Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Meanwhile in Nagoya....

Everyone in the Nagoya area is currently experiencing the effects of the Typhoon that hit Okinawa. One moment is it sunny and the next it is pouring down rain. My class and I had Taiku (P.E.) in the outdoor area this morning. It was interesting to look up and see blue sky and then have it start raining a few minutes later. Thankfully, the heavy rain held off until this evening. Unfortunately, it started not long before my commute home.

My class and I are currently preparing for our school festival. After class, we change from our uniform to our school T-shirt and our P.E. pants and then begin painting, cutting, and taping until school closes. My classmates have chosen the theme "Gamble" for our room. I've noticed them making educational signs about addiction and a mural that shows where casinos are legal throughout the world. I've helped make the walls, the floor, and some other projects that don't require too much explanation (since I often don't understand what is being said). I'm afraid I don't understand what all they have planned. I just kinda go with the flow and wait for instructions that are simple enough for me to understand, or directions that are translated or mimed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hana Bi (花火)(Fireworks)

Last Saturday, the Rotary Exchange gang met at Nagoya station. We traveled to a town called Toyohasi, where we made several presentations to students at a high school . I did a speech on what I thought about Japan before I left American and what I think now that I am here.

Afterwards, the students split us up into groups to teach us about calligraphy or origami. I was in one of the calligraphy groups. It`s a terrible feeling knowing that each ink stained stroke becomes a permanent fixture on the thin paper. But with paintbrush clutched in hand, I managed to write several decent looking Kanji.

Next, we boarded our bus and traveled down the road to a firework festival. We watched people dancing and singing as a shrine was carried back and forth through the crowd. It took a lot of people to carry the tall shrine and the men posted on top of it.

We then went to the fireworks area and sat on a low wooden platform only a few inches off the ground. There was a tatami mat spread across it, but it didn`t help with the discomfort that comes with a hard seat. There was a large stage off to the side of the fireworks area where we watched traditional Taiko drumming and a dance group preform as we waited for dusk.

As soon as dusk came, fireworks lit up the night sky in irredescent starbursts. Various other pyrotechnics began as well, including fireworks that wizzed sideways, guided only by a string stretched across the the arena. But it was the traditional Japanese fireworks that stole the show.

Men stood holding a tatami object that greatly resembles a cannon. It was pointed towards the sky and then the fuse was lit by hand. Soon a blaze of fire shooted upwards, over the men`s heads, with a roar. An entire line of these fireworks went off at once, creating a nearly solid wall of fire. Finally, a great boom pierced the air as each firework blasted upwards. Smoke filled the air and some of firework`s debris rained down on the crowd.

During the many intermissions, we watched in utter facination as Taiko drummers beat their instruments with wooden sticks. The drummers changed drums with elaborate spins and colorful flashes of clothing. The bass was as great as any I`ve ever experienced before at a concert. It swept over the crowd and captivated young and old alike.

By the end of the festival, the Taiko drums and fireworks began to go off at the same time. The rhythm of the drums and the great boom of the Hana Bi became one. No one knew whether to watch the wall of fire or the drummers. Both were equally captivating.

Then something new began to happen. Carried on the shoulders of many people, about 6 shrines were brought through the crowd and down the aisleways . Men posted on top of the shrines blew whistles and waived sticks with white material attached to them. An large entourage of people followed each shrine. It created a great roar, as the whistles blended with the shouts of the crowd and entorage, and the Taiko drums. Each shrine made its way inside the firework zone and was paraded around.

I`m afraid we had to leave a bit early to catch our train back to Nagoya, but we watched the last of the fireworks from a distance as we waited for our bus.

It was a night that none of us will ever forget.

Three Week Anniversary

Yesterday marked my three week anniversary in Japan. Somehow, it doesn`t feel like three weeks has gone by. It doesn`t feel as if it has been a long time, but it also doesn`t feel like time has flown by. It`s an odd sensation.

I can`t help but look back and and be proud of how much I`ve accomplished. I`ve been able to achieve so many of my dreams in such a short time. I`ve been able to attend a Hana Bi Matsuri, watch traditional Taiko drumming, start school, go to a K-pop concert, travel to the mountains and also to the ocean. I`ve hiked up to Inuyama castle, figured out the bus and subway system, and sucessfully managed to to learn how to text on my Japanese cellphone (who knew spaces could be so difficult).

But is looking in to the future, when I realize how special my year will be. According to my schedule, I will rarely have a free weekend for a long time. I have many exciting events that will be happening over the next few months and I will be posting about them as often as possible.

When I am able to get internet on my own computer, I am hoping to be able to add photos into all of my blog posts.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I`ve been so busy that I haven`t had the time to write.

Friday after school, I rushed out after class in a blur of excitement because I was going to see one of my favorite K-pop groups, 2NE1, in concert. Otousan and his car were waiting outside the school gate for me. He drove me home to where my friend from New Zealand was waiting for me since she finished school earlier. We quickly got ready and were driven to the other side of Nagoya  to the concert venue.

The two of us bought T-shirts and suvenirs and took pictures with the tour trucks before we joined the long line waiting to enter the stadium. We ended up with perfect seats. They were angled to the side with an amazing view of the stage and the big screen.

We were both surprised to find that we were seated next to an American who was in Japan to teaching English. The changes of be seated next to another foreigner in a crowd with so few Gaijins were slim.  It was wonderful to pass the time waiting for the concert to begin talking to our new friend IN ENGLISH!!!

The concert was fabulous!! 2NE1 gave an amzing preformance of some of there most popular songs like, "I Am The Best", "I Don`t Care", "Fire", "Lonely" and their new single "I Love You". Each member also performed a solo.

The entire concert was a whirl of neon colors. From the stage clothing and lights, to the brightly dressed crowd. The bass pounded through the stadium and pulsed through your body. The lights flashed and blinked in an a blinding rainbow. The entire concert twinkled from the blinking pink and blue lightsticks that were being waved to the rythym. Under the bright lights, the four members and their backup dancers danced in their neon clothing to the intricate choreography in perfect sync. Occasionally, fireworks and other pyrotechnics would burst forth from the stage, wowing the crowd.

At the end, the entire crowd was reluctent to leave, wishing that the rush would begin anew.

My friend and I made our way back to my house by JR and subway, talking over the details and special effects. We stopped at Sakae subway station to grab some icecream, food, and drinks to sooth our slightly hoarse throats and growling stomachs. We finnished up the night by talking until 3AM since she was spending the night at my house.

It was a truly fabulous day!     

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

School and Friends

Today was my first day of school. It was sooo much fun. I meet all of my classmates. Everyone of the girls I met, tried their best to include me in all of our classes and activities. I have so many friends here!

Today had a special schedule because it is the only the second day of the second term. Tomorrow, we are supposed have a normal schedule although I don`t really know what that means.  

In Gym class (Taiiku), we decided what events each of us will be competing in for the Sport`s day that we will have in three weeks. I signed up for four events. I know one of them is called "Taifu no Me" or "Typhoon`s Eye", but I don`t remember what it is. Actually, I don`t remember or know what I signed up despite a having a friend of mine translating for me. She was just as confused as I was and she speaks Japanese!

I sat through a Japanese class, but studied my own Japanese lesson at my desk. I was completely lost during Health class, but the girl sitting next to me pushed our desks together so I could try to follow along in the textbook.

English class was intresting enough. Most of it was in Japanese, but I tried taking the English exam that the students took yesterday. It was easy enough, except for a question concerning the usage of "Whoever" and "Whomever". There were multiple sections that I could not complete because the directions were in Japanese.... 

We had two homeroom periods today. We spent them working on decorations for our school festival. Each class room puts together an elaborate theme to show off our class to our parents and teachers. It`s great fun. My class has choosen the theme "Gambling". They were trying there best to explain it to me, but couldnt come up with the English words. I got the general idea and meerly said, "Ahhh Pachinko!". Everyone around me was estatic that I knew what Pachinko was. (Pachinko is a gambling game that has something to do with ball, tokens, and prizes. When I find out more I`ll write about it. It sounds like an interesting game.)

My classmates put me to work painting walls and cutting cardboard for the floor. Afterwards, I happily took the subway to Fujigaoka with a new friend and then boarded bus (the right one, surprisingly enough!) home with my hands stained yellow, paint splattered up my legs, and a smile plastered to my face.

I went for a run by the river to practise for the Sport`s day, ate a Thai dinner with my host parents, and then figured out my schedule for this weekend . The rest of the week will be quite exciting. I have two speeches, school, a Hana Bi masturi (fireworks festival), and it looks like I may be going to a concert as well. :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

School Daze

Today, was sorta (?) my first day of school. It wasn`t a full day. I met some of my teachers, my homeroom class, and did several speeches at the high school and junior high school assemblies. I only sat in on part of my homeroom class and all of the Senior`s Academic English class. English class was slightly embarrassing because I had to ask what "Intrinsically" meant. I still can`t believe how advanced the class is.

Tomorrow is my first full day of school. The day starts out with an hour long commute by bus, subway, and my own leg power. My first class is Gym (Taiiku) followed by a study hall. Then I have lunch :), another study hall, and then two home room periods. I have no idea what to expect or where each class is. I can`t remember the names of my teachers and some of my classmates. I walk around slightly dazed due to lack of sleep and confusion.

I don`t think this is my normal schedual. I know I have Chemistry (Kagaku) in the high school and cooking class and calligraphy at the junior high, but I have no idea when. Actually, I don`t even know what club I`ve joined or when it starts....     

Rotary also bought me my Taiiku Sefuku (Gym uniform) today. AND I`m now the proud owner of four new pairs of school shoes. I have outdoor shoes, indoor shoes, indoor gym shoes, and outdoor gym shoes (I think. I`m not sure about the outdoor gym shoes).

I`m slightly proud my student status. Not only an I an exchange student, I`m probably one of a few select students who is of university age, but attends high school AND junior high school. :)