Thursday, September 25, 2008

About 5 days left

Studying kanji with a fury and focus as yet unseen...

Also good news- Kobe said they weren't sending me an escort to the dorm, which would have ended in me frantically scribbling on my Nintendo DS kanji dictionary in a feeble attempt to navigate the train system of Osaka, but luckily for me, I know Japanese that live nearby.

My friend Tetsu will be bringing me to port island and also has agreed to help me find a cell phone when I get there, which would have been a major pain since I have only a basic understanding of financial/ technical Japanese vocabulary. I'm sure I'd make do but having a native speaker present will certainly help.

Also, apparently Port Island (the artificial island I'm to be living on), is actually residence and corporate buildings all mixed up.

Here's a big map of the train system, I'll have to go from my dorm to Rokkodai station my train every morning.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

12 Days Left

I've brought my car into the mechanic again in preparation for... doing nothing while I'm gone. I had my brakes replaced this summer, then the front brakes started to screech, then the back ones. After a bit of google research, it looks like this isn't uncommon in replacement breaks as they are made with shredded metal bits which like to make loud screaming noises when applied to spinning rubber wheels. Hopefully this will be the last time I have a problem with the car, as I certainly won't be able to bring it into the mechanic again before I leave... I'm hoping I won't have to replace the rotors.
Mechanic just called. Totally replacing the rotors. I don't even need this car for the immediate future, which is what irks me about getting repairs done for it. I'd rather not have one at all.
On that note, on to a place with actual developed group transportation... well, I guess my college town has a developed bus system that runs just about everywhere on time. But I suppose I'm talking about America in general.
So I found out that my university in Kobe will not be sending me an escort to the airport... so I will do my best to ask directions in broken Japanese... I can listen alright to Japanese, so receiving the directions won't be a problem. We'll see if I get lost or not. I guess this is the first in a series of adventures that would be made easier if I wasn't only a first-year student of Japanese.
I have a going away party on Saturday, which should be fantastic because Nihonjin + Amerikajin+ Osake= fantastic time. Balloons are also a well-needed ice breaker for the Japanese exchange students coming. I'll explain:
I've noticed Japanese (this probably applies to most foreigners, but Japanese are self-admittedly shy so as to be polite) get really nervous around rowdy westerners (like I can be while inebriated, or maybe it is just me in general) but any sort of non-verbal activity is pretty much the best way to bridge the gap. It can be simple and stupid, but I think in a party situation, alcohol isn't just quite enough. If you want to have fun with someone from another culture, you've got to have some common little pool of amusement from which to launch oneself.
In the first of a series of "drinking meets" or Nomikai when I started to hang out with the exchange students who had come to UGA (most if not all of whom we met through the enigmatic Wakkiko, who I had met here in Athens during the spring and my friend Nick had met in Yokohama, and who is on exchange from January to December rather than a traditional school year like most exchange students) we blew up a bunch of balloons and drank. It was a surprisingly good way to get comfortable. Obviously, this sort of thing could come of forced and trite, but it worked pretty well, I think.
Above everything, having Japanese around to laugh at my language BEFORE I am in their country is a welcome asset as this seems to be what disrupts the purpose of many an exchange. If I had done an exchange to Germany in high school when I was learning German, it would have been different; I took three years of it. With Japanese, I have a level of education at level with a kindergartner or first-grader in Japan, minus an early life of speaking it as my native language. If you think about that, it's not pretty. So I guess the idea is that I should move up to about fifth or even sixth- grade level of language skills in a year stay, and graduate college with a few shades under a high school education's worth of Japanese. I hope I do that well, because when I get back I'll probably be placed in fourth-year level Japanese classes, and after that there isn't much else I can take. Of course, by then I should be able to keep up my language skills by reading moderately simple fiction or internet sites.
But until then, it's ここはどこ?私はだれ?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

20 Days Left until Kobe

It's coming down to the wire here, and my Japanese is, at the least, someone utilitarian. In the very least I can respond to "Amerikajin desu ka?"
"Hai, Atoranta kara kimashita," and all the typical foreigner questions which is the most I can hope for after only a year of Japanese. Even still, it HAS been a full year since I began, and while I definitely see how I'm above a first-two-months student, I've got such a long, long way to go. The problem with any language at this point is choosing the way in which you want to learn it- a pedantic, scholarly way, a polite, business-etiquette way, or just the normal way. It's pretty much impossible to learn the normal way to speak a language without actually living there, so, huzzah, my path is set.

That's all I really wanted to post about today.

As for whats just going on:

I'm still working at Choo Choo's Express, a restaurant that serves a schizophrenic blend of Korean and Japanese ethnic food. It's passable fare, but the people are nice and I've never had any problems with the place as far as work is concerned. I don't want to work a restaurant job again but the management at the place is my sort of atmosphere. Plus, I got to say, I like my bosses. They are stereotypical Asian bosses: they'll reward you and help with whatever you need if you're a hard, dedicated worker, and that's the kind of worker I am.

Katie says I've been studying too much- that I'm going to Japan for the whole purpose of learning a language, so why waste time on this? I agree to a certain extent, but I don't want to just stop and have a basis to be nervous in conversation. That itself would defeat the purpose of this trip.

So, I've decided to socialize and learn English in the Japanese fashion- drinking with Japanese and pretending to be drunk, so that they let down their, er- etiquette shields. This is a cultural fact of life over there- if a boss wants to know the progress of his employee's project, he takes him out drinking to get a straight answer. Alcohol is just a great excuse to be socially forward in a reserved culture such as that of Japan.

I guess I'm out of writing energy. That's all for today.