Archive for June, 2012


Love and respect to Dr. Suess. I own nothing.

In any case, the reason for today’s post’s title is, simply, Vietnamese Week.

“But Ven,” you’ll say, “What does a children’s story have to do with Vietnamese Week?” And I’ll pat you on the head and show you this photo and you will understand:

This isn’t actually at APU and credit goes to whoever took the picture, but these are the same shirts sold at the Co-Op for 500 yen each. The campus was swamped in red for the last week, and the shirts sold out just about every day. I did not buy one, as I am a joyless miser who doesn’t support nationalistic things (I don’t even have a flag T-shirt for AMERICA, why would I buy one for Vietnam?). Anyway. So that’s Vietnamese week. As with Chinese week, there was an odd invasion of school spirit, random dances in front of the fountain, a flash mob of free hugs (which they ANNOUNCED to the WHOLE SCHOOL days before it happened, which kind of… misses the point of a flash mob), and lots of Vietnamese food.

Like Bánh rán.


This picture belongs to Gastronomy; we made these in AP House 2, but I forgot my camera. Looks good, right? Haha… well… the outside is a rice-flour paste, you know, that really sticky stuff that kind of resembles Silly Putty (only stickier) before it’s cooked. The inside is a combination of sugar, mung bean paste, and jasmine extract (you can add other things as well; we did, though I have no idea what). You pinch a bit of the filling in your hand, drop it on top of a flattened ball of the rice paste, and roll it into a ball shape. Then you cover the uncooked balls in sesame seeds and fry. Om nom nom. Don’t let the smell of the raw filling deter you.

The Vietnamese Grand Show wasn’t quite as flashy as the Chinese Week one, but it was interesting and well worth a watch nonetheless. You can find it on Ustream here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/23480748

The actual start of the show is at 13:40. Someone had Dreamweaver and wasn’t afraid to use it–before that, it’s just the introduction and a recap of the week’s events. Again, this show is well worth a watch, if you have the time for it. Our students and staff work very hard on these performances, and the quality of them cannot be denied. You have the added bonus of this show mostly being in English!

That’s all for today. I’ll see you all in July~

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So APU is well-known for its international events and community… you know, our student base comes from 89 countries! Amazing. Anyway. To honor this love of international culture and exchange, APU hosts a full month of International Weeks every semester. During these weeks, special foods, shows, and events all take place based around whatever culture is being showcased for that week.

The first was Chinese Week. People wandered around in special shirts, made from imitation silk, that look just like traditional Chinese shirts. There were shows in front of the fountain and special foods sold in the cafeteria. And, best of all, at the end of the week there was the Chinese Grand Show in Millennium Hall.

You can watch the show here:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/23324880

Yes, this was a big deal. Skip ahead to 4:30 for the actual start of the show.

The basic plot is a Chinese myth, where two people meet and fall in love. But their marriage is forbidden, so they elope. They are then killed for their ‘treachery’ and their son barely escapes, unable to find anyone to take him in. He sees many interesting and strange things in the city he finds, and eventually takes up swordsmanship with a prestigious teacher. He grows up to be a great fighter and vows to take vengeance on the one who killed his parents. He finds out that his mother is waiting for him on the other side of the Underworld and then vows to free her as well. Sound familiar? Well, China did this plot first. This myth goes back even farther than their writing system does, and that’s at least eight hundred years old…

It’s a very interesting show, because this myth is interspersed with all sorts of fun little extras. Namely the dances and the fashion show. Altogether it was a very interesting show and I greatly recommend watching it. (if you absolutely need a translation, I can make one, just comment and ask)

 

…-sigh- Well, I guess all good things must come to an end. That’s right… Quarter Break’s over. My lovely, lovely trip to Kyoto and Osaka has ended. And now, I’m back among the mountain people.

Don’t get me wrong; Beppu’s a lovely town and the people are wonderful here. It’s just that once you’ve gotten a taste of the big cities of Japan, those places with 1200 years of history and 36-story department stores, you begin to realize what the average Japanese means when they say “Oh, Beppu’s just a small rural town.”

We took the ferry, the only ferry, that leaves every few days out of Beppu and takes a leisurely thirteen hours to get to Osaka. Fare is pretty cheap on the lowest class, and if you have a Co-Op card, you can get one round-trip ticket and one one-day pass to Universal Studios Japan for 16900 JPY. Of course, be prepared for the Japanese lower class, which is known as the “Tourist” class. Your life vest IS your pillow. You share your room with up to 35 strangers, and you have a two foot by six foot rectangle of floor to call your own. If you’re lucky, you can stow your luggage on the overhead shelf. Now, luckily, most of the time, your room will not be full. You can steal any unoccupied beds’ mattress pads (they make APU’s mattresses look like fluffy soft things). On this ferry, there is a restaurant, but it’s expensive and the food is not good. So, stop by the Family Mart before you board and grab a bento box to eat later. Do not buy anything from the hot vending machine. Don’t do it. Seriously. Don’t.

Once you get off the ferry, you will be in one of the main stations of Osaka. From here, you can catch either the subway or the train and find your hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Mikado near Shin-Imamiya station. This is a popular place for college students, as it’s 2100 JPY a night and air conditioned, with deadbolts and without bedbugs. I was happy.

Here is a ‘Western-Style Room’ at the Mikado.

Hey, for 2100 JPY a night? This is niiiiice. Trust me. Hotel Mikado’s even got a non-smoking floor, so my room didn’t stink. The only things you can’t see in this picture are the small TV and refrigerator that are on that black shelf to the left of the doorway. All in all, when you’re on a budget, it’s perfect.

The first day, we just went shopping in Osaka and wandered around the more famous districts, those being DenDen Town (an electronics wonderland) and Doutonburi (shopping and nightlife district–dress to impress) and American Town (Not very American. But, an honorable attempt):

The second day, we hopped on the JR express line for Kyoto. It’s 590 JPY one-way; make sure to buy all your tickets in Osaka, or you won’t get the discount. Kyoto is by far my favorite city in Japan that I’ve visited so far. Everywhere you go, there are shrines and sacred gardens and beautiful scenery. This coexists with some of the most modern architecture in the world. Truly, a beautiful sight:

After a whole day in Kyoto, we had the lamest nomikai (drinking party) ever (yet, somehow, it was still a lot of fun) back at the hotel and collapsed in our rooms. And then Monday, we went to USJ.

Now, I love theme parks. So I may be biased. But USJ was awesome. It’s a pretty small park, but that’s okay since the hours are weird (10 AM – 6 PM) and you only get one day pass with your ferry fare. And hell, they had L’Arc~en~Ciel synced to a roller coaster. Oh yeah, that was possibly the most awesome coaster I’ve ever been on. Here’s a few pictures (Gee, I took a lot this time, huh?):

Why, yes, that IS a Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company. …in Japan… Yeah we were (o_O) too. But, we DID eat there, and it was amazingly delicious. Amazingly. Especially the gigantic cookie sundaes. Nom. Those were apparently designed to each serve four people or so. Our party was five people. We ordered four of them. Somehow, nothing was left over… we freaked our waitress out with that stunt, poor thing…

In any case, the trip was so amazingly lovely. I definitely want to return to Kansai at some point.

INSIDER TIP: When in Kyoto, find a bike station and rent a bike for the day. It’s much faster than the trains and you can literally park them ANYWHERE where it makes sense to, since the locks are built into the tires. Plus, it’s 1000 JPY for 24 hours. Not bad at all.

…And about the title to this blog. Blame Ashley. Um… she started calling us all “yamajin” (mountain people) because APU is on top of a mountain and well… the name stuck. ^_^;