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Showing posts from November, 2011

Family Togetherness

Last Sunday was full of being with the family. In the morning, my host mom, father (who was back from Nagoya for the weekend), host sister and I went to a temple to pray for one of my host mom's dead relatives. In Buddhism you have to go to pray at the temple on the 3rd, 7th, 13th,  17th etc. anniversary of the person's death. We all wore black (even my host sister had a black pantsuit).

The temple looks exactly as you'd expect it to.
It was a beautiful fall day; chilly but the colors of the tree were absolutely stunning. When I picture "Japan" in my mind, it's usually something like this.
We went inside and spoke with the monk and his wife. I'm pretty sure they live there, since the main room was set up to meet guests and was connected to the alter itself. The side rooms I saw as we walked past had chairs etc. and looked lived in. When we went to the temple, we sat down on folding chairs in a line while the monk began chanting--really, it was more like sin…

In Which I Geek Out

Now that the midterms are finally over (for my friends at least--now they can stop studying for 8 hours at a time. I swear! It's not healthy...) we had a day off school. Knowing that I wanted to go to Akihabara, a section of Tokyo for anime/manga goods and the like, we decided to make a day out of it.

When you walk down the streets of Akihabara, you are usually looking at stuff like this:
There are people galore, all pushing into the stores. Maids stand on every corner handing out fliers for their cafes. Government people talk through loudspeakers on the top of cars. It's very fun and lively. The five of us met up at the station, and as we set out for Animate (a giant store for anime/manga books and character stuff) we ran into these:

I bought too much; some stuff for me and some stuff for friends. Unfortunently, what's "in" right now is a lot of more female-oriented stuff, so I actually couldn't find much for my friends who like more shounen (male) manga and…

Pounded Rice, Communal Nudity, and Churches on the Second Floor

It is time for another wonderfully long post about what Claire does on her weekends. All of the interesting things I do now happen on Saturdays and Sundays, usually because they're related to AFS. Last Tuesday, Valeria and her LP invited me to join them to make mochi, which is pounded rice and traditionally eaten during the winter/new year and to go to a sento: a public bath. (Different from onsen, which is natural hot springs.)

So I took the train out (gradually getting better at navigating trains!), and Valeria, Akira (Saitama chapter volunteer) and I went over to a local elementary school where they were making the mochi.

Mochi is pounded rice. First rice is put into the wooden bowl (for lack of its proper term) and mixed around with the two mallet (again, for lack of the proper term). Then it's smashed with the large mallet (too heavy for me to swing properly!) while a second person turns the rice during reloads. Slightly dangerous, since if they get the rhythm wrong the tu…

No, I do NOT want any Free Paper

Today was the second time in a week AFS got me out of school. Unlike the previous day, I still had to get up at my usual ungodly hour to make it to the station where I was meeting my LP. And it still took three trains and an hour to get where we were going.

Today we (Huang, Valeria and I) were going to talk to a group of mothers (25 of them, maybe?) who are interested in having their kids be exchange students in the future about well, being an exchange student. We were driven to a fire department (I'm 99% certain of that) of all places, where there was a meeting room. We introduced ourselves to the entire group, but then split up into three smaller tables with two half-hour rotations. (So each of us went to two different tables.) Mostly they asked questions about my experiences in Japan; what food I liked, was school fun etc. Pertaining to being an exchange student in general? Not as much as I thought it would, but they were enthusiastic and attentive so it was time well-spent I …

Oh Rice Crackers!

Today was yet another day of AFS extensive-commute semi-awesomeness. (I say "semi" because today also involved 4.5 hours total of train riding. And too many transfers to count. Why can't these events be closer to home?)

Anyhow, today my AFS chapter went to Soka City (in Saitama) to a small"osenbei"--Japanese rice cracker--factory. Aparently the area is known for its osenbei.
We were driven to the factory, which was very small and traditional looking. There was a short tour and presentation about how osenbei is made, of which I understood maybe half.

The fun part was when we actually got to make osenbei. We didn't make the inital cracker, considering that takes a long time, but we did get to cook them.
The center of the structure, where the metal grille is, is where you put the crackers to cook them (there's a fire underneath). In one hand you wear the white glove (for protection) and in the other hand you flip the crackers with a pair of chopsticks. The…

What Happens in Anime Club...Is Obviously Not Staying in Anime Club

Because I'm spilling the beans! But before I do that, I have a shoutout to my very best friend ever: April Bell.

Today when I got home from school, there was a suspiciously heavy package waiting for me at our apartment adressed to me from Kate Keatly. So I opened it, and guess what I found:
Oh my goodness! I was so surprised! Halloween candy (including sour patch kids, my favorites!), a jar of Jiffy peanut butter (I am SO digging into that with a spoon tomorrow!), lip balm, PEEPS!, photos, a squeezy skull that has eyes that pop out (I scared the bejeezes out of my host mom with that!), pictures of us/ her (which nearly made me cry, April you look so pretty!), Seventeen magazine (just the sort of smutty-smut I wanted), and a copy of the Mash which she writes for (and has a small blip that I'm featured in, whoo hoo!)

Here was my reaction:
I am very, very, very happy. On a scale of 1-10 I'm registering at 1000. I love you so much April!!!!!!!

So. Onto the anime. I picked a pret…

Six Trains, One Festival, Four Hours of Commute Time

So today there was an International Festival in Saitama city, and AFS had a booth. So they asked me, Valeria, and Huang to go and hang out, as well as promote AFS. (Sometimes I feel like an asset they trot out at events, like a prize dog, but whatever.)

My LP (the person who you can go to if you are having problems) said to meet her at Nerima station at 11 am, so I took a train and then another train to get there. No prob. Except then she dropped this bomb on me that there were four more trains we had to take in order to get to this place. Initially she wanted me to get there on my own but I took one look at the long list of trains and went NO #$%@@*! WAY (politely) so we went together. Except I hadn't brought enough money on my train pass card (because I hadn't been told!) so we had to get more money and whatnot. All of you, who know how I am about plans and not knowing what's going on can probably imagine my emotional state on the happiness-to-anger scale.

So it took tw…