Friday, May 28, 2010

a LOT of catching up to do...

Home stay Day 1 - FRIDAY May 21, 2010
Home stay weekend has come upon us. There are many things to be found out here in Saitama Prefecture, among them; detached homes, open fields, and cars not driven by taxi drivers. The Internet however - is not one of them. And so this blog is going to be an amalgamation of two days of creativity, oh goody!

Let us begin by saying that I have without a doubt won the home stay lottery. But before I write you a novel about how I have decided to permanently move in with “Mama” and the girls, I feel like we have some catching up to do. It’s been a week since I last checked in and for those of you who have become frequent readers, it’s probably starting to feel reminiscent of the month-long breaks between new episodes of your favorite primetime drama. And I would hate to be the cause of any of your co-worker aimed meltdowns as you go into extra-redundant blog withdrawal. Fear not, the wait is over.

We left off with Yang Sensei and his extraordinary okonomiyaki flipping skills. Since last Thursday, much has occurred. And I fear that due to our broad audience, it is in everyone’s best interest that we keep this entry PG-13. For those of you interested in the gruesome details, you’ll have to wait a few weeks and join me back at Utah Drive for a brew of either the leaf or hops variety. The picture format seemed to work wonders for us last time, so let us continue.
So for starters we have some Kenshukan Dorm home décor shots – bedroom, closet, top bunk, desk – all the essentials of the study abroad student lifestyle.

Moving on, we have a few shots from Abby and my adventure to Shibuya for an evening of nightlife research gone oh so right yet, yet oh so wrong. We have an entire blog entry on the matter. Which, should you ever intend on entertaining with drunken Shibuya escapades, is a must read: Five Lesson For A Night Out In Shibuya. On-bar naps, bow-tie tying lessons, Tokyo French and an $80 taxi ride all contributed to the making of a fantastic evening.
The following morning was summed up by the previous days Japanese grammar point, “because I did too much of A, B happened”. Replace A with drinking, and B with hangover and the sentence sounds much like “Because I drank too much last night, I am hungover”, or its Japanese which read “きのうのよる飲みすぎて、ふつかよいです。”So the lesson learned on weekend two: no drinking on the eve of a fieldtrip. Never the less, a few hours in to our trip to the old Japanese capital of Kamakura (and two very nauseating train rides later) the color returned to my face. I managed to have a great time; explore the inside of the Kamakura Buddha, watch a traditional Japanese wedding, and walk through the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Plans of meeting up with Tat and Mika to go to Ageha (Tokyo’s biggest club), somewhat dried up as I realized I was seriously lacking sleep and had just spent almost 12 hours upright. I guess I am just saving Ageha for another night. Here are a few photos from the old capital…



Sunday night, Jess and I met up with Tat, Mika and Kaz for some late night chit chat which ended up resulting in all night chit chat and the catching of the first train back to school at 5:30am. I can’t say that was the best decision I’ve ever made, but it did make for an entertaining class on Monday morning. After which, I met up again with Mika and Tat to do some shopping and have some Happy Hour G&T’s in Shibuya. Thorsten showed up mid-way through for a full-on Niseko reunion - two and half years later.

I have no pictures of Tuesday, which leads me to believe that it was used as a day of recovery. Moving on. Wednesday and Thursday afternoons were reserved for the Tokyo Government Building and Open-Air Folk House Museum respectively. I don’t want to talk about the Government building. You get a few photos which about sum up the orientation (yes another one) and tour. At least the view from the top was worthwhile. I swear I’m not a whiner, but that's one outing I could have done without. The Folk House Museum on the other hand was awesome. Only a 20-minute walk from the Kenshukan and all outside in a rainforest, the museum showcases historical Japanese homes, and buildings. Most were built during the Edo period throughout Japan and have only recently been moved to this location! I apologize for some of the photos – overcast and bad light.

Its late, I’m tired and I won’t do my home stay situation justice if I attempt to capture the moment. Plus, we’re going to a sweet potato farm tomorrow, what could top that!

FRIDAY May 28th, 2010
I need not explain how this came about… I meant to write, and then I didn’t.
This week has been a bit of a rollercoaster. With our final presentation only a few days away, I’m starting to get a little frustrated with the current situation. Even thousands of miles from home, in a country completely backwards from our own, schoolwork can sometimes put even the most upbeat in a foul mood.
Last weekends home stay was great. Yoko, my home stay mother was amazing. As it would turn out, Yoko is a high school English teacher. And so as much as I wanted to work on my Japanese, she and the junior high student she invited for dinner were keen to exploit my English speaking skills. Apparently, despite the fact that she has played host mother to 8 students before myself; none of them have spoken English as their first language. I won’t lie, there were a few times where a great deal would have been lost in translation if it weren’t for her ability to speak and understand English. After dinner I was shown to my room; traditional tatami mats and futons. And just to authenticate the situation, a room on the second level with windows facing the train tracks! I promise I am not ungrateful, only humored! It’s all part of the experience.

Saturday her, her daughters (Misaki and Ayumi), and I went out to a plot of land down the road to plant sweet potatoes. The situation itself was hilarious – at breakfast she casually asks me if I had brought rubber boots, a hat, or a long sleeve shirt. Maybe the hilarity of the situation is slightly lost in writing, but it has been nearly 30 degrees with what feels like 100% humidity everyday. So other than shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of sunglasses…I was NOT equipped to do any form of farm work. Which for those who know me – you probably find this hilarious. This has to be one of the only situations in which I didn’t have all aforementioned items in tow. Lucky for me, all of the above were lent to me in about 3 sizes too small. Don’t worry, the following photos I am sure you will all find quite amusing!

Post mid-afternoon nap, the girls and I hung out on the street in front the house; uni-cycling and blowing bubbles.

For dinner we headed over to Yoko’s parents house. Yoko, her mother and I cut up veggies and meat for Yaki-Niku (BBQ meat). I guess Misaki and Ayumi really love their Nintendo Wii! After dinner I was treated to watching their Grandmother play some Wii Tennis and Bowling, and then their Grandfather play some Wii Golf. Nothing is more entertaining then watch seniors dart around the living room with a video game controller in hand. After Misaki beat me at Wii for 5 year olds I retired to the couch with Yoko. We realized we shared an inability to play video games. I’m fine with that. I love my Super Nintendo back in Calgary. “A” for jump, and “B” for shoot (thanks Roman!). We captured a great family photo right before leaving!

Sunday morning had been deemed by Yoko as a “relaxing morning”, so I slept in and watched the rest of Hurt Locker on my laptop. A friend of Yoko’s stopped by to chat about Canada. She wanted to hear more about my travels with horses, snowboarding and school. It’s been a bit bizarre explaining my life to some of the people I have met. Yoko’s friend kept reminding me that I was so young and had done so much, while she was so much older and had never had the chance to experience anything like what I was telling her about. As thankful as I am for all of the opportunities I have had (partially due to hard work, but mostly due to the support of my parents), I couldn’t help but feel guilty as this women told me that her mother-in-law would never allow her to take her daughter on a trip, especially not to somewhere as far as Canada. I didn’t quite know how to respond, other than to offer her and her family a place to stay if they ever decided to make the trip.
Yoko’s husband, who works a night job, woke up right before I needed to be at the station for one final group shot. Goodbyes and thanks were said and I was on my way back to Tokyo and back to the dorm.
Sunday night’s activities can be summed up here in our TORA Blog for Week 3, Roppongi Unleashed. I didn’t exactly make it to class on Monday after that all-nighter.
The week has flown by. Schoolwork has been a big player in dictating this week’s activities. Tuesday night Mandy and I met Tat and his friends in Shimo-Kitazawa and did a little speech writing at Starbucks. Aside from Starbucks, the coffee in this country sucks! I apologize for the bluntness, but seriously. For a society that spends all their time working and riding the trains from dawn till dusk, I have no idea how that haven’t figured out that coffee is the key to all. Wednesday, Yang Sensei took us out for Kaiten Sushi (sushi-train style sushi), we were under instruction to eat all that we could. And although our table didn’t win, we did manage to eat 105 plates worth with 4 girls and only 2 guys at the table. I met up with Tat and Kaz one last time here at Mukogaoka-yuen because Tat left Thursday for his 40 days of surf in Hawaii.

I have spent the last two days feeling sick. So nothing very exciting has gone on here, just a bunch of reading, homework attempts, and a lot of episodes of Heartland and Smallville being watched. Tomorrow is Saturday, so post-sleep-in, I think I have a run, some homework and a coffee & book on my schedule. My budget until next Friday is roughly $85 CAD, so I need to be thrifty until then. The last day of class is Thursday and then Saturday and I am off to see Mount Fuji, and then taking the Shinkansen down to Nagoya to visit Mika for a few days. I am secretly excited to get home and ride some horses. So typical for me to already be living two weeks in the future instead of fully enjoying the present. That's something I’m working on. Hopefully I will get myself together enough to write once more before we leave school. Until then.