Sunday, May 26, 2013

We are GPA!

Here is a quick blurb-y update!

My archery club had a 試合 (game) today. Found out after arriving that our competitor was Waseda. For the record, Waseda is MAYBE a twenty minute walk from Japan Women's University. Why we had our competition 45 minutes away from either school is beyond me. But, moving on....

Today was pretty awesome. We shot outdoors. On an honest to goodness field. No rooftops for us today! It wasn't too windy and, despite the heat on the way there this morning it ended up being really nice by the time we started shooting. Also, despite the weather forecast site I check, it did not rain on us! Thank goodness!! We shot 12 times (13, but round 1 was practice) with 3 arrows each time. So max 30 for each round. I'll let you do the math. Not saying I did spectacular, but I'm feeling pretty proud of my 239. Granted, we only shot from 10 meters, but I'll take what awesome I can get.

I also had one of those 外人 (gaijin - foreigner) moments today. If you're a 外人, you'll know what I mean. Basically when I arrived at Shinkiba station to wait for the rest of my archery club before heading to the location I saw some other 外人. Now, this isn't a big deal. It's one of those, spot other foreigners, have a kind of yay-I'm-not-the-only-外人 moment and move on with your day. Okay, so, there's more to it than that, I just can't explain it. Anyways, I figured they were just tourists or, well, 外人 who lived in the area and happened to be at the station.

Anyways. Fast forwarding about a half hour or so, I suddenly turn around and have a "Where are you from?" asked to me. Yep. Same 外人. Best moment of the day, finding out that there are other 外人 there in the competing club. Naturally, it was awesome. New friendship occured.

New friends Beverly and Mike. Beverly and I aided and abetted destroying the face of this target at my first competition.

Oh, and just so I never forget this.

"We are the Gaijin Protection Agency!"
"The GPA!"
"What's the GPA?"
"We are GPA!"

Thanks for having my back and covering my flanks there guys!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


The title says it all. やっぱり, as I thought, my diagnosis is shin splints. On both legs. So, there isn't anything the doctor can really do for it. I was told no running or jumping for 3-4 weeks until it heals. So much for having rejoined volleyball. >.< Looks like I'm stuck setting (which I'm terrible at) and serving the majority of the time with some passing and hitting thrown in. Debating whether or not I should participate in full on practice/games or if that would be too much stress on my legs and prevent me from healing. Going to cut out running (as best I can) and jumping on Friday and see how I feel afterwards. Diagnosis afterwards. On the other hand, I now look like a mummy in training. Even better? Ninja mummy in training? No? Not feeling it? Hmm....

Supposed to wear these when I go out and when I exercise. >.<
Fashion outcast status here I come.
Oh, for those of you interested, the closest doctor's office to Japan Women's University where they speak some English is called the "Mejiro Orthopedics and Internal Medicine Clinic". Don't be intimidated though. They cover just about everything and they accept your national health insurance. If you're coming from JWU walk past Mejiro station and it'll be just a bit farther than the McDonald's on the left side of the road. If you see a book store you've gone slightly too far.

Which then makes this officially my third doctor's visit. Today included an exam (when the doctor pushed on where it hurt "does this hurt?" I almost yelled at him and instantly started crying, it hurt that bad) where he did an ultrasound on my leg. Good news was that there was no fracture. Then they took me to a separate room and hooked up my legs to this electric current machine thingy. They stuck pads on my legs (like from a portable defibrillator) above and below where it hurt and then turned it on and made me wait for about 8 minutes while it ran. Felt soooo weird. Like. My legs were asleep, but trying to run away in that one spot. Very disconcerting. They then took me to a separate area and taught me how to properly wrap my legs for going out and doing sports. So all that, plus the two bandages and a roll of tape came to a whopping 1,880円. Whoever said national health insurance would be a bad thing in the US needs to go *insert censored suggestions here*. Just about half the price, 980円, went to paying for the bandages and tape that I got to take home.

So, almost 5 months in Japan, 3 trips to the doctor, medical bills still don't exceed $100. Safe to say, I'm entirely pleased with the system.

In other news, I had ikebana again today. I am a little sad and have decided, starting next time, I'm taking before (before sensei looks at it and gives her pointers) and after pictures so a) you can see the difference and b) when the feel I'm going for is totally changed you'll have an idea what I was going for. I say this, because I had my whole thing giving off a foresty vibe until sense cut a couple of my "trees" (the big green poofy ones) in half and moved them. I was indeed sad because it had a totally different feeling in the end. The original reminded me of Oregon. Anyways here is the picture I have.

Next thought. Hydrangea, aren't you a bit early? For some reason my brain is telling me you're a late June bloom at the earliest. Why are you here in May!?! I have the distinct feeling that you definitely shouldn't be hanging around here in May.

Last note, I'm about to be very busy, yet again. In fact. I should be overwhelmingly busy now, but (insert list of excuses here). I have a midterm exam next week. For the class I hate. The last one on Tuesdays for my J501 class. Need to start studying. I just can't stand to look at that class' materials until at least tomorrow evening.

Did I say last note? I lied. Tomorrow I FINALLY get to go see Les Miserables! Going to dress up in the same outfit I had on the first go around two weeks ago and FINALLY see it! In Japanese!!

Unfortunately, this means I will miss the last archery practice before our match this weekend (on Sunday) and I haven't been able to go to the last two either due to 1) financial problems 2) the school loving to schedule mandatory events between 12 & 4 on Thursdays and Thursdays only 3) I didn't know the Sunday location or time and decided to sleep through it. So. We'll see how things go. And also, approximately one month from now I will FINALLY have my own bow and arrow set! I put in the order today, paid in full and it should come in around the end of June. Can't wait!

Okay. Really. That's all now! Have fun!

Oh, wait. Look at awesome candy! If you come to Japan, eat it!


Class time

So. Tuesdays are my least favorite day of the week. Not only are they my longest day (class periods 2-4)(well, Friday's are just as long, but Friday's are fun), but they are my least favorite. Period.

In the interest of fairness and giving today a chance, I did wake up with only 20 minutes to get dressed and arrive at class. So that didn't start so well. But I made it on time!

Anyways, I went to my first class of the day at JWU which was kanji class. Here is the general format. We're broken into 3 sections (mind, there are only 7 of us) based on our "level". I say this in quotes because the only reason I'm bumped up is because of the massive kanji test I took a few weeks back. Arrive, take kanji test which is usually comprised of two chapters (except that one 11 chapter monster). Afterwards look at next two chapters in textbook, read listed words for each kanji, write main kanji 5 times each. This is usually followed by a chapter specific worksheet which is actually just photocopies of about 4-5 pages of the textbook. After working on this a random amount of time, we do kanji flashcards. This consists of the teacher holding up kanji flashcards and us attempting to read kanji we've known for all of 30 minutes. Today was much the same, minus flashcards and we only received one chapter's worth of homework and teacher became magical favorite teacher of the hour because we have no kanji test next week. Yay!

After 2nd period, which lets out at 12:10, Chelsea and I returned to the dorms for lunch. This consisted of miso, rice, fish and massive amounts of tartar sauce with green noodles on the side. Oh, and tea, there's always tea. Anyways, not sure if it was just my body being blarg like it does of late or what, but I ended up not feeling so well afterwards. Chelsea came to my rescue and purchased a ginger ale to help settle things out.

Third period class today was, well, the normal. We go to our teacher's office, which is actually a communal office and thus large, on the 11th floor and watched a couple of videos through NHK. Again, Chelsea came to everyone's rescue and told sensei that the first video, a continuation of a previous lecture we had watched (some kind of linguistics video) was too difficult for us (since we didn't even understand the first one!). So we watched a show about a freelance designer and how her work, well works and one about a copy machine repair dude. Yeah. Joyness and such.

Fourth period is where I start to tear my hair out screaming. I can't blame it all on the teacher. I always feel like I'm a step behind to begin with in that class, but let's just say I feel really stupid in this class. What class is it might you ask? Advanced Japanese reading. This course uses the same J501 book we used back home at the University of Oregon, even if I remember little to none of it. Anyways, long story short, it's a difficult class for me. My reading level isn't all that high when it comes to Japanese. In fact, reading is my worst subject in Japanese. No shame in saying so. What frustrated me so much today I think was that, despite the fact that we have a midterm exam next week, unlike back home where we would have received a "please study vocab, grammar, etc. from pages #-#" or received a detailed list of things we should know it was more of a "Yeah. Know everything from these two chapters."

When confronted with "Okay, what vocab?" it was kind of a "The kanji from the readings." "Reading and writing?" The first entails knowing how to spell the word in hiragana, the second entails knowing how to write the kanji. "Reading only." This is where I pipe up, "Wait, sensei. Last week you told us we had to know the readings AND writing for one of the chapters. Which chapter was that?" "What? No. I never said that. I've always said reading only." Knowing glances shoot across the room. This is the place where the information you receive is never correct and always changing.

"Okay, what else?" Grammar, that kind of stuff. Blah, blah, blah. "Oh, and you'll have questions like in the Q&A and practice sections." "Wait, so what vocab do we need to know for that section?" "All of them?" "All of them." "All the words from kanji or all the words from the kanji section and the Q&A and practice sections?" "All of them." Insert frustrated sigh here. Teacher doesn't see why this is a problem that she's probably just quadrupled our amount of necessary studying with less than a week to go.

Anyways, I really don't like this class. There seems to be no format to it. Unlike back home, none of our classes have syllabi or a schedules so the teachers make it up as they go along, I swear. That makes this class all the more frustrating because it makes it VERY hard to know what to study or just what percentage of our grade this test is worth. I feel like that makes this class very hard because, essentially, there is no format for the teacher to follow which, in turn, leaves us struggling to follow and catch up as she makes it up. I spend most of this class every week near tears ready to run from the room. That's how much I dislike this class, but also just how much it frustrates me.

Only what, about 5-6 more weeks to go?

Time to think positive. And grow wings, via Red Bull while sipping on Monsters so I can get studying done this week. Oh boy. Yeah. This should be fun.

Tomorrow I have speech class. No idea how that's going to play out yet. Afterwards I'm heading to the doctor (I'm pretty sure I have shin splints) so that I can hopefully play volleyball without dying afterwards anymore. This will be followed by a trip out to order my archery gear. Afterwards I have ikebana (so looking forward to it!) and volleyball (depending on the outcome of the doctor's visit). So yeah. Juts my random, long than I thought it would be, spiel. Also just made me realize how busy tomorrow is going to be. Yikes!

For those of you unfamiliar with it's location.
Oh, yeah. And Game of Thrones rocks. The girls and I took a much needed break to watch the new episode.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Marks of Pride

Random list of things I've realized and I'm proud about.

1. I can now read 90% of the kanji in the Part of Your World lyric video on Youtube.

2. I made a lyric video for Part of Your World in hiragana and romaji fo those who can't read the kanji.

3. I can understand the announcements on the trains! Well, 90% of the time anyways. Seriously, those things might as well have been Greek when I first arrived. 

4. 90% on an 11 chapter kanji test.

5. I've lost weight since getting to Japan. You were right mom, studying abroad = world's most expensive diet. But hey, it's working!!

6. I now own all the X-Men movies. In Japanese.

7. In the process of making an yukata by hand.

Yep. That's about all I wanted to say. Enjoy your day!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bees, flowers and fees

After a run in with a Japanese bee this morning I'm obligated by my survival instinct to run screaming and flailing and to warn you all. Run. Okay, that said, seriously. If you think bees back home in the U.S. are scary, make it four times larger and then you'll be comparable to a Japan sized bee. Yeah, like I said, run. The girls I was with understandably screamed when, as bees do, it seemed intent on terrorizing our group.

Japanese bee. These things are massively scary and whoever took
this picture.... steel... they're made of steel. That's all I can say.

While we're talking about bugs, the mosquitoes here also seem about twice as large, and I've recently done battle with them. I was forced to retreat from the confrontation and am currently sporting battle wounds. Long story short, ladies, those of you looking to live in the Japan Women's University dorms, that nice looking garden area with the benches is an ambush laid out by the mosquitoes. Be warned.

Oh, and apparently mosquito season in Japan is supposed to be around the same time as rainy season. May is also apparently cold season. As in cough, cough, hack, hack. Go forth and good luck.
I'd like to proclaim, not too loudly of course, that my second ever flower arrangement was much better than the first. Granted, the first one was a normal arrangement you could buy anywhere. Yesterday's arrangement was my first ever shot at ikebana, or Japanese flower arrangement.

My first ever arrangement - At JWU

My first ever arrangement - At JWU

Reminds me of a swamp, but I love it.

Next up club (have I mentioned that I joined 3?), archery. Now, there is a lot to cover with archery. By far it's my favorite club (though i love volleyball too), though that being said, it's also the most expensive.

Here is a quick lesson I learned. Don't believe anything you're told the first time you ask. Ok, that's a little harsh. Just be prepared when you come abroad that, while you may be given "all" the information up front, unlike in the U.S. (at least in my experience) where it's unlikely to change because everyone would throw hissy fits, it's liable to be wrong, to change or to be completely inaccurate. So, take everything with a grain of sand and be warned that the information you receive is likely to change.

Back to archery.

A couple weekends ago we had our big overnight outing to welcome all the first years (which is where exchange students tend to fall, regardless of academic standing). The cost for this was 6000 円 ($60). We had a big photo scavenger hunt thing, but my group decided to hang out by the Sky Tree followed by lunch at Jojoen, the best yakiniku restaurant  around I'm told. It's also a tad pricey and ran about 1, 800 円 ($18) for the lunch special. Awesome sempai (you know, I'm not actually sure about who is sempai or whatnot because I'm a fourth and thus older than almost everyone in the club, but yet I always get lumped with the freshman) picked up the tab.

Afterwards we all headed to the ryokan and, after bento dinners and ofuro, played some getting to know each other games and then had a nomikai.

So that was one (optional) fee. Next up is the club fee for the year, 10, 500円 ($105), though I might be wrong. On top of this is a 400円 fee everytime we practice.

Remember what I said about wrong information? Yeah, I was told before joining that bow and arrows, etc would run about 20, 000円, cool, two hundred dollars, I can do that. Turns out, if I pay in monthly installments the price is $1, 200, but if I pay in one lump sum it's $800. Someone out there is looking out for me however and I met a new girl in my class today who not only was part of the same club, but no longer wants to do it so she is going to self me all of her stuff for about $250. Considering the sight alone was roughly that much, I'll take it. It also cuts down what I need to buy to arrows, the wood bits on the bow and a string (because our heights and draw weight/length are different). Yay to new friend Juri! Oh, and it's pink and purple.

I think that about wraps this segment up. Sorry for any recapping (and sorry for more apologies) and see you around!

Edit: Almost forgot. It's been bought to my attention that the few of you who receive email newsletters haven't been receiving them. I'm working on difficult this problem! Sorry about this!


So, I'm pretty sure by this point that you  all are losing faith in my ability to update! Sorry about that! I promise to try to be more diligent (and to try to stop apologizing so much - sorry!).

Moving on, it's now officially the second week of May, otherwise known as week 6 of spring term. back home this would probably signal the end (or the middle) of midterms, but what that means on a semester schedule is that they're still two weeks out and everyone is starting to feel like the teachers hate us. Okay, so it's not THAT bad, but still, the clock is a ticking'.

This month has been a difficult month in terms other than school. I'm going to veer from my normal course of talking about Japan things and put in a note on my personal life (as if this whole thing isn't).

As some of you know, when I came abroad my fiance stayed behind back home waiting for me. Hold your congratulations please. This was a very difficult thing for the both of us and caused a strain both in our personal day to day lives and on our relationship. We've been playing a sort of tug of war in staying together. Long distance relationships are in no way easy, nor are they for everyone. We learned years ago when I was a bright eyed-bushy tailed freshman going to school two hours (nothing compared to now) away from home with no license or any way to pop on home, that we were very bad at "long distance" relationships.

Boy if we had only know.

So, as you've probably inferred by now, after months of struggling to make things work while I'm here, we've parted ways. Now, to be fair, it's not only because I'm currently abroad that things have ended, but because I want to return and live in Japan after graduation and not just for a year next time. I'd like to set up camp here for a few years at least.
So, that being said, of course I'm sad. Being so far from home and from friends and family has not made this transition easier. My friends who are here have been very supportive in trying to help me through it, but there is no substitute for your best friend, your mom or Ben and Jerry's.

This past week I have come back to school after a week long hiatus and I'm putting the pieces back together. I have a lot of things to do and to look forward to so it is time to stitch myself up, put my brave face back on and move forward. I'm hoping this post will help me do so.

So, stay tuned, the rest of life's updates to come.

Also, I don't want to scare those of you who are in relationships away from going abroad. There are plenty of people out there who can and do make long distance relationships last. I'm just not the one to ask for advice.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Hey guys, it's been a while since I've updated the blog. Sorry about that! Since my last update I've become a fan of The Game of Thrones complete with viewing marathons.
Game of Thrones marathon with Domino's and a Coke.
There was also a very Whovian day.

Kudos if you know what's going on.
I made my very first flower arrangement, though it wasn't a Japanese arrangement, but a normal one for Mother's Day. It's kind of bad, but here it is.

Mother's day flower arrangement.
The Wisteria have come and gone.

The wisteria in front of Mejiro Station.
Then, in an apparently almost unheard of circumstance, Iron Man 3 released in Japan about a week before it did back home. First time in a Japanese movie theater. Apparently, when you buy your ticket you have a seat reserved for you. I was super surprised at the assigned seating in he theater. The movie was in English with Japanese subtitles for those of you who are wondering. Some parts of the translation seemed a bit off to me, so it was kind of interesting.

Free stuff at the Iron Man 3 showing.
Doing the Iron Man pose.
The time for joining clubs has also happened. I unfortunately quit Tea Ceremony for two reasons. One is that I am very pressed for time with all my classes and the other three clubs. Also, I can't sit in Japanese style (正座) for more than a few minutes. Japanese style is sitting on your knees for the record.

A tennis club meeting in Takadanobaba at the rotary. A popular place for clubs to meet up apparently.
I also made a trip to the Costco for the first time. I'm going to admit that I very nearly cried in the Costco. It was just like being in the Costco back home. Almost all the products and brands were identical to those back home with a spattering of Japanese brands among them.

Kawasaki, Japan Costco
Japan Costco
Japan Costco
Japan Costco
Japan Costco
Japan Costco
Hot dog and Chocolate Raspberry Sundae at the Costco.
Last week was Golden Week. A string of holidays all lined up. I stayed out at Kimika's house and Mika came to visit from Kobe.

Purikura with the girls.
I also had the big welcome party for Archery. We all met up on Saturday and were split into groups. From there we were supposed to go on a photo scavenger hunt, but my group decided to just go visit the Sky Tree and hang out. We couldn't go up because it was so busy due to Golden Week.

Do the Sky Tree. - With Kyoka at Tokyo Skytree.
We also ate lunch at a restaurant called Jojoen which is apparently one of the best Yakiniku restaurants around. It was really yummy. :)

Lunch set at Jojoen.
Afterwards we all went to the Ryokan and had bento dinners. After ofuro everyone met up again and played some games. One of the games we played was called the 1/10th game. Basically we were split into 10 teams and each team would choose one person to go sit at the front table. Then each team would ask a question with a goal of asking a yes or no question in which only one person in the 10 answered yes. There were some other games too, but I can't really recall how they went.

The girls I shared a room with.
The next day I headed off to see Les Miserables after a round of purikura.

However, in a sad turn of events the day's performance was cancelled because one of the main cast had been injured. "But there's an understudy for those instances right?" I know, I know, I said the same thing. I purchased a ticket for another day and will try again on the 23rd to go see it. In the meantime I need to go through the return process for the first ticket to get my refund.

Les Miserables at the Imperial Theater in Tokyo.
Just before my hopes are dashed.
But hey, since the show was cancelled I got a free cast signature thing.
So that's the long and short of this past month. :)