Monday, November 21, 2005

One Thing I Don't Miss

Rob and I often speak of what-if scenarios. For example, what if there was an emergency that only he had witnessed (since we spent a considerable amount of time with each other in front of the webcam). Who would he contact when he's in New York?

Here's another one. We often joke about how he can answer my door when I am away, or babysit my laptop when I am absent. What if my laptop was stolen in front of his eyes? We used to joke that he would able to stop the crime when he interrogates the theive on the other side of the world.

Earlier, I was in my floor's meeting room to receive better wireless internet connection. While I was talking to Rob, I had to use the bathroom. My homework, bookbag, and electronic dictionary were all layed out on the desk. After a short contemplation, I decided to leave my belongings unattended.

One thing I don't miss is to have to worry about leaving things unattended. New York, especially my university, is infamous for having things "disappear." It takes as little as 1 minute. In fact, my laptop was stolen while my roommate was asleep in the room. How? I don't know.

The streets of Japan are unbelievably safe. No matter how dark it is (without street lights), how far the police station is, or how deserted you are, one would always feel secured, simply because it's Japan! There will always be umbrellas left on bicycles. My belongings will always remain where I had abandoned or forgotten it (i.e. my bicycle basket).

Saturday, November 19, 2005


In the Japanese class at Stony Brook, we often talk about the useless vocabularies that we have to memorize for our quizzes. One of those words were 悪循環 (a-ku-jun-kan) which means vicious cycle. When would it ever be in use? I have never even used it in English (or Chinese). Until one day...

A few weeks ago, I was eating Shabu Shabu (the onomatopoeia for boiling water) for dinner with Claudia, Kai, and Lukas, who speaks fluent Japanese after 2 years of studying by himself. I wasn't following the conversation, but they were talking about Catch-22 and such. Lukas turned to me and asked what the English word is for 悪循環. Before I heard his question, I found it humorous that he believes that I can answer his question. His Japanese is far better than mine. When his question finally registered in my head, I thought to myself, That sounds so familiar. I the repeated the word to myself 3 or 4 more times.

Within seconds, I yelled, "Vicious cycle!" Lukas confirmed that it was right. Till this day, I am still surprised at the wide range of useless Japanese vocabulary words that I know and remember.

Monday, November 14, 2005

New Yorkers, Where Ya At?!

In May, I went on a cross-country road trip with 3 friends. By the end of our trip, we couldn't wait for the honking cars, disrespectful New Yorkers, etc. Being in Japan is 10x worse. (Then again, for some reasons, Japanese are actually really mean to me.)

Last Sunday, we were invited to play with the boy scout kids and to visit our Architectural Design's professor's house, the Yanagisawa's. I felt extremely uncomfortable ending the day with a simple "Thank You very much." I could have repeated it 27 more times and not be able to express how thankful I was.

Their house was beautiful. Their entire family were great hosts and hostess. We were served fruits, oven-baked pizza, shumai, yakisoba, sushi, chips, and soda. Moreover, we learned to make sushi. Everything was prepared especially for us. It was like Christmas. We all set around, chatting, laughing, and playing with their 2 sons. For the first time in 10 or more years, I played Legos.

Earlier that day, we were invited to play with the boy scout kids (there were girls, too). For the kindergarten to 2nd grade's Beaver group, they had to guess each exchange student's origin of country. Our names were the only thing that were given. To my surprise, they know a lot of countries. i.e. Nepal was one of their guesses. However, they would guess an Asian country for a European person and vice versa. They would even guess the Phillippines when the hint was "somewhere cold".

By the end of the day, a girl and her parents waited for us at the train station unexpectedly. The thanked us for the day and gave each of us a print of the picture we had taken earlier. Once again, I don't think I could've bowed any lower or gave thanks any more than I did.

I don't think I can get used to it. Argh! Stop being so nice to me!

Saturday, November 12, 2005


I was fortunate to be 1 of 4 girls who volunteered to participate in a tea party at my dormitory building. I drooled at the opportunity to wear a kimono. Thereafter, I dragged 2 of my hallmates, Desy and Laila, to sign up with me.

(Unfortunately, I had to cut my talking time with Rob short to attend the event at 10 am. Now, he's asleep, and I missed the chance to talk to him.)

The first thing I had noticed was that I had the lowest proficiency in Japanese. The event is hosted by the Mother Associations, which translates to the requirement of tremendous manner and respect. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, but the Japanese has a whole different way of speaking to the elders. Different verbs are required, more bowing, and more arigatoos gozimasu's.

There are a group of 4 girls and 1 guy coming in at each hour. First, we had to wear these funny looking socks (see below). Since I was the first one to master them, I was the first one to choose a kimono. When I first entered the building where the event was taking place, I puked at the color and style of the kimonos. Apparently, the girls who were an hour before us were just tasteless. I ended up picking the first one I saw, a plain, blue, flower-patterned kimono.

Then, I stood in the middle of the room, in front of a mirror, with 2-3 other "okaasan" dressing me up. I don't know if I would want to be related to it, but it reminded me of a chapter in "Memoirs of a Geisha". For the next half an hour, I became a statue with my arms up.

First, we had to wear a white undershirt (see below). Then... lots of layers, tying, tightening, etc. I forgot. The entire process was so complicated. An average Japanese person would not know how to put it on. I have worn a Japanese kimono before a few years ago, when I visited Japan for the first time. However, this time, everything is more "formal". After lots of adjustments, they spent a 1/3 of the total time on the "obi" (bow). When I was done, all the elders compliment you. I was bound to blush, and denied their compliments.

Subsequently, we had to pick out our slippers, bags, etc. Then, another "okaasan" had to style my hair. I was one of the few people with long and wavy hair. Thankfully, I didn't have to wear a hair piece. At last, I picked out a pink hair ornament.

It was extremely tiring to have to worry about dirtying the kimono and walking with restrictions to the movement on your legs. At last, old Japanese music was played. We sat at a table, and we were taught how to drink our tea. The picture on the cup has to face a certain direction before and after you drink it; the cup has to be rotated before and after you drink it, etc.

At around 12 pm, the fun was over. The Mother Association prepared a feast. As soon as the kimono was off, it was all like a dream. It was so much fun.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Flower Power

A few weeks ago, Rob sent me a care package. Inside, it included a set of pajamas (because I have been complaining at how cold it is getting night), pictures of us, a picture frame that I wanted, magazines, and a few essential items I have requested.

One of the most exciting moment when you are living away from home is to receive letters (until I started receiving bills). Before that comes the care packages! During the first month, it was so sad seeing everyone else running to the office to sign for their packages. i.e. Cori got her pillow the first week or two. The sadness was over when I received one of my own. =)

Earlier this week, I remembered one of the many reasons why it feels so good to have a boyfriend. It's because you get spoiled! Rob sent me a dozen of red roses. They are B-E-A-UUUUU-TIFUL!

The delivery guy had to call me at my cell phone. After 3 minutes of wondering who "Ro-ba-tsu" from Tokyo (the florist) is, I ran down without even locking my door. I was smiling the entire day thereafter.

I love you, Rob!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Volleyball Class

Volleyball and Chinese are the only "regular" classes that I am taking along with Japanese students (due to my low proficiency). Otherwise, I am taking Japanese language courses, Economics courses, and Architectural Design with fellow international exchange students.

Japanese girls appeared to me as the scariest creatures when I first stepped into the class. It was quite intimidating, seeing cliques throughout the gym. Not to mention, I had to personally meet with the gym teacher before enrolling in the class.

First off, I had to do a self introduction in front of 50+ people. Fortunately, I have become quite custom to it. I must have done dozens of self introductions in classes, welcome parties, or casual conversations. In the end, it wasn't as horrible as I have imagined it to be. Like my Chinese class, I know what is going on; thereafter, it is much easier to comprehend without knowing what they are saying all the time.

The first day was extremely fun, frustrating, and intimidating. It was frustrating, because when a ball comes at me, I don't think in Japanese. Therefore, I would utter, "free" or "I got it!" I'd end up mumbling the end of a word or sentence. Because I have to speak Japanese entirely, there have been a few interesting stories. It's actually quite foolish of me. In fact, to the class, I am either really stupid or really... lost.

Story #1:
On the first day, as if it was not intimidating enough, I had to struggle through the directions to little games that we played. At one time, we were playing, "cat and mice." In Japanese, the words are "neko" (cat) and "nezumi" (mouse). Boy, "nezumi" became my vocabulary of the week. I don't think I will ever forget the word after what had happened.

Basically, (now that I know what was going on) we had two teams: the cats and the mices. I was one of the mice. I asked for interpretation, but by the second time, I gave up and said "wakatta" which means, "I understand." I figured, I'll survive when I look at what everyone else is doing. Boy, I was so wrong! For example, if the teacher was to call "cats," the cats would tag the mices who were standing on the other side of a line, 5 feet away. Notice that both "neko" and "nezumi" starts with the sound "ne". When Japanese is not your first or second language, you're screwed! Big time!

Anyway, not only was I tagged every time by this evil-looking girl, I couldn't tag anyone. In addition, I'm the last person to run to the other side (to catch the "cats"). So, I was stupid AND slow! In fact, at the last round, I ran to the person who was supposed to catch me! Doh!

Story #2
Each week, we would have a new team. Every time we have a new team, we would be given 5 minutes to do quick self introductions. Typically, you would tell them your full name, what year you are in, and what faculty you are in.

Before our scrimmages, we played games (again)! I never liked the idea of games after my first day. This time, it was easier to comprehend; we simply had to pass the ball around in a circle. The moment you pass it to another group member, you would have to call their name.

Before we started, we were in a circle, and everyone was reviewing their names. I was the last one to say my name, and everyone laughed. I lauged under pressure. I thought, perhaps, it is because my name is so different from everyone else's.

I managed to remember 3 names. There was "Hachi" who was on the left of me, "ichi" who was across from me, and "Nana" who was diagonal to me. I remembered "Nana," because there was a girl in the volleyball club who has the same name.

By the end of the class, I figured out why everyone laughed. Apparently, we weren't reviewing our names, we were counting in numbers around the circle. "Ichi", "hachi", and "nana" were 1, 8, and 7. Instead of calling their names, we had to call each other by numbers. I would have been "kyuu" (9), but instead, I said my name. *sigh*

Story #3

One day, while everyone was putting away the net, scoreboard, balls, etc., I found myself standing at the emptier part of the gym doing nothing. Since everyone was finishing up, I decided to head to the locker room. I changed and emptied my locker. By the time I walked out of the locker room, everyone was still in their gym clothes in a circle with the teacher in the center. I was about 30 feet away from them when they gave thanks to the teacher for the day. I decided to bow and say "arigatoo gozaimasu" like everyone else. Since it is extremely rare to find someone disrespectful, it was quite strange that I did it so casually.

To make matters worse, after the teacher looked at me (thankfully, he's really nice), everyone else did as well. All the girls were saying "Stephanie... (blah blah blah)," pointing, and laughing. All of the sudden, I'm like the class clown.


What is really frustrating is that the word "kawaii" (cute). I don't think I need a bunch of Japanese girls to talk about how "cute" I am. In fact, I only call people "cute" when it's stupidly-cute.

I just hope that I won't do any more stretches that I am incapable of doing (like touching my toes and having someone pushing me down, forcefully).

Most importantly, no more games!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I haven't been able to update my blog, because the condition of the wireless internet connection that I am "borrowing" is getting worse.

Last week, we had 3 days off from school to hold a festival (大学祭) at school. Moreover, it was 文化の日 or Cultural Day on November 3rd. The festival was 4 days long. It is where all the "circles" or clubs come together and sell food, handmade crafts (I bought flower earring holder shown above), and hold performances.

The second picture above is "taiyaki". It is similar to the "Hong Kong Style Cake" that you buy from Chinatown, but better. It has different flavors, such as chocolate, green tea, red beans, etc. There were tons of food, including yakitori (barbeque meat), yakisoba (stir-fry noodles), okonomiyaki (seafood pancake), ramen, etc. Strangely, there were 2 clubs that sold hot dogs.

As for the performances, they were quite impressive and entertaining. Most of the time, I watched the Japanese dance to Ciara and other hip hop songs. When popular songs like, "One Two Step" were playing, no one knew the words. Moreover, the dancers were lipping the wrong words to the song.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Random Pictures

1. An Architectural Design class trip on a Saturday morning to the samurai house. There, we all gathered together and had tea.

2. We went to a museum. This piece found approximately 3000 yrs ago is my favorite one in the entire place.

3. A look inside a samurai house.

4. A praying mantis found outside the front yard.

5. The sky outside Sakura, Chiba, a place known for their killer slopes!