Thursday, June 30, 2005
Anyway, last night we threw a suprise party for two other members of our group, Cindy and Grace. Very fun party, but not enough pizza to go around.
So here is another thing I have observed: the students here dont seem to study as much as us, but they are really serious about thier club activities. I have not seen anyone studying, but the music club has been there everyday, working for hours to set up and take down the stage. And the Intercultural Communication Culb that some of our toutors are a part of seems to take up alot of thier time.
On another note, I just discovered that I was in such a rush to leave the building and beat the rain today that I totally forgot to put on deodorant. *sigh* 恥ずかしい。
감자함니다. <---Hey Lynn, I learned how to type!
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
After a night of wretched sleep on a pillow that was actually the hardness of a bike tire, I decided that I had to visit Ryukoku University and see if I could store one of my bags somewhere. I hopped on a train to Kyoto, then took a train to Seta, then took a bus to the campus. I then wandered until I found an information desk and asked if there was anyplace where I could store my bag for a week. The people at the information desk were really nice and called everyone who they knew who stored luggage, however, since it was Sunday, there was no luck. Finally they said I should go back to Kyoto and put my bag in a coin locker and just leave it, which I did. I then wandered around Shin-Osaka station for several hours, eating udon, buying train tickets and using the free internet. Then I got on the train for Hakata port, in Fukuoka. By the way, the picture is of the Seta campus of Ryukoku Daigaku.
I arrived at
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Lynn had an appointment to get her hair straitened (which confused me, as it was already strait, but indeed, it was straighter and blacker than before), so she told me to ask Koreans in English the location of a park. Unfortunately, I immediately forgot the name of the park, and instead took a subway to the center of Seoul and visited one of the palaces of one of the old Korean kingdoms.
We parted with her friend, and met up again with Jay. Then we traveled to her aunt’s house. Both of her young cousins are studying English, and I was able to look at the books that they read. It was really hard stuff. The Korean government may be expecting a little much out of primary school students, since the things that they were reading in lower school were grammatically as complex as the things that lower school students in the
So we took KTX (the Korean Bullet train) to
So the next day we went to the fish market. This was definitely the most interesting fish market I have ever been to, because about half of everything you could buy was still alive. Tons of octopus, tons of shellfish, sea cucumbers, starfish, and so much more. Although it was kind of depressing also, because unlike other fish markets where everything has already been killed, in this one you could see the killing taking place. About half way through the fish market, Lynn said that there was also whale meat, and asked if I wanted to try it. I hesitantly agreed. We sat down at table in front of a large pile of what looked like very thick tire segments. She negotiated with the shop owner and we were amazed to find out how expensive it was. 10,000 won (about 10 dollars) for ten quarter sized pieces. I kind of wanted to use the price as an excuse to leave, since I was beginning to feel really guilty, but the shop owner had already begun cutting one of the pieces of meat that she had. She served us and I sat there looking at the meat for around a minute. Finally, I tried some. It tasted like overcooked duck meat, and was very chewy. I can’t see why people like it, but I guess they do. I really didn’t want to eat all ten pieces, and neither did Lynn, but I would have felt more guilty letting it go to waste, so I ate it all. With each bite I thought of the beautiful humpbacks that breach near my house. When I was done, I felt kind of sick to my stomach.
Unfortunately, this is where the pictures end and the really amazing stuff began. We went to a book store, then returned to the flat so that I could change out of my very American shorts and T-shirt into something nice. Then we met with
Anyway, it was the most amazing meal of my life. And then we went to Karaoke. It was so much fun. The fact that I spent all day trying new things with people that I liked made me so happy. After the karaoke I literally could not stop smiling, which made it easy to brush my teeth. That was definitely one of the best days of my life.
I woke up the next morning and
So I got to Kansai airport and took the train. Nothing really special happened, but the train ride was kind of scary. I had discovered a very strange lump on my leg on the day that Lynn and I went to the town with the tombs, and the next day I had noticed that it was not reduced in size. At that point I had a very strong suspicion that it was a tumor, but I got my fortune told by a Korean fortune telling machine before we went on that cruise and I had
So the next day I typed most of this account, which took 4 hours (darn it, you’d better like it!). Then I walked to the department store again and got everything that I forgot, well, almost. I also tried meron pan (melon bread) for the first time. It was not bad. Meron Pan is very interesting because it is one of the only Japanese foods that is surprising on the outside and normal in the middle (usually). There have been so many times when I have bought something in
Anyway, I returned to the dorm and basically sat around playing cards and getting to know my fellow students a bit better. Actually, I wanted to wander around the town some more, but since the growth on my leg had not gotten any smaller, I really did not feel like being alone anymore. After cards I offered my help to the tutors in getting ready for the party we had that night, but they never really told me to do much. The party that evening was interesting. I played a game with 4 others in which one of our sushi was filled with a lot of wasabi and the other 4 were OK. I got the heavy wasabi one and it felt like my sinuses were turning inside out. We had a good time, but nothing that I would consider interesting happened. Just a pretty regular college party. I stayed sober.
On Monday we all arose and had our first breakfast in the dorm. It was very good. Miso soup, rice, bread and assorted “western” breakfast foods. We then walked to the Ryukoku campus. I am pleased to brag about the fact that, despite the fact that I am the whitest person here, I am also the best adapted to heat. Thus, after we reached the class room, everyone else was bright red, but I was still my normal color. The fact that I wear a broad brimmed hat when I go out helps too. So we got acquainted with the Ryukoku campus and got many stares. As almost always, I was something of an object of curiosity, but by now I am really used to it. We toured the campus, which is small, and ate lunch. What I haven’t yet talked about was my mood on that day. I was scared, and because I was scared I was grumpy. Much of the politeness that I take great pride in just did not manifest itself on Monday. But I was thinking about more serious things. After lunch Professor Cheng and Morimori (one of the tutors, actually, something of a leader of the tutors) took me to the student health center so that the nurses and doctor could have a look at me. I went in alone with the nurses and tried to explain the growth. I was amazed at how competent I actually was at Japanese. I almost got my description understood, I think. Anyway, the nurses thought it was a swelled lymph node, which mad me feel better. I had been sick so that made sense. However, when I saw the doctor he said that there was no way it could be a lymph node because there was no lymph node in that part of the body. I got the impression that he thought it was some sort of skin cancer since he decided to send me to a dermatologist. Cheng Sensei and I decided to meet downtown at and go to the dermatologist together. I returned to the dorms (Morimori was good enough to wait with me at the bus stop until my bus came), then I put my computer in my bag and headed for downtown. I went a different way than normal, and I ran into hundreds of grammar school kids wearing yellow hats on their way home. I discovered that day that the JR Station area has wireless internet, which means that I can use my laptop provided I can find a place where I can sit down and plug in my computer for half an hour. I had a shaved ice and met up with Cheng Sensei. We went to Tanaka (the dermatologist and he said that it was a tumor, but probably benign. He suggested however that I get a second opinion from a doctor at the local teaching hospital the next day, which I agreed to do after some deliberation. It was after I visited Tanaka that I made the very unfortunate discovery that the health insurance provided by the program I am in will not pay for my hospital bills. Rather, I must pay for all of my medical costs and then they will reimburse me. I only have a limited amount of cash, and I was furious about this. I still am. What is the point of having insurance specifically for traveling if it does not work in foreign countries?! Thus, I needed to withdraw some cash so that I could pay for any future hospital bills. Cheng Sensei and I searched the town and finally found a cash machine that worked on the campus. He was nice enough to pay for the Taxi: 1090 yen. I will pay him back. I returned to the dorm just in time to walk with some students and tutors back to town to get some udon. The Udon was great, and I had a good time talking, but I may have been a touch gloomy on that walk. I came home, bathed, and eventually went to bed. However, there is one more story. So we share a dorm with the baseball team, a group of really tough guys. So I walked in to the bathroom and they were discussing something. I had no idea what any of the words they were using meant, but I was able to pick out one word in particular that they seemed to say with particular relish. This word I concluded must be important. I memorized it, went up stairs and asked Fumi what the word meant. I had a feeling that it was very crude speech, and Fumi said I was correct. She told me I should ask one of the boys. The boys informed me of the meaning of the word and also told me that saying it to a woman was considered sexual harassment in
On Tuesday I awoke a little later and had breakfast. Then Fumi and I went to the teaching hospital that is in the area. The hospital was basically one of the most stressful places I have been, because while I needed to understand what was going on, I could not. Fumi’s English was good, but had to deal with specific medical terms and translate them. Once again however the really stressful part was not the medicine itself but the whole process of registration and payment. Reception ladies are too polite for their own good. I can never understand them. Fumi is great, by the way. Today was her day off and she went with me anyway. She seems to have picked up that I was nervous because she kept making conversation that was not exactly related to the situation. At one point she began to talk about her family. Well the diagnosis was that yes, indeed it probably is a benign tumor, but I should have it taken out the first chance that I get. I was thinking of having the surgery done in
So then I went to class the next day, saw a Japanese band perform, traveled to
Monday, June 27, 2005
Sunday, June 19, 2005
I spent all day in Fukuoka looking around the city abd searching for a better gift for Lynns mom, with no sucess. Its hard to shop for a person who you have never met, from a diffrent culture.
Anyway, Fukuoka is great. The highlight of my day was when I found the old wall the Japanese built to defend against the Mongol invasions in the basement of a University I happend to be going through on my way to Fukuoka Tower (which was also cool).
In between the two I had my first set of English students come up to me for an interview. For some reason, when I am doing anything that is important, like paying for something or asking an important question my Japanese totally breaks down, but if Im just shooting the breeze it gets really good. Will have to do something about that.
Well, Ill explain more when the pictures return. Take Care everyone. And if any of the men in the audiance have a desire to come to Japan, I bought a card that allows you to stay at hotel Cabinas for 21 dollars a night. Access to the spa (which is the best I have ever seen, but thats me, not being from Japan) is included with your stay. Also, the pillows here arent as hard as car tires...but there is a story behind that.
I am using a very limited computer, so I cant post any pictures yet. But I can summerize. Stayed in a dive of a Capsule Hotel in Osaka. Tried to find a place to put my bags all day. Came to Fukuoka. Checked into the ultimate Capsule Hotel. Like this city the most so far.
Thanks for checking in every one. Once I can post pictures or go into greater detail I will.
Feel preaty good, by the way. Had my first Japanese bath, and that seems to have helped. The naked with a bunch of older men part wasnt that great though.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Naomi, by Junichiro Tanizaki. Very easy to read book. About a teenage seductress in 1920's Tokyo. Well writen book. I hated it. The main character goes from being kind of like me, and ends up basicly becoming the slave of a 19 year old nymphomaniac who openly extorts him for all of his money and destroys his self-respect. I wasn't too big on that transition. I also kept hoping that something would actually happen in the story, but nothing did. No significant plot twists.
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, by Yukio Mishima. Dificult to read. Amazing descriptions of the mentality of a madman. Really explores the concept of evil. Better than Naomi, but I can't say I liked it either. It is a book driven by well writen descriptions rather than action, and the descriptions go on forever. I have to say, it was intresting, though, and it got me thinking.
Yeah, so thats all I've been up to. Just trying to be better for Korea, so I'm staying inside yet again.
Consequently, I owe the Alkire's big time now.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Anyway, before I start my story about my ill starred trip to Nagano, I thought I would show you this picture I took of John. What's up with the collar?! When he came in and changed the channel to this pre-recorded interview on Bloomberg TV we were all making fun of him about the collar.
There was a Soba resturaunt at the gate of the shrine, and I went in, sat down and nearly fainted from exaustion. The waiter and manager were very nice. They gave me Udon, which helped a little, and then tried to get me to take some medicine that they had. Being they only spoke Japanese, and the medice bottle was also only in Japanese, I was very hesitant to take it. However, I really felt like I couldn't feel much worse at that point, so I gave it a try. It was just graphite, and it didn't work. I went and waited for the bus. The bus ride down was like hell. I had my hat at the ready in case I needed to vomit. My headache got worse, my stomach ache got worse, all my joints and organs began to pulse and I began to have gas.
I finally got to the station, bought my ticket and got on the train. I was in so much pain on the train that I couldn't help letting out the occasional groan, and the people next to me were eating, which made me want to vomit even more. I finally got to Tokyo and took a cab to the Alkire's house. For the last 2 days I have not been able to leave my bed. My temperature got up to 102 and actually broke the Alkire's thermometer. I am feeling much better today though. My temperature has gone away, there is no more pain in my joints, my headache is gone and I am only coughing a little bit. The stomachache remains, and I have painful gas, but I think I'll be well tomorow. I definately want to be well for the Korea leg of my trip, although I get the feeling that I may not be able to eat really spicy foods when I go. But basicly, I'm fine, I lived.
I didn't know if I should include the account of me being sick in my blog or not. It's not exactly a happy story, but I figured that it is better that you all get the whole story from me so that you won't worry rather than hearing it second hand and having you imagine all kinds of terrible scenarios.
Regardless, my next post will definately be more upbeat. Take Care.
Monday, June 13, 2005
I finally reached Akihabara after 1 1/2 hours of being lost on the subway. It turns out there are TWO Roppongi stations. Stupid me. When I got there I went into a Soba shop for some lunch. At this Soba shop you bought your meal from a vending machine, then gave the ticket to the cook. But when I walked in the cook came out from behind the counter to help me as my confusion was holding up other customers. I tried to explain that it was my first time eating Soba. She said that my Japanese was good. I then triped over my words so badly that she corrected her self and said "the sound of your Japanese is preaty". *Sigh*
The Soba was good.
So on the way back I decided to go to Hiroo station (suposedly the one that is closest to the Alkire's house). I got lost again, but in the process I saw something intresting. So when I get lost, as long as I am near enough to central Tokyo, I just walk for Roppongi Hills. It is a colossal building that towers above the entire city, and from it I know how to get home. Well, as I was walking by Roppongi Hills I encountered this crowd.
Just then Tom Cruise stepped out of a car. Screaming started, but since I still had a headache, that was the last thing I wanted to hear, so I kept walking.
I then went to the grocery store and asked if thay had liquid smoke. How the hell do you describe liquid smoke in Japanese. "Kemuri no aji no shoyu" was the best I could do. No dice. And that was my day.
By the way, please leave comments. It's the only way I know if anybody cares.