Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Weekend Shenanigans

I think last week might have felt a little isolating, since I was starting over from scratch – new place, new people, new lifestyle (well, besides the obvious “new country”). But thankfully, the weekend came, and I’m starting to really enjoy my life here.

Friday evening, I met up with a friend to eat Chinese food, and our conversation kind of set off the tone for the weekend. Since he’s also studying Chinese, I was also trying to practice a bit (and found how out horribly American my Chinese accent has become), which brought up the topic of my Chinese experience. I was saying something along the lines of “Well, I think it might be easier to make friends in China because people are more real with you there. In Japan, people are nice, but …” He gave a simply reply, “If you make more Japanese friends, you’ll probably think differently…” Something I’m still thinking about and that I hope to come to agree with this year. If anything, the rest of the weekend was a step toward that.

Afterwards, me and my roommate were looking around for things to do on a Friday night (in our words, “We’re too young to stay in and study!!”), but we didn’t feel like staying out until 4 when the trains start running again, so we scoped out the neighborhood 居酒屋.The ones we passed were chock full of salarymen, but we ended up choosing one that only had one other customer, a guy in T-shirt and jeans – before a slew of other salarymen came in. Our fellow customers weren’t much up for conversation, but it was still interesting to check out the scene as probably the only two females in our neighborhood who found themselves in a 居酒屋 that night. Eh, with all the dreariness of Japanese corporate world, I can see why these places exist as a sort of relaxation. The cherry on top was when we made our way to the door, only to have everyone in the room look our way to say a hearty good-bye, and me smiling back as the door closed, WAVING good-bye as the biggest social faux pas of the night (completely forgot I was in Japan, where you bow like every five seconds). We cracked up on the way back to the apartment – who knows what stuff they were talking about us after we left – but an experience in Japan nonetheless. In a year, we should be able to knock out the rest in our neighborhood. ;)

Next morning, I met up with a language partner I found online. We ended up hanging out the entire day, talking a lot about differences between Korea/Japan, since she’s also studying Korean on the side and has been to Korea multiples times. And I MIGHT have a chance to see TVXQ in concert on their Japan tour next year because my language partner, who’s also a huge fan, has graciously offered to apply for tickets *fingers crossed*. Either way, it was an awesome day, and I finally got a chance to practice some タメ語 after the ていねい語 overload in class all week. More and more, I realize that I’m not going to be able to learn “real” Japanese in class, no matter how hard I pour through the textbook. I feel like I’m leading a double life sometimes, drilling the 敬語 and 尊敬語 in class (which, admittedly, is an area I seriously need to work on, but we avoid けど and から like the plague), and trying to pick up as much colloquial talk outside of class.

Ended with a beautiful sunset from 大桟橋:
The sail-looking building is where I go to school!

Sunday was lunch with a friend I met at church who’s studying to be a Japanese teacher. I also finally went to Shibuya after the service to check out another church that someone recommended in the Harajuku area (when I also found out that the Toyoko-sen is actually that amazing). Still looking around for churches, but both of the ones I’ve been to are bilingual, which I’ve always appreciated from growing up in one. The afternoon church also invited me to a bilingual Bible study group, so we’ll see how that goes next week…

I know the weekend ends on Sunday, but … since one of my friends who’s studying in Korea came to Japan for a short visit, I found the perfect excuse to procrastinate and go to Tokyo again. She introduced me to a couple of her friends who are all in this international group from different universities and we went for snacks/drinks in Shibuya. I didn’t try talking as much as I should have, but it was still kind of a humbling experience to see how much my listening skills still have yet to go. The theme of the night was also Korea vs. Japan. I guess, since there’s more cultural exchange now between the two countries than ever, people think about it a lot. Or maybe I just come across a lot of people who think about that topic specifically, but it seems to be a recurring theme wherever I go. Either way, fun times … Yes, I didn’t start homework until 1:30 a.m. that night, and yes, I felt like a little like crap the next morning … but I’m already living out my philosophy the fullest – do everything in Japan that you can’t do in the U.S. (which does not count being cooped up in your room doing homework).

Also, I take back what I said about not being able to hang out as much with people from IUC – they’re all actually pretty chill people (quite a few that just finished undergrad) and the fact that they’re learning Japanese for a specific purpose gives them a kind of edge. It’s still a little hard to meet up since we all live in different places around Tokyo/Yokohama, but I’m looking forward to getting to know more of my classmates.

(Apologies for the lack of photos. Would have loved to take pictures at the 居酒屋 but of course, that would have been another major faux pas…)

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