October 2, 2013
So I’ve just passed a month of being in Japan. Crazy, I know.
I love every day here. School is so much fun even though I just copy kanji i cant even read into notebooks or work in my Japanese textbooks. From day one, everyone at my school has been so nice. After about a week I found my place in a group of friends, and now were best friends! Japanese high school is so much better than American high school. Everyone stays in the same class with the same people all day, so classes are always really close. Also teachers change classrooms, and we have ten minutes between classes. Sometimes well stay in the class, sometimes well sit in the hall under a big window when the weathers nice, sometimes well hang out outside, sometimes well go to the teachers room.
People in school here are also really different. Guys are much more physical with their friends, and girls are friends with everyone. There are no cliques or set group of friends here either, which is really common in America. Of course, some people you are closer to, but sometimes you'll change it up and hang out with other people as well. Also everyone eats together for lunch, which is a great bonding experience.
The first week I was in school it was festival season, so there were no classes. We were decorating the classroom as well as making signs for around the school and practicing events and dances for the sports festival, which because of a typhoon that went through Japan, got put of till about two weeks after it was supposed to happen. It was still so much fun though. The school festival was pretty much just classes selling food and stuff like that. I ate ice cream, cream soda, and a crepe, as well as the lunch I brought with me. It was all really good.
The sports festival was outside all day, and it was really hot. And when its hot, people love to say “its hot” all the time. I had gotten pretty sick about a week before the sports festival, so all my teachers were all worried about my health, haha. I was fine though. I took part in the tug of war, but we lost, even though we won at the practices… A lot of the events were really strange things I wouldn't have been able to come up with even in my dreams. Once, there was a relay, and the first people to run were tied together, so I thought it was just going to be a three legged race, but the next people to run were a group of three, then four, then five, then eight, and so on. It got to the point where groups were taking ten tiny baby steps, falling, taking another ten steps, and falling again. It was really entertaining.
Last weekend I went to my friend's house on a day off, and we made and ate takoyaki, which is some kind of batter, cabbage, octopus, chip things, cheese, and pretty much whatever you want, all cooked together and formed into a ball. It's a difficult process to explain. Then we went down the street and pet some goats, and there were some boys from our school there, so we hung out for a bit.
Another thing that's incredibly different about schools here that surprised me is that its an open campus. I go to a private school, so I was especially surprised. When we were preparing for the festival we needed some supplies so me and two girls and two guys just walked down the street to a store and picked up the stuff then went back. All the doors are always unlocked, the windows don't have screens on them, and we could pretty much walk out whenever if we wanted to. And coming from a school in Florida that locks doors from the outside and has guards by the parking lot to make sure you don't leave, this is a lot of freedom given to students. But its like they don't even see whats right in front of them because its always been there.
With my host parents I spent my first couple of days in Tokyo and Saitama. It was so much fun! I slept on a futon in the tatami room in my host grandparents house. We went shopping in Shibuya and Harajuku, then went on a tour on a boat of Tokyo bay. after that we saw the Sky Tree and the view at night was incredible. I got lots of pictures. We had to take a lot of trains to get back to Saitama, and I fell asleep on all of them… I was so tired.
Speaking of sleeping, I think Japanese people are the most efficient sleepers I've ever seen. They sleep on trains, and it's like they have selective hearing. When their stop is called they just get up and leave like they weren't just asleep. Its the same way in school. Teachers don't care if you fall asleep in class, because your grades are your own responsibility. people also sleep on their desks in the short ten minute break between classes, and miraculously wake up right before the teacher walks in.
the food here is incredible! i feel and look as if i have gained weight, but ive actually already lost about ten pounds. whenever people in florida would hear i was going to japan theyd always say “i hope you like sushi!” and so far ive only had two times when ive eaten sushi. its actually a lot different than in the states. in florida when you hear sushi you think fancy and expensive japanese restaurants selling fancy and expensive sushi rolls. here you can pick up food in a convenience store, go to a casual restaurant, or go to a fancy restaurant. and its not just rolls, either. they have grilled fish, raw fish, egg, shellfish, mayonaise sauce, shrimp, pretty much anything.
mayonaise is really popular here for some reason. people will eat it with everything if given the opportunity. my friends ate mayo on takoyaki, and my parents put it on fish and meat and curry.
a hard thing for me was being able to communicate with my host grandmother, who doesnt speak any english. we spend a lot of time together, so weve gotten better, but its still a challenge. I like to think of my grandmas speaking like the way she drives. She uses back roads and side streets, words that are not taught in language programs, so that i never know where I am in the city, or the conversation. Besides that, I love spending time with her. I may have no idea what shes saying but we still have a great time together.
I'm really enjoying this. Its the best experience of my life, and I love this country with all my heart. I'm learning the language to the best of my ability, and I am starting to make big progress after getting past the hump in the beginning of not knowing how to learn. I am so thankful to everyone who has made this possible.
And sorry if this doesn't sound enthusiastic, I am so tired. (that's one thing every exchange student has in common… tiredness.)
I will try to update again next month! Until then, sayonara!
Excerpt * I like to think of my grandmas speaking like her driving. She uses back roads, side streets, and rare words, so that I never know where I am in the city, or in the conversation.