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  • viennamf 7:30 pm on April 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Finally, A Reflection 

    I see Japan everyday. It’s been over four months since I returned from Hikone and not a day goes by that I don’t have some memory of my time there. It’s a little sad but they are all good memories. It’s a pleasant haunting.


    I meant to write a final blog post for AsiaPod a long time ago but as per usual, all sorts of other things got in the way.  My study abroad in Japan was the best experience I could have wanted.  Of course, there are always a few regrets but nothing that substantially mars my experience. I have tried to keep in some contact with the people I met there, both Japanese and American, and Facebook is especially helpful with this.

    In the days following my return to the States, I remember feeling odd.  It was definitely weird to be back in a place where the dominant language was English and I didn’t have to struggle to come up with a sentence, but this was actually a lot less strange than I had anticipated.  The weirdest part was the realization that nothing had changed since I had been gone. I had undergone a profound change and had had all these experiences in another place, but everyone at home had just been living their regular lives.  I felt like I didn’t fit into my American life anymore, but there was an expectation for me to just pick up where I left off. The first few weeks home were hazy and I felt disconnected.  It took me about a month to fully recover from the jetlag.

    I think coming back to school grounded me.  The structure of college life and classes gave me a framework to reintegrate into and some of the people I live with had just come back from abroad as well. This meant that we could all talk incessantly about being abroad without worrying that we were boring the other person.

    There are many parts of my study abroad that have stuck with me, but perhaps the most eye opening experience was learning what it felt like to be living in a country where you could not easily communicate. I have a new appreciation for the struggles that immigrants and international students face.  I think it can be difficult to fully understand why some people don’t learn to speak English when they come to the US if you haven’t experience the difficulty of learning an entirely new language first hand.  Your brain starts to hurt after awhile and eventually you want to take a break and just be around those who speak the same language as you.  That is not to say that I did not like learning and living in another language; being able to practice my Japanese was a challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed.

    My iPod Touch was actually an invaluable resource for my language study in Japan and it continues to help me with my language study here on campus.


    My favorite app was Kotoba!, a Japanese-English dictionary. It was free and I use(d) it constantly. You can look up words in both Roman characters and in Japanese characters as well as search for kanji.  It also allows you to save lists of words and this made a great reference tool. I do not know what I would have done without it.


    The other language app that I liked and continue to use was a Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) study app called JLPT Study.  You can download a free version, or get the full app for about $5. I bought it and used it to learn new vocab and kanji.  I am sure that I could have gotten by without the iPod but it made my life so much easier. (Thanks so much, AsiaPod!)

    I really miss Japan and I plan to go back there one day. How and when I do not yet know but it would be foolish to not try to get back.

    • jhboisselle 6:29 pm on April 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Vienna, thanks much for sharing concrete suggestions for apps! And, of course, thanks for capturing your transition thoughts in writing and sharing them outward. Readers, current and future, will appreciate the glimpse into your experiences.

  • Sasha 8:47 pm on April 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    I am a great lover of food. No “ands,” “ifs,” or “buts,” about it, I truly love food! Growing up, I had the opportunity to expand my taste buds, eating foods from all over the world, whether in an Indian restaurant near my house or at a friend’s home where all their parent’s cooked was Austrian/German cuisine. I was more than willing to expand my foods knowledge in Japan as well—I wanted to try everything! And I did. (All photos were taken with the iTouch.)

    Place: Vienna’s kitchen. Type of food: Noodle soup with octopus tentacles.

    I watched Vienna cook the entire thing, and I still don’t know what she did to make it taste so good. The tentacles were kind of a put-off initially, but they tasted great!


    Place: Joyful. Type of food: Dessert.

    I really didn’t know what this was—and I still don’t. I do know, though, that is was DELICIOUS! Flavored sugar-ice with ice cream on top. Not even Italian Water Ice can compare.

    Place: JCMU apartment kitchens. Type of food: Yakisoba, miso soup, and spinach with sesame seeds.

    One afternoon, we were all shuffled into groups and given an Obaasan, an old Japanese grandmother. Or, at least my group was. With her help, we made one of the best meals any of us had eaten since we had arrived in Japan. We all had our own jobs to do. Some one measured and washed the rice; I helped cut up some of the vegetables for the yakisoba (a mixture of thin noodles, fried tofu, and various vegetables—we used carrots and lettuce), others cooked the spinach, and made the miso soup. Not only was the meal fun to make, but it was incredibly colourful! How can something that looks like this not taste good, ne?


    Place: Lawson’s. Type of food: Bento box!

    My first, ever, bento box! Rice wrapped with seaweed, mini sausage (between the chopsticks in the picture), some sort of vegetable, chicken with yummy sauce, and a small piece of egg. I ended up eating this exact one several times throughout the course of the semester. The presentation was matched by its deliciousness.

    Place: JCMU kitchen. Food: Curry.

    This was my first time ever making curry. Yes, I had help. Again, we were put into groups and introduced to a Japanese colleges student who would teach us the art of cooking curry. It was really amusing, as our teacher didn’t really know what she was supposed to be doing. It turned out, though, that making curry is incredibly easy. A little bit of chicken, some carrots, onions, and potatoes (and curry paste) and viola! You have curry! The best part was that I ended up making it a lot after that! I even brought my newfound skill back to the States with me and introduced Japanese curry to my family. Up at school, I make it every week. And I never tire of it.


    Place: Coco’s. Type of food: 1) Chestnut ice cream with coffee Jell-O. 2) Chocolate ice cream with brownies. 3) Doughnut pastry with chestnut ice cream.

    Next to JCMU was a small restaurant called Coco’s. It was the most convenient place to eat whenever we have the munchies; we didn’t even have to put on our real shoes to get there! They had a multitude of foods, from curry to pizzas (Japanese pizza, not American pizza), to sandwiches, etc. A few times, some friends and I decided to split a bunch of desserts. And we were not disappointed.


    Place: JCMU. Type of food: Pumpkin soup and Hungarian paprikash.

    We were hungry. Very, very hungry. So, a few of us invited some Japanese friends over to make dinner. Katlan made her family’s Hungarian dish (chicken and dumplings in a sour cream sauce) and Li Ee made her pumpkin soup. The room smelled wonderful! We eventually accumulated people over the couple of hours; so we had about eight or so people squished into a tiny kitchen, sitting on the floor eating with our chopsticks and telling stories. Good company, and good food!


    Place: Vidal’s. Type of food: Baked goods.

    Vidal’s was, by far, my favorite food place! Every Tuesday and Thursday, a bunch of us would rush out of class and onto our bikes to travel the 5 minutes down the street to this bakery. The owner (Panyasan—bread shop person) ran the shop out of her house, and it was always stocked full of scrumptious food! There were red bean paste buns; lemony, fruity, iced pie-shaped bread pieces; round, mini cheese pizzas, braided roles, lemon cream filled pies, curry breads, apple and banana muffins, raspberry/cherry cupcakes, cinnamon buns, chocolate croissants, and—my favorite—chocolate chip, fruit filled, iced bread. I greatly wish I had been able to take Panyasan home with me. If ever I find my self back in Hikone, I will definitely make sure to stop by her shop and say “hello!”          

    I don’t think I ever came across a food in Japan that I didn’t like. I tried everything I could, and enjoyed ever bite!

    • DougReilly 11:14 pm on April 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Great post, Sasha, and the pics were awesome, too. I also seem to travel and live from one meal to the next. That wafu curry looks amazing!

    • nezumichan 1:34 am on June 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Love Vidals!! Mmmm… The dessert from Joyfull is called Kaki-kouri, basically translates to “shaved ice”. Good stuff!

  • Hannah 3:42 pm on April 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Stories Backward. 

    I was in a hotpot restaurant in Henan.

    delicious hotpot

    My friends and I were sitting around one of those fantastic sunken pots in the table, dipping meats and veggies into the delicious boiling soup to cook. We were pretty concentrated on our food, until a small boy came running down the aisle of the restaurant. This alone might have provided a distraction, but there was someone, or something with the boy. He had a tiny little adorable baby chick clutched in his hands. He looked immensely happy. He ran to a woman who we supposed must have been both his mother and a proprietor of the restaurant. He held the chick close, and we tried to decide if his mother looked happy about it or not.

    Later, on the train ride back to campus, the three friends I had been to the restaurant with sat together and reminisced. We reminisced about how amazing Henan was to visit, about how the Longmen Grottoes were an unbelievable sight, and about the mystery that was how that little boy came into possession of the baby chick. While we pondered among ourselves, a member of our class who was not among the restaurant eaters that day turned around in his seat. He asked us if we meant the restaurant that was on this little corner street, and we confusedly acknowledged that he was. And then we heard the beginning of the story.

    This classmate was known to all as Mountain Mike. His story began with walking the crowded streets of Henan, enjoying the fact that the Henan dialect was difficult to understand and very different from what we were used to in Beijing.

    He and his friends came upon a man selling baby chicks.

    basket of chicks

    The chicks were obviously adorable, and impulsively they bought one from the migrant worker. Of course, they soon realized that an impulse-buy chick would probably not be welcome back in our Beijing dorms. So they found a small boy, and gave him the chick.

    The boy and his chick

    The same boy that we saw later. And so the mystery of how the boy got to chick was solved.

    • jhboisselle 1:27 pm on April 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Hannah, thanks for the great storytelling. I felt like I was right by your side as the story unfolded. I imagine that there are many more woven narratives that you’ll discover “backwards,” slowly, perhaps unexpectedly at times, as you continue to reflect upon your experiences. We hope you’ll continue to share some with Asiapod! And hey, are the pictures from the iTouch?

      • chelsea encababian 7:40 pm on April 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        this was a very cute story.

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