Saturday, September 12, 2009

Thursday, September 10-Friday, September 12, 2009-

Call me simple but the highlights of my last few days have been reading, playing, cooking, talking, and laughing…

I finally had enough time to finish the book I brought along with me when I left the US. I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak was a fantastic read that left me smiling at the simplicity of its “message.” The main character, Ed Kennedy, was so well created that at times I felt as if I were walking the pages with him. It’s a great young adult novel. It left me wanting to change someone’s life, just like Ed.

There is a piano in my living room and my host mom told me to open it up and play whenever I felt like it. I think they wish I knew one other song than “Canon In D,” but it reminds me of sitting at the piano back home annoying my real family instead. So for now they’re stuck with my broken record piano skills.

In “Food Design” (that’s the name for my cooking class) we baked a パーウンドケーキ – Pound Cake. They gave me an extra piece at the end of the class because I was the exchange student. Apparently next Friday we get to make sushi! I can’t wait.

I have ever so slowly begun to form complete sentences in Japanese. This means that my host parents are finally able to carry on a conversation with me. Our chats have ranged from my host dad’s plans to take me fishing, to a vacation in two weeks to Nikko Forest, to Swine Flu, to 9-11, to the ACT test, to what is proper to wear with one's Kimono! I’m not saying we always understand what the other one is trying to say, but I’m encouraged by the fact that I’ve already come this far. Back to the topic of 9-11; the topic is treated with a sort of respected hush-hush here in Japan. That’s to say that they covered it in the News last night, but it was almost as if they thought (and I get the impression they do this quite frequently – I.E. WWII) “The less we bring it up, the less we are hurting those who were traumatized by it.” It was an odd attitude to observe, but I suppose that’s what this whole year is about- learning a different culture’s mentality toward the rest of the world.

I included the map of the Kanto Plain above in order to give everyone an idea of where I am in Japan exactly. Tokyo is at the center of the picture with Tochigi Prefecture directly above it. Nikko Forest is right above the "T" in "Tochigi" while Nakagawa is in the upper right hand corner of the prefecture. The capital of Tochigi is Utsunomiya with a population of around 500,000. As you can tell by the map, although Narita is the main airport of Tokyo it is located about 50 minutes west of the city proper.

To top all off this chitchat off, today I was able to talk with my family on Skype for a while. We laughed as we caught up on the others’ past month, school schedules, and certain Japan-USA look-alikes. It was so comforting to hear their (and the dogs’) voices again. Right after Skype my host mom and I drove the 20-minute trip to Otawara city today where we bought my Keitai Denwa (Cellphone). I got a new phone and 100 anytime minutes for $150. Now we just have to wait and see if I know how to use it!

Perhaps my greatest highlight of the past three days (again call me simple if you must) was watching my host dad laugh so hard he started to tear up. It all happened so suddenly that at first I had no idea what was going on, but I soon realized that he was laughing at the TV. He was flipping through the channels when he happened across a news story about a stray dog that had gotten its head stuck in the middle of a spare car tire. The police had to come and pick up the animal (tire and all) as it tried to run away, the tire causing it to simply spin around and around in circles. When they finally caught the mutt they had to shove the tire-dog into a kennel and carry it away to the vet. Papa Sato thought this was simply the most hilarious thing he’d seen in days and even laughed about it an hour or two later as we sat down to dinner. I hope I still have such a youthful humor when I’m 71.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009-

Ten things that made my day Japanese:

1) I woke up on a futon

2) I biked 40 minutes to school

3) My first hour class was pottery

4) My second hour class was calligraphy

5) Lunch at Rotary was a bento box with tempura and rice

6) My name tag for the meeting read, “サムエルエステンソン

7) My last two hours of school were spent kayaking a river

8) When I arrived home my host dad was whittling bamboo

9) Dinner was slices of raw tuna, miso soup, and grilled squid

10) I soaked in a hot bath for half an hour before going to bed

BONUS – As I write this I’m eating those tiny koala crackers filled with chocolate, YUM!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009-

What a great day! Just when I thought I couldn’t be happier that I was placed in a fishery school (two weeks ago I didn’t even know such a thing existed), today happened.

At the end of 4th hour I found myself headed over to the fishery building. I had been told what was coming, so I could hardly contain my excitement as I joined my classmates in changing into our swimming suits and river gear preparing for my first school kayaking adventure. The kids in my homeroom have been so great to me, we’re already making plans to head into Utsunomiya one of these weeks, to go fishing for ayu in the Nakagawa, and one of these nights hit up the flashiest building in town, “The Grand Bowl.” A giant bowling alley that lights up half of the city at night with its enormous neon bowling pin raised above the sea of tiled roofs. So today when it was just our homeroom for two hours I was very content as we loaded up two big trucks and simply jumped onto the back to ride a kilometer or two west until we came to a small temple and two houses tucked away behind the rice fields, bamboo thickets and dense forests that define the countryside here.

Gearing Up - Excited to Hit the Water

Once we arrived everyone grabbed their very own kayak and we portaged a short path down behind the homes until we hit an incredibly secluded river and a tired old cement damn that had been built there.

I found out that it wasn’t the Nakagawa River, but one of its tributaries. I couldn’t care less, my twenty or so classmates and I spent two fantastic hours out on the river racing, splashing, practicing rolling a kayak, playing water polo and tag, and simply laughing. I couldn’t see a single house or car or telephone pole through the dense forest and it felt like we were much further from the town than we really were.

Me and Miki - nicknamed after Micky Mouse! Can you see it?

By the time we had to go back we were all wiped out, dripping wet, and impatient for our next trip. What a cool school!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009-

Papa Sato is hilarious! I'm so glad he made it home from the hospital today.

Thanks for all the words of encouragement and comments on the blog. It turns out I actually enjoy updating it every night so you're stuck with me!
-Good Night-

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009-

Say Konnichiwa to Papa Sato! I finally got to meet him today and we struck it off remarkably. The first thing he did was offer me a caramel and explain in Japanese, "It sticks to your teeth," then proceed to laugh at his own tooth joke. What a cool dentist.

I began to talk about fishing and he couldn't stop smiling. He's loads of fun, but his Tochigi dialect is super thick, Agh =)

Also I want everyone to be remember Samantha Weaver as she leaves tomorrow for her Rotary year to Majadahonda, Spain!! She is going to do marvelously, I just know it. Her blog will be much more precise, well written and humorous than mine, so drop in from time to time: