Thursday, February 23, 2006


Returning to New York, there are a number of things I have to learn to get used to. An obvious one is the oncoming traffic on the left side, as oppose to the right. However, there's one interesting transition that I would like to share. That is, the lack of... EARTHQUAKES!

Every now and then, it takes seconds for me to realize that there is no earthquake in New York. I would think, "EARTHQUAKE!" for a split second, as I would in Chiba.

There are procedures to be taken, such as opening doors and windows, but we never do them. I must have felt more earthquakes than anyone else have in Chiba. My estimate for the number of earthquake, I have to say, is more than 2 dozens. It could be that I am extra sensitive of a person, I am more sensitive on the 4th floor, or it has gotten to my head!

In Japan, when earthquake hits, we'd think, "Oh, earthquake." We would probably cease what we were doing for 5 seconds, and the rest of the time (around 20-30 seconds), we would continue what we were doing, but probably slower, as we wait for it to end.

Anyway, I would like to read everyone else's experiencing when they return home.

"How was Japan?"

Returning to New York, the question "How was Japan?" is expected in every conversation I run into. Although I have learned to prepare myself to answer that question, I am still at lost.

I don't know how I would describe my days in Japan. Of course, I must say I am fortunate to be selected to go to Chiba. Surely, I enjoy my days when Rob visits, but it would be agreed upon unanimously that I am not living it to the fullest.

Anyhow, I thought of something that I would like to share. The "How was Japan?" question often leads to other questions, such as the following:

Rob's suitemate: How was Japan?
Me: Um... Warm...
Rob's suitemate: Yeah... It's like, what? Summer, now?

Girl: How was Japan?
Me: Huh?
(The above lines were repeated 3 more times)
Girl: Did you forget your English or something?

Friend: How was Japan?
Me: Warm...
Friend: So... did you walk through paper doors?

Rob and I have agreed to put up an act with the most random, ridiculous stereotypes of Japan. From questions pity that Japan does not have coffee, or a suggestion to visit me from Thailand (or something like that) by train, we must test how far we can take this to. We've decided that I will appear to have forgotten my English, and to sit with my knees bent...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Bloated (Updated)

My days are rather mundane. If I can recall properly, I sleep after 4 am every morning. Before 11 am hits, I would wake up energetically. Usually breakfast or lunch would be eaten, but never together. I don't recall the last time I was hungry when I sat down for dinner.

On campus, I question everything I eat. It is either the greasy Chinese food, the way the students handle the food, or the large portion of Indian food. When I would eat a smaller meal, I would eat a healthy BLT sandwich from the deli. Before Japan, I have only been delighted by food. Never have I questioned the portion or the healthiness of the meals I eat, but now, I can't help but question why my stomach is always bloated like a child suffering from malnutrition.

In Japan, having to pay for my own electricity and averaging $80 a month, I have learned to take hot, frequent showers, make hot drinks, as replacements for blasting the heat. Mostly, I would drink green tea. Not only had it kept me warm in the wintery days, it had helped my digestive system. On campus in NY, however, I have adapted to the limited available hot drinks, hot chocolate.

At this rate, I will gain 15 pounds before I return to Japan. My everyday schedule includes eat and sleep. I can fall asleep anywhere. The reason, I believe, is my comfortable, portable, personal pillow - Rob. I would nap at a 4 hour long review on his shoulder, or I would nap on his lap when he studies for his midterm. Of course, I also take naps in the car and when he has class. Not to mention, Rob keeps me warm when we are outside, too.

Unlike Japan, where we travel by foot or by bicycle, in New York, I sit in the passenger's seat and change radio stations. Now, I lack my daily exercises of the flights of stairs to my room and the bicycle rides.

I am no longer jetlagged, but the mundane days is worse than food coma, or even, what I'd call, a shower coma. I have taken up burping and yawning as my hobby. Disgusting, I know.

It is surprising how quickly I have gained weight. Perhaps, aside from the above reasons, I'm with Rob~ Here, I don't see why I wouldn't sleep as peacefully as I do, and enjoy every second not having to look at Rob through the webcam.

Hopefully, some crunches would help~ I shall get a yoga mat.

Weekend in NY

After my 12-hour flight, my arrival was clear when the arrival statement was made in an Indian accent. When I was on line for the the airport's immigration, it was further comfirmed by the sight of black Americans and Indians at the inspector booths. I am often blessed by the speed of the government's work process.

New York is not only diversed, it is also stereotypical. Each racial group dominates a certain industry. Chinese have the laundromats and restaurants, Indians have the taxis, delis, and newspaper stands, Mexicans have the cleaning sector.

One positive aspect of New York's diversity is clearly shown in what we ate. For the past 2-3 days, we ate Malaysian food, Shanghai food, Vietnamese food, and Indian food. Moreover, we went to Pizza Hut and Mickey D's for breakfast. I must have been the first incoming foreign exchange student in Chiba to give in to McDonald's. Although Inage's McDonald's serve pancakes, they don't serve breakfast.

The distinction between New York and Japan was also clearly shown when receiving service at restaurants. The high school part-timer at McDonald's was clearly showing attitute to the customer ahead of us. I saw at least 3 idling workers as I was rolling my eyes at the growing line. At Pizza Hut, there was 1.5 waiter serving the entire restaurant of 6+ occupied tables. Worst of all is that we had to tip. At last, I was not bothered by it at all. Perhaps I have picked up Japan's comparably slow lifestyle and patience. (I am still surprised that the supposedly fast-paced Japan, contrary to belief, functions so slooooooooooooowly.)

Besides eating and fighting jetlag, Rob and I bowled with our friends. A good deal of time was spent in Rob's car. We even took the car to go to the opposite side of campus. The campus must be 20x the size of Chiba's. I miss being in Rob's car, especially because it is freezing outside. I miss the radio, but I manage to recognize 95% of the songs.

At last, Rob downloaded 電車男 (the serie) for us to watch. Hopefully, my Japanese will not worsen that much.

P.S. Apply for an re-entry permit if you are leaving Japan for the vacation, regardless of what your visa states.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


1. Don't bother sending me any emails via my cell phone, instead, send it to or simply comment on this blog.

2. I'll send you a picture or a website of a skirt that you may like, Laila.

3. Thank You, Desy! (I need it for March AND April~)

4. Will someone please inform me when they send in the water or sewage/plumbing bill? I don't know if the deadline will be set before I return, but I paid all of my other bills~

5. Anything that we can't get here in Japan? i.e. Starburst, toothpaste? Despite the fact that I'm broke, I can still afford little things like that.

6. At last, please make sure my room doesn't burn down or something!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Oh, the Drama!

Like every other day, I came back to my room after my Japanese class. As I was finishing my lunch, I thought godzilla had gone to New York to attack Rob's room. I specifically heard roars and bangs. It was the second time I've heard such an "attack" at Rob's room. Like the previous time, Rob guided godzilla, "Not here, over here." It's humorous that Rob would guide godzilla to a wall where he is "allowed" to punch. After all, no one wants to pay for any damages made on campus property.

At Rob and my campus, there are different types of dorm rooms: corridor-style, suites, etc. Like myself, Rob lives in a suite with 5 other people. In a suite, there are 3 bedrooms (2 roommates each), a living room, a bathroom, and sometimes, a balcony.

Living life as a foreign exchange student in Japan is so peaceful. I spend my days organizing my hotmail account, deleting emails. I spend every morning and every night reading the New York Times, BBC News, CNN, Yahoo Odd News and Entertainment, and the blogs of my close friends. I've deactivated every account I have, including Facebook, Xanga, photo-hosting websites, etc. I've learned to stop using AIM instant messenger completely, making no time to procrastinate and check friends' profiles or away messages. At least, now, when I procrastinate, I'm learning from the news, mostly about Bush's stupidity.

I spend my days writing emails to Rob while listening to music. I spend my days wondering if I should make french toast or noodles for lunch. Everyday, I wonder if I should speed pass the bicycle in front of me or if I should follow the slow poke. I wonder which supermarket to go to today. I ponder about what to get Rob for the next occasion. I make my everyday decisions on the utmost ordinary lifestyle. At most, I'd debate if I want to make coconut milk with tapioca (an Asian dessert) for my first time. Or, I'd debate if I want to finally learn how to make a pumpkin pie or cheesecake from Hatim.

As a roommate, you are expected to act as a mediator or a consultant. As a suitemate, Rob has to listen to any gossips that enters the room. For example, I would hear his suitemates entering the room asking about health problems, gossiping about the cheating roommate, or bitching about their unbelievable girlfriends. Every month or so, I would see his friend, Tom, popping out on the screen. Other times, I would see Rob being choked by his roommate. It's funny.

Life is good. While godzilla bitches to Rob about his girlfriend, I had just finished my delicious mapo tofu. Rob muted his microphone; after all, I wouldn't want my peace to be disturbed by godzilla's roars either. I was in front of the computer while Rob listens patiently. I can be sympathetic about godzilla's problems, but I couldn't help but laugh in the joy of my simplistic day. I was struggling with the kiwis I bought from the 99 cents store. (Rob taught me a new way to eat it, by sucking it out.) It cannot be helped but fall onto my emptied dish of mapo tofu. While Rob was still facing godzilla, I picked the kiwi back up, wiped it with my juicy fingers, and put it back into my mouth. My facial expressions changed 7 times within 3 seconds. I shrieked from its sourness and its odd taste it picked up from the dish.

Afterwards, I washed my dishes, and debated if I wanted to take a shower on this wintery day to gain warmth. Now, I am sitting here, sipping tea, wondering if I want to write my paper on a Friday afternoon, surf the web for more news, or change the horrible music that I got from Rob on my itunes.

In class, yesterday, I had explained how dormitory life represents college life in American culture. I've had my share, and I want nothing to do with it anymore. I wouldn't change a thing in my current lifestyle. At most, the girls here would talk about the x-number of dates Laila has gone on. No drama, no tears, no cat fights, maybe gossips.

When I return to New York, I just want to finish my last year as a not-a-care-in-the-world (or in this case, on-the-campus) senior. I don't care if someone commits suicide again; I don't care if someone shoots themselves again; I don't care if some student hit another student with a car again. As long as it isn't anyone I know, I don't want to care.

I just want to spend my days wondering if Rob and I want to eat on campus or off campus.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I've Failed Myelf

Today, I had a final in my Chinese class. I studied. I studied a lot of Japanese words. After all, one part of the test is to be able to write explanations in Japanese. I studied the different ways to write the same words. It's more annoying than you can imagined. Very often, I get questions on my kanji quizzes wrong, because I write the Chinese way, and not the Japanese way. Taking the Chinese test is worse. I have to memorize the Japanese writing, my usual traditional writing, and the new simplied writing. They can vary by just a dot. So, I did a lot of studying on Japanese vocabularies. The easiest words you can think of; yet, I have not learned them in my 6.5 year of Japanese studying. They can be as easy as "goat".

In the end? In the end, I took the test. It wasn't perfect, but I did fairly well. The only mistakes, in the end, weren't the Japanese explanations, understanding the Japanese words on the test (including a short paragraph, directions, vocabularies, etc.), but I failed to remember how to write it in Chinese (simplied OR traditional).

A Stupid Mistake

Although my legal documents identify me in my Chinese name, almost all of my professor call me by Stephanie (or at least, the equivalent of that in Japanese). One day, I decided to repeat my Chinese name (in Japanese, translated from English) over and over again. One must remember that I don't use my Chinese name. Momentarily, I thought, this isn't right...

To my surprise, I realized that when I was filling out applications to enter the school, I translated my name wrong. I'm not going to bother to correct it. It's already on my mailbox, school record, residential record, cell phone bill, alien registration card, etc. No one will ever know. After all, there is not one person that can correct my name. They would have to know what my Chinese name is, pronounce it in Cantonese, translate it to English, then translate it to Japanese.

I'll continue to let Rob butcher my Chinese name.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Find

It's good to have goals and ambitions, right? It doesn't hurt to dream a little, right? Well, I want to go THERE!

I haven't had a goal like this for a long time. At the same time, I have not believed in going some where so firmly for a long time.

I have to expand my horizon. Once, someone told me, "Being stupid is one thing, being ignorant is another." That clinged to me as I have abandoned my recent or age-old ignorance. (i.e. politics and geography) The picture is beautiful. I stumbled on it when I was surfing around the net. There are too many things I have never seen, and this is one of them. I've seen beautiful scenery pictures taken by SLR cameras and what-not, pictures that have won prizes, pictures taken by professional, but I have never seen anything like this.

The list continues... San Francisco, Taiwan, Kyoto... They all seem too easy. Now, SANTORINI, GREECE!!

One day in my life...

(Picture was taken by Lucio)

Back to the Kissing

Living in Japan is as hard as having a relationship in a traditional Asian family. I remember one of the first guideline I had put forth was: No kissing in front of friends. After all, I should respect them as they have respected me. I wouldn't like to be in an uncomfortable situation either.

I thought walking on the streets with Rob in an Asian community in New York is hard, but walking in the streets of Japan is harder. During my first few months, I didn't even see any couples on the streets. Gradually, I started to spot them, but at most, they would hold hands. The "radicals" seem to just stand a little closer at a corner on the train.

In 17 days, everything will change. Going back is like a hell broken loose. So, pucker up, Rob! *slurp* j/k

(Okay, sorry, maybe that was a little disturbing.)

A Side Note

I wonder if my immune system has weakened. Or, has it always been like this? I remember I used to feel healthy when I was in team sports in high school. So, when was the change?

Am I eating unhealthily? Of course I am! First, I must stop eating refrigerated goods or instant ramen. Since I came to Japan, I have lost a total of 8-10 pounds. It could mean that, for a change, I am eating the portion that I should be eating, instead of stuffing myself at an Italian restaurant. It could be because of the 4 bicycle rides a day. It could mean that I'm simply sad. Or, I'm not eating the 8 course meal I eat with Rob, and the nutritious Chinese meals at home.

Anyway, what's my point? I'm sick!! (... but I'm fine)