Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Uncle Sam Wants ... Me?

Last weekend, I visited one of my high school friends stationed in Yokosuka. Living near a base back home, I’ve developed a sort of affinity for military communities, but this was my first time on a naval base. The ships are simply amazing, and her explanations of being out on sea made me want to join the navy too – her carrier ship houses FOUR THOUSAND other sailors on it, and after Japan, she might go as far as Morocco or France (but then she told me I’d have to take physics, so that was the end of that). Nonetheless, I’m jealous of all the opportunities the U.S. military gives – a hefty salary, yes, but more than that, a chance to travel doing something that truly honors one’s country.

Couldn't get a closeup because it is the military, after all. But isn't it grand??

Going on base was also like going back to a piece of America. (As such, I stocked up on hard to come by bathroom products like shaving gel and stick deodorant hehe). But it made me wonder, what do the Japanese think about the U.S. bases that are still here? There was that whole fiasco with the Okinawa base and Hatoyama, but from my experiences, the communities surrounding a base heavily depend on it and usually don’t want it closed down. But Japan has never really been one to embrace the West…

As for class, it’s picking up, but I still don’t feel like it’s as intense as I thought it was going to be. Don’t get me wrong, the teachers are excellent and I appreciate the fact they’re being picky on really subtle things like intonation (although it can be a drag to repeat one sentence over and over again sometimes), but I’ve still been able to sleep 7-8 hours a day – this feels absolutely amazing for someone who sleeps 4-6 at Yale. Then again, we only had three days of class this week because of two national holidays, so I could be gauging the pace too fast. Nonetheless, I’ve already noticed a considerable improvement in my writing/speechmaking (after you do a speech everyday for the last two weeks, I guess there had better be some sort of improvement). On top of that, I’ve had a strange motivation to do more than what’s taught in class, especially when it comes to expanding vocabulary. I realize that once you have the basic grammar down, nothing is as important as memorizing as many new words as you can. So I’ve been taking my Ipod Touch everywhere, storing unfamiliar words that I hear, and most importantly of all, REVIEWING them on the train – which doesn’t just mean the definition, but how they’re used in sentences. Now if only I could be as motivated about kanji…

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the number of outside activities the center has. Well, I guess they’re not always exactly organized by the center, but I’ve been able to sign up for a hiking trip, an excursion to Kamakura, and Noh/Bunraku performances in the last week. As such, I think my decision to go to IUC still stands … the program is excellent, I’ve still been able to meet a lot of Japanese people, and I can’t get over the fact that I live 30 minutes away from central Tokyo and 10 from central Yokohama by train.

Scramble crossing at Shibuya - only 30 min away by train! 

People ask me, is it strange to be in Japan when you should have been at Yale this year? I don’t know why, but everything just feels NATURAL about me being here. Yes, I’m become familiarized, but more than that, I get the strange sense that I was always meant to be at this place at this time at this point in my life. (I know, I’m a little crazy…) This also sounds vague, but after a summer in China, I just don’t think I could have gone back to Yale after going through a whirwind two months of seeing new places that made me think about things I never thought about before.

[I realize that my blog posts are becoming less and less thematic in lieu of just being a bunch of updates strung together – sorry about that!]

Landmark Tower (Japan's tallest building) in the morning fog on the way to school

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