Monday, November 28, 2011

English and Schedule Changes

I'm getting bad at updating this blog again.

December is going to be a busy month for me. I'll be going on a bus trip with a group of students from Ritsumeikan to learn about earthquake and disaster safety on the 3rd and 4th, and the Monday after I have a small test and exam in the same week. I think I have two more tests in the month of December. It's going to be difficult, but now I have to learn how to manage my time.

Although I enjoy speaking in English to my foreign exchange student friends, I really need to start speaking in more Japanese. I feel that I can communicate pretty well with my Japanese friends, and we don't have nearly as many complete miscommunication gaps as we used to in the beginning. However, I want to have the  natural canter and accent when I speak. That's not going to happen if I keep speaking English outside of class.

I really need to make a schedule and stick to it. I've had too much fun in English. I need to have fun in Japanese.

However, with that said, even though I'm using English quite a bit while I'm here, I'm forgetting my native language. I can't think of how to explain the definition of words, even if I used them frequently at home. When talking about Japan or Japanese culture to my family and friends at home, I cannot speak with the normal canter or emphasis. I'm forgetting where to put articles and how to phrase things naturally. It's so weird, but I really like it. Sometimes I wish I could forget more of my English if it meant I would be that much better at Japanese. But it doesn't work like that. I'm just in a stage of integrating my Japanese into my thought process that I wasn't before.

I'm going to try and get my flickr account up and running today so I can share pictures with my friends and family who aren't on facebook. However, please continue checking here to see my progress with myself as I find a way to adapt to my new environment. I love the Japanese lifestyle, I've just got some catching up to do with the language.

Have a good day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Battle of Self

The reason why I have difficulty relaxing hit me hard chest today, and I became highly disappointed with myself. it seems that when I gain an interest in something, I talk about following up with it, but never stick to my word. I then beat myself up over not doing something I wanted to do.

I haven't been to Aikido since the first time I went. I told myself that it was fine because I had tests and schoolwork, and the Aikido circle didn't practice for about two weeks because of a change in schedule, but then I've missed the last two practices. I haven't contacted the girl that offered to take me, and I haven't even considered going. I'm so angry at myself. I tell myself that I'll join next semester when I know what classes are like and have more time to offer, but in my head, I always doubt myself.

My friend Laura told me there is a saying in German that mentions, "Just tightening your butt-cheeks, sitting down, and doing the work." Why can't I ever do that?

This blog has turned into more of an emo-kid's diary than an actual travel blog, but I guess this is part of the experience.

I know that inside of me, there is this anger, determination, and desire to move and be thrown. I need that kind of physical discipline, and I desperately need to handle these emotions that consume me. I'm tired of being the pawn and puppet for something that I'm supposed to control. I know Aikido will help me learn to center myself, and when watching, and participating in even the basic steps, I found myself calming down.

Part of me hates to admit though that I wanted to be the only foreigner in the club, and now that another student has joined, I'm upset and acting childish. If I really wanted to go, I would have gone all along. I would have sucked it up and just walked in the dojo and asked to learn. I thought I had gotten over my fear of failure, and apparently it still exists.

I'm going to stop complaining and do my homework before I write some more stupid self-pity.

When will I learn that I don't have to be perfect at everything?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thoughts on Culture and Identity

I forgot how relaxing silence can be. Well, a noise that's almost silent, but muted in the background. With the hum of my heater and the monotonous ticking of my clock behind me, I feel at ease in my apartment for the first time in awhile. It's not that I don't feel safe, it's just that I've been so tense with my school work and hostile towards myself for procrastinating. I'm very grateful that my internet has been nice to me for a little over an hour now, and I am taking this time to update.

For those of you that aren't on my facebook or skype account, I have been having difficulty maintaining an internet connection of any sort at my apartment. I'm still not sure what the problem is, as my internet was working perfectly two or three days ago. I'm telling myself that when it goes out, i must become a serious student again and continue my studies, or just simply do something better with my time, like exercise, read, or cook something decent for dinner. It's irritating, though, when the internet continues to shut on and off every five minutes while trying to write an essay in Japanese, and you're relying on an internet dictionary because your denshi jisho (Japanese electric dictionary) is outdated.

I've been having trouble finding my motivation lately, and I'm not sure where this laziness is coming from. Part of me wants to blame it on my new ability of relaxation and lack of stress, but I think a lot of it is just laziness at its best. My teacher told me a few days ago that she was starting to realize who was serious about the class and who wasn't, and she looked at me for the latter. I was a bit hurt and angry, but then I realized she was right: I hadn't been giving my best--yet I wasn't being a complete bumpkin, either--and I needed to push myself. today the same teacher smiled at me and said, "You really are pretty serious about studying, aren't you?" It made me smile, and it felt even better that it was all in Japanese.

I realized I'm in the right place today. I miss my family and friends, but I'm not homesick. I'm not depressed that I don't have some of the luxuries that I did back in Texas. But I'm not sad. I'm not mourning a life that I'll return to when I go home. Part of me is actually dreading the return, even though I know I won't be home for another ten months. Here there seems to be less ignorance, less assumptions. I feel as though the people know more about me than I know about myself, as well as more about the history and culture of the United States. I try my best not to make too many cultural mistakes, and my Japanese friends tell me when I'm about to make a big one, yet I take pride every time I hear a Japanese person tell me, "You're a lot like a Japanese person, you know?" To me, that is one of the best compliments I can receive. When I hear it in Japanese, I feel even better. To me, this simple statement translates into, "You respect my culture and understand what it's about."

On the more somber side of the coin, I feel a vein start to throb at the base of my jaw when I read some of the comments on my facebook, emails form friends and family, as well as the random chat message on skype from a friend back home. I can't think of a friendly or polite way to write what I want to say, but the basic concept of my thought is that ignorance is much too prevalent. I want to write back snotty messages and act like a five-year-old when I read assumptions that if I act as I would back home, it would be alright in a country where culture is different. Although Japan uses kanji in the majority of its publications, newspapers, textbooks, etc., that is not the only writing system used in this country. I cannot simply ask my landlord to store furniture in a building that is small. It's insulting.Things are done differently here. I am comfortable with a majority of the culture differences because I feel that I am prepared for them. I wish that I could cut out a chunk of the culture and display it perfectly in some virtual-reality world so that all of you could see, taste, hear, and feel it in the atmosphere, but that's impossible. Please trust my judgement.

I mention all of these things because I am writing an essay for one of my classes in English. The topic of the essay concerns our experiences in the class as well as our thoughts on culture and identity. Even though I feel like I'm home here, I can't say I understand either of these things clearly. I don't know who I am, but I really like who I am becoming.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


It's hard to believe that I was in middle school seven years ago. It seems like it was just recently that I tripped myself in Barnes and Noble to get a second look at a character of my imagination looking back at me. For the first thirty minutes of manga-browsing, my best friend, Kasey, and I thought I was just crazy. But then I picked up a book that would eventually become a topic of consideration for my thesis: Immortal Rain or メテオ・メトセラ  by Kaori Ozaki (written first name, last name).

I vaguely stated before that I was initially intrigued by one of the characters I noticed on the cover of a book. In 2004, sometime during my third year of middle school, I created a character named Kasami for one of my written role-play stories with my best friend, Colleen, but he ended up becoming one of the main, and favorite characters of a role-play written with Kasey. To describe him now, it seems as if I'm just copying Rain, the main character from Immortal Rain, but I had never seen the manga when I thought of Kasami's image. I imagined a man that was tall and slender, with long blonde hair, an amber eyes.

I originally bought the book because I thought Kaori Ozaki had been reading my role-play stories through some elaborate form of Japanese computer hacking, and stealing my characters for her story. Upon reading it, however, I was confronted with a story girly enough to win over my inner hopeless romantic, but with enough action and psychological stimulation that I found myself wanting more. I was rather shocked that I didn't like the story because Rain reminded me of Kasami. I liked it because the emotions, the scenery, even with some of its surreal plot, was very real; it still is. I think Ozaki captures the human thought process very well, and while comics are often thought of as books for children, I beg to differ.

The third volume of Immortal Rain is particularly interesting to me. At the time when I read this manga, I was still coming to terms with many aspect of myself, and becoming lost as to who I was as a person, and exactly whom or what I believed in. I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I will vaguely say that this volume brings up many interesting talks of religion, life, and the purpose of the human being. I was intrigued and horrified by some of the imagery, descriptions, and overall climactic feeling of this volume. When I bought the Japanese volume upon my first visit to Japan, I found the story even more morbidly interesting. Now that I can read a bit more of the story and understand it in its original language, it hits home even more. Yet, if you want to read this volume just to know what I"m talking about, I suggest you read the first three volumes. on average, manga take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to read. if you try to read volume three on its own, a lot of the story and purpose will be missing. (However, even taken out of context, the images are disturbing. Another reason why children shouldn't read the book.)

But after being drawn in seven years ago, I finally finished the series. If I weren't in a public bus at the time I was reading it, I would have cried, smiled, and laughed. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed at the last two volumes of the series. It felt as though Ozaki was trying too hard to make the story happen and end rather than allowing it to take its own course. But after a rush to the last few scenes, the ending fell into place. Thinking about it makes me feel as if my heart is cramping, trying to stifle the tears that are growing heavy at the base of my throat.

I'm glad that it ended as it did, and I will continue reading over it until I can analyze the story in full.

I'm even happier that I read the last of the story in Japanese, in Japan, on my way home from Shamisen class in Gion.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I think I've always been interested in learning, but I've never realized how I hinder myself until now.

While I don't necessarily think it's bad hindering, I've come to realize that while I absorb a majority of the information I hear, read, practice, etc., I do not necessarily accept or agree with all of it as fact. I've often wondered why I am a Literature major. It was not my first choice, but one of necessity and frustration with the bureaucracy of my home university. It's unfair for me to say that the relationship I have with my major is one of hate; there's some love (somewhere) in there, too.

But back to what I started writing about: Hinderances.

When I was in highschool, I was asked to read 1984 by George Orwell, and that novel scared the living shit out of me. Ever since then, I cannot bring myself to just accept information indifferently. I do my own research and question what I learn. With that said, I get frustrated when readings expect the audience to just accept what it has been told.

When I try to read academic texts for homework, I can't help but stop at biased sounding words. I hate when a scholar makes a statement and does not back it up with statistical information--although that's pretty biased as well--or some sort of primary research. Hypocritically, I will not give an example of this because I'm absolutely terrified of being accused of plagarism. (But that's a rant for another day when I have something to drink and some food to snack on in the middle of a typhoon.) Yet, I can say that words like, "many," "a few," and "some" do not necessarily carry the weight of an actual numerical value or measurement. If you say 75 out of 10 people like carrots over onions, then I will understand many, or 5 out of 110 a few, etc. While these vague expressions of value are easy for the reader to comprehend, I view it as lazy research, and it completely turns me off form an interesting essay. It bothers me that professional writers and researchers would use these terms when resources and research are available as back up.

About seven times out of ten, I find myself arguing with my homework. I grumble, I mark nasty things in paper, and grit my teeth the rest of the way through the reading. I can't say this never happened at home, but perhaps it's because the classes I'm taking are about culture. Bias is a difficult thing to take out of a paper, but I was taught that a good paper lacks bias. (Unless, of course, the author is aiming to persuade the audience with a biased essay--which my homework is not--then that's okay.)

Of course, I argue with myself as well. The homework that makes me so irritated is homework for the Intercultural Communication and Psychology course as well as the class for Japanese Culture. Both are taught in English with a mixture of exchange students and Japanese students. Both classes focus on discussion and controversial topics where Western and Eastern culture may collide.

Is it possible to take bias out of such classrooms?

My initial answer to this question is, "No, of course not," but there is part of me that wants to say, "Why can't we say, 'Yes?'"


I've found myself craving low-volume music in a muted room, comfortable temperatures, and homework. About ten minutes ago, this seemed plausible: A dog in my hallway finally stopped whining after his master came home, my green tea latte cooled off to a drinkable temperature, and it was cool enough to study and stay awake. Then came the headache.

I guess that's what I get for napping on the floor earlier.

Part of me wants to make up some crazy psycho-physiological explanation as to why I get a headache every time I intend to do homework. Perhaps I get a headache only because I think I have one, or I try to find a way out of homework subconsciously, so a headache arises as a solution to my problem. It could be the weather, or it could be how I sleep at night. Whatever it is is annoying, and I want ti to stop.

Tomorrow is the first day that I will walk to school from my apartment. Depending on how that excursion goes, i will decide what will be my best mode of transportation from this point forward. I will either be walking to school on days when I get out early or the weather is good, I will bike to school every day and be a master-rider by the time I return home, or I will buy a bus pass and have unlimited access to basically all of Kyoto.

I guess it's time to do at least a little homework before I go to bed. Time to follow up on what I want to do! Serious student, here I come!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Good Food and Rainy Days

I think rain is one of the worst things for exchange students. At a school like Ritsumeikan, you don't get many days off for random holidays. Even national holidays are spent in the classroom. While it doesn't bother me too much, I feel like all of the other exchange students are bothered by this much more. Being at school usually gives me something to do, and although I enjoy sitting around, surfing the web, and spending my time relaxing, I'd much rather be at school learning something I can use.

I've found that rainy days can be quite productive. Japanese storms are much softer than the storms back home in Texas, so instead of hiding in fear of thunder, lightening, and tornadoes, I usually take a stroll outside when it rains. Today, I was fortunate enough to go with a group from school, Colorful, to make Japanese food. The day started off cloudy, but as soon as all of the exchange students and Japanese students saw each other, it seemed as if all of us were on a summer break in the middle of Autumn. It was so much fun just to relax with everyone. We shopped for groceries together, prepared the food together, and made enough that we could all take some home.

 (These pictures were taken by my friend, Laura.)

I was also relieved to finally use my Japanese again. While it's not a bad thing, I haven't been sticking to my rule about speaking in Japanese to my Japanese friends everyday. Today was motivation for me to use my second language more often, and to study a bit more seriously than I was these past two weeks. Of course, while my inner-procrastinator is telling me that this will start from tomorrow after a good night of rest, I would really like to take my studying more seriously from this point forward.

I forget how much fun I have when speaking Japanese At home, I'm hot-tempered when it comes to criticism, and I hate failure. here, failure is fun and exciting. I want to learn new things, so I smile when I'm criticized, and I find myself being unafraid to ask, "I'm sorry, could you say that again?" or, "Could you please teach me how to . . . " I want to start having food parties just so i can spend time with my friends. It's amazing how food and language can bring people of different backgrounds together.

It's even more amazing that twenty hungry college students couldn't finish all of the food that was made.

However, I'm also discovering that there is a side of me striving to be physically active. I've never really understood why people want to jog at four in the morning, run on a treadmill, or why my boyfriend was so upset when he wasn't able to find a gym. I am waling more in one day in Japan than I would have in about two days in the States. (Sad, but true.) It feels like the more I walk, the more active I want to become. I can't wait until the next Aikido Practice--although I'm very nervous--and I want to buy a bicycle so I won't have to rely on public transportation, but more so for the exercise. But even more so, I really want to run.

The only time that I can remember wanting to run was in high school. I think this was because I was finding myself, and I didn't know where to find it. Instead of looking inward, I wanted to run to a new place and discover everything that I could. But this feels different. I don't feel like this is wanderlust. I feel like this is a part of me that has been submerged. I feel like years of not playing a music instrument or participating in sports daily have finally caught up with me. I want to run and feel the wind cutting though me. I miss the metallic taste of Autumn and Winter air at six in the morning before basketball practice. I miss the weather outside. I just want to go! 


And I find myself listening to this more and more. The title "Hoshi ni Negai wo" translates to "A Wish Upon a Star." But the transition into the chorus, "Ikanakucha" translates into:

I have to go.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fear of Salesmen

When I moved to my current apartment, I didn't really think that salesmen would bother me. I skipped the step of writing my name on my mailbox, as well as placing anything that could identify my room by door. I try to make it seem like I'm never home, although I know my neighbors know that I live here, especially at night when I'm studying and they're trying to sleep.

However, on October 28th, a salesman from NHK, Nihon Hoso Kyokai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), stopped by my apartment. I've been told by all of my friends to speak to these salesmen in English. Apparently, English is the answer for all situations in which a foreigner is trying to get away. The man stayed by my door for a few minutes afterwords, and came back the next day to try to sell a subscription to me. I ignored the door and have found that I am still horrified by the idea of a salesman coming to my door.

Anytime I hear a neighbor's doorbell ringing, or footsteps walking down my hallway on Fridays before I go to class, I turn off all of the possible noise-making machines in my apartment. My phones lose the ability to vibrate, ring, and I place them on my mattress so even the little bell charm can't jingle. I mute my computer and hold my breath until the footsteps fade, or the person at my door stops knocking. It's a little much, but I figure this is the only way to truly fake them out. (Although, I will say this didn't work with my previous stalker because he knew i was home already.)

I haven't spoken with my landlord yet about my previous stalker issues. I'm hoping that he may be able to alert the company that no one is allowed to come to my room, or that perhaps he can tell me a way to make it look like I'm subscribed to some sort of company. Perhaps then, this anxiety at doorbells and strange men in uniforms will go away.

Then again, there's still a part of me that just wants to yell like a maniac each time my doorbell rings. If it's a friend, perhaps they'll knock again and say something like, "Macy? Are you alright?" and if it's a salesman, I might hear, "Sumimasen . . . "


After a suggestion from one of my friends, I think I've decided to start a youtube channel in which I will post a new video every week or so. Don't get too excited though; it's not going to be anything fancy. I think it will only consist of short video-blogs that I take sometime in-between classes, homework, eating, and nap-time. (There is no sleeping when you're a college student.)

I never thought that I'd start a real youtube channel. Sure, I signed up years ago so I could make a playlist of all of my favorite Japanese music videos, but it's really weird to think that I'll be starting my own channel. Perhaps I'm writing this prematurely. Nothing has happened yet, and no videos have been posted, but I certainly would like to start a channel in the future.

I have to study for a short test that will be given in less than twenty-four hours. I had a lot of fun today, but I know I should have studied more, and more frequently through the week. Oh well. I guess I'll never learn.

Cheers! to procrastination!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The "Studying" Issue.

I don't know whether I have been cursed with procrastination or if it is simply how I am programmed to work.

It feels as though each time I sit down to do something productive, my body reacts negatively. Just now, I sat down with the intention of studying, and a migraine flared up. My throat is sore, and I feel as though I'm getting sick. Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but these kinds of things have happened for the majority of my life.

I've found the hardest thing for me studying abroad is time management. There is so much I want to do, and I'm finding that I'm caring about my grades less and less. This does not mean that I'm not a serious student, just that I want to enjoy myself rather than slave away for hours over the same five kanji that I forget how to write during each test. The other exchange students tell me I study too much, and when I hear about some of the things the other exchange students are doing, I'm wondering where my priorities should lie if they aren't in the proper place already.

I'm thinking about buying a small whiteboard and making a schedule on my door. (OCD much?)

If you were studying abroad, how would you spend your time?

I'd like to be fluent, but I'd like to have a social life as well. I know that not everyone who becomes fluent is a serious student that wastes away in his or her dorm room, but I feel that it's very hard to find a balance between serious studying, social life, and all that lies between. Is this because I'm just bad at managing my time, or do other people feel this way as well?

The answers aren't easy, and I knew they wouldn't be. I guess I'd better be more serious than I am now, but I need to relax and enjoy myself where I can.

Well, time to endure the headache and continue studying away.