Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Host Family's Home

I think that when I imagined a Japanese home I saw some minimalistic, obsessively clean house. My host mother's house is not like that at all. It is rather reminiscent of any older couple's house, who has had sixty some odd years to accumulate stuff. The house is quite large for a Japanese house. It is a house that has been lived in by multiple generations, and so is an older traditional house.

 This is my bike in front of the house. The Laundry is done almost daily, and hung out to dry in front of the house. My host family has a dog. Sado looks very cute, but he isn't very friendly and he is prone to snap. He is also hard of hearing, so until he sees someone he doesn't start to bark, but He really likes to bark.
Okasan likes to garden in the yard. Most of the gardening is done in containers.
When you first enter the house you come into the genkan.
Okasan does ikebana, and there are always flower arrangements in the genkan.
Behind the genkan is the kitchen where we also eat.
This is normal, but somewhat messy. Food is frequently left out overnight on the dining table, even meat. This is very typical for Japanese people. I usually get four of five small plates of food for dinner.
To the right of the genkan is the living room. This is messier than usual.
She cleaned the table later that day.
To the left of the genkan is a room that used to be a sleeping room, I think, before they built bedrooms on.
It is mostly used for storage now, I think. There is a room to the right if this that is definitely storage. The door to it is almost never open. Through this room is the bedrooms.
The toilet is at the end of the hall. My room is next to the toilet. There is really nothing but the toilet and a hand washing sink in that room.
The bath is off of the kitchen.
there is a large sink and mirror in one room, and next to it is the bath. The bath has an approximately 2 ft deep  tub, and a shower head on a hose. You never get right into the bath, because everyone uses the same water. First you have to wash yourself off. You sit on the little stool, and wash yourself, and make sure you rinse very well, then you can soak in the Ofuro if you like.
My room is next to the toilet. My room is somewhat messy too.
And that is my house.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Around Campus

The first week that you come to Kansai Gaidai you will stay in the Seminar Houses. You get to walk back and forth between campus to go to Orientation. In Orientation you get told all the information that you could possibly need about Campus.
I am going to tell you about the things that you do daily.
First The Center for International Education (CIE).
This is where you practically live. 

You have your classes here, this is a speaking classroom.
You wait in the CIE student lounge between classes.

You pick up your school mail here.
You can use the internet and printers here. There is also wifi which is decent if there are not to many people trying to use it.
If you have any questions about anything you can ask The CIE staff here.
This is the Language Lab for listening and speaking practice.
We also have our other classes here in the CIE. This is my ceramics classroom. There is also Sumie (brush painting), but I am not in that class. The culture and business classes are on the fourth floor. Language classrooms are in the second floor and the teacher's offices are on the third floor.

When you are not at the CIE you are probably eating.
The first option is the cafeteria, which is very decently priced, and has good food. There is a table at the front with the day's options.
If you don't want to eat there there is the Convini, and McDonald's across the way.
If you don't want to eat indoors you can eat outside
If you don't have money you can use one of the ATMs. They are on either side of the amphitheater.

The Post Office Bank can be used if you have a checking account with a 4 digit pin number and a cirrus of plus on your bank card. The post office bank is every where in Japan, so it is very handy.

Monday, October 11, 2010


For those of you who are tired of all my complaining here are some pictures.

These are the most wonderful invention ever!
They are layers of pastry, chocolate, sweet bean, and apple. only 80Y.

I love Japanese Bakeries

In Kyoto

I saw this on the way home.
It was rather disturbing as the chopsticks go up and down.
I had a video, but I can't find it.

These pictures are from the Danjiri Matsuri, in the south of Osaka.
The different neighborhoods each have a cart which they pull through the streets alternately fast and slow.

We also visited the local castle.

This is not a model, it is a view from the top of the castle.

This picture was taken about a week after the other pictures.
It was rather shocking to me to find the field this way.

These fish are as long as my arm.

Be Careful, I always burn my mouth.

Ferris Wheel in Osaka on top of the Mall

outside of Osaka Jo

Osaka Jo
Get there before 4:30 because it closes!


Day in life and thoughts about Japanese family culture

I am slowly adjusting to living in a Japanese home. When I get home from school I sometimes do my homework and sometimes I watch TV. Okasan watches two of the grandkids during the day, so depending on how early I come home I can spend time with the girls. They generally watch children's TV. I kind of like watching Children's TV because I can understand more of what they are saying. Okasan generally takes them home around 6ish. Sometimes I get home while she is out, which is a little strange coming home to an empty house. Otosan comes home around 6:30, which for Japanese is really early, but he works in construction, I think. We have supper around 7.Okasan tells me,every day, to wash my hands before we eat, which is a great habit, just not one that I am in. She suggested that I wash my hands when I get home, and that has worked better.  She was giving me a great deal of food, so I told her that I was on a diet. This is only partly true, but you try to explain that you can't eat that much in a foreign language where you have to look up every other word without just sounding polite. Now she gives me a decent portion, which I am grateful for. She and Otosan generally eat out to the same dishes. I wash only my own dishes.
After dinner I go and watch TV or work on my homework until Okasan tells me to go take a shower. Otosan takes his shower before dinner right after he comes home. Okasan takes her shower after me. From what I gather this is because they had problems previously with the home stay students leaving the gas to heat the water on. They do not have a water heater tank, but they turn the water heater on and off. This keeps the gas bill down and mostly prevents fires in case of earthquakes. All gas is turned off when the family leaves the house.
Okasan and Otosan generally go to bed around 9:00. I am told to go to my room about that time if I am not there already. I usually try to stay up until 10:00 because I don't want to wake up to early. As it is I generally wake up around 6:30 or 7. I liked to get to school around 8 so that I could meet Katie, relax and prepare myself for the day, but Okasan told me that coming to breakfast at 7 made her "panic". Otosan eats at 7 and she makes him and her son (who is married) a lunch. Otosan leaves around 7:30 or 7:45. First I was told not to come to breakfast until 7:30. I still wanted to get to school early. I had a bit of an emotional crisis that was mostly between me and the Lord and my notebook, wherein I was told to wait, and be patient. I think that a lot of the problem is because I am used to being independent, and doing things when I think is good. Here I am told what and when to do almost everything. Do this, don't do that. I appreciate that I am living in someone else's house and their way if doing it will probably be different than mine, but I feel like I am treated like a child. I tried to tell her that I could get my own breakfast, or eat cereal. I even bought some to eat. She made me some yogurt to eat it with, and then asked me to eat at 7:40. Michaela says that that is just the Asian mother's way of doing things. I have become resolved to just being later to school. Really, it takes me 20 mins. to get to school on my bicycle, and my first class is never before 9:00.  So now I eat by myself at 7:40ish and take off to school right after I wash my dishes.
Sometimes I just don't want to be at home because it is not comfortable, and I find it hard to relax. I have a hard time relaxing anywhere. I am used to having a home to relax in, so this is kind of hard. I have to find both a way and time to relax. I am very busy with classes, and homework. I can not study as hard and relax some, then not be as prepared for class, or I can study hard and be ready for class, but be really tired. I have yet to find a balance. I find that I get tired really easily, and I will be very glad to adjust physically finally.

Thoughts on Culture Shock

So I have been here for three weeks.? I have been mostly rather tired. I think at first it was mostly Jet lag, but I think that I am mostly over that now and my sleeping schedule is pretty much set. Okasan and Otosan usually go to bed around 9:00 or 9:30 at which time it has been dark for about 3 hours. I try to stay up until 10ish. This gets me up around 6:30. Which, for me, is early, but then I am going to bed very early. I usually head for school around 7:30 so that I can spend at least one hour collecting myself at school before class starts. At this time I am  not tired much at all. If my classes, which are Japanese, are at all stressful I am dragging by lunch time. Fortunately the classes that I have after lunch don't take as much emotional energy as Japanese does. I have found that despite being so good at most college classes, language is really hard, and I have spent more time in these first two weeks of school studying than I think I spent really studying in a whole semester. I suppose you would have to remember that most of my classes have been studio classes. It also seems that all this studying doesn't seem to get me anywhere. I had a review test last week in spoken Japanese that I got a 50.8% on. I don't think that I have ever done so badly on a test. I took a review test in written Japanese this week and I really think I did worse on that one than the other. The result of the test can only take me down a level, so it isn't the end of the world if I fail it, but it is a blow to my ego, which could probably be taken a notch anyway. I don't really want to go down a level though. The day before the test I was practically sick with a headache and being exhausted, so I couldn't study properly. I find myself praying desperately for help because I feel so insufficient for learning the language. I think that I probably am learning the language better here, but I can't really tell.
 When I first got here everything tasted delicious, and I ate copious amounts of it. Lately the food doesn't seem quite as wonderful and I am having trouble eating all the food that Okasan gives me. Part to the problem is that in the first week I ate so much that she probably got the idea that I was a pig and so she has been giving me copious amounts of food. I think that after not eating all my food for four days straight and having to eat the rest for breakfast might have gotten the message across that I don't always eat that much. Yesterday I actually got to eat breakfast food for breakfast. We also have iceberg lettuce for breakfast almost every morning, and a lot of meat. This morning I had miso soup with clams in the shell in it. You have to pick out the shells.
  Despite what it sounds like, I am not having a horrible time. There are many ups and downs. This week I managed to only spend about $30 so far and I think that If I am careful I will have enough money even to go on trips occasionally. This weekend I am going to a Danjiri Festival in Osaka.We have a three day weekend this weekend  and another day off on Thursday. I plan to do some catch up studying. Please pray for me that I will adjust and be rested, also that I will not get frustrated and learn the language well. I would also like to get involved with more Japanese  people. Their classes start up in another week or so. I would like to join a circle or two, maybe if I am not so tired


Weekend Trips

So on the weekends I have been going on trips. The Friday, the 3rd, a hoard of Kansai Gaidai Students went to Kyoto in small groups with Japanese students. Ayna, my language partner and her friend Momoko took Katie, Daniel, and I. We walked around and went to see Kiyomizudera. We did a lot of walking.
Momoko, Katie, and Daniel
Me, Katie, and Momoko
View towards the city from Kiyomizudera

After seeing the temple we went to find somewhere to eat, and after a lot of walking we ate at Sizeria a Japanese Italian place that is very decently priced.

This last weekend Katie, Daniel, and I decided to go to the Hirakata Station and explore. I wanted to see the department stores, and eat Okonomiyaki. Katie and Daniel wanted to see a book store. We found the Department store , and Katie saw socks and shoes which she loves, but we went to the bottom floor where they had a grocery store and some small restaurants. Katie and I wanted to get Okonomiyaki so we tried to ask where the Okanomiyaki store was. The answer was very polite and quite impossible to decipher. We walked in the direction that we thought was right and asked again. The second lady was much more clear in her directions and we found the restaurant. We had a lot of fun and the Okanomiyaki was amazing. Definitely better than mine.
After eating we went to the bookstore where there was a phenomenal amount of manga, and it was a relatively small bookstore. I think that they sold used books as well. Katie got a couple of manga. I think I need to work on my Japanese more before I buy anything.
We went back to the Department store and as Daniel was still hungry we went to a bakery. I got this layered thing that was wonderful.

We went all the way to the top (7 floors) and looked in all the floors. There was a game room on the top floor, and they had vending machines. I got a phone charm for my cell phone that was a sword guard. I like it a lot. there was a curved escalator down to the basement that was cool.
Plastic food is an art form here
 Eventually we went to Baskin Robins and had crepes.

Being very tired, we each went our separate ways home.
On Sunday we went to Kyoto again, but I'll leave that for another time.