They Call me Tae Here
Blogger: Miranda Sieg
Hello and hail from Japaaaaan! Yes, I finally made it! I am here! And it is awesome. First off, you must know that I am still quite silly with the first stage of culture shock (the honeymoon phase, where everything is awesome) and a liiiittle bit of lingering jet lag that has me waking up at 5:00am and feeling like the walking dead around 3:00pm. Still, I am so happy to be here I need to share it with you!
I was very gratified to learn that my Japanese speaking ability is much better than I anticipated. Maybe taking what amounts to a semester off (my winter break was 4 months long) wasn't such a bad idea. In other ways though, my long break was very detrimental. We had our first Japanese class today, and I have forgotten almost everything I learned last semester, and a lot of last year. That said, my speaking ability was so impressive they bumped me up a class level, so that's something. I was worried, because college language instruction is mostly about writing and less about speaking, but Japanese 301 is almost entirely immersion, and while I struggled a great deal in that class, so far it has stood me in good stead.
Also, this is blooming EVERYWHERE on campus.
Everybody says it, but seriously, my host family is the most awesome part of this experience, and I've only been living with them for four days. They have a little dachshund named kiru-chan, who likes to smell my hair and my gaijin (foreigner) clothes, two sons, and a daughter. I don't talk to the boys much, I rarely even see the older one (he's a 19 year old college student with a part-time job, he's way too cool to talk to me) but the girl likes to be goofy with me. Her mom speaks English pretty well, she studied abroad in New Zealand (incidentally my second choice for study abroad), but she usually speaks Japanese to me first, which is good. I can already see a marked improvement in my speaking ability, although I'm not sure if that's because I've been exhausted and jet-lagged as all Hades for the past three days and now I'm less-so.
When I first met my host family I told them my middle name was Tae, which is a Japanese name, and they thought that was really interesting. Apparently it's a pretty old name, which makes sense because it was the name of one of my Japanese grandmother's students, we're talking WWII era. Anyway, even though my first name is easy to pronounce in Japanese, most of the Japanese teachers find it very difficult to remember, and gradually everyone but the students have begun to call me Tae. I think it will help me adjust. Here I am Tae. At home, I am someone else, who doesn't go to the 100円 store ($1 store. They're super awesome in Japan. You can buy almost anything there, food, school supplies, some cleaning products...) or hang out with the super-nice and mega-cool TIU (Tokyo International University) students. I've met a bunch of great people and it's only been 4 days!
This past weekend I took a little walk around the neighborhood I live in and took some pictures. It's an interesting place. Unlike America, where most farming communities are that only, Japan has a lot of mixed areas. My neighborhood is considered the countryside, but it's also a bedroom community, where families whose adult members (usually the father) commute to work in a nearby city, in this case, Tokyo. At the same time, farmers also keep small, family farms of two or three plots that they plant and tend themselves. I saw a guy planting onions in his plot a couple of days ago, right outside my window!
So there's farm-land around (no animals though, please, this is Japan), but around the train station (the center of life in Japanese communities) is like a mini-downtown, with drug-stores, restaurants, karaoke bars, and supermarkets. There's even a pretty big mall, with a pet store full of puppies and kittens. くそかわいい!
Anyway, here's some pictures from my walk!