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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oh, look: an update!

Last week the US culture course went to see a traditional Japanese theater called Bunraku (Wiki link here). It was an awesome experience. I was familiar with it before we went (I've taken a handful of Japanese/Asian history courses at KSU, so I've at least got a tiny bit of knowledge) but actually seeing it was a whole different thing. The easiest way to think of it for someone who's never seen it is to relate it to marionette puppets, but the manipulation of the puppets is different.

Here are a couple videos on youtube that might help you understand:


During the plays there are the "chanters" who voice the characters and narrate. Most shows only have a couple, but the first one we saw had 5 of the chanters and 3 shamisen players, which made it really dramatic. The puppets are typically operated by 3 people, and in most schools of bunraku only the lead puppeteer is allowed to reveal himself; the rest are hidden in black costumes. The lead puppeteer operates the head and right arm, the 2nd puppeteer operates the left arm, and the lowest level puppeteer operates the legs/bottom/body.

The downside to bunraku (even for many native Japanese speakers!) is that it developed in Osaka a LONG time ago. What this means is that the plays are performed in the Osaka dialect. This in and of itself is a problem, because the average person who isn't from Osasa/Kansai area doesn't particularly understand that dialect. Then top it off with the fact that it's an archaic version of this dialect from the 1600s, and it becomes nigh impossible for people speaking standard Japanese to understand. During the play it was subtitled in the standard Tokyo dialect along the sides of the stage, which I found to be pretty amusing :) It kinda sucked not being able to understand what was being said (though I derived a bit of comfort from the fact the Japanese people didn't understand the speaking either) but you can infer quite a bit from the tone of the chanter's voices, the music of the shamisen, and the puppets themselves.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

More Pics and Videos, Too!

Here's some more stuff from the Kamakura trip; I forgot to upload the videos too. Also, there should be a post forthcoming about the culture course we had today. We went to see a bunraku play (traditional Japanese cultural thing), but I don't have time to write a pithy post as I've got to study for an exam Monday I forgot about...


video video

Thursday, December 2, 2010

久しぶり!

Sorry guys--I know it's been a while. I get easily distracted, and I'm sure you're all waiting anxiously for my update has has not been forthcoming :P There's not much of an excuse for my lack of updates other than that I simply forgot...

So! Have you all been wondering what I've been up to? Well, lots of studying my ass off but other things have been going on too :) Let's see if I can put this together sequentially.

On the weekend of the 20th/21st the Americans in the Japanese Culture class took an overnight trip to Kamakura to visit a shit-ton of temples, shrines, see the giant famous Buddha, go to Enoshima Island, and we all stayed at a traditional Japanese hotel (you know, the ones with paper walls and doors, tatami mat rooms and such). Being out of Tokyo and going towards the coast and a bit more out of the way was an amazing experience, and it was really gorgeous to take in the scenery. We also happened to be able to see part of a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony, and I thought it was gorgeous. Experiencing a bit of the traditional culture at the temples and shrines was a welcome break from the fast-paced life in Tokyo. The entirety of the weekend was jam-packed with stuff, and they had us tightly scheduled for the whole trip. We met at the school at 9 am Saturday, and arrived back at the school at about 7 pm Sunday night, so it definitely wasn't a slow weekend.





























I pretty much immediately went to bed after returning from the trip out to Kamakura and Enoshima, but even though I was dead tired I had so much fun.

Monday I went out with my Korean, Thai, Chinese and one American to go drinking. We ending up being SO drunk. I'm told there are photos, but I don't particularly recall them... I
was that drunk. In fact, I slipped down the stairs on my way into the train station (in my defense: it was raining), slid down half the flight on my butt, and sat there giggling for a minute. I think I'm done with the drunk thing from now on :P At leas the whole over-doing it thing, anyway. That being said, it was great to let loose with friends again :D




After that the week started picking up again, and as per the norm I had lots of homework to keep me occupied. Honestly though, I don't really mind it. I can obviously notice my skill increasing, and that's really encouraging.

Friday there was an opportunity to hang out with some Japanese people in a curry cooking class held by the school. I took the opportunity to use my Japanese in "real life" and we all cooked yummy curry!
The Japanese girl we were with spoke really good English, but for the most part we tried to use Japanese and I got along better than I though I would :)






On Monday (11/29) I went over to the guest house of one my American friends for her dinner party thing she was holding with a bunch of her friends from the guest house. There were a variety of nationalities present in the guest house, including a fair amount of Japanese students/young people (the guest house is pretty cheap) which was an unexpected treat!

It feels so weird to think that it's already December. Soon this semester will be over, and I've got conversation exams and finals coming up soon already. The semester will be over in 3 weeks, and then I'll have a winter break. I'm not 100% sure what I want to do but I'll figure something out at some point. I still have some time.

Well, it's gotten late, so I'm gonna crash. I've got plans with a friend in the morning, so I need to get up early. Night!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Midterms Completed!

I haven't had time to write much of an update everybody, sorry. I had been cramming for midterms and blowing off stress with friends... but mostly cramming for midterms. Let's see... what have I done lately that's worth updating everybody on...

Last Thursday I went out to do an all-you-can-eat 焼肉 (yakiniku: grilled meat) thing which was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. You essentially go into the restaurant, sit at a table with one or two burners in front of you, order the meat (pre-marinated/seasoned and ready to cook) and then you cook it at your leisure. It's an all-you-can-eat that's at a set price for a certain amount of
time, and that kind of thing is incredibly popular in Japan. Such a thing would probably never work out well in the US: There's too many regulations/health code stuff and I doubt the average customer would ever be allowed to cook their own meat in a restaurant :P By the time we left the restaurant the place was packed with everybody getting off from work and going out drinking/eating with each other. Socialization with co-workers is a huge thing in Japan, and you're pretty much expected to socialize/drink/eat with each other. It's a networking things as much as anything, and pretty well embedded into Japanese culture :)


Last Friday I went out drinking at a Japanese bar with 12 other Americans. Yes, there were 13 of us total. When we walked in and said there would be 13 of us we got some crazy looks, and they kept asking us if we really meant 13 or if we just couldn't
count properly. But once we got settled in it was a hell of a good time. I got a chance to sample a wide variety of Japanese food, and some of it I'm still not quite sure what it was. It was all really good though. We were all a bit drunk by the end of hanging out at the bar, which of course meant that karaoke sounded like a good idea... So we wandered in a group to a nearby karaoke bar (trust me, they are freaking everywhere. You can hardly go a few blocks without seeing one :D). I have some hilarious videos of karaoke, but I'm pretty sure my friends would hit me if I put them on the internet, so just suffice to say it was a great experience, and that karaoke is always better when you're drunk.

After that, I spent Saturday and Sunday studying my ass off. Going to bed late and waking up early to get a jump on studying so that I'd be prepared enough. Meh.

Well, I survived midterms. I think. They were a bitch, though. This Monday was the conversation test, and then today was the written midterm. Oh, did I mention that the written midterm was 3 hours long? Yeah, that sucked. Since they pretty thoroughly covered all the stuff from since classes started, there was an awful lot to do. I just barely had enough time for each section, but at least I wasn't too rushed. I have no idea how I did, and probably won't for a little while. We have to wait to do a one-on-one conference thing to get our results and a personal consultation thingy. At least that'll be helpful to a degree; I know where I'm weak, but having the teacher help me out with what specifically I do wrong and how to fix it would be great. The teachers here at KCP really do know their stuff, and I haven't met one who isn't insanely nice :P The courses are intense, though. They really don't let you slack in the long run, and the midterm reflected that with its good coverage of the stuff taught so far. The way midterms are set up at KCP is pretty simple: There is a separate conversation/interview test, and then a written one. The written exam is broken down into multiple parts with a break in between each. There was 作文 (sakubun: essay/composition), 聴解 (choukai: listening comprehension), 文法 (bunpou: grammar), and finally 漢字 (kanji [the complicated written characters]). Each section is given a chunk of time ranging from 20 min to 50 min depending on the section, then you would turn in that section of the test and be given a 10 min break before the next section. Given that each of those individual sections will get a grade at the end of the semester based upon your skill, it's nice to have them broken up into sections. It allows you to kinda feel out where you are and instead of seeing that you get an overall "C" for the class or something, you will be able to see that "Oh, I got an A in grammar, but a C in kanji. Maybe I should study more Kanji" or something to that effect. It's a pretty good system, and forces you to have to be at least competent in all areas because you can't count on an overall grade to compensate for the crappy sections. Each is plain to see.

I just got home from going out with some of my favorite friends (surprisingly, it's some of the Koreans and Chinese kids from class rather than many of the Americans although I do have
plenty of friends among the US students) to hang out and get some dinner and lament the midterm exams (nobody is particularly thrilled with them... no surprise there). We had a great time
together, and in the spirit of cultural and international exchange started trying to teach each other bad words in each of our languages :D That was the most hilarious thing ever, and I've learned that even if someone doesn't speak any English, they can probably still swear in it, haha. Sadly, I've already forgotten the Korean swear words I learned. I'm sad; I wanted to use them in class tomorrow to amuse the Koreans.

Thankfully, the crazy exam week is over now, and it'll slow down a little bit (not that it's ever genuinely slow though). This weekend the American students in the culture class will be taking an overnight trip to Kamakura. Kamakura is a very historic location in Japan, and has a lot of rich culture in it. It was the center of power/the shogunate government early on in Japanese history. Eventually the Kamakura Period (time when the Kamakura Shogunate was in power) ended when that shogunate was overthrown and Japan moved back into civil war (not that it was terribly peaceful during the Kamakura Period). Kamakura is also the place where the giant bronze buddha statue is. I'm sure everybody is familiar with that statue/has seen a picture on the internet somewhere. I'm looking forward to the trip. We're going to be staying in a traditional Japanese hotel and tour around a bunch of local shrines and temples. What's even cooler is that all I'll be paying for is my lunchs for Saturday and Sunday and any souvenirs I buy; everything else is already included in my tuition. I'm sure I'll come back with lots of pictures!


Friday, November 5, 2010

KCP Fieldtrip

So the entirety of KCP Japanese School went to the Shouwa Memorial Park (Park commemorating the reign of the Shouwa Emperor Hirohito) and it was absolutely the most fun I've had in a while. Being a level 2 Japanese student, I was expected to be able to make my own way to the park this morning. It wasn't too difficult but it was quite a bit of a trip. My normal commute to school is about 1.5 hrs, but from my dorm to the park today took about 2.5 hours. That was kinda crazy. Anyway, when we all go there we separated into our specific classes and made our way into the park where we had a BBQ. My class had opted to make mostly Korean food (big surprise there, given that 99% of my class is Korean, hehehe) and it was really good if a bit spicy. It was a grilled meat (pork) that we dipped in sauce and wrapped in some sort of random vegetable leaf (no idea what vegetable). We all kind of screwed around, talked, and enjoyed the park atmosphere with each other. We also played a few generic games like tag, and because it was such a rare gorgeous day we had so much fun. It really was amazing just how many students currently enrolled in KCP were present though. There had to be hundreds, and that was just in the BBQ area. There was a spacious area where the classes who opted to make their own lunches ahead of time were. There were probably quite a few people gathered there, too.

Afterwards my Korean classmates again invited me to go out drinking with them to the same place we all went a few weeks ago. The proprietor recognized me which was pretty amusing. This time around I made an attempt to keep up with the Korean people drinking Soju/Sochu, which was dumb because even now I'm still a bit drunk. Soju is not weak stuff. I was feeling it after about 2 or 3 shots. I noticed that my Japanese kept becoming more and more casual as I drank more, and surprisingly I speak Japanese a bit better after I've imbibed a few shots of super-strong Soju. Everyone is always like "why do you speak so politely?" anyway, so it was good to be able to connect on a friendlier, more casual level with my classmates. I got hit on a fair amount tonight, though. The Koreans asked a few times if I had a boyfriend and then asked me to pass around my camera with pictures after I said I did have a boyfriend already :P. Turns out that the power ended up going out at the restaurant though, and the owner told us all not to pay and sent us on our way. I felt a bit bad about that, but he insisted. Also, I seem to be able to navigate better when bit drunk than when sober. That's just weird. Anyway, made my way home safely without any problems and didn't go into any trouble areas. See? I'm a good little girl. No problems finding my way back to the nearest train station or navigating the trains home. All in all, it was a really fun day. I didn't expect to have such a good time on the field trip or today in general :)










These pictures were all taken at the park today. The first one is of me and Yonfun-san (One of my classmates. the "-san" is an honorific in Japanese that more or less means "Mister/Miss/Mrs."). The second is a few of the Koreans, myself, and one of my teachers immediately to the right of me in the picture. The third is just a random pretty pic of the park scenery. The park was absolutely gorgeous, and it felt like we were way outside of Tokyo when we got to the trains station near the park. It was almost countryside like. The fourth is a pic of the Koreans cooking the BBQ stuff. Same with the fifth; he's grilling the pork for... whatever the hell it was called. I'll butcher the Korean word if I try to spell it out. I'll look it up later.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pushing One Month Here!

So, in a few days I will have been here a full month (on the 7th). It really doesn't feel that much like I've been in an entirely different country for a whole month. I mean, Japan is just a country full of people doing their normal everyday things. Here in Tokyo the traditional Japanese culture really doesn't smack you in the face like it might were you in a smaller region/city of Japan. Tokyo is almost it's own special country inside of Japan. I'm really enjoying it though. I know enough Japanese to get by, so I haven't had a big issue with culture shock or anything. The issue for me will probably be reverse culture shock when I go back to Manhattan :P

Also, for those who were worried: I survived the typhoon just fine. And for those who didn't know: ... there was a typhoon that hit Japan over the weekend. Typhoon Chaba, I think it was called. It was a category 4 storm, but the part that went over Tokyo was just the very edge of it. Poor Okinawa though got smacked a bit hard. The coast of Honshu (the big main middle island of Japan) only saw a bunch of rain and wind from the edge of the storm. It really wasn't all the bad for me at least. Hell of an experience though, let me tell you. The wind ended up killing my umbrella and forcing me to walk home in the downpour from the station to my dorm (about 20 min if I'm walking quickly). I guess I could have taken the bus, but I would have had to backtrack a bit to get back to the bus stop... plus I'm a poor college student and didn't want to pay the 200 yen fare (about $2.50 ish). I looked like a drowned puppy when I got home, and the dorm manager was concerned. "What happened?! Why didn't you take an umbrella?! You're
going to get sick!" she seemed kinda pitying when I explained that the wind killed my poor umbrella.

I did a few nifty things this week with some friends. On Halloween me and my friend from my dorm went down to the area called Ikebukuro. It's sort of the the nerdy/geeky/anime area here, and it was lots of fun. We went to an 8 story anime/manga store with all sorts of outrageously awesome merchandise for so many animes. Some were familiar and are in the US, but many of them are only recently coming out in Japan or have never made it to the states, so it was pretty cool to be able to peruse the new things and see what I recognized. We also went to the Denny's (Yes, it's exactly the Denny's you're thinking of, with a Japanese twist) and here in Japan Denny's doesn't suck! It's sorta "meh" in the US, but the food was delicious here and was for the most part all Japanese food with a few standard exceptions like pancakes and stuff. I got a seasonal desert for the fall with caramel and a leaf on it that was pretty good. The amount of people in the area was a bit overwhelming though.

Last night I went on a spontaneous trip to Harajuku (the fashion and some shopping district) with a few Americans from school. The atmosphere there is just crazy, but super energizing and entertaining. We checked out some excellent clothes stores and I got myself some nifty earrings and a freaking awesome goth/J-Rock shirt from a used clothes store. Harajuku is also pretty much famous for its crepes, and they totally lived up to the hype. I ended up having a kiwi one with ice cream and whipped cream in it. The variety of them was insane, and there were like 4 crepe trucks right next to each other competing for business. It was a long day last night because we decided to go to Harajuku right after school was finished at about 4 pm which meant we were out most of the night. I got back to the dorm at about 11 pm, but it was worth it. We all did what's called "purikura" (short for "print club" in Japanese) which is the photo booths where you have strings of pictures taken and then the machine prints them out on sticker paper so you can stick them on things. I'm absolutely going back to Harajuku sometime, maybe next week :)

Pictures!






























Alright, the first pic was taken in Ikebukuro when I was at Denny's overlooking the street below. The rest of the pics there were from Harajuku of my friends and me eating crepes, the crepe truck itself, and of the entrance to Takeshita-dori (the street we wandered down for shopping)


Videos!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Edo Tokyo Museum and Stuff

The week has been a flurry of activity with all my exams, homework, and hanging out with my new Korean friends. A couple of Koreans from my class invited me and one of the Chinese students last Friday to go to Korea town with them and have what's called "nomihodai" which is all you can drink for a reasonable price and limited time frame. There were 9 of us, and we has 10 bottles of sochu/soju between us. Damn! Those Korean boys can drink. I didn't even bother trying to keep up at all, but it was a hell of a lot of fun. Turns out I'm the youngest student in my class (by quite a bit, actually. Some of the Koreans are nearly or more than 30) so everybody feels the need to be overly protective of me :P The think of me as their "little sister" more or less, which is cute and amusing :) We all sat at the Korean restaurant and talked, drank, and ate. It was actually really amazing to be sitting there, drinking soju, and talking about Japanese, Korean, and Chinese politics and stuff in Japanese with each other. If nothing else, it's insanely good Japanese practice. I'm definitely much more comfortable rambling on in Japanese with friends in a casual setting than I am in class, and I need the practice. I'm taking the extra co-curricular conversation class in the afternoon which is a start, but it's tough to really get into it because I don't yet know the people in there--They're not really friends yet, just acquaintances. Going out with my friends will be excellent practice. This Sunday, in fact, I'm going out with a new friend who's going to show me around the place called "Ikebukuro" which is sort of the nerdy/geeky area for people who like Japanese anime and manga. He's gonna give me a mini tour and show me around since he lives there. (For the record I totally think it's because he's hitting on me, but I'm not going to turn down a friendly tour of an area I already wanted to go to anyway, haha :P)

This Saturday the US culture class students took a trip to the Edo Tokyo Museum, which is one of the biggest in the area. It's at least 6 floors, and I may have overlooked one or two :P Most people know that I've taken a few Japanese history classes, so being able to go to Japan and visit a museum here was absolutely amazing. I'll probably end up going back on my own at some point. I took a slew of pictures (the album with them in it is: http://s1177.photobucket.com/albums/x346/TheJapanTraveler/ it has more than just the pictures from the museum, though) and posted them online. I've not tagged them with explanations yet; because there are so many it will take me a while to do, and I don't really have the time to sit down and do it all. If you have any questions just comment/email/call etc.

For anyone who gets the chance I would definitely recommend/insist you go to visit this museum. It really does help to understand the Japanese psyche by knowing a bit of the flow of history behind Japan in general.

That's a short update, I know, but I've got to get back to studying for my grammar test that's coming up. Now that the whirlwind of activity of the first few weeks is done, I will probably be only updating a couple of times a week as nifty things happen :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gaikokujin Tourokushou

Useful things for people studying abroad in Japan to know!

Always carry your passport with you until you get your Alien Registration Card (Gaikokujin Tourokushou) because it's entirely legal and encouraged for the policemen to ask to see the passport or alien card of anyone they believe to be a foreigner. In fact, I got stopped today in the train station and was asked to show my passport and Visa. You run the risk of being detained and even deported if the cops are in a bad mood, so keep it on you at ALL times. That being said, the Alien Registration Card is much more convenient and safer than carrying your passport (because replacing as lost passport quickly is hell, but the alien card is much easier). Only the passport or Alien Registration Card are acceptable forms of ID for foreigners--your school ID and other things won't be accepted.

To get the Alien Registration Card you'll need to go to the ward office of the ward you live in. You must go to the main large branch, not the smaller local branches in the ward. You'll need to bring your passport and two photos (4.5 cm x 3.5 cm). You'll also need to give your address of where you're staying in Japan, and fill out some paperwork (which conveniently has English translations) to submit it. Now, at that point tell them person behind the counter that you also need to apply for the National Health Insurance as well. In Japan, if you're here for more than 90 days (e.g. on an actual Visa and not the tourist Visa waiver) then you are REQUIRED to apply for this Alien Registration Card and the National Health Insurance. It doesn't matter if you have other insurance already--Japan doesn't care. Most doctors won't accept health insurance they don't recognize already, and some only take the National Health Insurance plan. So, apply for it because it's actually a good deal. For students with no income it's about $15 a month and covers 70% of all medical expenses while here, including dental. You can then take the remaining expenses and claim them from your own insurance when you get back home so in the end you may end up paying nothing.

You'll want to start this process early because it's a hassle and tempting fate to have your passport on you at all times. Also, make sure to go first thing in the morning right as the ward office opens because it gets really busy really fast. I got there before they opened and it still took a couple hours to get everything done and head home. They will give you proof of having applied for the alien card, but until you pick it up you still need to carry your passport at all times. It takes about 3 weeks to get it all processed and made after application. You should leave with your National Health Insurance Card the same day you apply for it and then you can immediately begin using it :)

So... who wants to see some dumb videos of me on a bus on the way to the ward office at freaking 7:30 am? Nobody? Well, I'm putting them up anyway! The first two links below are short bits of the bus ride to the huge Edogawa Ward Office in the morning, and kind of give you a feel for the other parts of Edogawa. The bottom link is a short excerpt from my 25 min walk to/from the train station everyday, while chatting with my dorm mate. We happen to live on one of the big highways in the Ward, so it's typically pretty busy. This was a fairly tame night, though. Not nearly as many people and bikes crowding the sidewalk.

Bus to Edogawa Ward Office
Walk Home

In other news, I went out and explored Shinjuku with a couple of Korean friends, and they took me to this awesome little noodle shop. The stuff is crazy-cheap and it's surrounded by the typical crazy Tokyo night life and bright lights.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tea Ceremony

We got to be present for a short tea ceremony today before classes. It was really cool. The Japanese tea ceremony places emphasis on appreciating the simple beauty in things (the tea, the utensils used, the respective seasons when the ceremony is done play a role). After symbolically "purifying" ourselves We were taken to a traditional Japanese tatami room which was sparsely decorated. The alcove in the room showed something simple reflecting the fall season and some calligraphy along those lines. We sat and watched the woman make the tea, were given a traditional Japanese sweet in the shape of an autumn leaf, showed respect for the tea, and got to observe the simplicity inherent in it all. It was very calming--I may end up joining the tea ceremony co-curricular course because I think it's nifty.


In other news: photos!
The first is the much-loved, traditional Japanese "squatty potty" which always seems super weird to Westerners XD The second is... ICE CREAM. In a juice-box like container. HOW HAVE WE NOT THOUGHT OF THIS IN THE US?? You just twist off the top and suck the ice cream out of the package. It's so awesome. And delicious. I approve.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Culture Course and Foodz

The US culture course seems like it's going to be interesting overall if today is any indication. The man teaching it seemed very into it, and that always makes it more interesting to learn. The topic was about the Japanese mentality/psychology, and that influence on Japanese culture. He made us play a little game: 7 people stood in in a circle, and first one person would step into the center and step back. Then two people. Then three. All the way until everyone was moving to the middle of the circle. The catch was we weren't allowed to speak to communicate or set up a "system" and instead had to rely on nonverbal clues. The interesting and relevant part comes when he explained how the Japanese students he coaches performed this exercise. Whereas we US students were more aggressive, made explicit eye contact to try to figure out who was going in, and actively searched for nonverbal cues the Japanese students instead used their periphery and tried to "read" the atmosphere of what everyone else was doing. Both the Japanese students and us had an equally difficult time not screwing up, but our methods for figuring it out were different, and he used that to accentuate the cultural differences. The Japanese are fairly adept at judging the "feel" of the group, and often function in a group-orientated fashion. This leads to a larger focus on the group rather than the individual. This is a direct reversal of how the US functions in which the emphasis is always on individuality rather than group harmony. He went a bit deeper than that brief summary, but it's a complex topic upon which dissertations can be written (and I've written papers on it, so there's a lot to it) but that's a good touch at the surface of the topic :)

Also! Dinner:
A whole cooked fish; some sort of... fried rice I think, with fish, egg and delicious things in it; salad; and soup. The fish was yummy but complicated to eat. You've got to pull the bits of meat from the fillet areas on both sides with your chopsticks, pull out the pin bones, and eat the meat. He was gutted before cooking, so you don't have to worry about that. The fried rice stuff was excellent, but I ended up having to ask the dorm manager lady to show me how to best eat the fish XD She gave a bit of a pitying look, but helped. Turned out to be that I was the only one signed up for dinner tonight so I ended up eating dinner with the dorm manager, her husband, and a woman that I assume is either her daughter or daughter-in-law.

Friday, October 15, 2010

First Normal Saturday Here

I've decided that Kinokuniya is currently my favorite store. It's a damn 8 story bookstore. All I can do is love it XD there's like an entire floor devoted to study stuff, and shit-tons of Japanese study material like rare textbooks, JLPT (the Japanese Language Proficiency Test) material, and hard-to-find grammar books. This shit is nigh impossible to find in the US, and you've got to import most of it/buy it online if you can find it all. Even then it's typically crazy expensive. I'm prolly gonna go back there today; I'll take some pics if I get a chance and it's not raining too badly. Because in Japan it always freaking rains.

Culture class for the US students begins today. I believe the topic is Japanese Psychology and Religions (I think) and it should be interesting overall. I've always liked that stuff, and have taken Japanese survey courses and history courses back at K-State state because it's such an interesting subject due to being fairly different from America in a lot of regards. The format for the class is typically lecture and mini activity, so it ought to be an interesting day.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Weird Japanese Food

So, I just ate raw egg and what I think were little fish embryos... and you know what? I LIKED IT. At least, when I could disengage my brain from saying "You shouldn't eat that don't eat that OMG why are you eating that?!" it was good. It's a traditional Japanese breakfast, and pretty common from what I understand. You take the raw egg, beat it a bit with your chopsticks and then mix it into your hot bowl of rice. You can then pour a bit of soy sauce over it and it's pretty dang yummy. I thought the little fish things were like bean sprouts or something initially. I tried them and thought they were surprisingly delicious so I put a bunch in my bowl of rice with egg. I then brought the bowl up to my mouth to begin eating, looked at the bowl and stopped dead--They were little itty bitty fishies/fish embryos or something. And then I ate them anyway. Sadly, I didn't have my phone or camera on me to get a picture, but I can tell you while it's a bit disconcerting visually it's really good. If you can get over the pre-trained "Don't eat raw eggs" thing they push in the states, and shut your brain up you can enjoy it. Salmonella isn't common here, and they wouldn't serve it if it hugely unsafe (at least w/o some kind of warning lol). The dorm manager didn't seem to think I'd be able to eat the raw egg on rice, which of course meant I HAD to as a personal pride issue. She made me a softboiled egg just in case my American sensibilities got the better of me :P



Here's some other yummy stuff I've eaten over the past few days!












The first and second pictures are some delicious curry with chicken cutlet and meat tandoris, respectively. There's this really good--but tiny--curry shop near the school, and a group of us (6 in total) decided to try it out. It could barely fit all 6 of us, but the food was great. There was this little Indian guy speaking Japanese who made the food. It was made right in front of you, including the naan which was absolutely amazing. The curry isn't as spicy as I like though. That's just a Japan thing; things don't swing as far to the extremes as they do in the states. That is to say sweet things aren't a sweet as we're used to nor spicy things. The third picture is the other Japanese traditional breakfast I had a couple days ago. The typical Japanese breakfast nearly always consists of miso soup, rice, a meat, and some sort of salad/pseudo-salad thingy. This one happened to be a fish filet that morning. It was full of pin bones though, and I wasn't expecting that. I popped a big piece in my mouth and began to chew. Fun fun.

The last picture is my new favorite obsession drink-wise. It's called C.C. Lemon and I love it. It's more mild than lemonade, fizzy/carbonated, and has "The power of 70 lemons worth of vitamin C in every can!" (it says that on the other side of the can) which can only be good. I mean, who doesn't like vitamin C, right?

Sorry the pics are kinda fuzzy; I took them with my Japanese cell phone so the quality isn't as good as it could be.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Collection of Small Updates

Thought I'd put together a small update while I'm waiting for the cafeteria to open for breakfast (it doesn't open until 6:30 am, so I have about 15 min).

I experienced my first earthquake the other day. Don't freak out, it was a minor one; one of the kinds you won't even notice 99% of the time. I was laying down for bed so my room was quiet and I could hear things on my shelves shaking/rattling slightly. Small earthquakes are common in Japan, but ones you can actually feel are pretty rare, so there's nothing to worry about over all :)

I've decided I really like the train system. I don't like being squished butt to butt with random Japanese people, but I do like the trains. Experiencing the train system at rush hour is a pretty weird experience. The trains get so full that you don't even need to hold on to the handles because there's so many people pushed together that you're not in danger of falling over--you can't even move, really. But the trains are super quick and always on time. I don't even mind my commute to and from school. I have to take 2 trains, and I'm on each for about 20/25 minute so by the time I'm getting tired of being on the train it's time to switch trains and I'm fine :P

Classes started yesterday. I knew there were only going to be a few US/English-speaking people, but man, there are a lot of Koreans there. My class started with 4 US students in it (including me), and 2 of them are for sure going to drop down to the lower level. The other one is considering it but is going to try out this level a bit more. They seemed to be overwhelmed. I may end up being the only US person in my class, with the rest being Korean and like 2 Chinese guys.

Hmm, some details about classes are in order for those thinking about KCP. The classes are taught in what's called the "direct method" which means that class is only in Japanese and no other language is allowed. This makes sense if you think about it, because classes will be mixed nationalities so the only common language is Japanese. You're not allowed to bring a dictionary to class, or translation books in your native language, so it really forces you to start to think in Japanese. I happen to like this method, though I occasionally get lost in class trying to write things down and listen at the same time. Well, food is about to start. After that I've got some homework to finish up (I was already assigned 5 pages of it) and then it'll be back to class this afternoon!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cultural Thingies!

So, time for an update on some Japanese customs!

In Japan, it's incredibly important to be polite. There is often a double standard sort of thing; one thing is said but another is thought. But overall the outward appearance of properness and politeness is most important. Emphasis is placed on not inconveniencing others as much as possible, and showing the correct deference to those in a higher position than you. It can be small things, like not eating/drinking when walking or on a train (which is considered rude and substandard), or something bigger like the very way you speak. The Japanese language changes vastly upon whom you're talking to and what their relative position to you is. For example, my teachers speak in a casual manner to me, but I must be as polite as possible and not use the casual forms and verbs and such. It's a similar situation with my dorm manager. She speaks in a very casual manner with the short/contracted forms of verbs to me because she is both my dorm manager and an elderly lady, while I am a young student she is in charge of. I have to be really careful to reply in a polite manner, although she overlooks my slips because I'm still learning and not fluent. You speak politely to people you don't know well, even if they're on the same "level" as you, such as fellow students. People you know pretty well and your family you can address in a more casual manner. It's sometimes tough to figure out the proper politeness levels needed, but it seems to really impress the locals when you can judge the needs of the situation well or at all for that matter.


Personal update!

So, the place I went to yesterday called "Don Quijote" to get my cell phone is a damn crazy place. Think the loudness and musical insanity of an arcade, the variety of walmart, and then stuff that into the cramped maze-like space they have. I don't know what I was really expecting--some sort of Best Buy like thing, I guess--but I wasn't prepared quite for what I found. Once I adjusted it was actually really cool and very "Japan-like." This store was fairly close to the school, so I'd expected it to be an easy enough trip. Turns out I actually turned a block too early and wandered into the red-light district called Kabuki-cho. Getting lost isn't that difficult to do. Most of the streets in Japan aren't named except for the huge highway/high traffic streets; the addresses are based upon block numbers rather than street names. So, I can't really be too surprised that I accidentally meandered into Kabuki-cho. It's a fairly small area in Shinjuku, but the atmosphere is instantly different. You can feel how different it is just by walking by the edge. There are some... interesting-looking things around that are borderline legal at best. There are some hostclubs and stuff on the immediate edge. There's some yakuza activity in the area, and some seedy/unsavory things that go on there. I turned my ass around and walked back to the large street that I had come from. Kabuki-cho is not a place an alone foreign woman really wants to be, and it's not really that much better if you're in a group. If you don't know what you're doing and where you're going then you'll likely end up somewhere it would be better not to be. Tanaka-san said they've had issues with students getting into trouble in Kabuki-cho in the past, and I can understand that :P As curious as I may be, I'll have to settle for that skirting of the area; I'm not particularly inclined to tempt fate.

Spiffy New Cell Phone!

So, I got myself a prepaid cell phone from the big Japanese company called softbank. I highly recommend doing so for students who are going to be here for a while--it's definitely convenient. The prices for making calls is kinda crazy (but it's that way in all of Japan whether it's a cell or a landline) but as with phones in Japan receiving calls is always free regardless of if they're international. Softbank also does this thing where you can get the unlimited email service thing on it for about $3.50 and that then assigns your phone an email address which you can then send and receive mails from. It's more similar to a texting feature than real email, but it's incredibly awesome for when you need to contact someone and don't want to pay to call them. The neat thing is then you can give that email out to all your friends and family, have them write and email and send it to that, and you'll receive it as a free text on your phone. You can then reply :) Spiffy.

For those who are interested:
My phone's email is edwardss(at)softbank.ne.jp (Please turn the (at) I wrote into @ when emailing me. I have to write it this way so that internet crawlers don't capture the email and spam it :P)
The phone number is 08039191657 (You'll of course need to know how to call a Japanese phone from the US though)

Feel free to send me mail via that address. Please take into consideration that I'll be about 14 hours ahead of you, so if you can help it don't mail me when it's 4 am here XD Otherwise, feel free. My phone will be off during class, but I'll have it on me as often as I can :)

This prepaid phone is actually freaking awesome. I paid about $70 or so for it, but it's better than a lot of US phones I see. This phone automatically syncs up to the local TV stations and lets me watch the local TV channels in surprisingly good quality. Can you do that on a cheap US prepaid phone? Methinks not.









There were a couple other prepaid phones; one at about $30 and $50 (but that one was out of stock. That was what I was planning to buy) and they both looked ok, and way better than any US prepaid phone at that price point :P

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Classes!

Well, the Harajuku trip was pure fail. It started pouring outside so I bailed. I'll just go on my own or find another shop some other time. It's still raining pretty hard, and it's definitely not fun to walk home in the rain :( That little $1 umbrella I bough the other day at the dollar store thing has been my best purchase yet. I definitely got my dollar's worth out of it today for sure.

The orientation went well, if long. Let me break down some stuff about KCP and its classes for people who might be looking into the program.

There are 7 levels of classes: 1-6 and the advanced class. Roughly, each level will be equivalent to two semesters of college study in the US (depending on your instructor, the textbook etc). The classes are based around the textbook "Minna no Nihongo" for the core course, and they have their own kanji book they created. The classes are broken down into a morning block and afternoon block. Typically levels 1 and 2 (and occasionally 3) will be in the afternoon block from 1:30 PM - 4:45. All the rest are morning classes that start at about 9 AM and go to just after noon. For the US program students, you're required to take a co-curricular class that is related to some aspect of Japanese history/culture/interests. They have things like tea ceremony, yosakoi dance, calligraphy, Japanese cooking classes, and a whole bunch of other nifty stuff. All the teachers seem really nice and more than willing to help, and the administrators who work on the US program stuff are really helpful. They all seem to know their stuff.

We also had a useful orientation to "Life in Japan" as it was titled. Tanaka-san went over a few things that pertain to students here: Always carry your passport or Alien Registration Card because it's required by law and you can be questioned and detained if you don't have it. You're required to register for national insurance and the Alien Registration Card if you're here on a long term Visa (more than 90 days for US students). What to do during an earthquake. How to replace lost important documents. Things like that :D

He also pointed out a few very useful things: Stay the hell away from Kabuki-cho at night (The redlight district in the area, just north of the prefecture the school is located in) and told us about the "Roppongi Incident" fairly recently where apparently the bars in Roppongi were spiking the drinks of foreigners and then taking their money, charging up their cards, taking their passports, and dropping them in an alley somewhere to wake up. Roppongi isn't strictly a redlight district, but it IS a touristy area/tourist trap, and the people there know it. It's an expensive area, and tourists can be targeted if you look and act like a dumb tourist. Don't let all that scare you though; Japan is incredibly safe overall, but like every big city in the world it has a seedy location or two.

Back to the classes! They seem like they'll be very intense. The instructor who was telling us about our class spoke rapidly in Japanese for that, and we were expected to be able to understand and keep up. Luckily he speaks very clearly, so even though it's fast I can keep up and have pretty high comprehension of what was said. The real issue for me is going to be the production skills of speaking and writing. Writing won't be as bad a speaking, but they'll be the more difficult of the skills taught for me. Each level emphasizes a set of skills which are:
  • Grammar
  • Conversation
  • Listening
  • Pronunciation
  • Kanji
  • Composition/writing
Each level is broken down into these core parts, and different teacher will specialize and teach each section. From what I understand there will be 3 teachers to a class of about 20. Now, there's something important anyone who's looking at this program needs to know: The grading scale. It's fairly generous overall for the final grade (a 70% would be reported as a "B" and there is no "D"--it just goes A-B-C-F) but the individual test grades are set to a pass % of 60% or 70% depending on the topic/skill tested. For example, a grammar test is considered to be "passed" if you get a 70% or above. Composition and Kanji are set to 60%. This means it's much easier to fail a given section of the ones listed above in the bullet points, and there are consequences to follow if you're here for multiple semesters. If you get below 70% in the grammar subcategory then you've failed it as far as KCP is concerned. For levels 1,2,3 this then means that you can't progress to the next level because you have to pass the grammar section to move on. Also, if you get two "F"s in those subcategories then you can't progress on to the next level regardless of if your composite final grade is a pass. Now, this grading setup isn't exclusive to KCP. In fact, KCP is more generous in it than some of the other language schools I've heard of. There are some where less than an 80% is a fail in that section. Language schools in general will be set up like this, so don't expect to just slide by--it requires a bit more attention to do well than classes in the states.

It's a bit overwhelming, but being able to understand Saito-sensei as he explained the class gave me some confidence that I'm roughly in the correct level and will have a reasonable challenge but progress. Classes officially begin on Tuesday (Because Monday is a national holiday. Not sure which one it is though) and then the US students will be tossed into the class with all the Korean and Chinese students. Honestly, we've hardly seen them at all. They've kept us separate for special orientation and explanation. The US program is apparently an entirely different beast than the setup the other students have since the US people are typically here for college credit whereas the others are here long term--on the order of 2+ years each--for mastery of the language. And truthfully, most of us probably need the babying; we're not from Asia and have minimal experience or understanding of stuff here in general. It's way different from the US. We got the "sex talk" from one of the administrators about how in the US casual sex is more accepted but not here in Japan, watch out for STDs etc. Was kinda funny. She also admonished us not to wear low-cut shirts because "it's not common to show the crevice and it's 'new to the boys here.'" Some laughter ensued after that comment from her :)


Now on to me specifically :D I've been place in level 2. I might have been able to talk my way into 3 if I were convincing, but I know I don't know everything in level 2 well enough to move up without being completely overwhelmed. I'll probably be familiar with some of the stuff we'll do in 2, but for the most part it should work out perfectly. The first week of classes will be hardcore review and exams of the stuff that would have been gone over in level 1 to make sure we're prepared to begin 2. They gave me 4 textbooks for level 2! 4! Plus a booklet that has homework in it. Level 2 apparently starts at the tail-end of Minna no Nihongo 1 book and then continues into most of the Minna no Nihongo 2 book, so level 2 ends up having the most textbooks passed out :P This meant I had to drag home like 10 pounds of books in my purse on the train (which I didn't get lost on today, by the way). Totally should have brought my backpack to the school today, lol.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Video Blog Time :D


(Video made at 6:30 AM Japan time)

I'll let you guys know how the KCP orientation goes today. Some of the other US students and I are planning a trip after class today to go to Harajuku (the "youth's" district with lots of fashion stuff and shopping. It's the place where you typically see those crazily dressed people in pictures from Japan) to get ourselves some prepaid phones from one of the phone stores. I'll pass out my number afterwords :)

Update: After making this video, I started eating my breakfast and found out it's BACON on a bed of seasoned rice. Holy shit awesomeness. It's DELICIOUS.

Update 2: A couple of people have asked what the address is for sending me letters and things. Well, here ya go! Address it exactly like this:

KCP International Japanese Language School
University-Accredited Program
ATTN: Sarah Edwards
1-29-12 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo, Japan 160-0022

I'm Here!

*NOTE: There is a delay in the posting because I had internet trouble in my dorm. This was mostly written yesterday after I arrived but I couldn’t post it at the time*

(10/07) DAMN that was a long day. I’ve been up for about 36-ish hours, maybe? The trip itself was pretty uneventful, and surprisingly leisurely. I should poke whoever got me worked up about whether a 2.5 hr connection in DFW would be enough though. As it turns out, I spent more time in the line at Starbucks than I did finding my terminal XD That skylink tram thing is efficient and quick. American Airlines forwarded my bags along, and the skylink dropped me off in the already-secure area of the terminals so I didn’t have to check in again. I took a nice little nap in that extra time. Turns out I needed it too because I couldn’t really fall asleep on the international flight. The best I could do was doze off, but all in all I got only a few hours of sleep. Now that I have some downtime I’m starting to feel it. When I’m running around being busy then it keeps me awake. It helped that I landed in the middle of the afternoon so the sun tricked my body into being awake.

When I arrived at Narita airport I made my way through passport control/immigration, and then customs. Was a breeze; didn’t have a single issue. I grabbed my bags before customs and then had to transport them and myself from terminal 2 (where I landed) to terminal 1 (where the KCP people were gathering everyone). That went really well too. Other than trying to manhandle my crap onto the bus without taking too long, I didn’t have a single problem. That’s surprising to me. I expected to have at least a mishap or two at the airports today, but it went smoothly. I think by the time I reached Narita though I was too drained overall to be concerned. There were lots of signs with arrows and I just followed them. We had to wait a few hours to collect the rest of the people who were flying in today, and then we started making our way to the train station located in the airport. WORD TO THE WISE: Just pay the extra damn money to ship your other bag if you have it (KCP pays to have one bag shipped to your residence in Japan) because dealing with luggage on the trains is a hassle. It’s like $20 to ship. DO IT. If it were just one train ride then it’d be fine, but we spend like 4/5 hrs on the trains and there were lots of transfers so we were all over the place. We also ended up squished together like sardines in a few of the trains, so having the luggage was a big hassle at that point. I think I got smushed up against an embarrassed businessman in a snappy suit. Was kinda funny. I was exhausted from that alone by the time we finally got off the train at my destination… to be followed by 25 min walking from the station to the dorm. My feet hurt and I’m tired. Otherwise in good spirits now, though.

One of the teachers at the school escorted myself and my dorm mate through a maze of trains to get us to this dorm. Not sure how I’ll replicate it tomorrow, but I’ll give it a shot… He was really nice though. Started chatting to us in Japanese and expected replies in Japanese. Gave me a chance to try to my rusty skills. Either I’ve grown bold or the flight just made me so tired/drained that I didn’t get too self-conscious about having to speak Japanese even though I got funny looks every once in a while when I said something in an awkward manner as I was trying to bash together a sentence.

Got myself checked into my dorm at about 8 pm—come to find out that the dorm manager doesn’t speak a lick of English (or at least pretends she doesn't. I bet the KCP people instructed her to use Japanese and minimal English) so that’ll be fun. She’s a sweet little old lady who seems really nice. It’s already forced me to use my Japanese skills though. I seem to be at least able to communicate the general idea to her. I had to go to her a while ago and try to explain that my internet isn’t working. I sat here looking up words for about 10 min to figure out what and how to say what I wanted. Can’t say that “LAN cable” or “broadband” is in my limited vocab. The little dorm room is great other than that. It’s small as far as such things go, but I have a small cooking area (electric burner and a sink), private bathroom with shower, desk, and closet. I also have a cool balcony. Did I happen to mention that I’m on the 11th floor (out of a total of 12)—has a great view lol (Pictures to come soon!). I get to overlook the area and see all the sparkly lights.

I’m now sitting in my dorm after a nice shower and a run to the Seven-Eleven for some breakfast stuff and trying not to doze off. I need to study some before the placement exam tomorrow. Here’s hoping I do well! I think I’ll procrastinate by doing some unpacking and hoping that my internet spontaneously starts working.


(10/08) 4:30 AM

Breakfast, day 1: Delicious tempura udon (fried things and thick noodles) and some coffee I just made in my life-saving French press. Yes, it’s in a water bottle. No, I don’t care. I didn’t have time to run to the walmart-like superstore thingy last night. It was just way too late and I was tired. So, I’ve repurposed this bottle of what once was green tea. Victory for me! I bought the udon at the Seven-Eleven last night. I have to say it’s damn delicious and was only about $3 (280).

I also find it funny that there’s 3 Seven-Elevens within about 10 min of my dorm. But that’s beside the point. They are the best thing ever :DI’ll be heading out in about an hour to go wander the train station and see if I can find my way to school. Got a long day ahead of me with the orientation, placement, and entrance stuff today and need to be there by 9:30 AM. I’ll update this evening if my internet is up. The dorm manager lady told me (I think) to come back and see her later today and she’ll she what she can do. At least, I think I caught those words among her speech. She speaks a bit quickly, but I can tell she was trying to dumb it down for me so that I could understand some. Last night when sensei was with us getting us set up she was just going a mile a minute since he was translating the core important parts for us.

6 PM: Well, I was going to come home from class and write an arrogant post about how awesome I am and how I navigated the trains without any issue, but turns out that’s not quite how it went. It was perfect this morning; had no issues, got to class early, and didn’t get lost at all. But on the way home later my dorm mate and I played musical trains for about an hour trying to get on the correct train that hits our stop. There are lots of trains on the particular line we needed to be on, and some of them are what’s called “express” which essentially means that they only hit a select number of stops and skip most of the others. I couldn’t see them being as clearly marked as I would have liked, so we ended up going a bit out of our way and then having to backtrack once the train reached its destination. Hind sight is 20/20, as they say. Other than that, it was a good day. The placement exam went well (I got the level I was expecting) even though it took all afternoon. We wandered around the area near the school to scope out nifty places and found the Japanese equivalent of a dollar store. Freaking awesome. This one happened to be tiny, but there are a few in Tokyo that are like 7 or 8 stories.

Well, I’m tired and need to finish unpacking now that my final piece of luggage has arrived. I’m gonna crash soon methinks. G’night!

P.S.: The rest of the photos I took are in the flickr stream at the top of the page. Click and go to them if you want. I'll upload more stuff later as I get around to taking the pics off my camera.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Soon...

I'm heading up to KC tomorrow morning. Gonna stay in a hotel to hang out with family, and also to offset the fact that I've already got to be up super early to get to the aiport. Flight leaves the gate at 6 am Wednesday. The next time I post should likely be when I'm on the ground in Japan at my dorm! See you all soon :D

Sunday, September 26, 2010

10 Days Left

Minor update time.

So, I leave for japan in 10 days. Not all that far away :P My last day at work is this Wednesday, so I'll have plenty of time to pack and repack my stuff multiple times before I go up to KC. I'll be meeting some family there and staying the night at a hotel before my trip--Mostly so that I don't have to be awake quite as early to get to the airport on time on the 6th. I think I've got my stuff together for the most part; I'll be taking a really awesome duffel bag (that totally holds a shit-ton of stuff. I didn't expect it to be that big overall when it doesn't seem that way) and a smaller suitcase. Plus my carry-on backpack with one Japanese textbook, a change of clothes, and some other sundries. My bags are full, but not stuffed tight, and I've got some consumables in them (COFFEE and a small french press [coffee is stupidly expensive in Japan: A small house/drip coffee at a starbucks in Japan is like $4 or 5] because I intend to get my coffee fix by making it myself in the morning) so space will open up for my return trip and I can stuff them to the brim with souvenirs (I just misspelled that word like 4 times trying to figure out how to spell it. That's a weird word!) if my finances permit :D

I've got some small local things to bring as gifts too, should I need them. Social customs dictate that if you visit someone's house then it's proper to bring some small thing as appreciation for the invite. Typically they are foodstuffs or trinkets. So, I went to a place called Grandma Hoerner's which is out here near Manhattan. It sells all sorts of locally made things like jams, BBQ sauces, spice rubs and other nifty "Made in Kansas" things that will make perfect gifts. From what I've heard, BBQ sauce is something of a novelty/rarity in Japan overall, so that'll be a kinda cool thing to bring.

I've been alternating between freaking out and being insanely excited. Then I think about the people I'll be leaving behind (especially my boyfriend) and then I add "sad" to the list of things I'm feeling. It's definitely going to be bittersweet, but it's an experience I really want to have. Most people who know me know that I've always really wanted to study abroad in college. I can't turn down this opportunity when I'll never likely have another chance at it. It's weird: I've been through this process a bit before. I've planned and cancelled study abroad stuff a few times already for various reasons, but I've never been this far in the process. Hell, I'd never gotten far past the initial application phases before. Cool!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Visa!


I got my passport back with the Visa sticker in the mail today. Totally wasn't expecting it so quickly--It had just reached the consulate on Wednesday, and they had to mail it back to me once processed so I figured it'd be here sometime next week. With this I am finally all set to go to Japan in 2.5 weeks. Just have to finish packing after doing a few big loads of laundry.

I'm excited, but I'm really anxious too. I haven't flown in years, and can't recall actually having ever flown alone. That in itself makes me nervous; I have a connection to make at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport to get onto the international 14 hr flight to Japan. Once I get there, get my bags, go through Immigration and then Customs, I have to change terminals/areas to get to the meeting place where the KCP people will be waiting for me. I'm fairly confident in my survival Japanese, and there will be English-speaking attendants around, but I still think it might be a bit crazy. I have a tendency to stress myself out about unfamiliar events and big things (like going to Japan!) so whenever I think about this I freak out a bit. Don't get me wrong: I am SO excited for it and am really looking forward to it, but I'm also thinking "What could go wrong? What should I prepare for? What happens if I miss my flight?" and stuff. I'm trying to plan as many details as possible to help combat the anxiety; if I know what's going on, where to go, and how to get there then I can diminish the nervousness a bit. I can also occupy myself with packing, making a packing list, making copies of important things to keep in multiple locations (traveler's checks, passport, itenerary and stuff) and give to family so they have copies if something needs to be addressed while I'm abroad.