A Day in the Life
”The best way to get to know a city is to count up how much change you have in your pocket and take the subway as far as that amount gets you.” -David Bowie on traveling in Japan
It has been one month since I have:
- Ridden in a car
- Ordered anything in English
- Received a hug
- Sat on a couch
- Shaken hands
- Eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
It has been one month since I have come to Japan. In a way it feels like I just got here, but in another way it feels as if I’ve been here forever (of which I am constantly reminded otherwise every time I open my mouth). Overall it has been great, although the novelty of living in Japan has begun to wear off after four weeks of 40-minute commutes to and from school. The good news is, I think I’m finally starting to acclimate to life here, and I’m feeling more comfortable every day, with both the culture and the language.
Speaking is slow in coming, but I feel that my listening ability improves daily. Even my host mom (who is slow to compliment, especially for being Japanese), mentioned after our short conversation last night about Japanese regional dialects how my listening has improved since coming here. That was encouraging, but I still have a long way to go, especially before I can communicate comfortably as far as speaking is concerned. Someone remind me again why out of all languages I chose to learn Japanese?
As previously mentioned, languages classes are, to say the least, painful. I feel that I am very slow at picking up concepts compared to the rest of my class, but I can’t do anything but study my hardest. Besides language classes (which are conducted entirely in Japanese, with Japanese textbooks), students enrolled in my exchange program are also able to take elective courses conducted in English, which are focused on Japanese or East Asian studies. Aside from a fun, one-unit elective conducted in Japanese, my other four classes fit this criteria. Likely my most difficult course is “Sentence and Meaning in Japanese,” a linguistics course detailing the finer aspects of spoken and written Japanese. While interesting, I must admit that my knowledge of both linguistics and Japanese is lacking. Simply put, Japanese is hard enough to figure out when I am not analyzing specific particles and the psychological reasoning behind sentence structures. But alas, there’s nothing I can do but
BS my way through try my hardest!
A couple of the more interesting courses I’m enrolled in include “Shintoism,” taught by a former professor at London University (British accent=automatic win), and “Politics and Government of Japan,” taught by a woman who has been a news anchor among other things in both Japan and Washington DC. Japanese Art is as dull as anyone could expect it to be, although we will take a field trip to Nara tomorrow, which I hope (despite the rain) will prove to be a worthy use of my Saturday.
I’m beginning to settle into this routine as the volume of schoolwork picks up, but fortunately I am not stressed out of my mind as I usually am, something I attribute to my decision to take significantly less units this semester. I miss everyone back home terribly. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you, even though some of you are in Disneyland without me, again (Me hold grudges? Never!), and there are many times I wish I was back home and in my comfort zone. I had a bout of culture shock last night when my host mom handed me my laundry and her hand brushed mine, and I realized I hadn’t been touched (shoving and bumping aside) in over a month. I had a bit of a freak out moment. It was quite strange. On the other hand though, I know that this year will fly by and that I’ll be leaving Japan before I know it (and before I’m ready to leave)! I’m just aiming to enjoy this adventure while I can. …And, hopefully my GPA won’t be the sacrifice.