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  • kimuchee 8:57 pm on September 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , emotions, , ,   

    Kindness goes a long way… 

    I had been hoping to put up a posting before I left to Japan, but unfortunately it never came to be. But I am posting on my second day in Japan! I am actually writing this at 4:15 A.M. I have come to realize that Jet Lag is no joke. So I’ll use this post to talk about my trip here.

    I checked in to JFK 2 and 1/2 hours before my flight. Everything was really smooth. I decided to eat lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. It was the most American thing I could think of at the moment and it was my way of saying goodbye to the states. Lo and behold we didn’t actually fly off to Japan until 5:30, 2 and 1/2 hours later than scheduled. The plane ride was long and exhausting. But when we landed it didn’t seem so long anymore. It wasn’t until I landed that it really hit me: “I’m going to be in Japan for 3 and 1/2 months!”

    The instant I got off that plane I experienced the humidity of Osaka. It does not compare to the humidity I might feel in NYC. It’s so much more powerful and encompassing, it’s really hard to explain. Nevertheless I knew it was going to be a challenge. Me and heat don’t get along very well.

    My first experience of the kindness of Japanese people occurred at Customs. I gave my customs declaration to the immigration officer by mistake and had no paper to give to the man at customs. He proceeded to kindly give me a customs sheet and tried to help me out even with my terribly broken Japanese. Its a really small gesture but to a newcomer like me it meant something. I didn’t have to be afraid to make mistakes. My next experience of kindness was when I was boarding the JR Rail Pass in order to go to Bishoen, which is where my Ryokan (Japanese Style Inn) was. After I got the ticket I had no idea where to go or which train was the right one, so I asked the closest train conductor, again with my very broken Japanese. She tells me that this is the right train and so I board it. A couple of stops into the train ride she comes up to me and hands me a piece of paper and goes on to tell me exactly where I should get off to transfer and at what time that transfer would come.

    The paper she gave me. :)

    I can’t explain to you how moved I was by her actions. She owed me nothing and she went out of her way to do this for me. It might seem like an exaggeration but when you are in a country, by yourself, and you still can’t understand the language very well every act of kindness by others is a big deal. It is something that I will treasure and appreciate forever. I made up my mind. Next time a tourist asks me for directions of any kind in NYC I will go that extra mile and pay it forward.

    My next challenge was to actually find the place.  Now, when I booked it the site said that it was a minute walk from the station to the ryokan. After wandering for 15 minutes with really heavy baggage I decided that I was utterly lost. I had to ask for directions. I spotted a gasoline station and figured that was a good bet. So I walk in, greet the man at the counter, and proceed to ask him where this ryokan is. He starts looking for it on his computer and he prints out a map for me. He then went on to tell me how far it was and what direction I should take. I thanked him profusely.

    When I finally get to the place all I could do was laugh. It was literally 30 seconds from the train station. It was at the end of a street that really looked like an alley so I didn’t think to venture in. (See picture below and imagine it at night.)

      ODORI Guest House

    So in the end the only reason I made it here was due to the kindness of others. Although it was a long and grueling trip I know that it is experiences like these that make it all worth it.

    • kimeegee 10:46 pm on September 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on Sekai Itchi Hatsukoi.

    • thegeographicallyblind 11:44 am on September 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Hi. I will be going to Osaka in two months and I had also booked guest house odori. May I know what is your comment on that ryokan. Thanks.

      • thegeographicallyblind 1:08 pm on September 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        And also, are there any good restaurants nearby? Thanks.

        • kimeegee 6:02 am on November 20, 2012 Permalink

          It was a great place to stay at! Really beautiful little place and the staff was very nice. As for restaurants I didn’t go to many but I highly reccomend going to the bakery that is next to Bisyoen Staion. It was delicious!

    • Hannah 4:05 pm on September 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      KIMKIM. This sounds so much like when I arrived in Hong Kong. People are so nice, and go out of their way to make sure that you’re okay. I hope you survive the oppressive heat! In BeiJing the humidity was only oppressive for a week or so, so hopefully it’s similar there.
      Have fun!!!

  • grenphi 3:12 am on October 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , emotions, ,   

    Being Good People 

    Up above you’ll see a watch. This is a watch I bought at a supermarket in Nanjing for 178 yuan (about $28). It’s been fairly special for me. Besides finding it aesthetically appealing, it’s also been a source of hope. On bad days I like to look at my watch to see if the gears are still moving. When they are, I’m reminded that time is still continuing, and that things will get better. When they’re not turning, I’m reminded to wind my watch and get on with my day. It’s been surprisingly comforting.

    To the right you’ll see a picture of a man sitting on a stool. If you look closely, you’ll notice he has only one leg. He sits outside a café near my campus I go to when I crave bread or an easily digestible meal.

    • Before I came to China, I was told by numerous people not to give money to beggars. I’ve heard this from many people in China as well. As a result of taking this advice, I didn’t give any money to beggars for some time. This included the man you see in the photo. I walked by him several times a week. I said“你好”, I even waved and smiled to him as I passed by.

    But, when he stopped waving and turned his palm up, hitting the back of his hand against the stub of what may have once been a leg, I pretended not to understand. My waving hand would fall, my smile would fade, and my eyes would look away. I remembered what I was told, and followed what other people said and did.

    Looking at this now, I can see a sociological pattern. I was instructed to follow a particular norm, observed a particular norm, and internalized this norm. I took the word of perceived experts without much questioning, and refused charity to a man with one leg (and scars all over his torso, I found this out in one of our later conversations).

    To be honest though, this post isn’t really about me analyzing a normative structure that I followed. This is more so about a moral realization about being a good person that has been on my mind almost every day I’ve spent in China. Let’s look back at my watch.

    For 178 yuan I have a functional timepiece that is at once a source of comfort as well as style. Arguably, this was a worthwhile purchase. Some would argue it’s a deserved gift to myself. But, what kind of person buys themselves a watch and walks by beggars several times a week? Sure, my friends and some of my family have told me and will tell me again that I’m not spoiled or indulgent, but would this man with one leg agree? I doubt it. This isn’t limited to the man with one leg, either. I pass by several people each day in terrible situations without even meeting their gaze.

    So what should I do? I’ve asked people, and most still suggest that I don’t give beggars money, citing pickpockets and the risk of the beggar harassing me for more after I’ve given them some. Look back at the photo of the man. You’ll notice, the area was clear enough for me to take a picture. My camera was 700 yuan, and nobody tried to snatch it from my fingertips. In the photo you’ll also notice that the man is leaning next to his crutches. Do you really think that he’s going to follow me and harass me more? I don’t think so.

    Thus I’ve taken to giving him small amounts of money every time I go in to the café. I feel a bit better doing this. Does this make me a good person? Some might argue yes, but I don’t think so. My donations never reach the price of my watch. I do manage to help him, but I also walk by many others. A few days ago I walked by a man with both arms amputated at the elbow. I gave him no money. I didn’t look him in the eye. Take that in for a moment. He was on his knees begging with no forearms or hands to speak of, and I didn’t even look him in the eye. I walked by wondering how he managed to carry his change bucket along with him, all the while enjoying the comfort of the shiny ticking luxury item around my wrist. I can’t look at that experience and say I am a good person. I am not a good person.

    That being said, I don’t know if constantly trying to justify my actions while living with any degree of wealth is possible. As long as I enjoy privilege at the expense of someone else, I lack the consistency to be considered inherently “good” (I can hear Tenzin now, “nothing exists inherently”. Just work with me on this one).

    My friend Roy has a phrase he likes to use to describe someone he likes. He says “S/he’s good people”, a plural applied to a singular individual. I don’t know if my interpretation is correct or if I’m over analyzing, but the phrase usually refers to people being laid back and honest with themselves and others about their situation. So now my goals have changed. I’m not looking for a good person. I’m looking for good people. I may try to be a good person, but in all likelihood I will not be a good person. I will just be good people. I’ll have to be ok with that for now.


    • Sarah Ty 3:02 am on October 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Not to mention one moral compass you once told me about: are your contributions to society generally making the world a better or worse place? And remembering, at least for now, that our insignificance in the universe can sometimes be a blessing. Anyway, great post! I like this quote: “I don’t know if constantly trying to justify my actions while living with any degree of wealth is possible.” Talk about challenging a normative pattern! You always give lots of food for thought, or as the Chinese would say: 很耐人寻味… Thanks for helping me think more about what it means to be good people…

      • DougReilly 1:21 pm on October 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        And yet another moral compass to think about: is the decision you are making good for all the world? In other words, if everyone did the same, would the world be better. This comes from Sartre’s existentialism, in which there is no discrete good, just webs of intersubjectivity. The key to this idea’s power is to understand how much we really influence the people around us, all the time.

        Great post, I love the watch analogy. I have a similar watch, though I have to turn it over to see all those tiny gears.

  • grenphi 2:50 pm on September 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , emotions, , Nanjing, pollution, pros and cons,   

    Welcome to the Suck 

    When applying for study abroad, many people told me it would be “fantastic” and “awesome” and “the best time of your life” and… you get the point. I’m writing this post as much for the people reading stateside as for myself. In a few months when I’m home, I will hopefully look back on this post and remember what happened. Then, if I choose to promote the study abroad experience, I won’t sound like a car salesman. Let’s begin the countdown.

    3. Food Culture

    Really? He’s complaining about the food already? Yes, but hear me out. Most restaurants in Nanjing serve family style dishes. I can order dishes on my own, but unless I order 3, I end up with a strange nutritional imbalance in my meals. Therefore, my ability to eat a good meal without wasting extraordinary amounts of food or money is to go with a group (I could just go to a western restaurant, but why would I come to China to do that?). Thus, I find myself being somewhat more reliant on my fellow group members than I would like to be. This isn’t a huge inconvenience, but anyone who tries to coordinate logistics with a group of finicky eating college students will relate when I say this is a pain.

    2. School

    Ranking at a close second, school has been a surprising source of stress. I have language class from 8am to noon 4 days a week, 30 minutes of pronunciation practice and a 2 hour area studies class on Wednesday afternoons, 2 hours of mandatory tutoring sessions each week, and mandatory office hours with professors and advisors. Oh, there’s homework too, lots of it.

    Is this so bad? Not really. I’ve spent similar hours doing work at school, and sitting down to study and get things done usually isn’t a problem. What’s been an issue has been the type of work I’m doing. I usually enjoy studying Chinese, but 4 hour sessions of professors talking at me and giving me busy work is already driving me nuts. When I have the time to get a 6am training session in, I at least start class in a good mood. But after 4 hours of sitting in a box, I’m frustrated to say the least. There’s a whole country out there to explore, and I feel like I’m in a cage.

    Keep it real Calvin

    The tedium, combined with my quickly depleting interest in awkward textbook dialogues that seem to have little application outside the classroom, feels like high school all over again. Add on the fact that the American students have found out that the Chinese pronunciation for France (fa guo) sounds like “faggot”, and now it’s just like high school. (I’m a dual citizen of France and the US, if the readers didn’t know).

    Since it’s like high school, I’ve been doing what I did in high school. I draw cartoons, think about training, and do anything else in class that involves not paying attention to what’s going on or listening to my compatriots’ sense of humor.

    1. Pollution

    Squeeking in at first place, just above having my nationality referred to with homophobic slurs and sexist terminology while trapped in a box doing tedious busy work is pollution. “How could this be?” you might ask. Well, try coughing up a lung every day with a runny nose and sore throat, and tell me how much you like it. At least when being made fun of, I still have my health.

    Thank you Mentos, thank you.

    Coughing itself isn’t the worst. What actually worries me is the fact that I know with every breath I’m taking in a lot of carcinogens. A little research has indicated that the coughing is most likely a result of breathing in ozone and sulfur dioxide, which are both common in automobile exhaust. Who knows what else I’m inhaling. That being said, it could be worse: I could be breathing in Beijing.

    All of this in mind, study abroad has still been a good experience so far. I manage to find good food, I take my school frustration out at the dojo, and Mentos gum seems to minimize my coughing fits. The obstacles presented haven’t taken the joy out of exploration, learning a language, and meeting new friends. However, they are very real, present, and definitely weren’t included in the brochure.

    Best of luck to my readers and fellow Asiapod bloggers.


    • DougReilly 8:14 pm on September 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      You may have hit the legendary “Wall of Intolerability”. It may get better from here. Not the air quality, I fear.

      • grenphi 12:22 am on September 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I’m sure it will improve. I’ve heard that I’ll develop a tolerance to the pollutants, so symptoms will ameliorate. School and peers will pretty much always be what they are, but I’m sure I’ll cope with those too 😛

    • Juliet Habjan Boisselle 1:40 am on September 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Effective use of images on this posting 😉 Will be interested in hearing more reflections on the differences in language pedagogy and/or how you perceive your language scope and depth to grow through the months
      . I know I’ve had some pretty clear pivotal moments when I was leaning a language and things suddenly “clicked” — at multiple stages — such as dreaming regularly in the second language!

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