Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Japanese Adventure III

Well, I apologize that it's been a while since I've posted, but like I say, I have better things to do in Japan than sit in front of a computer. (Sadly, right now, I really don't have much else I could be doing).

So here's the run down on my recent events:

This was just another one of those days. My host mother again wouldn't let me ride my bike to school because it was supposed to rain (hooray for typhoon season!). So, I had to be shuttled over to the university again (yet another limitation on my freedom). I spent the morning studying Japanese with one of the guys before we had class. And yikes, yet again, I did not understand one bit of class. It's very hard to have Japanese taught to you IN Japanese when you are just learning the language. Why? Well, when all those little things such as particles, modifiers, and sentence structure start creeping in, you can't understand the explanations of how they work. Oy.

After class, we had the sado, traditional tea ceremony. This was very neat for a variety of reasons, but ended up being quite boring. Why? Well, there's a lot of Buddhist philosophies that transformed this thing into an artform of movement. However, all explanations for everything were given in Japanese. They said you could come on this trip without having any Japanese, and that's been true so far, but you surely get so much more from this by knowing at least some. Ah well. As it is, green tea, the way it was meant to be, is gross. Totally bitter, and a very strange consistency. Additionally, the way you are supposed to sit for this ceremony, the way most Japanese people sit, is very painful to the legs. We westerners are not used to it. It must take a lifetime to aclimate to it.

Well, the evening was supposed to be a night out on the town with my newfound friends, but it was raining. We all get around by bike. The conflict is obvious. So, I got picked up by my host mother and taken home. She did take me over to the home of one of the other guys, Michael, which was pretty fun. We got to hang out and chat, which was cool enough. But they (our respective host mothers) wanted me to stay the night there, and I really didn't feel comfortable with that. I'd see him the next day.

And see him I did. My host mother, her children, Michael, his host mother, and I all packed into a van and headed to Furano, a nearby town, to see the sights. Wine, lavender, and dairy and the kings there. First I must say, the rural countryside is exquisitely beautiful, especially for the mountains. I guess it's my Illinois residency that makes me appreciate mountains. We had lunch at a restaurant at the winery, which was nice. It was the first time I didn't have to use chopsticks since I had arrived! Next, we went to the winery, which was quite fun. We did some taste testing and looked around, but there was no tour to take. Additionally, I couldn't understand the signs, so I basically looked at the pretty objects. Once again, not knowing Japanese reduces the joy. Ah well. After that, we headed over to the cheese factory to make ice cream. This was fun and delicious. It was funny, too. We made ice cream in a device called the "hyper-tron". You know that anything with a name like that is going to be cool.

Well, we returned, and I was left at Michael's to hang out with him. This, again, was fun, but also a disappointment. We were supposed to go out with our friends that night, but it was really cold out. Lots of walking when it is cold = bad. So, we simply hung out. Plus, everyone wanted to start at 10 (and they stayed out until almost dawn!). I returned to my host family at 9, and still woke people up with my return. *Sigh*, that part is really frustrating me. They go to bed so early I cannot stay out and enjoy the evening with my friends. If I had a key, that would be different, but they won't give me one.

Well, it just keeps getting better. The night before, I struggled with my thoughts quite a bit, because I'm really uncertain about where my life is heading, what I want to do with myself vocationally. As much as I'm unlikely to get a burning bush or to find myself sitting in a beam of light and hearing the divine voice, it really would be nice, wouldn't it?

The morning was no improvement. First, we had to get up early to go to Yuki's (my host sister) school for sports/field day. I gave up on breakfast because I could tell she was developing a cold; she was coughing all over the food! Then the younger children, who really don't get this "closed door" concept, kept barging into my room as I was changing from my shower. Sometimes, I just want to be alone, and in a Japanese apartment such as theirs, it is nearly impossible. My mood was quite foul, but I did what I consider to be a pretty good job hiding it.

We ended up at the field day, but it was pretty boring. All of the kids look the same to me, and I really didn't have a stake in watching the events. So, I read my book all day. 7:30-2:30. At least I'm almost done.

The rest of the day was uneventful. I rode off to the university to use the computer, returned for dinner, and was taken to the mall for grocery shopping (unusual, eh?). One thing of note on that: Fujiko wanted to go to a bookstore, so you can only imagine the problems I foresaw with that. Well, I thought I'd just look at the magazines, as pictures are pretty easy to understand. I grab this men's fashion magazine. Clothing, hats, accessories, clothing . . . half-naked girls? That's right, the last fourth of the clothing catalogue was a girly magazine. All right, I'll try again. Next was a men's hairstyle magazine (BTW, I really don't like the men's hairstyles here . . . too flamboyant). Hair . . . hair . . . hair . . . girly magazine. Yikes, okay, something safer, perhaps? Hey, video games are safe, right? Oooh, looky, cell phone games, game boy games . . . adult comics? Yikes. You can't read ANYTHING here geared towards men without it having a naked SOMETHING in it. Oy.

Monday was rather dull. I spent the morning trying to get the phone system to work right. This was frustrating. First, the thing wouldn't accept my calling card number. Once it did, it wouldn't accept the phone number. Once it did, it thought I was trying to call South Africa. FINALLY, I managed to call home, but my time to talk with my family was limited. Hey, Japan to America phone calls are expensive.

One note of good news, though, is that I put my foot in the door in witnessing to one of the Chinese girls here. She's Buddhist, and she didn't seem to interested in hearing anything about my faith or Christianity in general. However, I did tell her that I would gladly teach her anytime about it. Pray that her and others around me are softened towards that prospect. I haven't met one other Christian since I came here, and that includes the guys I came with! (In a recent development, she started dating a Korean exchange student who came here with us from ISU, so I'm afraid she will be too distracted to listen to me, but I'm still praying that God will get her attention).

The afternoon was filled with class. In a very bright note, however, I'm beginning to actually understand class! Sweet, joyous day! Granted, I can't really USE it well, yet, but at least I understand what I would be saying if I could remember any of it. Heh, I guess I oughta spend time studying.

After language class, we had our reminder that this program was meant for the education majors (which none of the people on the trip are). We had a seminar about the historical development and structure of the educational system in Japan. It was fairly interesting, but only in a limited sense. Dan was banging his head on the desk. If any of you education-type people are intersted, you're more than welcome to a glimpse of that material.

We were supposed to go to downtown to bum around after class, but delays on the part of others made this difficult. We finally made it, but I had to leave about 20 minutes into our "bumming around" stage because of dinner. Oh well. Had I stayed with the others, I would have ended up in the drinking room at the karaoke bar with them for 3 hours, racking up a ¥11,000 ($110) bill. Yikes. Incindentally, the alleyways between the buildings downtown contains the seedier parts. It's not in its own separate world, its just in the alleys. By that, I mean the questionable Pachinko parlors, the strip shows, adult stores, and what not. From now on, no more shortcuts.

The rest of the evening was dull. I came back, read a lot, ate dinner, watched cartoons which I barely understood, and went to bed. I really need to figure out how I can make my schedule more flexible, because I am just not making enough of my time here. Don't get me wrong, I'm having a lot of fun, but I could definitely be having more fun.

Well, that's about it for now. I hope everything is well with you all, and I hope to hear from you! Thanks for the emails from those of you who wrote!


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