it’s been nice!

31 December 2011 § Leave a comment

Only a couple days left at home. Christmas was splendid, spent with my family and relatives. The first several days home were really difficult between this cold, which I’m still battling (I think it’s winning), and the jet lag. The latter isn’t so bad now, but I’ve been staying up too late. ¬† With the exception of a couple days, I think it’s actually been warmer here than it has been in Osaka. I was hoping for freezing cold and lots of snow, but apparently it’s a little early for that.

Last night was my friend’s annual gingerbread party, the twelfth or thirteenth one. A Christmas season necessity. We went with a Mario theme this year, creating a two-tiered base on which to place various Mario related items, including bricks with treats in them, stars, flowers, pipes, Yoshi, mushrooms, and Koopas.

I went on a grocery run the other day and bought numerous items which aren’t available in Japan. Shreddies, gravy mix, various canned soup (all I can find in Japan is corn chowder and clam chowder), granola bars, etc. Between various clothes that I dug out of bins and the groceries, I won’t have any trouble filling up my suitcase, which I brought over filled with gifts for almost everyone I know.

Being back home after eleven months in a foreign country, there isn’t actually too much that I’ve noticed upon my return. You know.. how maybe I’d notice lots of little things that I hadn’t before, like maybe how store employees aren’t as polite as those in Japan (though I have¬†noticed this, in fact). I’ve enjoyed people holding the door for me, and visa versa. I’ve been tipping generously everywhere I go, as I’m not supposed to tip in Japan. I’m more talkative with people in stores than I used to be, just because I can be (which is to say we understand each other.. the things we take for granted, right?).

Eleven days isn’t enough, really. There are people I’d love to see, people I’d love to sit down for tea and talk at length with. Being back has given me a lot to think about with regards to what I’ll do about coming home for good. Mostly what goals I have for when I’m back in Ontario.

Most imminent goal right now? Have a satisfying New Years, which involves not going to any parties. Maybe I can catch up on some sleep.

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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.

illiterate and a visible minority.

8 February 2011 § 2 Comments

And if I post at night and then the next morning, it is as if I’ve posted two times in one day.

It rained last night. That somehow made Osaka seem more like a real place. Not that it’s exactly felt fake, but everything has still felt sort of unreal. Rain helps.

There are two feelings that I’ve found particularly interesting since I’ve been here. The first, which I’ve remarked on to some and in other places, is the feeling of being illiterate. I struggle to figure out what things mean, trying to figure out what they might mean based on context. There are two people in my training group who understand some amount of the writing systems and are able to answer some the others’ questions, but I hate having to ask them for help all the time. I need to do some studying myself. I rely on other cues, which I do also in English of course, but they are so much more important now it seems, though being in a foreign culture makes it that much more difficult. (I am watching the morning news, they are talking about English, Canada, and America. One of the guys just spoke some English and then everyone clapped. I don’t understand.)

The other feeling is well, not so much a feeling as a fact: I am a visible minority. On Monday, a friend and I walked to the Ward Office to apply for our Alien Registration Cards and on our way back to the apartment, a group of kids pointed at us saying, “Amerika-jin!” and “Hello! Hey! Hi!”. They were very excited. We waved back, said hello, smiled. As we kept walking they shouted their goodbyes. I remarked to my friend that that would never happen in Canada. It would never fly to point at a Japanese person on the street, “Look! a Japanese person! Konnichiwa!! Ohayo!!! Sayonara!!”. I mean, I wasn’t put off or insulted. I’ve heard that that happens. It was kinda neat, actually. I don’t think I’ve gotten stared at quite as much as some of the other trainees. One of the girls is blonde with blue eyes. One of the guys is 6″3 with light brown hair. Maybe I just haven’t noticed because I don’t look around a lot on the subway. One of the girls from the States said yesterday that she feels guilty for not knowing more Japanese, that she feels obligated to learn as fast as possible. I understand what she means. It’s nice and all having our little group, but we need to branch out a little and get into it more. If you know what I mean.

I got excited last night doing some of my reading for training today when in one of the examples of a teacher talking with a student, my name was used:

“My name is Catherine, (gesturing with an open hand to the first student) what’s your name? Nice to meet you, Emi…”

Haven’t found any personalized items with my name on them yet. Probably should figure out how to read my name in Japanese first.

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