GOLDEN WEEK - May

I'll write this later about my experience of golden week- the 3 national holidays aligned in a row occuring the first week of may. Later!

WELCOME TO HOST #4

A-anyway, so I switched the day before the Earthquake happened. I'd had a meeting with spanking new host dad the week before, so I knew him a little. I'd also met him my first day in Japan- I thought, wow, he looks like a fun host Dad! And was kind of looking forward to this house a little.
.................. ach.
.................. I am a terrible judge.

I parted my host families bawling as usual, rocking hugging my knees and watching the death toll rise from the Earthquake. I then met the host dad here. The first thing he did, was I switched at 11 am- we brought my stuff home, fetched my bicycle, host dad showed me my room- and then left.
Until 8. Story of my life here.
Eeerrrr well, to be honest, if I had to sum up my relationship with this family, it'd be this; personality clash. It was bound to happen. 4th family 'n all that.

I walked into their house, and the first thing that struck me was this; the lack of things!!
This family owns practically nothing- the entire house is completely spotless and uncluttered. It's almost unnerving.

Now Pan out to my room. There are books and papers scattered all over the desk. The paper has my dirty clothes pile unceremoniously dumped in the corner, and a rats nest of wires/chargers surround one of my only light sockets. There is random stuff shoved everwhere and the whole space gives off the fresh scent of chaos.
U-u-u-u-uhhhh yeah. And here we have the very basic example of our personality clash.

I'm not saying slobs and neatfreaks can't be friends. But we all know those nightmare dorm stories of opposing sides being forced to live with eachother in close quarters- it's a strain on both sides. The neater side not being able to understand how the messy person manages to function in that pig pen, and the messy side wondering when the neater one will remove long pointy objects from a certain sensitive orifices. Seriously. For example.

Yesterday, when I descended the stairs for dinner, I met my host mom for the first time that day. She kind of gave me that normal smile, then launched right into a laundry list of everything I'd managed to do wrong that day. I'd left the bathroom jar a little bit ajar; the silverware drawer was slightly pushed out, a tiny translucent slip of plastic had been found on the floor that was apparently my miss, the light at the door was was apparently left on, and I'd used the wrong sponge to clean the rice pan.

Wow. I must be the worst human being alive. Just. Shoot me now.

Then we said the greeting to start the meal.... itadakimasu.....
Awkward. That. I'm sitting there stewing. Like. Awesome, nice to see you too. Wow, I'd had a sushi party that day at the house with 5 people. I'd immaculately cleaned up, I though. You didn't even known I'd had one until you figured out I'd washed the rice pan wrong. But no, lets' talk about all my little slip ups some more. It makes for great dinner conversation, you know.

And Host Dad. Please. Don't get me started. I'll get into that later, in time. I'll even dredge up memories of traumatic trip to tropical Island Okinawa for you.

Anyway, they run 3 salons in town and work from 9-8 every day except for Mondays, so I basically never see them. My favorite point about this family.

A-anyway

Thursday was Ensoku: 遠足! Class field trip day! We'd voted a few weeks back and elected to go to Kobe, somewhere between I have no idea and Osaka. About the day after decision making, Saori had already decided what to wear. When they get to wear what the want, they kind of go crazy.
Anyway the day of, I arrived fashionably last- Aiko had screwed up her explanation of the meeting place and Kuriyama and Minami ended up having to run come get me while I freaked out on the phone. We boarded a travel bus, and I got plunked next to a girl who I'd never really talked to. Awwkward. I didn't know what to say. The return trip I offered up my Ipod and we listened to music together and talked about prolificness of Wakayaman love hotels, so that was nice.

Once we arrived in Kobe, we grouped up and given full reign- my group decided to go to China town. So did the Sensei's, although we shook them off in a convenience store. Chinatown was pretty cool, I kept bugging my friends, 'Is that guy Chinese or Japanese?!!' because I thought how nifty that they can tell the difference. Halfway through that, we ran into the Senseis and my friends literally seized me and forced me to ask to take a picture with Oyama Sensei. As in, here you go *PUSH* arhghhhhfhfhghghadfhdf that was awkward. I'm like, through the side of my mouth, 'SMILE, SENSEI, OK OK.' Hahaaa -

After that we wandered into bad Chinese style dress shops and various areas, and before we knew it, it was time for buffet~~ ohoh ~~ +1 culture point- if you go to a Japanese buffet, it IS culturally acceptable to take three plates and pile 'em up. I missed this at first, and thought, 'Wow. And I didn't want to look like a greedy American.'

Friday was a day off for whatever reason- someone who was important at one time's birthday I think. Ninna, the Australian girl from her school named Brunty, and I hopped on a Train at 9 to Tennoji- a section of Osaka. Ninna promptly got us lost, claiming how she 'knew where she was going' Which was fine, I got to see some of Tennoji
After we went to go make reservations at a place called Sweets Paradise. now, Japanese are pretty keen on gooey awful English names, but believe me, this one lived up to it. The concept is that you pay a painfully high base price to buy your way into an all you can eat pasta, cake, and sweets buffet.

+ 1 kilo for Emily.

Brunty and I masterfully spaced out our gorging and consumed calories after calories till the end. Ninna dropped out 20 minutes before our alloted 70, due to 'ice cream brain freeze' haha.

Quick glance around- only in Japan could you go to a all you can eat sweets buffet and have not one single person in the entire restaraunt be overweight. Sigh.

I returned at 5:40 so I could get to a Rotary event by 6- Dinner at 'Amuse' toiu French Restaruant. 2nd hosts Nishimoto, Current hosts, and then my first host mom + little bro came. Apparently it was makeup Birthday party, as I'd blown them off for Dinner on actual birthday. It was nice to see the 2nd hosts again, and we fell right back into it. Near the end, my 'steam roller personality always gets what she wants' Counselor Tsuji-San said, "Emily, we hosted this party for you! You are the center of the party," something along those lines; And I just cooly replied, "aaactually, I'm pretty sure that wherever you go Tsuji-san, you're always the center of everything.' And the entire rotary side of the table busted up laughing.

On Saturday, we had Makizushi party at my house, which combines the words for 'roll' and 'sushi' - Rynako, Kanna, Aiko, and Kuriyama came. We spent the first hour making rice, waiting for Kuriyama, and invading my privacy. When she finally showed up, we rode our bikes to a the nearby store called Evergreen to buy ingredients.

I'll admit, I was in sort of a bad mood. The 3 that arrived first walked in on my host dad going out the door, and he lingered for a few minutes talking and making cat noises. Now, they know I don't like the guy, but on first meeting he's a likeable guy, so they were like, 'ii kanji datta' which means, he had a good feeling? And when I kindly pointed out how they'd known him for 2 minutes and could not possibly begin to judge, Rinako said some things told me that I wasn't allowed to think of my Host dad like that- I informed her how actually, excuse me, I can actually think however I damn well please. It hurt that after how much I told about what he'd acted, she would still dismiss my feeling so easily.

Later they barged into my room, and of course there's the requisite 'haha this is messy' but then Rinako just kept going on and on and I'm like, aren't you just overdoing it a tad? Then later, at the store ... ARGHHH, I ended up clearly snapping at her when she something insensitive again, and walking off while they shopped for fish. I composed myself eventually and returned, but man that girl. I-am-better-than-you attitude gets me sometimes. Mattaku.

We came back, prepped the ingredients, and hoisted the coffee table into the living room. While rolling our sushi, we watched the movie 'my darling is a foreigner,' about a japanese girl who dates an American and the problems they run into. It was really cute. Overall, I had a good time though! When I came home my Host Mom had previously mentioned OCD flip out.

Sunday was '英会話練習!!” English Convo practice! With Ninna, Emily, Kuriyama, and Minami!!.... supposedly. Well, that got thrown out the window halfway through and we reverted to speaking Japanese, or just me and Ninna going at it in English. Ninna and I managed to get into fight mode near the end, which was kind of funny. We ended up running around shopping and going to McDonalds.

Anyway, thus abruptly endeth some week sometime I forgot. Chow.

東日本大震災ーEARTHQUAKE

And so, it has been two months since I last blogged. It's not overly hard to remember the exact date on which I did so- The day before I changed families, but, more importantly, the day before the earthquake happened.

Neither, to be honest, was such a fantastic thing. Bit understating both. Not that I'm equating my current host family situation to a tsunami, but I digress.

Anyway, I remember clearly when I first heard about the earthquake, a bit like 911 and what the old timers claim about the kennedy shootings. I'd literally climbed the stairs from posting my last blog in the living room, when host dad paid me a visit to my room, which was rare- `There's been a tsunami on the coast', he said, 'I'm going to go survey damages for my job." I was like, what? Tsunami?

But he wasn't making a big deal about it and left, and so I didn't think too much of it, but I eventually got curious and went downstairs to turn on the news. The picture it was reflecting was surely, not a pretty one, but even then I had no real idea of the scope. I didn't feel the earthquake at all. Sorry. That's not exciting. It was the biggest earthquake Japan has ever had, I was there, and I didn't feel a quiver.

I'm sure everyone who reads this knows about it, but in the event of passage of time or a case striking ignorance, here's what happened; A 9.0 earthquake struck about 90 miles off the cost of North East Japan March 11, 2011. It triggered a 30 ft tidal wave that devastated coastal towns, killing thousands and causing what may be the most costly natural disaster in history. O-oh, and on it's way, managed to hit a nuclear powerplant, which went into meltdown mode.
Actually, when you type it out like that, it sounds kind of like a sick joke. Poor Japan.

That Friday, I spent the day watching the death toll count go from 1 by 1 to 40, then slept and suddenly it was 500. Then, again, when I was changing families and riding in my Counselor's car towards my next house, listening to the news pointedly to trying to stop crying- 1200 people dead, 1500 missing-

This number would eventually rise to 13000 dead, and around 20,000 missing- I haven't checked recently for more accurate numbers, but still. Horrific either way and understandably rocked Japan in a huge, huge way.

As for the effect on my life, we got a 3 foor tidal wave and not much else. There was nothing to listen to for the next three weeks but earthquake broadcast, and the commercials all turned to encouraging social messages - whether for lack of companies that wanted to broadcast or some country cheerleading measures, we literally got to watch the same commercials about 'TRY YOUR BEST JAPAN' for about 3 weeks. Consequently, when you sing, 'arigatou!' in a singsong、 someone will immediately sing 'arigatou!' back at you, probably followed by a stylish pirouette twirl. Check it out: [IF YOU GREET EVERYTIME, YOUR FRIENDS WILL INCREASE!!! Is the last thing they say.] Understandably, because this is a terrible and creepy commercials force fed to the population of Japan for 3 weeks straight 15 times a day, stuff like this has popped up.
Oh lordy. /facepalm

Ahem, yes, so, it was often remarked in the few weeks following the earthquake that the peace in wakayama was simply 'creepy' Osaka too, was in this state- It was hard to know what to feel, at this time, so peaceful, but then just so close so much destruction- and that's when it began.
The great noise sucking noise as hundreds of Exchange students accross Japan were dragged back to their host countries by hysteric Parents, Governments, and Exchange organizations. Stamp chan, the Thai girl at my school, was a casualty - 3 from my district as well boarded planes sometime in the 2 weeks following the quake. The faltering state of the Powerplant was the cheif concern, although the media was really playing the whole thing up the whole world over.

So lonely, Seirin. So lonely. I didn't even get to say good bye.

Either way, it was a very very tragic event, but I am very proud of Japan and they way they've handled response, relief, grief, and just everything. The feelings of going through it with this country will certainly be sometime I remember for the rest of my life.



高野山ようこそ!

Sorry 2 blog posts in a row since I got too distracted last week - and I still have this weeks to write ungg

The day after the haircut was Koyasan 修練旅行! Kouya Mountain Research / Study trip! Yay! Doesn't that sound like fun!
Kouyasan (高野山) is a World Heritage spot- I was totally sleeping during most of the lectures, but if I remember it right, it's in the 1,200 year old range. Its home to an absolutely ridiculous number of temples, as well as a highschool and college for those who want to become Obou-san [monks] The point was to learn about the bhuddist religion and heritage of the area.

I ended up being driven all 1 and a half hours of winding road there by a Rotary guy I'd never met before. I guess my Rotary is still not really into letting me take a train....ever. I was kind of apprehensive about the whole 'spend a good 90 minutes in a small car trying to be polite' but the conversation took off after about 10 minutes and we managed to talk most of the way there in fairly fluid conversation, so that was a relief. This was repeated the return trip with a DIFFERENT old guy I barely knew. It was actually fun, though, so all good. :] His son was a Mangaka!

Anyway, I was expecting it to be an Exchange student retreat, but in reality, there were only 4 other exchange students there. The other participants, probably about 40 of them, came from all sorts of places, everywhere from a nursing home care company to the International section of Wakayama Universtiy. This was so cool! We got to talk to so many different people. In my group we had a couple chinese, an American girl by the name of Lauren, a Filipino, and then some Japanese boys. I reallly liked the Chinese couple, graduate students form Wakayama U, and I spent a long time talking to them about there experiences here and in China. I mean, China is a country largely... what's the word, monsterized? by the US. I felt really lucky to be able to share culture with someone who came directly from it, who wasn't in the US and feeling pressure from attitude we have towards Chinese- basically, who would speak honestly and not defensively. I especially enjoyed this when I pointedly ask how dog tasted in front of Lauren, who had a little freakout fit while they debated whether it tasted closer to pork or chicken. Hahaha! And then, it's times like that, where you feel language learning is really worth it. : ) Who knows, when I'm done with Japanese....

Hanchou, or Group leader- [Did you know Japanese has about a zillion names for leaders? Thank god Hitler wasn't Japanese. Think of how many chants they'd have! The poor citizens would have to just yell HAIL ALL OF THE ABOVE 30 TITLES HITLER] Anyway, this guy was the spitting image of Aang from The Last Airbender. Anyone remember that cartoon/horrible Night L Shaman movie about the bald 10 year old with an arrow tatooed to his head? Yeah. that one. Consequently, we spent the entire, and I do mean ENTIRE trip referring to him under the names of "The LAST Airbender" "Aang" and "Avatar" and so on. After that, we spent boring bits categorizing the different monks into elemental Airbender types and searching for Aang's flying buffallo. Needless to say, I think the lectures and general point of this trip was completely lost on us. Especially my other Exchangers- Lauren probably speaks around the same level as me, but the lectures used a significant amount of specialized vocabulary that I understood from cramming Roman Catholic Church history for the World History final- but I have no doubt it flew right over the heads of my fellow exchangers.

Among activities we tried were: Calligraphy, meditation, planting a tree, walking through holy sites, eating, and breaking a significant number of rules. I have decided to leave out the bits that could endanger my ability to stay in this country. Which you know is the most interesting part, but.... ; )

Anyway, I'll skip explaining and just go for pictures instead:




Spring Solstice Festival

The word for statue in Japanese is the same as elephant- so technically we're sitting on a zou squared! Hah! How cool are we!
Our rad group!

Since Year End Finals ended on Friday, we have halfdays until Spring break! Which is the 24th! Which I would be happy about if I didn't like school! : ( That's about 2 weeks of halfdays for no apparent reason at all. Then again, since we'll be moving up to 3rd year after break, theres not like theres real point in drilling us on our current classes. Monday was the weekly Rotary meeting, which sucked because it happened -just- as the first World History class was held. That means after alllll that studying I did for my History Final, I DIDNT EVEN GET IT BACK, SEE MY SCORE, OR COMPARE SHARE THE PAIN WITH MY FRIENDS. [That's something I miss about getting tests back. While everyone here is slumped over their desks considering seppuku over the test score, I'm just sitting there blinking like. Nice weather huh.]
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The next day, my friends informed me that Oyama Sensei announced to the ENTIRE class that I had managed to beat out 22 of my classmates in the History Final- our of 40 !!!! AHHH! Isn't that great! Oh mannn, I have never been so excited to be average!
Tuesday, I got Biology and English, including that English composition final which was flipped around Japanese for me. Again, I got a class announcement, although as this was the 3rd time I kind of hid- I guess I'm getting attention because none of the Exchange students they get ever actually try to participate in class, even the ones that come with previous language knowledge. My Biology test, which was the same as my classmates but halved since I started participating late, I almost scored perfectly. However, I got tripped up since the word 'Blood type' uses the same 3rd kanji as 'Gene formation,' so I thought she wanted me to write the gene formation of the blood type (AO, AB, BO ect) but really she just wanted A, B, AB ect. >8 |.... grrr...

Tuesday, I did what I've been considering for a long time; I told Arai-Sensei I wanted to quit badminton. After school, I went to the teachers lounge- but I was so nervous that the first time I entered with the low greeting 'Shitureshimasu.." I saw his back and ran out again. After composing myself again, I marched in there and told him. He was doing that 'speak in slow polite japanese like I don't understand anything' thing again, and halfway through the conversation I said, 'Sensei. Sensei. That- your normal speaking style is okay, really.' and the teacher sitting beside him busted up laughing. I explained my reasons for quitting- I have the Japanese Proficiency test, the SAT, and then I plan to try to try my hardest on all my classes from here on out- that will require studying. I left the real reason unsaid, however, that I wasn't getting along well with my teamates and found the regime excessive. But the studying thing was no lie, either.

To be honest, I've kept up badminton so long because telling Arai sensei that you want to quit takes significantly more guts than killing yourself daily in the presence of people who aren't a big fan of you. He's just one of those teachers that you don't want to quit to- I'm sure you understand. That, and my captain and some of my team mates- I respect them a lot. So, after school on Wednesday, I went to collect my stuff and say thank you for everything they did. That was an awkward affair. I'd warn one technicolor moose sock and one white one, and as I bowed to say thank you, I kind of looked down- haha.... I wanted to ask for a picture too, but I was so nervous that I forgot it. Wahhhh... I really have almost proof I was ever there. I think that in the end of my exchange, my failure in badminton will be my biggest regret. But if that's all I have for regrets, I think I'll be okay.

From here on out, I'll join art club for a 2-3 days a week and investigate volunteer options since colleges like that and maybe I could meet new people. I have almost dropped art entirely over the last 6 months due to badminton, which I think was a bad decision because Art is the only thing I've ever passionately held my entire life. Furthermore, I feel like I've lost the ability to value artistic skill, especially as I plan my future in the opposite direction. I want to pick it up again.

Thursday and Friday (today) were off days since 3rd year middle schoolers were taking highschool entrance exams. I wrote 'good luck!' on my desk teehee. I spent Thursday running around with Ninna, being foreign idiots, doing horribly taboo things like eating special imported Oreo's by dipping them into a milk carton while straddling a high fence and talking loudly in English. It is good to have a foreign friend you can relax with in Japan. :::) While we were doing that, a creepy old guy approached us and asked started saying things in English. We just kind of looked at him, I said, 'Takk' [Danish / Swedish for Thanks] to Ninna and she took off in Danish while I nodded and and answered in really poor french. I don't know if he bought it, since we were half laughing, but he just sat there and stared a good minute or two until we ran away.
As for what she was saying, apparently it involved yogurt and yelling at me to speak in German.

Friday, I got up early, and thought to myself, I think I'll blog in the dark while drinking hot Cocoa!
And so I did.
Today is packing day, I'm switching to my next hosts tomorrow. Ughhh, like usual, I do not want to leave. This family is so sweet, they know all my likes down better than my real parents [OK, so my real parents usually just ignore them haha] and they're always so funny. I came home the other day to find the snack bowl stocked with Snickers and white chocolate and was just all BAWWW HOW DO I LEAVE... I don't want to! And because this is Ayume's house, visiting might be awkward. They've invited me back to visit in the Cherry blossom season, since this is in the country and it'll be a sea of blooming flowers in a few months.
Anywayso I'll end it here. Next blog, Family number 4!

Cleaned up room
WEEK FORGOT EMIRI OVER N OUT.

Snip snip snip


You may realize that Wakayama snowing for once is not actually the point of posting this picture.

Okay, I cut off my blog post last time at Friday, the fourth of march since I hadn't told my parents yet, but I did, so here goes.

Friday, the fourth of March, I had plans. I had had plans for a long time. Friday was the last day of year end tests, and to party, my group was going for Sushi afterwards and then to a hair salon. Even Saori was planning to tag along. Now, neither of these places are ones you'd find me often, having an intense dislike of all things seafood and the longest hair in the prefecture.
Sushi in Japan is really something. I don't know what Sushi places in America are like, but if they're anything like Japanese ones, the general concept is so; Snaking through all the tables and parading around a whole acquarium of sliced up fish on little plates is a conveyor belt. All plates are 100 yen unless otherwise marked. When you see something you like, you just pluck that dish off the belt. I found it thrilling, equating the split decision making process you that car chase bit of action movies. DO I WANT THE EGG ONE? ANOTHER EGG ONE? ARRGGHH ITS HALWAY THROUGH OUR TABLE-DIVE FOR IT, MAI-CHAN!!! [NO!EMILY STOP EATING THE EGG ONES JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE TOO PANSY TO EAT ANYTHING RAW!]
If there was something particular you wanted, a small touch screen suspended above the table let you pick through the menu and the cooks would slide it on the conveyor and it'd get to you eventually. There was this slot on the side of the table to put dirty dishes in - every 5 dishes, you got a chance to win a small childrens toy. Everyone was super surprised when we won on the first go- rare apparently.

Kan-chan and our sushi plate stacks > : )

After, we went to the hair salon. Now, this is usually not much of a group activity, as far as girls go. Remember how I said I had the longest hair in the prefecture? I'm not really even joking. Of course, laws of probability say that someone in the few hundred thousand people living here that there is someone with longer hair than me, but I've yet to see her, and my hair is frequently cited as being 'the longest they'd ever seen' by Japanese.

And it gets shorter when you braid it.
BASICALLY just to the top of my knee wow that's crazy
Well.
Not anymore.
Two ties, two clips, 50 centemeters. For the non metric, non mathematically inclined, that's about 1 and 2/3rds feet or about 20 inches. ALLISON M. IF YOU ARE READING THIS I USED THE RULER YOU LOANED ME TO MEASURE IT. It still has your name written on it and everything haha.
Let me reiterate for those who've known me for the past 11 years: Yes. I Cut My Hair.
And put it in terms for those who haven't, to express the importance of this; I CUT MY HAIR OH MY GOD I FINALLY DID IT I JUST SNIP SNIP CUT IT OFF OHHHH MMMYYY GOODDDD IIIII CUUUUTTTT MYYYYY HAIIIIIRRRRRRRRRRRR ITSSS GONEEE well actually its in my desk drawer I haven't mailed it yet- is that weird??
AND ITS SORT OF LIKE GETTING OFF A TREADMILL BECAUSE ALL OF A SUDDEN IM JUST FLOATING. WHO KNEW IT WAS THAT HEAVY-
Ok. To clarify, this is what we call HAJIMETE HAIRCUT. As in, virgin hair was de-locked. For the past 10 or so years of my life, a family friend has handled the trimming of my hair with the regular payments of pasta. So. I'd never had a legitimate haircut, and never been to a salon.

Ohhh baby. After trimming the initial 18 inches off [10 and 8 inches respectively, to be donated to Pantene's Beautiful Lock's charity for free wigs for cancer patients] we opened up a glossy magazine and tried to figure out the best hair style to go with- not made any easier by the fact all the models were exclusively Asian, let me tell you. We finally settled on something and I swear it took the stylist about an hour to trim down my freakishly thick hair into something resembling layers. Then, for kicks, she curled it and sent me on my way.
Me and the hairstylist that cut my hair

-deep breathing

Now, a week later, I think I'm finally used to the concept. Maybe I gave some people the impression I was vain narcissist in the process, because this past week whenever I pass a mirror I would just STARE- that's me? HOW ABOUT THAT.

STILL STARIN AT THAT MIRROR narcissist emily stoppit

FEBUARY NOKORI


The last time I sat on a cat, I got scratched...

Yosh, this is Emily filling in the second half of February. I remember I stopped writing the 19th, because that was the day Ninna and I went to see Super Station master Tama!

Hey, everyone, did you know?
>: ) I ride a train line every morning and afternoon called the 貴志川線- Kishigawasen. Its a small line that serves a fairly limited area, but is actually quite famous for it's three special trains that run every day- the Ichigo [strawberry] train, the Omocha [toy] train, and then the Tama train! Excuse me, SUPER STATION MASTER Tama train! Wait till you see it.

Omocha




There is a mini toy meuseum like display, and in the back there are vending machines you can buy plastic balls with little toys inside.

Ichigo- because who doesn't like strawberries?



Rode this one to school most days-

Tama



This one is the best! Not only because the designis insanely cute, but because theres an entire bookshelf filled with childrens books. I've actually read a few on the way home from school.

You may have guessed- Super Station Master Tama is a cat!

I scammed Ninna into coming to see the real deal with me, which involved paying a steep train fare to reach the end of Kishigawasen. Which wasn't magical castles and rainbows, let me tell you. It was a tiny, mostly barren station with a fat, sleeping cat and kitty decals. Rah rah.
BEHOLD.

Anyway, Ninna wasn't feeling well so we stopped at my house on the way back and ended up drinking tea for a few hours and playing Japanese Super Smash brothers.

The only thing I remember about Sunday was that I ate McDonald's Miami burger and it was not very good at all.

Tuesday, Saori came back !!! She did! She walked into class 2nd period and the entire class simultaneously drank their breath [Er, wait, gasped, that's the Japanese expression?] We were all like AHHHHH ! OKAERI! [Culture point; when you leave the house in the morning, you say 'ittekimasu!' or, I'm going now. Anyone present says 'itterashai' in response- Similarily, when you come home, you say 'Tadaima' or I'm here, and anyone present says 'Okaeri', or welcome home-]
The true reason why she came back is still a mystery, but I was glad! Whether it was by our influence or some other reason, she came back the rest of the week, although started skipping during the third day of testing...

Wednesday I had my interview with Oyama Sensei, aka previously mentioned Mr. P-P-Pokerface History Homeroom teacher. Everyone had signed up for a 10 minute interview last week to discuss grades and studying, and to my surprise he asked me why I hadn't and signed me up for the last slot. Anyway, during homerooom I got a call in to have my interview. I entered the history teachers' room a bit nervously. Oyama Sensei was on the far side of the room, already sitting in a sort of reclining computer chair. He motioned me to a parrarel seat, and I noticed to my surprise how much his demeanor had changed- he was completely relaxed and for lack of better words, had a sort of lounging posture. The only solution I have for why the guy who I'd never seen smile or even relax in 6 months was sprawled out on a cushy chair was that maybe 42 kids can stand their own against this guy, but he had full confidence he could commandeer the conversation alone? Hahaha.

Anyway, he opened with talking about my development in Japanese. 大分美味くなりましたねって- or, you've become the quite good, he said. We talked about the impending History Final. I had asked him about what I was to do a few days ago, and his first response was offer to prepare a sort of essay like last time. However, I told him I wanted to take the same as my classmates, and he seemed surprised but agreed. During this interview, I ended up telling him how I'd memorized enough Kanji to read the textbooks and had acquired a really strange vocabulary in the process. I kind of joked how my goal was a 20 %, and I swear to god- he looked at me, SMILED, and said it should be atleast 30-

W-W-W-W-W-W-WHAT - cue last week's image of Oyama sensei holding two dalmations in an eccentric dance pose shattering-
I composed myself until I returned to the classroom, where I excitedly went over to one of my friends, slapped my hand on her desk and was all 'HE SMILED OMGGG OYAMA SENSEI SMILED KYA' I told the story later in great detail to my female friends!! kyah!

That thursday, during Japanese History, a couple of the guys were picking on one slighly oppressed boy named Yasuda. Apparently something snapped, because in the middle of the lecture he abruptly stood in his chair, banged his hand down upon his desk, and basically yelled, 'YOU GUYS CAN ALL GO SUCK IT, BECAUSE I HAVE A GIRLFRIEND NOW AND YOU LOSERS DONT. SO STOP PICKING ON ME.'
LOL.
Needless to say, the entire lesson was derailed, and he went around the rest of the day with a twitchy, defensive pose. Haha!
Friday was the first of year end tests, but only English and Japanese liturature, which I don't take, so there wasn't anything I had to be worried about. Here's a list of tests I machoistically signed up for:
****World History- same as classmates
**Spanish - Same as classmates
Biology- Same as classmates, but only about half the material since I started late-
English Grammar/General English- No using dictionary, even for Japanese translation / reading parts
*English listening / composition - Flipped around for Japanese-
The ones I was most worried about I'll mark with * - yeah.
I.
Studied.
For.
That.
History test. Little by little, every day for a week, I translated every handout Oyama Sensei had given us and memorized the information- [I actually have a fairly phenominal short term memory for that kind of info, although this doesn't work in Japanese because the names become disjointed an impossible to remember- for instance, Urbanus becoms Urubanussu and that's an easy one. ]

and on top of that- CHINESE. HISTORY. You know Japanese? All those Kanji? Yeah? Squiggles? Take the normal 2000 kanji, I still cant read a good 700 of these, then add EXCLUSIVELY CHINESE KANJI because it's already not bad enough! Also, I can totally tell the difference between a Chinese name and normal Japanese word I don't know! Not! HEAD. DESK. HEAD. DESK.

The real deal was monday. I feel lame in that I was more nervous for that test than almost any in my life. He handed out this giant paper filled with rows and rows of blanks, and then two huge papers filled with Japanese paragraphs and questions, and my heart kind of dropped. But as we started into it, I realized I could read it, and I knew the information, and I immediately calmed down and managed to get through almost the entire test- although I got caught up at the end on the Chinese portion.

The rest of the Tests passed without much event. Monday was the biggest day with Spanish and World history, and it was mostly downhill from there. I enjoyed jeering on Ayume as she crammed for math. 'Ganbare! Try your best!' and then in English, "goodluck!,' I said, walking off to go play with Ninna. Wahaha!

Anyway, I have a special story for Friday, which I can't post yet because I haven't made it public what I did that day, but when I do, I'll post it up!

色んなお世話になりました


Don't Litter! Love, Kappa

OKAY COOL HI AGAIN HERE WE GO

By the end of Saturday the 12th, I was completely toasted, despite skipping badminton. At school, I belong to this group of girls, and we're always together during break time and such. Originally, when I joined,. I remember specifically writing to my parents 'send me American snacks that can be shared, my group is 7 girls so enough for each!'

Well, after Winter break, it took me about 2 days to notice, but our group had become 6- A girl called Saori was missing.

She did not come to school in January.

She did not answer our texts or phone calls.

The only way we knew she was alive was that she was active on an online art website. Saturday the 12th of February 2011, Aiko, Minami, Kuriyama and I launched our assault on Saori's home. The goal? Convince her to come back to school. We informed her we were coming, painted intimidating symbols on our faces with Seaweed Jam, and fashioned makeshift battering rams to our bicycle baskets. OK, not really, but with a warriors spirit we marched into her house. We were greeted warmly by all of Saori's family except for Saori, and was promptly served tea and cookies. Then Saori came out, and she had dyed her hair and and and..~ And well, at that, her little brother was also ushered into the room, and proceeded to steal the the spotlight by running around in circles and shouting "WOWWWW 4 PEOPLE CAME I'M SO HAPPPPYYYY!!"

Talk about a conversation derailer.

It was awkward at first, but that slowly faded to a more normal atmosphere, with the rest of

the party eventually ragging on her and making jokes about her new abundance of free time. And then there was the conversation about Oyama sensei, Lady Gaga, and P-P-P-Poker Face. That mental image isn't leaving anytime soon.

We left on good terms, saying 'Jaa, mata, getsuyobi ne' which means 'Bye, I'll see you again Monday!" Come Monday, Saori didn't come, and I can't say any of us were surprised, but alas.

Good luck to you, Saori, in this World.

After that adventure, I was picked up at Kamayama trainstation by Host dad to go to Dinner with Host Mom's sister and friends. You know how when you're really little, you have pre- arranged playdates with other kids to give your mom a break or whatever? Well, I, at age 16, had a prearranged English playdate with a man called Jeff. He teaches english. This was all I knew beforehand about him. Now, when you think, Language teacher, you think thinly balding slightly overweight mellow dude, right?

Oh no, no no no. Mr. Jeff turned out man built slightly like a bear with a height to match. He spoke in a rough central American accent and had an equally rough attitude. This man had absolutely no mouth to head filter at all, said exactly what he thought, so all in all he was basically the opposite of the Japanese stereotype

He was extremely intelligent, and we spent half the dinner debating Japan culture from Woman equality to National attitude. It was nice, since I haven't had a chance to hold an educated conversation for about 6 months, and I think Mr. Jeff felt along the same lines because before he had my name down he told me when the conversation turned to college, 'I like you. You're not stupid. Tell you what, you study your little ass off, come here, and you can live with us for 4 years when you go to college.' He was half serious too.

The other half of dinner he regaled me on how he'd gotten his internal defibulator device stuck in his chest while conscious and working for Japanese gangster construction companies, and whole trivia of life. And inbetween pauses he would argue with his friends wife. Which was interesting in that she didn't speak English and he didn't speak Japanese.

Speaking of which, I asked him pretty early on ‘So you don’t speak Japanese, huh, how about that.’ I then got a story about how a childhood disease that almost killed him, but irreparably damaged his brain making him incapable of learning new languages. I will never judge before knowing again. I will never judge before knowing again.

After dinner, Jeff's British friend and his wife came and most of the adults got flying drunk, which was hilarious. The Brit had brought along his little boy, just a wee thing. He was spouting off Japanese about a million miles an hour when I asked him, “hey, what's that toy?" in English and he just said 'ITS A FLYING FISH!" And took off in English. I was just all WHOAHHHH COOL IT SWITCHES JUST LIKE THAT, I WANT A BILINGUAL 3 YEAR OLD TOO!! [The Brit's response? You can have this one…]

Monday was Valentine’s day! In Japan, on Valentine’s day, it's a tad different from America.

[These rebellious youth, undmindful of the traditional values of imported marketable

holidays.] Instead of merely doing something with your special somebody, [or mourning your

lack thereof] you give chocolate to all your friends! Or really, supposedly, it's the day girls give chocolates to boys, but since boys and girls tend not to mix and nobody likes

chocolate more than, well, a female, at the highschool level it has turned into 'girls make treats to give to everyone they like'day.

Ninna and I jumped that bandwagon hard. I'd googled out a couple of Japanese recipes beforehand, and the bright idea was this: Japanese recipe means we could find all the ingredients at a Japanese grocery store and Japanese measuring devices would match up with the amounts!

This aside, anybody that really knows me that for my plan for the domestic future is to marry Riannon K and come home to a homecooked meal every night. Either that, or enjoy cans of Spaghetti O's and instant ramen with 30 cats. Still deciding. That is to say, I'm not the best cook you can find. Keeping all this in mind, let me show you the equation for our dream treats.

2 exchange students + 1 Danish Cake recipie .. in Danish, without the instructions + 2 Japanese recipies + a Japanese kitchen + Japanese Measurements

The reality? - WHAT IS THIS EVEN SAYING - SQUINT HARDER AT THE PICTURE NINNA - WHERE IS THE OVEN - IM PRETTY SURE THIS IS AN OVEN - NO ITS A MICROWAVE - ITS DEFINATELY AN OVEN - THIS IS THE OVEN - THAT IS THE TOASTER - GOOGLE TRANSLATE YOU ARE NO HELP AT ALL - THE CHOCOLATE BALLS!! THE CHOCOLATE BALLS!! - HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THE JAPANESE SQUIGGLES FOR SPATULA?? - EMILY I FEEL SORRY FOR YOUR FUTURE HUSBAND - SHUT IT NINNA - HOST DAD PLEASE PUT DOWN THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER - GET ME A SPOON STAT - WILL A RICE PADDLE WORK ? -ect ect


Do you see our domestic skills overflowing from this cake. Simply spilling out.

Somehow, through all that, we managed to make mostly edible and halfway yummy chocolates, cookies, and even a cake. Enough for about. Oh, 12 valentines. I had about 16 people I really wanted to give them to, but alas. Ninna was kind enough to let me have 9, and exchanged with my school group, Stamp-chan, and (heheh) also gave one to my Handsome Homeroom Teacher, Oyama sensei.

On Valentines, Wakayama also did something it does fairly sporadically but quite halfheartedly, like a habitual diet shirker; snow. Apparently, it had decided to make up for the last, about, 12 years [See; as far back as my classmates remember] and really put some effort into it. It snowed from 11:00 to about 9:00 pm. The snow, initially fighting the higher than freezing temperatures, didn't stick at first, but around the 3rd hour it started to lightly build. Like powerdered sugar. This drove my cooped up classmates just about out of their minds- they're about as exciteable as hyperactive Chihuahuas anyway, and probably just about anyone would take flipping out over snow to legitimately paying attention to Ancient Japanese.

After school, there was a giant snowball fight in the courtyard, and people built mini snowmen on the tennis courts. Badminton was also canceled, and I headed home in the two inches of slushy snow on Deathtrap, the not so trusty bike. Which sucked. See why students in Spokane don’t commute 40 minutes via bike.


HDad built the snowman, HSis the snow.... rabbit?

From the side of the house

Tuesday was hisashiburii badminton. There's been an interesting and diverse range of things keeping me from it lately, a great deal stemming from my lack of desire to go, but regardless of the reasoning, I'm pretty sure Arai sensei has not been pleased by this. At all. Halfway through practice, when Moeh went over to ask Arai sensei if we were to be paired for a certain thing, he said, 'Emily is weak'but with a really heavy Kansei accent in really rough Japanese. I just kind of laughed and Moeh and Sensei looked at me and asked why, and I said 'I understood that...' and Arai Sensei: ‘Ahhh, so you understand now hmm..’ The only thing keeping him from chewing me out is probably his perceived imaginary language barrier.

Wednesday was the last day of Badminton until year end of tests are over, which start in two weeks.

OH!!OH!!

YOU CAN ALL CONGRATULATE ME !! ON WEDNESDAY I FINISHED MEMORIZING THE 1006 GENERAL USE CHARACTERS LEARNED IN GRADES 1-6 OF JAPANESE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL!!!! I HAVE OFFICIALLY REACHED THE READING LEVEL OF AN EXTREMELY MENTALLY DAMAGED 10 YEAR OLD!! YAY ME!!

See the ones in red? I've memorized those. Yes, all those.

I am thumping myself on the back because no one appreciates this. No one. I say this because the Japanese don't seem to believe I can actually read them, and all the foreigners seem to wonder why I bother trying. I strive alone. Alone. And you know what? I can read light novels now. And Biology textbooks. And most of history. And warning labels. And train station instructions. Eat that. EAT THAT EVERYONNNNNNE.

NOW FOR THE NEXT 949... AND THEN THE 300 EXTRA USED IN NAMES.... YAY.............. ...

If you want to feel a bit of my pain, click here and click the 'study button, then just click through a few - notice how most of them have 2-4 different way

Thursday I got caught up reading on the train to school. I started that night's dinner conversation with, 'Say, Ayume, did you know that it takes about 20 minutes to walk from our station to the next?' Host family kind of stared at me for second, like, 'Oh, no, you didn't-' And yes, yes I did- I had looked up from my book that morning to watch the doors of the train closing on my stop. At the next station, I checked the schedule- the next train wasn't for about 35 minutes. So I started off on foot. I didn't have a clue where I was other than 'if I follow the general directions of the train tracks I will inevitably end up at my stop. It was a nice walk. I wish Japanese roads made more sense.

My host family joked that I probably couldn't find any more ways to screw things up, and had probably managed to pull off just about every small mistake you could imagine at this point, from forgetting keys to dropping traintickets- I warned them not to test me. They also commented on my excellent sense of direction and firm grasp on the layout of Wakayama city. I assured them it was because of my extensive experience getting lost.

FUN THINGS TO DO WHILE LOST; TAKE PICTURES



Yasai / Fruit store

Japanese school bus-tiny tots only only- green words read; Nagusa Kindergarten

Temple near school

Practically a whole flock of birds were on this structure

The next day, I proved them wrong by forgetting my PE clothes and having to watch during PE. Which was kind of fun, since I ended up spending most of it with Kuriyama writing the PE pass slips ‘With your entire heart, please write a reflection about your pass experience’ [I kid you not- that wording. Japan is pretty cheesy.]

Did I mention since after the Marathon, we’ve been doing jump rope in PE? Yes. Jumprope. Not as a side thing. Jumprope. Just jumprope. I definitely haven’t touched one of those since 2nd grade, thanks.

She warned me that writing; ‘Everyone seems to really hate this, and me too.’ ‘Wow, aren’t these PE uniforms gaudy? Like the entire gym is purple’ ‘Even standing and watching for 50 minutes hasn’t imparted upon me the actual point of this.’ Would probably be a bad idea, so we spent about 20 minutes wracking our brains for suitably awful responses.

Saturday, I ended up at 7 o’clock AM studying somehow. I will be taking the same world history and biology tests as my classmates, WHICH IS BASICALLY LIKE SUICIDE BUT HEY AWESOME. ADMITTEDLY MY SCHOOLGIRL CRUSH ON MY HISTORY TEACHER IS KIND OF DEFINITELY HELPING THE DRIVE TO STUDY.

[Yutaro, Forgotnameloudboy, and Sakura being Uke, Seme homo peas and offspring hetero peas, respectively.]

You know, with teaching methods like this, maybe Biology is possible afterall...

Anyway, month 6, OVER AND OUT.


Febbing it up 2 weeks


Us!
Sup!
Halfway through February already...

I left off near the end of January, right before one of Rotary's oh so fun droning lecture orientations, at which I ended up extemporaneously speaking for about 5 minutes in Japanese due to a speech topic mixup. [I had managed to ask the only other exchange student that had no idea.] Anyway, it was on the differences between Home country and Host Country- I seemed to have an opinion very different from my other Americans. They all made their speeches about how different Americans and Japanese were; Americans were noisy, said exactly what they thought, how Japanese were respectful quite and polite...ect... I'm not going to really go into it, but it seems like they were still generalizing and stereotyping so much, which disappointed me. Felt so shallow. I spent my time going into why I thought our cultures were more similar than was said. I really do feel that way, too. I wasn't just being ornery.

Arai Sensei let me play my first doubles match two days later at badminton. Moeh and I lost the first, but and won the second! Admittedly, she was kind of carrying me, but I didn't do too bad.

The next friday was Marathon meet day! Since the start of third trimester, we'd been doing running in PE. Whenever we ran, we were ranked according to speed. My ranks, respectively, out of ~65 girls were 7, 51, 6, 42, and 9 - tell me that Badminton hasn't paid off! Er, if not necessarily the exercise of badminton, Mr. Badminton captain has PE at the same time as me and it was frankly embarrassing how often he lapped me when I wasn't trying my best. I bet you can guess which days he wasn't there though hur hur hur-

This was the only picture of the Field I got before my cam died.

Anyway, on the actual meet day, I forgot my bike key and ended up hitching a ride with host mom. We had the Marathon in this giant stadium, and the girls started first. All of us were called out to the middle of the field, did our exercises, and were sent off with a bang! We looped the track in the middle twice before heading out winding 5.5 km course around the outside. As I was exiting the stadium, a couple of the watching boys from my class yelled out "GANBARE EMIRI!!" [try your best!!] and halfway through I ran past Oyama Sensei, who was standing there looking overheated in this long coat. He repeated the same words, so it was certainly a good atmosphere !! : ) I kind of didn't pace myself too well though, and by 2/3rds of the way through I was ready to just about collapse. I kept it up and finished 41st of 300 girls. That's not overly bad for someone who's been consistently sedentary for the last, oh, 6 years. = D

The next day, my host family took me out to this giant theme park, Nagashima spaland! There was this ridiculously huge roller coaster, and since it was pretty damn chilly and overcast, there was almost no one in the park. We ran around, Ayume being quite audible in her complaints of the previous day's exertion, and went on every ride.

1/3rd of the largest rollercoaster in the park

Yes, I did jeer my host family onto going on this ride. Ayume and you can see HMom in the back.

video

Miyuki and HDad waiting for coaster

Afterwards we drove for about 10 minutes and pulled up in front of- a hotel??? No, wait, an Onsen?

Now, for the uncultured of you reading this blog, allow me explain the concept Japanese Onsen - hotsprings. AKA, - public bathing. You bathe in a special room with everyone else, and then you can go out and soak in the hotspring pools. My reaction to this revelation was probably pretty funny to watch, to be honest. Everyone got out and I was just sitting upright in my seat glancing around and stuttering, 'wait, what, what, what are we doing- I thought we weren't doing this?-' they all just kind of paused and stared at me, like, you didn’t know? What's your problem? 'Well, if you don't want to, if it's impossible, it's okay...' host mom offered. I stewed in my panic, and did what I usually do when it comes to things like this- go for it. Afterall, there was no time to really make a decision, and plenty of time to regret later.

It was amazingly, uh, Japanesey. Host mom and dad bid us goodbye- HMom to a massage, HDad to the Sauna. We girls went into a locker room arrangement to undress. Without a hint of hesitation, my Hsisters just stripped down to their birthday suits and headed off to the bathing area- leaving poor sheltered, cripplingly modest Emily in this state:

Now, in America, having hair halfway down my thigh, I tend to get a lot of stares, or at least double takes. As a foreigner in Japan, Japanese sometimes have a hard time looking away. Combine this with a general lack of clothes and you have the overpowering novelty of foreign hair queen, stark freakin’ naked. Now, I’d like to think I’ve developed a bit of a thick skin by now, but I swear to god that having everyone’s eyes lingering on you and having conversations started by little old ladies can be a bit unnerving. “Y-yes my hair is long,” wheredoIlook wheredoIlook’ uh, thank you,” says I, clutching that tiny, tiny, towel. “I have to uh, go now.” Eyesscarredeyesscarred.

Speaking of towels, the practice is that when you get in the hot spring pool, you fold the mini towel you’ve received and place it on your head. I actually counted the number of times it fell off into the pool. 7.

I did find one upside to all my pesky hair- when it finally got into my head to use it as camouflage, I found that method actually gives more coverage than most modern day bikinis!

I’d like to think I bonded with my host siblings during this experience, but I think they found it more strange that I stuck to them like glue. EXCUSE ME I AM A POOR CULTURE SHOCKED FOREIGNER YOU ARE NOT LEAVING MEEEEE KYAAAA -

After getting dressed, we ate dinner in the huge room with rows of low tables and floor mats. I felt warm, clean, and just general contented- until I decided to eat an icecream cone, which was pretty stupid. I mean, there are few feelings as good as the warmth and pureness as I got after all that bathing and soaking, and then I had to go shove a mountain of frozen liquid down my gullet. Sheesh.

There was like a whole week after that but I completely forgot what happened. I have a day planner but all I really wrote in it was: “I had a weird dream about state shoes. My shoe was Nebraska. I wonder if Nebraska is actually in the shape of a shoe, like in my dream,” so I guess I should probably just go.

MONTH 5 AND 3/4ths OVER AND OUT!!

WE BID YOU ADIEU