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.]
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

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
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??
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


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.


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-


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.

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.'
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.
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!