time to rest
weill in japan: day 19
After a week dominated by not-quite-early-enough starts and constant work,
it was nice to have a weekend defined by sleep and recreation. Of course,
there was homework as well, but it wasn't too bad. Tomorrow, I'll see how
much homework I forgot to do.
Earlier this evening, Nori left to return to Kyoto. He offered to let me
stay at his place should I want to visit. I might take him up on that offer,
since the shinkansen (bullet train) alone costs more than $100 a ticket from
Tokyo to Kyoto, but makes the trip in about 2 1/2 hours. The bus, which is
about a third less money, takes 10 hours on an overnight trip that can either
be a nice place to sleep or an uncomfortable nightmare, according to a friend
The farewell was not as long-winded as the ones I'm used to back home:
Nori packed his things and headed to the station without a lot of heavy
emotions on the part of the rest of the family. He's still close enough to
visit every now and then.
I still have a lot of sightseeing and souvenir shopping to do, so much so
that I'm keeping a list of things I should buy and things that I already have
as souvenirs. A fair amount of novelty gifts are actually free: old game
flyers are given away by stores who don't need them any more, and many food
and drink companies give away little trinkets to keep people brand-loyal.
I now have a key chain featuring Coca-Cola's large-headed cute blue mascot
"Qoo" (pronounced "coo") which came free with a bottle. Still, to get more
personal and more regional gifts, I need to travel around some more. Hopefully
I'll be able to do that in the coming four weeks.
Task: This week, make sure people on campus know how to contact me
off-campus. I can't count on e-mail here, since I check it so infrequently.
The dorms' persistent Internet connections spoil the dorm students like I was
spoiled at CMU. You don't realize how great a high-speed persistent 'net
connection is until it's gone.
Early on, I was extremely pessimistic about food matters. My host mother
was giving me these large portions and then acting very concerned as my
weak, jet-lagged body could barely finish half. Now, my appetite has been back
at full strength and my host mother knows that I tend not to eat as much as
my highly active older brothers here. Noodles and rice have made up no small
part of the meals here, and that's good: both of those are very simple foods
which provide plenty of carbohydrates for energy. On each of the last two
days, lunch has consisted exclusively of soumen, very thin noodles
served ice cold with a thin sauce and onions. Everyone serves themselves from
a large bowl, so I only need to take as much as my appetite allows. The food
is good, and none of it goes to waste.
My host mother was very surprised yesterday to hear that I would like to
have unagi, a broiled eel dish. Popular year-round but most plentiful
during the summer, unagi consists simply of eel broiled and usually served over
rice (the combination is often called unagi-don or una-don)
as a main dish. The meat is very light and easy to eat, and tastes very good.
Unagi is fairly difficult to prepare, so even skilled chefs like my host mother
buy it in stores instead. At its cheapest, a bowl of una-don will cost as
much as ¥1200 ($10.40) from a small shop or substantially more at a fine
restaurant. One of the nice parts about being in a homestay is that I pay a
monetary gift up front and then receive meals like this for free. Most
families spend more than the value of this monetary gift on meals for the
student, so we students get more than we pay for. As long as the food's good,
I'm not complaining.
Goal: Get up extra early in the morning, go to Mister Donut near the train
station in the morning, enjoy a Choco-Ring on the train to school.
Congratulations to former
College Bowl club president Shannon Sisk on her marriage to Terry Watt on
Saturday, July 20. You made it!
Sighting: An opera-singing Santa Claus doll on clearance for ¥1000
($8.60) at a department store Saturday. I thought for a long time about
I now have 12 Coca-Cola stickers from bottles and cans, enough to buy one
entry into one of the lotteries that Coke is running this summer. Other
Coke lotteries with better prizes cost 20 and 30 stickers to enter,
respectively. I can do this.
I'm starting to listen to J-Pop, thanks to a CD with about 10 hours of
the stuff that Justin gave me on Friday. I've only listened to some of it
so far. Some is excellent, some is as good as American pop, and some of it
is just weird. Not all the CD is J-Pop per se; some of it is Japanese
Most Japanese desktop computers don't include floppy drives any more, so
that USB memory device I bought yesterday has already proven useful for
transporting my report downstairs. As long as I don't lose the device, which
is about the size of a cigarette lighter, I'm in good shape.
The amount of Stuff around my room is growing day by day. I have to make
sure not to accumulate too much.
Goals for week 3: Get up on time, have something non-caffeinated every
morning, control bitterness in class, make more and better leisure plans, and
stay on top of everything.