As of Friday, I have been living in Japan now for 3 weeks. The first week while living with the Oki’s, I was able to gain a native’s perspective on Japanese life. Order, serenity, flow, unity, stability, peace; are all words I would use to describe that kind of lifestyle. Everyone has their role, knows what it is, and how to fulfill it. Order, serenity, flow, unity, stability, peace; are all qualities that I am striving to incorporate in my life, but it is more easily mimicked than it is achieved. Here in the dorm, my life has developed a sort of “trial and error” style of approach. It may be a good thing or it may be a bad thing. However you look at it though, at least I am learning. Here in this society, at least for now, there is a safety net. There are so many social norms here in Japan that it is hard to keep track of them all, but so far I think I have managed to avoid trampling over them despite having the foreigner’s naiveté. Here are some basics that I have come to know and abide by.
~Always remove your shoes upon entry to a place which requires you to remove your shoes. Seems obvious because I guess its the same everywhere in the world when you phrase it that way but, here there are a lot of places you wouldn’t expect that have that requirement. Like nice restaurants for example, or the gift shop at the Teshima Art Museum, or any of the Teshima Island exhibits, any tatami room, my dormitory, jinjyas, etc, etc…
~Do not call people by their first name unless you have been given permission to do so. Usually you must establish a familiarity with the person before that can happen and sometimes even after becoming acquainted, the person would still prefer you to use their family name + whichever honorific is appropriate (usually a -san or -sensei).
~Although it can be inconvenient at times when you’re eating, you must never leave your chopsticks in your food. Always rest them on the edge like so…
Maybe as more come to mind I’ll throw them into a post here and there.
As for my most recent days here in the dorm, it has been somewhat of a party most of the time. It is time to slow things down a bit now and focus. This coming week will be my first full week of classes. Even though classes begun officially 2 weeks ago, each Monday since then has been a holiday. Nice right? It is, but most of my classes are on that day so I have yet to have a full week.
Here is my schedule so far:
Society Systems ~ 8:50-10:20
Middle level Japanese 1 ~ 13:00-14:30
Middle level Japanese 2 ~ 14:40-16:10
(Monday will be busy as my first class is early at the engineering campus while my back-to-back Japanese classes are at the main campus)
Tuesdays are free but will probably be filled with research eventually once I begin.
Same as Tuesday…
Advanced Japanese IIc ~ 10:30-12:00
Starting in November I’ll begin another class at engineering but I don’t know what it is called because I can’t read the kanji symbols… ^-^ ~ 13:00-14:30
Free Japanese tutoring with a small group ~ 16:20-17:50
This last week on Wednesday I stayed home and took care of some cleaning duties since this week was my turn. This, for example, is one of those things that I have been forced to attempt by trial and error. I don’t know to what extent these duties go and there is no one here capable of explaining those things to me. I’m just doing my best, but I don’t think it’s enough because I’ve been getting not-so-subtle hints to clean.
Like when on Monday morning (the first day of my duty) I wake up to the sounds of people talking while gathered around the overflowing trash can in the hallway and I hear my name said multiple times. It was early and I hadn’t been up for more than 2 minutes (with a splitting headache by the way) before I was carrying a full bag of plastic trash down to the dumpster outside. When I get back up, a piece of paper was shoved in my face. It was the trash truck schedule. Here in Japan the trash collection is serious business. Everything must be separated into three sections; burnable garbage, plastic, then bottles and cans. Apparently Monday is a burnable garbage collection day so I had to go back down and bring the trash bag back upstairs to let it sit in the hall. Needless to say, I was angry and irritated for a while that day. I was also very hungry. Regrettably anyone that said good morning to me that day was answered with a grunt.
Then on Friday after I had been keeping up with the trash all week and had swept the whole floor on Wednesday, I find a notice in my mailbox regarding cleaning duties. It had a long paragraph in Japanese and then one english sentence that read, “Cleaning on duty cleans the cleaning part without fail.” This is the kind of instruction I receive here. Vague and badly written instructions in english. Then later that day I come home to find that the mop has been placed outside my door. Subtle hints right?
Wednesday, October 10
Anyway, Wednesday I stayed home most of the day, went grocery shopping to cook dinner for Felix and I that night since he did Italian for us on Tuesday after our hike, and did some writing. It was an overall pleasant day. Here is a meal picture. I did homemade onion and red pepper burgers with homemade fries.
Thursday, October 11
Thursday was my first day in my new Japanese class. It had previously been on Tuesday, but after my dreadful placement test, I was moved to this one. It was still quite difficult. In class we played a sort of, BINGO game where we had a sheet of paper with a 4×4 grid filled with questions that you had to ask and have answered by others in the class. This was quite difficult for me. What made things worse is the fact that I was constantly surrounded by 4-6 people who were all trying to get answers out of me. My head hurt after class that day. When I left I went to go meet with my tutor, Sone-san, to go back to city hall to get my residency card address changed since the first time it had been written incorrectly. Afterwards we got some udon, then went back to campus. There, we went back and forth helping each other with some things. I proofread a few emails he wants to send to some European power companies requesting permission to visit and interview them. I, on the other hand, wanted help deciphering what it was we did in class earlier that day. After about an hour or more we part ways both homeward bound.
At home that night we met someone new…
That night was spent, like many, kicking it in the room with the speakers and cool music 🙂 It also seems like it’s beginning to become a right of passage that if you come hang out in my room, you must try on my sunglasses too!
And one with me…
Friday, October 12
My Friday was mostly spent at the engineering campus. I arrived at the campus after a hard ride around 12:15 or so and didn’t leave until around 6:45.
Upon arrival I head up to my lab, say hi to my sensei, say hi to the group already there, then go get changed into a different shirt since mine was soaked in sweat. I had prepared ahead for the ride thankfully. After going out and about to take care of some business at the international office and such, I came back and spent a lot of time working on trying to get internet on my desktop computer there. It wasn’t going so well. Finally, Kii-sensei came to take a look and we realized that, like almost all issues with PC’s, the proper drivers weren’t installed *_*
After finally working that out, there was a seminar for the lab group where everyone was to read their research topic proposal to Kii-sensei. Afterwards I had my class, then I spent a little more time in the lab, then joined a group for the bike ride back to the dorm. That night was filled with intense matches of table tennis and sake. Apparently this dorm houses some serious ping-pong talent. I have been continuously challenged and have had my share of wins and losses. We decided that night to hold a tournament on the following Sunday. (Just finished it actually!)
So, that is all for now. I need to go to bed because, as I stated, I have class quite early in the morning and I’ve been playing ping-pong for about 4.5 hours straight plus I went for a run this morning. I will sleep well tonight! Also, sorry if this post is a bit choppy. I have been writing it is little intervals for a couple days now. Until next time! Oyasuminasai! (goodnight)