I know I completely suck at keeping you guys posted on my movements in Japan, so here are a few updates:
Host Family: SUGOI. My host family consists of Akemi, Kaori (21), Naomi (soon to be 20), Obaachan, Ojiichan and Ani, the deaf, blind and apparently mute dog. Akemi, Kaori, Naomi, Ani and I all live upstairs and the grandparents live downstairs. I do my own laundry and wash my own dishes and I get to come and go as I please. Believe it or not, everyone is actually jealous of my situation. It seems that I have the most independence out of everyone. As far as I can tell, Ojiichan is quiet and really likes calligraphy and Obaachan is nuts. But in that good sort of way. Kaori has been taking care of me since I arrived. She’s shown me around, instructed me in the use of the laundry machine, filled in for Kat as the sister that all my friends want and, more recently, rescued me when I was lost in the neighborhood (more on that later). She speaks the most English out of everyone and we seem to get along well. Akemi likes to watch movies; we watched Insomnia together the other night. Naomi does all the cooking (except breakfast, which Akemi does) and is filling in for Kat as the sister who never wears a shirt.
School: I’m happy to say that my summer of agony paid off. I managed to test into the highest level of Japanese there is for white people (there’s a higher level, but that’s for all the Korean kids who are probably Japanese students trying to get an easy A). Austin and Katherine (my ofuro buddy) and Alistair (::in British accent:: “You say ‘American Culture;’ I say ‘what culture?'”) are in my class and I’m enjoying it. There’s so few of us so we get to really learn things in a lot of detail. The other classes seem to be hit or miss. “Shinto Shrines and Christian Churches” is definitely a hit, whereas I wanted to kill someone in “Japanese Society” (the guy teaching it seemed like a real jerk). Tomorrow I’m going to test out “Contemporary History of Japan,” but what I’m most excited about is the possibility of getting to do a presentation on vending machines (more information on request).
Pictures: My computer officially speaks more Japanese than I do. They have wireless internet here and every time I use it, it works really well for about the first 10 minutes and then it starts going nuts. I think the reason for this is that my computer speaks English and their Internet speaks Japanese. So out of desperation, my computer has started to do things like loading pages in Japanese. For example, when I go to “My Favorites – Google,” the page that loads is Google Japan. At any rate, due to technical issues, I can only manage to upload about 3 pictures a day. Don’t worry, I only have about 10 more pictures and then we’ll see how long it takes me to caption them. But as soon as they’re done, I’ll give you guys the link.
Stage III of Culture Shock: For those who are interested, there are four stages of culture shock: 1) Optimism 2) Shock 3) Unresolved Conflicts (rejection) 4) Acceptance. I’ve definitely hit Stage III. Today, I told Kaori I’d be home at 7, missed the bus that would have gotten me home at 7:10 and took a different bus that takes the reverse route from what I’m used to. Kaori and I took this route home once and I thought that I could remember the way once I got there. Boy was I wrong. The Fukushis live on Sumikawa 6-9, 11-14. Somehow I ended up on Sumikawa 6-12, 4, and had to call Kaori to come and get me. Everyone just thought it was funny, and I thanked Kaori by doing the dishes for her (except that it took me so long to figure out how to say it that she already guessed what I wanted before I said anything). Even though it turned out all right, I was really embarrassed (humiliations galore) and a little frustrated. I’m getting a little sick of being treated like an adult and being expected to act like one, but not being able to communicate the most basic emotions or thoughts to the people around me or even do something as simple as find my way home. I’m sick of being able to read the menu in restaurants but still not understand what it all means. I find myself wanting to speak in Japanese less and less and resorting to English more and more. I’m tired all the time from constantly having to think about everything I do and say. I suppose the good news is that if I blew through the first 3 stages in only a month, maybe I’ll hit the fourth stage by the end of next month.
Allergies and a Small Bladder: Apparently, I am allergic to Japan. I’m not kidding. I go through two packs of tissues a day. Thank God they’re always handing them out on the street as advertisements. In other news, I have been officially acknowledged as the world’s most frequent and fastest pee-er.