Aqua Timez - Niji .mp3
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Friday, July 2, 2010

All of these posts were written on my phone at school. (I'm currently in math class)! Sorry about my second day in Akita, it's kind of all out of order. It was the day before my first day at school :P.

I get home around 7-8 pm everyday so I don't really have time to update my blog because I'm really busy so I realized that typing up posts during school works perfectly! (Especially during a class that I can't understand the teacher in!)

Yasumi :D

This coming Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday the students have major tests so I am on break! Im really excited! On Monday Okaasan and I are driving out to the city near Otousan's work. We don't know if we will be able to see him but we're going to try to have lunch together! We're also going to go to a Hyaku-En (100¥) Shoppu (about $1.00), and a Japanese clothing store! It will be really fun!

Yesterday after school I was thinking about going for a walk and then randomly my host mom asked if I wanted to go out for a drive! I was so excited because usually after school we are all busy and stay home. We went to Lake たざわこ (the deepest lake in Japan) that is only 5 miles from our house! We stayed until sunset and it was so beautiful. It's the most beautiful lake I've ever been too. The water is really reflective and there are mountains outlining the horizon. After that we got in the car and hurried up the mountain to see the sunset. The sun always looks so amazing setting on the mountains!
EDIT****** They surprised me! Otousan came home tonight! I can't believe it :D yay!

秋田 - あきた - Akita

Akita is a prefecture in northern Japan known for its delicious rice, amazing mountains, and beautiful women. (haha)

Seriously I think Akita could quite possibly be the most beautiful place in Japan! I really do want to live here for a whole year so I can see all of the amazing things that the change of seasons brings to Akita.

In the fall all of the leaves look so beautiful, especially around the samurai houses in かくのだて(Kakunodate)! There is also a huge festival in September where huge float like things are pulled on a rope by tons of men and they crash them into each other! It might sound weird but it looks so interesting and fun!

In the winter Akita gets a lot of snow, and snow is one of my most favorite things ever! Akita is famous for its かまくら (Kamakura) which are sort of like igloos. They have a huge festival with tons of kamakura every winter and they build them and make mochi inside! Children all across Akita make kamakura too! I actually got to see a real one in a sealed room in a museum. They make one every year and keep it in a FREEZING cold room! It was so amazing!

In the spring all of the sakura trees blossom. The pictures I have seen are incredibly beautiful! My host parents say that Akita's sakura are really pretty and they wish I could see them! They also make sakura mochi, which my mom says is really really delicious! Tabetai! I want to eat it! I really do wish I could stay here all year!

Akita is full of beautiful mountains and rice fields that make amazing reflections of the sky and mountains surrounding them. The sunset always looks so incredible on the mountains. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a dream and I'm not actually seeing these amazing sights! It's indescribable :P

父の日-Father's day

*Random note: it's really hard not saying bless you to people when they sneeze! Sometimes I do it by accident and they just stare at me really confused :P The girl to my right just sneezed and I was like "Bl-!" and almost said it in the middle of class! Haha!*

On Father's day Shinya had some work to do at school in preparation for the school festival and Okaasan had some sort of test to do. So I would spend Father's day with my host Dad and my host sister, Miki, who I would meet later that day. We got into our neighbor's car that they let us borrow for the day and Otousan said that the car ride would be maybe an hour and a half. He told me to feel free to sleep, which I didn't think I would do. But believe it or not I was off and on sleeping the whole car ride! We were heading to Miki's college. It was completely storming outside with really heavy rain! Maybe the 47th or 109th time I woke up, we were right near Miki's college. The car ride felt really short but apparently it was almost 2 hours! We waited a while for Miki and Otousan was saying how short Miki is for her age and then I saw her sprinting up to the car in the rain. The rain sort of seemed to die down when she reached the car. Miki's college requires every student to study abroad for a year and so Miki spent a year in America! (I think maybe in Maryland) Because of her time in America her English is really good! Miki showed me around the campus for maybe 10 minutes and then we headed to Otousan's workplace. He works at NHK broadcasting (the reason why Akita has TV). We got to tour around the building and see all of the control panels and screens that I always see in movies! He also showed us a camera of the whole area surrouding the building and you could zoom all the way in to the sidewalk! Kind of scary, right? Haha. Then he took us in to where the news is filmed live and Miki and I sat at the desk and figured out how the teleprompters work! It was really cool, and everyone who sees the picture keeps asking me if I am was on TV. I guess that means Miki looks like a newscaster? Haha!

After that we headed to lunch where we ate at another DELICIOUS barbeque! I had cow tongue again and a lot of beef and rice. It's so fun when you can cook it yourself :P Much later they brought out our drinks (that seems to be a common theme) and we all had ice coffee, which was apparently free with our meal and REALLY delicious! Next we drove kind of far to a mountain! I was so excited! We drove higher and higher up the mountain. The mountains name means Cold Wind and right when we got out of the car we learned why. The wind was blowing so hard! It felt amazing! And it was so cloudy that you couldn't see anything! It was like you were floating in the sky! So cool!! Heading down the mountain we went to a Namahage museum-like building. A Namahage is a creature that happens to appear on new years day to houses all throughout Akita. The whole thing is so funny to me! They go in the houses looked for bad or lazy children and they find all the hiding children and pick them up and scare them! Apparently at every house they are given sake, so each namahage can only go to 4 houses. When I was in the giftshop I was kneeling down looking at something on the bottom of a shelf and someone tapped me on my back. I could NOT believe it! It was my friend Claudia from YFU orientation! What a surprise! We were both in shock! I live about 2 hours from the place and apparently she lives like an hour and a half away. I seriously couldn't believe it! We toured the museum together and watched this awesome skit like thing where Namahage made all these loud noises and completely scared Miki. It was so funny :D After the museum we headed back to Miki's college, and then home. On the way home we stopped at a store and otousan bought some wine. I saw him getting it wrapped at the counter and then he told me it was a gift for the neighbors that lent the car to us. What a fun day! :D

学校 - School

*Random note: Tokyo is a really really clean city!!*

During my stay in Japan I go to school every day. (I even went 7 days in a row once!) This post will talk all about school and how things work.

For the first week everyday transportation was the same. We would wake up, eat breakfast, go to the station by car, take a 30 minute train, and walk for 30 minutes to get to school. Once i get to school there is the extremely long and steep hill that everyone has to drag themselves up to get to school. めんどくさい!The train ride is really one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen! The train literally rides through the mountains and looking out the window I can see all of the green forests and ricefields reflecting the mountains. If i take the later train the sun setting on the mountains always looks amazing, (especially if there is a reflection in the ricefields!) One of my favorite parts of Japan is the train ride home. Almost everyday I meet someone new. People here are really friendly in public places! Especially workers in stores or even at gas stations. They are some of the nicest and most polite people I've ever met! Back to transportation, Everyday walking, I saw students on their bikes speeding past us. Randomly one night my host brother asked if I wanted to ride a bike to school! Of course I did! Now we ride the bike from the station every day! It's really nice to be able to ride a bike and feel the wind blowing in my face because it's pretty humid here :P!
Apparently to be able to ride a bike you need some sort of license from the teachers at school so two days later apparently I was approved and could now ride a じてんしゃ(bike)! On the way home it's always the same. We leave school at around 5 (we have to wait because 5:20 is the earliest train) but if we have club activities we normally take the 7:30 train. After the train ride, if we take the 5:20 train we walk home for about 25 minutes, but if we take the later train, Okaasan is waiting at the station in her car and she drives us home!

げんかん - Entrance

Japan is known for really complex rules about shoes. I've never changed shoes so much in my entire life! They have different shoes for everything! When you first walk in any building, except for maybe SOME レストラン (resutoran) and みせ (stores) there is always a "Genkan" at the entrance. Upon entering the genkan you must take off your shoes and turn them around, placing them along the raised ledge. There is normally another type of slipper that you have to change into right before you enter the rest of the building. But if you have to go to bathroom, you have to change shoes again! They have special slippers for the bathroom too! :P At school when you first enter you walk down a concrete hallway, but in this hallway there is a long wooden path that is there for the students who have already changed shoes. At the end of the hallway there is a big room full of lockers for the shoes you need to change into. After changing you take the wooden path and head to the classroom, but if you have PE and you are going outside you need to change shoes again! I think it's pretty funny how many times you need to change shoes in one day :P! There is also a hallway on the third floor where you take your shoes off before entering the classroom! For example, during music class we are all in socks! It's kind of comfortable :P! Sometimes I'm worried I'm wearing the wrong shoes or something but for now I guess I've been doing it right..!

At school everyone always says hi to me! "Eban, haro!!" "Eban! Gudo moningu!" It's really crazy haha! Whenever I turn a corner there are more people shouting my name. Christina and I are sort of like celebrities here! It's funny :P And on top of that, every day I get asked if I have a girlfriend. Or sometimes it's "sukina hito aru?" "do you have a girl that you love?" or "who do you like?" haha.

At the school there are about 600 students. It's a lot different from my school in America with about 3000 students! It's kind of nice though because there aren't as many names to remember and you can actually walk in the hallways!

In Japan they have a completely different school system. Everyday students go to the same classroom where they stay all day, excluding special classes like home making and computer class. Students stay with the same classmates for every single class. All of the teachers have a "home base" in the teachers room, a sort of small room where every teacher has a desk. It looks kind of cramped and hectic if you ask me :P. Homeroom is supposed to be 10 minutes but it normally only takes 5. Every day there are 6 periods and lunch. Every single class here is taught in a lecture-style way. (excluding English class.) They would never have a class discussion or do partner work or group activities. The surprising thing is that they really don't seem to get much homework. At the beginning of every class including homeroom and Souji (all the students clean the classroom at the end of the day. They don't have janitors!) the class leader tells us all to stand up. Then we say "Onegaishimasu!" which means please do this for us! And we bow to the teacher. The teacher bows back and we start class. At the end of class the class leader tells us to stand up and we all say "Arigatou gozaimashita!" which means "thank you!" Every day the classes that we have are different, but for some reason we have math every day x.x! Haha, the reason I don't like math class is because my teacher is an old man whose Japanese I can't understand AT ALL! I don't know if he has an accent or something, but I literally can't understand anything except for "Mainasu ichi" (minus 1) and "Purasu yon" (plus 4!)
In between classes we always have 10 minutes where students get out their iPods, cards, or lunches. During this time you are allowed to eat and drink, and students normally go to the vending machine or the school store to buy some food and drinks. During class you are absolutely under no circumstances allowed to eat or drink. I figured this out one time after taking a sip of my drink during English class. Everyone
gasped and stared at me! Haha :P

For PE class the girls stay in the classroom and change and the guys go to the stage to change. At the beginning of class we all line up (girls on the left and guys on the right) and do some sort of signal with our arms. The guy and girl in the upper right most spot raises their right arm straight above them and everyone else raises their right arm straight out in front of them. A student leader then says that class has started and we begin our stretches. The two student leaders count "ichi ni San shi" 1-2-3-4 and everyone counts back "go roku shichi Hachi" 5-6-7-8. after the stretches we do a relay with pushups and jumps and things like that. It's like a warm up. After that we go back into our lines and do the arm signal again. Then we get into lines for what sport we want to play! The choices are always the same: badminton, volley ball, ping pong, and most of the time basketball. PE is pretty fun! :D

Every day at school it is really hot and humid. They don't have air conditioning so the window is always open. Every day you can hear students saying "ATSUIIIII!!'" (It's so hot!!) but the thing I don't understand is that one day it was kind of rainy and wasn't completely hot and some students were saying "Samui!" (It's cold!!) and closing the window. I don't really understand why they did that because in Akita during the winter they get tons of snow :P. Maybe they are just really sensitive to temperature changes? Haha

At lunch students are allowed to eat wherever they want. They normally just eat in the classroom. Everyone has a bento almost positively made by their Mom. An "obento" is a boxed lunch that usually has rice, vegetables, and a meal inside. I have delicious onigiri (rice balls with meat inside) almost every day!

After school every day i have to wait until 5:00 to leave for the earliest train. During this time you can hear the band practicing and the taiko drums and traditional Japanese flutes playing. Everyone who does a club activity has practice almost every day. Even the skiing club has practice every day after school and even during the school day during lunch! They even have normal practices on Saturday and Sunday with rare breaks. That was really surprising to me because at my school our skiing club is literally like a recreational group where you can go skiing if you want to.

Every day we normally get home around 7-8 pm. Whenever we come home on the earlier train, Okaasan is really happy! She loves when we're home! She always works so hard doing everything including house cleaning, garden work, laundry, preparing every meal, and taking care of Ojichan (our grandfather who had a stroke maybe 10 years ago). I often ask her if I can help out and we have fun conversations while doing things like that. I really really appreciate all of her hard work!

My host Dad is such an awesome person too! He is so funny and nice and always makes us laugh. Sadly he can't live at home during the week because of his work. He has been trying hard to come home every weekend and whenever he is home we all always have so much fun together talking at dinner and spending time together. We all wish he could come home more but the commute to his broadcasting company is way too far. He has to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to get home!

A really fun day! :D

*Random note: Japanese TV is ridiculously hilarious and funny!! I love it! It's so interesting!*

My second day in Akita was really awesome thanks to my first host family! I woke up really happy remembering that I was in Akita! For some reason my body has had a natural alarm clock for around 6 AM! Every morning I wake up really early automatically! It's around 5:00 pm in America when I wake up. Almost the exact opposite!

After eating the delicious breakfast they had, i relaxed around the house until they told me we were going out. My host dad, my older sister, Sang Yi, and I all headed out to the car and started our fun day. The first place we went to seemed to be like a small museum. It was all about kamakura! There was a viewing box in the wall and there was this little 3D movie in the wall of children playing in a kamakura. My sister completely translated the whole thing for me! She was really quick too! :P After that we watched a small movie about Akita and all of the seasons. Then we headed to the back where there were coats hanging on a rack. I was wondering why they had coats when it was so hot and then my family told me to put it on and follow them. We entered a room that was sealed with high tech protective doors and then waited for it to close behind us. Then we entered the next door into a FREEZING cold room! It was so cool! And there was a real kamakura in there! Apparently they make one every year and keep it in that sealed cold room. We got to go inside the kamakura and take some pictures. It was really fun :D! After that we headed to a building that was model of a castle. It was really nice and looked like an actual
traditional castle! It was apparently another place that was famous for its association with the famous Korean drama, "Iris." Apparently because of that drama, Akita gets a lot of Korean tourists! After the castle we headed to a "Panya" (Bakery) where my family bought all kinds of pastries that we would eat the next day for breakfast! It smelled really good xD! Next was lunch where I ate delicious ramen with my family! We all shared and tried each others. There was an original flavor, a spicy flavor, a soy sauce based flavor, and a miso based flavor! It was really delicious and my family made fun of me for not being able to make the slurping noise (which is NOT rude at all in Japan!) After lunch we went to a big museum-like building with so many things to do! When we entered the building my sister checked the map and tried to figure out where we were. After figuring it out we headed to a store where we could make Ohashi, (chopsticks). We could choose betwen the starting color of black or red and then we began the process. Basically we slowly scratched off paint and there were layers and layers of maybe 4 colors. They look really cool! Ill try to remember to take a picture of them. After this we had trouble finding wonder castle, but that's where my sister wanted to go. When we found it we went in and talked to the lady at the counter. Then we headed to the elevator. I don't really know how to describe wonder castle except for it's full of illusions! We took so many pictures of ridiculous looking things that seemed sort of real on the camera! It was so interesting and funny! At the end there was a HUGE, REALLY TALL slide! It was the tallest slide I've ever seen in my life! You literally fell straight down! My sister and Sang Yi were really scared but I convinced them
to do it with me. It was such a crazy feeling in my stomach! After the slide we went to get icecream :). I had vanilla ice cream with coffee jello in the bottom. Apparently coffee jello is a popular dessert! It is actually delicious! :P
Next we headed to a big デパート(Depato - department store) where I bought a jump drive for all of the pictures I'm going to take in Japan . After that we headed to a deli and then to a grocery store where my sister took pictures of me with food I've never seen/eaten before (you guys in America would probably think it's gross! Haha). Later on after dinner, which was yakisoba and tofu, I went on a walk with Muku, my sister, and Sang Yi. It was such a nice night. The westher was perfect! We talked a lot about all kinds of things... It was so nice. :D Later that night I spent a lot of time with my mom and Sang Yi. It was really really nice to be able to sit down and just talk! It was one of my first all Japanese conversations, I guess sort of preparing me for the rest of my stay in Japan. The next day I would be heading to school and saying bye to my host family.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

First day at school!

This morning I woke up at about 6 and quickly showered. There was a delicious breakfast ready when I got out of the shower... Bacon, eggs, yogurt, melon pan, fruit jello, toast, rice, milk, coffee, and more. This seems to be a common theme. For breakfast there is always a big variety of choices. Anyway, by the time I got finished breakfast I was starting to get sort of nervous. I said by to everyone and headed to the car with my host Dad. On the way to school we stopped by my Obachan's house and said bye to her as well. Later on we drove past a group of maybe 20 students walking and he told me they were from my school. I started feeling really excited and we quickly arrived at school. As soon as I got out of the car students started staring and pointing and whispering and waving. It was so crazy! My host father took me inside where we were greeted by a head teacher. I thanked him for everything, said bye, and headed up to the teachers' room. It's a room completely filled with desks and it seems kind of cramped, but it's where the teachers go every day in between classes and before/after school. The teacher led me to a small room connected to the teacher's room and told me to take a rest and relax. So I dragged my heavy suitcase and bag into the room and sat on the couch. The teacher left the room so I sat for maybe 15 minutes just thinking. When will I meet my host brother? What will my family be like? All of a sudden a familiar face runs in and happily greets me with a smile of relief! My friend from YFU Orientation apparently was going to go to the same school as me! It was really nice to see her, and she seemed so relieved! It was a good relaxer! :) We talked all about our families and what we have done so far and during our conversation a teacher walked in. He told us we would have to introduce ourselves in front of all of the teachers and then in front of the whole school. What?! Really?! I had no idea!! I was so unprepared! But nevertheless we started planning what we would say. Quicker than I could imagine he told us to come out and it was time for our introduction to the teachers. Cristin was so nervous, but I told her not to worry and I pretended to be confident. The teacher said something probably along the lines of okay everyone it's time for the exchange students to introduce themselves, and the room fell silent. "Okay えばん、どぞう。" I then introduced myself in front of maybe 70 teachers all in Japanese and it went much much better than I thought it would! At the end they all applauded me! It was such a crazy feeling! After Cristin introduced herself they led us back into the small room where they gave us each a paper with our school schedule and then told us that there was going to be a huge introduction ceremony where we would introduce ourselves on the stage. Once again Cristin and I were so nervous! They told us to relax and gave us both a cup of tea and left the room. Suddenly, someone came into the room and sat on the couch in front of us. He introduced himself. It was my brother! Wow what a crazy feeling! We talked a tiny bit and then there was somewhat of an awkward silence and he left. Soon enough the teacher came back in and told us to remember to wave a lot and that the ceremony was about to begin. They led us to the たいくかん (Gym) where 600 students were waiting for us. When we entered the room the whole band was playing and everyone was cheering! We couldn’t believe it! It was so amazing! Two chairs were sitting on the stage and the teacher motioned for us to go up on stage and sit. The crowd was cheering and waving and soon the principal came up on stage and silenced the crowd. He said an introductory speech all in English that I had a hard time believing the students understood at all. (His English was really good and he used big vocabulary words.) Basically the message was "We are extremely lucky to have an opportunity like this so I hope you will all use it to your advantage to learn a new culture and share your own as well as practice your English and learn something new!" Then a student came on stage and also said an introductory speech in English. After that it was time for me to introduce myself. I can't really remember that well but I didn't feel too nervous. As soon as I started speaking Japanese some of the students gasped. "Whoa!" "Suge!!!" "Sugoi!!" "Umai!" They couldn't believe that a がいじん could speak Japanese! It was really amusing :P! People still to this day that I meet are amazed even if I say one simple Japanese word! After our introductions we were led into the crowd into two random open spaces between the students and they started an amazing ceremony!! Boy students were playing the drums and girl students in ゆかた(yukatas- a Japanese style traditional dress) were dancing with fans, chanting/singing, or playing a traditional flute. It was really one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in my life! After the amazing ceremony we started our first day as students at a Japanese high school!

Some of these pictures were taken from the Kakunodate High School Website! (They made a post welcoming me and Cristin! They spelled our names wrong but it's not a problem haha :D )