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Journals from Kanto Gakuin University

2009-09-10 Exploring

Hello everyone! Ok, so I know that every semester abroad has its ups and downs, and that I'm still in the oh-this-is-so-much-fun-because-everything-is-so-bright-and-shiny-and-new stage, but Oh this is so much fun because everything is so bright and shiny and new! I love that feeling you get during your first week abroad, when you feel more awake than you've ever been because you are full of questions and observations and comparisons, and there is so very much to learn! Even things that would be mundane at home are an adventure " a trip to the grocery store for hand soap? Yesss! Grocery shopping is a bit of a challenge here, because it takes us a while to decode the packaging and figure out what's inside. For example, today I bought what I thought was a bottle of water, mostly because I thought the name was funny: "Pocari Sweat" (in English). The liquid was clear, the bottle was clear, I even called it water when I talked to the cashier, but it turned out to taste something like really sweet lemon Gatorade. I went to four or five grocery stores today, just because I was having so much fun trying to read the labels! I've also discovered that there are pros and cons to having the energetic, goofball captain (Yusuke) as my buddy " every time anyone has to give a speech, we always go first! And he gets a kick out of putting me on the spot to see if I know vocabulary, or having me help navigate or ask questions, which makes me a little nervous since everyone is always watching/listening (he's the captain, so they're all watching him, which means as the captain's "buddy", I get an audience too). But overall it's good for me, I think; the more I get put on the spot, the more I'll learn. It's a lot easier to remember new vocabulary when your mispronunciation got a good-natured laugh out of a roomful of people! I'm also really glad that I got such an outgoing buddy, especially one who doesn't speak English. That way I'm not tempted to take the lazy way out and ask for a translation of a given word " we have to talk our way around it and eventually we figure out how to get the message across. Today was an entertaining (though slightly expensive) day. We're still a bit jet lagged, so we all get sleepy around 9pm and wake up before 6. This morning when we had all rolled out of bed, showered, and breakfasted (Kellog's Corn Flakes, which is what I ate in Ecuador, too!), we headed to the beach for a morning swim. The beach is less than a ten-minute walk from where we're staying, and the water is the perfect temperature: cool enough to be refreshing, but not cold enough to give you goosebumps. The weather has been beautiful, too, though many students have been complaining that it's too hot and humid. I'm loving it, though " it makes for great swimming weather at 9am! We swam for a while, then headed back to figure out lunch. Eventually our Japanese buddies came (although sadly Yusuke couldn't make it), and showed us where to catch the bus to a cheaper shopping district. It turns out that we're not actually in Yokohama, we're in Hayama, which is an upscale suburb of Yokohama. That explains the high prices at the nearby grocery store, to some extent Anyway, our buddies gave us a tour of a cheap grocery store, a large 100-yen store (dollar store, basically), and a few other useful spots. Then they had a fun activity planned for us " swimming at the beach! They were disappointed to discover that we had already gone swimming on our own that morning, but they cheered up when we explained that we were certainly happy to swim again. Who wouldn't be? There was just one little issue well, a school of them, actually. A herd of jellyfish had moved into the swimming area sometime that afternoon, and most of us got marked up a bit. They were invisible, as far as I could tell, and they must have been small because it stung a bit when they first touched your skin, but afterwards the red marks didn't hurt much. We basically ignored them, reassured by the fact that the Japanese students did the same. Somebody brought an inflatable ball, and the whole group tried (unsuccessfully!) to keep it in the air. After a while, Naoki, Shusuke, Masaru and I got distracted because we found rocks buried in the sand and started competing to see who could throw the farthest while standing waist-deep in water. It seems that as usual, I flew halfway around the world just to play sports with the guys like I do everywhere else I go! I actually won quite a few rounds of in-the-water-rock-throwing, so we got to talking about high school baseball. They asked how fast I used to throw, and I said that on a good day when I was in shape, I could hit 80. "Eighty what?" they answered. "Miles per hour," I said, and they all furiously started trying to do the conversion to kilometers in their heads. Everyone got a different answer, but they were so curious about it that they literally ran toward the shore and started writing out the multiplication in the sand. Apparently the answer was impressive, because they all got excited about it and immediately proposed another throwing contest. We got really into it, drawing a line in the sand at the shore, finding rocks, comparing rock sizes to ensure fairness, choosing a direction to throw, and appointing a judge to do the countdown. On the count of three go! Four or five of us took a crowhop to the line and fired and I won! Everyone said, "Again! Again!" so we found more rocks and redrew the line, and I lost the third-round championship, coming in second overall. Which, considering I haven't played in four years, isn't half bad, I suppose. Later we ran races, alternating between running through the line as if it were first base and sliding into it as if it were second or third. I lost those; I've never been a speedy one. So I retaliated by walking on my hands for a while, and Naoki and Shusuke both did that, so I did a front handspring, which they both did, so I did a roundoff backhandspring, which neither could do, but Shusuke showed me up with a standing back tuck, and I think it was declared a tie overall. The girls were an enthusiastic audience, but none of them joined in. Around sunset (which is early here, around 7pm), we headed back to change. The Japanese buddies left, but I sort of talked everyone into going exploring by ourselves. We had a general map, and a general destination ("Jonathan's" 24-hour diner or whatever restaurant we saw and liked on the way), and set off. Maybe it's a side effect of being the captain's buddy, but I did most of the navigating and I was the spokesperson when we got to the restaurant, which I was fine with because I'm always happy to have an excuse to talk to new people, especially in a new language. Ok, I've written you a book again, I hope you enjoyed it. As proud as I am of still being awake at 10:15pm, I am getting a little sleepy, so I'm signing off for now. Good night! Lily

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