6/30/2006

Mosquitoes and hunger end the studying | 蚊と空腹が勉強を終わった

I'm back from studying. I got a lot done. But after a while, I got hungry, my mind started zoning out, and the mosquitos began arriving. So I came home and put some rice in my rice cooker. I actually ran into one of my classmates at the park. He'd ridden his bike to the north side of Okazaki and looked quite exhausted. We plan to hook up for lunch sometime soon.

帰ったよ!たくさんレビューした。しかし、おなかがすいて、頭がよわくなって、蚊が付いたら、帰って、炊飯器でごはんを作っている。公園でクラスメートに出会った。かれは自転車で岡崎の北まで行った。すごくつかれた!僕らはもうすぐ食事を食べに会うつもりだ。

At the park, I saw a mother and her two young kids (a boy and a girl) trying to catch something with a long net. I have no idea what, but it was amusing to watch. I like that about Japan: you see families out at the park together more often than you do in America.

公園で母さんと子供二人を見ていた。長い網を持っていたけど、何か捕ってみていた。面白かったと思う。日本の家族はアメリカの家族よりいっしょにいろいろな事をする。僕はそれがとても好きだよ。いい恋人がいるとき、いっしょに公園へ行きたい。海も行きたい。僕はそんな人なんだよ。(笑わう!)

Breakfast and study | 朝ごはんの勉強

This morning, I intended to wake up early but failed to do so and, as a result, I woke up feeling groggy. I've kind of felt like this for most of the week, really. I decided to eat breakfast at Bikkuri Donkey for a change of pace. While I ate, I did some studying in Minna no Nihongo I. I'm resting at home for a bit, then I'll be heading out to the nearby park to study for a while.

今朝早く起きるつもりだったのに、あまり早く起きなかった。だから、あまり元気じゃなかった。実は今週あまり元気じゃなかった。起きたら、びっくりドンキーで朝ごはんを食べる事にした。食べながら、「みんなの日本語I」を勉強していた。それから、帰って、ちょっと休んでいるけど、2時ごろに近い公園で勉強するつもりだ。

I e-mailed my classmates who are living in Okazaki, but no one's replied yet. Interesting. I guess everyone's enjoying the summer break, eh? Well, I guess I'll be studying alone today. Which I really prefer, but that kills the possibility of speaking practice. Well, there's no choice. Anyways, I don't think it's a problem.

岡崎に住んでいるクラスメートにEメールしたけど、まだだれも答えなかった。(今日もチュウさんが家にいない?あの女、忙しいね。ハハ!)面白い。夏休みをみんな楽しんでいる?いいね。じゃ、一人で勉強するよ。それは僕の好きなやり方なんだけど、会話の練習できなくなる。しかし、仕方がない。とにかく、問題がないと思う。

6/29/2006

「ナルト」

たぶん来週の「ナルト」はよくないと思う。さいきん、シリーズのマンガを読む。「ナルト」はマンガがアニメよりいい。マンガの筋立てはやめなかったから。毎週アニメは面白くない。しかし、先週と今週の挿話はだんだん面白くなったと思う。でも、来週は・・・大変だね。

Biking to the southwest

Nothing like a ninety-plus–minute bike ride around the city to freshen you up.

Originally, I'd planned to spend most of the afternoon studying at one of the nearby parks. I stopped by my classmate's room to see if she wanted to come too, but I found that she wasn't at home (チュウさんはどこ?), so I headed to the south to Minami Kouen (南公園) park on my bike. (Yeah, so I thought I'd go down to Minami Kouen and have myself a time.)

I didn't stay there all too long because the bugs were a bit too numerous for my liking, so I decided to bike until I found a better place to study. I headed to the west down a street that I was unfamiliar with. Of course, I soon forgot all about studying, but I did get at least some sort of practice in, and important practice at that: impromptu speaking practice. During this break, I've been spending lot of my time alone in my room, so I haven't gotten much talking done in general. And since it's my weak point ...

I stopped at a few stores toward the beginning of the ride, including an Internet cafe (the first that I've found) and a book/CD/DVD/game store. After several more minutes of biking, I found, lo and behold, a bowling alley. It's called Yell Bowl and the cost is 1000 yen for 3 games on Monday through Thursday—not that terrible. I walked in to glance around and found, as expected, that the alley looks the same as an American alley except for a quite large display of small goods (like small electric fans) for sale right near the entrance. Interesting. There was a small eatery named Bentoman next door and I walked in just to ask (for talking-to-people's sake) what time it closed. (At 9 PM.)

I pressed on, over bridges and train tracks, crossing through many new areas. I wasn't too worried about getting lost, because as long as I knew where Okazaki Station was, I'd be all right.

Thus, once I quickly lost Okazaki Station, I went forward using my own sense of direction, which is pretty reliable, assuming that I'm paying attention. I found a very small convenient road that led me closer to my part of town. Toward the end of the road, I landed in an area surrounded by spacious fields, a small stream, and a wide view of the city. I stopped here to admire the view.

I was then approached by an older gentleman on a bike from the other side of the stream. We greeted each other and then he said ... something. (I just can't understand most older males most of the time. They are the hardest to understand.) I explained that I was a fresh Japanese student and so I only understood simple Japanese. He nodded and asked if I was a student of Yamasa. Yes, and I got here in April. He said that he could speak some Spanish but only a little, much like I could only speak a little Japanese. It's the same situation, he said. Soon thereafter, he said goodbye and biked down into one of the fields that I was admiring. Nice guy.

After some blind navigation—and buying my first full-size Sprite—I found the station and, unknowingly, landed smack dab at the small intersection that I was most familiar with from walking a friend to the station a couple times. Quite the convenience, that. This road leads right to Yamasa, so I rode by the school and saw the Yamasa II building (the building that I study in) still covered in construction materials. I stopped by yesterday, actually, for a few minutes and saw this construction for the first time. Looks like the building is getting a lot of maintenance done. (If I ride by tomorrow and see the building gone, I'll be a bit freaked out.)

And so here I am, sitting in my warm room (I've been spoiled by the cool weather that was here when I arrived) with the door open and my fan locked right on me, listening to jazz. I'm actually pretty sleepy and might shower and take a nap. Of course, whenever I say that I'm going to take a nap, I never do. We shall see.

Dattebayo does "Pythagoras Switch"

Dattebayo, the group that fansubs Naruto and other fine anime each week, decided to add a few episodes of "Pythagoras Switch" (ピタゴラスイッチ), an NHK children's program, to their collection. I, for one, am pleased with this. Watching this interesting series is good practice, I think (even though one might get the Algorithm March song stuck in one's head).

Speaking of children's shows, I still haven't seen Sesame Street. I'm admittedly less curious than I was back in March, but I'd still like to see the Japanese version of that piece of my childhood.

6/28/2006

たくさん大切じゃない言葉

僕はもっと日本語で話さないといけないと思う。この二週間にアパートだけにいればならない。じゃ、日曜日友達とバーベキューに行くようになる。(あの文法、いい?)たぶん楽しくて会話、いい練習だと思う。

今日選択した。たくさんヤマサの学生は国へ帰ったから、僕のには人が少なくなったんだ。しずかになった。しかし、もうすぐまたにぎやかになる。

もう9時だね。

昨日「大乱闘スマッシュブラザーズ」をしたんだ。このゲームは僕の一番好きなゲームだよ。ざんねんだけど、ヤマサの学生でこのゲームをする人が知らない。じゃあ、大丈夫だと思う。授業が始まったとき、ゲームをできる時間は速く少なくなる。最近初めて「MOTHER2」というスーパーファミコンのゲームをしている。(ウィキピディアの日本語のバージョンはどうして絵が少ない?)面白くて、おかしいよ。僕のアメリカ人の友達はゲームが大好きで、僕に「『MOTHER2』をしなけらばならないんだぞ!!」と言った。ゲームがいいから、うれしい。今『MOTHER3』は作られている。

Regarding my future ...

I've been thinking about my future recently, both long- and short-term.

I originally intended this trip to be two years long, but it will almost certainly be only six months at this juncture. I was at first pretty disappointed by this, but because I feel that it's largely because of my own choices and failures that this is occurring, I bear this disappointment. (Things are not certain yet, though.) When I return to the U.S., I'll go ahead and wrap up at my university (probably studying linguistics) so that I'll have my degree. No matter when I leave Japan, I'll have to do that.

Part of the reason that having my degree is important is because I might like to return to Japan and live here permanently. It's a possibility. The point is, without a degree in Japan, you're not worth much at all. The bias against non-graduates is stronger than in the U.S. (I dislike the unnecessary emphasis on a university education in the modern world. The self-made person gets no respect. Things need to lean more toward meritocratic methods of selection.)

Do I really want to live here? Once I'm much more capable with the language, the biggest personal hurdle will certainly have been eliminated. I think living here would be very interesting. My primary objective is to become as fluent as I can in Japanese, though, and living in Japan is indeed the best way to do that and to stay sharp.

Thing is, I really don't think that I want to live here unless I can work for myself. I don't want to work sixty hours per week, possibly without overtime pay, for some soulless corporation. If I'm working that much, I want it to be towards my own purposes, goals, and desires.

Translation work interests me—initially, Japanese-to-English work, though I would like to add English-to-Japanese to my repertoire once I gain further experience. If I can become fluent enough for that sort of thing, I can start my own business in America and I might not even return to Japan to live. (Even in this instance, since I'd still want to do business with Japanese firms, I'd need that degree.) But I'd want to return for the benefit to my Japanese ability as well. Obviously, there are myriad factors to consider. And there are other career options too, of course. It's all in the alpha stages of development.

At least, like Gaston once did, I'm actually evolving a plan. (Though I expect that mine will be more solid and will reap richer rewards than Gaston got from his.)

Surprise visitor of the avian kind ・ 雀が入った!

I'm sitting in my room with my door open and a sparrow just flew inside my room, all the way to the back, where I'm sitting, and flew back out. It shocked me, in part, because it sounded like a huge insect or somesuch.

アパートでコンピューターを使っている。天気がいいから、ドアを開けている。僕が友達とタイプしていながら、がアパートに入って、奥に飛んで、速く出た。びっくりした。大きい虫だと思っていたから。

Update: It happened again around 7:00 PM—another sparrow! What the heck, man. This one just hopped in and all the way back to my desk. I saw it out of the corner of my eye. Again, it looked like a large bug. Once spotted, it jetted out. (I know I said that I wanted to be surrounded by chicks, but this is ridiculous.)

修正: もう一回!午後7時ごろ雀が入った!今度も僕は「虫だ!」と思った。この雀は僕のつくえまで歩いて来た。僕が見たら、雀が速く出た。なんだよ?雀は僕が好き?少し変なのに、僕は虫よりが好きだから、そんなことが大変じゃないと思う。しかし、来る前に電話して!(あっ!そうなんだ・・・。僕は電話がないんだな・・・。忘れていた!)

6/27/2006

夏休みの中に掃除しないと・・・

みんな、こんばんは。今日、よく掃除したり、二回ごはんを作ったりした。このポストをタイプしたら、晩ごはんを食べるつもりだ。僕は今晩何を食べる?牛肉とごはんとチーズトッピングだよ。おいしいね?もちろん。僕が作ったから・・・。僕が料理がとても上手だよ。(大ウソ!)

食べながら、どうしようか?四番目のハリーポッターの映画をまだ見なかった。ああ、たぶんコンピューターで「やさしい時間」というドラマの第9話を見る。そう思う。

今朝吉野家で朝ごはんを食べて、南公園で「ナルト」のマンガを読んだ。僕が自転車に乗りながら、女のひと三人は「こんにちは」と言った。今朝みんな優しかった。

時間に気を付けなければ、この二週間、コンピューターばかりをする。日本語の勉強も大切だよ。

6/26/2006

OIA luncheon and last-minute paper-writing

Hello, world. Yesterday evening, I stayed up (too) late installing Linux on my laptop. I now have a Windows XP SP2/Ubuntu 6.06 dual-boot going. This is my first time spending any real time in Linux so I'm pretty jazzed about it. In fact, I'm typing this very journal entry in Linux, using Firefox 1.5.0.4. Sweet! (I don't intend to touch Windows Vista, so I need to become well-versed in the ways of the Penguin now.) However, the text sizes on my blog are a bit off for some reason. I'll have to look into this.

So ... today I met with the Okazaki International Association volunteers that run the weekly "Let's Speak Japanese with Japanese People!" (日本人と日本語をはなそう!) that's held at Yamasa. We met at 12:30 PM today at a restaurant near Seiyu, only a four-minute ride from my house. Only three students showed up and all of us were named Jon. I kid you not. Have I mentioned that I don't like name oversaturation?

I unintentionally impressed the sensei with my ways of Japanese etiquette—pouring water for the others at my table ("maa maa maa maa"), holding my cup formally, and disposing of my chopsticks in the polite way (thanks to Mikawa Ossan for that). Ogino-san and I discussed the rigours of the tea ceremony a bit as well. We ate a delicious meal that I can't remember the name of. (I'm going to find out the name of the restaurant. It's bugging me.) Got it! It was Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), which my dictionary describes as a "savoury pancake with various ingredients." It was indeed delicious.

A week ago, Ogino-san asked me to write, in English or Japanese, a short write-up about my trip to the OIA barbeque last month. The text would be printed in the next OIA newsletter booklet. I was to turn it in today. As the quick-minded among you ascertained seconds ago, I forgot. I was excited about it, but last week's tests and exhaustion wiped it from my mind. However, I promised to have it completed by five o'clock today, if only I could meet him somewhere to give it to him. He said that was fine and we agreed to meet at the usual meeting place for my class, in front of The Daiso.

So after we left, I returned home and began typing. I would not be satisfied with anything besides typing in Japanese, so I got to work. My computer was still logged into Ubuntu, though, and I hadn't gotten the IME working yet, so since it was still only about three o'clock, I worked on this for a little while. But after a bit hunting, I decided to reboot into Windows and work on the paper there because I didn't want to waste too much time.

Once I was back in Windows (for the first time after installing Ubuntu—no problems, thank goodness), I got to work. Here's what I wrote:

皆さん、こんにちは。私はジョナサン・〇〇〇です。初めまして。四月三日にアメリカのヒューストンから日本へ日本語の勉強のために来ました。この三ヶ月はとても面白いです。そして、楽しいです。アメリカで一年間自分で日本語をゆっくり勉強しました。私は世界で日本語が一番面白いと思いますから、岡崎のYAMASAという日本語の学校へ来ました。今まで、日本人は親切に手伝ってくれましたから、私はかたじけないです。OIAの「日本人と日本語をはなそう!」というプログラムで、たくさん日本語を練習しました。しかし、今まで二ヶ月半だけYAMASAで勉強していますから、まだ下手です。耐え忍んでくれてください。

5月21日に友達とOIAのバーベキューへ行きました。日本のバスに乗ったことがありませんでしたから、心配していましたが、問題がありませんでした。バーベキューは楽しかったですよ。日本で私の一番目のバーベキューでした。人が多かったですが、日本人と外国人がたくさんいました。いろいろな国の人と話しました。みんな優しかったと思います。

それに、私は面白い食べ物を食べました。日本のバーベキューはアメリカのバーベキューより野菜が多いですから、日本のバーベキューは体にいいと思います。天気が晴れでしたから、よかったです。日本はだんだん暑くなっていますね。私の国元はいつも暑しですから、私は大丈夫だと思います。しかし、日本はヒューストンより雨がずっと多いですよ。たくさん人は列を作って、それから一緒に踊りました。私も踊りました。

私は二年間日本で日本語を勉強したいですが、多分今年の9月にヒューストンへ帰らなければなりません。しかし、いかなる場合でも、OIAの日本の文化の懇話会へ行きたいです。

ありがとうございました!

(もちろん、エディットしてもいいです。)


(The other day, Mikawa Ossan told me by IM that my "Japanese really has gotten a lot better!" I hope he'll still feel that way after reading this.)

After a brief printer scare, I walked over to Daiso and arrived right at five o'clock and just as Ogino-san drove up in his Mercedes. He was pleased with the paper and with the picture that I submitted as well (one of my American two-by-two-inch passport photos). I again apologized and asked to be considered again in the future (though I think it's a one-time thing). Even though I forgot about the paper, Ogino-san was cool about it. So in the coming weeks, I'll be getting a copy of my first published Japanese article.

Tomorrow, I might ride to school and purchase my textbooks for the next quarter, Minna no Nihongo II (Japanese text and English translation). I also need to get to reviewing the material for the last quarter.

And it seems that I've got my IME working. 日本語でタイプできる!初めて、Linuxで日本語でタイプしている!すごいだね。 You know, I was very surprised when I logged back into Ubuntu and found that most programs were as they were when I logged out. Nice.

6/25/2006

Destination: Asuke

Yesterday, Mikawa Ossan and I rode up to the mountain town of Asuke, which has recently been assimilated into the larger city of Toyota. After grabbing a bite to eat at a fairly local Yoshinoya and making a pit stop in the home section of Midori, we headed out. On the way, we stopped at a rest stop that turned out to be a very large and beautiful park. I've never seen such a great rest stop before. I also purchased my first Fanta Clear Apple soda. (Tasty. It tasted so clear!)

Asuke is, as can be expected, a town of few people and the area is known for its immensely colorful autumns, Mikawa Ossan said. Once in Asuke, he thought of a certain place that he wanted to take me. So we parked nearby and hiked over to a gorgeous brook between two mountains. (I found some photos of the area.) There was silence outside of the relaxing sound of the rushing water. We hiked across a nearby bridge and up a little bit into the mountains as well, where we found a small village attraction that was created in the exact style of Japanese villages of, probably, a good thousand years ago. Unfortunately, it was closed, but I got a good look. We also headed down to the water. The brook's water was cold and crystal clear. Where we stood, the water was about a foot deep and I really wanted to wade in it, but along with that being inconvenient I didn't want to get bitten by the extremely rare and heretofore unknown Japanese Negroid-Biting Fish.

During the trip, I was able to read a surprisingly high number of signs (and parts of signs) correctly, to my surprise. In particular, I mentioned the word 「売店」, which is memorable because it combines the characters for "sell" and "store/shop," but is pronounced "baiten," the beginning of which sounds like the English word "buy." Well, while looking at an area map at the rest stop, I suddenly heard Mikawa Ossan make a comment about something being here in the wild. I looked at where he was gesturing and, sure enough, 「売店」. Goodness gracious, I can read! Sometimes. Yesterday was good for kanji recognition. I like learning things that immediately provide benefits in day-to-day life (which is probably why I have so much trouble with history). I've studied 132 kanji, by the way, though I can recognized more.

I mention all of this because, after several successes, Mikawa Ossan started calling me the Kanji Man—and part of the joke is that "kanji" is to be pronounced "kănji," like the "a" in "candy." Mikawa Ossan remembered a nearby restaurant that features live music, so we headed that way. As we walked, I began singing Kanji Man's theme song, as sung to the tune to of Sammy Davis Jr.'s "Candy Man," of course:

Who can write the kanji
A hundred at a time
With a pen, a pencil, or a brush that's in his hand
The Kanji Man ...
Yeah, the Kanji Man can ...


Mikawa Ossan, not to be outdone, followed up with this:

Who can take an ichi
Turn it into ni
Add another stroke and then you've got yourself three
The Kanji Man ...
Yeah, the Kanji Man can ...


(For those not in the know, ichi (一) is one in Japanese and ni (二) is two. You add another stroke and then you've got yourself a three (三), san.)

That was great stuff, there. Kanji Man transforms ducking into a phone booth and painting a kanji on his forehead, by the way. (I think convention dictates that Mikawa Ossan be christened "Kana Boy" or something.)

We arrive at the restaurant and head upstairs. Its name is Kajiya. We're out in the boondocks, so these people aren't as used to foreigners as the folks in Okazaki are and we get some curious stares. A table in the corner is made clean for us and we sit down and chat a bit. The live music was rather underwhelming—just a girl at a Casio keyboard singing. She certainly wasn't bad at all, but it wasn't what I was hoping for.

That ended pretty quickly.

After she finished that song, she was joined onstage by three guy with guitars. They started jamming then. Everyone who performed that night were area locals and, let me say, that area has some pretty talented locals. Most of the performers were ossan, older guys, but there were a couple of younger performers as well, including a young guy who was performing live for the first time. He was probably pretty nervous, as he had to stop the first song in the middle because, as Mikawa Ossan said that guy explained it, his voice just wasn't coming out right. He did pretty well overall, though. Another one of the younger guys had a stylishly funky look (a fedora) and performed a couple of bluesy songs.

The highlight for me, though, was the final performance when a father got onstage flanked by his two sons (who looked to be around 20). The father sang and all three played the guitar. I can't really explain it well, but it was fantastic. The youngest son played the only true electric guitar of the evening (every performance, except the first, contained guitars), and even though I at first thought the sound would clash, it sounded great. I wish I'd had a recorder of some sort. Or even my camera. (When we left my place, we had no idea we'd be going to Asuke!)

While we were at the restaurant, a friend of Mikawa Ossan's walked in. Mikawa Ossan brought him over and introductions were made. His name is Ishikawa, a young guy in his mid-20's. I liked him a lot. Very interesting guy. I was able to practice my Japanese with him a fair bit, something I don't often get to do in a casual real-world environment. He was really difficult to understand, though, because he spoke so very quickly. And there was, you know, live music being performed a good 12 meters away from us too. I was pretty nervous at first, but settled down and eventually had a nice conversation with Ishikawa and Mikawa Ossan. They were kind enough to explain certain parts of the conversation to me and I learned some new words. (Which, of course, I'm failing to remember now.)

Oh! And we ate octopus that was mixed with Mexican tacos. The Japanese word for octopus is tako. That's right! We ate tako tacos! Ha! (And I drank some milk. Man, I had been craving milk the night before, too. Now maybe I'll find a Chitople restaurant somewhere ...)

After a while, the performances stopped and we headed toward the door. Most of the crowd in the small restaurant had left and only some of the performers remained, so I thanked them for the excellent music.

As Mikawa Ossan, Ishikawa, and (to a lesser extent) I spoke with everyone, a young guy sitting at the table right in front of me, obviously a joker, leaned over and put one hand against my ankle and the other at my waist, as if measuring the length of my legs. Laughing, I asked him if they were long to which he said yes. He then got a chopstick and, starting from my ankle, moved it upward one chopstick-length at a time, as if measuring all the more carefully. It was pretty amusing.

But then he put it in front of the zipper of my pants. As if measuring. That caught me offguard. He removed it quickly, but I felt that I had to say something.

So, gesturing toward the table, I said that he'd need a second chopstick. Giggity-giggity-goo!

Soon afterwards, we said goodbye to Ishikawa and headed back out to our neck of the woods, stopping only to look at an interesting collection vending machines on the way out.

I'm glad that I was able to have a nice natsuyasumi (summer break) trip after all. My thanks to Mikawa Ossan! I mean, Kana Boy.

Kanji Man out.

6/24/2006

僕の思い、気持ち、幸せ・・・

英語がわからない人へ、ごめん。最近、英語がたくさんあるね。今まで、二ヵ月半だけヤマサで勉強するから、言える言葉がまだ少ないと思う。(いい?わかる?)だから、時々日本語でたくさんタイプすることが大変だ。しかし、これからも読んでください!

おそくなった!どうして、僕がまだ寝なかった?僕はバ~カだぞ!

じつは、僕は本が書きたい。日本語のと英語のと、どっちが一番書きたい?僕は英語が日本語より上手だ。英語は僕の自国語だから。日本語で本を書くことができる?練習したら、可能になると僕が思う。

僕は写真をとることも好きだよ。アメリカで三年ぐらい、写真家だった。写真がとても好きだけど、写真をとるのは高い趣味だ。しかし、今、ディジタルカメラがたくさんある。まだ買えないけど。フィルムのカメラはアメリカから持ってきた。僕は日本に住んでいる友達といろいろなところへ行ったから、たくさん写真をとって、アメリカから持ってきたフィルムが少なくなった。僕は母が日本へ来るとき、「フィルムを持ってきてくれない?」と聞く。僕のヤマサの友達はみんなディジタルカメラがある。ほしいけど・・・。

うれしいよ。時々、あまりうれしくない。時々、ぜんぜんうれしくない。しかし、僕の生活についてうれしいよ。日本語の練習は僕の夢だから。「どうして?」「なぜ?」わからない。でも、そうだ。とても面白い。難しいだけど、面白い。僕は日本語を学ぶのはとても大切だと思う。日本語が上手になりたい。学校で同じ気持ちがある友達が一人いる。多分あの人もこの気持ちをよくわかる。そんな人が少なくて、面白いと思う。あの友達のモチベーションについて質問を聞きたい。知りたい。「どうして?」「なぜ?」(残念だけど、今あの友達にぜんぜん会えない。)とにかく、ポイントは僕がうれしい。これからも元気にがんばる!しかし、がんばりながら、リラックスすることも大切だ。そうしなかったら、くたくたになれる!「がおーっ!」初めて、僕の将来がだんだんみえられる!

じゃあ、僕は今ねるつもりだと思う。

6/23/2006

BBQ, darts, and Power Rangers—a winning combination

Well, I decided to go to tonight's barbeque. I'm glad I did, too. I didn't expect it to be so enjoyable. The burgers were hands-down the best I've had since I've been here. I played darts for over an hour (yeah, a few bull's-eyes by me). The two hosts are from Wisconsin, so we had some fun talking about American things such as Power Rangers, the Fonz, Billy Joel, and apple pie. (Not apple pie. Not really.) I walked there with a classmate around 6:30 and just left around 10:15 or so. I'll definitely head to the next barbeque.

Declan Murphy beats me through the hole

Declan Murphy made it through the Toudaiji Pillar that I failed to make it through! Oh, it's on now. Next time I go to Nara ... that hole is mine!

デクラン・マフィーさんは東大寺の穴を通った。僕が通ってみたとき、できなかったよ。次の奈良旅行、僕は絶対に通るつもりだよ!(多分。)

Tou-sensei says 'Pack it up!'

After heading to Residence K for the first time find out the details of the barbeque tonight, I headed to Yamasa because I've got my computer defragging and I don't want to use it. But after I'd been in the computer lab, Tou-sensei comes to the door, twirls the keys, and whistles. There are only two people in the lab: me and another AIJP student whom I've recently met. I ask Tou-sensei, "Is it time [to close up shop]?" He says he'll give us ten minutes. He says this in Japanese and in English as well.

Now, I haven't mentioned Tou-sensei before. Tou-sensei is the principal. Yes, Yamasa has a principal—or, you might say, a headmaster. The Japanese word is 「校長」 (kouchou). "But I thought Declan Murphy was the man!" you might say. Oh, he is. But Tou-sensei ... he's the Man. He's the man's man. You don't mess with Tou-sensei. When Tou-sensei tells you it's time to do something, you'd better believe it's time to do something. If told me that I needed to jump off of Tokyo Tower, I'd say "Sumimasen. Wakarimasen" because I probably wouldn't understand him. But once I knew what he was saying, I'd do my dang-blasted duty. In fact, I found a photo of Tou-sensei talking with a person who, they say, annoyed Tou-sensei and ended up having his mind totally wiped by some mysterious method and, believing his name is Kenji Ishimaru, now lives as a farmer in Kyuushuu.

So aaaanyway ...

So when Tou-sensei said this, it was time to wrap up. I didn't realize that the lab closes at six. Thus, I'm back at home. But I'll head to the barbeque later on. One good thing that came from my going back to the school, though, is that I happened upon Arai-sensei, who was arriving by car with another sensei. So I got to see her again.

Yamasa Quarter One: Ending! Success! ・ 終わり!遂行!


It's over. My first quarter at The Yamasa Institute has come to a close.

This morning, the first thing we did was play a round of Jenga with our class N neighbors. But this wasn't any regular round of Jenga, of course. It was similar to the style used in the infamous "Ayaka's Surprise English Lessons," of which I'm a fan of. In this session, you pulled a block, saw a number written on it, read the appropriate question from a list of numbered questions, and then had to concoct your own answer. It was pretty fun. Our table had two people from my class and two from class N. Despite the seeming lack of sturdiness of our structure, it never fell. Can't say the same for the other tables, though. (We're just too good! Heh.) If your blocks fell, you had to speak for a little while in Japanese. (The sensei said one minute, but it was really more like 15 to 30 seconds.) It was a good time.

After that, we returned to our classroom (for the last time). (You know, I'm going to miss that room. It was on the corner and so it had twice the number of windows that many of the other classrooms have. And a balcony.) Chin-san, our lone returnee, stood before the class at Oyaizu-sensei's behest and said a formal goodbye. (Sniff.) And then our final grades were handed out. (As Oyaizu-sensei flipped through the stack of papers, I mentioned that they sure looked official-looking ...)

I was about the fifth or sixth person called. I headed up to the front of the class with a very serious expression on my face. Oyaizu-sensei said that I had come to class everyday and had attended my kanji class everyday and that that was very good. And then he presented me with my certificate. I bowed and thanked him and then looked at the bottom of the glossy A4 paper and saw ...

A minus. If I hadn't screwed up the final hanasu test so terribly, I'd have gotten an A. Oh well. I guess I'm pretty pleased. I can provide more details once I have some more help translating the kanji in the paper. Oyaizu-sensei explained the notes but I was in a daze at the time, hearing the word "minus" repeated (in mental surround sound) over and over. (I think I heard "hanasu" too.) I was actually fairly disappointed for a few minutes. Yes, over an A-minus. And that's my problem, in a nutshell.

So after a short break, we all headed to Aoi Hall for the presentment of certificates to those who were leaving. About 30 students or so were departing. I didn't understand most of what was being said during the presentation, of course, but I clapped along with everyone else. One girl started crying pretty hard during her speech and had to pause for a minute. I thought that was pretty touching. We all cheered her on.

After this, most of our class—actually, perhaps it was everybody in the class—went to eat at an inexpensive restaurant with Oyaizu-sensei and Arai-sensei. We crowded that restaurant out, man.

Following that, we walked back toward the school and everyone started heading their different ways. Right then, it really felt Over. No more sensei, no more classmates ... wow. (Is the appropriate thing to say "No more shukudai, no more hon, no more sensei's dirty looks"?)

However, I wasn't done. You see, I'm kind of concerned about one classmate who's going to be stuck in an unpleasant environment in another city with little to do for most of these two weeks. We had read volume one the manga "Yotsuba to!" together during this quarter's manga club meetings, so last night, I bought her volume two of the series. I placed an encouraging note on the inside cover and put the book back in the bag of the store where I bought it. I took this package to school in my bag, ever so surreptitiously.

After the multi-class Jenga match, I wanted to be prepared to hand it to her quickly when an appropriate time appeared (without other people bein' all like, "Whasdat is, man?!"), so I, like the ninja, slipped it inside of my garments. I was wearing two shirts today and I was able to hide it between them pretty well since my outer shirt was a half-buttoned button-up. Looking back on this, it sure does sound pretty silly, even over-the-top. In other words, just right.

Unfortunately, though, no appropriate time was forthcoming. It wasn't until after lunch, when everyone was heading separate ways, that I decided that I'd have to go with whatever halfway-decent circumstances I could get. I couldn't get her one on one, so as she and another classmate stood outside of Yamasa talking, I approached her.

As seen in the reinactment on the left (note: the actual book was in a brown bag), I fairly quickly pulled the package out of shirt—which, again, looking back, must have been pretty funny-looking, though it didn't feel so at the time because I was all business—and handed it over, explaining (in Japanese) that because she might become lonely during this time, she could read the book and remember her friends from our class.

Soon, the three of us began joking about how she would forget all about me anyway and (1) toss the book away (casually over her shoulder, at that), (2) try to sell the book to a bookstore and make a little money off of it, or (3) give it to someone else as a gift. It was all pretty funny, but she made sure to mention the jocularity of it all toward the end, which was a nice gesture, methinks. I do hope she enjoys it. I meant to mention that the stipulation was that I get to borrow it after classes start again, but it totally slipped my meager mind. Our classmate asked if I'd written a note on the inside, and I replied I had indeed, which must have given quit the impression to the two ladies there. I'd wanted to handwrite something on the inside cover, but I decided against it for certain reasons.

There is apparently a student-hosted barbeque tonight that I might attend. There was a lot of rain for a while last night (while walking to dinner, of course), but right now it seems to have cleared up to mere "cloudy" status. I might go. Otherwise ... you know, I could really go for some Super Mario 64 right about now. (Recently, I've been hit with a very strong desire to play Super Mario Sunshine again. Shoot.)

ヤマサで勉強することの一番目の三ヶ月が終わった!これから、夏休みが始まる。僕はクラスメートと先生二人と昼ごはんを食べた。今、「スーパーマリオ64」で遊びたい。じゃ!

小柳津先生、佐野先生、新井先生、立石先生、久留宮先生へ・・・

本当に心からどうもありがとうございました!いろいろお世話になりました。お蔭様で、もう少し上手になりました。これからも、私はがんばります!どうもありがとうございました!次の三ヶ月、もう一度私の先生になってください!お願いします!
(多分だめですねぇ・・・)

6/22/2006

Buy her flowers, you say?

I've been meaning to mention this for a few days ...

The other day, we were given a paper with a couple of pieces of related dialogue. The first dialogue was a young married man going on about how he and his wife got into a big argument about their not taking out the trash and how, as a result, his wife wouldn't speak to him or even look at him. He was asking some sensei for advice. The second dialogue was the sensei's response. The first thing this sensei recommended was buying flowers.

Our sensei asked us if we had any advice for the poor man in the first dialogue. I was trying to explain that telling that guy to buy flowers in that situation is ridiculous. First of all, they were idiots for getting so riled up over something so minor. (Of course, it was just a practice dialogue. But still, for the sake of discussion ...) Second, I think that buying flowers as an act of attrition is a horrible precedent for a relationship. Straightforward communication is the way to resolve disputes. I shouldn't have to buy presents in order to open the channel of the communication. What kind of stupid relationship would that be? That's little better than a relationship with a cat or something. (No offense to cats.) If I buy my significant other flowers, it's going to be because I want to do it as a random act of affection that will bring her joy, not because we've had a big argument and I want to smooth things over. That kind of relationship is pathetic. (And yet, it's the type of relationship that so many have.)

Yeah. But try explaining all of that in basic Japanese. On the spot. I don't know how well I did at all. Nobody seemed to understand it. So I thought I'd post my thoughts here, for no real reason.

Seriously, buy her flowers? Weak. Who wants someone whose anger toward you can be placated by a present? Buying affection? I couldn't respect someone as simple-minded as that. If I buy a woman flowers, and I am very apt to do so, it's because I want to bring her a token of affection.

Not being understood is actually a bit pet peeve of mine and it's one of the factors that directly leads to my impatience with myself in learning Japanese. Even with my friends here, it affects things. Because I don't know them well and don't know the tolerances of when they get offended, especially the folks from countries whose cultures I'm only passingly familiar with, and because I don't like offending people (it eats at me), I tend to be a bit over anxious about checking to make sure that people aren't offended by a joke or by a possible slight. I'm not really all that bad about it, but sometimes it's pretty annoying. I need to stop caring so much.

Class dinner the third ・ 三番目のクラスの晩ご飯

Tonkatsu Restaurant; photo by Zoe-san
Today, following our penultimate class session, my classmates and three of our sensei went to eat as a nice Japanese-style (leg-cramping) restaurant about a kilometer north on Highway 248. All but one of our classmates showed up, though another had to quickly leave because she lives in another city.

We had a great time. The beginning was kind of so-so for me because I sat at the table with four Chinese-speaking classmates and I felt rather awkward. I tried to get a good Japanese conversation going, but it just didn't stick. For a little while, I thought about changing tables. But Arai-sensei arrived, with Oyaizu-sensei, sat at our table, and nihongo'd up the joint and I felt a bit more comfortable.

Soon thereafter, we decided to move to one long table, which facilitated a bit more conversation among the group, I think. From then on, I felt fairly comfortable. This was the point that that classmate departed. And she left to walk to the train station alone, and it was raining a bit, I really felt my gentlemanly urges nagging at me. Maybe I should have offered an escort, but I suspect that it might have seemed a bit too strange. Ah well. I guess I should have done ahead and done it.

So the night was good. I tried to convince my sensei again that tomorrow was Gakusei no Hi, the new Japanese holiday. No good. (Yeah, and I'll keep trying, too!)

The get-together was also a goodbye party for the sole member of our class that's leaving. Sayonara, Chin-san! Take care! Tomorrow is our last day of class. I can't believe that two and a half months have flown by so quickly. Well, this was just practice for what's coming up. Best t' cowboy up! I hope to buy my next textbooks during the break so I can get a heads-up on what's coming up.

今日はよかった。クラスが終わったら、みんな一緒に晩ご飯を食べにレストランへ行った。今度も先生が三人来た。(立石先生は来ることができないと言った。ざんねんだった。それにクラスメート一人だけ来なかった。)

はじめは少し大変だったと思う。僕が座っていたテーブルでみんな中国語ばかり話していたから。じつはちょっとさびしくなった。日本語で話してみたけど、成功じゃなかった。「どうしようか。」と考えていた。しかし、小柳津先生と新井先生が付いたときから、よくなった。後で、佐野先生も来た。僕は新井先生とココナッツ娘について話したよ。

みんなは長いテーブルに行ったから、みんなと話しやすくなった。僕はオレンジジュースとお茶を注文した。オレンジジュースのカップは大きくて、ただお茶をたくさん飲んだから、よかった。食べ物はあまり安くなかったから、食べるつもりじゃなかった。しかし、新井先生は少しサラダととんかつ(?)をくれた。ありがとう、先生!

クラスメート一人が早く帰らなければならないから、残念だった。そのクラスメートはかわいい女の人で、一人でとおい駅まで歩いて行った。それに雨が降っていた。僕はいつも紳士をなってみるから、ちょっと悪い気持ちがあった。「一人で、いいですか。」と僕は聞いた。大丈夫だとクラスメートは答えた。多分、僕が「安全のために、いっしょに行かない?」と言ったら、変だとその女は思う。時々、僕は心配しすぎると思う。

晩ご飯は楽しかった。今晩の晩ご飯はもうすぐ国へ帰るクラスメートの「さようなら」のパーティーだった。さようなら、チンさん!お元気で!

帰るとき、僕は明日は学生の日だともう一度先生に言った。まだだめだったよ。先生は頭がいすぎる!まけない。

明日は最後の授業だよ。少し悲しいんだ。

あぅ!今日の最後の漢字テストについて・・・69/70だった。よかった!違った漢字は「起きる」の「起」だった。小さいまちがいだった。

Oh! Regarding my final kanji test, I got a 69 out of 70. Not too bad. I made a silly mistake, unfortunately. Ah well.

So now I'm getting ready for bed. Writing that much Japanese sure takes a lot out of me! Later!

今、寝るときの準備をしている。眠いから、寝たい。(同じ漢字じゃない?!)たくさん日本語をタイプしたから、つかれた!じゃ、また!

6/21/2006

Hanasu test: waiting for the grading

Yeah, now here's the kind of example sentence I need to see at a time like this:

私は彼が試験に落ちると思ったが結局は受かった。
I thought he was going to fail the exam, but he passed after all.


Right on, man.

I didn't mention that we also took a capability test the other day. I'm in M class (the second-lowest) and we were given the same test as everybody up to J class. What this means is that we weren't expected to do too well. Well, no pressure, right? I actually attempted some of the tougher questions and I feel pretty confident that I got a good number of them correct. I was told that we'll be receiving the results on the last day of class, which is Friday.

これから、日本語でタイプしないといけないと思う。僕がいろいろなことについて心配しているのに、今週はいい。この二ヶ月半はすばらしかったよ。先生はたくさん日本語を教えてくれた。クラスメートはいい人だと思う。楽しかった!でも、僕は1,2年間ヤマサで勉強したい。僕は日本語の勉強しかないと思う。だから、まけない!次の三ヶ月も、同じクラスメートがいれば、いいと僕は思う。じつは・・・クラスメートは本当の僕を知らないと僕が思う。

Searching for love? A class assignment reveals all!

I didn't eat today until the afternoon, and during class today, we listened to a CD that kept repeating "san no ichi" (referring to lesson number 3-1). "San no ichi" sounds like the Japanese word "sandoitchi" (サンドイッチ) which is obviously derived from the English word "sandwich." Anywho.

In an exercise today, we were instructed to write any one of our personal problems on a sheet or paper and dump it in a box without writing our name. Tateishi-sensei would then read the problem, our classmates would try to offer advice (ideally using advanced grammar), then we'd all guess who's problem it was.

I didn't know about the last step. I thought it was going to be anonymous. And there's your setup, you sadistic freaks.

Well, this is what I wrote: 「私の悩みは・・・すてきなこいびとがほしいことです。いくらさがしても、いません。私はひとりで年をとりたくないです。」 This essentially translates to, "My worry is that I want a fantastic significant other [I used a gender-neutral word]. No matter how much I search, there isn't one. I don't want to grow old alone." Okay, fine, kind of pathetic-sounding. But since I didn't expect it to be very obviously me, I figured "why not?"

As we start, we started guessing names. Oy, I think. I've misunderstood. One person bemoaned the lack of money and everyone (very understandably) thought it was me, but they wuz wrong. It really could have been me, though. It sounded just like what I'd write. We went on until one paper was left and only I hadn't been called on. Truly beautiful.

Tateishi-sensei read the paper. One classmate suggested that I buy a 「素敵な人形」, a "fantastic doll," I guess you could say, which she gestured to be a life-size doll. If you push a button, it talks. As I laughed, I told her again, as I had the other day, that she had a "cold heart." It was all hilarious. And part of the reason that her original comment was amusing was because she used the same adjective that I used before. Nicely played.

Then Tateishi-sensei asked whose it was. I called out the name of the one student who was not present, a female whom I'll call Velma. "It's Velma's," I said. Nobody believed me, of course. (Bums, all!) There was some more conversation and then Tateishi-sensei asked me what kind of girl I liked. After reminding her that it was Velma's paper, not mine, I said that Velma probably liked smart, beautiful people. Oh, and Velma only likes women.

It was pretty funny—better than it probably sounds here. But I'm tired and in a bit of rush. You Had To Be There, all right? I really was a bit embarrassed, though. That'll teach me, then, won't it?

Anyway, it was pretty funny. And today was our last class with Tateishi-sensei. The entire class (I think) is going to dinner tomorrow as a send-off for the one student that's not staying for at least an additional three months. It's too bad that we can't all move on together, but it's nice that out of 13 students, 12 are staying. 一緒にがんばろう!

At the end of the week, the two-plus–week summer vacation (夏休み) begins. Good. I'm pooped. I need some refreshment.

6/20/2006

Final hanasu test—no good ・ 最後の話すテスト、大変

Today was our last hanasu (speaking) test and, boy, did I stink up the place. It was just terrible. I tried to relax and not tense up, but I'm not sure that it helped much. Some of the questions were weird, I misheard some of them, and it was held in Yamasa's small computer room with people around (only two or so, I think, though). I pulled through but I might very well fail. And you know what? I hope I do fail, because then I'll get to take another test, under what would hopefully be better circumstances (or at the least, the similar ones). And if I fail it, then my sensei should know that something's not right too.

So at the moment, I'm not the happiest guy in the world.

今日の最後の話すテストはとても大変だった。多分この試験をおちると思う。だから、今あまりうれしくない。しかし、ぼくがおちたら、もう一回試験をうけると思うから、じつはおちることがほしい。今日下手すぎたよ。聞き落して、質問二つぐらいが変と思う。新井先生と私はコンピュータールームにいたから、人がいた。とにかく、残念だった。

3:34 PM: Well, I'm finally back at home and feeling much better. After school, I lingered about in a daze and ended up speaking to Oyaizu-sensei at some length for the first time. It was a nice conversation. I expressed a lot of my concerns (Japanese-related and otherwise) to him and we discussed them. At one point, he said, "I think you should be proud." In English! (Oyaizu-sensei has speaks English very well!) So I felt better afterwards.

A mid-level Yamasa student told me today that our next book, Minna no Nihongo II, will require two to three times the amount of studying than book one does, so the next three months ought to be eventful.

Right now, I'm eating for the first time today. Later, a classmate is coming over and we're going to do homework together. Later. (I think I'll play some more Earthbound now.

6/19/2006

Quick update from school: writing and listening tests over

It's lunchtime here at Yamasa. We only had the writing and listening tests today. The speaking test is tomorrow. I'm a bit disappointed because I want to get it over with, but I can live with it. A bit more time to prepare won't hurt. Regardless, today's tests went well and I feel confident that I can expect A's or, at least, high B's. But time shall tell, she shall.

6/18/2006

Final test ・ 最後のテスト

I have my final test of the quarter tomorrow morning and I'll be up late studying since I wasted most of the day not feeling very well. This one'll be a doozy, it will.

明日、最後のテストがありますから、おそく勉強している。今日あまり元気じゃなかったけど、よく勉強しなかった。だから、今げんばっている。多分大丈夫だと思うけど、少し心配している。先生五人がたくさん日本語を教えてくれたから、遣って退けたい。(いい?)がんばっている!

からい・・・
かるい・・・
くらい・・・
大変だな・・・

6/15/2006

A few words from Tokugawa Ieyasu

A friend forwarded to me a link to an Internet forum in which members were engaged in posting their favorites monologues, modern and classic. The following was not a part of that list but was, instead, a participating member's signature. Because this quote is not only Japan-related but is Mikawa-related (Mikawa is the area of Japan that I'm living in) and because this person, Tokugawa Ieyasu, is immensely well-known in these parts, I thought it appropriate to reproduce it here:
Life is like unto a long journey with a heavy burden. Let thy step be slow and steady, that thou stumble not. Persuade thyself that imperfection and inconvenience are the natural lot of mortals, and there will be no room for discontent, neither for despair. When ambitious desires arise in thy heart, recall the days of extremity thou has passed through. Forbearance is the root of quietness and assurance forever. Look upon the wrath of the enemy. If thou knowest only whatit is to conquer, and knowest not what it is to be defeated, woe unto thee; it will fare ill with thee. Find fault with thyself rather than with others. [Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616)]
I like this quotation.

6/14/2006

"Jonathan is handsome."

今日の授業の中で、例文が一つ「ジョナサンはハンサムです」と言った。ヤマサの先生は頭がとてもいいですよね!クラスの面白い女がこの文を読んだ。読んでから、僕は「ありがとう」と言った。女は見かえして、[練習です」と言った。「ワー!」と僕は言った。おかしかった!後で昼ごはんの時、僕はあの女に「冷たい心があります」と言った。僕らは笑った。

Today during class, we were practicing the use of grammatical particles using a worksheet. The worksheet contained a list of numbered sentences (whose particles we had to fill in) and we were going around the class reading them, a person at time. Number ten on the list of sentences—and I am not making this up—was 「ジョナサンさん(は)ハンサムです」, which means "Jonathan is handsome." Smart and observant teachers are what make Yamasa stand out.

So the person who reads this sentence is an interesting girl who, this week, is sitting two spots to my left. After she read it, I leaned forward, looked over at her, and thanked her. She coolly returned my glance and said 「練習です」, meaning "It's practice." Since 「練習です」 is what is generally said to highlight that what was just said was just said as practice, a better translation could be "It's just practice." Ouch! For a second, I thought she was serious too.

At lunch, as she stood at the microwave, I walked by her and said 「冷たい心があります」—that she had a cold heart. All in all, it was pretty funny and we had a good laugh.

6/13/2006

"Ageru," "morau," "kureru," and music ・ 「あげる」などと歌

This week (or was it Friday on last week), we began talking about some very heavy grammar: ageru, morau, and kureru, which are basically words of giving and receiving with inherent politeness attached to them. This grammar has something of a reputation for being a bit difficult to pick up. It's not that difficult, really, but it is fairly difficult to piece together sentences using these words in a timely manner. (Interesting note: You can use these words for the giving or receiving of actions as well (a sort of psuedo-nominalization, it seems), which is pretty cool but slightly awkward for the native English speaker, I think.) Practice, practice, practice. We have finished our textbook, though!

「あげる」と「まらう」と「くれる」の使い方はちょっと難しいと思う。丁寧語で文は時々長くなるね。僕の場合はいつもゆっくり思っているから、時々大変だ。しかし、先生はよく教えてくれた。今日親切なクラスメートはCDを貸してくれた。二週間の前、三河おっさんという友達は奈良へ連れて行ってくれた。美人は僕とまだデートをしてくれない。(大変だね!)

Also, at the moment, I've been listening to a couple of Koda Kumi songs ("Butterfly" and "Cutie Honey") and I really like the style of them. Ken Matsudaira's "Matsuken Samba III" is quite alluring too.

倖田來未の「Butterfly」と「キューティーハニー」という歌を聞いているけど、とても好きだ。松平健の「マツケンサンバ」という歌も好きだよ。

Afternoon delight

Today after class, after returning home for a little bit—did I just call it home?—I decided to clear my head by going for a bike ride in the area around Yamasa. It was pretty relaxing. Okazaki is a nice place to ride around.

今日授業が終わってから、ちょっと帰って、それから自転車にのった。岡崎で自転車に乗ることが楽しいと思う。僕はしずかなところが好きだよ。

Right now I'm at school just sitting around becaue I don't feel like being in my room at the moment. You know, I slept a good eight hours last night and felt tired today, but the day before I slept almost six hours and felt pretty good. So I'm thinking about my sleeping habits as well.

6/12/2006

Slow weekend ・ 週末とじゅぎょう

The weekend was slow. I barely did anything. Saturday evening, though, Mikawa Ossan and I hooked up for a joint study session at Yamasa. Of course, he's not a student but still did some dense reading. In time, he began schooling me on the finer details of writing. Being a couple of nerds, we had fun doing this. It seems that I have a talent for handwriting. I learned how to write in the way that doesn't immediately give me away as a foreigner. I still have a lot of practice to do, though. Making a good 「わ」, 「れ」, or 「ね」 is a bit difficult for me.

I can't believe only two weeks are left in this first quarter. The time has flown. I'm glad that it's been so enjoyable, though.

週末、僕は何もしなかった。土曜日「三河おっさん」という友達とヤマサで勉強した。三河おっさんは日本語がとても上手だから、日本語の書き方を教えてくれた。大切なポイントが多いと思う。面白くて、楽しかった。僕が書くことが上手だと三河おっさんは言った。本当?すごいよ!多分、絵を書くごとが好きだから。しかし、「わ」と「れ」と「ね」を上手に書くことがむずかしい。でも、今僕が書いて見るとき、もう少し日本人のスタイルらしくなると思う。(あの分、多分経ただね。ごめん。)

今日、イントネーションについて佐野先生は教えてくれた。日本語の発音は難しいと思う。でも、たくさん練習すると上手になるだろう。小柳津先生といろいろなトピックを勉強した。たとえば、行き方勉強した。「これから、まっすぐ行って、二つ目の新語を右へ曲がって、まっすぐ行って、四つ目のかどを左に曲がって、まっすぐ行くと左にあの場所がある。」大変だよね!なのに、がんばってた。

最近、モーニング娘。の「バスがくるまで」というビデオをコンピューターで見てる。地口がたくさんあるから、面白いと思う。たとえば、おばあちゃんというキャラが水が飲みたいとき、みみずをあげられた。「Water!」と言ったとき、綿をあげられた。(「あげられる」はいい?)

じゃあ、行かないと…。だから、また!

6/08/2006

Dinner with the class | 晩ご飯、クラスメートと先生と

This week has been increasingly difficult on me and it's starting to affect my performance at school. (Today's kanji class, for example, was my absolutely worst yet. I stunk up the place.) I've just been pretty frustrated with my performance recently. But today, everyone in my class, including Oyaizu-sensei, Sano-sensei, and Arai-sensei, went out to dinner at a restaurant in the nearby Aeon shopping center. I believe everyone in our class was class there, except for Tateishi-sensei, unfortunately.

I had a blast. It was very enjoyable and I feel very refreshed—much more so than I would have felt just sitting here in my room stewing, y' know? We spoke in just about nothing but Japanese the entire evening. Even though we're all at a really low level, we can communicate our thoughts surprisingly well, though making grammatically correct sentences is sometimes difficult.

I ate a lot because it was an all-you-can-eat restaurant. And I did just that. There were five plates in all. I tried to tell the sensei that tomorrow was Gakusei no Hi (Student's Day), a new national holiday, so there wouldn't be any school tomorrow. But I don't think they fell for it.

So from tomorrow, I think I'll feel refreshed.

I wish to add, too, that I'm listening to Final Fantasy 4's soundtrack. Ah, that takes me back (to, what, a year ago?).

今週はとても大変だと思う。ぜんぜんうれしくない。しかし、今日授業が終わってから、僕のクラスの学生と先生3人はレストランへ行った。僕が行かないと思ったけど、行った。

とても楽しかった。僕はたくさん食べた。(全部で皿が5枚あった。)みんながたくさん日本語で話した。友達はたくさん写真をとった。まったくよかった。

僕は先生に「明日は学生の日という祝日ですから、休みです」と下手に言った。残念だけど、先生は信じなかった。(先生はあたまがいいね。)だから、明日学校へ行く。実は授業が好きだから、いいと思う。

今、「ファイナルファンタジー4」というゲームの音楽を聞いている。有名なシリーズだね。一年前、初めてこのゲームで遊んだ。4~6が好きだよ。

じゃあ、おそくなったね。

6/07/2006

Test?! That was a bloody test?!

Today we recorded brief conversational skits. However, what I didn't realize was that these skits were a test—a speaking test. I was more concerned with production of the videos (though I didn't get to do most of what I really wanted to do), so I took a few takes to get things right. I wouldn't be surprised if this is my first F. Argh. I didn't even realize that it was a hanasu test! Oh well. ハクナマタタ。 I don't like group projects.

There's more to say, but I need to go to bed. Ja!

6/06/2006

Human—it's what's for dinner!

The other day, I think I freaked one of my sensei out a bit. We were divided into groups and told to write down as many Japanese foods as we could. My groupmates wrote on their worksheets, so I wrote one thing on mine: 「人肉」 (human meat). I didn't intend to show it publicly, but a groupmate brought it to Sano-sensei's, and subsequently, the class's attention. It was an amusing moment. Poor Sano-sensei looked really surprised.

この間、授業の中にみんなは日本のいろいろな食べ物を書いていた。グループメートが書いているから、僕は何も書かなかった。何もなかったから、僕は紙に「人肉」を書いた。プライベートなジョークだった。でもグループメートはさの先生に見せた。びっくりしたと思う。あのエベントはおかしかった!

Bad day ・ わるい日

Today was a pretty lousy day for me. I felt bad, I was off my game, and I was down in the dumps. It was terrible. I'm now alone in my classroom with my laptop. I'm going to stay here at school again today. I might stay until the school closes for the day, but I don't know when that is. This classroom is locked at 5 PM, but after that I'll head to one of the first-floor classrooms.

8:35 PM: I ended up staying there until 7:15. Unfortunately, as I typed all of this, the building's wireless connection went dead. It's happened before; thus, I think that they shut it off in the evening.

今日僕はぜんぜん元気じゃなかった。とても大変だった。時々そのままになる。授業が終わってから、早く帰って、それから学校へ勉強に行った。最近僕の勉強はわるいと思う。だから、もっと勉強が必要。今日7時15分まで学校の一階目の教室で勉強した。むずかしいけど、ギブアップしたいときは頑張るしかない。僕は自分を信じ方を学ぶことが必要だと思う。せっかちすぎるだね。今まで二ヶ月だけヤマサで勉強する。大丈夫だよ!これから授業が終わったとき、僕はヤマサでよく勉強する。(でも明日はちょっと…)

はい!将来へ!

6/05/2006

週末、奈良へ行った

週末僕は友達と奈良へ行った。初めて奈良の東大寺の大仏を見た。だっかかったんだよ!奈良は日本のれきしでとても大切だ。きれいで、しずかでした。鹿が多かった。母は鹿が好きだから、母が日本へ来るときいっしょに奈良へ行きたい。母が大好きだと思う。自転車を持つことがいいだ。

今日初めて吉野家で昼ごはんを食べた。自転車で行った。学校で「くれる」という言葉を勉強した。少し難しい。けどよくわたったと思う。とにかく勉強しないと…。

晩ご飯を食べることがいります。(はらへったんだぞ!)

Destination: Nara

This weekend, Mikawa Ossan and I rode to Nara city in Nara Prefecture, the first major seat of Japan's government, if I understood correctly. It was a good hour's drive away. I love driving through Japan's countryside. I'm not used to seeing so many mountains. Japan truly is indeed a beautiful land. On the way, Mikawa Ossan and I had a great conversation about language, how Japanese developed, and kanji efficiency as well. And I saw a Capcom office building.

When we arrived, we (finally) found a parking lot and began walking through Nara Park. Deer were everywhere, which was a surprise. (I couldn't help thinking about Shikamaru Nara from Naruto, as shika means "deer" and, of course, Nara was the city we were in. Shikamaru's a favorite character too, I'll add. But, clearly, I digress.) I petted a few of the deer and got some pictures. (Of course, I took my camera.) Oh, and third-year middle school students (almost universally in uniform) were everywhere because it was their third-year school trip. Sweet.

A highlight was Tōdai-ji, the home of Daibutsu, an enormous Buddha statue. Tōdai-ji is thought to be the largest wooden structure in the world. And it is big. And the Daibutsu within was staggering huge. Mikawa Ossan and I remarked that people today think too much of themselves and underestimate the people of old.

Since Wikipedia mentions this, I will too:

One of the supporting posts in the Great Buddha Hall has a hole that has been bored through the base (see photo below in "Additional Images" Section). Children try to pass through it and legend has it that if one can pass through it one will be blessed with enlightenment.


Mikawa Ossan had gone through this hole a few years ago. I wanted to try but there were a lot of people around and I felt pretty uneasy about it, especially with the Gaijin Attention Factor. After several minutes of watching some suprisingly large people slip through, goading on Mikawa Ossan's part, and indecision on my part, I finally decided to try. I handed Mikawa Ossan my camera and emptied my pockets and got in line. When it was my turned, I slipped both arms in and tried to slip through. And got stuck.

I struggled for several seconds to back out but I was stuck. I couldn't back out and sure as heck couldn't go forward. (At least, not without revealing my powers. Which I don't have. Not that I didn't try at the time.) I didn't want to be pulled out because I've had back surgery and I could just imagine the metal rods in my back snapping free. (Note: Yes, it's true. But the odds of that happening are undoubtedly miniscule.) Eventually, after a bit of writhing, I got out. "Dame desu yo!" I sheepishly said to the folks around. (That kind of means, "It's no good!") Ah well. At least I'd tried, right?

We continued on. Mikawa Ossan and I looked at some postcards. Some middle school girls approached the rotating rack of postcards from the other side. One of the girls asked Mikawa Ossan, in English (apparently, though we didn't really hear her), if she could turn the rack. Mikawa Ossan said "Daijoubu desu yo!" ("That's fine!") The girl was totally shocked. "Sugoi!" she cried. Honestly, I wish I'd answered her. I wanted that "sugoi," man. I like surprassing Japanese people's expectations like that. Well, my time is coming. (It probably won't happen here in Okazaki, though, Home of the Foreign Japanese Student.) We were both yelled at later on by another group of girls within a sea of middle school kids. It was about 10 seconds after they walked by us. "Hello!" they yelled. Good thing Mikawa Ossan turned back because it didn't even register that they were talking to us because they were already so far behind us. Hi! we said back. It's fun when kids do that.

However, back to the postcard rack. I walked back to the hole in the column. I wanted to try again but I wasn't sure that I could make it. Then Mikawa Ossan himself decided to try again! He shed his jacket and, sure enough, shimmied through with some effort. We're about the same size, too. When got up, I said, "Oh yeah. You think you're bad?" (I did this in the most bad-acting, stilted way I could, but it's hard to convey that here.) So I tried again, this time putting one arm through first. I was determined not to give up.

And got stuck.

I didn't get stuck nearly as bad as I did before, but I just didn't see how I could make it through and the thought of getting stuck was pretty unnerving. So I gave up.

I'll have another chance one day. Hopefully it won't be when I'm getting old and fat.

Believe it or not, though, there were features in Nara other than holes! I took a lot of pictures and I wish that I had them in front of me so that I could jog my memory about some of the details.

We entered a museum of historical artifacts (no photography allowed!) and saw, as I recall, the two largest taiko drums in existence. Gigantic drums. The drums were very, very old and dilapated so the museum also displayed replicas on the other side of the room. Gigantic drums.

After touring a few temples, we entered the main city area to find a bank and lunch. As we walked down the street, we came across a sudden glut of teenagers crowding the sidewalk. I believe I described the scene as "freaky." They were everywhere and clearly waiting for something which was I convinced myself was probably not the scent of gaijin blood on which to feast. Due to the events that happened next, I posted the following to JRef, a site that I visit for Japanese education, to a forum that I swear I never visit:

Say, does anyone know if Hyde was in Nara yesterday (Saturday) in the early afternoon?

As a friend and I walked down the street there, we found a gaggle of teens crowding the street. As we passed them, some J-Pop–looking guys were being pulled in by rickshaw, greeted by a chorus of cheers. We asked a shopkeeper down the street what was happening and she said that they were waiting for what sounded like "Haito." Perhaps it was Hyde.

I'm a bit curious, so I thought I'd ask. Thanks.


It took a bit of research by Mikawa Ossan and me to figure out that it might be Hyde. Searching "haito" and a few variations yielded nothing. So then, maybe I caught of a glimpse of some J-Pop guy. (At this point, there's been no answer after a day. I'm surprising the Hyde fans didn't jump all over this. If someone had said that they'd seen Coconuts Musume Ayaka, I'd scoop that up so quick. But once more I digress. And reveal things that ought be kept quiet. Alas.)

Mikawa Ossan and I ate a small cafe named Savas Café. I know this because I took a little paper with their name, information, and a map on it. It was a pleasant little place to eat. Soon after we left, I felt like I was missing something. Oh. I jogged back to the restaurant. "Kamera o wasuremashita!" I told the ladies there as I ran back upstairs to our table. I think you get the drift. Man, that's serious stuff.

Later on, we returned to Aichi, our home prefecture. We decided that we would watch a movie at Mikawa Ossan's apartment and I'd just spend the night there and go home on Sunday. So that's what we did. We got a couple of Red Baron pizzas and rented a little movie by the name of Shaolin Soccer. This movie is apparently very popular on this side of the world. I'd heard of the name but had no idea what it was about. It was great. Just great. We watched it with Japanese audio and subtitles with Mikawa Ossan patiently explaining what I couldn't understand (which was 90% of the dialogue). While watching it, I described it to Mikawa Ossan as soccer with Naruto-style jutsu. I'm no big soccer fan but that combination is a winner in my eyes. (Soccer with jutsu, man. And the protagonist is remarkably Rock Lee–like.) You should see it. And if you don't like it, you should find a short pier to take a long walk off of.

At Mikawa Ossan's place, I slept on a tatami mat for the first time too.

In the morning, we ran some errands and explored Anjo city a bit. When we got back into Okazaki, I stopped by Seiyu and bought a fan because it's getting really hot here, though it's surprisingly cool right now. (Perhaps it's the car-wash/precipation-chances effect at work.)

I didn't get any studying done this weekend, but I had a great time and learned a fair amount of Japanese and about Japan's history and culture. And I got to speak in plain-style (futsuu-kei) Japanese to Mikawa Ossan, which was fun. (三河おっさん、どうもありがとう! I know I'm forgetting something important, so feel free to chime in.)

Man. I did not intend to write this much. It's already 9 PM. I need to study, people! Do you know how many new vocabulary words we got today?! And we began studying "kureru" of all things! I need to be studying this stuff! Actually, right now, I'm wondering what I want to eat for dinner. I've been buying beef from Seiyu recently and making rice, beef, and veggie bowls. Not the most oishii (delicious), but it gets the job done.

Hope you enjoyed the read. I hope you can live with yourself knowing that you've ripped me away from so much of my precious study time.

Ja!

MISIA in the cool darkness

It's dark outside and here in my room. My window and door are both open and the cool air from outside is gently breezing through, tickling my bare feet. My freshly clean laundry hangs in front of the window's screen. I have my Samsung YP-U1 player hanging around my neck and, right now, it's playing MISIA's "Till the End of Time." Her voice carrying the beautiful melody from the lone piano is immensely soothing.

Right now, it's all good.

6/02/2006

Studying at school | 学校で勉強している

今、五時まで教室で一人で勉強している。僕はまだ話すことが下手だから。
From now until five, I'm studying alone in my classroom because my ability to speak is still weak.

残念だけど、もっと勉強しないと…。
It's disappointing. I need to study more.

それで、今日かなしくなった。
Because of this, I got kind of sad today.

ごめん。今、勉強することが必要だね。
Sorry, but now, I need to study.

6/01/2006

文法と茶道とビデオレターと南公園…

昨日と今日、学校で従属節を勉強した。すごく面白いけど、多分Mクラスで僕しかがそう思わない。「そんなに」という新しい言葉があった。昨夕、JRefというウェブサイトでこのトピックについての質問を訊いた。答えは面白いと思う。クラスは僕がもっと文法を勉強したいけど、そんなことを言ったら同期生が僕を殺したいだろう。

昨日初めて立石先生と茶道をした。そんなに難しくなかった。面白かった。僕はお茶を作ったけど、作ることが下手だった。今日三百円を払った。この間、みんなはビデオレターを作った。とても楽しかった。昨日DVDをもらった。両親はDVDが見たい。郵便局で両親にDVDを送るつもりだ。

あつくなっている。暑苦しくなっているよ!

今日の午後、漢字のクラスあった。このクラスも楽しくて、面白かった。久留高先生は面白い。日本の漢字が多いけど、システムあるだね。来週の木曜日小さいテストある。でも、大丈夫だ。

今朝、六時半に起きた。七時半に吉野家で朝食をとって、それから南公園で勉強した。人が少なかったから、静かだった。人を見た時に「おはようございます」と僕は言った。何人かは呆れたと思う。僕はそんなことが好きだ。立ち去る前に、おじさんはゆっくり多くなった。「どんな勉強ですか」と一人は訊いた。「漢字の練習です」と答えた。「漢字がたくさんあります」とあの一人が訊いた。「頑張って!」とあの一人は言った。「ありがとうございます!」と言った。おじさんはバードウォッチングをしに行った。一人は娘はアメリカのユタにいる。二回アメリカへ行った。八時四十八分に学校へ自転車で行った。

これから、宿題と勉強をするつもりだ。じゃ、みんな。誤りがたくさんあって、ごめん。