Okay, so this is going to be a long one since I haven’t written since last Tuesday. (^^;;
Last Wednesday and Thursday were really just normal school days. Though on Wednesday night, my host mother, sister, brother and I went out for Okonomiyaki, which is a kind of savory Japanese pancake that you cook at the table. One of the pancakes my family ordered had corn in it. Hot open area+corn = bad idea. It started to burst and jump around every where on the grill, sending out droplets of hot liquid.
Last Friday was my last day of school （ ｉ _ ｉ ）
I had to give a speech in front of the entire school. It was two pages long and all in Japanese (Narita-sensei helped me write it.) My legs were shaking so badly that I thought they were going to give out on me. This put my nervousness before dancing to shame, I could barely eat any breakfast that morning I was so jittery. Yes, I am keeping a copy of it for memories sake. Though, it reminds me how horrible I am at public speaking. It’s eve harder in a foreign language. (Though I just learned today that everyone was very impressed, I’ll talk about it when I get all caught up.) Momoka, a third year from English club who I became friends with, gave a goodbye speech in English to me. She was very nervous, but she did really well. Her English is very good and I kept smiling at her reassuringly (or at least I hope it was helpful). My 1A classmates made me a shirt with my name in Kanji and presented that to me along with the Homei (name of my highschool) tshirt.
English Hiragana Kanji Meaning
I い 井 Well
Za ざ 座 Sit
Be べ 辺 Around
Ra ら 羅 Thin
cloth of silk
(In Japanese, I spell my name with a z instead of a s because it sounded closer to the actual English when spoken like that.)
So the meaning of my name is:
“Sitting in silks around a well.”
I also received the rest of the Homei sports wear (wind breaker and hat.)
I then had a meeting with only the first years where I had to give another speech (one which I was not told about.) My classmate Maho gave a short speech to me in English. Then they changed their schools chant so that it fit my name. It was really sweet.
We had cleaning after that because it was the last day before summer vacation. At the end of the day, I took a photo with all of 1A and gave them their own speech. The day ended with them singing to me and I got to dismiss class. I’m really going to miss them all.
I got to rid my bike home on Friday and it was really nice. I liked having more independence and being able to go home alone. I took the nice, long route home and even then it only took me 45 minutes instead of the hour my family told me it would.
On Saturday I had to wake up at 5:30, which was not very pleasant, but it was to do something fun. Homei’s baseball team was playing to get into the semi finals, so along with the third years, Martin and I went to cheer for them. It was in Akita, which is a two hour drive, which is why we had to leave so earlier. It was a lot of fun. Each player has their own individual cheer and dance that does along with it. Some of the long cheers were hard for me to learn, but the dances were easy to pick up and I memorized some of the shorter cheers. We won, 10-4! Go Homei! Everyone was exhausted on the bus ride back though. The heat just drained our energy. I’m pretty sure that for a good portion of the ride everyone was asleep.
Saturday night my host family and I went to karaoke. I never thought that karaoke would be something I would enjoy, but I wanted to try it and turns out I love it. We stayed there really late and everyone sang.
Sunday I met with Maho and Misaki, two of my friends from 1A. I biked to school, which again was really nice. Something about biking around Japan is just perfect. Anyhow, Maho, Misaki and I had a great afternoon. We ate lunch at 105 yen sushi, which is the conveyer belt sushi restaurant that my host family and I went too. We then went to Eon and walked around. We mostly window shopped, though I saw some things that I would later buy. We also did purikura (I have a rather large stack of them at this point), but this was my first time doing it with more then just myself and another person. Maho challenged me to a Mario cart race (you know, the racing games with the actual steering wheel and gas/brake pedals.) I am happy to say I won. I wanted to try to Takio game, so Maho and I played. Misaki didn’t want to. Maho told me I was going to loose because she was good, but it turns out that I’m actually pretty good at it and I beat her twice.
Monday was another 5:30 wake up for another baseball game. This time the entire school went because it was the semi finals and I got to see everyone from 1A again. This time however, we lost. It was pretty upsetting and I felt really bad for the team, remember how it felt to put everything you had into a game and still loose. It’s tough and the entire school seemed to feel it.
I walked Sora with Mitsuru again, but this time we had a bonding experience. It was childish, but childish can be really good and I had a great time. He showed me his favorite path to take Sora on and we chucked rocks into the river while we walked. Slowly we started picking up bigger rocks and hurling them ungracefully into the water. We also had a little competition to see who could throw a rock further (we both got it across the river so it was a tie.) We made Sora an umbrella hat out of a large leaf and tucked it into his collar so he actually walked with it. We caught frogs and small grass hoppers. We had a sword fight with some dead plants, but Mitsuru’s kept breaking so I was the winner by default. We found a broken stick (much better for sword fights), but could only find one, so we took turns fighting a tree, throwing the branch back and forth.
Tuesday I was going to go on a bike ride and go shopping, but it wound up raining the entire day so I couldn’t go. I just kind of had a lazy day at home, spending time with Nonoka and Mitsuru.
Wednesday I went to the place where my host mother works. She is the head nurse at an old folks home and they were having some special volunteer activities. They sung traditional Japanese songs. I could sing along to the one’s written in hiragana, but the one’s with a lot of kanji were too difficult.
Today was completely full. I went to my host mother’s work again. I got to dress in my yukata and dance traditional oban festival dances. I actually knew one of them and I quickly picked up the other ones. Some people from another local news paper interviewed me and took a lot of pictures.
Afterward, I went back to school for the last time. I thanked all the teachers and the principle for taking care of me during my time at Homei.
I had some time to kill after that, so I actually went shopping (and bought things this time) and I had a simple lunch. I played the taiko game some more (it’s really addicting, we really need to have it in America.) At 4 I meet with some girl’s from the English club and went to Itoku. I challenged Saki to the Taiko game and we did purikura with five people (which is a ver tight squeeze, we didn’t all make it into every picture.) At 5 we meet the rest of the English club for karaoke. It was a farewell to the third years party. I had lots of fun with them and was glad to sped time with them before leaving. Saki got really teary when it was time to go and gave me lots of hugs. Momoka waited with me until my host father picked me up (I rode my bike around all day, but they didn’t want me riding home in the dark.) Everyone is so sweet, I’m really, really going to miss them so, so, so much.
Sorry I haven’t written in over a week. Everything has been very busy and very tiring.
Monday at school was just a normal day, attending a few English classes and sticking with my class. After school though, I was sitting down at the dinner table reading when my family told me I would be cold. Confused, I couldn’t understand why I’d be cold until Mitsuru said “レストラン” (resutoran, which is restaurant). We were going out for dinner. So I changed into a pair of jeans and a tshirt and we were out the door, leaving dinner for grandpa. He doesn’t seem to come out with us, I guess because of his bad foot or maybe because it’s too late. Anyway, we went to one of those sushi restaurants where the food goes around on a conveyer belt. You could also order food off this touch screen TV and it would come around on a raised platform, the TV making a little noise when it did to tell you it was yours. Most things just naturally come around on the belt, but it’s good for people like Nonoka and I who don’t like wasabi on our sushi. When we got home it was actually past nine, so I was ushered into the shower while Nonoka and Mitsuru started their homework. The rest of the night was quiet.
Tuesday Martin and I had a special Japanese culture class. We had two women come to the school and in the library they taught us how to properly serve tea. There are so many steps, I’m not sure how I remember them all because at the end I had to serve tea to Narita-sensei (an English teacher and the woman in charge of the exchange students at my school). I can barely remember any of the steps now, but it was really fun.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday Martin and I visited a local junior high school, which is actually pretty close to our school. Wednesday and Thursday morning Narita-sensei drove us due to the rain, but we had to walk on Friday. Part of the way there, the schools ALT (assistant language teacher) happened to drive by and gave us a ride the rest of the way. At the junior high school we went to different English classes as well as a calligraphy class and a PE class. The kids were really energetic and asked us lots of questions.
Saturday was pretty relaxed during the day, but the night was something special. My host mother’s younger brother was visiting with his fiancee, so we had a large dinner at my host mother’s parent’s house. It was a very traditional and very delicious dinner. I also got to wear my yukata afterward because we were taking pictures.
Sunday was also pretty relaxed. I got to go to the museum at which my host father works. The building used to be a school, which you can’t tell if you just look around the ground floor, but it is very clear from the second floor and up. Since my host father works at the museum, I also got to see all of the back rooms, where they are restoring artifacts and other things like that. There was a small festival Sunday night, but the constant rain put a damper on it. Not a lot of people showed up and the ground was very muddy. It was still lots of fun. I caught goldfish with a paper net, ate a crepe, and walked around a lot.
Monday was a holiday, so we had the day off of school. YFU had a barbecue for all of the exchange students in the area. The food was really good and it was nice to see all the kids that came with me to Japan again and meet all of the year long students. It was a torrential down pour though, so it was cut short. My family and I went to an onsen (hot springs) near by. It was really relaxing because the water was hot. The rain had let up to a light drizzle, so it cooled you down nicely outside of the water.
Today was the first nice day in a week. Martin and I had another special Japanese culture class. I learned how to put on my yukata by myself and we made flower arrangements. They were very pretty, though I’ve felt like bugs are crawling on me ever since, and we gave them to the principle and the teacher’s room as gifts. Today was also my last English club. We didn’t do anything in particular, just hung out and talked mostly.
Well, that’s all for now.
Wednesday at school was pretty normal, nothing out of the ordinary really, but it was a day where neither Nonoka and I had a club. Having a lot of time to kill, a good two hours, we decided to go to the large Itoku near school. Not close enough to walk though, so we took the bus.
In Japan, or at least in Odate, you get on the bus in the back and exit in the front. You also pay when you are getting off the bus instead of when you are getting on. When you get on, you get a ticket with a number on it. Everyone who gets on at the stop has the same number and it is also on an electronic board in the front of the bus that has the price on it. Then when you get off, you put the ticket and money into a collector at the front.
So, this Itoku (there are a ton of them around) is three floors high. The first floor just being a super market, the second floor a clothing store, and the third floor has a bunch of different things, including an arcade section. That is where Nonoka and I spent our time. We played a few games and took pictures in one of the purikura machines. Purikura machines for people who dont know are a lot like a regular photo booth, but it automatically fixes your skin and makes your eyes bigger. You also can add writing and stamps and things to the photos after.
On Thursday and Friday Martin and I visited a local elementary school. On Thursday the teacher in charge of foreign exchange students at my school drove us, but on Friday we took the train. Thursday we spent with the fifth and sixth years and Friday was given to the first, second, third, and forth years. On Thursday we partook in their English classes since their teaching assistant was there. We helped read the English in the text book and played a introduction game with one class. The game was pretty simple, but all the kids seemed to really enjoy it. They would ask us questions, simple do you like questions and then had to guess if we did or not before we gave our answers. The other class was learning directions, so we started by reading different names of places, such as Park and Hospital. Then we played Simon Says with directions, turn left, turn right, walk straight. After that, each table was assigned a location and one student had to be lead by the class to an assigned location using English. I had a great time and all the kids were really cute.
When we got back to school Nonoka had a club, so I hung out with Saki. We went to Eon, another department store in the area, and ate ice cream before doing Purikura. We wound up staying a little too late and had to run back to school so that I would be on time. It was difficult talking to Saki, but we managed with a lot of miming and broken speech.
So, on Friday Martin and I meet at the train station and made is there without any problem. The trains in Japan are all really nice and comfortable. Our teacher picked us up at the station (her sons go the to elementary school we were visiting) and drove us the rest of the way. From there Martin and I split up, each visiting different classes. I started with the forth years and worked my way down and he started with the first years and worked his way up. Each class was different and each teacher wanted me to do different things. The forth years sung and played their recorders for me before doing introductions. They were all really nervous, so I introduced myself in Japanese and we played a game so that they would relax a little. The third years were writing letters, but they got to ask me questions for ten minutes before they started real work. The second year class was the same basically, they got to ask me questions and then had art class. The first years were having a math class and they were the only class I didnt get to interact with at all.
We were supposed to take a bus to the train and then take the train back to Odate, but one of the teachers from the school drove us back instead. It was really nice of her. We had English Club like every Friday and we folded origami.
Alright, so on the second day of the school festival is when everyone gets to walk around and see the other classes decorations. People from around town and other schools also all come and visit, just like they watch the parade. There is also live music from school bands and local vendors selling ice cream. Some clubs have their owns rooms as well and some put on events. The Tea Ceremony Club offered tea ceremonies for 100 yen and the Cooking Club was selling cookies and the madeleines that I helped make.
It was dreadfully hot though and the large amount of people in the school building just added to the heat, but it was such an amazing time.
After everyone left and there were only the students again, the closing ceremony were held. The gym, packed full of all the students, was like a sauna. The awards were announced and Im not 100% sure what we won, but 1A came in second for something and first for something else. There was more singing and lots of dances preformed during the ceremony, which were really good. I couldnt bring myself to smush into the mass of jumping, clapping bodies though. It was just too hot.
Lots of kids had plans after the festival, but Nonoka, my host mother, and I went to a 100 yen shop. They really are fun to look around and spend time in.
Okay, so I have a ton to write about. Really a ton, since I haven’t written anything basically all week.
Tuesday and Wednesday were regular school days. Not understanding most of the classes and spending my time doing summer reading or practicing Japanese. We had home economic on Wednesday and that was great. You don’t need language when you have picture instructions and I like sewing
After school on Tuesday there was English Club. I helped bag jelly beans for the school festival and answered more questions about my self. Saki and Momoka, two third years who seem to have taking a liking to me, are really nice and we exchanged contact information. Martin and I tried to explain what clumsy was, but there just didn’t seem to be a word for it in Japanese.
Wednesday after school was…(insert dramatic music here)…COOKING CLUB!!! That was also a ton of fun. The instructions were in Japanese and no one knew much English, but pointing and miming got us through. We baked madeleines and they were delicious.
I’m really not used to people giving me things, but I will literally be walking down a hallway and have things thrust at me. I was walking with some classmates because they wanted to buy a drink from the vending machine and just as we got down there two boys were purchasing some strawberry milk. To one of the boys luck, two were dispensed and unlucky for him, everyone wanted the second. I just hung back, watching and quiet, but he walked over to me and put it into my hands and as I quickly shouted out “ありがとう！” ran off with his friend. I’m just not used to people paying that much extra attention to me.
The entirety of Thursday was spent preparing for the school festival. I learned my classes dance, which I’ll have to figure out a way to explain to you all, and helping anyone who needed it. We sewed together the last of the costumes and painted. I stayed afterwards to help more. We needed some things from the dollar store, so my friend Maho and I biked there. I don’t ride a bike to school, since my family lives out in the suburbs (I would equate Hinai to Odate as Westchester is to New York City, just on a smaller scale), so I borrowed a classmates. The bike ride was really great, Maho and I talked a lot despite the language difficulties. We picked up supplies at the 100 yen store, which was a blast to look around, and some food at the convent store before biking back.
Friday was spent half in the theater and half preparing for the festival. It was really interesting to watch the Japanese play, but I will admit after an hour it was hard to follow and, like many of the other students, I dozed off I’m the dark and air conditioned theater. (The weather has become quite hot and humid). Back at school we painted, sewed, and danced more. After we did the same thing. I still have blue spray paint on my hands that I can’t get off.
Then today, Saturday, the first day of the festival. My friend Ume (who is really talented) did my hair, braiding two small sections off to the side and pulling it all into a low side ponytail. Normally I hate side ponytails, but the way she did it was not only cute, but rather beautiful. Then I changed into my costume, which lead to me being stared and awed and kawaiied at even more then usual. (I’ll send some photos when I can.) We all just kind of hung out in the classroom for a while, occasionally practicing the dance again. I had no idea what I had signed myself up for. Not everyone gets dressed up and while the entire class learns the dance, not everyone actually dances it. I danced, I danced on front of the entire school…in costume. I was so nervous when I realized what was going on. I’m just so glad we weren’t first. It was a strange order of seconds years, then first, then third years.
They also video taped it. Some of the dance were so amazing, I wish I could get access to the footage.
After the dancing, we all ate lunch. Then I was in for another surprise. The kids who were the costumes and some who don’t, march around Odate in a parade. It was so hot, I’m glad people shared their drinks and I’m very glad I didn’t get sunburned. By the time we got back to school, the day was almost over. We spent the last forty minutes of the day lounging around and relaxing before getting back to work after school. The classroom is ready for tomorrow now, when everyone will come and visit.
Tonight I walked Sora (the dog) with my host father. I really love the country side. It’s so nice and peaceful. After dinner I learned that the Shinto Shrine down the road was having a special ceremony today. Biking over, my host father and I partook (his brother is in change of the shrine.) It was really interesting. My host father’s brother’s child was there too. She’s three and absolutely adorable. I don’t know why, but biking at night has always appealed to me. I love biking in general, but biking at night is even better. We took the field road home since the main road has a lot of turns that leave drivers blind to what’s around the bend. It was beautiful. Biking under the moon with small lights brightening the road right in front of the bike. The frogs croaked and the water trickling along the rice irrigation. The first fire flies floating through the night air. It was just another one of those movie moments.
I’m curled up in bed now. I’m going to get to sleep early so that I can have lots of energy tomorrow.
To give some perspective about the heat and amount of time everyone has been in school this week.
A lot of the drinks in the vending machines were put yesterday, so they got refilled mid day. Buy the time I left to go home, almost everything was sold out again.
Sunday was really fun. The morning was really relax, well at least for me since I dont have any school work. I read and played pokemon while Nonoka and Mitsuru studied. Since the school festival is this coming weekend, everyone is really busy. Nonoka invited me to go with her to her friends house and help them. We biked over and stayed for at least four hours. Japanese bikes are really cool. Instead of using a bike lock, each bike has a key and without the key the wheels will not turn. If you loose the key you are in trouble, but you dont have to lug around a bike lock with you. At Nonokas friends house I helped them create their hairbands and sew lace onto their aprons. Then watched as they learned their dance moves.
Biking home was so beautiful, you could put it into any movie. The sun was setting on one side painting the sky shades of orange and pink while the moon rose on the other. We biked down a small country road and completely surrounded by rice fields and mountains. The sounds of crickets and frogs went along with the creak of our bikes. It was just a great moment.
We ate a delicious dinner at home. It consisted of a savory pancake type thing, which I forget the name of, but was very good.
Okay, since this is getting long, I am going to hurry up.
Today was my first real school day. Since I don:t know that much Japanese, I:m not expected to participate in class and am allowed to read or study quietly. The day started with Math and then P.E. I:m not sure if it is just now, but P.E. class was more of a dance class. The school basically sends me around to different English classes, so that I can help and get to know more kids then just my class. I also had art today. The choice was art or music and since Im not musically inclined, I choose art. Well, Im not saying it was a mistake, but everyone in Japan seems to be good at drawing and well, to put it bluntly, I suck at it. Drawing is just not my thing.
Club today was Tea Ceremony. Everyone was really nice and the green tea was a tad bitter, but overall very delicious. I couldnt take any pictures today, but if I go again (and I probably will) Ill take them. Everyone asks me a ton of questions and we seem to make it past the language barrier. Tomorrow is English club again and Wednesday is cooking. I can:t wait!
My hair looks horrid, I am very sorry about that. These were taken after the ball competition, so it wasnt very clean. Bleh. One of my friends made that bow, it is so pretty. She is very talented.