Vignettes 

I wasn’t even in Japan yet and I was already experiencing culture shock. With my red JSL (Japanese Spoken Language) textbook open in front of me and my bed piled high with last semesters vocabulary and kanzi note cards (my entire body surrounded by nothing but Japanese words and characters) the only thought going through my head was “I’m screwed.” Thinking back I realize I wasn’t the only one who had neglected studying Japanese over the summer, but at that moment, it didn’t really matter. I had hundreds of Japanese vocabulary index cards splayed out before me and I could barely remember what half of them meant. Hisasiburi? Doo itasimasite? Okyakusama? I have to admit: these few forgettings made me glum. After 2 ½ years of Japanese, you’d think I’d remember the ritualized language that was drilled into us during the very first semester of our Japanese language course. Guess not. The vocab, though, was the least of my worries. The kanzi, oh the kanzi. Numerous amounts of lines with their own specific order in which to be written, with half the lines going one way, the other half going another. Upon our arrival at JCMU (the Japan Center for Michigan Universities) we are to take a Japanese placement test (this coming Monday). Pretty simple, right? No. The entire quiz is rumored to be written entirely in kanzi and hiragana (another form of Japanese writing). Maybe all that studying on the 13 hour plane around across the Pacific will pay off…. or not. Keep your fingers crossed!

Apparently finding one’s way to Japan, or any place abroad actually, with the threat of a hurricane (and several tornado warnings) hanging over your head is quite difficult task to achieve. I ended up spending over an hour and a half on hold with Continental in the hopes of changing my flight to Japan for the day after my original flight was scheduled. I literally jumped for joy when a woman with a Southern accent picked up the phone and asked how she could help me. I ended up telling her she was a wonderful, fantastic person for helping me change my flight. I would’ve given her a giant hug if given the chance.  I think I scared her a bit.

The bus ride from the Narita airport to the ANA plane was short but wildly entertaining. I was overjoyed at seeing the Japanese characters every which way I turned my head, seeing shrubbery shaped into kanzi (which was honestly the most creative thing I’ve ever seen. I wish I had had the time to take a picture!), and admiring the adorable uniforms of the airport workers (the blue hats made the outfits!). Despite being a minority (a fact I was actually thrilled about!), leaving home and traveling abroad for several months doesn’t seem that scary. Vienna said the country of Japan felt “familiar.” I think it feels like “home.”

Milk tea! I’ve been waiting to devour this substance since I left Japan over two years ago from the Technos trip the summer after my freshman year. During my first trip to Japan, I had this drink EVERY SINGLE DAY! No exceptions. It’s delicious! It’s a mixture of sweetness with a bit of heaven. I currently have some in the apartment’s fridge so I can indulge whenever I wish. Nom nom nom.

Guess who’s jetlagged? Yes, me. Sitting up late at night carrying my computer around my room at the JCMU dorms in the hopes of finding a wireless connection. Responding to letters from professors, deleting all the HWS campus-wide emails that no longer apply to me since I’m no longer on campus (Ultimate Frisbee on the Quad does sound pretty fun, though. Also, I wish Jamie Landi luck on his new Green efforts on campus—I got three emails from him in a matter of minutes. And my apologies for not being able to make the first LiberTango meeting of the year—that one, especially, I’m a bit saddened about). Time for bed? Zzzzzzzzz…..