Friday, September 4, 2009

One week down

It is currently Saturday morning at the end of my first week in Japan and I am not really sure where to begin. This first week has been largely orientations and meetings which have droned on and on due to the loud, rambling, reiterating, and slightly offensive Iga-san. However, now that it is Saturday, I think I am largely through with listening to her repeat herself on how we should attend everything we sign up for, we shouldn't assume the Japanese are like Americans, and we should park our bicycles in the bike rack. Despite the awful speeches she delivered, there was a little bit of excitement to be had on our own.

This glorious piece of machinery is my assigned bicycle. Its fabulous grey chipped paint, rusted kickstand, and distorted basket will be my wheels for the rest of my stay in Japan. It is old and weary but damnit, it has character. During our orientation several students from the local Japanese University led groups of us on a bike tour around Hikone, highlighting many important buildings and areas such as the super store, Hikone station, and the post office. The super store is called Cainz and it is like Meijer, but much larger and stranger. It has a few restaurants but they do not have the quality of food one would hope to enjoy on his first few days in Japan. This seemed to be my luck, though, when I tried to eat at my first legitimate restaurant here called Joyfull. From a distance and because of the font, I thought it was called Joyfun, which would have made the place more successful in my opinion. This food sucked too. So perhaps not.

But! With enough practice, I was able to find a better place to eat and one that was a little bit closer. It is called Chanpon and it is a ramen shop. Japanese ramen is so much more intense than American ramen! Here, the noodles are topped with meat, egg, bean sprouts, mushrooms; pretty much anything you think should or should not accompany noodles and broth. You can find a picture of Chanpon on my flickr, the URL is at the bottom of the page.

Twice, high school students came to JCMU and we were encouraged to meet with them. The first group was from a nearby school called Maibara. They came to practice their english. We were paired off two by two, grouped with two of the students, and made to talk. It was a little awkward at first when we didn't really know how to begin, but one student seemed to have quite a few questions for us and proceeded to drill us on our lives, habits, interests, and hometowns. It was actually pretty fun speaking english with these kids and they seemed to have a good time too. At the end, they asked for a picture and as I stood there smiling with them and holding up the peace sign, I was hating myself for forgetting my camera in my room.

The second group of students came from Zeze high school and they gave presentations to us about Lake Biwa. This time, I did bring my camera, but I thought it might add to the stress they already have about giving this presentation completely in english if I were to start snapping photos. These presentations were very scientific and I marveled at how good their english must be if I could follow whether or not the lake was eutrophic or if purification action was taking place on the inland lakes. After they were through and left, I decided that I maybe didn't want to go swimming in the lake now that I know it is filled with bad sorts of phytoplankton and is a little too dirty for fish to live. It is still quite beautiful though.

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