Sunday, May 11, 2014

Strike 1 Japan

For those of you who are reading the title and now dying to know what could possibly cause me to give Japan a strike-let me put your curiosity at rest.
Since coming to Japan I've noticed a few things that are rather odd about this country. Like how I used my first squat toilet the other day. Why was that ever a thing?  Or how you have to separate your garbage (that's not so bad) but then you have to pay for the little bags to get it collected. Or even how they love cleanliness here but refuse to put out garbage bins anywhere so you are just stuck lugging your trash around. These things are definitely note worthy but they don't cause me to wonder as much as these next few questions. I feel I can't go much longer without having them answered...
1-Why do the guys carry around purses? I'm not saying they probably aren't useful for them, but it's definitely throwing me off.
2-Why are the forks and spoons so small here? I don't understand. At all. Just look at this thing! (The one on the left is a normal sized fork and the one on the right is what everyone actually uses.) Luckily, we use chop sticks for just about everything.
3-But what's really got me is why ISN'T CHOCOLATE MILK A THING HERE? I tried to ask one of my students where it was in the grocery store and he looked at me like I had just made that up.  This is crazy. Luckily I've been getting by on substitutes. This is some cocoa mix that they sell at the store. It's not quite the same thing, but it gets the job done. Here is the beginning of what I can see turning into quite a large collection.

Anyway, I'm through ranting about chocolate milk-onto all of my adventures!

 So I stopped last week's blog on Saturday which was obviously a mistake since that day was just full of stories to tell.  My parents took me and two of the daughters to a place called Lagoon which is a combination (mini) water park and onsen. This is what the water park looked like. (I'm pretty convinced it's actually for kids but, hey, who's going to complain about going to a water park when it only costs $6?...Or, just in general, who would complain about going to a water park?)
 So enjoy these photos. Especially the one of us and the polar bear. 
Little did I know that after the water park the actual adventure began. Turns out, that I forgot a major component of what an onsen is - 'public bath house.' Boy was that awkward (It was separated by gender, obviously, but still so awkward.) But I guess it's pretty fun to have that experience under my belt. (Although I'm rather glad it's already taken care of and not something I still need to experience.) Despite my constant awkwardness, it was actually really pretty. Obviously I didn't take pictures while we were all there, but here are some from the website. These windows were open so you could feel the fresh air and see the pretty view while relaxing in the hot water. I actually really enjoyed that part. Plus I went to my first Sauna. That was definitely on my bucket list.

 Let's see, I've started biking to work every day and it's so pretty outside. This way I will really be able to explore Sapporo. (Although it's nice to have the option of the subway if I need it.) These are a few of the things I see on my way to and from work. There are always mountains around to look at. Plus I bike over this river every day on a bridge that has some random German name.

 This bottom picture is one I really love. There's a little river I bike by and the cherry blossoms are still in bloom as well as some random tulips. It's so fantastic. Biking is the best.

  So, let me try to summarize my week since this is already kind of long.  I went to my first Japanese library and got my own library card.  Good thing I'm so good at reading in Japanese. (Yes, that is sarcasm for those of you who have trouble recognizing it on the computer.) However, it is still pretty exciting. I love libraries.)  I also went and saw the cherry blossoms. This time I went with the bishop, his wife and son, the bishop's brother-in-law (who is also in my English class), and my teaching partner Adrian. I'm glad that we went now because the blossoms were really pretty. Here is the entrance.

And I will be silent for a few to let everyone enjoy the beauty of Japan.  Go ahead. Bask.

Ok, silence is over. Explanation time. 

This is a place where you wash your hands and 'drink' the water to cleanse yourself and get blessed before entering the temple. Pretty cool. 

Everyone, take a good, long look at this adorable little boy. (This is the bishop's son. He is 1/2 Canadian, 1/2 Japanese.)  How adorable is he? Hopefully this is what my future looks like. (Not this exactly, but the whole 1/2 Japanese part at least?)

You would probably think I'm crazy if I told you that I tried squid at dinner one night and it looked like this.   Ya....I didn't really like it. It tasted like tentacles.
 So you will probably think I'm even weirder if I tell you I tried it again later.  I've always wanted to try one of these squids on a stick (since I've seen it on Japanese shows) and now the chance had arrived. I couldn't possibly back out now. But I could possibly convince my coworker to try it with me.  

Not bad...a little salty but all in all, definitely worth trying. The man even cut it up for us so it was easy to eat.

This was all happening at Maruyama park where we went with 2 of our students to go see the cherry blossoms again. Sadly, they were already gone by Saturday (good thing we went earlier.) but it was still fun going with everyone. The four of us walked up to the park together and it was a nice day and, again, a pretty view.   Then we got there and looked at the Yatai (which are kind of like carnival stands, with games and food.) We bought some Taiyaki which are little fish shaped things with cream or sweet red bean paste inside. So that's the 3 of us with our taiyaki (that was also on my Japan to do list. Plus it was only $1!) This is a picture with all of us that went today.
On the left is Adrian, 24, who is my English teaching partner. (He is from Malaysia, but people often mistake him for Japanese here and try to speak to him in Japanese-poor guy.  He isn't fluent or anything, but he's lot better than me. Pretty handy to have around.) Next to him is Taiki, 16, who is one of our English students. He's a pretty funny guy.  Next to him is Souhei, 21, who is addicted to Coke (which is why that coke bottle is also in the picture with us.) Finally, there's me. Woo for being the only girl-always. After this we went to a different part of the park and we played ultimate frisbee. Well, we did the best we could anyway. Another of our students showed up so we had this slightly awkward game of 3 v 2. So....I will practice frisbee with them along with their English and my Japanese. It was fun. :) wrap up here's a few last pictures. Momo (my youngest new sister) took me out onto the roof yesterday and these are some pictures from there.  This is her.
And here are some of the cherry blossom tree next to the house.  This was last night and today all the blossoms are already gone.

The sun was setting so this was kind of pretty. 
Oh and my family asked to play Spoons for our FHE game tonight. So that was pretty fun that they enjoyed it last week enough to ask to play again. 

Finally, Ane made a beautiful cake for her mom since it's mothers day. So we celebrated by eating it! Yum! I even got milk to drink with it. What a feast!

To sum this up in a sentence: I just spend every day hanging out with Asians.
Bucket list- I'm still coming for you.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Can You Be Jealous of Your Own Life?

       Well, I've officially be in Japan for a full week now (since I landed in Tokyo around 3 pm.) Of course, I didn't get to my house in Sapporo until about 9 that night, and even then the adventures didn't start until Saturday, but still. It's a big day for me.
   So let's see. What have I done since coming to the dream land.  Hm. Nothing much.
Joke. If you believed that then that's the real joke. Every day's been an adventure.
   Monday was my first day teaching the LTL class and I was all alone because my partner hadn't yet arrived in Japan. So it was just me and 4 boys hanging out-and by hanging out I obviously mean learning English. We ended up playing frisbee (obviously I have no idea how that happened...but there was still English involved!) That morning I had some time to myself at home so I hung out and tried to be productive. But really, who can be productive when there's Japan to be in? (I haven't done a single hour of work since coming-woo!/fail.)
    Tuesday- This is Golden Week in Japan so today everyone had school and work off. So we went Japanese thrift shopping. Hooray-that's a thing!  After that we went to go look for a present for my host dad's mom and we got lunch at McDonalds. (I'm not sure if they eat there normally or if they just went there because I was there. Either way. First McDonalds in Japan-check.) For some reason the water cups only come with that much water. They hate hydration. Or maybe just Americans/me.  Anyway, today at class we had 6 students and both teachers-success! I don't know if all 6 students will keep coming bu it's fun. It's pretty entertaining because it was me and 7 guys in the classroom. I sure know how to fix the odds in my favor here in Japan. I'll work on that in America.    That night after class I went to a restaurant with my family for the birthday dinner and there was about 11 of us there. During dinner, I noticed Remon chan (my 10 year old sister) kept looking over at the next table and giggling. There was this table of boys (in their late teens) over there and they were totally flirting! The boys would look at her and wave and  she would giggle and look away.  Why is my 10 year old sister already better with boys than me? Something else to work on.

     (Wed) So I mentioned to my family that I have a list of things to experience while in Japan so they've taken it upon themselves to help me fulfill it all.  So on Tuesday they took me to a famous ramen place in Sapporo. Here's my bowl. It was delicious. The shop was called Menya Saimi-so good! Here's a picture my dad took of me and my ramen. The bowls are so large and full of deliciousness! Don't even try to not be jealous. Just accept it and keep reading. They even took me to a sakura park to see the cherry blossoms (also on my list.)  We'll go back again later when more trees are in bloom, but look forward to these kind of pictures!

Thur-Today I had a nice relaxing morning and used the opportunity to finally catch up in my journal. It's good to know that I'm doing so much that I'm always behind in my journal, but, at the same time, I hate being behind in my journal! Anyway, I didn't do much this morning (except for my first hour of work-nice work, Laura) but this afternoon my parents and I made takoyaki together. (Tako=octopus) This is the tako. I know-it looks weird. And it is weird. But also, delicious. (At least inside the takoyaki it is.) This is us making it in their takoyaki machine. We put a bunch of stuff in it. Then you let it cook and you make little balls out of it.  Finally, these delicious little things are cooked and ready to eat. We put some sauce on it and ate a ton. (Ahhhhh so good.)

Then I had to hurry to church for my lesson. Don't worry-so used to taking the street car, the subway, and walking to church by myself now. Everyone stares at me and my out-of-placeness and the fact that I'm alone.This is what I see on my walk to church.

 Turns out, I'm kind of allergic to Japan (like every foreign country I go to.) So I've started wearing this mask in my room so I don't sneeze every few minutes. It's cool though-now I look just like everyone else. (Not my family really, but so many people wear these masks here. So strange.)

(Friday) Finally, it's Friday! Today I had the morning to myself so I worked and caught up in my journal. This afternoon I went to my sister, Remon chan's (10), elementary school with my parents to watch an assembly.  This was probably the second time in my life where an auditorium full of people stared at me (with the first being that time I wiped out in American Heritage.) Still not sure which is weirder. Oh well-so fantastic. That's my sister there with the white sweater, skirt, and leggings on the right there. She's adorable.

All in all, this past week in Japan has been fantastic and I can already tell my comprehension has increased a ton. So I have high hopes for the next 11 weeks. I couldn't have asked for a more welcoming family and everything about this country just makes me love it more. I think my brother summed it up pretty well when he sent me this picture which represents me in Japan. So...until next time! Gotta go teach class.