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Nihon de: The adventures of Maggie » In Japan

Exploring and Bananas

Posted by maggie on May 14, 2012 in In Japan

Okay, so… I was smacked by an old man holding a banana. Sounds pretty strange, right?

The day (Sunday) started out with breakfast and a nice ride to the University. Sueko-san was nice enough to ride with me and show me the way, but for the life of me I couldn’t make out more than 4 words per any given sentence. Then I met up with the others and did a short tour around the campus. It’s not as big as JMU, thankfully, but there are plenty of stairs anyway. Not bad enough to put the ones by Godwin to shame, but still decently tiring. I like to think I’m building more muscle though.

After we split up near noon, the girls formed a group and went to Tokyo tower, pausing for many tourist moments here and there. I got to try melon bread for the first time, and it’s good. Also, Orangina seems like a bigger deal in this country, which makes me happy. You can only really find it at Trader Joe’s and Potbelly’s at home. We took pictures of the park we came across and a small shrine near it. Then we hit the tower.

We didn’t go all the way up to the top, that would cost us. But of course shopping was a priority. XD We did go up high enough to get some good shots, and to see the kiddie amusement park on the roof. I might go back at some point to go up further if I have time, but for now, we shopped around on the lower floors. It was packed with shops. I got a cute key chain and a magnet. Hats cost┬áthe equivalent of 15 bucks or so in US dollars; I wanted one, but I would never pay that much for a hat. And it kind of sucks because Japanese clothes are no where near my size, so I couldn’t buy a t-shirt. But hey, I saved a little money then, didn’t I?

Back to the banana. One area had a bunch of little shops all crammed into one area. We discovered this because Katie picked up something and the shop keeper stalked her around until finally explaining that the shops were separate. I was off looking at something else at the time, but it was kind of funny. Funny in that “you messed up and laugh it off but feel a little bad about it” sort of way. It didn’t happen to me, but I can sympathize. I’m having plenty of those moments just living with my host mom.

I noticed one little shop had these weird banana things. They were clearly fake and really squishy, like those stress balls people squeeze to feel better. I point it out to one of the others and suddenly this little old guy comes up. He’s speaking some English, obviously trying to sell us the thing, and then he just up and whacks me on the arm with it! He’s talking about how yielding and squishy it is and it can help with stress and all the while he’s hitting Cindy and me both on our heads and arms with a fake banana.

…..Not the most exciting, is it? Oh well. It made for a good hook. XD

On the way home, I got lost and ended up at the station one stop away from where I was supposed to be. I walked in circles for 30 something minutes before I finally called Morgan and found out how to get home. Sueko-san was waiting for me at the station, patient as ever. This morning (Monday) she even laughed at me and asked if I could find the station alright this morning.

Our communication is improving, I can tell. Just at dinner a few minutes ago, we were talking almost like there wasn’t a communication gap. She asked what was okay for dinner, I answered. I asked if it was alright to turn on the T.V., and she said, “yes, go ahead.” I put on this campy show I didn’t even know what was happening on it; sometimes it was like it was paralleling star wars and random american stuff, and other times it was silly people smacking each other with mallets and talking about super heroes in sexy outfits….Don’t ask.

I told her bits and pieces about my friends and family, and she asked what sort of things my mom makes for dinner and so on. We ate and watched T.V. and laughed and I felt understood for the most part. I hope she did too. She’s opened her home to me and been so nice and helpful; I can only hope she understands what I’m trying to say most of the time. I spam thank you’s a lot, but try to branch out and find other ways to express it. XD

I offered, very badly, to help with cleaning up, and I think it went alright. If I messed up once or twice, she laughed or smiled when she helped me out. It’s kind of fun, actually, though constantly trying to think and speak in another language is very tiring at times. I used to think it was the jet lag that made me tired at 7 p.m. the past few nights, but I think a part of it is psychological. It’s partially trying to bridge that gap in understanding.

This was the best night so far. I’m feeling a little homesick, but it’s been nice to still see and hear my family on skype from time to time. Sometimes the country makes me feel lonely and confused, and sometimes, ironically, it’s the other Americans with me on my trip that make me miss home and comfort the most. They’re all pretty nice, but I miss my friends who understand the sort of weird person I am. I feel like I’m trying to both adjust to a new country and make new friends at the same time (not meaning friends I may make in Japan through interacting with new ┬ápeople) and it’s very hard. But I want to have fun and learn and I think the less I worry about it, the more naturally it will begin to flow.

Speaking of flow…water…bath…it’s a stretch, but okay! I can’t avoid talking about it. The bathtub here is AWESOME. I tried it tonight, and it is heaven! I love being able to fill it up to my chin. I love being able to fit some comfortably and be fully immersed; it could only be better if the tub was long enough to fit a 5 foot 8 inch person comfortably lying down, because then you could really just lie back and relax and it would be wonderful. It is awesome to just lounge for a while in that huge thing. I don’t care if I’m ever rich or anything, but I want that tub no matter what. Even if I have to have one imported, it is sooooooo worth it. :)

Other than that, not much else to say. Sometime I miss being able to read the signs and commercials; strangely, that’s one of the big things I miss about home. The stupid jingles and commercials; Japan has them too, but even if they were subbed in English, the cultural gap is wide enough that the jokes and nuances would probably be lost on me. Even with all the anime I watched. Speaking of which, I think I want to study a little and see if I can load a subless anime on my computer. The internet is slow where I am but I can get a video completely up in maybe 25 minutes and I can practice by picking an episode I haven’t seen and watching with the subs off to see how much I can pick up on my own. I’m sort of rambling now, but as anyone who knows me can probably tell you, my mind just works that way. It’s random, and sometimes there’s no traceable train of thought from one thing to another. But hey. Short attention span for you. Oh look, a house fly!

Nah, just kidding. :) But now I’m going to study, maybe watch some anime stuff, skype if anyone’s on, then go to bed. I’ll see what happens tomorrow. Thanks for reading :)



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Stumble to the Starting Line

Posted by maggie on May 12, 2012 in In Japan

I’ve decided that 13 hour flights stink. Pretty much anytime you have to fly for longer than maybe 2 hours stinks. The novelty of flying wears off quickly, and it’s hard for someone like me, who is so used to multitasking and getting stuff done (listen to music + play a game or read with a movie on or some combo like that) to only do things one at a time. For 13 hours. I could have killed 3/4 of the flight by watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy but I got bored after the first hour or so and had to switch to something else. The only thing I could watch all the way through were T.V. shows. The nice thing, though, is there was a wide selection of things to choose from. I never had to break out my laptop and rarely my iPod. The seat I was in was very nice and had lots of leg room, and the man next to me was very pleasant. He wasn’t Japanese like a good number of the other passengers, but he was social and informative when we were both good for it, but it didn’t feel awkward to turn away and start reading or something at some point. It was a nice balance for me, and he told me about how he lived in Japan and worked for the government, which was cool. To summarize, the flight itself was a drain on my energy and patience, but it wasn’t all bad. It was the price I paid for this trip, and it was well worth it. Thanks to my mom for procuring the nice seat :)

Now I’m here. The hotel had no Wifi, so I couldn’t update earlier to talk about the flight. I thought I’d get that out of the way right now. A good portion of the day was spent riding around on trains, getting a feel for them as well as getting where we needed to go. I’d been told that there would be no English, but there was some. Plenty of romaji, which is the romanization of Japanese words, which is easily readable for any English speaker who can read.

We had a nice big partially Japanese breakfast at the hotel, then went from Narita airport to Shinagawa, which I think is part of the Roppongi district, if the subway map I’m using is right. We broke into groups and went looking around the station for an hour or so before dinner with our host families. There was a lot of shopping and food places there. Katie, Cindy, and I had chocolate croquettes I think? Whatever they were, they were delicious; really melty on the inside and flaky on the outside. We also wandered in and out of convenience stores. I found Orangina, which made me very happy. :)

Around 3 I met Sueko Oyaizu, my host mom. She speaks little to no English, and I speak basic sentences of Japanese. I thought at first this was a disaster waiting to happen, but we communicate alright. It’s stilted and slow and very simplistic, at least on my end, but she’s very patient and pleasant and has gone out of her way to make me feel welcome. She gave me stationary, an envelope, and stamps and let me write a letter home tonight; she helped me address it while we were watching T.V. This communication reminds me of my brother somehow. I often wonder how he views the world, as an autistic kid. He can speak very basically, expressing simple wants, and becomes easily frustrated when not understood. That is just observing from the outside, but it offers me a weird sense of understanding and appreciation. In his own way, his thoughts must be coherent and understandable to him. I feel stupid in the presence of others who speak so much better than I do, and when I can speak basically and communicate correctly I feel like a child in elementary school again. It feels weird, sure, but it’s not all bad. I understand how my roommate must have felt my freshmen year, coming to the U.S. with some English but not as proficient. It’s very humbling to be on the other end.

Sueko-san gives me motivation. I like her. I want to be able to speak to her and understand her. I want her to be proud of me like she is of Haley, her last homestay student. I want to give her something back that isn’t necessarily tangible, like the gift of Virginia peanuts I brought. :) I want to improve my Japanese much more before I leave, and I have a feeling she can help me do it. I’m feeling a little of that culture shock, but it’s no where near as bad as I thought it would be.

A little extra detail: I like the big bath tub with no overflow drain. :) It’s funny that the toilet is in a different room, but I guess I understand why it’s considered dirty to put them together. I figured out the toilet just fine; I just ignore the buttons unless I have to. I may have some trouble figuring out the shower, but that will come with time I think. I hope :). I like that the northeast part of Tokyo that I’m staying in seems smaller and a little less crowded, at least still you get to the train station.

It’s quiet here. Maybe a little because it is night, but I get the sense this is a calm neighborhood. The nearest convenience store is literally a block and a half up the road. My room is small but homey and comfortable. I hope it all goes well.

Tomorrow we practice getting to the University and meeting people there. I tell you more as it comes up. :)


BTW, these weren’t pictures I took. I’m slow to do that just yet because A) I feel like a stupid tourist, and B) I’m just getting settled. I’ll pull out the camera more when I have more energy. See you soon

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