that were had, and the many, many things we ate.

Kyoto: ancient, beautiful, Eikan Do, Shinkakuji, Kinkakuji, philosopher's road, carp, strange youth hostels, ancient streets with modern souvenirs, peaceful, oh dear God thats a big hill, National Museum, a wonderful ending to the trip.

Osaka: loud, crazy clothes, takoyaki, giant shark, under water spider crabs, fake santa maria, udon, delicious ramen, crepes, very kind parents of a friend, dinner with a bread buffet, world's largest ferris wheel, mountain srhine, tiger, bad luck fortune, mountain train, beautiful lanterns, hanging blowfish, dirty, earrings, spa, public transportation, cute kids,
Japanese TV, futons and tatami, heated carpets

Himeji: sunset, sprint, beautiful, ancient poetry, huge, dark, time to go, no shoes allowed, giant sushi dinner

Kobe: Earthquake memorial, ships with Japanese flags, hills, LL Bean, hills, very western, strange China town, bubble tea, delicious meat sandwiches, "foriegn" houses, old sewers, hills, cable car, herb garden, perfume museum, oh crap- we're going to miss Himeji

Nara: deer, ancient temples, snow, health-wealth-love shrines, deer poop candy, Giant Buddha, Giant Pagoda, met people from Minnesota, deer

Universal Studios Japan: Jaws, back to the future, caramel popcorn, ET, funny hats, dancing in line, disco lights, Happy 2007!

Apologies for the lack of captions: couldn't figure out how to do them. If you are curious though, send me an email!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas decorations at futuristic mall downtown
Beautiful decorations in a local park
More futuristic decorations
Me with no hair

Beautiful Japanese Red Maple

OK, so my plan of updating every week has obviously not worked out.
Things that have happened in the last month:
A) Went back to Dazaifu and saw the sumo wrestlers practicing. They do this one drill where one of the huge guys stands still, and the other one pushes him (literally) across the ring. It was very intense.
B) Went to a Japanese Nursery school. It was the most intensely cute experience of my life. They seperated us into groups, and our group was the five year olds. They made flags of our countries, and said hello in all of our languages. Then they asked us in Japanese what our favorite things were. A kid asked me what my favorite fish was. I didn't really know how to respond to that.. :0) But then we got to see them do their Christmas pagent. The five year old girls did this really complicated dance that was quite amazing. Then after the Nursery school, we went to a Japanese high school with a very strong English program. We talked with Japanese students, and saw them give presentations (including an inspiring rendition of a Japanese baseball fight song).
C) Took many pictures of Japanese Christmas decorations. The great thing about Japanese Christmas is how similar and how strange it is at the same time. You still have Santa Clause, Christmas lights, stockings, snow, and presents. However, in Japan, you are supposed to have a date for Christmas, and its not really a family thing. The store nearby sells giant pre made stalkings for about 10 dollars with pokemon and hello kitty on them, cookies that are built upward covered with chocolate that are supposed to look like Christmas trees but really just look...wrong, giant lit up bunnies, and, the list goes on. Being in Japan for Christmas is going to be weird, but since it doesn't really feel like Christmas, I think I'll be OK.
D) Had more adjusting issues. Its strange how in study abroad programs, within the community, a kind of strange third culture is formed. Sometimes, this culture can get out of hand. Suffice it to say, there is a lot of sexism going on, and a lot of girls have noticed it. It makes me sad, because it sets up an antagonism between the genders that is so middle school.
E) Got closer with some of the wonderful people here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

picture from the mongol fortifications rice paddies

Matilda in Japan Delicious Barbeque

Strange park I found View near my apartment building

Hello again! I hope that life in America/Germany/Canada is wonderful, and that everyone is getting prepared/excited for Thanksgiving.
As I get settled further in to life in Japan, I am coming to appreciate the abroad life more and more. However, I need to focus on exploring and learning every day. As it gets colder, it is much more tempting to curl up in my room with a good book or a TV show that I downloaded from Itunes, and relax.
Karate is going well, and last Saturday was a lot of fun. We had practice for three hours, and we were being tutored by Hiro (there are many men here with the first name Hiro), and he was very funny. He kept on telling us which hits are the most painful. It was especially funny given the fact that most of the people who taught us before were not very agressive, but Hiro was very into ...pain. My kind of Karate teacher. Then Samuel, an awesome guy from Hong Kong, and I went to get McDonalds (my second time here....), and some guys from Michigan taught me how to play Eucher. It is actually quite fun, although I must say I was not particularly skilled at it.
On Monday, we went to Dazaifu- a 40 minute bus ride from where we live. It is very famous in Japan because of its shrine, Dazaifu Tenmangu, that holds the spirit of the God of learning, Sugawara Michizane, a famous literary figure in Japan. They actually built the shrine, not necessarily because of his cultural importance, but because after his death, a series of mishaps occured which made the people think that his spirit was angry. Kind of opposite from the idea of being memorialized for the good things that happen after you die. The shrine itself was built about 1,200 years ago, in the Heian period ofJapanese history. Although I do not have any pictures (I forgot my camera...), it was beautiful. There were also 1,500 year old camphor trees nearby.
Our first stop was a sumo stable where the sumo wrestlers train for competition. Unfortunately, through a series of miscommunication, there was only one sumo wrestler there when we came. However, it turned out well because we got to ask him a lot of questions. He was from China, his father did sumo, and he had been doing Sumo for 3 years. He was only 19 years old. We got to see a ring where the sumo wrestlers train that is considered sacred space. Women are never allowed to enter the ring because our bodies would pollute it. But I have always been environmentally conscious!...After thanking him, we headed off towards the shrine. As we went by, we could see another giant sumo wrestler standing around in a giant t-shirt cooking himself dinner. I guess we really did get to see behind the scenes of the Sumo world.
On our way to the shrine, we also walked by an ancient Heian library that was built 1,200 years ago. On its front lawn, noblemen would play what is perhaps the world's best drinking game. They would float a cup of sake down an artificial stream, and before it reached the nobleman, he would have to compose a poem of some kind.
After the shrine, we went to a buddhist temple made famous for its moss garden. It was beautiful, but it was hard to commune with nature when you are surrounded by other people and hungry. However, when I actually concentrated on the garden, it was quite peaceful.
Then we had time to wander around and shop at all the tourist stores. I FINALLY got good post cards, as well as a lime green owl cell phone accessory, and a black sesame seed icecream. They have some of the strangest ice-cream flavours, but some of them are quite delicious. Plum was definitely excellent. I also saw this bird statue (called an Umo) that apparently, if you purchase it at the right time of year, will undo all the harm of your last year's lies. Something to remember.
The rest of the week was very uneventful, except for studying for my tests. I think they went fairly well, and now I have the rest of the week to recover. So next week- you can look forward to:
Sumo wrestling match (soo excited), to be lazy or not to be lazy, 105 yen sushi (about a dollar a plate)...and much much more

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sleepy Saturday Morning

Ohio Gozaiymas! Watashi wa Kyudai no daigaku de des. Watashi wa peko-peko des.
- Good morning! I am at Kyudai Campus. I am hungry.

Hello from Japan! So, like many of my generation, I decided to start an online blog to keep people posted on life in Fukuoka, Kyushu, Japan, Asia (though some would debate this), the World.

Here is a quick recap on my first month in Japan:

1) Orientation in the mountains of Aso - meeting new people, seeing beautiful countryside, learning about the year to come, and doing crazy things like Onsen
2) Getting adjusted to life in Japan-
The Upside:
a) A lot of the ways people do things in Japan make a lot more sense. For example, when you go to a grocery store, you bag your own groceries. They give you a seperate table to do it. In addition to crosswalks, they also have mini-bridges that you can use to cross busy streets. In coffee shops, of which there are a wonderful amount, they give you an actually mug to drink from. Take that starbucks!
b) Meeting people from different cultures- I have gotten to know people from Japan, Korea, China, Germany, France, Sweden, Morrocco, Taiwan, Belgium, Guatemala, and people from diverse states such as Georgia, Washington State, and Michigan. This has resulted in some awkward moments, but for the most part it has been great catching glimpses of different cultural perspectives. For example, the students tend to eat together a lot, and everyone will bring something to share. In this way, I have sampled Kiimichi, Pig Intestines (surprisingly tasty), Udon (noodles with various items), and more items than I can count. Another fun aspect is the different things that get lost in translation. Sarcasm is most definitely one of them. One of my friends text messaged a guy that she needed him to carry her home from Karate Practice. He texted her to ask if she was serious. When she said that she was (of course still being sarcastic), she got a phone call 20 minutes later from the guy saying that he was on the bus to help her. This is one of the possibly cutest stories I have heard yet.
c) Immersing myself in a different language. I am learning so much more quickly here than I would back in the United States. Every day gives me an opportunity to practice my Japanese, and I am very proud of myself when I can read the street signs (for example- I could understand a sign that said Yakkatori, which is cooked chicken). I am trying to study three hours every day, although this does not always work out. Still, its a good goal, and its exciting to be able to say things like 'I am going to karate practice tommorow. There is a cute guy at Karate practice.'
d) Exploring- every day is an adventure. In that way, my illiteracy helps the exociticism. Every store is exciting because I will go in and really not know what I am going to find. Japan is a wonderful mix of old and new, ultra modern and ancient- sometimes with beautiful and sometimes with hideous results. Thus, I will walk past ugly concrete buildings, beautiful tiled homes, abandoned fields and shrines, and coy rivers that also have abandoned bicycles inhabiting their murky depths. I have also discovered many things about myself. For example, I've discovered that I really do love Texas. It took me going halfway across the world to realize how much I miss burritos, Keep Houston Ugly jokes, listening to 'She thinks my tractor's Sexy', Thai food everywhere, and of course, Taco Cabana.

The Downside
a) Homesickness- I miss all my friends and family, and I am sad when I think about all the extended family I won't get a chance to see for so long. I miss Rice life (Jones!, the Commons, study breaks, working in Student Activities, science jokes, the shuttle, TC) and literature classes. I also just miss walking into people and being like 'hey, I know you from that class two years ago!'
b) Sickness- All exchange students get ill at some point. Food here gives me weird allergic reactions. I currently have these bumps. I don't know how I got them...
c) Being a Gaijun- being obviously foriegn has its disadvantages. On the one hand, if you stand around looking confused, people will generally help you. On the other hand, its hard getting mail that I can't understand. I think some of it is important, but I can't say.
b) There is no good cheese here. NONE.

3) Have gone to see different shrines- including a shrine dedicated entirely to WWII (awkward).
4) Been downtown to Tenjin- lots of different stores, interesting buildings, getting lost going around the block.
5) Went on a four hour walk through my neighborhood- beautiful old roofs, strange signs (hairport, boa fun, Freak hair among others), hills, wildflowers, concrete.
6) Went to the battlements that the Japanese built to keep out the mongols.
7) and so much more...

On Next Week's Episode: Going to a buddhist temple, Sumo stable, and adventures with bicycles...

Keep in touch, and have a great week! Much love to all!