Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 16

This morning it shocked me how hot it was - just waiting for the bus for five minutes and I had sweat literally rolling down my face! Soon a thunderstorm will come though, and cool things off for a couple of hours, and then when the heat kicks back up the humidity will be insane. It has been a struggle with my hair almost everyday:) Some days though it's like living in California - there's a wonderful breeze and the sun is shining bright.

Today I tried swimming class and loved it! I was kind of timid to try it at first because Haruka warned me the pool was disgusting - it turned out to be as clean as any other public pool. We spend the entire class playing water polo, which was extremely entertaining.

I've noticed a few things different about Japanese high school. For beginners there is hardly any gossip. Of coarse I don't understand Japanese, so I wouldn't be able to understand it anyway, but I asked Haruka and she said it's minimal. Also when the bell rings for the end of class the students don't bolt towards the door like we do. Most of the time though we stay in the same class and the teachers move. Even at the end of the day they wait until the teacher is done, pack up their things and then chat for a little while. Instead of three minutes between classes they have ten, and even if they are late there are no consequences.

The kids at school have finally started to warm up to me. Before if I would ask a question they would start giggling hysterically and ask me to repeat it again until they could give me a one word answer that I couldn't even understand. Now more people are starting to ask me questions about Ohio and my hobbies, and it's so nice to explain things like the forth of July and the day after Thanksgiving. The girls are amazed when I tell them people a few have even been injured and even trampled to death when stores open! Everything is either expensive or made cheaply here - I haven't some across any good bargains or sales yet.

Something different about school is that when we arrive we have to change our shoes. It is an ancient Japanese custom, and it applies for the gymnasium and home bathroom as well. Something else different about school is that they have the sports handball, badminton, kendo, jyudo, karate, dance team and ping pong. They are all so hard core... and they practice the same sport five days a week, all year round. See here you have to pick one sport your freshman year and stick with it - no changing or doubling.

My schedule for the week is pretty easy:
Mon: Japanese History, study hall, Eng. Writing, Eng. Reading, lunch and Jap. History
Tues: Eng. Composition, study hall, PE, homeroom, lunch and Jap. History at the end of the day
Wed: Japanese, Eng. Reading, PE, lunch, Calligraphy and English
Thurs: Eng. Grammer, PE, lunch, Japanese, Eng. Reading and sougou (which I still don't understand what that class really is. Everyone just talks and sometimes a student goes to the front and speaks but that's about it.)
Fri (the worst): Eng., Eng. Writing, Eng. Reading, lunch, Eng. Reading, Eng. Writing and Classics.

Yesterday was my first day of Calligraphy class, and it was surprisingly difficult! It's writing Chinese characters, but it's artistic as well. You have to wait in certain places and put pressure on different spots for the ink to bleed just right. I learned some basics like tree, river, and mountain. When I told the teacher I wanted to learn how to write my name a bunch of the students began figuring it out in the Chinese characters, and at the end of class I had at least five interpretations of my name from from different students.

The English teachers love me. I've recited passages, have been repeated after and have defined countless random words. Yesterday while reading I didn't know what the word "mariner" meant, and I had to ask the teacher. I looked it up later and it's just another name for sailor. I really looked like an idiot though - it was like forth grade reading. During the other classes I just read my summer English homework which they can't believe I have. When I told them the class has to read 21 books they almost had a heart attack right there. Teachers here don't even expect their students to be awake during their class, let alone reading a 300 page book about mythology over their break. In Japan instead of a three month summer break there is a month break beginning in mid-July and another in January.

I recently began attending basketball practices, and the girls are absolutely the nicest people I've ever met. I was immediately welcomed as part of the team, and they are even helping me with my Japanese! They don't mind that I'm slow and uncoordinated either, they're very understanding and not judgmental. I guess I can't understand what they're saying half the time though, but they're always really nice when they speak English! And for example today during the treacherous 3 km run (a little less than 2 miles) in the blazing sun one of them stayed back with me even though we were five minutes later than everyone else. They don't ignore me and always smile as well. Sometimes though I don't think they understand what I'm saying, but they've become really good fakers. I guess I have too. When I don't know what they're saying and feel it would be awkward to stop the conversation and ask, I just smile and shake you head a little - it always does the trick.

I don't think I can write enough about how different the food is. I've never really been a Chinese or Asian food lover, but now either I've adapted extremely well or the food is becoming more Americanized. Sometimes I think it's a little bit of both - we've had dishes similar to ones at home, but other times I've defiantly taken a leap of faith. Unfortunately in Japan though if you do not finish your meal or don't like something it's taken offensively. The only thing I've drawn the line on was salmon eggs and octopus - I had it the second day I was here and after the fifth or sixth bite I saw the suction cups and I couldn't push myself any further. The traditional Japanese desserts aren't my favorite, but the sweet ones are absolutely out of this world! Like the other day I had what's called melon bread, which is like a hybrid between a chocolate chip cookie and a loaf of bread. The only reason it has the name melon is because it looks like a watermelon. Most of the time too bread is filled with pudding, whipped cream, chocolate or this delicious unidentifiable cream stuff. I'm excited to bring back the recipes and try them at home.

Some nights Haruka and I help Kasumi with dinner, but a lot of things are instant or just need a packet of seasonings added. We frequently clean and the rinse the dishes (don't tell mom!) because along with a broken oven, we do not own a dishwasher. No dryer either - everything is hung dry on the balcony. That's another reason it stinks when it rains - we have to worry or rush outside to grab the clothes. In that case we have to scrunch them all into the bathroom and turn on a heater. Everyday Kasumi washes, hangs, folds and lays our clothes on our bed. Everyday.
That's about all I've got to update on.... until next time!

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