Published: August 18th 2008August 18th 2008
Tsuru Bunka Daigaku
This is one of the main buildings at the school.
I hope everyone is enjoying the end of Summer break! I'm already in classes here, but still having a great time! In an effort to get you all caught up to my current happenings, I'm going to kind of squish the first week at Tsuru in to this entry. Once we got to Tsuru, things calmed down a lot, so I'll just be giving you the highlights. Hope you enjoy and feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment if you want to hear more about anything. I love hearing from everyone, so any time you're looking for something to do, drop me a note!
First up in Tsuru was orientation on Friday, August 1st. We met with our tutors and the program coordinators (Takiguchi-Sensei and Fumi-San) to get an overview of life in Tsuru. The most complicated thing to get used to is (oddly enough) the garbage system. They don't just throw away or recycle things. Nope. You have to separate your garbage into "燃える" and "燃えない" (burnable and non-burnable) and there are certain days that each type is picked up. Recycling is completely separate and must also be separated out. They spent a good
This is part of the group walking up to the school before orientation.
10 minutes explaining that whole system to us at the orientation. It's kind of a "cultural phenomenon" as one of them put it. It's true: if you tried to instate that kind of a system in America, I'm pretty sure no one would follow it. I guess the locals get pretty mad if you do things the wrong way, too, which has led previous foreign exchange students to pile up their garbage on their balcony in fear of doing things the wrong way. I think I've got it figured out, though.
They also told us a little about our schedule for the first couple of months. Until the end of September, we're all in an "intensive language program." After that, we will be taking not only language classes, but also our choice of two elective classes. They also told us that on the Monday following orientation, we were to have a placement test to put us either in the "A" class or "B" class depending on our reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. So, we were going to have to study a little over the weekend...
( I know, I know...I'm "studying" abroad, but it still feels like
Michelle and I sitting in some of the tiniest chairs ever in existence.
Summer and I'm in Japan...OK, I know, I'm not winning any sympathy...)
That night, I was to meet my "host family." While I don't stay with them, they are here to be like a little support group for me and take me cool places and make me food.
Everyone but me and one other girl, Allison, were going to be meeting their host families at a welcome party Monday night, but our host families couldn't come, so we were meeting them early. That was definitely the most nervous that I've been so far. I knew that they would be nice, but I didn't even know their name or how many kids they had or anything. Turns out their last name is Shairo and they have two girls in elementary school. The mother's name is Akiko, the father's is Hideki, and the kids are Kana and Miho. Hideki wasn't there that night, but the rest of the family was very nice. The kids are my favorite! If I could just talk to them all the time, it would be a breeze. Talking to their mother proved to be a little more difficult, but she was very nice. She and
Mos Burger's Philosophy
They have these funny little paintings hanging up in the restaurant that explain their philosophy on making burgers.
Allison's host mother seem to be very good friends and we ended up all going out to dinner together. Dinner was nice and only got awkward when I had to try to explain Diabetes in Japanese. Ouch. They don't seem to be very aware of type 1 diabetes here, so even with the help of my host mother's electronic dictionary, it was hard to explain. I think that they understood after a while that I am pretty much normal and they don't need to worry about me, but dang, that was a toughie. I've since memorized the name for Diabetes in Japanese.
I won't be seeing my host family again until the 26th because they're on vacation in America right now. They're going to take me to a fire festival, which sounds really exciting!
That weekend, we didn't do much besides explore Tsuru and study for the placement test. One of the best things that we discovered in Tsuru is a little restaurant called Mos Burger. It's a delicious Japanese hamburger chain. I know, I know...I'm in Japan, why am I eating burgers? Well, I'll tell you why: they're AMAZING. Seriously. Just like the bread, it's just another
Oh yeah, Mos Burger!
Enjoying my first Mos Burger!
American thing that Japan has improved upon. The only burger in America that beats it is In 'N Out. But then again...In 'N Out doesn't have a Teriyaki Chicken Burger...
Monday we had the placement test in the morning. It wasn't very hard. I pretty much studied way too hard for it, but it paid off because I ended up in the "B" class--the upper level. Sweet! (So far, it's been pretty easy, but a good review and lots of good new Kanji and vocab) That night was the welcome party. Since the main part of the welcome party was meeting host families and mine and Allison's weren't there, we got to sit at a table with our tutors and the directors of the program. They had TONS of food and insisted on sending us each home with at least one platter's worth at the end. During the party, they had a cute ice-breaker game where your team (which usually consisted of the student, host family, and tutor, but in my case was my tutors, allison and her tutors, and me) stood on a newspaper and had to answer trivia questions. If your team got it wrong, you had
Japan has unholy, very large bugs. Seriously.
to fold the newspaper smaller so that everyone had to squeeze together to stay on as the game progressed. It was pretty funny. We made it to the final 3, but lost in a tie-breaker of rock-paper-scissors. That game settles everything here, I swear!
The next day, we had class until about 12:45. The classes had not been split yet, so we were all together. They taught us how to address and write post cards and we wrote them to our host families. I was excited because I got a postcard with pink bunnies on it.
That night, we were to go to an お祭り (omatsuri), that is, a festival! We were all supposed to wear Yukata--Summer kimonos. So, after school we went to Ogino--the local supermarket that has "foods and fashion." It's like Target, but Japanese. The yukata were on sale because it was the day of the festival, so I bought a set that came with the yukata, getas(shoes), and obi. The best part is that the shoes an obi can also go with the yukata that Emily got me, so I'm set! =)
At about 3:30, we met at the school to get help
Welcome Party game
Discussing our answer to a trivia question
with putting our yukata on. It's not quite as complicated as a full-on kimono, but it definitely works best if you have experienced help. Our help came in the form of seemingly innocent friends of the program directors. However, behind their friendly smiles and mild Japanese manners were agents of torture. After being tied into my yukata like one of Gradma Lu's Christmas presents, I have new found respect for Japanese women. Seriously. The ribbons and obi that go around your waist are the Japanese version of a corset. I was pretty much in pain the entire night. Ridiculous. But at least I looked good.
Meanwhile, the guys were done getting dressed in their pajama-like outfits in about 5 minutes. Apparently, that's common to any culture in the world. Blah. Oh well, at least they still had to wait for us!
After much picture taking, we headed over to the train station to get on the road to Kawaguchi-ko. The lake where the festival would take place. Unfortunately, there was a thunderstorm going on and the electricity for the train was out. So, while we waited for it to get up and running, we ate little snacks at
we play to win
Checking out the competition...
a restaurant next door. Around 7, the train started working again, so off we went! The festival was known for its fireworks, but we had no idea just how amazing they would be. They went on for at least an hour and were THE most incredible fireworks I've ever seen. I hate to say it, but they might even have beat Disneyland's. I know--shocking, especially coming from me. The food was also delicious, though I couldn't eat much due to the constraints of my obi/corset.
I had yakisoba and one of my favorite drinks--Pocari Sweat. Seriously. That's the name. It's a sports drink that is WAY better than Gatorade. Seriously delish.
The festival was the highlight of the week, but we also got together with the tutors a couple days later to watch "Gangs of New York." I don't know why we decided on that one, but it was good. We all got together in a lounge at the school and watched it on a big screen. Pretty sweet. The couch was huge, too.
That's about it for the first few days at Tsuru. We're not quite caught up to present yet, but getting there.
outwit. outplay. outlast.
Trying to come up with a decent trivia question for the other teams...The girl with the microphone is one of my tutors--Sayaka.
I'm not boring you all too much. I'll post another entry within a day or two, so keep your eyes peeled! I love you all! Ja ne! (That's like "See you!")
There are more photos below