Monday, August 30, 2010

Last Night in The United States

I don't think I've ever been more apprehensive in my life.

Even now, hours after I've finished packing, after I'm positive everything is in the right place and that I have everything I could possibly need for the next four months packed into a duffel bag and two carry-ons, my heart feels like it's going to beat out of my chest. My parents took me to dinner at Al's Barbecue (which they highly recommend, if anybody is looking for good ribs in Dallas!) for a good Texasy meal before I take off in 12 hours. Unfortunately, after we sat down to eat, I could barely look at my food without getting nautious. Just so you can gauge what that means, I LOVE barbecue, and I've never had this reaction to nerves before! I also had a tearful breakdown to my mom while we were finishing up packing.

What I'm living out of for the next four months

It really hit me as I was putting together my photo album of my family, friends, and boyfriend, that I'm going to have very scarce communication with these people for the next 1/3rd of a year. It was heartbreaking looking at these photos of dear friends who I've spent my most important moments with for the past few years of college and knowing that I won't see them until January. Up until a few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I hadn't been separated for more than 24 hours for the entire summer. Our first year anniversary is on Halloween. I can't believe I'll be talking to my parents and sister with over 6500 miles between us. If for some reason I ever needed to go home, I was only a 20 hour drive away, but now I'll be trapped on an island.

Some of the friends I'll be leaving behind

Ok, that was a little dramatic. I obviously won't be TRAPPED. I really shouldn't be acting so spoiled, since I have an incredible and rare opportunity right in front of me. I've wanted to visit Japan my entire life, after all. All I need to do is put one foot in front of the other and keep in mind that my loved ones will all be here waiting for me when I get back, and everything will be the same as I left it. After that, the only fear I have left is my fear of being unprepared. As much as I wish, though, that I could just drop myself into Japan and have interesting conversations with my otou-san and okaa-san about the differences between our two cultures, or that I could venture into Shibuya to make friends with the gyaru and send text messages using gyaru-moji, I don't think that would ever be possible. No matter how much I've prepared language-wise, I will never be prepared for the culture shock that inevitably awaits me. I hear it happens to every student studying abroad, and I'll try my hardest to welcome it with open arms.

I probably won't be able to sleep tonight... Maybe not at all until the night after tomorrow, when I'm finally in bed in my new home.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I got a letter from my host mom today!!

It was so funny. I had been sitting at my computer for hours stressing out about this introductory email that I wanted to write to my host family. I posted a draft to multiple forums to make sure everything I wanted to say was appropriate and correct. As I was reading some corrections somebody had made ("say お世話になります instead of 宜しくお願いします to be more polite and to kind of thank them in advance for taking care of you!"), I got an email titled, 日本からこんにちは Hello from Japan.

First I started to panic! I felt so rude that I had let my host family contact me before I had the opportunity to contact them! I opened the email and was immediately relieved, because what I saw was a very friendly and warm message.

Fukami Mihoko, my host mom, told me that right now in Nagoya, it's so hot that everyone's exhausted every day. She told me not to worry though, because by the time I arrive it should be nicer weather. She told me that she was happy to hear that I like cooking, and she offered to teach me to cook Japanese food. She gave me news of both of her children, a man and woman both in their thirties, and living away from home (I think...)

I'm sure my new okaasan tried to write simply for me, but she used a lot of kanji that I didn't recognize. I had to use a translator to get the gist of the email. I emailed her back and told her how excited I am to be staying with her family. Hopefully my broken Japanese gave her a gauge of how far I have to go...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hello! My Introduction

I guess I'll start my blog off with an introduction and a little bit about me. As you can tell from the sidebar, I'm a junior at USC. I'm studying art and new media with the intention of going into a career in animation.

The first thing you should know is that I'm a Texas girl. I have lived in the same house in Dallas ever since I was born. I went to a summer camp in Burnett called "Camp Longhorn" and was dressed in cowgirl outfits by my mother in elementary school. Although my hair has been through most of the color spectrum, I think a subconscious yearning for Texas while at school has inspired me to settle on Bottle Blonde, a color sported by many native Dallas girls. Although I hope to make California my home one day, I'll always be a Texas girl at heart!

I've studied Japanese for a year now, and I'll be (hopefully, if the placement exam goes well!) entering level 3. They say that you advance 2 levels when studying abroad, and level 4 is technically fluency. So far, that is my main goal while in Japan! Nanzan's Center for Japanese Studies only accept 200 students worldwide per year, so I'm expecting classes to be very challenging. I really didn't expect to be accepted by the program, and I applied to Tokyo International University as a back-up. I'm very excited to be in Nagoya, though. I want to challenge myself as much as possible. Tokyo is only a two hour shinkansen (train) ride from Nagoya, so I'll be able to take weekend trips there. I'm very interested in Japanese street fashion, so I have many stores and districts that I want to visit in Tokyo.

See how close Nagoya and Tokyo are?

Something I'm very excited about is history. I'm very enchanted by Japanese folklore and legends, and apparently Nagoya is teeming with that. It is home to a castle that was built during the Edo period in 1612, which I am definitely going to see! Even more exciting than that is the Atsusa Shrine, which is said to be home to the legendary Kusanagi Sword, one of the three imperial treasures of Japan (the other two are a mirror and a gem.) These three treasures are part of Japanese legend and ancient religion, and they commonly appear in Japanese pop culture. For example, in the anime and manga Sailor Moon, Sailor Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto fight with a sword, a mirror, and jewel. I'm so excited to be in the presence of such an important and ancient relic!

The Kusanagi Sword, as it appears in one of my favorite video games, Okami

Other than experiencing it firsthand, I hope to be studying Japanese history and religion while I am at Nanzan. I feel like I know nothing about the country's history, and Shintooism is so interesting to me, I want to learn as much as I can!