Sun Rise Letters

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!