Thursday, September 9, 2010

Falling Slowly

Where do I start?

A little less than two weeks ago, I got on a plane to Osaka. Actually, I got on a plane from Seattle to Vancouver B.C. to Narita to Kansai. I slept through almost all of my flights, partially because of the Dramamine that I load up on before I fly, and partially because I had woken up at 4:30 am the day of my flight after going to bed at 1:30. The Vancouver airport was completely empty when I arrived, so I stretched out over three seats in the international terminal to nap. When I woke up an hour or so later, it had gotten crowded.

There were a few snafus on the way in - I got a landing permit in Narita, but it was somehow lost between immigration and my connecting flight, so when I was going through immigration in Kansai, they pulled me off to a scary little waiting room and took my passport. Luckily, it only took about ten minutes, but as I was sitting there I wondered if this was what it felt like for your life as an international traveler to end. I made it to Hirakata on a bus that night with a few girls who were also in my program. The picture above is the view from a bridge right before you hit Hirakata station.

The next week after that was spent in Orientation events. In the span of a few days, I went from being an adrift tourist to a savvy, cell-phone wielding, officially enrolled international student at Kansai Gaidai University. And, on my second day, I decided to wear my newly finished Traveler's Stockings for the first time, as it seemed appropriate.

And holy crap, are they awesome. I just washed them for the first time this morning, and they came out even softer than before. I love this yarn.

Speaking of yarn, can you name this location?

If you answered Kinkakuji, then you're right! We went on a trip to Kyoto last week, and visited Kinkakuji, bought some souvenirs, and got some really delicious dinner from a little place in the shopping district.

I have almost this exact same picture somewhere in my printed pictures from my Japan trip when I was 16.

The grounds surrounding the temple are perhaps even more beautiful than I remember.

In some ways, I don't even know where to begin in terms of talking about my experiences here so far. In some ways, it's been really difficult and I feel like I make an ass of myself every single day. However, I also feel like my language skills have been improving very quickly. In Oberlin, the only people you can talk to in Japanese are other students from language classes or Japanese international students. Here, I'm forced to communicate in whatever way works. Sometimes it's silly hand gestures, sometimes it's a tentative word, and more and more often it's been full sentences. They may suck, but I'm getting used to speaking and that's what's important.

I placed into level 4 Japanese, which I feel is pretty ideal for my level. I totally whiffed my self-introduction on the first day, but my retention of grammar and vocabulary from the last two years is actually quite good. Skritter has been saving my life in studying for a kanji review test on Monday, and I've been telling everyone I can find about it. Gotta show some Oberlin love - the creators are alums who won an award for entrepreneurship.

I've already moved in with a host family, and it's been really awesome. I have an okasan, an otosan, and a little sister who's actually only a month or so younger than me. We all eat dinner together and watch Japanese game shows and period dramas. In the last week or so, I've tried natto, sashimi, sake pickles, and two different types of umeboshi, with mixed results. My family does, however, think it's hilarious that I love spicy food. They gave me kimchi and super spicy curry to see if I was just kidding, and when I ate it with aplomb they laughed and said I was unusual for an exchange student.

It's been ridiculously hot here - in the high 90s with super high humidity. I don't particularly like hot weather, so it's been an adjustment. In Ohio, even when it's really hot, it cools down at night, and that hasn't been the case here so far. However, there is air conditioning in every building, so it's not too much of a problem once you've gotten inside.

And, on the bright side, I found Kirin Lemon! Hooray! For refreshing family fun, drink Kirin Lemon.

Oh yes. Yes, I will.


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh anonymous comment.

Also, Japan. Whoo!

Ma'ayan said...

Hi Cory,

I'm the Web Fellow for the Oberlin Office of Communications, and I ran across your blog while finding all things Oberlin online.

I'd like to urge you to apply to be an Oberlin blogger, where you could get paid to write about your Oberlin experience. Check out the application here.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Kurt said...

So, if there is no Kirin Lemon for me when you get back, BIG TROUBLE.

Also, you're a noob.

Jen Graham said...

Hi Cory! This sounds so awesome! I'm in Japanese 101 now and failing, but loving it nonetheless... I wish you and Martin were here to help me, but when you get back maybe I can impress you with my counting skills. :) I love the Kyoto pics. I've always wanted to go there! Ugh I am so jealous! Also, I remember pointing got me through a lot of Germany interactions. Good luck! You'll be a pro by the time you get back! <3

Cory Ellen said...

@anon: Oh my gosh. I totally don't even know who you are.

@Ma'ayan: Thanks for the comment! I'll definitely put in an application. Hope you're enjoying your web fellow job!

@Kurt: How about I bring you an empty bottle? Or some C.C. Lemon? I'll be a mean and spiteful sister, you know, for kicks.

@JenGraham: Aww, good luck in 101! Now I'll get to see you at Wilder events and the many Japanese class parties that happen on campus! I'm still struggling with speaking, but as you did, I find pointing to be invaluable. Hope you have an awesome semester - sounds like it's shaping up to be a busy one. <3