Thursday, August 26, 2010

Party, Dance, Sing, Drive, Teach!

Ohisashiburi desu ne! It's been a while! So much time has passed since my last post that I'm kind of ashamed of myself. Okay, well, not really, but I do feel bad that so much has happened without me updating you. Ideally, I wish I could have posted every day or every other day, but since that didn't happen, I'll do my best to fill you all in!

The last major thing that happened with the Miyagi JET community was a welcome party. A welcome party in Japan entails lots of beer, drinking food (think appetizers or tapas), and lots of socializing. It was great fun! I got to meet up with friends I had met at orientation again, as well as make new friends nearby. Before the party, there was also a little walking tour around a strip-mall area near Sendai Station. There, I saw a Subway, McDonald's, and a Mister Donut. And even a giant Pikachu. Now, some people seem to think that Mister Donut is a Japanese company. This is not true. It just happens to be very active in Japan, the Philippines, and other Asian countries. Now, technically, the Mister Donut in Japan is managed by a Japanese company, but that just means they have the right to franchise it from the American base company.

Anyway, following the epic kanpai's and festivities, the parties continued at karaoke bars. We had to split up into smaller groups because no bar would have a room to fit 60 of us. Plus, that gave people the opportunity to sing more songs. The first song I sang was a Japanese song by the Korean Group Tohoshinki 「東方神起」 (as they are known in Japan) or Dong Bang Shin Gi in Korea. They are also known as DBSK, TVXQ, or WWJD. If anyone has heard of the group, they could guess what song I sang: どうして君を好きになってしまったんだろう。 That's, "Dou shite kimi wo suki ni natte shimattan darou?" as in, "Why did I have to end up falling completely in love with you?" Yes, ridiculous title. And also ridiculous music video; only because it completely accentuates the drama that is Korean Soap Opera. I also managed to find some fun American songs, like "Say it Ain't So" by Weezer, "Dream On" by Aerosmith, and "The Real Slim Shady" by Eminem (Haha).

After karaoke, we bounced into a night club! Now, clubs in Pennsylvania close at 2 AM. Pretty lame. Except Zen, which is awesome enough to be open 'til 3 or 3:30 AM. Rockin'. Anyway, this club in Japan is open until 5 AM! And this particular club is foreigner-friendly. The first guy we met who works there spoke *perfect English*. People in our group were surprised, and wondered how. I speculated that he lived in the US for a while. He revealed that he lived in Canada for 10 years. Close.

Anyway, it was fun gettin' my grove on and bustin' out those moves I learned in college. I was apparently interesting enough to catch the attention of a few Japanese women there, who of course thought I was Japanese. I was hoping that my dancing with the American crowd would help show that I, too, am American, but I guess not! In any case, I was tired by 2 AM, but I hung around until 3:15 to keep my friends company.

Once we left the club, the last task we had to complete was to find a place to stay. Unfortunately the Rakuten Eagles baseball game was that same day, so all of the hotels in Sendai were booked. This includes hostels, ryokans (Japanese Inns), and probably capsules as well. I was worried that even my last resort wouldn't work: spend the night at an internet cafe. Luckily, the first internet cafe I checked still had space! It was perhaps my most uncomfortable night of sleep I've had in a very, very long time. Perhaps ever! And I was completely sober by then, too! Anyway, I rented a booth for 6 hours, slept for 5, and woke up around 9:15 to catch the 10 AM bus back to my place. I was back in my room by 11:30. What an adventure.

All this week, I have been successfully driving around the area! My first attempt at the wheel was last Thursday. My friend Shoe took me to a driving practice area. Though, for a driving practice, it's a pretty terrible location; it's right next to a river! With no guard rails! Such is driving in Japan. There are no guard rails to keep people from driving into the 3 feet deep gutters or off a 5 foot cliff into a local stream. But anyway, all is well, and I managed to not screw up yet. I've even managed to back up into my parking spot! Next thing I gotta figure out is how to fill up my gas tank.

I've also been at the Junior High this week. The opening ceremony was today! I had to give a brief two-minute speech. My speech was composed of 9 lines of English with a line Japanese after each English line to translate what I said. I composed the whole thing myself, and I had one of the JTE's (Japanese Teacher of English) take a look at it for me. And in the process, I learned a new phrase! It is today's word of the day. :-)

At the Junior High, I have been helping out one particular student who is participating in an English speech contest. She has to memorize a 3-minute speech and present it to an audience. She had already memorized it by the time I met her, so I was working mainly on her pronunciation. Most Japanese people have a problem differentiating certain sounds from one another: l vs r, s vs th, v vs b. So I came up with some lines for my student to practice, including some well known tongue twisters:

Does she see those things that sing the thrilling songs?
She sells seashells by the seashore.
Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers.
Let's roar like lions that are roaming the wilderness.
Ralph left the rowdy crowd in the clouds by rolling on the floor.

I hope those sentences weren't too mean. She's actually been doing well! In the meanwhile, when I'm not training her, I am working on my introductory presentation for my English class. This includes pictures I found from the net, as well as pictures of my college campus that my girlfriend managed to take for me. Thanks, sweetie!

I have also been cooking a bit! I successfully cooked my first two Japanese meals! The first was Curry Udon, and the second was Unagi with rice and vegetables cooked in my own combination of sauces (oyster sauce, soy sauce, and canola oil).

Word of the day: 全力 「ぜんりょく」 "zenryoku", or "all of one's power." This is useful in the phrase, 「全力を尽くします」 "zenryoku wo tsukushimasu," which essentially means, "do something to the best of one's ability." Literally, it means to "exhaust (or devote) all of one's strength." I used it for the following line: "I will try my best to teach you English." 「英語を教えることに全力を尽くします。」

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