Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 237 - The Final Countdown

April 14, 2014 - Howdy! I've been M.I.A. for quite awhile now, so I thought since I've just recently settled into my third host family... it would be the perfect time for a blog post before I get super busy again. To recap... since my last blog post I changed host families, graduated to become a second-year student, said goodbye to the third-year students, and improved my Japanese little-by-little. And... today marks my last 100 days in Japan! I can't believe time has gone by so quickly! My dear friend from America, Sarah, sent me a package and inside was a journal so I could write an entry every day. Then, when I'm older I have some memories I can look back on! I want to make each day here memorable, even if it's only in a small way. I will try my best over these last 3 months! Thank you again to everyone who made this possible! 頑張ります!! (I will do my best!!) ALRIGHT SO LET'S GET STARTED WITH PICTURES!

The flower arranging club helped to teach other students how to make
the flower pins for the graduating third year students!
I drew these for my third host family's little brother and sister
when I first met them. "よろしく" means "Please take care of me."

This is my classroom. We were first-year students at the time, and now we are second-year students.
A lot of Japanese high schools, when graduating and changing years
also change the members in a classroom.
But, thankfully, I get to stay with the same people and still get to see them everyday :)

A birthday cake sent to my second host family's house from a dear friend and Rotarian.
A cake gifted from my second host family! It was on
the last day I got to spend with them.

Riding the chair lift up to Matsuyama Castle.
Talking with another exchange student, Tera, outside the beautiful castle!

Last picture with my second host family!

My welcome and birthday party at my third host
family! Yes, that is a Totoro cake!

My third host family put up decorations for me!
It says "welcome and happy birthday Allegra"

My 10-year old host sister, Misaki.

My 4-year old host brother, Kouki.

Drawing and painting on clay cups with my Rotary District.

I painted a Totoro cup.

Kouki loves Photobooth.

At a temple (with the Rotary) that had over 750 steps!

Outside a famous temple with my District.
Walking on a bridge that was entirely made out of wood-like vines...?
I forgot what they're called, but you can't tell from the picture that each step
had an enormous gap between them and it was really high up with
a river underneath us. I wore heels. Smart.
The Mayor of Salem, Ana Peterson, came to visit our city (as well
as Katsumi and his wife) and so I spent the day with them
talking about the agriculture in Iyo and at my school. I was also able to
help translate here and there for her.
(In the picture we are drinking tea that elementary school students
made for us at 花みつり which is a flower festival.)
At my school's garden where the man was explaining that the third-year students design and build these small shrines.
I was on camera duty while the Mayor visited the Iyo City Office
to have a meeting.
Touring a nearby middle school, so the Major could
thank them for their student's participation in the middle school
Iyo to Salem summer exchange program.
Another tea picture. You had to spin the bowl once each time
before drinking it.

My Rotary District!

またね! :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Day 183 - :)

February 18, 2014 - Hi! So... I feel like every post is just apologizing for not posting here so often. So sorry :)

But since I've last written, a lot has happened... not event wise, but mentally. That sounds really weird, and it is. But these past two months—since February is almost over—I don't know what happened?! It was almost like a switch in my head got flipped or something. All of a sudden I've become comfortable and my relationships have gotten a million times better. Also, my Japanese has improved immensely.

I used to be insecure about that and about the friends I had made here, and I think that's something that every exchange student feels. It's hard putting yourself out there, especially if you don't speak the same language. I used to think that my friends thought I was annoying or trying too hard or didn't like me. Thinking back to how I thought then is so FUNNY! I was worried about all the wrong things and was sad for no reason! I think I was just insecure with myself, so I thought that everyone else didn't like me... but that's crazy. I can now honestly say that October was a really hard month for me, although I tried to sugarcoat it.

I never once thought I wanted to leave though, and I never had any problem with Japan and wasn't frustrated about Japan in anyway. It was just hard because I was so frustrated with myself. I was frustrated that I couldn't understand, and I was frustrated why it was taking me so long to feel comfortable and to not be such a Debbie Downer all the time. I'm so happy that I can say proudly that the hardest part of my exchange is over, and I've reached a certain point in my Japanese that I don't really have to think anymore; it just flows naturally. It's not perfect, but I'm going to stop putting so much pressure on myself to be perfect.

I come to school every day, and I can't believe that I've met and made friends with these people. I now can't even imagine not knowing them. I'm so much more comfortable with myself and can act like myself again... be annoying, make jokes and stupid noises, and just laugh :) I feel so much better about myself when I'm positive and think positively. There were ups and downs on my exchange thus far, but that's to be expected. I love the feeling of biking to school, waving good morning to my schoolmates, then walking into my classroom greeted with a wave of hugs and good mornings... and just talk, like friends :) I feel that the people I've met here are going to be my friends even after I leave, and I'm really proud of myself that I made friends with the natives :-) especially since I don't have access to any other exchange students. I was sad about that at first, but I am really glad it worked out that way. I wouldn't have really gotten to know my Japanese friends otherwise. I know this is really sappy right now, but I feel great :)

Over these past two months things have improved immensely! Not that it wasn't great before, but I'm finally feeling the way I did back in America. I am able to talk with people and go around the town and stuff... Does this make sense? I feel normal. But for those of you who want an update and not just me rambling, I will talk about Valentine's Day.

On Valentine's Day, I went to my friend's house on the day we had off and we mad chocolate and listened to music together! It was, I think, the girliest thing I've ever done, but it was a really memorable Valentine's Day. And at school, everyone (and by everyone I mean every girl) passes out homemade chocolate, cakes, cookies, brownies and every candy you can think of to other girls! I got so much!!!!! :DDDDD I would take a picture, but oops... I ate it all. You can give chocolate to boys too, but I don't think that's nearly as fun. I like giving and getting sweets from my friends and laughing and then going back a second time insisting that they forgot to give me one but then my other friend ruins it by screaming she saw me eat it! hahahahaaa... ahhh.... I did give chocolate to one guy friend of mine since he asked for it. It was really nice because he was surprised and didn't think I would actually do it! hahaa! umm.. Let's see what else...

Oh! I went ice skating with a family friend of my first host family that I met once at a dinner party, and we totally hit it off! We had always planned to all meet up again, just me and them, but it never worked out and that was about 4 months ago. But last Saturday they invited me ice skating. Well, in Japanese it's just the English word: skate... so I stupidly thought it might be roller skating, so I didn't quite dress for the weather... whoops. But it was so much fun! The mother has a 11-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son, so it was fun to play older sister for once! Me and the daughter got along super well, and I really wanted to hang out with Koju (the 7-year-old) to get him to warm up to me, since he was a little shy whenever I asked him questions and stuff. So what I did was asked him if he wanted to go skate around the big arena. I said I wanna see if you can do it, since we had been practicing in the little kid one. He took me up on my challenge and we went skating around. He kept falling, but picking himself up like a champ. You know 'cuz I guess boys don't wanna complain about falling down, or maybe I just do it so much I think it's weird when someone else doesn't. hahahaha I was worried about him anyway though, so I called after him that I was having trouble and that he needed to help me get back. I asked him to take my hand :) He was so nice and came back to get me, and I was able to secretly help him not fall by letting him think he was doin the sav'n ;) HAHAHAHA I AM AMAZING!

No, but I am changing to my third host family on MY BIRTHDAY NEXT MONTH... and I am sooo excited! In that family, I will have a 13-year-old (I think) brother, a 9-year-old sister, and a 3-year-old brother! I've met them before, and I couldn't love them more! I feel like I will fit into that family so perfectly; it's ridiculous! I loved skating, though, because I got to see what it would be like once I move in and have to take care of little children, and I think I fared pretty well on that trial run :)

Well, this blog post has gotten a little crazy and if you've made it thus far?! I dunno?! I don't have a prize or anything, but I can tell you this super secret... hmm... OH, I made this super cool Angel Food cake for Valentine's Day and I was so excited to eat it, but OOPS vanilla extract doesn't exist here, so I just didn't put it in. Now it tastes like a scrambled egg cakes with sugary icing!.....yum. Oh well :\

I'm going to be honest and say that I don't know when I'll write here again, but most likely it will be when the next big event happens! Probably around March 21st... COUGH COUGH MY BIRTHDAY COUGH.... yea so look forward to that and I will be sure to post a ton of pictures since I've really been lacking in that department and I understand that these block text posts aren't very fun to read.... sowwie!

Well, I hope whoever is reading this has a fantastic day! And if a Rotarian happens to be reading, then thank you again so much for this opportunity! I'm trying to make you proud and have the best experience I can here! I can't wait to tell everyone about it when I come back! It might get a tad annoying since my exchange to Japan is literally all I will talk\think about when I return back to America in a few months.... so sorry in advance ;) But again, thanks to everyone so much for the support and the love! My next post will be more interesting! :D BYEEEE!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day 129 - My Christmas In Japan

December 26 - Merry Christmas everyone!

Honestly, I thought that during this time of the year I would have gotten home sick, but as my Japanese is improving I find it getting easier and easier to communicate with people. I'm so happy that I've reached this point! I was always skeptical as to whether I was ever going to understand anyone or speak to anyone. But being here has taught me, that everything you want to be good at... just takes time. I'm not a very patient person, so it was difficult to get adjusted. But I can happily say that I'm slowly, but surely, getting there. :)

Even the escalators were decorated!

Now enough with that! CHRISTMAS!!!! Fortunately, I got to spend my Christmas with a good friend of mine from school, Yukina, in the capital of this prefecture, Matsuyama City. I was a little disappointed that my small town of Iyo isn't big on the whole decorating thing. But being able to walk the streets of Matsuyama City—with it all decorated in beautiful lights, with every shop and bakery playing Christmas music—was like something truly out of a movie. Except in a movie, I would actually know where I was going?! I had to take the train to Matusyama, which is about 6 miles away since both of my host parents were at work. I had them explain to me carefully which train to take, and even printed out maps of what the station looked like and everything. But, to me, it still all looked and sounded like gibberish, but I figured if I did get lost, I guess it would make a funny story. Luckily though, I made it to the correct station and waited until my friend arrived.

Here, people could throw money or toys to donate to children!

The individual photo of me was being entered into a contest and people who use the photo booth vote on who is the most attractive. Obviously, I'm gonna win.

it says "help"

We first went to Okaido, which is essentially a long mall tunnel. It has everything you would want—from arcades to clothing stores, from restaurants to bookstores, from convenience stores to gambling. After walking around, I told her that I wanted to go to the Studio Ghibli store, but where it was I had no idea?! We wandered into a shop and asked the manager if he could help us. Then, he instructed us that we had to take a different train to get there, then began handing us thousands of brochures and maps and wished us good luck as we left.

As we waited for the train, I got out the money that I needed, then proceeded to promptly drop it as the Yen coins went everywhere. Nice. Fortunately, only after a few minutes, the train came and we got on it. Although, we boarded the train not knowing when to get off, nor even checking if it was the right train. So, basically, we should be tour guides. After inquiring to everyone on the train, we got the right stop. But surely we had asked someone where the store was once we got off at the station, right? I think you give us too much credit. After spending time at the store (eventually after finding it), we came across a common tourist attraction in Matsyama City, besides, of course, the Matusyama Castle, or Dogo Onsen, which is a large bathhouse. It's a clock near the bathhouse that at a certain time of day, it will play music and little animatronic dolls come out and perform a little dance. It's kind of like the ones from Shrek. Yukina wanted a picture of the two of us in front of it. An older gentleman came over, who is paid to take pictures for tourists, and kindly asked if we wanted a picture. But he had absolutely no idea how to work her phone?! So every time we would smile, he would say "Hold on a minute, I opened something, how do I get back?" and each time it got funnier and funnier. We ended up hysterically laughing and falling to the ground as everyone looked at us like we were insane. We thanked him and, on our way back, we looked through the pictures. Most of them were blurry, or pictures of us in the middle of laughing, or pictures of the ground. But we didn't care, it was just a funny memory.

We walked around some more and ate cake at a small bakery before heading back to the station. But instead of going home, we went to visit a mutual friend of ours in the hospital, since his hand was injured from Judo. That was a whole other adventure in and of itself... train riding, laughing at ourselves and figuring out where to go. It was such a confusing day, but it's a day I will always remember. Not just because of going to the City, but because I got to spend it with someone I love... and because I made such fond memories and my exchange isn't even half over! I have a feeling things are only going to get better with each day, and I'm so excited! I don't know when I'll post again, but for now I'm just trying to enjoy everyday I have here so as not to waste it :) And to end Christmas day, I fell asleep in my cat sweater watching the Spongebob Christmas special. I'm starting to feel more and more at home here. And although I get repetitive with saying it, but I really am very happy and optomistic about this new year!

Happy Holidays everyone and Happy New Year!