Tuesday, February 3, 2009

January in a Nutshell

Long time, no update. After the busy-ness of New Years, I had nothing to report on for the start of January as I mostly spent my days at home translating and working on my website. Once things started happening I got quite busy and as such I've been rather deprived of sleep for the last little while. Hopefully this post doesn't reflect that too much (except that I just wrote "two" instead of "too," oops).

At the tail end of winter vacation I visited my host parents' friends' house, the Furuyas'. We went over for lunch and I met the family's son, a 22-year-old fellow with intentions to travel to Australia on exchange in April. I chatted with him for a bit while we made homemade pizza, the choice of ingredients provided being corn, mushroom, sausage, cheese, tomato sauce, and crab. Two pizzas were made, with one being a corn, mushroom, sausage, tomato sauce, and cheese type, and the other being crab, mushroom, tomato sauce, and cheese. Definitely not my first choice for pizza, but corn is actually not a bad topping. The house also had 5 dogs, including 2 corgies, one scottie-looking-thing, one dachshund, and a tiny little who-knows-what. Corgies are a strange blend of proportions, with huge heads and ears on relatively stubby bodies. Cute, though. Like a dog army. They also had a piano, so I got the chance to play a little bit, rare these days.

Upon my return home, I heard that my host father's business associate was coming to dinner. Expecting an older man, I was surprised to find that the manager of the company is only 27 years old, and quite a young and fashionable-looking guy. He was interesting to talk to as well, and we discussed various hair salon conventions around the world, such as the Japanese inclination to never close the shop if there were still customers coming, whereas English or North American salons would just apologize and say they were closed, shooing you away.

I also met up with the Canadian guy from the chatroom, Brian, his Finnish friend who was visiting, and an American fellow also living in Nagoya. We went to a restaurant near the station for dinner and hit up a cheap karaoke place. Though it's definitely not my first choice for non-embarrassing entertainment, it was okay, and fun to hang out with some other English speakers. I was asking the regular questions of the American student about how long he'd been in Nagoya and what have you, and he told me he was taking Japanese lessons at a university with a number of other exchange students, mostly Americans. It took awhile to register, but all of a sudden I realized that he went to school on the same campus as me. It's nice to know there are some other foreigners close by.

Speaking of foreigners, I met up with the cousin of a friend from Kelowna who was living with two other girls near Nagoya since I think September on a program through Capilano College. Sadly, she's returning to Canada now that it's February, but it was nice to have a chance to share our experiences. We went to a nice pizza place for dinner and had Italian-style margherita and basil mozzarella parmesan pies. Delicious! I miss cheese.

I've learned that my host father owns a series of restaurants as well as his hair salons. My grandparents took my host sister and I there for lunch one day, a slightly upscale place with traditional Japanese food. I had a lunch set of beef on rice, miso soup, sashimi, and apple sherbet, all presented very nicely. I walked home as the restaurant was not far from my host and the others were going grocery shopping.

Since school has started I've had many days off because of the students studying for exams. I've been going by bike since winter break ended, which is about 40 minutes and includes walking up steep hills. It's quite a lot of exercise for the early morning and if I go too quickly I feel sick. Yay Nagoya. I've also been practicing a dance routine for gym class with the girls at school and getting better at Chinese as the class plods its way through one textbook (they're on the 4th chapter and they've been studying since April). I'm learning, but I still don't have a handle on pronunciation.

As for other activities, I met up with the Furuya's son Shunsuke again to go see K-20, a sort of silly Indiana-Jones-style comical-but-kind-underdog-becomes-hero Japanese adventure movie. It was at a really nice theatre in what used to be an airport, now a mall beside a smaller army base airstrip. The building retains its airport-like style and it's difficult to believe it isn't one anymore. Japanese cinemas are very comfortable and well-kept, with wide aisles, spacious comfy seats, clean floors, and a polite audience.

I had recently finished the two fantasy books from the same series that I'd brought to Japan, and was despairing to the Australian English teacher, Carone-sensei, about how I wouldn't be able to continue them. She told me about a small second-hand store in Nagoya that also had an English book section. As she was going there soon she offered to look for some of the series for me, but I asked her if I could go along. It was such that we arrived in the fairly out-of-the-way place packed with all sorts of interesting things and started browsing through the racks. The owner, apparently a very nice man on good terms with my teacher, came up to us and said that a television crew was going to come by and do a segment on the shop since second-hand stores are rare in Japan, would we mind being interviewed? I said yes, and we browsed books until the crew arrived. I wasn't really certain what they expected of me, but they put some books in my hands and sent me in through the door again, looking as though I was just coming into the shop. Since they gave me a false premise, I ran with it and pretended that I came to the shop often, answering factual questions truthfully but lying about my own experiences on camera. It was strange, but they didn't seem to have a problem with this when I told them after since I hadn't known what to do. They also wanted me to pick out books on the spot and I wasn't sure what to choose, so I just made up reasons why I had picked them when the interviewer asked me. Funny business, news. In the end, the final program cut most of the interviews the customers had done, but I was there for a question or two about why I was in Japan and whether bookstores were common in Canada or not, the studio audience (made up of celebrities) said "Oh, a female high school student..." and that was about that.

Anyway, that was my January.

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