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Nihon de: The adventures of Maggie
 
0

Looking Ahead, and Behind

Posted by maggie on Jun 1, 2012 in In Japan

I tried authentic ramen the other day. Very good, very big. I liked it, but if I must indulge, I’ll go for the cheapo ones you can buy at the supermarket :)

It’s hard to believe there is only one week left of living with my host mother. For as frustrating as communication can get sometimes, I’m thinking about how much I’ll miss her already. I want to keep up and write letters and maybe send a picture every once in a while if I can. She’s a sweet old lady. I hope she’s not lonely when I leave; true, Hideki-san will be here for a little bit, but then when he leaves I hope she’s fine. I’m pretty sure she will be, though. I’ve learned through some very short, jointed conversations that she sews and goes to dance classes on some days. We even stopped and spoke with one of the neighbors a weekend or so ago. So she has things to do and people to talk to.

I still will worry about her though, because I’ve come to love her like another grandmother. It’s kind of cool in a way; you don’t need to perfectly understand someone in order to form a lasting relationship with them. Regardless of our cultures, norms, locations, etc., we are all human beings with an inherent desire for connection. Being so far from home probably strengthens the feelings, I’m guessing, but it is reassuring in a way. I’ve met all kinds of people in my short time on this earth; good, bad, and everything in between, based on my own biased standards. At the risk of sounding like a cheesy kids’ movie, it would be nice if we could get passed some of the more superficial things that drive us apart and come together as human beings, and my trip to Japan has shown me that it can be very possible if we have the drive and make the effort.

In many of the classes I have taken since coming to college, I have heard all sorts of different policies on people treating other people. I don’t think of myself as an “ist” of any kind, but as I learned in conversations with some of my group members, you can be a racist or a sexist in any situation when it is twisted the right way. And we all have ways of defining these situations by ourselves, so I could go out of my way trying not to be an “ist” and the right person could still argue that I was being one anyway.

Japanese culture and language focus heavily on not offending anyone. There are numerous ways to apologize, varying forms of politeness that you can use in only certain situations, and it is considered polite to be very humble. If someone compliments you, the correct answer is, “No, I’m terrible, really.” You tread carefully so as not to step on any toes or say things too brashly, even if you dislike someone. It’s like working in 24 hour customer service.

To me, it comes down to suppressing emotion and natural inclinations. Here, they are the enemy, only to fraternize with in the quiet comfort of your own home, when Big Brother isn’t watching you. Haha. Not really really.

But even in your own home, you still have to be a little conscious about things if you live with other people. I bring this back to the bit above about human beings all getting along and not being racist or sexist or any form of “ist” you can think of.

I find it important to gain and maintain strong, long-lasting relationships in my life. I realize that is not how everyone wants to be. But I also see that I cannot make close friends with every person I meet on the street. Whether I want to or not, I’m going to offend someone at some point, probably on multiple occasions. It’s unavoidable and uncontrollable. All I can do is try to accept it and move on.

So here is what I think about the “isms” and “ist’s.” True, I don’t want to purposely offend people. I want to make friends, as many as I can, as close as I can. But I can’t spend my life trying hard not to step on anyone’s toes. It’s a lot of hard work with no guaranteed reward other than that they might think back on that nice girl what’s-her-name for a moment and then promptly forget. Also, it will only make me more tired and annoyed when others don’t show me the same courtesy.  I will do my best not to personally insult people for dumb reasons, but I can’t always guarantee that either. I am a human being with emotions, thoughts, and opinions, and while they might get me into trouble every once in a while, they mostly serve me very well. Above all, my emotions and instincts make me human, a smarter animal than most but an animal nonetheless. To try to completely suppress my emotions and natural feelings is, to me, to make me less of a human being, because whether they are bothersome at times or not, they give me the ability to care as well as to hate.

It is a two sided coin, and all that philosophical yadda yadda. :)

Tying back into humanity as a whole, Japan and America are quite different in many ways, but fundamentally, as collective assortments of human beings who strive to make a profit, connect with others, and lead fulfilling lives, we are not that much different. And while I can shake my head at someone who I perceive as being ignorant, I soon realize that there are many things I am ignorant of as well.

I think we take ourselves way too seriously. It’s hard designating which lines should not be crossed, but maybe we could start by not getting so whipped out about small things. I’ve seen too many people getting upset with each other over whether or not Glee is good. I’m bad about it too. Really, who cares? It doesn’t matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.

I feel like my musing is very contradicting at times. I love arguing with people over whether or not a tv show or a game or something is good. But I think it is when people get nasty about it is when it starts getting too personal. So someone doesn’t like Star Wars. Or Glee. Or whatever else. Nachos, I don’t know. That’s their preference. Just don’t hang out with them then if it bothers you so much.

By the way, please don’t take this as me nagging at you. This is a message to me more than anyone else. Maybe this gives me more of a motivation to listen to my own advice :) Everything is relative.

I love writing, maybe because I love to talk so much. Writing gives you a good forum, where you aren’t interrupted unless it’s a chat and you type too slowly.

But what did you really come to hear about? The trip, of course! I promised to talk about where I went on Tuesday, and here I keep putting the blogs off. I get easily distracted, especially in Japan where there is so much to look at. Lots of color, flashing lights, bells, whistles, and such.

So on Tuesday, I went to Shibuya to see the Hachiko statue just outside the station. It’s a well-known story over here, that a professor who lived in the area found this dog, and they would meet at the station at the same time everyday. But the man died one day, and the dog just kept coming back to wait at the station every day.

 

It’s kind of sad, but also sweet. Dogs may be slobbery and not the smartest of animals, but they are certainly loyal companions. Makes me miss my own dog.

So I saw the statue, and then I wanted to go look for the Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi. I had to leave the station to see the statue; I didn’t want to pay to get back inside, so I figured I’d walk. It’s a bit of a way, but Shibuya and Roppongi aren’t super far apart. It would have taken a while though, even if I hadn’t walked in a giant circle for an hour and 20 minutes. Eventually, I was tired, and decided I had spent enough time wandering to warrant getting back on the train, so I hopped back on and then took the subway two stops to Roppongi.

After 30 minutes of searching, pausing to explore a music store and Japanese cold stone. They sing if you tip them here, too. I saw someone tip them and the song was funny, because I recognized the tune but few of the words. When I finally found the restaurant, it was closed til the 19th, but that means I can come back maybe on a weekend while I’m still here :) I like collecting stuff from hard rocks when I can. It’s not extreme, but if I go to a new country, it’d be cool to visit the hard rock there and grab something. So I’ll go back to that. 

Then, on Thursday, we went as a group to Meiji Jingu, a shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shouken. The original building was destroyed in World War II; what we saw was the shrine that had been restored in 1958, I believe. It has the (maybe one of the) tallest gate in Japan. It’s a cool place. I hadn’t seen any sacred trees before, but this shrine had two, bound together and each carrying a spirit within.

After this, we parted ways at about noon to spend the day as we wanted to. I followed Cindy to Omiya looking for a kimono shop that had an employee who spoke English, but when we arrived, the shop was closed. So we walked for a while looking for the bonsai nurseries, instead finding the Hikawa shrine, a big park, and a zoo. It wasn’t how we expected to spend the day, but it was a lot of fun. And the unexpected can lead to new and interesting things. I’m glad I resisted the urge to go home and nap, even though I desperately wanted to by that point.

 

 

 

 

I’m just throwing in pictures all over the place. :)

 

 

 

 

I feel bad for talking so much this time around. So here I go dumping pictures on you instead. That’s pretty much all that has gone on since the weekend. Interesting stuff, at least. This trip is so awesome. Japan used to feel like a dream, and now home seems more faint and dream-like. I can barely imagine what it will be like to come home after all of this.

 

Going to bed for now. Thanks for journeying with me again today. Jane (jya-neigh), not Jane, Dad. :)

 

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4

What do you do with a free day?

Posted by maggie on May 28, 2012 in In Japan

For some reason the song, “What do you do with a drunken sailor,” is stuck in my head. Oh well. It gave me a title….kind of…sort of…not really….

I had a very nice dinner with my host mother last night. I managed to tell her a decent chunk about my day (thank you, class grammar/vocab lessons), at least about how we went to class and later stopped by a convenience store to pick up tickets for the Studio Ghibli museum. The lady behind the counter told us right away that she spoke no English, but I did my best to indicate what we needed and I think it turned out well. She knew what I was talking about and helped us through ordering the tickets on the little machine near the manga and magazines. Now we have tickets.

Today is a day off, so there will be some vegging time, naturally. I thought I might go explore a district on my own for once. I need to break from the stubborn habit of only really exploring when with other people. To make the most out of this trip, I need to try going at it alone a little bit. What is nice is that Tokyo feels pretty safe in contrast to some other places I’ve been. No body bothers you here unless you’re asking for directions. I’ll be wary of people being too friendly or too insistent, of course, or people following me.

Wow. Now I have the movie “Taken” stuck in my head and I’m getting paranoid. Maybe not extremely, but it never hurts to be aware of your surroundings. I want to see some stuff on this trip and be around to tell about it. Sound good?

Nothing much new to report. Akihabara was nice if a little on the flashy-too-much-stuff-to-look-at sort of way. It’s easy to get distracted there. Lots of anime stuff, electronics, and otherwise shiny objects of many varieties. It was a fun trip though, and I got some stuff from it to help satisfy my anime needs. :)

Maybe I can write something about where I explore later today. I’m still not set on anything, but there are some touristy type spots I have in mind that I’m deciding between. I’ll leave those a mystery until later.

I feel like I’m losing weight from all the walking and stuff, but it’s harder to notice for me because I’m more likely to see “noticeable changes” as opposed to small things like “toning” or losing a little fullness in my face. I’m trying not to hyper focus on it, but it’s hard in a country where EVERYONE is smaller than you. I thought America could make you feel bad. This is about on the same level, but it would be worse if I was clothes shopping, I’m sure. The one t-shirt I picked up in Asakusa, which by the way looks very geeky touristy by Japanese and probably American standards, was blatantly labeled “American sizes.” Which to me screams more of “People of Unusual Size,” to misquote Princess Bride. “Come one, come all, fat people! We actually have something you can wear!”

All though it makes sense. No Japanese person in their right mind would wear the shirt I bought. It’s the equivalent of one of those “I heart New York” shirts. Literally.

I just wanted something with a place name on it to prove I’d been there. Hats are ridiculously expensive to buy over here, although those would have been easier. Japan, why do you make clothes and souvenir shopping so hard? Do you not want us here?

I kid. I just think it’s funny. It really feels like I have to adapt. Some people over here may speak English, but they don’t cater to me and my needs just because I’m American. It’s harder, but more rewarding I guess, because I feel like I have to earn it. I consciously strive to eat less and walk more over here. Maybe some day I could fit into a Japan extra large. :)

But I digress. This is kind of a filler blog. I wanted to update because I’ve been forgetting to go on facebook more and more, except of course to upload pictures. Gotta have those pictures. :)

I hope everyone at home is doing well. Being able to easily understand other people they pass on the street….

Being able to at least read every sign they see….

You lucky people :) That is going to be a weird feeling when I come home. You get so used to being confused half the time here, or you just stop caring about some of the miscellaneous things you can’t read and focus on the important stuff. Like “This is a bike lane,” or “Stop.” Stuff like that.

I’m off to eat something and go make use of this nice day. If it is a nice day; my window makes it very hard to tell. :)

Before I go, I felt a mini earthquake last night. It was cool. It was like when we had that one in fall, all along the east coast. Nothing shook very hard and it was over in a minute or so, but it was still cool and scary in a way. I was watching the ceiling for any cracks or anything, not sure why. But yeah.

Talk to you guys later.

That’s another thing. I don’t hear “y’all” anymore. I never picked up the habit because I always say “you guys,” not “you all.” But it is weird, because that phrase is all over the valley, and no one says it here. Haha. Just one of those little weird things you notice.

By for real this time. Jane. :)

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1

Religion, Politics, and Scary Movies

Posted by maggie on May 26, 2012 in In Japan

I just learned something new today. Watching a scary movie before bed is just as scary in America as it is in Japan. Too bad I can’t resist the urge sometimes, so now I just have to suck it up and deal.

So whilst I do my best to avoid turning off all the lights and trying to sleep, let’s recap what’s been going on.

On Thursday we went to Kamakura to see a shrine, a few temples, eat some Osaka-style okonomiyaki (aka meat and seafood pancakes of awesomeness), and a giant Buddha. There was also some shopping involved. But going away from that topic, looking into the religious aspect we saw how heavily Japanese culture and society weighs Shinto and Buddhism. Which makes a lot more sense having seen some of this stuff.

Not to be ethnocentric, but a lot of American society and culture has roots in Christianity and its rules and traditions. Whatever your opinions on Christianity may be, you can’t ignore the impact that it has had on more than just our holidays. How we treat others, how we conduct ourselves and our businesses. All this stuff ties in.

Some of this is changing with the growing diversity of the population, but a lot of our behaviors and standards come from religious bases, and while this might change some day soon, Christianity in its multiple forms still dominates. This notion of religion is true of Japan as well with the two afore mentioned practices, but it is much slower to adapt to new things and people, perhaps partially due to the country as a whole still being a little xenophobic.

It’s not strange if you think about it. Japan was isolated for a long time, and seemed content to be so. Who knows what today would look like if they had never engaged in wars, trade, or expanding territory. But even with the changes brought on be these, tourism included in there as well, I still walk down many streets and notice that I am the only caucasian present.

It was a bit weird at first, coming from a country where I am in the majority, but it didn’t take as long to get used to as I might have thought. I don’t receive a lot of stares from people, or at least I don’t notice them; though that could be because it would be rude to be caught staring at someone or even making eye contact for too long. In a strange way, going about my business just like everyone else makes me feel more like I’m participating in the culture.

It’s hard to explain. If I go out in public back home, even riding on a bus full of people I feel oddly alone. Maybe it is because we’re all off doing our own things, trying to ignore each other. But in Japan, just being a part of the crowd of business people en route to work everyday makes me feel like I not alone. Even if my headphones are in, I still feel more engaged and conscious of the people around me, and for once not in a “someone’s-giving-me-a-weird-look-is-my-makeup-wrong-or-something?” way.

Weirdly, although I get jostled frequently in crowds, no one has yet stepped on my foot. Not even when I decided to be crazy and wear sandals. Am I just pushing my luck, or is there something to that? Maybe it’s okay to shove past someone a little, but stomping on their feet with your dirty shoes is bad? Just curious.

Oh, what was I talking about? Religion? Woops.

But I guess it fits in a little bit. There seems to be a sense of order and harmony to many things, and if you don’t see it right away, you’re able to go beneath the surface and find it. As I understand it, Shinto offers the belief that ordinary things like objects, man-made or not, are special and contain spiritual significance. My immediate thoughts drift to Disney’s Pocahontus, where every rock and tree and creature has a life, spirit, and name. Yadda yadda. But there is an underlying sense of order and purpose; nothing is wasted. The city of Tokyo is very clean and organized all things considered; traditional practices are valued and carried out with diligence and patience. Maybe everyone does their part in one way or another, even the people going about their business; cleaning up or helping out the poor tourists like me that get lost every now and again. It all betters the community somehow.

Then again, I’ve only been here two weeks now. I’m just trying to make sense of the world around me.

I can definitely see the value placed on the past, particularly in ancestor worship (if there is a better term for this, I lack it). The Japanese language has a definite sense of past tense, which can also be used to describe the way things have been. Meaning, you could say, “I brushed my hair” in Japanese and the sentence could also imply that brushing your hair is something you do frequently. Establishing a habit, if you will.

The present tense pulls double duty to be the future tense as well; it depends on the context. But Japanese culture seems very focused on a connection with the past. The old are respected and the ancestors revered. In America, we seem to focus a lot of attention on the future, and younger generations treat old people as either unimportant or a nuisance. Not like a storehouse of wisdom and experience like they are; more like handicapped people who only serve to cause vehicular accidents and drain our resources. Or the nice grandparents who cough up good money for birthdays and holidays every year. This is a gross generalization, but I’ve seen it. We focus on what is new and now, and the old is out of luck. Which is a shame.

To loosely tie this back in with events, today I went to see the Square Enix museum and the pokemon center, not greatly impressed by either, but  enjoying the experience and the company all the same. I kind of wish pokemon would bow out gracefully at some point; not that the series had a lot of dignity in the first place (thank you 4kids and the American dubbed cartoon). Also, because the Japanese seem to lack subtlety and sense by most Americans’ standards. But now I feel like it’s beating a dead horse, and can’t really connect with the new pokemon as well because I feel so far removed. In the past I loved the video games and the tv show for all its corniness, and now if it’s on I swiftly change the channel. Why can’t we agree that pokemon is/was a good series and let it die in piece? Must we keep putting out new stuff that’s only half as good? (cough cough star wars prequels cough cough)

Yeah, I’m weird. But the past, for me, represents nostalgia; a simpler time when I didn’t need to question as many things, was easily impressed, and the world made more sense. It’s like Eve and the apple; now that I’m older and more aware, I can never go back, and it saddens me a little bit. It doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to the future or changes to things, although admittedly I’m not crazy about change when it comes to the things I love just as they are. But with new times come new innovations come new problems, and it’s harder to adjust to those new problems because no body’s had to deal with them before.

My main beef with the future mostly has to do with the media; things getting either cheaper, dumbed down, or unoriginal. But that’s another story for another day….er….night.

Tomorrow, Akihabara. I can slip back into the fun of being a fan in Japan, provided I keep a tight hand on my wallet. But so far, that hasn’t been a problem. I feel a familiar voice in the back of my head asking, “Do you really want this or not?” when I go to buy something. It’s very helpful from a saving perspective. It’s only a few weeks in after all. Plus, some of the stuff I see here I could probably get cheaper in the US. I try to avoid impulse buys, at least expensive ones. But I was happy that my postcard made it through to the US; hopefully the others will get through alright.

By the way, Okonomiyaki is delicious. :)

I’m having so much fun on this trip. There have been plenty of bumps along the way, but some of this stuff I might never have seen until years later. I think it’s good to see it now, when I have the energy and excitement for it, but also the ability to let it mold me a little as I go. I admit that I can be a stubborn person, and my tendencies really clash with the culture sometimes, but honestly, I am so happy to be here. I would gladly take the frustration and confusion for the experience I am getting here. I can already feel some changing going on, hopefully for the better. :) I hope tomorrow is a lot of fun.

Oh God, why did I watch Pet Sematary again?…I’m never going to shut my eyes tonight, I can tell. Even with the light on, I’m creeped out, and I’m not even thinking about the scenes. Just hearing the music from the soundtrack in my head while I type is creeping me out. (O.o) scared face now.

Must. stop. thinking. about. it. Right. Maybe I can offset it by watching a Japanese horror movie?

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

No. Just…just no…

I’m going to try to sleep now….somehow. Can’t wait for Akihabara tomorrow. Hope everyone is doing fine at home. I’m on skype sometimes, so if you’re on, feel free to call me. :)

Jane.

P.S. Enjoy the whimsical Miyazaki store. I love that they have these all over the place, wherever I go :) Gotta love the Japanese version of Disney (figuratively)

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2

Togetherness?

Posted by maggie on May 21, 2012 in In Japan

I understand that family and togetherness is very important. It’s important in my family back home. But every once in a while, for me, it’s nice to go off and do my own thing without a) always having to tell someone, and b) coming across as rude.

I’m not trying to be rude, honestly; that’s the last thing I want. But I’m used to being in college, in charge of my own time. Sometime I like just chilling by myself for a little while, I’m more of an introvert really. I need some time everyday to be by myself, or else I get overloaded and that makes me not fun to be around.

Every once in a while, I like making myself breakfast, and enjoy eating it in silence. It gives me some time to think about the day and just relax into my routine.

That doesn’t work here.

I know, because Sueko-san constantly talks to me at breakfast, and sometimes I don’t catch much because I’m only half inclined to listen. I’m grateful that she’s making me breakfast, so grateful that I spam “thank you’s” as much as I can. But every now and then, I’d like to just sit and enjoy breakfast and not have to talk around a full mouth. And I’s also love to be able to say, “I will let you know if I want something.” She literally does this every morning: empties out her refrigerator and offers me everything she can find. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It’s very hard to adjust to.

My friends would tell you that one of my biggest pet peeves is people constantly asking if I’m okay. They know, of course, because they do it all the time. You guys know who you are :) My philosophy is, I’ll tell you if I’m not okay. Just assume for the most part that I’m okay. Just because I go silent for a little while does not mean I’m angry or upset necessarily. Sometimes even I can shut my big mouth and just think about stuff :)

Here, in Sueko-san’s house, I am constantly being asked if I’m okay, if I need things, and all the while she’s trying to stuff me with as much food as she can. Even though I asked if she could let up, I said it nicely by saying I want to go on a diet because I feel too big, she insists on shoving more and more food at me. It’s off-putting after a while.

I also don’t like having to plan out my day from start to finish all the time. Sometimes I like to relax, or be spontaneous. Unless I’m going to school, which is fairly easy to explain, and the only added details may be that I’ll be back around 6 or so, Sueko-san asks what I’m going to do every day. And I’m not sure how to say “I have no plans,” as of yet.

Seriously, I love this woman to death. She’s so kind and helpful, and I want to make her happy and give her things too, but it wears on my nerves a little bit. I don’t retreat to the bath or my room to get away from the language barrier anymore, I can deal with that. Sometimes I retreat because I’m just not in the mood to be so talkative. As much as it would shock my parents, I actually like silence every now and again :) I like chilling when I don’t feel like talking. Sometimes when I truly have nothing to say, I don’t try to fill the void. I actually do shut up. :)

The social nuances in Japan are sometimes full of mental gymnastics. I want to be able to express that I don’t mean to be rude, it’s just the way I am and sometimes I need that peaceful time. Or I wish I could find a nice, polite way to say, “Is it alright if we just eat in silence?”

If I came here in middle school, like I had originally wanted to back then, I would have come here with a sugar-coated, anime-induced vision of what Japan should be like. Maybe I could have gotten used to the constant togetherness of family; I wasn’t yet living a few hours away in college, after all. But now, as I stay here, I’m finding that I love Japan for so much. I just wouldn’t live here.

As much as I love this country and its many wonderful sights, sounds, tastes, etc, I find more and more reason not to live here. It doesn’t mean I’ll never come back. I’d love to, for work or a vacation or something. But as of right now, I know that I could never live here for an over-extended period of time. Or not with a host family maybe.

It’s a wonderful experience and I’m thankful for it. I never would have found this out if I hadn’t tried. But I discover more and more that I enjoy being my own person, and I like some of the ways Americans do things. They aren’t perfect, of course, but now I’m growing to like things about America as well as Japan, more than just because those things are familiar in a strange land.

I’m discovering more about myself this way, mostly through small encounters like the one I mentioned having breakfast with Sueko-san. Most mornings I can chill and go with it, but this morning I just wanted to be in college again, hanging in my room with a box of cereal. But oh well. Life goes on.

Today we were going to go to Kamakura, but it’s pouring outside and apparently the trip won’t be so fun if it’s raining. So we’re just kind of chilling today. Maybe later I’ll go out for a walk or take the train somewhere, if I’m bored. There’s plenty to see. But for right now, I’m chilling, and quite happy doing so. I need some time to be by myself, and then I can spend the whole evening with Sueko-san and Hideki-san, watching goofy t.v. shows together. Actually, that walk sounds pretty good, if the rain lets up. Wouldn’t want to get any bigger, right? :)

I’m not trying to write chapters that are downers or anything, sometimes I just need to express my thoughts. Sometimes negative things stick out more in the mind, but the nice thing about being in a strange foreign country is that the positive things stick out a bit more because their bizarre and note-worthy. :) That’s another thing, though. Did you ever notice how American t.v. and news focus a lot on negative things? Like murders and celebrity break-ups and what not?

Here, the t.v. shows and news seem much lighter, at least as far as I’ve seen. Heck, people jumping in front of trains at the stations is a daily occurrence; I think I heard someone mention 80 something people jump every day, and yet it’s not really focused on at all. Is this the collectivist society at work? Is group cohesion more important than the straight up facts that might depress people? Or, knowing that so many people are unhappy, do they purposely try to make light-hearted television so that people will cheer up?

I don’t know. At first, I thought it was cold that “human incidents” are common and no body I’ve met seems to pay much mind to them, but really, what would American’s do? If people suddenly started jumping in front of cars and trains by the boatload, how would we handle it? Beef up security? Put in more railings?

Maybe the Japanese have an unstated agreement about the whole thing, and I just don’t know it. This is just a lot of speculation on a rainy Tuesday morning, slightly agitated from a not so relaxed breakfast. But I wonder…

Maybe it sounds dumb. I don’t know, personally. I have an overactive imagination. But why do Americans care so much about failures, break-ups, and unpleasant things? What does it say about our society that such things are everywhere, constantly being focused on? If media reflects society in any way, what does our media say about us? What does Japan’s say about Japan?

More food for thought. Anyways, thanks for listening. I’m off to find out how to spend the rest of my morning/afternoon. Jane (bye). :)

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3

Sanja Matsuri

Posted by maggie on May 19, 2012 in In Japan

Today was a lot of fun. We went to Sesoji Temple in Asakusa for the Sanji Festival. We were chased frequently by moving shrines, “mikoshi,” well not really chased by them, but everywhere we went, we would come out of a shop only to find them right outside, creating a large crowd. The temple is apparently the oldest in Tokyo, and the festival is about two fisherman brothers who caught a statue of the Bodhisattva Kannon in their fishing net, and a third guy who converted them to Buddhism. They then took care of the statue and consecrated it in the temple.

Saori, one of the Keio students we met yesterday, met up with us (the girls) at Ueno station, and from there we went to Asakusa. There was much shopping involved, lots of wandering and looking at vendors and sharing food we got. I tried takoyaki (fried octopus meatballs) and immediately burned most of the inside of my mouth. At least I wasn’t the only one. :)

It was good, I remember that much. But because my mouth is numb now, I can’t really remember what it tasted like. Just that it was good.

Katie tried the little game where children try to catch little goldfish in a net. She didn’t win, but the game owner gave her two fish anyway. Then, while Cindy and I were getting fortunes told, I wanted to take a picture of mine. As the picture shot, Katie’s bag of goldfish spilled out, so n my picture, there appears to be a goldfish randomly sitting on the top of my fortune. That was a funny moment once we got them safely back in the bag.

 

We had yakitori (fried chicken) too, and I got a shaved ice because my mouth was still hurting like heck. It still hurts, actually, but it’s better now. It was a fun experience.

Coming home, Hideki-san showed me his photography portfolio, which was really cool. And Sueko-san practically dumped all this stuff into my arms. She gave me a lot of stuff; it was free for her, so I guess I feel a bit better. But still. I was so confused at first, but that made her laugh and she kept giving me stuff. It’s pretty cool actually. Also, apparently there is supposed to be a solar eclipse on Monday around 7 in the morning. I want to see that, maybe take a picture if I can.

All in all, it was a great night. Shopping fun, sight-seeing, making new friends, all that good stuff. I had such a good time. If only every day could be that fun. I’m just going to keep hoping all the days will be, because that will make this the best trip ever. It reminds me of how lucky I am, and how grateful I am to my parents for getting me here. I wouldn’t be here without them, literally :)

Also, love Sueko-san so much. She’s like my Japanese grandmother, like Ozeki-sensei from JMU but easier to understand, believe it or not. I think I’m getting better at speaking with her. I just have to keep working at it.

 

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4

Adapting

Posted by maggie on May 18, 2012 in In Japan

I’m quickly getting over my sense of personal space. It is hardly ever respected in Tokyo, especially not on trains, but it’s been much easier to adapt to than I had thought previously. Maybe it is because the people on the trains are quiet enough that if I want to sit there and just enjoy the ride with my headphones in, I’m not struggling to hear them like I would be on the buses in Harrisonburg.

On Wednesday we went to the Tsukiji fish market, a massive place with dead, alive, or just plain bloody fish. Then, on Thursday we went to go see the sumo tournaments at Kokugikan. That was an interesting cultural experience, and I have to say I now roll my eyes a little at people who say “Fat Guys in Diapers.” While the sport is not particularly my cup of tea, I respect it for the cultural and entertainment value it represents. And no, they aren’t just fat guys. They work out and train for this, so while it looks like flab on the surface, a lot of the underneath is muscle. The matches were quick, and if I have to be perfectly honest, a bit more interesting than I’ve found football so far. What are these things but parallels in different countries? The arenas have boundaries, there are referees, T.V.’s at home do instant replays if the match looks close. It’s actually kind of cool, and it has a significance beyond just two big guys trying to push each other out of the ring.

Other than that, not much is going on. Some of us are heading over to a religious festival in Asakusa; I hope that will be fun times for all. Sueko-san and I have conversations now; they may not be very long or delve into much depth just yet, but we’re conversing a lot, and I think that’s certainly something.

Some Keio University students came to hang out with us in class on Friday. They seem nice, I hope I get more time to talk to them. One of them expressed an interest in having contacts in the U.S. It’s nice to find more people to talk to.

I feel exhausted a lot when I come home at night. I’m trying to get better about that; last night I stayed up until 1 a.m. just to prove that I could make it. I need a lot of energy to make it through the day, and I don’t want to eat too much.

These all just seem randomly strung together, I know, but I’m thinking about all that’s happened this week, and honestly, I’ve been feeling low a lot of the time. I know it’s natural and fine, but I’ve been trying to keep it under control, and so far, that works about as well as it usually does. Sometimes at night, actually mostly during that time because I find myself alone and just kind of chilling, I reflect on the day and come across a few things that make me feel a little homesick. These blogs are supposed to get us thinking, but I feel like, for right now, I wish I could just turn off my brain and enjoy the ride. During the day, my brain is on, of course, but there is so much to see and learn that I don’t have as much time to think about bumming stuff. Maybe I need to find something to do at night. I still need my time to be introverted, but maybe I should find something else to do, like take a walk or something like that. I haven’t seen much of Japan at night. I’m sure Sueko-san wouldn’t mind, considering Hideki-san comes in late from work anyway. As long as I lock up. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try it sometime.

I need to get more comfortable exploring on my own. I know how to ask for directions, and I’ve learned that it’s easier to ask women, because women in general speak more slowly. But there is stuff I want to go see, and anyway, once the group trip is over, when I’m not interning I’m going to want to spend my free time somehow.

Off to the festival soon. I hope it’s fun. Yesterday I picked up some more batteries for my camera, so I’ll be posting on facebook for sure. I hope everyone else is doing well at home, I miss them so much.

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4

Ups and Downs

Posted by maggie on May 15, 2012 in In Japan

Today on the Yamanote line, Katie pointed out an ad on the wall. It was for skin whitening cream, I think. Or some sort of process like that. I thought that was interesting because in the US, girls usually want the opposite. To get bright orange tans, like giant oompa-loompas.

If you think about it, it’s a culturally relative thing. In the US, it used to be only laborers would get tan, because they worked. It was like a status symbol to be pale for a while; indeed, you can see evidence in England, with that poisonous powder stuff they would put on their faces to look white. Laborers got tans, and wore jeans. Something like that. And then (sorry for the vague details here, I heard this in SCOM 242 before but forgot some of it) someone famous accidentally got a tan by, of course, being in the sun too long. Suddenly, people decided she looked good, and slowly began to seek tans themselves. Now, especially in the burg, there are a multitude of tanning salons, and on a warm enough day, the quad is covered in towels and bikinis, which I’m fairly certain pleases most of the guys.

Through a much more complicated process than I’m making it out to be, the tan became what we as a society chose to have as one of our ideals of desirability. Now, ironically, if you have time to spend lounging on a beach long enough to get a tan, or spend enough time and money at a tanning salon, I guess, you’ve got yourself a high status symbol. You are, at least partially, beautiful and wealthy, says America.

But if you think about it, being pale is probably healthier. The more you spend time in the sun, the more you risk things like skin cancer. True, some sun can be good for your skin, but the amount the average college girl gets is probably going to have serious repercussions later in life. But who cares, right? We’re young and pretty now, right? Who cares, because it’s so far off before we see those problems.

Then again, as we grow older, we might find ourselves feeling bitter and angry, as the world we live in focuses more on the younger, prettier people. Once you pass age 40, your age group appears less frequently in ads and T.V. all of the sudden. What will we do then, when we’re spoiled and raised ego-centric for now?

Food for thought. Feel free to start up a conversation in the comments if you want. I love to ponder things like this.

Anyway, sort of a down day. It was cool and rainy, which is usually fine with me. I think it’s the combined stress of constantly trying to speak/read/understand another language + jet lag + I didn’t sleep very well last night (your day) + the weather a little bit. A lot of stuff contributes to mood. It felt a little long today (no offense meant, Morgan XD). I hate my short attention span I have at times. I got on the train today and I was stressing about something I’d said earlier, and all of the sudden I felt myself tearing up. I felt like an idiot, and I didn’t want to feel like more of one by crying on the train.

This is where I talk about that overanalyzing curse again. I’m very self-critical. I worry about what others think, when they probably have forgotten about it already. I stress about looking or sounding like an idiot to someone else, waaaaaayyyy long after they’ve stopped caring. Not as long as I used to. I’ve gotten better about it in recent years, but it’s a habit rooted so deeply in my personality that it’s hard to break completely, or cleanly. I haven’t been stressing as much about saying or writing things wrong, which is good, and I find kind of surprising. But  honestly, I feel more stressed about hanging with my fellow Americans, and making a dummy of myself in front of them. I think it’s because I’ve accepted that I will screw up in Japanese; it’s not my natural language, and I’m willing to be more forgiving to myself, especially if my Japanese friends are. On a base level, to get all technical here, it’s all about a sense of control. I’ve accepted that those language screw-ups are sort of out of my control. They will happen regardless of anything I try to do to prevent them. At least for now. I just can’t accept when other’s perceptions of me aren’t within my control. I feel like I should be able to control it, by being nice and amiable, but life doesn’t work that way.

I need to relax more and learn to laugh and let go. It’s easier said than done, but I want to work for it. I know it will make me happier. It’ll annoy my friends less, worry them and my family less. It’ll give me more confidence. I know everyone’s got there issues. No body is perfect. But I think recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and working to improve the latter while playing to the former can separate the people who flop from those who go far in life.

So yeah. A bit of a bummer, but hey. It reminded me of the person I don’t want to be, and I had some time to reflect on it with a good, hot bath. Can you tell I like those? XD

Sueko-san’s son-in-law came from New York. Hideki’s English is very good, which was nice because at dinner tonight I got a bit of a break and could communicate things more naturally. I still used some Japanese, of course, for my own and Sueko-san’s benefit, but it was mostly speaking English. He helped me communicate some things to Sueko-san that I couldn’t before, and helped me when I didn’t understand her very much. But I don’t feel less motivated. I’m actually happy to have another partner to practice Japanese with, although he speaks faster and is closer to my age. I’m sensing a theme here. I’m most shy and awkward around people of my age group or close to it. I’ve never quite understood why. Part of mastering Japanese is overcoming the fear to speak it and potentially get laughed at. Or smiled at, as the case often is. Tis the polite thing to do. XD

It’s nice having the option of a sort of translator sometimes, but I can’t have that be an excuse. I have to put myself out there and try (and fail) until I get better. That’s why I’m here, and in particular why Morgan put me here.

Other than that, haven’t gotten too many stares so far. I think there might be an unspoken rule of no eating on the trains. I never see other people doing it. Katie and I did it once. We were careful not to spill, but I still think we weren’t supposed to. The Japanese are very forgiving of “gaijin,” but I try to follow the rules as best I can, so as to not be ignorant and obnoxious. That is where my self-analyzing and awareness come in handy, but I can’t remember everything not to do all the time. Oh well. I try. I still think it was funny; I think it was Josh who got onto one of the “pervert-free” all women trains and no one said anything. I think they should enforce that rule even with foreigners; they can be perverts too, you know. XD

XD is the silly sideways smiley face. I’m fond of that when typing for some reason. It’s like laughing and smiling wide at the same time. Ha. Coming from a low context culture, where everything needs to be laid out and specified, it sort of makes sense that I’m constantly clarifying my moods. It’s harder to tell with text, because some 97-ish% of communication, as a whole, is nonverbal. Body language, appearance, haptics, kinesics, etc. It gives context and emphasis, so without it, for all anyone knows, I could be typing this all intending to be completely sarcastic. I do that because I used to chat with a friend on gmail and practically every time we chatted, I thought at one point or another that she was mad at me. No, I don’t stress that much. Plus, it was just the way she was.

This morning on the train was a human soup. On the Seibu-Shinjuku, I didn’t even need to hold on to anything. The other passengers were my seatbelt. I’ve stopped listening to all the stops on the Yamanote, the second train I have to take, though I like to look at the map occasionally when it pops up. I memorize that my stop going to school is “Tamachi,” and listen for “Shinagawa” because it’s the stop right before mine. On the way home I listen for “Shin-Ookubo,” I think it is. My stop is the one after that, “Takadanobaba.” Say that five times fast.

I’m rambling now. I literally just write what’s on my mind, but I find it’s good for blogs. It’s like a diary, but everyone can read it. Gasp! I ate codfish eggs tonight, knowing full well what they were before hand. Surprisingly, they tasted okay, and I don’t feel weirded out like that time my uncle gave me a friend chicken heart. I swear I kept thinking about that thing beating in my stomach the whole rest of the night.

TANGENT ALERT. Lol.

I’m still refusing to go near the squat pots, a.k.a hole-in-the-ground toilets. I’ve seen plenty of them, but I’m sorry. No. I don’t need to try EVERYTHING in Japan. XD

Was that TMI at all? I can never tell. I have a bad gauge for stuff I should keep to myself sometimes, but only really when it comes to my info. Again, just letting the brain flow out right now. It’s cathartic. Also, I just want to say thanks to Katie for making me feel better earlier.

Nothing much else to say. I miss home a little bit, but that’s natural. I miss driving around with my dad and brother, when we go hoping we’ll see some deer. I miss American T.V. and commercials, although Japanese ones are very entertaining. I miss just chilling with my mom watching T.V., or my boyfriend repeatedly thrashing me at Call of Duty. Simple things like that that just remind you of home and familiar things. Being in another country, especially one so far away, really does make you appreciate your life, and maybe understand it a little better. There are plenty of things I don’t like about America, or as my friends sometimes jokingly dub it “Amuurika,” (note: that’s note Japanese-ish, it’s more of an dumb, ignorant American slur, if you have any idea what I’m talking about) but I remember a lot of reasons why I love living there, even with all of the crap I might have to put up with. Japan or America. Neither one is better than the other, just different. They have different ways of seeing life and people and culture and go about it in their own ways. But I’d be less inclined to live here because I’m a woman, and culture dictates certain things women can and can’t do. I think they try to make up for the inequality with all the cutesy stuff, anime and all that. How else would you make sense of a highly masculine, collectivist culture with so much girly, cutesy stuff? XD

But yeah. A lot to think about. I think I’ll stop for now before I jump around anymore. Sleep time is now. Got to be up bright and early for the Tsukiji fish market tomorrow. Jane! (bye for now!)

 

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0

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 the 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  people) 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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5

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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6

The Night Before…

Posted by maggie on May 9, 2012 in Pre-Trip Thoughts

As you can tell from the title, it’s right before I’m supposed to fly and I’m feeling a mix of extreme anticipation and extreme dread. The details have finally hit home, and they smack me with a baseball bat, saying, “You’re going to Japan.”

Thinking of the Beatles movie “Yellow Submarine,” which I watched with my Dad a few nights ago in some last minute bonding time, I feel as if I myself am about to embark on a strange journey through several seas filled with vibrant colors and weird creatures. Well, the comparison isn’t perfect, but really what is? Will I survive? Will I be able to understand anything? Am I going to be fighting off blue meanies with the awesome power of song?

….probably not the last one. But still!

So many stressors are going through my mind. My homestay mother sounds as though she speaks very little English. I’m about to go to a country where my language of choice isn’t the preferred means of expressing myself. A good friend of mine is leaving the area and I’m really sad to see her go. My grades from Spring Semester just came in and they’re mostly crap. Not the worst, but average. This adds a whole new level of agony as I spend the rest of the night making sure every last thing is organized, while all the while thinking about how I could have done better. I’m beating myself up so much about it when it doesn’t do any good, but it’s what I’m used to. I feel like I failed, and now I’m off to do something way, WAY bigger and I worry about that. Some of this can be attributed to lack of sleep and stress for the past few days, but I can’t rationalize enough to make myself feel better.

I’m so excited, but once again, a little voice inside of me is telling me to back out. “Change scares you,” it says. “You were fine before,” it says. “Why such a big step? You’ve got time; why not stay comfortably at home for the whole summer and think about this again someday later,” it says. Of course I won’t listen to it. I’ve wanted this forever, money has already exchanged hands, it’s a great opportunity, etc, etc. But there’s a little part of me that’s always been afraid of change, particularly big change. What will happen? How different will I be when I come back?

But of course, I have to ignore it. It’s a defense mechanism, but here it isn’t helping in the least. College was a huge step, leaving my home town to go to school two hours away with no friends or family there. And it turned out great. I couldn’t be happier, and I’ve seen great changes in myself. I can only imagine what flying 12 hours away will do. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? I sort of can’t imagine, so what will happen?

Here I have to force myself not to be so focused on control. Some of the best things that happen in life are not planned out or controlled, and for me, this could be a big one. I have to trust it, which is hard, especially with all the stress and stuff. But I’m at least resolved in this: I’m going. I’m going to do my best. I’m going to a place I’ve only dreamed about before to study a language and culture I love right at the source. This is great. It’s beyond great. I need to get more hyped!

Last pre-trip thoughts here. I’m going to miss home a lot. I had lunch with some friends today for some last minute authentic “American” food before I leave. I’ll miss family and friends, even if there is skype or google chat, etc. By tomorrow, sleep and stress willing, I’ll be ready and excited, as I fly over on my first ever completely-on-my-own-flight. I have to be open, and welcome what good changes may come. To everyone who is supporting me and wishing me well, Mom, Dad, David, and everyone too numerous to name (cheap cop-out, I know) I can’t thank you enough. I will not waste my time over there, nor will I curl up in a corner and whine. I am going to go over there and do the best job I can. I owe that to myself and anyone else who is going with me, even if they’re not physically going with me. You know?

By the next post, I will be across the sea, and actually have some NEW and INTERESTING info to relate. :) For now I say to myself, “There will be an answer. Let it be.”

Sayonara

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