Now that jet lag has wore off and I have settled in this experience has turned from good to absolutely awesome. Yesterday and today I attended Tama High school with my 18 year old host sister Haruka. Because of my blonde hair and blue eyes I was an instant celebrity. Little did I know it but most of the 700+ students in the school already knew my name when I arrived. Even teachers were excited and in almost every class I introduced myself and was asked questions about the United States and my interests. The most common questions were "Do you have a boyfriend?" and "What sports do you play?" Sports and dance are taken very seriously here which surprised me. School work is not checked and students frequently sleep or talk during class. The teachers are passionate just like ours but they have much more limited resources. The school is over fifty years old and extremely run down. The students actually clean the school - there are no janitors. They do a really god job though and are thorough. The campus is much larger than Clear Fork's and consists of four buildings - first (freshman), second (sophomores), third (seniors) and a science building. Thus far I have noticed though that English is strongly stressed. Maybe they put me in mostly English classes though because I'm American and they want me to read out loud.
My host family know more English than I thought. Haruka actually want to be a translator when she gets older which I think is so cool :) She wants to be fluent in both English and Spanish. She will be great at it - she has been a decent translator/teacher for me so far! I've learned the basics - hello, goodbye, thank you, sorry, etc. I have also begun to learn Hiragana which is one of the three types of Japanese writing. It is the most basic but has 50 characters in the alphabet. Haruka leaves as an exchange student in August for a year in Iowa. Like Dad always says "if there's one place more boring than Ohio it's Iowa." I think she will like the new experiences like seeing cornfields for the first time and walking around a Walmart. Her English will become 150% better.
It takes about forty minutes to get to school. First we walk through our neighbor's garden and down a couple of streets to the bus stop. Then after we pay 200 yen each (about $2.00) we ride for about ten minutes to the train stop. There we pay 150 yen ($1.50) for one way. The first day we rode the train I was shell shocked. It was literally painful how crammed we were in there and I was freaked out about some guy groping me. At orientation they explained to us how perverts fool around with girls on crowded buses and how the girls are so ashamed that they don't say anything. Not me! I would scream "chikan!" which means "pervert!". You really just need to use your common sense though and slower your book bag over your butt like we did and now wear short skirts.
That's another thing - women here are so modest. They don't wear shorts at all and if they do wear a skirt that shows their thigh they wear leggings even if it's just three inches. The only exception is school uniforms. The girls hike them up pretty far but not on the verge of slutty.
It is so funny when people see me for the first time - they will literally stop and stare and if I day something in Japanese they will freak out giggling and shriek "kawaii!" which means "cute". I respond with "arigato" and they start hysterically giggling again. Two students have even given me candy and baked goods as gifts. I can not stress enough about how shy and polite they are. I know they want to know things about the U.S. but the teachers have to pull teeth to get them to ask questions in English.
Now about the food... almost everything we eat is fried. Fried octopus, french fries, fried chicken, fried pork chops and McDonald's apple pies are not baked they're fried! FYI McD's is AMAZING in Japan! No matter what their job is Japanese people take pride in what they do. No only do they look cleaner and more organized, but the food looks like the picture on the menu.
Japanese desserts are really good too! I've tried Japanese chocolate (super creamy!), ice cream (not as sweet as America's but still as good), cookies (they're actually rice bread they're not sweet at all), gumi (chewy mango tasting goodness!) and chocolate pies (actually like mini biscuits filled with chocolate).
It's so sweet every night my host family and I eat dinner together (except most of the time Kota's missing lol) and they help me with the difficulties of chopsticks. Don't get me wrong I was pretty decent in the U.S. but these people are like professionals! They can pick up a whole heaping pile of rice and just gulp it down!
My host family's profile:
(Mom) Kasumi - sweet and giving. For example when we eat dinner she always gives herself the food that's burnt or somehow lower grade than everyone elses. She also washes and folds my clothes and puts them back on my bed in addition to making my lunch everyday. She is a dental hygienist assistant.
(Dad) Yuichi - loves American football and still plays/coaches flag football. I only see him at dinner because he usually works late or is watching the world cup or is reading. At dinner though he is very polite and funny but knows less English. I'm not sure where he works but on the letter it said
"company worker". He leaves the house in a suit and tie everyday so it must be fancy whatever it is.
(Sister) Haruka - she is the person I spend the most time with and is EXTREMELY helpful. Not only is she patient with my Japanese, but she also tours me everywhere and doesn't seem annoyed that I'm constantly asking questions and following one step behind her. Her friends like me and she doesn't mind that we get so much attention walking together. We both think it's pretty funny actually. She is so smart and nice and is the best at English in her class (except the girl that lived in New Hampshire for two years). She works for McD's on the weekend:)
(Brother) Kota - I don't see him much. His hair is crazy, he's 21 years old, he works as a bartender and he's in his third year of college.
The language barrier is slowly but surely breaking down. Us three girls spend so much time together we've learned what each other's speaking patterns are if that makes any sense? We also play many games of charades, use the translator frequently and guess what the end of the sentence is.
Speaking of translator yesterday after school Haruka and I went to her English tutor's house for he lesson. IT WAS SO WONDERFUL TO SPEAK ENGLISH AND SOMEONE FULLY UNDERSTAND ME. You don't realize what a blessing that is until it's taken away from you. Don't get me wrong I LOVE being consumed in the Japanese culture but 24/7 Japanese can get kind of monotonous. What I mean is when the group of people you are with are speaking another language and begin laughing it kind of stinks to ask what they're laughing about. Anyway it was so nice to speak in English who was fluent and she was very helpful and interested in my opinions of Japan.
That night after dinner I gave them their gifts that I had brought - it turns out they do have Skittles but o well at least I tried. They loved the red, white and blue items and Yuichi especially like the OSU umbrella. He knew where I was from because of the buckeyes! How cool is that?
Things I haven't tried but would like to:
1. Eat REAL Japanese sushi at a sushi bar
2. Take a public bath (yikes!)
3. Japanese karaoke
4. Explore Tokyo
5. Learn how to make an origami swan
6. Try on kimono + learn traditional dance
Things I've cross off the list:
1. Try seaweed, octopus, and fermented soybeans.
2. Ride a crowded Japanese train
3. Attended Japanese high school