…and I neglected this blog. Shame on me, I know. Sorry. How about a picture of a bug to make up for it?
For those of you on my Facebook, don’t be alarmed if some photos of me wearing a surgical mask pops up. Either now or in the future. In Japan, when you are sick and coughing, sneezing, etc., instead of staying home to rest up, you put on a mask as a courtesy to others, take some medicine and go on as if you were not sick. And don’t, whatever you do, blow your nose in public. Sniffle until you find an appropriately private place to do so. I was not very Japanese, I accidentally slept through 3 morning classes last week and I blew my nose once in a semi-public place (but no one was around?). More shame on me, I know.
Yes, I am pretty much better, thank you for your care to those who asked! Even if only in your heads as you read this; I heard you.
Lady wearing a mask while bringing her child to receive prayers for 七五三 (7,5,3. ages of the children). About: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shichi-Go-San
Culture Contrast: I am given the privilege of talking with Japanese friends about interesting topics from time to time and there’s one interesting way Japanese and Americans, very generally, seem to approach problem solving. One overall theme of the way things are done in Japan is slowly, but surely. In the US it’s two bird with one stone. Both cultures value correctness and a job well done. In America, the student that is fastest to answer is perceived as smart whereas in Japan, if you answer the fastest it looks like you didn’t consider your answer and thus are someone who doesn’t think. I was asked, “Why do they think that in the US?”. I’m sure some people right now are asking, “Why do they think that in Japan?”. Well, I’m not entirely sure in either case. In some ways it seems more efficient to do the best you can in the less time spent, but it also seems reckless to forego doing something thoroughly and risk making mistakes for the sake of saving time and being efficient. it’s a good question to think about and you can come up with your own answer, although how soon you can answer that might depend on your culture!
As for being a native English speaker and hanging around with exchange students from various countries I can say that a lot of the world feels pressured to be proficient in English (next up is probably Chinese). This results in experiences that I have mixed feelings about. Since I know some of my fellow exchange students like to check this out, this part might be especially for you. First, everyone else can bond over the fact that English is hard. I can only commiserate about Japanese and envy those Chinese students with their Kanji knowledge.
While sometimes people are busy listening to me chatter on English with awe and interest I am just as fascinated listening to them. They not only have learned Japanese, often much more proficiently than I, but have studied English as well to the point where I can’t even hope to have a private conversation because well, EVERYONE HAS STUDIED ENGLISH. Even if they’re too scared to speak it most understand pretty well. Many of the Europeans know another language or two in addition to these three (Home Language + Japanese + English + ????). Please don’t be jealous that I am fluent in English. It’s one language. Where I come from almost everyone is and it doesn’t give me a distinct advantage there, trust.
Since most people can, to varying degrees, speak English, not only are private conversations in public impossible, but there’s less incentive for me to actually speak Japanese outside of class. Plus I’m a bit shy. No, really. It’s true. So it also relates to the Japanese. Sometimes Japanese will avoid talking to me because they think they have to use English. Sometimes people are surprised that I can speak even some Japanese (and sometimes they’re just being nice) so I’m not sure to what degree this is because they assume my Japanese proficiency is low to zero. I do get some brave souls using English. A lunch server said thank you and a few times in rural areas the young middle school boys said “Hello” and waved to get my attention while riding by on their bicycles. It was pretty adorable.
Events and Adventures~! (No, not the theme park)
The School festival essentially consisted of all the school groups or clubs hosting booths to sell food and/or showing live performances of what they do. It was really fun, I got to watch dance and music performances, drink semi-decent coffee while listening to a nice Jazz band. In addition, I watched a Japanese comedy performance called 落語 (Rakugo. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rakugo). I mentioned before that colleges in Japan have clubs that are a bit more serious such as Aikido, Although clubs that compete seriously (think US football or so) are so intense that for some students it takes priority over their studies. There are also circles which are much more lax. However, clubs and circles are an important part of student life and there are numerous, numerous clubs and circles that are taken pretty seriously here. Moreso than in the US, I believe, although the school festival did feel like we were just a bunch of kids having fun.
Also back in October I got the chance to go to Nara park and 東大寺 (Todaiji = Large East Temple). Nara Park is really famous for it’s numerous and tame deer wandering around. At first, not many deer were hungry, but I did eventually find the ones that were and it was crazy. They bob their heads to beg for more food and will stealthily sneak up behind you to pilfer your pockets and yank things from your hands in hopes it’s more food. One of the friends with me more or less rescued and old lady’s map from one of the deer. Crazy deer, just look at him. Her. Whatever.
The Temple was also really cool and they had a 49 foot tall statue as well as guardian (King?) statues of the cardinal directions. There are two here, West and North respectively. After the great 500 ton Buddha statue, of course.
Okay, I’m exhausted. Whew! Blogging is work! I’m going to go sleep off the last of this cold and hope that the pictures are cool enough to make up for my long absence. There’s some things I haven’t talked about yet so I guess will leave that for…
Next: School sponsored field trips! Yaaay! Oh, and toilets. And toilet slippers. And more.