Monday, February 23, 2009

Keeping the Dream Alive

This is a long post so if you have a short attention span and don't like bedtime stories, stop reading now!

Where is Your Dream Vacation Spot?

That question put a smile on my face because it's one of those secret questions you must answer to retrieve a lost password. It came to mind while I was filling out my FAFSA(which is highly depressing to fill out by the way) because I had forgotten my pin. So where is my dream vacation spot? Japan of course! :)

So I am living in a place I once considered a "dream vacation spot"? I'm living a dream!? no way! Now that's fancy stuff right there. Reality is going to come and wake me up in 5 months though. I wish there was a snooze button, or a time machine!

So how does one keep the dream alive? I know what I personally need to start doing from now on, I need to be more proactive with school. I lost motivation during my err.. not-so-happy years and it really showed in my GPA and I had given up on trying to improve it.

Then in the fall of 07' on a whim I decided to go to a study abroad information panal my Japanese teacher told me about. I fell in love with the idea of being able to escape from reality and live out my dream. So even though at that time I had 2.49 GPA which is .1 shy from being eligible to even apply for the study abroad program, I tried my best to improve my grades that semester so I could apply for the fall of 08'. By January 08' I was able to get my GPA to 2.51 and turned in my application for the study abroad program.

Let me tell ya... the wait for the acceptance/denial letter was pure agony. It made me so crazy emo waiting for it because in the back of my head I kept doubting myself all over again.

Why did I even bother applying? my study abroad advisor said because my GPA was so bad I wouldn't have a chance at being selected, "waste of time" she said.

If I can't study abroad in Japan then what's the point of even trying to improve my GPA anymore?

Because of those persistant pessimistic thoughts, my GPA did not improve that semester. For 7 months I waited for an answer. Those months would've been a lot more productive had I just believed in myself and kept a more positive outlook on things.

But needless to say, I got accepted! that's why I'm here in Japan! and writing this blog to encourage those people who are having second thoughts to go ahead and apply. The application process is not all that difficult and certaintly NOT a waste of time.

Even if things don't turn out in your favor, don't let it get you down, just know that when one door closes, another will always open, you just have to keep holding your head up high enough to see it.

Go 'head gurrrrrrrl! Do the damn thing!!

haha ok /ghetto_mode off

Being here has definitely revitalized my motivation for living and learning.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Vietnamese Vs. Japanese

When I was 3 years old my family moved us from Vietnam to America. My parents always worried about me having an accent that would affect my English so they did not place me into any Vietnamese language classes. The only Vietnamese I ever heard was from my parents and a couple poorly dubbed Hong Kong TV shows. Several years later, in spite of never taking a single Vietnamese language class, I can speak it fluently.

This is nothing new or unique, a lot of children grow up bilingual, or even trilingual. But what always amazes me is that children can learn language without having to sit through a single class.

Now the only downside to not having a formal education in Vietnamese is... I can't read. In fact looking at Vietnamese text gives me a headache. It's just an explosion of letters.

As for Japanese, I can read, write, and speak it, but I am nowhere near being fluent. But the upside is I can actually use a Japanese/English dictionary, whereas I could not do the same with Vietnamese.

So where would I rather be lost? in Japan, where I can read/write/speak but not on a fluent level? or in Vietnam where I could easily speak but would be unable to read a single word?

To be honest, I would prefer the former. Because not being able to read is a scary thing. Reading is an extremly important aspect of language. Because if you can read, then you can write, and once you can write, then you can speak the language with ease and confidence.

Sure I could always go back and take a Vietnamese language course, but I'm a bit biased against it. Since my parents were the only ones that spoke Vietnamese to me, they often used it to belittle and yell at me or at each other, so I see it as a harsh oppressive language.

But putting childhood drama aside, I think Vietnamese is a very simple and efficient language. Every word is 1 syllabul. There are no counters. There's really no past/present/future tense, there are only markers to indicate the action has been done, is being done, or will be done, etc. And last but not least, there is no kanji! thank the Frenchies for that one.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fall Semester Done!

I've only been out of class for a few weeks and I can feel my Japanese slipping already so I've been doing extra studying. But lately I find myself being distracted by silly ghost hunting investigations around Oita(I'll explain later). I realized learning a language takes time. Whenever I feel frustrated at my inability to understand Japanese I just remind myself that even the dumbest person in the world can grasp at least 1 language! They don't necessarily have to be that smart or have a formal education, but just being around that language long enough they will be able to speak it. You don't have to be a genius to speak a foreign language, you just have to put in time and effort into actually learning it.

so yes back to the ghost hunting!

I'm not sure if this place is haunted or not, but I've been thinking about it a lot. If a ghost tries to contact me... will it speak to me in Japanese? 日本語をできない!.. will there be subtitles at the bottom? do ghosts in other countries follow different "rules" of haunting? I suppose Japanese ghosts would be of Shinto/Buddhist origins, so therefore.. Christian/Catholic holy water won't work right? the whole "Power of Christ Compels You!!" thing won't work here!

Either way I think I'm covered, I have rosaries and a room protection scroll. It pays to play on both teams *ahem* I meant this in regards to one's religious affiliation!

BUT! I'm glad I don't live in room 103. buahahaha!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Biking to Beppu

A group of us biked to Beppu last Monday and it was amazing every second of the way there. It felt so nice to be in the warm sun again after hibernating all winter long. It's exciting to feel the cool ocean breeze blow through your hair while you're biking! I've never been able to bike around so freely in my life. Back in America I never bothered getting a bike because I don't live in a very bike friendly area at all. But in Japan, especially in Oita, some of the best places can only be reached on foot or by bike. It's extremely convenient to be able to stop anywhere you'd like and just take photos or enjoy the view, and best thing is you don't have to worry about finding parking!
We stopped a couple times just to take in the scenary and to play in the pirate ship. Yes! there is a random pirate ship at one of the beaches we stopped at. We hung out there a bit and then continued on to Beppu where we planned to meet up with Tuan and have a group picnic on the beach. It started to rain though so we couldn't do the picnic on the beach. Instead we went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of half priced meats and made dinner at Tuan's dorm. It was really fun, good food, good people, perfect day despite the rain.

I definitely plan to go back and have that picnic on the beach though.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Semester or Full Year?

It's really quiet here now, so many students have returned to their home countries. I do miss them greatly and wish they could have stayed for the full year duration but it is nice to get their stuff when they leave :)

I felt a bit down in January because if I had gone for a semester I'd be back in America by now and my dog Ein would be sitting beside me begging for attention and love. But emo-time ended really quick because I look forward to the next 6 months of my stay here in Oita. There is so much I love about this place, and still so much more for me to see and experience. My time here is not done yet! and I will not spend the remainder of my stay day-dreaming about being back in America.

My return to America will come soon enough, but I'm not ready to go back yet. I feel as if I've finally settled in, perhaps getting Molly's blanket helped :) no more cold toes at night! But really.. my diet has also adapted to the smaller sized meal portions. I can no longer stuff my face in 1 sitting anymore. I realized this while at the buffet last week. I had this strange feeling in my stomach, I think people refer to this feeling as "being full." Nonsense! what?! me? full?? I was unable to eat much more, but I did manage to cram in a couple dishes of dessert before I left the battlefield in defeat.

One day I shall be able to eat like an American again, and when that day comes, I'm going to clean out that buffet! ... REVENGE!

Monday, February 2, 2009

When it rains, it pours!

The rain in Japan is pretty amazing, there's really no scattered showers, or partial rain here in Kyushu. When it rains, it seems to rains all day! I love lying in bed watching the rain fall outside my balcony. In fact, my first few days in Oita I experienced a week of non-stop rain so it really brings me back. However! the rain is a bit unforgiving if you choose to go outside, but if it's a school day and you're like me (can't afford to buy a train pass) the other transportation option is biking... so yea...

Exhibit A!
see that bit of light blue near the top? that's the original color of the jeans. The dark blue is what it looked like due to the rain water soaking into my pants.

Exhibit B! that's the result of biking in the rain for 40 minutes but hey! I saved $5 by not taking the train :) I miss not having a car during times like this, but I wouldn't trade my study abroad experience for anything in this world. Also it would be wise to listen to the weather reports, it's actually more accurate than the fickle weather I get back in North Carolina.