summer plans.

15 July 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s mid-July and it is very hot in Japan. I’m getting used to it, though. I was told by two people in the past week that I seemed to fit right in, and that I seem like I’ve been here longer than five and a half months. It’s been nearly half a year. It feels like it’s been a month.

My Japanese is coming along. I managed to hold up some kind of conversation with a woman the other day. The different writing systems make learning Japanese an interesting process. Hiragana and katakana are straightforward enough (both syllabaries which are easy enough to read once you know them all), but there is nothing about kanji (logographic) that is so simple. I’ve found that I can now look at a lot of kanji and know they’re meaning in English, but not how they’re read in Japanese. And I know a few kanji and their readings in Japanese, but not what they mean in English. And I know a lot of words in Japanese and their English meaning, but not their associated kanji. It’s a strange process.

I really want to study harder, but there’s hardly any time. I had a little girl run up to me last week at work and start talking to me in very fast Japanese. She seemed to really want to tell me about something. A Japanese teacher helped me out and explained to me that the girl wanted to tell me about her pet bunny. Moments like that one especially make me wish I could understand as well as speak more.

I had been avoiding buying any plants up until now because I’m not good at caring for them. So instead, when I was at a store the other day, I thought it’d be a good idea to buy some pet shrimp. Tiny little shrimp, in a little bowl, with some plants in it. I figured I couldn’t screw that one up. I brought them home and named them (Sydney, Colorado, and Partridge). The next day, when I got home from work, they were dead. I never leave my air conditioning on when I go out, and I guess that little shrimp don’t like the Osaka heat. A good friend is giving me a spider plant next week. Hopefully it’s not so sensitive. Maybe I’ll hold off on naming that one.

I am on to my third stick of deodorant.

As much as I’d like to spend more time on learning Japanese, or at home with the air conditioning on so that I sustain some kind of life so I have some company in my apartment, I’m really excited about all the things I’m busy with right now. Currently, I am spending four days in Kyoto, cat-sitting for my friend Mariko. She thanked me several times for helping her out before her and her family left, but really, I should be thanking her! Four days in Kyoto for free, in a house, with three cats. What more could I ask for? I think four days off in a row should be enough to get me through until two weeks from now when I will be climbing Mount Fuji. Yes, I am climbing Mount Fuji in two weeks, and on the Friday morning, I will watch the sun rise from the top. I’m not convinced that I am in any kind of appropriate physical condition, but I’m not going to let that stop me!

AND THEN, a week later, my friend Dan and I will go on a crazy adventure around almost all of Japan. It will be long. It will be tiring. It will be expensive. It will be awesome. We’ve only planned out the first half of our journey, but it includes Hiroshima (for the peace ceremony), Hakone (for the Little Prince / Antoine de St Exupery museum), Kamakura (I hear it’s quaint?), Tokyo, Nikko (for Toshogu Shrine), a long ferry ride to Hokkaido, Sapporo, and Hakodate. That’s about one week right there. We will post an itinerary on here when it’s complete and, once the journey starts, will be updating my blog – ideally – every day. I hadn’t anticipated much of Japan beyond the Kansai region (Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Kobe) and Tokyo, so I’m very excited.

I’m becoming quite comfortable here.


still kicking.

26 April 2011 § 2 Comments

My laptop charger is busted! I’m not impressed! There is one on its way from China for me, and I am trying to wait patiently for its arrival. In the meanwhile, a few friends in my apartment building have been kind enough to allow me some time on their laptops, and right now, I’m borrowing a charger from a girl downstairs. Here are a few updates from the past little while:

1. One of my students gave me an article (in English) about dating in Japan. She thought I might find it interesting. Dating isn’t on my list of things to do in Japan, but it was nice of her to think of me during her week.

2. I found another awesome park a short bike ride away from my apartment. I am excited to spend some time there.

3. Found a bottle of Niagara wine for the first time the other night. Every time I am at a store with a large wine selection, I look to see if there’s anything from Niagara. Finally, I was at some place last night that had an empty Peller Estates ice wine bottle on a shelf. It made me happy to see.

4. I’m setting up a poetry reading event in downtown Osaka in mid-June. I’m really excited about this. Going to put an ad in a monthly publication about it. Hopefully I can get a few people to come out and read some original poetry! I’ve been asking around a bit about a poetry scene, but no one knows anything. I saw an ad for a poetry reading back in March, open mic for original pieces, advertised as free, but was taking place at a restaurant and anyone attending was required to buy a dinner set (4000 yen later… approx. 48 dollars). Might as well go ahead and set something up myself!!

5. I figured out some kanji for my name tonight. There are a lot of different ways to write Emi in kanji, but I think the one I’ve figured out is what it’s supposed to be. The kanji I’ve got for “mi” means beautiful, and the kanji that I chose for “e” means smile. One of the other popular kanji for “e” means painting or picture, but I seem to recall my parents telling me that my name means smile…

6. Two more shifts and then a week off!! (Well, with the exception of the two days of overtime I’ve picked up).

7. If anyone in the Niagara area doesn’t have any plans for this FRIDAY, April 29th, check out the St. Catharines Downtown Market sometime between 11AM and 8PM. Rachael Forgeron is selling some of her jewelery which is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Check out some of her stuff HERE ON ETSY. She’s been doing this for years and her experience and passion for her craft is evident. A nice trip to the market downtown on a Saturday afternoon – sounds kinda nice, doesn’t it?

here are some things about the past couple days.

10 February 2011 § 2 Comments

When I went out on my balcony this morning, I realized for the first time that I can see mountains in the distance. I think they are in the east. We had a nice blue sky for the first half of the day, the bluest we’ve seen since we arrived (we = my training group). I’d make some comment about it being chilly, but then I remind myself that when I flew out of Toronto, it was around -20 Celsius. I can’t complain here.

I’ve been trying to learn a few kanji a day. It doesn’t help a lot, but it makes me feel like I understand a little bit. I will turn my focus to katakana eventually, because that’s a realistic system to learn. Today I learned to recognize the symbols for mouth, the “n” sound, and “no” (as a syllable, not like our “no”). Yesterday I learned fruit and juice. The symbol for juice, however, can also mean gravy, syrup, ink, or probably an assortment of other things. This is a fun language!

For the time being, my exploring has been put on hold. I completed my third day of training today. It is tiring. On one hand, it’s sort of nice not having to think of making lesson plans for my job. I get to exercise teaching skills, work with students, and all that, but I don’t have to lesson plan. Instead, the company/school I’m working for has every single one of their lessons already planned out in great detail. Even though we don’t have to do our own lesson planning, we do have to go through this intensive training that makes us feel like we are robots being programmed. There are specific things they want us to say. Specific gestures they want us to use. It’s a lot to remember. We are each expected to present a lesson on Saturday, exactly as though we were teaching a small class. This will determine whether or not each person makes it through to the rest of the training. It’s intimidating and they have articulated very high standards, but it will be fine.

Had okonomiyaki and takoyaki for lunch today. Wikipedia describes the former as a Japanese savoury pancake. I gather that they’re fairly popular in Osaka. Where we bought it, it was pretty much the equivalent of street meat. I have no clue what was in it, but it was really good. Takoyaki is also known as octopus balls. Ball-shaped Japanese dumplings with octopus in the middle. And other things. Anyway, they’re really good. I had them once in Toronto as well.

I haven’t actually eaten at any real restaurants yet, as I’ve been very conservative with my spending. Instead, we’ve been finding cheap deals at street vendors, or buying sushi from the supermarket in the evening after it’s been discounted (a little sketchy? maybe, but still good as far as we’re concerned). We want to go out more, but for now, while we’re just training and without a paycheck, this works for us.

I haven’t been remembering my dreams very much at all, but the first one I remembered since I’ve been in Japan was about being back in St. Catharines. Instead of being at home, at a cafe, or the Merch, though, I was at McDonald’s. Of all places to dream about being back at home! Then again, on my first day here, I went to McDonald’s for lunch. I guess there is some kind of association with the franchise and home, even if it isn’t a place I tend to frequent.

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