Today was a very big transition for me, and so today I am going to have a slightly different post than usual: I need to rant and reflect a bit about what has all been happening, so instead of posting a recipe or simply describing stories that go along with photos of the things I have done, I am going to go more in depth and talk about moving into my home stay house.
First of all though, the morning was full of more orientation things and we all packed up everything and headed over to school. We did some touring around and talked a lot about cultural differences and communication. My group had “the most organized poster” which personally I think we should have gotten an award for. 😉
Today was the first day I felt anything other than extreme excitement and a natural feeling. After another morning of orientation, I met my host “grandmother” and headed off to her house. Even after just three days, I feel so close with all other 35 students in my program, and it seems like we have been together for weeks. After leaving for my host grandma’s house (she asked me to call her obaachan, which means grandmother in Japanese) I began having moments of loneliness. I think this was partially due to the transition—the third major one in the past week—but mostly because I have no access to internet at my host grandmothers house or in the immediate vicinity. I basically live on internet connection back in America, and this is incredibly strange. At the orientation hotel, I was able to use internet in the lobby and in the classrooms, and I was constantly with at least one other person and usually 5-35, so I was never out of the loop with anything. Now I have only my host grandmother to talk with and no idea what 98% of the students are doing with their weekend.
Speaking of my host grandmother, she is wonderful, she really is. She is sweet and very willing to accommodate my level of Japanese. However (and this is a very big however) she literally speaks zero English! Even very basic greetings and phrases are over her head, so when we have a period of misunderstanding there is not much either one of us can do because we have no other language to try to explain things in. I think if I had internet I could do things that involved less complex vocabulary and were more along my interests—like pictures on facebook and my blog and such. We also have a bit of a generation gap, as she literally is around the age of my grandmother.
My home is more or less a direct shot from Kanda University and the IES Center, which is fantastic. One of the redeeming qualities of my home situation is that I am literally the closest student out of all 35 to campus! Because of this, and the incredibly early sunrise over here, it will be completely doable to get up early and head over to campus for some quality internet time.
My house is among some very old and traditional Japanese homes, and mine is among the older ones. It has a small entryway which leads into the living/dining room just off the smallest kitchen I have ever seen in my life. I had previously had hopes of cooking with and/or for my host family, but after seeing this and realizing there really isn’t an oven, I am not so sure! Obaachan has her bedroom on the first floor to one side of the living room, and the bathroom and shower/laundry are to the other side. If you go up the very steep, very narrow stairs you come to a small room with a table and a chest of drawers, which is for me to use for my clothes and for studying and such. This is connected to my bedroom—only separated by some sliding screens—which has enough space for everything I need to do. The floors are also tatami mats, which is fantastic but a little scary because I feel like I have to keep them perfectly clean and never spill anything ever. In this regard, my private space is more than I was hoping for. The only downside is that I need to go downstairs and past obaachan’s room in order to use the bathroom! >.<
Another cool thing about my home is that it is relatively close to another guy in my program, and obaachan seems to know his host mother. We are the only two in the program who have single women as our host family, so I hope that we will be able to meet up easily on the weekends and such—possibly with our host families.
After walking for 20-30 minutes from IES with my backpack, purse and carry on bag, we arrived at the house. We chatted a bit and had some water and fruit, but soon after headed out for dinner. We went to a Japanese restaurant which was delicious and not very expensive. I asked obaachan what she would recommend. She pointed out something that had a bit of everything, so I decided to go with that. It was super super delicious, but it was probably a mistake because I couldn’t finish it all and I think she thought it was weird… One of my advisors at IES told me that Japanese people often find it rude to waste food, even if it is just a bit, and I think I experienced that first hand!
Returning from dinner, my second suitcase arrived. Then came the strenuous but faster than expected task of carrying up the suitcases up the steep/narrow staircase. I also had my first experience with a Japanese shower. It was…interesting. I am still not sure if I did it right, even though she explained it to me seconds before I tried it! >.<
Slowly but surely I think this is going to be a great experience. Even though today was semi-unexpectedly challenging, I keep reminding myself that it was the first day of knowing my host mother and that things will get a lot easier when I have a routine at school. Even a few days ago I was disappointed that I would have classes and my internship all day and lasting until 4-5, but now I think it is actually going to be a good situation. ^_^
Now to find the time to do all the things I searched about before I got here! I have a ginormous list of things I want to do in Tokyo, not to mention the day trips from Tokyo and my hopes to visit Osaka and Kyoto at the very least!
That’s all for now, thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please let me know! 😀