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O Fim duma Viagem

The Start of a Semester

JAPAN | Friday, 22 January 2016 | Views [180]

Monday marked the start of my first full week of Japanese class. We were with Suzuki-sensei the entire time (as we would be for most of the week). For this week, we’re in the “survival Japanese” phase, which mostly involves learning situation-specific vocabulary, getting into conversations with Suzuki-sensei, and going out to the real world to do small tasks.

Monday’s task was to go to the post office and mail two post cards . In preparation, we’d been asked to write these postcards. The part that I missed when I’d been doing the homework the night before was that the postcards could be written in English. And, if we were planning on sending them to people who didn’t speak Japanese, probably should be. But I’m not used to Japanese assignments that involve going out to the Japanese world outside my room, so I did the thing that came naturally and looked up Japanese expressions to use for my postcards. By the time I realized they could be written in English, it was far too late.

The two postcards were being sent to my older sister and a friend from college. I had some extra room at the bottom of the card to the friend, so while we waited in the post office, I added on an apology sentence that I wasn’t expecting this to be sent. But by that time, my mind was so set in Japanese that it still didn’t occur to me to write that sentence in English. Then it was time to practice my vocabulary by mailing the cards, and that was the last I saw of them.

During lunch, I decided to warn my sister that she’d be receiving a postcard from me she wouldn’t be able to read, and then gave her the context. I considered doing the same thing for the friend, but decided that would be too easy, so I gave that explanation to his roommate instead. (I’m a great friend.) I even gave the roommate a rough translation of what I remembered writing, though he said that if asked, he was going to make up something completely different. (He’s a great friend too.) And, with the postcards in the mail and the recipients likely to be as confused as I wanted them to be, it was time to enjoy the rest of lunch and class time. Lunch was bought at the nearby Super, heated up in the microwave on the fourth floor of the International Center, and eaten in the third floor of that building with people from several other classes. Dan began his quest to learn how to fold an origami crane, though he ran out of time, so we left it behind and went to finish up class.

The other exciting thing that happened during lunch was that I bought lotion. To put this in context, since arriving in Japan I had been to three different konbinis and the Super looking for lotion, without success. During this time, I was using up the little lotion I had brought with me, and my hands were threatening to start bleeding if I didn’t find lotion within a few days. So, with the help of Suzuki-sensei I located small containers in the Super, and larger containers in the nearby pharmacy, and was able to keep my hands slightly happier for the imminent future.

Dinner was a dinner party in Yuki’s room. Seeing as Yuki’s room was on the same floor as mine, and my roommate’s stove was even being used to prepare some of the food, this turned out to be pretty convenient. So I went over to her room at 8, and we sat, and ate, and talked, and ate some more, and watched some of a Japanese drama, and ate some more.

Food was a variety of noodle soups, with the leftovers of one dish often being reused into the base of the next one. It was all very good. There were probably four or five different kinds of noodles, and three or four different kinds of meats, including pork, chicken, and gyooza (not sure what that was made with, to be honest). Basically, for several hours there was always something cooking.

There were Japanese and exchange students of all different levels there, which made for a variety of different conversations. One of the most interesting was probably near the beginning, when we looked at the English vocabulary lists the Japanese students had and tried to see which words most of the Americans didn’t even recognize. There were several (wont, as in “as you are wont to do,” which was a phrase people knew, if not the stand-alone word) which most of us didn’t know, or some of us knew, but only in a highly specific context or had only ever seen in writing, and not modern writing at that. I wonder if my French vocabulary decks are starting to look a bit like that…

The Japanese drama was odd. It probably would have made more sense if there wasn’t so much going on and I could catch more of the words, but as was I had a hard time telling the relationship between the characters unless they gave obvious cues, like having a guy show a girl a wedding dress. As was, Sara and I spent some time debating how warm the girl’s scarf was keeping her, (Sara; “She only has it wrapped around her neck once!” Me: “But it’s a thick scarf. It’s fine.”) and my major observation was that the romantic interest was a terrible guesser. (There was a scene where the girl just kept saying “I’m not x,” changing x with every question the guy asked.) And then at the end she ran away with him and his truck only to be abandoned in Tokyo. Yay?

It was a pleasant enough dinner, though I still find it weird that I can leave my room, go down the hall, and suddenly be at what is, for most intents and purposes, a dorm party. That never (intentionally) happened when I was actually living in a dorm...

Tags: classes, food, j-drama, japanese, mail

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