Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Work in Progress

One of my fellow ryuugakusei friends up here, Hilary, brought up the fact that we're all talking like we're in prison. "What's the first thing you're going to do when you get out home?", is the current most popular question. And then I realized that I think about this alot. Alot.

So much that I will make a list, because god forbid I don't have many places to stick my sticky notes around here.

  • Eat a steak. A big, juicy, medium-well grilled steak.
  • Pee while actually sitting down. I never though this would even be a possible issue. Wrong.
  • Throw all of my trash into one bin that can fit more than 3 sheets of paper in it.
  • Have cereal for breakfast.
  • Hell, just have breakfast food for breakfast.
  • Catch a form of public transportation after 9pm on a Saturday.
  • Map out all of the nearby WiFi spots and give thanks.
  • Hug my Macbook Pro.
  • Yell at AT&T regarding why my phone hasn't had service until we drove up to East Kabum.
  • Order a large pizza while paying less than $30
  • Shower. In an upright position.
  • Use the dryer. Enjoy the soft feel and clean scent afterwards
  • Not wake up at 4am just because the sun rose.
  • Eat a bagel. Like, a real bagel.
  • Drink milk. Like, real milk.
  • Stop complaining about hand dryers in restooms and just enjoy the fact that they at least have soap.

More to come :D

It's Impossible for Asian Children to NOT Be Cute

Wait until I get up the pictures/video from today. We went to Asahi Elementary School to play games and sing songs with the kids. They were too freaking adorable.

Charge faster camera!

Saturday, June 26, 2010


So I definitely haven't been posting as much as I had hoped. On one end it's nice to sit back and fully enjoy my time here without getting too occupied in documenting it all ASAP. But it's something I truly enjoy doing and I feel like my being here on study/staying with a host family is interrupting, or at least radically different, from my own fairly independent way of running my day-to-day life. In one way I'm glad I'm doing a homestay in a small city - I feel less like a tourist and like my experience is more genuine and on the other hand I can't wait to come back with some of my friends and family and see all I've been wanting to see and do on my own agenda and in my own style.

This weekend, however, waa a nice break. The whole group went to a "Quasi-National" park for the weekend. Onuma's only about 40-minutes from the school but it's in the mountains (and actually a dormant volcano) so it was a nice chance to do some bike riding and walking, hit up the gorgeous hotel's onsen, chill and karaoke to lots of Queen and Michael Jackson. The room was traditional-style Japanese and everything, so we were supplied with fantastically comfortable yukata to wander around the hotel in plus a pretty spacious room for four people. Dinner was traditionally Japanese with sukiyaki and tempura anda lot of things that I'm not quite sure of in both taste and what they were. Japanese food is definitely not all raw fish but last night mostly was and I can only do so much of that. And the tatami were rolled out for bed! Definitely worth the visit, plus some hilariously interesting run ins with the sensei xD

Monday, June 14, 2010


So, I can't figure out the international keyboard on a PC and I really don't care to take the time to learn how. I miss my Mac xD

Saturday was the opening ceremony and we got to meet our host families. I live with the Oohasi's - Mama, Papa and Risa, a 13-year old middle school student - about 35 minutes north of HIF. They're extremely nice and apparently Risa's friends say I look like an actress from some J-dorama, though I find this kind of funny and slightly impossible xD

Mama showed me the house (thank god for Western-style toilets - the school only has the squatters and I swear, I will be a champion at peeing in the woods when this is all over), the bath, the laundry; my room is less of a room and more of a compartment - it's a tatami room, but it's right off the living room of the small apartment so it's not terribly private, but it has a sliding door for a little privacy. Food has been good - so far no raw things, unlike most other people I've talked to. I still have to use a fork to eat my egg in the morning. Cutting through a layer of egg and bacon with chopsticks is a no go, though they did compliment my use of hashi in the depaato this afternoon as I ate some free-sample ramen-like stuff.

My room

Also, newsflash which will be shocking to some of you - I've been drinking milk. Yes, big whopping glasses of milk.

Did I mention the school is at the top of a hill/mountain? And that my family lives up 4 flights of stairs with no elevator?

I made it to class today in one piece. They really didn't come with me to the bus stop so much as show me where it was during our walk on Saturday. Luckily, the bus sytem is pretty easy just as long as you know the name of your stop. Class, though it's not as long as last year's summer intensive, is much more immersing and it should be interesting to see how things go through a different text book.

We also went to Goryokaku-koen, a park around and through the star-shaped fort. I'm not too sharp on the history of it, but Hakodate is where Commodore Perry first landed for trade, and at the fall of the shogunate there were a few important battles-happenings here. I have a Japanese and English pamphlet that I've yet to go through completely, but the park is gorgeous!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Placement Testing


Just finished up placement today (though I'll know by Monday exactly which class I'm in) and it's a huge relief. The reading/writing ws difficult, but I'm pretty sure the oral went well :)

The school is really quaint! Except it's at the top of this killer hill, which, in tandem with all of the veggies I'm eating already, I will be in much better shape. But from the school you can see Mt. Hakodate and its cable cars and all the way down to the ocean :D It's a gorgeous location, and apparently they think so here too since when I looked outside from the window to take pictures there was a couple getting wedding pictures taken! Bikkuri-sita!

Made it xD

I never want to fly 12 hours again xD

I was up at the crack of dawn to catch my first flight out of Pittsburgh. My flight to Toronto was in a…very small plane. One one-hour plane ride and a very confusing and unhelpful 6 hour layover and I was on a huge, multi-row, movie screen in the back of the headrest, meal-serving airplane. Between trying to sleep, eating (brownies!), reading an entire Libba Bray novel, staring at maps of the flight and watching How to Train Your Dragon – and restlessness, the last two hours were unbearable – and we were landing in Tokyo. Customs and navigating Narita was easy enough, though I did have to whip out my Japanese direction-inquiring skills a few times and then it was off to the Limousine Bus (somewhat misleading of a name, but much nicer than Port Authority anyday) to get us to the Hotel Pacific Tokyo in Shinagawa.

(too bad I don’t know how to convert raw files off my camera onto this PC, so the pictures over Alaska are lost for now ><;)
My body is so confused. I hadn’t slept in almost 32 hours. And then I felt completely fine to wake up at 4:30 am.
Roommate Heather and I (who’s ironically also from Pitt) decided to bop around Shinagawa station and procured some fantastic raisin bread and apricot tea for dinner before slowly crashing in the hotel room (which has a window seat! And where you can see Tokyo Tower from!) We did some exploring to find some dinner (jet lag led us to raisin bread in the station supermarket-place) and then headed in for the night. The morning led to tv shows about food blogging and a nice buffet breakfast in the hotel. Right in the garden – gorgeous! The flight from Haneda to Hakodate wasn’t long at all.


We found the quaintest and best little bakery, too.

We ran around this afternoon and explored Hakodate now that we’re here and ended up eating amazing grilled syabu syabu (pork, beef, pumpkin and asparagus) Oishii ne! And we made friends with the Japanese businessmen next door. So fantastic. Speaking of fantastic, one of my favorite things was probably the guy on the limo bus to the Tokyo hotel sneezing and telling himself “Bless me!”.
Tomorrow is more placement testing though, boo. Zyaa, oyasumi.