Saturday, September 19, 2009

Giant arrival post of doom

Sooooooo now that I have a moment to breathe, and a little more coherency than before, I'll start my "giant arrival post of doom," LOL. And there's pictures too~~ not many, since it was kind of hard to take them before, but a fair few :)

So! September 14th, 2009, the journey began at Mark's house where I woke up at around 6:30am to eat my left-over BJ's pizza and gather up all my bags before we left for LAX. The ride wasn't too bad, since we were able to take the carpool lane... I was pretty calm (tired, and the reality of it all had yet to kick in). When we got to the airport, everyone was quick to check in and say good-bye to their families, then all us So-Cal kids headed over to the lobby to wait for our flight.

After a minute I went off to get a waaaay overpriced Starbucks coffee, since I was bored and sure I wouldn't be able to sleep on the flight anyway (and I was right... damn insomnia). Then---- into the plaaaaane :D

I guess our Travel Agent on the group flight picked our seats all at once, because we all ended up on the side of the plane with 2 seats to a row, all sitting next to each other :D  I'm sooo glad I took the group flight, looking back, because I would have been sooooo bored without those guys (the only other 2 So-Cal girls were taking this picture, haha).

LOL right when we took off, every time I went to change the channel so I could see the map or TV, the pilot would make and announcement or something and this screen would appear XD Somebody up there must like practical jokes, hmmmm?? ;) 

I will say though, that I hope I NEVER have to fly again while I'm sick.... I'm so glad I didn't look up anything on yahoo answers before I left cuz I woulda been really scared :O  Ascending, I just felt suuuuuuuuper dizzy and I couldn't open my eyes because everything was spinning and making me feel really sick like I was gonna throw up. So when I couldn't take it any more, I peeked through the gap between my chair and asked Mark if he could get some of Miou's dramamine for me. Buuuuut I didn't have anything liquid to swallow it with, so I stupidly tried to dry-swallow it. Bad decision. It was really chalky and sticky and gross, therefore making me want to throw up even more :O It was kinda like that stuff they put in your mouth at the dentist to numb you (and it must be similar, because my tongue was really numb after I couldn't swallow and it melted >.<).

Sooo I just closed my eyes for like 10 minutes till it had basically gone away and, thankfully, I didn't throw up ^^; After that it was just boredom and frustration that my ears wouldn't pop XDD

((Quick break! My host mom is making me walk to the station again, this time by myself, to see if I can find it alone. It's soooo far OMG. More about that later. Now, off to grab my map and test my lack of navigation skills XDDD ))

Aaaaand I'm back. That took forever. But I had music this time so I guess it was ok. Much more about the host family later though. For now, back to the plane ride :D

So, where was I..... pain. Oh, yes. Lots of pain and boredom and annoyance XD But, I did get a tiny bit of kanji practice in there. Towards the end of the flight, I took out my netbook and me and Tim did E-flashcards for all of the JLPT level 3 kanji (that's Japanese Language Proficiency Test, I believe. 4 is easiest and 1 is so hard that Japanese people can fail it XD). They played 2 movies too, "Star Trek" and "The Hangover," both with Chinese subtitles, haha. I had already seen the latter, but I watched it anyways cuz it's funny as shit XD Also, the food was pretty nasty... kinda like cheap TV dinners, but that was expected :/

Aaaaaaaaaaand so then around 11 hours later, we began the descent. It seemed like as soon as the pilot announced it, I felt like my head was gonna explode. It felt like daggers were stabbing my ears and the pressure was almost unbearable T____T Then they said there were too many planes on the landing strip, so we had to fly in circles for like 20 more minutes until it cleared up. I wanted to die.

And then when we got off, I couldn't get as excited as I wanted to because I couldn't hear anything. My ears had popped, but I was like... temporarily deaf, I guess, because my cold messed with my ears as the pressure changed. But anyways I got through it! And I was finally in Japan! (That night at the hotel, I looked up why that might have happened and I got sooooo many horror stories about how you're not supposed to fly with a cold, and what happened to some people when they did.... some similar to mine... ear drums rupturing and stuff.... O.o But more about that later!)

((Another break for dinner! Hmm I wonder what yummy things my host mom cooked tonight ^v^ ))

Back again! So anyways, I'll spare you any more boringness about the flight and just show you a couple pictures from the plane!

Good bye California................................

You left me with a beautiful sky............................

.........  hello Japan-----!!

So we ended up being kinda late, since our plane took forever to land. Because of this, as soon as we arrived, we were rushed onto the bus by our Program Director, Kazaoka-sensei, before we could exchange our money (the few of us that hadn't already done that in America). So we were kinda SOL for a couple days. Kazaoka-sensei had to lend us some til our schedule was free enough to go to a bank that would exchange it.

But before all that, the bus ride to Tokyo! Narita Airport is actually not in Tokyo, as many people think. It's in Chiba, which is just East. The bus ride went faster than we thought it would-- it only took us about an hour or so! Looking out the window felt so weird. It was nighttime, so I could see a lot of the Tokyo lights and stuff, but none of it felt very real (probably because by that point I had already been awake for about 24 hours XD ). Honestly, it still doesn't feel completely real and it's been like... 5 days or so.

When we arrived at Takadanobaba Station (the one closest to our hotel and school), we saw that like.... maybe 30 people from the International Club, "Niji no Kai," had come to help us all carry our luggage to the hotel and up to our rooms! Thankfully they took off with our stuff and then left before we had to really introduce ourselves to any of them, because by that point we were all super sweaty and gross >__< After they left, just us California kids and Kazaoka-sensei and our Resident Director Rob (who is awesome btw) went to Shakey's and ate some really strange pizza XD Think potatoes, shrimp, corn, and some other odd ones I can't remember, haha. The place looked kinda cool though, like a castle.

That first night, I believe I slept quite beautifully :) The jet lag made me lose my appetite a little bit, but I was so tired that I passed out at like 10:00 and then woke up at 6am the next morning. Breakfast buffet was delicious-- sooo many different choices <3  I pretty much stuffed myself every morning we were there XD

On the first day after arriving, we had some orientation-type stuff, and the big Japanese placement test :O  Everyone was so nervous because it was so soon, but in the end it turned out ok for most of us. It was sort-of a fill in the blank test that started off easy and got steadily harder, so if you knew it you knew it, if not then not. The last page I couldn't really do at all XD There was also a short 20 minute essay we had to write. The topic was computers, and of course, being the slow essay writer that I am, I took like 5 minutes just to think of what the hell I was gonna write about. I didn't want to do something simple like "I like computers, hur hur," so instead I talked about how computers and the internet are everywhere now and how they've become a necessary part of our lives.....

Guess the test scorers must have liked the tiny paragraph I wrote, or I must have done really well on the first part, because I ended up scoring really high! Out of 8 levels, where 6-8 are about native-speaker fluency level, I scored a 4!! Usually people with my amount of schooling (2 years) end up in high level 2 or low level 3! And I'm in high level 4!!!! I seriously don't believe it XD

I'm actually really nervous to start my Japanese class though, because I think they might have over-estimated my skill a little bit O__o  The only other people in our group that scored my level are a Japanese-American, someone who's studied it for like 6 years, and someone who's studied it for a long time and has already studied abroad in Japan before............... yeah. I'm pretty damn worried >.<  Hope it'll turn out ok... if not, I'll have to convince them to move me down...

((Yet another break! I gotta go down and take a shower now so that by the time I go to sleep my hair won't be suuuper wet. I still gotta buy a blow dryer ^^; ))

OK! Back again! Hopefully for the last time, hahahaha. Uwaaaa I seriously need a blow dryer... I can't handle this wet hair drying sleeping curly frizzy messy thing for much longer. Anyone know where to buy one? LOL

So yeah. Japanese classes seem incredibly intimidating T^T  But on the plus side, since I scored level 4, I qualify to take the Japanese elective course, "Learning Japanese Through TV Dramas," which sounds right up my alley ;)  Hopefully it's what I think it is and I'll get school credit for watching dramas I would normally watch anyways XDDD

Oh yeah, here's on of the few pics of the school I took on the first day. The campus is sooooo pretty! There are trees everywhere, and gardens, and the whole place kind of has an "old" but "new" feeling to it. I can't really explain it, lol. More pics to come soon!

After registration was over that day, whatever day it was, we split up into groups with Niji no Kai and went out to lunch at different places around campus. Our group went to this place called "Guren," and we ate tsukemen there :9  It's a kind of ramen, except instead of all of it being in a big bowl with soup, tsukemen comes in 2 bowls: 1 big one with plain noodles in it, and a smaller one with the soup in it (which is actually more like gravy than soup, haha). Looks kinda like THIS. It was suuuper good, even though I kept getting little splash stains all over the front of my shirt :O  And we got yelled at a bit by the shop person for being too loud and leaving too much in our bowls when we left (in Japan you're supposed to finish everything). I thought I'd be good with a medium since Japanese portions are supposed to be smaller, but I guess that rumor isn't so true... cuz I definitely couldn't finish it all >o< And you can't blame us for being loud-- they were playing Michelle Branch's whole debut album~~ we all knew the words, it was so nostalgic <3

The next day we hung out and went on another campus tour, I think. Then Niji no Kai took us on our first trip using the train~~ to Shinjuku! Downtown Shinjuku is only 1 stop away from my school :D We walked up and down a little and basically just hung out there for a while. And I finally got to exchange my money ^______^ 

For dinner that night, we all went to an Okonomiyaki place in Shinjuku :D There were soooooo many of us that we took up the whole restaurant O.o I think maybe they reserved it for us or something because they took all of our money before we even went inside XD Either way it was delish. Aaand it was "tabehoudai," or, "all you can eat." Oh, and Okonomiyaki is a little hard to explain buuuut... I guess it's kind of like an un-sweet pancake with whatever you want inside of it. There's a liquid dough with chopped cabbage, and then whatever you picked, e.g. seafood, meat, mochi, cheese, etc. And you all cook it by yourself, "teppan-yaki" style, on a flat metal grill thing at each table :) It looks something like THIS, although on ours we put a lot more sauce :P

There's only 1 setback with okonomiyaki though... since everyone is grilling throughout the room, there can be a lot of smoke and stuff, so while you're in there it kinda hurts your eyes :O  A lot of people's (including mine) were watering quite a bit. It's really fun to cook though! I heard Mark's table made a mickey mouse shaped one, hahahaha. But yeah, then when you leave you smell like smoke >.< I'm sure the people next to us in the train were like WTF XDDD

After we left the restaurant we just kinda hung out again by Shinjuku Station. That area's pretty cool~ there are a lot of crazy looking high rises and video billboards and stuff :O Next time I go there I'll take lots of pics <3  Me and the Niji no Kai girls I was hanging out with were having fun watching the SMAP commercial and fangirling over KimuTaku ^3^  He's kinda like.... the Brad Pitt of Japan/Asia..... but he sings too <3

So, the final day we were in the hotel was so stressful >.< Somehow I woke up at like 5:30am and I couldn't go back to sleep... so I just went on my computer for an hour or so until I had to get ready to go down to breakfast and started packing up all my stuff and trying to squish my suitcase together again. Me and my roomie Stephanie were watching TV for a bit too. There was a super weird toddler/kid show on and we got some good laughs <33

So then we all walked to Waseda together to get our announcements of our Homestay families, and then we had a pizza party in one of the big classrooms with Niji no Kai <3 One by one, Kazaoka-sensei called us up to give us a paper with our family's info on it. I was close to last, so I got anxious when I heard things like someone's dad is a CEO, and someone has a brother who studied abroad in New Zealand. Then it was my turn and I was given some information about my new family, who I was told would come "pick me up" later that day! Once my host dad came, we actually took all of my luggage by train :O Then we got a taxi to take us to his house once we reached the station. It was tough!

The Yanai's <3 I guess this family has been hosting exchange students with our program for the longest out of all the families. They never had kids, so I guess this is just what they do :) My Host Dad just retired this year from his job as an IT person, and he does a lot of volunteer work now. My mom is a sales assistant, but she pretty much does all the things a housewife would do too, and she's a vegetarian so she cooks really healthy foods :) Most of which..... well, I'm not really sure I know what it is, but it's pretty tasty~~

Oh, and they live in an old Japanese style house, with tatami and wood floors, shouji paper screen windows and sliding doors and everything, so I really feel like I'm getting the whole experience here ^_^ The shower is really confusing and annoying to use, since you can't do it standing up, and I'm still a little scared of Japanese bidet toilets, but overall it's pretty great! And the whole slipper on-off thing will take a little getting used to, but.. yeah <3 Here's a quick pic I took of my room the first night (that's my luggage at the bottom, which I have still yet to unpack ^^; )

I have come across some setbacks though.... namely my commute.... T^T

So I was already cringing from the 20 minute, what the students call, "Baba Aruki," or "Baba Walk," which is the walk from Takadanobaba Station to the Campus. But then I found out that not only is my train ride pretty long (20 minutes if I'm lucky and I can switch to the express, or over 30 if I stick to local), but my house is reeeeeally far from the neighborhood station.

I live in Nishitokyo-shi, which is basically in the suburbs on the Western side of Tokyo. The nearest station to my house is "Seibu-Yanagisawa," which I've gotta take a long, zig-zag, confusing course from my house to walk to, and which takes about 25 minutes or so if I'm walking pretty quickly. So one way, I've got about 45 minutes of walking, plus my train ride, so I've got a little over an hour commute each way T___T I'm gonna die... I've already got pretty bad blisters.......... (By the way I'm planning on making a video of my commute at some point. You know, walking and taping, and then speeding it all up in the editor so it's quick, MTV Cribs style? Yeah. Look forward to that~~ )

BUT anyways! The family is reeeeeally nice, seriously nice, and they've been great so far. They've had some problems with students in the past, so I think they're a little cautious, but I hope that everything'll be cool and comfortable between us soon :) And they're also really happy that I can speak Japanese pretty fluently, since in the past they've only had beginners and sorta intermediate exchange students. It's probably a lot less stressful for them, since communicating is a lot easier with less of a language barrier (which, in turn, makes me a little less stressed... sorta XD ).

It's been awesome talking to the Niji no Kai people all in Japanese too ^__^ Everyone is so nice, and they're really fun, and they plan A LOT for us! Seriously, between them and my host family, I've never felt more welcomed in my entire life <3 I'm truly, really happy to be here right now, and I can't wait for this year!! Besides that all of the CSU kids are pretty much the most awesome people I've ever met :D We are gonna have SO much fun guys~~~~~~

Hmmm, I think that's pretty much it so far... I didn't rant about the futon being hard and uncomfortable..... but I guess I'll spare you that XD I should get used to it soon. And they brought out the mat for me to put under it tonight, which should make it a little more comfortable :)

Tomorrow is the big Tokyo Tour with Niji no Kai <3 There are a couple courses that we can choose, splitting up into groups again. I don't know which one I'll go on yet though XD Maybe Odaiba~~ it's by the ocean and there's a huge ferris wheel and stuff ^0^ This time I'll take lots and lots of pictures, since I don't have to carry my huge bag anymore with all of my registration information~~

So look forward to a picture filled, MUCH shorter and MUCH more interesting blog post about that soon! I hope this huge entry wasn't boring XD  I'll try not to leave so much to one entry in the future!. I guess I couldn't really help this one though... haha. I should probably go to sleep now...



Sunday, September 13, 2009


Why oh why did I have to get 
sick RIGHT before my flight?!?!

Seriously though... I never get sick. Maybe maybe once 
a year...  so whyyyy nowwww of all times?! T____T

Crossing my fingers I'll feel better by Monday morning
when my plane finally takes off!

Omg I can't believe it's so soon~~~

I've almost finished packing-- just gotta make a few sacrifices
now so that everything will fit! It's just so hard to choose which
clothes to leave behind ;__;

I guess with all this final packing it's finally sunk in that I'm leaving :O
I'll miss all you guys at home! Never log off of Skype ok??
And check back on this blog often, cuz I'll be writing about a lot of
awesome things verrry soon~~~ <3

Well, I guess this'll be the last update before I'm in Tokyo,
so....... as the Japanese say: いってきます!(I'm off!)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2 weeeeeeks *0*

Thought it was time to finish up this blog layout,
it was seriously bothering me to look at it XDD

Damn HTML though, seriously. This took me wayyy
too long to make... but I love how it came out <33

What do you guys think?

........ OMG I can't believe I'll be in Tokyo
this time in only 2 more weeks @___@

I just kind of feel this overwhelming excitement whenever
my brain slows down and I realize it's sooo damn close.
Everybody keeps asking if I'm nervous, but honestly...

I'm not at all XDD
Just wayy excited and anxious~~

At this point I just wish I could get this Financial Aid mess
cleared up, cuz it's the only thing that's stressing me out right now.
Quit putting me on hold for 45 minutes, f*ing jerks >.>

P.S. Thanks a lot Alyssa, I'm addicted to "Buzzer Beat" now, LMAO
I've always loved Yamapi <33 He's just extra adorable in this drama~