Monday - 3 Feb 2003
Day 20 (Monday)
Today there was some big bean-throwing-eating holiday-festival-thing. I.m sure that description was not entirely helpful, so I.ll try again. It.s called Mamemake (bean-something, I wasn.t really paying attention when someone translated it for me). The idea is to get these beans and throw them out the door to chase away the Oni (devils) and bring in the good luck. Summary: in with the good, out with the bad. In with the love, out with the jive.
My family.s celebration was really funny. I took a break from my studies to watch the four-year old don the paper Oni mask that came with the beans. The father then opened the door and stood in the genkan while chucking the beans outside. Then he turned around and threw beans at the family in the house. Really funny. Then he stopped and started looking for the Oni. Following the sound of giggles, he found the Oni hiding in the laundry room and chased the giggling devil outside. It was really funny and really cute. The whole thing took about 5 minutes and then I ate 21 beans. That.s a lot of beans, but you.re supposed to eat your age in beans. Oy.
Day 21 (Tuesday)
Dinner today was quite interesting. We had octopus and shrimp and rolled our own sushi-type rolls. My family and I were having problems with food definitions. They think a lobster is a big shrimp. I, on the other hand, see the lobster as a lobster. When they asked me what the difference was, I told them that shrimp are just water-bugs. We laughed. Then they told me that I was eating the head of the octopus. Riiiiight. I.m not a big fan of the idea of eating anything.s head. It.s not a big problem, but I.d rather not be told. Then they reneged and said it wasn.t the head, but the part above the head (a.k.a the stomach). Yeah, like I.m gonna believe that. If you ask me, once you.re above the mouth, it.s all head. We got out my little brother.s octopus book and they were right, but even so. Yada (gross).
Day 22 (Wednesday)
Lately, my host parents have been commenting on how I must be a great student because I study all the time. They asked how much I studied at my American university. When I told them my old schedule, they told me that I need to relax. What the hell...I.m into trying new things!
I spent most of the night playing Pokemon with my brother and playing make-over with my sister...simultaneously (yeah, I.m supposed to be relaxing, but that doesn.t mean I can.t multi-task). I had a good time and then went to my room and studied until about midnight-thirty. Not bad for me. I should relax more often.
For dinner we had sukiyaki. Mmmm. Veggies, noodles, and beef simmering in right in front of me. It was great. Yesterday, I burned my tongue beyond recognition on some udon (thick white noodles), so it was pretty much touch and go with the sukiyaki.
Day 23 (Thursday)
I have fallen prey to the stationary stores of Nagoya. I was celebrating the completion of my oral presentation and paper in Business class by exploring the neighborhood around campus.
The presentation itself was fine. I was mad because I couldn.t do my customary color visual aides and handouts. Japanese doesn.t really do the Kinko.s-thing. I had enough trouble working the copy-machine. The paper itself was written the day before...not so stressful. However, while I was doing the presentation, a guy in the back of the class got this little sneer on his face and started murmuring something to the girl next to him. So, I stopped talking mid-sentence and stared his butt DOWN. Everyone turned around and looked at him and he apologized. Then I moved on and fielded questions. Fun fun. After class I told him that I hadn.t meant to stare him down, but I had broken my train of thought, had panicked, and then frozen. Right. I don.t panic over oral reports. They.re fun. Lesson learned: don.t screw around during my presentation.
I really do like the guy that I stared down. He.s a lot of fun, so take this journal entry with a grain of salt. I just didn.t know him very well
So, aaaaaaanyways, I went into this stationary store and became paralyzed by cuteness. I spent 20 minutes just looking at stamps. I wanted to buy them all though I have absolutely no reason to use them. Now, I feel bad for all the students who carry around the cute, little notebooks and pencil pouches. It.s not their faults that they spend all of their money on stationary. They can.t help it. It.s like a sickness. It took every ounce of self-restraint I had not to only leave the store with some batteries. I don.t know why they were selling batteries there, but at least I got out alive and with a full wallet.
Day 24 (Friday)
This may be the last time I get to update the site for a little over a week. School is going on break until the 16th and I don.t use the computer at home. Just the thought of leaving my e-mail behind makes me want to hyperventilate.
During my week off, I.m contemplating going to Takayama early next week. I hear that it.s beautiful and has great onsens (Japanese bath-things). It would probably be an overnight trip. The main focus of my vacation will be the nearby Naked Man Festival. Oh yeah. Supposedly there are a bunch of drunken, loincloth wearing men running around and chasing a lone naked man. This is gonna be interesting. I.ll be bringing my camera so that I can share with you all the, uhhh, special-ness of this event. I have the feeling it.s not going to be pretty, but who could pass up the socially-sanctioned pursuit of a naked dude?
So, I had a little spill my first week in Nagoya, but I.ve finally healed! I was riding home from the train station after dark when I was nearly taken out by some guy on a motorcycle. I got out of his way, but I rode into a bush and narrowly avoided a sewer (there are these 6-inch ditches on the sides of the roads). There.s only so much maneuvering you can do on a Japanese bike. He stopped to ask if I was alright and then zoomed away. I was a little bruised, but no biggie.
Do you remember how when you were in Kindergarten, you.re class had a fish...or maybe a hamster? Or, if you.re school was especially cool, a little yellow chick? Well, on my way to the station today I was passing a pre-school when I heard a suspicious crowing. I stopped to look around and, lo-and-behold, there was a rooster in a little house. I got a fish, they get a rooster. Is there no end to the injustice in the world? Maybe one day I.ll get my own rooster...
Day 25 (Saturday)
Okay, the cute child act is beginning to wear thin. I.m not really in a mood to play, but the 4-year-old bouncing around me seems oblivious to my lack of attention. Maybe she.ll give up (not likely) or maybe I.ll snap out of my bad mood (also not likely). grrr.
So, I gave into peer-pressure today. This rarely happens. Everyone here has a cellphone so, instead of being asked if I had a cell phone, I was just asked the number. Repeatedly...day after day, week after week. Gaman dekinakatta! (I couldn.t bear it!) I got a pre-paid phone so that I could send e-mail, take pictures, and get people off my back. Taking pictures with it is a lot of fun. Man, how I love technology. I didn.t give into the pressure to get a real phone, so at least I have that going for me. Even so, I.m such a wuss...
The trip to Takayama is a go. I.m in charge of getting us there. We may be in more trouble than I thought.
Day 26 (Sunday)
I made the reservations for our bus to Takayama this afternoon. Mostly in Japanese and a little bit in English. I was perfectly willing to struggle through in Japanese, but the receptionist had other ideas. Luckily, she could only translate a little. After I hung up the phone, I felt so competent. I.m celebrating by study-breaking on the veranda, taking in the sights and sounds. It.s a beautiful day (which means it.s also laundry day). My view of Nepia is perfect.
There is an evil presence in my house. First it attacked my brother, then my sister, and now it.s possessed my host mom. They call it a cold, but it looks more like pneumonia to me. I.ve been mikan-loading (mikan=a kind of orange) The kids having been taking drugs since my first week here. poor little siblings.
Day 26, cont.d - Visiting the Doctor
I.m not completely sure how medicine works in Japan, but I have a theory (based on observing my host family) I don.t have all the facts, but this is what I think happens.
*First you get sick.
Maybe it.s from people on the train breathing on you, maybe it.s because there.s no hot water/soap in public restrooms, or maybe it.s because you tried the natto. Regardless, you.re in pain. (on the upside, if you.re an exchange student, you can use this opportunity to learn the words for fever, puke, and amoebic dysentery. it.s always time to learn!)
*You go to the doctor.
He/she gives you a prescription for medicine looking suspiciously like orange Pixie Stick powder. Of course, you can.t be sure that.s what it is because the doctor isso busy and there.s no label on the package (which looks suspiciously like a wax paper teabag).
*You take the medicine.
It tastes suspiciously like an orange Pixie Stick. You wait to get better.
*You don.t get better.
You do, however, get a sugar-high every time take your medicine. Hmmm...
*You go back to the doctor.
He switches you from orange powder to neon green powder. Yes! The COLOR must have been the problem! He tosses some unmarked pills at you. Yeah, you can just feel your comfort level rising now. As you leave you notice several brown boxes stacked in a corner labeled in Katakana. By now you.re too sick to be sure of your Japanese reading skills, but it looks suspiciously like "Pikushii Sutikku".
*Eventually, you get better. Maybe.
I can.t be sure that this is what always happens, but from what I.ve noticed, I can.t be far off. This is not to say that Japanese medicine is any worse than American medicine, though. I.m not such a fan of people taking medication that they cannot identify, but that may be better than Americans being over-medicated by drug-happy doctors in the US. Six of one, half-a-dozen of the other.