Friday, June 11, 2010

A Day of Failures ... and Relief

Written on June 11 at 10:00 PM (日本の時間)

Okay. I admit it. I am in another country. Aside from the obvious things (driving on the left side of the road) to the more exotic (polka-dotted cranes, anyone?), I guess I’m not in Kansas anymore. A list of first observations (because everything is so much simpler in lists):

·      For all the talk about the women always dressing up, what about the men? In Tokyo, I think I saw maybe two guys total wearing jeans, while the rest were in staunch suit and tie.
·      … although I still felt really awkward in running shorts when I went out for a run the first morning in Tokyo. I passed by a lot of middle-aged to elderly women exercising, but they were all conservatively wearing exercise pants or capris.
·      Cuteness factor: Max everywhere I go. I thought it was just a stereotype that everything in Japan was かわいい because of all the imported media that comes to America, but it’s actually pretty true that Japanese stores make a special effort to present themselves as cute.
·      “The Land of the Rising Sun” is certainly an appropriate name for 日本. I fell asleep pretty early because I couldn’t sleep on the plane, but woke up to the sun shining through the hotel windows at 5 a.m. Vice versa, it sets a lot earlier too.
·      I NEED TO LEARN KANJI. ‘Nuff said.

Today was kind of a fail though. I bombed my oral test after trying to explain the plot of 꽃보다 남자 (“There’s this girl who doesn’t have a lot of money … she goes to a school with … people who do have a lot of money … um … it’s a love story.”) and skipped the entire last passage in the reading section because every other word was kanji I didn’t know. I was talking with some other first-year students about the last passage and they were like, “Yeah … I had to resort to my Chinese for that one.” Oh, Dad, why didn’t you teach me 한자 when I was little? Ah well, if I place in the lowest level, I guess that’s what’s expected of someone who’s only taken one year of Japanese.

Another fail – I thought I would be able to find a three-prong to two-prong converter in Hakodate after leaving Tokyo yesterday. (For future fellows, Japan operates on almost the same frequency as America, so you don’t need an adapter, but you do need the aforementioned converter if you have a three-pronged plug appliance like your laptop charger.) After a yummy dinner at a ramen shop (I will never look at Maruchan Ramen the same again), I went searching for a converter with Sam, another student in HIF who didn’t have a converter either. We walked through downtown Hakodate, looking unsuccessfully for an electronics store and trying to describe a コンバータ to the local shopkeepers in mangled Japanese. Finally, with the recommendation of my trusted Light Fellowship SAC guide, we took a taxi to Yamada Denki, a huge electronics store in Hakodate that had everything BUT a converter. End of story – 3,000 yen blown and no converter for my laptop. Thankfully, Ning is letting me borrow her charger for the time being so I’m able to type up this entry.

Sheesh, Hakodate is a smaller city, but being a tourist spot, I didn’t think it would be this much of a hassle to find a converter. Nevertheless, this was the first time that I ventured out to speak with the locals and didn’t find it as awkward as I thought it would be. I’m not sure how much Japanese they understood from me (the taxi driver kept referring me to as Sam’s おくさん even after repeated explanations that we were 学生), but I feel a little better about communicating with my host family, whom I’ll meet tomorrow at the opening ceremony, and interviewing people for HIF’s infamous independent study project.

Heading out now to watching the opening of the World Cup. Updates on host family and horrendous placement test results to come.

EDIT: Did I leave my camera charger and USB cord at home too? Arghh, I might have to buy a camera here too… In the meantime, pictures will have to wait.

EDIT of the EDIT: Thank goodness I dug up the camera charger in my luggage the next morning. Score for Plan "Don't Go Broke in Japan". Pictures to come soon.

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Kelly McLaughlin said...

Good news about the camera!

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