I took a break from basically constant study and took a trip to Kyoto. A classmate invited me and I thought it might be good to get out.

And it was! So far, it's the second best vacation I've ever taken in Japan...Well, in Asia as well!

We (6 of us) got up before dawn and walked to the train in the POURING RAIN!!! 3 hours later, the sun was up, we were still wet but we made it to Kyoto.

We saw tons of colored leaves which were beautiful. Kyoto really is an amazing place. On Sunday we lucked out in more than one instance!

My Swiss friend's "family" in Kyoto owns a very famous green tea shop. When we went to visit, the father gave us a tour of the shop and museum, gave us a lesson on how to make green tea (blew my mind) and let us try out a few famous drinks and desserts all for the low low price of "サービス" (<--free)

THEN, we found out that right at the moment, for one day only, the city office was putting on a special Kimono event. Anyone who wanted to could go to and get themselves robed in a Kimono (the real thing) and walk around the city.

Usually something that is quite expensive, again, received for free. I do believe it was mostly open only to people who lived there. In that, only local residents would have known about it in the first place!

While still in Kimono, we went back to the shop and checked out the park near by. I later found out it's the same park/temple that is featured on the 10yen coin.


After that we checked out some more temples and by the time we made our way home on Sunday night, I was ready to pass out. BUT WAIT!!! I still had homework I had to do before Monday (TuT) yeah!

My Classmates

Hey guys. Sorry I haven't blogged for a while but trust me when I tell you I have never been so inactive in my life. My days consist of waking up, eating breakfast (new for me) going to class, coming home, studying and then making dinner. I honestly don't do anything else. And the weekend? Yeah, they're maxed out with study too. My brain is so fried!!!!

As for friends, there are a few really interesting characters at this school that I've met. There are of course the normal geeks and otaku who love Japan because they're weird (that kettle is black I say!) but there are also a few people who are just so much cooler than that.

One in particular is my friend Derek. He's actually kinda sorta famous! The first thing we did in class was give our self introductions in Japanese.

Hi, my name is Nina. I'm from America. My hobby is reading books.


And then Derek speaks up.

Hi, my name is Derek. I'm from America. My hobby is playing the drums.

Equally as boring if you think about it.

Then a Filipino girl looked up and asked, do you play in a band?

Turns out, Derek was in a band called The Speaks who never made it big in the states but went on to huge fame in the Philippines.

And then, the other day, a Brazilian student came into class and says "Hey guys, check out what I found". And we spent the next 10 minutes watching and rewatching Derek's bands music video and laughing at him whenever we caught a shot of him playing the drums.


Ok, maybe just for me.


My other friend...

So every week I have to write two journal entries in Japanese. I try to make them interesting to read but honestly, when I do nothing but study all day ever day, I'm seriously lacking in material.

But this one journal caught my teachers eye. I wrote it about my friend Olivier. (Oh-lih-vee-eh) [half French/Taiwanese American] She mentioned to me that it was kinda cute. But what I didn't know until about a week later is that she had Olivier's teacher read it too. And she commented to him about it. Kinda funny...since I sorta embellished the story a little ;)

Here's what I wrote in English. Keep in mind that I had to write this all in Japanese which is kind of a pain in the ass so I usually keep it kinda simple.



I live on the second floor of Villa 4. My American friend, Olivier, lives on the first floor. I keep my apartment clean. Sometimes my clothes are on the floor. Usually dishes are in the sink. But my apartment isn’t dirty!!!

Olivier’s apartment is VERY clean. He never has anything on the desk except a computer. His bed is always made. He enjoys doing his dishes. He gets excited thinking about it.

Recently, Olivier has been finding cockroaches in his apartment. He said, “Nina, I just don’t understand it. Why are there cockroaches in my apartment? In 3 weeks, I’ve found 2. But my apartment is so clean!”

Last night, at around 10:30, I heard a soft knock on my door. “Nina. Are you awake?” “Who is it?”, I asked. “It’s me!”, Olivier’s voice replied.

I opened the door and there stood Olivier holding a giant bag of rice. “I found the cockroaches! They’ve been living in my precious rice” (He really said that) “Now what do I do!? Do you think I can still eat it? I don’t want to waste this rice!”

Poor Olivier. Such a clean freak.


I think I had the most fun learning how to say "clean freak" in Japanese.

Musings and Procrastination

I'm trying to study Kanji...half halfheartedly really. And little thoughts keep trickling into my mind as it wanders all over the place while I am trying to accomplish something ;)

For my class level, we were given the choice of 3 different kanji classes to choose from. The first being the easiest and the 3rd being the most difficult. I checked out the kanji list and knew all the level 1 and 2 words. So I went for level 3. (It's what I'm "currently studying")

Thing is, everyone else in my class is taking lower level kanji. Well, unless they're of Chinese decent. (obviously!) I, I KNOW my kanji is really poor. I'm not even exaggerating. For as much as I have studied, as much as I needed to know to pass the JLPT 3, I should TOTALLY already know this stuff. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've already studied about 80% of the kanji in this new class. So why is everyone else lower level than me?


Don't ask me what it means. But it keeps me from feeling like a total dumbass all the time.

Today was my first elective class actually. I have two. One, as mentioned, is kanji and the other is reading. I didn't know what reading class was when I signed up but I figured it would be fun. I want some sort of motivation to study kanji and reading is the best for that! I love reading in English and there are tons of books I want to read in Japanese too!!!

But after signing up I started getting worried that maybe it would be a lot more academic than that. I mean, it'll probably be more like, read this academic paragraph about fly mating rituals and then answer some questions about it.

I started dreading it thinking about that...

But today was the first class and we read an old fable that was really cute and interesting. It held my interest and I really enjoyed the class. The teacher is nice (and pretty too for whatever that's worth) and as I was leaving the class I realized that she's ALSO my new kanji teacher!!! (won't have that class for another 3 days) least that's something to look forward to (^^;

Now back to studying...after which I will go to Mos Burger which I will one day be able to afford when I get a part time job... *sigh*

Past 3 or so Days

I've lost all track of time. The days go by in slow motion though my mind is going at normal speed. Consequently, it feels like there are 2 days in every day...

Basically, I've been in Japan for almost 3 weeks. It feels like I've been here for almost a month and a half. Everyday, I get up around 6 (for whatever odd reason), go to school at 9 (EXCELLENT time to start school) I get out around 1:30 (until elective classes start next week) and then I have the rest of the afternoon to study.

I've been doing so much in Japanese recently, I've been dreaming in it! Which isn't as much fun as you think. It just means I speak in the same broken frustrating Japanese I use in real life. Bah!

Anyway, here's my week in pictures:

These are persimmons. They're in season here in Japan. I don't know about you, but we don't get many of these in Florida and I hadn't ever seen one before coming to Japan. Every year, I eat tons of them. This year, I decided to dry some on my clothes line outside. It takes about a month or so to dry them and I wanna see how they turn out!

Thing is, these ones weren't picked to be dried. Their stems had all been cut off. So I had to use skewers. Also, these were the only 3 persimmons in the entire grocery store when I got there...they were the sale rack because they were overripe. I figured it didn't really matter, right?

Well, as you can see, the bottom one kinda disintigrated in my hands as I was stringing it up. I figured I have nothing to lose. If it doesn't come out well...oh well. And if it does, Woohoo!


A typhoon came through here last Thursday . By afternoon, the weather was great and I had cabin fever. So I went out for a bike ride and found this beautiful pond near the apartment with two gorgeous swans!!! They swam right over to me when I stopped my bike.

They were all like,
"So were's my bread crumbs?"

I have some saved for this weekend (-^^-)


Last, here are a few friends I've made. We have people from China, Taiwan, America, England and Germany.

We spoke in a combination of Japanese, English and sometimes a little bit of Chinese. It was muy internacional.

People in My Apartment

My apartment has pretty much been completely settled. Unfortunately, I have this tendency of putting a few things on the floor whether it's because I'm lazy or I just don't have a place to put every little thing (I have very little storage space) but it seems like no matter how many times I pick up and tidy the place, people only come over when the floor is a mess!! AND because this place is like a dorm anyway, people are CONSTANTLY popping in just to say hi and see what I'm doing.

But that doesn't mean I have a lot of friends yet. I have a few. But they all revolve around English speaking :P Everyone here has such varied abilities in Japanese that English seems to be the one that we all fall back on. It's very frustrating. Kinda no win. I can't make friends unless I speak some English and I can't learn Japanese if I'm always speaking English! :P

Other than that, classes are going quite well I think. Today I forgot my Vitamin B so I was a little low towards the end but I'm still doing well. We're going over some REALLY easy stuff BUT it's good because I'm relearning a few things I completely forgot the first time around. Things that make the language sound more fluid instead of slightly off. Like saying "feet" instead of "foots" that sort of thing.

I'll post pictures when I get around to taking them ;)

Typhoon and First Day

Typhoon #18 came from the pacific and headed straight for Okazaki city. It was the first typhoon of the year to hit landfall. Wee! Coming from Florida, and "surviving" Japanese typhoons before, I REALLY wasn't worried about this thing.

On Wednesday was orientation when they told us all the important stuff and gave us a walking tour of the school. In closing, the main English-go-to guy mentioned that opening ceremony, scheduled for Thursday, would be canceled. He said that all of school would be closed due to the typhoon and to please go home immediately and not come out of doors until it had passed. He also made it clear that all grocery stores would be closed as well.

As I was going home (in the pouring rain) I took note of how many sandbags had been piled in front of all the doors. I'll admit to becoming a little worried by this point.

I went home, got my car and booked it to the local grocery store. I stocked up on plenty of food and then I tucked myself in for the night.

Around 2am I was woken by an intense wind that was blowing against my window. Since I was half asleep, I had visions of bicycles flying through my cars' windows and breaking down my door.

But in the morning I woke to a clear sky. I walked outside and found tons of leaves all over the place and a small tree in the front driveway that fell down.

I looked around and thought to myself, "HA! I can finally do the laundry!!!"

And that's just what I did. What a beautiful day it was!!!!

Today was my first day of classes! It was AAAAAWESOME!!!!

In my class, there are 14 students ranging from all over the place. France, China, Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, The Philippines, Canada, America...I'm sure I'm forgetting a country somewhere in there...

But it was great! I understood easily but really had to think about how to phrase all my answers in proper Japanese. Class lasted from 9am to 2pm. I thought that, for my first day, I'd get really tired quickly since I wasn't used to sitting down for so long and listening to Japanese.

But that's not how it was at all! I had a great time!!! But looking back on might be because it was so easy for me... (I'm not much for enjoying a challenge ;) )

At the same time, this was only the first day. It was a Friday full of introductions. More than half the class didn't even have the textbook. Also, from looking at the syllabus, things are gonna move FAST. If I've learned anything about my Japanese study, I need time to let things sink in so starting from easy is not a bad thing!

After class, I was on such a high, I went straight to the study lounge to do homework! Can you believe it!

It must be because the weather is so awesome (-^u^-)

But now it's the weekend and I to do. *sigh* We're off to a slow start!

Placement Test

I just took the placement test today. The sections were writing, reading and interviewing. I thought I did pretty well on the paper test myself.

But then I went into the interview. They asked me tons of questions, all of which I could answer about half correctly. In that, I understood all the questions but I could only form half my answer in Japanese. I usually left off the end of the sentence (which isn’t unusual in Japanese)

Afterward, the interviewers told me how I did...

*sigh* I don’t take even the kindest of criticism well. I’m just like Michael Scott from the office :P

They showed me the graded test. They said that I did very well with the multiple choice section but I failed miserably when it came to writing. They said that throughout the interview, I showed that I clearly understood what was being asked but was never really able to answer in a proper sentence.

She said that it seems there’s a division in my brain. On one hand, I know how to take the test and I know what the right answer is when the choices are given to me. But that doesn’t transfer into the other side of my brain that has been trying to survive in Japan these past three years. That side of my brain will just string a few words together and hope the meaning comes out clear enough for someone else to say “OH! I understand, you’re trying to mean this”.

Now, I have told many people this. There are tons of people here who constantly tell me my Japanese is great and I always respond with the same answer: Sure I can hear and understand but I have trouble saying what I want to.

It’s one thing to say it about yourself. It’s another to hear someone else tell you the same thing.


So in the end, they’re gonna put me in a somewhat lower level class than I should be in. They said that it’ll probably be easy for me but I need to really polish up the basics or I’ll always sound like a dumb foreigner when I speak (<-- my own words, not the interviewers. HA!)

And I think she’s right. I do really have an issue with the basics but I know that when I get into that class, it’s going to be child’s play! But my vocabulary and kanji are so low right now…I’m just a mixed batch of all different kinds of random Japanese. I’m here to get back on track and that’s what this school is gonna do.

4am Blogging About Going and Coming

It is now 4:15 in the morning when I'm writing this. "Why is Nina awake at such an hour?", you must be asking yourselves. Welp, I can tell ya, it's not jet lag :P

So let's see, this is a new blog so let's start at the beginning of my story!

Early on Monday morning, September 28th, I left Florida to return to Japan. I just finished spending a whopping 6 weeks at home after basically a 3 year absence. It was hard to leave. Even with all the reverse culture shock I felt when I went home, I realized that through and through I'm an American to my core and even more so I am my parent's daughter. It's amazing how much I've grown up since I was away and even more amazing how much I'm like them! (I talk JUST like my mom!)

I flew from Tampa to DC to Narita. Then I had 3 hours to go through customs, ship some baggage, get on a bus to Haneda airport and get on my next flight to inaka Kochi (Inaka means "countryside")

I arrived at around 8pm on Tuesday night (a little over 24 hours of do the math) My host brother picked me up and drove my up the mountain where I found my final resting place!

Until Saturday anyway. At 4:30am, because I was too worried about the drive to sleep, I said goodbye to my lovely host family and all my friends in Kochi, packed up my tiny overstuffed car and drove what was supposed to be a 7 hour trip to Okazaki City, right outside Nagoya.

I drove off the Shikoku island easily enough.

But then I promptly got lost in Osaka, the 2nd biggest city in Japan (at least during the day, check it out on Wikipedia, that was pretty interesting to learn)

Once I got my bearings and got back on the right road, I felt REALLY proud of myself and about 3 hours later I got REALLY lost in Nagoya.

Nagoya is Japans 3rd largest city. Since numbers mean nothing to me, I won't sprout the population like it's supposed to clear things up. Here's the deal. Tokyo is effing huge. It's not THE most densely populated city in the world but it's damn near close. Rush hour in Tokyo is murder...sometimes literally. And not because crimes are committed but because sometimes someone just happens to not move fast enough and one is going to stop for someone who falls down. I kid you not.

Now, Nagoya. I have been to Nagoya before. I remember thinking it was just right. Not too big, not too small.

Welp, that was then. I wasn't driving a car then. I was only riding trains which are nice when you're in a populated city. They run ever 7 minutes so there's no real waiting. But driving?!

GOOD GOLLY MISS MOLLY!!! I have never seen so much traffic in my life!!!

FIRST, while I was driving, I instantly knew that I had arrived in Nagoya because suddenly the roads became much wider and much more elevated. In the beginning, I started noticing that there were no buildings higher than the road. I couldn't see the ground. And it seemed like we were just climbing and climbing into the sky. Like birds almost!

And that's when I started to panic. Every time I think of traveling long distances, I have these dreams that I fall off bridges to my doom. This felt incredibly like those dreams. And it didn't help that the wind was knocking my tiny car all over the place. But the real problem was that the bridges didn't last for just a few kilometers. They spanned the entire city! So, it's not surprising that I exited a few stops too soon.

It then took me almost an hour just to figure out where the hell I was. Then another hour to drive a short distance south to the school. EEE GADS! The traffic was horrible!

(that red circle indicating the elevated bits doesn't cover the city and how far those roads actually go. That's just the section I drove over.)

On my drive through the city from Nagoya to Okazaki, I pass not one, not two but 3 AEON shopping centers.

Kochi prefecture...the entire prefecture, has ONE AEON. Only one. I hope this illustrates just how much bigger this one city is compared to where I came from.


Basically, once I arrived, besides being thrilled, I was exhausted and smelly. Sitting in a car all morning and afternoon'll do that to a person. I signed some paperwork and got my room key. Took me 10 minutes to drive across the street (3 min by bike) to my apartment and let myself in. This place is tiny...buuuut still not as tiny as I was expecting. Will post pictures when I get settled in.

I then unloaded my car and headed off to the nearest AEON for a futon to sleep on. The school is really awesome and will happily provide a complete futon set (futon, pillow, sheets) for around $200 but I already have everything else and I can get a decent futon for around $50. So that's just what I did.

AEON is about 3 blocks from my new apartment. The only AEON in Kochi used to be a 30 minute car ride through the back roads. This place took me 30 minutes to get into. The traffic was WALL TO WALL. Once I got inside, not only was it bigger and better than the Kochi AEON, but it had TONS more people! People with kids, people on dates, people in costume!!! Kochi didn't see much of the costume people just because...well, everyone knew you. There wasn't a whole lot worth dressing up for ;) (hahaha)

So I went in, feeling tired and lost, got my futon, got some food and drove the hell outta there. Took another 20 minutes to get home. Ate, took a shower and collapsed at 7:30pm. Which is why I'm now awake at 4am.

So far, this city is FAR from being inaka in anyway shape or form despite how people may complain that it is. I have doubts about my driving in this city and if I will continue to do so or not (which would be a shame, I do love driving so much), but I think that as soon as I get a bike I'll probably love this city to pieces.

We'll see :D

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