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?

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