Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Class!

Hey everyone!  My friend Zach took this great picture of our class, and he's letting me share it!  Here is my class, A31!

Friday, October 21, 2011

First Two Weeks of Level 3

Hey everyone,

I'm really bad at this blogging thing, what with all these irregular posts.  I should probably schedul...  nah - too much work.  Here are some pictures of my life over the past few weeks!

First, here are some pictures from last weekend, when Chiyo dragged me to the park with her and Host-Mom:

Some kid had brought an airsoft gun to the park
Chiyo, though not shown here, was VERY intrigued
On Thursday night, a friend of mine and I went to do some shopping for Halloween costumes.  Here are some pictures of the MEN'S CLOTHING AISLES.  ALL THESE CLOTHES ARE FOR MEN.

Really strange colours, but okay, if you're going for that style
Wait, what?  This is for men?

I feel like I've seen female relatives of mine wear those sweaters...  Weird.
Now, one day last week, as I was walking home, I stopped in a convenience store to get some ice cream.  Here's what I found:

Yes, an ICE BURGER.  Here it is in its unwrapped form:

The bread was real bread.  The patty was coffee flavoured ice cream, and the "toppings" were vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.  Unfortunately the bread tasted really strange and the coffee patty's flavour was largely overpowering, so I can't say I really enjoyed this a whole lot...

Tonight, Host-Mom brought me to see what I thought was going to be a Japanese play.  Serves me right for not asking more questions and/or researching the kanji, because it turned out to be a stand-up comedy night.  I wasn't really allowed to take pictures, so...

Well, I obviously took one anyway.  As you can tell (hopefully - picture quality is terrible), there is very little standing taking place on the part of the comedian.  In fact, they all knelt down on a small cushion to do their comedy.  Furthermore, most of their comedy seemed to be about telling stories.  I say "seemed to be" because I cannot truthfully say that I understood much, if any at all, of what was being said.

There were a few stretches where one comedian was talking about the pains of getting older, being placed on a diet, having to eat vegetables, etc., that I understood, but that was pretty much it.  There was only very little laughing from the crowd - I wonder if that's how all Japanese comedy is.  Still, what laughing there was sounded very genuine, and there were a few cackles that seemed to elicit some pain from the one woman behind me.

It was really strange to me because the comedians seemed to be playing two or three different roles at the same time, and I was only able to mildly differentiate one voice from another.  I suspect this has more to do with me not being able to understand the stories being told...  In any case, I should like to experience this once again, if I ever become good enough at this Japanese thing. 

Finally, here are some pictures of various meals that I have had the immense pleasure to take part in during my stay with my host family.

Yes, this is how the Japanese serve burgers: gravy and no buns
Also those fries were AMAZING

This is Chiyo attempting to make takoyaki, a popular Japanese dish which consists of
fried octopus in a ball of batter - more information here

While my family back home was feasting on Thanksgiving turkey, I got to eat this:

The botom plate was my own - noodles and chicken if I remember correctly
The top plate was amazingly flavoured fried chicken with equally amazingly flavoured veggies...
Here are a few more meals, just to whet your appetite more:

Japanese bacon, carrots and other assorted vegetables whose name I do not know

カツ丼 (かつどん、katsudon) on the left, fish on the right, soup above

This is what I had tonight - udon with shrimp tempura...
Sorry for having made you all so hungry...

Oh, one last thing.  I have to admit that I was feeling pretty sad on Wednesday - I think it was my first time celebrating my birthday away from my family.  As I left the school, this is what the sky looked like:

Unfortunately the picture doesn't really do it justice.  But it was beautiful enough to put a smile on my face.

Monday, October 10, 2011

千代奈の体育祭 - Chiyo's Athletic Festival

So on my second day with the host family, Chiyo had her athletic festival at school.  I suspect that most of my readers - if there are any of you - are like I was, namely having no clue what an "athletic festival" would involve.  Well, if you like, read on and find out!

First, here are some pictures of Chiyo's school - I never thought that anime-like schools existed in real life, but they do:

This is one of the classroom buildings
And this is their cafeteria
This is the green that they had the athletic festival on
I'm not sure what that big building is, though...
Some professional video-capture equipment was setup to film the festival proceedings
Of course, it goes without saying that almost every Japanese parent there brought their own video camera.

Then, the festival started:

Then there were a series of different acts put on by the different school levels.  Chiyo's grade competed in a series of relay-races, but I was on video-taping duty, so I couldn't snap very many pictures...  Anyway, here are some pictures of the various acts that took place:

Youngest kids performing

A class of boys doing handstands - not sure why they're required to be shirtless...
Part of the relay that Chiyo participated in - her team won!
Not sure what this is called, but it's gorgeous
And there were five of them

Here are a group of teachers (I think?) being lead in Tai-Chi (I think?)
by a 70-something year-old (in the suit)
And then the whole crowd joined in the Tai-Chi during the lunch break
When lunch break rolled around, Ikuyo (my host mom) and her two friends brought out all the obento (Japanese word for boxed lunch) they'd prepared.  I was shocked:

This isn't even all of it
And there were only 6 of us to eat ALL OF IT - two of which were six year-old girls
Japan and their absurdly cute food
And here is Chiyo, posing for me in proper Japanese style

After lunch, the show resumed - here are some more highlights:

More gymnastics
More shirtless boys, this time making a human pyramid
I thought it'd be amazing if they did this at night with glow-in-the-dark
and/or LED-light balls instead
We left before the end of the show, because Chiyo was getting restless.  I asked her if she was 疲れた (つかれた, tsukareta), which pretty much means tired, but not sleepy.  She responded: "Yes, I'm tired - I want to play."

I think that's when you know it's time to go.

On the way out, we stopped at an ice cream stand and I bought Chiyo a small container of cookies-and-cream.  Here's the aftermath:

Someone really enjoyed her ice cream
Hope you enjoyed this!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Host Family!

Hey everyone, 

I know I've been lazy with the posting - don't expect that to change.  But I figured I should mention something about the fact that I've now moved in with a host family!  I now live much, much farther from school, but I also now have a Japanese family!

The 柴田 family (しばた, Shibata) lives in 東久留米 (ひがしくるめ, Higashikurume), about one hour away from school.  The father, Yutaka, works for NHK (the Japanese public broadcasting corporation) making TV sets for Japanese dramas.  The mother, Ikuyo, does some part-time work but mainly stays at home.  They also have a six year-old daugher, Chiyona, who calls me お兄ちゃん (おにいちゃん, oniichan), which means big brother.  It's ridiculously adorable.

I seem to have the biggest room in the house, which makes me somewhat uneasy, but that's very much in the Japanese-style: guest rooms are typically the best in the house.  It seems, though, that the rest of the family is cramming into the den/other bedroom, which makes me feel even more uneasy, but I can't really do anything about it...

So tomorrow, I am going to Chiyo's school with the family because she has a 体育祭 (たいいくさい,taiikusai), or athletic festival.  I will try to snap some pictures of the family to post here.  Also, time permitting, expect some posts of my visit to China!  There are lots of things I should talk about, hopefully I will get to them all...

For now, here are some pictures of my room: 

My bed - not too sure I understand what's up with the covers, but...

My desk

One of the corners of my room - pants hanging to dry

Other corner of my room - shirts and stuff