Friday, October 31, 2008

Field Trip to Hita

So today we went on a field trip to an old ninja village hidden deep in the mountains of Kyushu island!...

Ok so it's not really a ninja village, it's actually a pottery town, but ninja village sounds so much cooler don't you think? The town was so peaceful and chill and they specialized in hand made pottery.

It was nifty, I love seeing Japanese style towns like this.

They use the current of the stream to fill up the logs which lift the arms up to pound the clay. So cool! Walking through the town all you hear is the stream rushing by and the echo of clay being pounded.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And God said "Let there be rice!"

Blasphemous I know but after a month of having to manually cook rice, I was so happy to finally get a rice cooker. The rice I made was either too soggy, or not fully cooked, it was a very time consuming process. I definitely recommend rice lovers studying abroad to invest in a rice cooker. Good thing Tuan found a recycling shop that sells refurbished cookers, it works great and at a fair price too! When I took the cooker out of the box, I hugged it for awhile and.. well I won't disclose any of the other more intimate details between me and my rice cooker. No, really. When I heard the beep~beep~beep signaling that the rice was done cooking it felt like Christmas morning.

Today I took some folks to the Violently Cheap store. This store is so violently cheap that I saw the price tag leap out and punch an old lady in the face, now that's the kind of bargain prices I want. It's actually one of the cheapest stores I've seen. 10kg of rice for $23.50, and 2liters of Aquarious for $1.37, compared to $1.79 at other stores.

ah on a random note, Japanese cows are delicious. They're like walking slabs of melt-in-your-mouth butter. *drool* but it is a bit pricey. So most of what I can afford is veggies, fruits, and chicken or fish and eggs. A healthier diet is always a plus, and biking everywhere has done great things for my thunderous thighs.

It's starting to get cold here in Oita, yay winter clothes!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Language Barrier

I've been in Japan for about 3 weeks now and I feel my actual grasp of the Japanese language isn't progressing as quickly as I would want it, so I've been asking around for advice as to how to improve my language skills. So I will be taking their advice and let you know which one works.

Get a Japanese boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other(lol)

Read Japanese often and outloud

Do something involving the language that interests you (karaoke, manga, anime, etc!)

Strike up random conversation with the locals

Replace English words with Japanese words you already know and integrate it into your daily vocabulary

Make Genki book your bible, pray to it, worship it, and practice its teachings!

And I had to get the bike fixed today, because all the frequent nostaligic childhood bike rides along the river totally killed the back wheel *cough* or it could've also been because I accidentally rode onto gravel. Anyways! I went to get it fixed today and everything went pretty smoothly, the shop keepers were really helpful. Luckily I had written up a Japanese translation so I could say "can you fix the bike's wheel? it's flat, I think there's a hole in it." ( It was a lot more efficient and a lot less embarassing then just pointing to the back wheel and saying "dame desu! tasukete kudasai!" though that would be so much funnier.

Oh and on my way back I greeted an old lady and she started conversating with me but I had a hard time understanding her accent, so I had to give up the charade and told her that I wasn't Japanese and that I was actually an international student. She looked amused and smiled and said either "kowai"(scary) or "kawaii"(cute) but I'm going to go with kawaii because that will help me sleep better at night haha. Either way I did a little bow and thanked her and said goodbye. I'm socially awkward regardless of what country I'm in, or what language I speak :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Darkness is Coming!

Ok so today around 5pm I decided to take a lovely bike ride along the river again. The weather was fabulous and the atmosphere brought on by the setting sun made everything feel just right. So I rode a couple miles down the river when I realized that it was getting pretty dark even though it was not yet 6pm, but I wanted to ride a bit further to get a better shot of the mountain so I kept on going. Before I knew it, the sun had set, and I was far far away from the dorm. So I turned on the bike light and proceeded to turn back when my legs started to stiffen up. Yea at this moment it was kind of like an "oh crap" switch turned on in my head. I was miles away and too tired to get back in time before total darkness sets in. It was a pretty painful ride back (my head felt like it was burning!), but still a really fun experience. It reminded me of that part in the movie Silent Hill when the siren sounds for people to get inside the church before things get dark and the scary monsters comes out. Not the most comforting thought when biking through the dark.

I finally made it back to the dorm around 7ish, limping of course, yatta! The walk up the 3 flights of stairs to my room were killing me though. I'll definitely have to remember to plan out the bike rides a bit better, so I'm not stuck out in the dark frantically pedaling to get home.

I need a lot of practice with biking. I still walk the bike to the river before getting on. This week I plan to attach the gorilla pod and camera to the bike and record my awesomely horrible riding skills.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Learning to Ride Again

The last time I remember riding a bike was in Elementary school and it was the kind of bike that you had to pedal backwards in order to stop. So I assumed it would be easy to just get on and ride a bike again without any practice. Geez was I wrong, I was so scared to get on the bike again! So I wanted to practice riding it around before I took it on the road with the cars but I didn't want to ride in the day time when people could see me being goofy, so I did it in the dark of night by the river! (by the way this is completely random but Oita has a lot of bats! at first I thought they were birds, but the way they were flying, I realized they were tiny bats.)

anyways I walked the bike down to the river, embarrassing I know. But once I got to the river I felt like a kid learning to ride a bike all over again. It was just so indescribably fun and freeing to ride alongside the river at sunset. When it's not raining, the weather feels fantastic! the cooling breeze blowing through my hair, it was incredibly enjoyable. Even after the sunset I kept riding back and forth along the river. I would've stayed longer had I known the bike had a light on it.. hehe... I'm a dork.

I love it here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

2 Steps Backwards

Today after Japanese class my teacher asked me and 2 other students to stay after so she could talk to us. To make a long story short, she was outright discouraging us from taking her class because she says it would be too hard for us and we would most likely get a bad grade, and that we should take the easier route and take Japanese level 1. Now Japanese level 1 is sort of an insult to me because it is introductory Japanese, they are learning Hiragana/Katakana and some very basic kanjis. Of course it would be easier, thats like going back to elementary school, it's easy but there's no challenge and it would be a waste of my time and not going to benefit me at all. It's a step backwards and did I mention it's slightly insulting? I've been studying Japanese for 2 years, there's no way I'm going to take Japanese level 1. I don't want easy, I want a challenge, it is why I'm studying abroad in Japan, I'm not here on vacation, I'm here to get a better grasp on the language.

She was telling us that we probably wouldn't be able to keep up in class and end up getting a bad grade. I completely disagree, I know myself better than she knows me, she's known me less than 2 weeks. I know I can push myself to learn new material, it's just over the summer I didn't study so it's taking me awhile to remember the reviews in class. I spent my summer learning new kanjis, instead of reviewing grammar. But by no means should I go to Japanese level 1 just because I forgot some minor grammar that I can easily catch up in my own time. No I don't need extra help from her after class, in fact I've never bothered wasting a teacher's time because I didn't understand material from class. I'm the one responsible for my studies.

She asked us, what mattered more, being challenged or having a good grade. Who cares about grades? what does that grade say about you if you already knew the material being taught in that class? it could say you did good on test and turned in your homework on time, or it could also say that you cruised through an easy class and at no time were you challenged to think.

While I do respect teachers/advisors for their words of warning against taking a difficult course or program, I don't believe they should ever discourage a student from trying something challenging, because challenges are more rewarding in the end and provide better long lasting results. The process is more rewarding than the result! never ever forget that. Because though the result may not be what you originally wanted, the process you went through is undeniably valuable and that's where true learning takes place. Had I listened to my study abroad advisor I wouldn't have even applied to study abroad because she discouraged me from even bothering to apply because she said I wouldn't even be selected and that there were so many other better students more likely to be picked over me. If I listened to her, I wouldn't be in Japan right now living it up. It was my Japanese teacher that encouraged me to apply in spite of the slim odds. Always prepare for the worst but hope for the best and work towards your goals.

If in life we always took a step backwards and took the easy route, then what is there to learn? What is the point of life if you don't challenge yourself to succeed in difficult or perhaps even unattainable goals?

Not trying is to have failed already and to lie down and accept defeat and mediocracy.

Today is by no means a bad day, her words have just fueled the fire and motivated/encouraged me to do even better in that class and prove her wrong.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Deal With Natto

Alrighty, what is natto? it's actually fermented soybeans. Comes in little containers and is super cheap in Japan and also extremely nutritious and in my opinion delicious! I did not like natto the first time, but I loved it the second time I had it. I usually eat it with a nice warm bowl of rice and veggies and a little bit of soy sauce. Every time natto is on sale for .80 for a pack of 3-4 I make sure to stock up my fridge with it. It's quick to prepare, cheap to buy, and taste great and it's so healthy for you, so I definitely suggest you give natto a try while in Japan, or if you've already tried it and dislike it, try it again on a hungry day with warm rice and keep trying till you're in love with it.

I hear a lot of people complain about the smell. Honestly I don't think it smells bad at all, it barely even has a smell. Maybe smells a bit like roasted coffee beans but that's it. No it doesn't smell like feet, so quit being immature and making over-exaggerated faces about the smell! In other words, quit being a little bitch and try it! :) The slimy/gooey factor may turn you off but okra is slimy too and plenty of folks eat that without hesitation.

I guess growing up in a Vietnamese household and having been exposed to different foods at an early age, I'm a lot more open to trying new things and actually enjoy trying delicacies of other countries. I'm glad my parents forced me to try strange foods as a kid, of course I wasn't so happy about it when I was little because I think the Vietnamese phrase they used to say was "eat food or eat a spanking" so yea.... I chose the food haha.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Rainy day

On Friday after school orientation, my tutors were kind enough to take some of us to karaoke, it was fun. It cost about $10 for karaoke till 6am and unlimited refills of drinks. People were falling asleep way before that, so we called a cab and went home.

I was finally able to check out the river yesterday and it's really nice, there's a paved road for joggers/bikers. I walked about 40 minutes in one direction only to realize I wouldn't be able to make it back in time before sunset. opps! Oh well it was still a really enjoyable refreshing walk.

The other day while at school I noticed that crickets in Japan sound noticeably different than crickets in America. I was walking past a bush at school when I heard what sounded like a bell tingling in the wind. They're actually called suzumushi which roughly translates to sleigh bell bug. They sound soooo pretty at night. I can't wait till Summer when the lightning bugs come out!

So today was a rainy day, which was fine with me, I wanted to check out the river again and walk in the other direction, but I suppose that can wait till another day. I didn't get much done, just straightened up some things in my room and made breakfast. I mainly read manga, but don't ask me which ones because I won't ever tell you.

About to do homework and study Japanese

Friday, October 3, 2008


My body is not used to walking around so much, even though it’s really fun and good for you. So my body is aching pretty badly in some areas, like shoulders, ankles, and knees. But it’s hurting less as each day passes so that’s awesome. So a few days ago we had a typhoon advisory but it passed over Kyushu Island. My tutors helped me finish some paper work and then there was an orientation at school.

Blah blah.. and then we took a Japanese placement test but yea I won’t go into details on my pitiful score, nonetheless I shall be taking Japanese level 2.

Oh oh! The other day I missed the train! Bah, I got to the ticket counter only to realize I didn’t have change to buy the ticket so I had to go buy some delicious smelling pastries to break my 10,000Yen, but by that time the train had already left, luckily there was one 20 minutes later.

Speaking of Japanese pastries… holy jizz cakes they are DELICIOUS. They smell sooooo good and taste exactly how they smell, like a slice of heaven. I’m going to have to hold my noise while passing by bakery stores or else I’ll go broke. Food is great here; the school cafeteria has nice homemade stuff.

The 100 Yen shop is all you will ever need, so I’ve bought most if not all of my supplies there thus far. Folks back in America expect to get a crap load of 100 Yen nick-knacks! I love that store, they got really cute ceramics.

So I’m trying my best to live cheaply and I think it’ll be possible, but requires a lot of discipline because everything taste and smell so good. Walking by shops and restaurants you can smell the aroma of the food wafting out and it’s so damn irresistible. Let’s see… 5 kilos of rice cost me about $16, and instant ramen is about .95-$1, natto is less than $1 for a pack of 3, that’s pretty awesome

Now if you don’t know what natto is… I’ll post videos/pictures of it soon. It’s just fermented beans that are super super sticky. First time I had natto in America, I didn’t like it! The smell wasn’t bad, but the taste was so dull and plain. But I had natto the other day with really warm fresh rice and it tasted frickin oishii! I’ve had natto twice so far and I actually enjoy and prefer the taste of natto. My mom teased me about being able to force myself to eat natto because my first try of it almost made me gag. But really, if you have a chance give natto a try, and try again and again until you like it because it’s really good and healthy for you, and most importantly it’s cheap!

I made rice for the first time in my life yesterday! I’m so proud haha! Ate it with natto, and then for breakfast I ate it with eel! Yummy.
Fruit here is really expensive but they do taste really good and sweet. I bought a bundle of small bananas for about $2.10. Small bundle of grapes for about $2.89.

I’m actually excited and looking forward to cooking fish and meats! I’m having a lot of fun, it’s like playing house. Every day I think to myself.. what I will attempt to cook and I wonder how it will taste. Oh mayonnaise is great on everything, it taste sweeter than American mayonnaise.

I haven’t had time to check out the river yet, or upload pictures/video but I swear I’ll do it soon!It’s almost 8pm here, a group of us are about to head back out to the convenient store to snag the marked down pre-made lunch boxes. They mark down the price at night to sell it all because they want to sell everything fresh every day.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

September 28th!

This post is a bit late but I guess I’ll post it anyway and start updating regularly again

So I woke up at 6:45am, isn’t that currrazy!?
Ah its raining.. and I’m in Japan.. watching it rain.. you think rain would be a downer but I love the rain, and it’s great to be able to open the door and let the breeze blow in while listening to the rain hit the roof tops. So awesome! So yesterday was uber fun. Tuan and them invited me to come along to the izakaiya and wow, what an experience! It was really cool meeting the other American/UNCC students, Michael, Danielle, and Geoff. It’s comforting to know there’s others going through similar experiences as you. Anyways back to the izukaiya thing, it’s like a Japanese bar. Our bartender was also the shop keeper, and he’s pretty awesome, his name is Mr. Kimura and the guy does magic tricks!! Dude that just blew my mind away, I’ve never seen those slight of hand magic tricks close up, but it’s so trippy! Really friendly guy and the other patron was nice as well too. We were there for a good bit, and then Mr. Kimura and the bar patron (Mr. Hentai?) suggested karaoke, and luckily Mr.Kimura’s wife owns a karaoke shop nearby so we went there. First time doing the Japanese karaoke thing, it’s so much fun once you get to a comfortable level of drunkeness. Speaking of drunkeness… the way your drinks are constantly refilled before you finish it… oh man that’s a recipe for liver disaster and party fouls waiting to happen. You can’t keep count of how much you’ve been drinking and you’re most likely constantly staring at a glass filled to the top and it feels rude or strange to not drink and let the beer get warm, so.. I feel the need to keep drinking/sipping. Awesome nontheless, the beer has a really strong after taste and I think I’m way too lightweight to take on the soju(sp?) it’s strong stuff. No chasers either! Ack. We were there until 1am when the karaoke place closed, and they gave us these tangerines? Awesome stuff. Oh and we got lost finding our way back to the International dorms.

Today (Sept 28th) I didn’t get much done, I attempted to cook earlier this morning but didn’t have food so I went to the market to get some eggs and ramen and drinks and went home to cook it. But I didn’t know how to work the gas stove.. so I went back to the store to get a torch igniter thingie and bought some pre-made sushi rolls in the highly likely event I would be too incompetent to work the gas stove. Luckily I bought food because indeed I did not know how to turn it on even with the igniter. Bleh! So I finished unpacking and cleaning up the room a bit more, and then Tuan messaged me and helped me work the stove haha, yokatta! So yea I was finally able to cook some fooooood. Hm I need to buy a rice cooker, and perhaps a microwave, and a whole list of other stuff. Sigh but it’s raining and I forgot to buy an umbrella haaaah… daijoubu! Genki desu, like I said earlier, it’s really chill to check out the rain and listen to some music.