Archive for May, 2007

i’m in ur home, using ur internats

Local Time:  10:30pm, Wed May 30 

Thank goodness for internet.  I am using the internet on the computer in my host family’s house.  It’s quite a funny computer:  the keyboard beeps after EVERY button press.

My host family speaks very little English, as advertised, but they were kind enough to bring over their friend Yoshiako to translate for us.  At the age of 70, Yoshiako started taking English conversation classes.  He is now 75 and his English is great.

I have discovered some things about myself on this trip:  I love human interaction more than I love temples and museums.  And I am interested in creativity more than rules.  I also love the Japanese food!  Oishii!!

I am always going to remember my host brother, Hide, who tended to my every need.  I will also remember Yusuri, the beautiful Japanese girl who taught me Japanese for 4 hours on the bus to and from Nikko.

 I will always remember the awesome ways that the Japanese use technology in their every day life:  the wireless “Push for Service” buttons at restaurants, the umbrella lockers, the cell phones, and even the crazy toilets.

Well, I better get some sleep;  more adventures to come tommorrow!!

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  Right now Im starting my second homestay.  I still havent figured out all of the Japanese keyboard so bear with me.  Ive been placed in a nursing home, which sounded kind of strange and potentially creepy to me at first.  Now that Im here, its actually pretty awesome.  All of the resdients are sleeping, so I have an entire floor, with bathroom, internet (obviously), tv (in case, as my homestay father said, I want to be a couch potato, shower, kitchen, and free drink machines.  Thank you, Yanai rotary club.
Everyone has been so considerate at both homestays.  I am really hoping that I will be able to stay in touch with Miho, my ほstsつ伝t亜tDokkyo University.  I have also really enjoyed spending time with the U of I students here.
Ive tried myraid things in the past week and a half that seemed completely off my list of anything I would attempt when I was at home.  I did the raw fish thing, the meal of entire tofu, てぇJapanese style toilet the hot spring, the karaoke, the little sticker pictures, tried on a several-thousand-dollar kimono and I walked in a Pachinko parlor.  The last was a sensory overload, so I left after 8 seconds, I think.
I would like to go into detail about some of these experiences, but having all the experiences leaves us all kind of drained I think.  Also、 Im clearly having difficulty with the keyboard.

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Sitting in Ben’s room!

Right now I’m sitting in Ben’s room with Prashant, Ben, and Nicole, hanging out. We’ve spent the last two days in Kyoto, seeing many beautiful temples nestled in the middle of a bustling city. We had a great time attending a flower arranging class this morning with a professor from the Ikenobo Institute, and since I love arts and craft activities, thought it was one of the most unique and fun experiences we’ve had. This is much more scenic than Tokyo, which has been a nice change. Tomorrow we head to Yanai, where I am excited to stay with my family, who is a tofu manufacturer and resturantuer. We’re excited to continue our trip and hope to have a chance to update for you all to hear how we’re doing soon!

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Mondays

It is about 11 p.m. on Monday 28 May (Japan time) as I write this — my first access to plug-in Internet access on the trip. At my first homestay (stay tuned), I could check my email, but the Japanese localization broke my ability to log into this blog.

Regardless, it is now halfway into our trip, but I would like to go back to the very beginning, in the interest of monotonicity.

We five valiant Urbana students departed, along with Kimiko, Bruce, and Elizabeth, from the Honors House at around 6:15 a.m. on Monday 21 May (Illinois time). Dragging a full suitcase through the streets at 5:45 in the morning on a deserted campus is a rather interesting experience.

In the (rental) car, the radio was broken, so we were permitted to experience the joys of the mind of Michelson. Bruce kept us full of (perhaps sometimes useless) trivia about Illinois and Mark Twain for the entire ride, which was only a little bit cramped.

We met up with the rest of the group at O’Hare (at least an hour earlier than necessary), so we took a break just before the security checkpoint and got some lunch (or perhaps I should say, “second breakfast'’. . .). At the gate, we students had some fun playing an eleven-member game of Uno on the floor for another hour, whereupon we needed to abort the game and enplane. We were riding a double-decker 747, on the upper level (which is quite far above the ground). I’m not sure if this is a feature of the plane or of Japan Air Lines (JAL), but there are some extra storage bins between the window seat and the bulkhead — gives a bit of (much needed) leg room by storing books and water.

On the plane, we had lunch, tea, and dinner, amongst much synchronized sleeping and “aisle parties'’ — it seems that JAL does not see the same security risk as the american carriers of groups of people “congregating in the aisles.'’ There were many snacks and drinks along the way (I haven’t had real, solid, airline food for quite some time), but it was still a long flight — I completely re-read Neal Stephenson’s

    The Big U

(Bruce, are you reading? This means you!) and had some time to spare for study of Japanese sentence strcture between naps.

The flight brought us over the International Date Line, so we got into Tokyo Narita International Airport in the afternoon of 22 May (Japan time), and had a spot of sustenance (second dinner?) at the hotel restaurant before crashing.

Speaking of crashing, there’s an early morn ahead of us before Rokkakudo garden and another busy day, so I shall sign off and continue this discourse on the morrow.

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A Sunday ago…

Just a week ago all of us were just contemplating how we were going to pack all our stuff in our bags and get going. Now we have all enjoyed Tokyo, Dokkyo University, and many adventures along the way. So many thanks go to the DU students and staff who have made the CHP students so welcome and comfortable at the University and during the homestays. I know everyone will be sad to leave their hosts today, but tonight is Bunraku, and tomorrow morning the flurry of getting out of Tokyo for a very different city in Kyoto, and another set of adventures…

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Nikko

I had an amazing time at Nikko today!  Even though it was raining the whole time, it truly was beautiful.  Everything seemed shiny.  The homestay so far has been fun too, and I really enjoy speaking with the Dokkyo University students!  There is so much I want to ask them!  We come from different backgrounds but we have so much in common.  I found out today that the Japanese student I was sitting next to on the bus also liked Book 3 of Harry Potter the best.  :-) 

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Lessons Learned Along the Way

I have learned many things since coming to Japan.  For example, always stand on the left side of escalators if you do not want to get run over by someone in a hurry, and that sushi is actually quite delicious despite initial apprehensions.  I also have been impressed with the never ending hospitality of all those we meet.  It was our first homestay last night, and my host insisted in a polite albeit forceful manner that I take her bed while she retired to a pallet on the floor. 

 The language barrier is a bit challenging, but I have found that certain things are universally understood, such as Chanel and Johnny Depp amoung all the college girls I meet.  I am continually impressed with the amount of English my Japanese hosts know, especially in light of how I struggle to learn just a few Japanese phrases. 

 Overall, I continue to have a grand adventure here, learning every step of the way.

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Tokyo, and the joys of pantomime

To our fans,

 Tokyo feels so familiar in some respects, and so different in so many more!  We’ve all had our share of interesting stories as we try to adjust to both the time change (14 hours, talk about jet lag!) and the language barrier that most of us are encountering.  Thus far our conversations with the locals both sound and look a little silly as we try to communicate using our mouths and our arms to convey our meaning.  But the people here are so welcoming and patient, and they seem to enjoy getting to know us, particularly the university students!

The city is such a rush of people, and it seems like the buildings stretch on forever as steel and glass spring up among more ancient structures of stone and wood.  The cleanliness of Tokyo is most remarkable–I don’t believe I’ve seen a speck of litter yet.  One most striking feature is the commonality of vending machines that sell everything from soda to umbrellas!

Now our stay with students begins and more adventures will follow!

Adam

Comments

Tokyo, and the joys of pantomime

To our fans,

 Tokyo feels so familiar in some respects, and so different in so many more!  We’ve all had our share of interesting stories as we try to adjust to both the time change (14 hours, talk about jet lag!) and the language barrier that most of us are encountering.  Thus far our conversations with the locals both sound and look a little silly as we try to communicate using our mouths and our arms to convey our meaning.  But the people here are so welcoming and patient, and they seem to enjoy getting to know us, particularly the university students!

The city is such a rush of people, and it seems like the buildings stretch on forever as steel and glass spring up among more ancient structures of stone and wood.  The cleanliness of Tokyo is most remarkable–I don’t believe I’ve seen a speck of litter yet.  One most striking feature is the commonality of vending machines that sell everything from soda to umbrellas!

Now our stay with students begins and more adventures will follow!

Adam

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Here’s To Packing Light

It’s Saturday night, and my packing is almost complete. And I somehow have been able to fill a suitcase with two weeks of clothing, my homestay gifts, and my toiletries, with plenty of space left over. It may not seem like that great of an accomplishment, but when you consider the fact that I normally stuff that suitcase completely full for one-week-long trips… Now THAT’S packing light!

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