Friday, January 11, 2008

January 9

January 9, 2008

Meeting our host parents was very amusing. First there was the Entrance of the Gaijin Bus, where we backed a bus full of foreigners right through the gates to Nanzan, past the clop-clopping well-dressed Japanese college girls. Then we were all herded (with our luggage) to a room in the school where we sat, like puppies, to see who would be chosen. One by one we were called when pretty Japanese ladies came through the hall and to our room. We could see them for about two minutes before they came, so everyone was guessing who would be Next, and fretting, and どきどきしてる(onomatopoeia for heart-pounding: “dokidoki”), and 心配してる (worrying). The four girls (me, Nathalie, Ksenia and Kate) were in the corner together for a while, since they seemed to be picking off the boys first. John noticed that everyone who had sat in the corner of the room still remained, and said we looked like cattle in a truck or something. It must have looked funny.

My host mother is really cute. She talks very quickly, so I can usually understand what she’s saying mostly (it’s a little under 50-level, with some other vocabulary thrown in) but I’ve been so overwhelmed that I don’t actually end up saying much besides “yes” and “thank you”. I did ask a few questions, but nothing very elaborate because I can’t really keep to her pace. It’s only the first hour. In about half an hour I go up to have udon…! She seemed surprised that I liked Japanese food. Well, I won’t be so excited about it in another few months, I’m sure, but for now it’s good. She was especially excited that I liked sashimi…! Apparently I’m their fourth 留学生 (study-abroad student), which is cool.

At one point during the ride she gasped and said “Oh, I forgot to tell her about the dog”, and said that she had a large and very dangerous dog in their house, and sometimes she bites 留学生, and I was suitably concerned. She kept this up as we went up to their section of the house, telling me to stay quiet, whereupon I met the tiniest, most harmless dog in the world. She’s really cute, and she gets super excited and stands up on her hind legs and looks happy. I said I had been 心配していた and Kaori laughed.

I have my own little suite. It’s amazing. I was expecting to have to share a room or something, but actually their house is pretty big for an apartment.

There is a wireless I can get from here, but it doesn’t work. It conks out every thirty seconds, in a very regular pattern. Any advice? I’m pleased though because it’s password-protected, so I just guessed that the password might be the name of the wireless and I was correct! ☺

I learned something interesting right now, what was it. My host mother was talking about signs with incorrect English, and I told her we found a lot of チーシャツ(tshirts) with odd English, and she laughed and said Yknow, when foreigners come here with Japanese characters on their shirts, it’s usually pretty incorrect too. And tattoos, as well. Of course, this is all said in Japanese, since I don’t think either my host mother or my host father speak English. Maybe a tiny bit, like I heard “third floor” and “direct” (which keeps confusing me, since I expect it to be Japanese).

Apparently the 10-year-old just came back from being in Australia for a year…? I couldn’t quite catch what she was saying about the dates, but I think that’s true. So I guess I’ll be chatting with her a lot in English. Her mom said she’s good at English, but with an Australian accent :-p

So it seems that I will have to come home directly from school pretty often. I don’t really want to do that; I’d rather hang around in Nagoya or something. I want to go back to where we were in the hotel. I also want to get an electronic dictionary, since my paper one isn’t very good and certainly doesn’t recognise kanji input.

もうちょっと後で (a little later):

We just went to get my Alien Registration Card and health insurance. Gya. I still don’t really understand what’s expected from me, and I hope the 10-year-old comes home soon so I can have an interpreter. It’s hard to realize that I really can’t make myself understood in any way besides Japanese for most of the people I’m around outside of school. It’s crazy.

Tomorrow is the placement test!! I want to do well, but I also want to unpack and nap instead of studying kanji. In the car I listened to stories about Reiko and learned that karaoke means “empty orchestra”, which I think I had learned before but forgot, and asked about what accent of English kids learn in Japanese. And I feel like getting a recognizable tone is almost as important as having a lot of vocabulary for Japanese. I want to sound like them.

Language is confusing…I was being introduced to a few friends who were outside, and one of them asked in English where I came from, but my brain found it easier to reply to him in Japanese. It’s a very difficult language to switch in. Either I can think in English or I can think in Japanese. I don’t know if I’ve dreamed in Japanese yet, but I’ve certainly woken up with it in my head.

More boots may not be possible with my current situation. I told my host mother I had five pairs of shoes and I think she thought I must have mistaken the words. So I lied and said I had four, and she cleared space in their shoe closet for three. Apparently it is だめ (honestly hard to translate, even though it’s the simplest word, but it describes something that you’re not allowed to do (as in cultural rules), that is impossible (as in a closed street), that is too difficult (as in Japanese)) to store shoes in your closet.

夕食の後 (after dinner):

Ah. The end of total-immersion Japanese for the day. 英語の音楽を聞いて、英語で書くつもり。。。Except I have to study. Lots and lots of kanji. Kaori-san said that she thinks I’ll be able to make 500, but I don’t think that’s true. There’s too many kanji that I don’t remember in 400, even though I learned all of them.

Half of every sentence I write now is thought out in Japanese.

Reiko-chan really does have an Australian accent. Her mother was mostly surprised about the vowels (she was making fun of “can’t”), but what gets me is the insertion of “r” sounds, like at the end of “no”. I don’t know what that’s called. ジェレミー、手伝ってくれない? I’m sure you have some idea, as a linguist. Wish you were here. Study-abroad should be required for linguists, I think. It’s amazing.

It’s only the first week, so I should withhold judgment for now, but I really do think that Japan encompasses everything I ever wanted. I don’t like being embarrassed, so wearing the wrong shoes in the wrong places has made me a little uncomfortable today, but I really do think that there’s a place for shame and deference. Other people do know better than you do. And keeping houses clean is good, and not being loud and obnoxious is a virtue. Stupid gaijin. And the beautiful things are SO beautiful, and really everything is beautiful. The girls always try to look nice, and everything you can buy is pretty, and packaged nicely, and presented well. And the gardens are so beautiful, both the historical, sacred ones and the little tiny plots of green things in little tiny yards of little tiny houses. The houses are amazing. They’re not generally symmetrical like a lot of ours; they’re well-designed and pleasing to the eye. I like the colors and the light here. It’s mostly subdued, outside of the flashy advertisements and pachinko arcades, so they use subtle variation to make design. Also I like telephone wires.

“Unbelievable” is a word I’ve been using a lot.

I haven’t experienced the bad, loud, loose parts yet. Our orientation booklet had a whole section on avoiding being groped by drunk men in the trains, and what to do. (Apparently you’re supposed to yell and then take them to the police, which seems counterintuitive – the last thing I would want to do is be anywhere near them!) It could be 違う (not so, otherwise, wrong), but I’ve also heard that the Japanese use drinking as an excuse for anything, since things you did while drunk are ignored in work the next day. That’s a bit frightening.

Heat is fabulous. There isn’t central heating in Japan, and 電気 (electricity) is expensive, so rooms have single heaters. Mine also has a larger unit, which I feel bad using. I’m still getting used to hearing “AC” to mean heat. I have a small space heater pointed towards my desk, and I like it very much. My room is colder than the outside air, for some reason.

I wonder why I always get hungry only a few hours after eating. I ate so much tonight, I wanted to eat more because it was really good and because Kaori-san made a ton of food. We had sukiyaki, which is fabulous. She put some kind of meat fat in a hotpot and fried beef in that, as well as mushrooms and cabbage and noodles and tofu, with sukiyaki sauce. Then we took the food from the pot when it was ready and dipped it in a bowl of raw egg and ate it. With the raw egg, it was amazing and tasty but I’m surprised that my stomach hasn’t been protesting more. I hope they haven’t heard of salmonella here yet.

I won’t have to get up at 7 tomorrow! The test is at 9:45, so we’re leaving the house around 9, so breakfast is about 8:30 or something. I don’t think it will take me that long to eat トスト (toast), but oh well.

Apparently my host mother really likes American dramas. It was fun trying to understand the Japanese transliterations. “Gilmore Girls” is especially hard to say in Japanese-style English.

1 comment:

Y-Maeda said...

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