Monday, June 7, 2010

Partially Asian

Well I was actually planning on giving a good post but I can't find the USB cord for my camera.

My Japanese is improving exponentially! This past weekend I took a roadtrip with 3 Korean guys and an older Japanese woman and we didn't really speak in any English.

It was a little bit of a culture shock when staying at a Japanese-style for the first time. The Japanese woman I shared the room with couldn't communicate with me in English so I had no idea what any protocols were. I didn't know we were supposed to always be wearing the hotel's kimono robes or how we were going to fall asleep sleeping on tatami straw mats.

Nonetheless, it was great! I finally feel like I am experiencing Japan. I'm going to miss not being able to go to a grocery store and buy octopus and squid if I feel like it.

I reallllllllllllyyyyyy don't want to go home. Everyone teases me about how much I hang out with my Koreans. Most other Westerners that aren't fluent in Japanese just talk with other Westerners but I mostly talk to either Koreans, Chinese, or Japanese people.

I've pretty much decided that I'm going to move to South Korea, teach English, and someday be reunited with my best friend here that lives in Bejing.

My classes here blow. Over half of my class failed our Intermediate Macroeconomics test. The professor here is really indirect and won't tell us anything. My German friend and I were getting really annoyed with him because getting course information from him is like pulling out teeth. "So, how do we access the homework," "When is this presentation due" "What classroom are we meeting in?" "How much is the midterm worth?"

Tonight at dinner a group of us decided that this university just needs to shut down. Everything is completely run down it reminds me of the 1970's. Desks falling apart. Ghetto computers. Torn-up leather chairs around campus. Hallways with permanent marker drawings from 20 years ago. My friend from Iceland (who is starting her own photography business) has been just taking pictures of the campus because she can't believe the condition things are in.

Conclusion: Japan is awesome but Otaru sucks.

I'll try to write more later this week.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Not much going on.

Just studying Japanese as usual!

My intermediate macroeconomics test today was brutal. No one finished, not even the Chinese kids!

It has been so cold here! Like 40 degrees for the entire week cold.

Anyways, we got our JASSO money today. An American from Atlanta splurged on a Nintendo DS with it. I'm planning on buying a new camera once I finish midterms next week.

Just a small update!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Can't Think of a Good Title.

I am probably considered the world’s worst blogger. I’m actually writing this from the library because I am a little tired of studying and figured I MUST get around to this sometime.

I checked out “Law in Everyday Japan: Sex, Sumo, Suicide, and Statutes” yesterday from our university library and so far it has been pretty interesting. It’s chock full of statistics and I am only on chapter 1 right now but I plan on plowing through it at some point.

Anyways, chapter 1 talks about why Japan has such a high rate of return for lost and found items. In 2002 the Japanese police received more than 10 million items and cash totaling $129 million in funds turned in by ordinary people. Of these amounts, more than 70% of the money and 30% of the noncash items are recovered by their owners. I think everyone can agree that if you lose $100 in South Dakota, you don’t have a 70% chance of getting it back. You probably have something around a 20% chance. One story in this book talks of a guy that lost his laptop on a subway in Tokyo and got it back! Something like this definitely wouldn’t have happened in NYC. Maybe I’m being anti-America or maybe I’m just pro-Japan (probably a subtle blend), but this is pretty crazy.

Japanese finder’s law creates incentives to encourage finders to report their finds. It’s a simple system of carrots and sticks, if you will. Japanese civil law provides that a person who finds a lost article shall deposit it with the police or with the security office of the building in which it is found. If the owner claims the object, he or she is required to pay the finder a fee of 5-20% of the object’s value. If no one claims the object in six months and two weeks (hey, don’t ask me - it’s what the book said), the object is returned to the finder.

Although Japanese law contains no penalties for nonrescue, a finder who misappropriates the property for his or her own has committed embezzlement and is subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to one year. Apparently undergoing an investigation in Japan is very socially degrading (the book says it will talk about this subject later) and this is a punishment within itself.

Well, I at least said something. I’m going to try to blog every other day now and share little blurbs. I’m off to go practice violin then I am going to go run with my Chinese friend, Wish.


Monday, April 12, 2010

No English Please!

I checked out some more books on Japanese culture and business in order to keep me motivated to learn Japanese. I figure this way, even when my brain hurts from studying Japanese, I can still be concentrating on Japan somehow. I really do like Japan - I’m not sure if I could live here permanently until I die but I’m seriously considering a career that involves traveling to Japan, if not moving here. Lots of other international students feel the same way. On Sunday a girl from Berlin was getting really depressed about how she is going to have to leave Japan in four months. She wants to stay in Japan for at least another two years and is looking into getting her master’s here. My Chinese friend, Sydney, wants to stay in Japan for another three to four years. She doesn’t miss China at all and thinks Japan is really great. I miss my family and friends from back home but that’s pretty much it. I don’t miss my car or my cell phone.

I grown accustomed to the “minimal-English” approach I’ve adopted here. I've distanced myself from the people that only speak English because then I’m only going to speak English and forget all the grammar and vocabulary I learned that day. Even just hanging out with Chinese and Korean people and hearing them speak their native languages makes me focus on things. I’m at the language learning phase where English is boring, ugly-sounding, and stupid. I can already predict that I am going to get somewhat annoyed that my friends back home don’t speak Japanese. I know there is one Japanese girl studying abroad in Vermillion next fall and I hope we can be friends and converse together. I’m going to contact the Sioux Falls Multicultural Center and see if they can place me with a Japanese language partner as well. I’d rather be able to say 10 sentences a day in Japanese than chit-chat in English. I know there are some students that disagree with the philosophy I am following but there are others that agree. There are two Korean boys that do their own thing with other Japanese students because they don’t want to hang out with other international students and speak English, and I don’t blame them.

Well, just a little tidbit of my thoughts for the day. My schedule for yesterday (Monday) included: studying Japanese, doing laundry, practicing violin, going for a run, and sitting through a lecture where the professor speaks super-slow English and I’m bored out of my mind.But, I’m sure some Japanese friends feel the same way about my Japanese ability so it is just linguistic karma biting me in the butt. In my Japanese economy class, the professor started talking about the social problems facing Japan. The powerpoint slide was "Has Japan Dead?" and the first bullet on the slide was the declining quality in the education system. Hmm..

I don't have class today. Just going to go veg out at the campus coffee house for a while and catch up on some reading. I'm meeting my tutor later this afternoon to go pay some bills and then I have to teach English from 4-6. My days are moderately busy - it's the perfect workload.

Here's some pictures:

Grabbing sushi with my Chinese friends last Friday night

The Korean girl I tutor! She refused to smile hahaha.

I like to read Japanese baby books.

Real ramen = amazing.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Life is definitely picking up around here. The days go by so fast for me - it's definitely a bad thing. I found out that I may be taking a French class here. I need the foreign language credit and not taking this class would mean I just accrue another pointless economics elective that I don't need. I am waiting to hear back from the international student coordinator here about how this would all work out. If the textbook is Japanese-French it may be a problem..

I got a job teaching English to a little 6 year-old Japanese/Korean girl. She just started 1st grade a couple of days ago. Her parents put her in a private English school when she was 1 but since she goes to school all the day now, they needed a tutor. It pays $20 an hour and I tutor for 6 hours a week. It's pretty much the ideal job. They drive me home when I am finished and said that they would cook for me soon.

I had my first official lesson with her yesterday. It was sort of awkward with the parents initially. The little girl just brought me upstairs to an office and we started the lesson right away. About five minutes later the father came in with one of her old English teachers on the phone. The teacher was really helpful because I really don't know all that she knows or what level she is at and what we should be doing for lessons. He told me that since her lessons are scheduled for 2-hour time blocks, we should only be really sitting in front of a book for about 50 minutes max. He suggested that we go to parks and just have natural conversation so she can tap into the words she already knows - a "use it or lose it" approach to memory.

We ended up going to a really old-looking Japanese ice cream shop. It was pretty amusing to be led around town by a 6 year-old and to have a 6 year-old place our orders. At one point she told me "I don't understand your hard English. Speak to me as though you were 6." She is pretty funny. Then we decided to keep walking around the area a bit and went to a department store quick to look at the Hello Kitty things. It was cute because she wanted to hold my hand and run along the streets but I got a few odd looks. "What is a foreigner doing with a little Japanese girl?!" The lesson went good but it could have been better. I'm going to look around and try to find some puppets to buy so we can make-up stories and whatnot. Every week we are going to talk about a different country. Tomorrow's topic is America!

Today is a busy day for me. I need to go head to the university and eat, go to the library for at least an hour and review some kanji, I am meeting my new tutor at noon, I have class from 1-4 today, then I am meeting another friend for a Japanese lesson at 4, then I have to run to the grocery store to get something for dinner, re-peg my violin and practice for tomorrow's rehearsal, and think of a lesson plan for tomorrow's tutoring.

Tomorrow I have orchestra for a few hours then tutoring. This weekend is too busy to really go out. Sunday I'm planning on grabbing some ramen somewhere and isolating myself in the library to study Japanese. The library closes at 5 on weekends here so usually everyone tries to be there until closing time or near to.

On a brighter note, I bought my ferry ticket yesterday for Kyoto for Golden Week!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I haven't really been up to much this past week. My sleeping habits were really messed up there for a while. I would be going to bed at 4 am and waking up around 2 pm - so not me! Then one day I took a sleeping pill and went to bed at 11 but woke up at 4 am ready to go - then I crashed at 3 in the afternoon and slept until 7. The vicious cycle continued for a while. Actually, I probably won't even get to bed at a decent time tonight because I finally got internet in my room so I'm excited to think about everything I can do now! Movies, TV, youtube, skype, blogging, online shopping - life is awesome.

A Pikachu school bus? Only in Tokyo..

School starts on Wednesday (finally).
Here is my class schedule:

Monday: 12:50 - 2:20 Japanese Economy
2:30 - 4:00 Japanese Companies in Global Business

Tuesday: Nothing

Wednesday: 8:50 - 10:20 Financial Economics
10:40 - 12:00 Japanese Lesson @ The City Hall

Thursday: 12:50 - 2:20 Topics in Microeconomics

Friday: 12:50 - 4:00 Intermediate Macroeconomics

Tomorrow I'm going to go grab coffee with my Chinese friend, Sydney. I really need to learn more Japanese fast. I learned about 150 words last week but I should probably be learning at least 50 a day with the amount of free time I have.

I bought my first Japanese comic book on Wednesday! My tutor took me shopping (having a friend with a car RULES) and we had coffee and desserts at a cute cafe and worked on my Japanese.

Here are some of the books I have been studying Japanese with:

A total lifesaver - it was only $7 in Sioux Falls and it has more grammar information than I'll ever need to know. They have books for nearly every foreign language so keep your eyes open! I should probably write an Amazon review or something but I'm too lazy.

My Japanese friend bought me this book at a Japanese bookstore in her hometown so we had some structure in our Japanese lessons. She wants to work on her English so she also bought herself a copy. It works out really well. Another fun book. It's helped me be able to ask grocery clerks where stuff is at in the supermarket.

I use this book for only about 30 minutes a day but it's really good. It shows me stroke by stroke out to draw each character and gives me 50 blank squares to practice each one. I try to learn 5 characters a day - super easy if I don't procrastinate. I am going to have to try to find the 1st Japanese 100 characters (Note: Mom - please buy :) )

This book is super hard but it forces me to plow through grammar and conversation exercises. The Japanese professor here said if I can get through the 31 lessons in this book, I will have learned the material for 3 semesters of Japanese classes. Woofta. Each lesson takes me at least 5 hours. There have been no easy questions in here so far! Random tidbit: Yes, that is an Eiffel Tower on my Japanese textbook. There is a fake Eiffel Tower in Tokyo and its a famous landmark in Tokyo (copy cats).

Well - I'll think of more to write later. I've adapted to Japan, now I'm getting used to all the other cultures that are floating around in the international dorm hall.