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.
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