Category: School Life


Pictures to come later, as Huong took them all and she’s currently on the bus.
So because it’s the last night for a great many people, I decided to set off sparklers in honor of the end of a tough semester. So I invited everyone I could think of and we set up a candle behind AP House 2. There’s a giant patio for the smoking area out there that was perfect for fireworks.

Unfortunately, the wind wouldn’t cooperate. Those sparklers that did light, didn’t stay lit for very long. So we got through about eighty of them (they only last fifteen seconds even when they’re lit properly–dollar store fireworks, whaddaya expect? :P) and then Lee said “Hey, there’s less wind out in front of AP House, let’s go there.”

Now, get this. We’d been lighting sparklers for a full forty minutes out BEHIND AP House 2 and not one person said anything. Not even five minutes after we’d lit the sparklers in FRONT of AP House, though, a little woman in a suit came bustling out and said quite firmly, “DAME YO!” (THAT’S BAD!) “You can’t do that here!” So Lee asks, “Doko ga ii desu ka?” (Where is good?) and she turned to face him and just went with quite an attitude “Do you WANT to go to office?” In English. I think she may have thought he was being sarcastic, as he has a heavy accent when he uses Japanese. “You can’t use those here or anywhere around here.”

“I didn’t see a rule about that.” I mentioned casually, because I am a nerd and had perused the rules beforehand, “Only about fire indoors.”

“No! It is a rule. You cannot use them. Only fire is allowed in smoking areas, but even there you cannot use those.”

Fun-killers. You know what I think? I think it wasn’t so much the dangerous sparks or open flames that pissed them off: it was the fact that we didn’t have a sign-in sheet or sixteen seals from the Security Office. 😛

Anyway, we got a good ninety of ’em or so lit, so I’m happy. Here’s to the end of a wonderful semester!

Credit for this image goes to whoever originally took it; I just wandered through Google until I found one I liked. And there’s no link that isn’t sixteen million characters long, so…

So today has now more or less ended, and the semester is practically over. I just have final exams on Thursday, Friday, and Monday and then… I go to Tokyo. It’s hard to believe how fast it’s gone, really. I know everyone told me it would, and I know that trips always seem to speed by in retrospect, but I swear this trip went by faster than light. So, to commemorate it and to look back, here’s a review of my favorite pictures and places in Japan that I’ve been to, and the people I’ve met:

 

 

This is far from an exhaustive collection, but it’s got a bit of everything. Even GASP pictures of me. I know right?

 

I will never forget this place or these people. Thank you, APU.

I know, I know, le GASP. Today was the Kokura Field Trip run by AP House. As before, allow me to borrow a map for you to see:

The trip takes about two and a half hours by bus, counting a fifteen minute stop in the middle of the trip. AP House runs these trips twice or three times a semester, and offers extreme discounts to residents. For this one, the full price just for the bus fare and lunch would have been over 7000 yen–residents of AP House only pay 3000.

We were supposed to go visit a natural national landmark, an ancient cave, but because of typhoon season it flooded and we had to change plans. So, we went to one of the largest shopping centers in Kokura, also the home of the popular broadcast station for NHK Kyushu (Japan’s leading news and entertainment channels). Have a look:

We also stopped by Kokura Castle and its various surrounding monuments, temples, and to’rii (red gates).

After that, we went and had lunch at a hotel buffet, which was delicious. They had foods from all over the world. America’s? Fries and chicken tenders, of course. 😛 They also had a chocolate fountain, pizza (which was NOT pizza, though it almost could fool someone who wasn’t, well, raised in the pizza capital of the world), and roast pork. And many other types of food from Europe and South America; surprisingly, very little in the way of Japanese food (though of course rice was present and miso soup).

This is only one of two counters. The other one was too crowded for me to get a picture, though that was the one with all of the hot foods.

Finally, the best part of the trip had come. Travel to Mojiko Historic District in Kokura. There are many historic buildings in Kokura, but the Moji district is the largest collection of various Meiji-era structures. For those who don’t know, the Meiji era of Japan took place in the early 20th century and was marked by Japan’s sudden obsession with Westernization. Here are some of the many, many pictures I took of this district:

To end our little tale, how about a bit of a funny story? When the bus pulled over to drop us all off, everyone started heading towards the ferry. Even though it was pouring rain and I could tell just looking at this thing that the rough waves and rain would make it impossible to see anything at all. So, I decided to screw ‘mandatory’ boat rides and go wandering around Moji. I got some amazing photographs, went to the top of the observation tower (31 stories up!), and got so completely soaked that I squelched when I walked.

Anyway, that was great buuut *dun dun DUUUUN* I was found in one of the gift stores (dripping wet and grinning my head off at ‘fugu (blowfish) cookies’) and lectured soundly for not going on the mandatory ferry trip. So I shrugged and apologized and then launched into everything I did during the ferry trip… and instead of getting angrier or lecturing me more, she just went, “Man. We couldn’t see anything from the ferry! You probably made a good choice.” Then looked horrified that she’d *GASP* advocated rule breaking!

This was a good day.

America’s Birthday!

So I meant to update this on the actual fourth of July and it ended up slipping my mind. Oh well. The party was awesome! Everyone brought such good food and we had about fifteen people or so (we rented the AP House 2 Kitchen; it’s stocked with all sorts of expensive equipment). I also found sparklers (at The Daiso, of all places–I KNOW you can’t buy fireworks at most American dollar stores).

We had a true “American” meal–cheeseburgers, popcorn, nachos, chicken soup, candy bars, freedom fries, grilled cheese, and chocolate-dipped Oreos–and we all got /so sick/ but it was worth it. Word to the wise: if you’ve been eating wholesome healthy Japanese food for two months, don’t all of a sudden eat nothing but junk for three hours. Your body doesn’t appreciate it. xD

Photo taken by Sanna Zhao: http://kurozone.wordpress.com/

 

 

When I woke up this morning the only thing I was concerned about was getting to my two midterms on time. The first one went off without a hitch, even though it was eight in the morning and everyone was kind of blearily wandering around the corridors mumbling “Who in the nine hells planned an exam at this hour??” (this is college–any hour before eleven is ungodly)

But I should have known better. Of course the entire nation of Japan would conspire to laugh hilariously at whatever plans I’d made to celebrate a non-national holiday. For you see, today was the group shopping trip to Hirose for the Fourth of July Party.

I say was. This is because there has been a LANDSLIDE over the ONLY road leading off this godforsaken mountain! This is because it’s typhoon season and it’s been raining nonstop for days. Because of this, classes were canceled from third period onwards (Many APU students live in Beppu and so wouldn’t be able to come up to the school).

So okay, there’s more than one road leading off the mountain–the other one is just much more wandering and kinda loops around Beppu rather than going straight into the city. Here’s the strange, kind of unbelievable thing: Oita Kotsu has apologized, easily SIX TIMES, for the inconvenience and is offering free bus passes to anyone needing to get back to Beppu today (though, only to limited stops, and of course the trip takes a LOT longer than it usually would). I mean, hullo? Act of God, anyone?

If you don’t live in Beppu you’re not supposed to use the bus. So I guess unless they get this landslide cleared up soon, I’m going to just have to go to Hirose tomorrow and hope I get back in time.

Laugh away, Japan. Laugh away. PATRIOTISM SHALL NOT BE THWARTED! xD

In any case, after hearing that news, I then proceeded to learn that my air conditioning is broken and that I still have to present on Thursday even though my class was canceled. -Sigh-

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~

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)

 

I’ve been practically wiped off my feet by a nasty bout of acute rhinovirus, bronchitis, and ear infections. Note to all: Don’t use the hand towel hung in each bathroom. Those things are germ sponges.

Anyway. If you get sick at APU, you go to the Health Clinic and Guidance Center. This is a tiny place tucked into the wall on the right side of the Career Office (in building A–the one under the right-hand clock tower [fountain-side]). If you’re not confident in your Japanese, you can speak English, but it’s polite to ask first. The VERY first thing they’ll have you do is take your own temperature. As you’re doing this, the nurse will ask you a bunch of questions and help you fill out some forms (this is JAPAN, people, they have forms FOR their forms).

If your temperature is above 37 degrees Celsius, you will be told to go to the hospital. This is normal–“hospital” really refers to a large, general-health clinic in downtown Beppu. From there you will be directed to the proper place. I was sent to an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist).

The experience was highly interesting. You’re given a ‘walk in slip’ when you get to the specialist (DO bring your dictionary, the nurses don’t speak much English even though the doctor does), that gives you a range for your appointment. Mine was 14:15-14:30. You had better be in the clinic by 14:15, if that’s what your slip says. If you are not there, they move on to the next person.

Now, at this place, I got my sinuses irrigated and a three-minute session with some sort of extremely powerful decongestant inhaler. Also, the doctor showed me the bacteria in my snot via electron microscope. Rather… different from American doctors. If you have health care insurance, you pay only a fraction of the cost of medicine and treatment–there is no copay for appointments and the city controls all health care–so, for mine, I paid 500 JPY for four types of drugs and 1600 for the two treatments I received. Very reasonable. Once a year, you pay a fee for your insurance that is based on how much money you make, but past that, almost 90% of costs are covered.

All in all, not a fun experience, but certainly educational. I have never been subjected to the horrors of government-run healthcare before. It didn’t seem like a vast, anarchist hellscape of misery and despair. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough. 😛

No pictures today. I’m about ready to fall over.

 

I won’t apologize for not posting in a while–you wouldn’t have wanted me to, I promise. Basically my days have been going by like this: school, shopping, school, homework, wandering, school, more homework.

But now I have a story to tell. This is the story of the Clueless American and the Ways of the Japanese Hotel System. You see, the quarter break is coming up fast (a whole week of no speaking or kanji tests! Whee!), and I’ve planned a little excursion to Kyoto and Tokyo. Whilst I am staying in Kyoto, I decided to try that purely Japanese experience: the capsule hotel.

Here is what it looks like, basically:

These hotels have been around since the late 1970s, but never really made it outside of Japan. Though they are geared more towards salarymen kept out to obscene hours of the morning by bosses (in Japan, business relationships often include long nights spent drinking with coworkers at bars), I’ve always wanted to try one. Plus, they’re cheap.

Which brings me to my slightly funny story. I’m not sure why this is so, but I discovered that when you make a reservation for 9 Hours (this is a famous capsule hotel in Kyoto, the one pictured above), you pay almost twice as much if you make the reservation in English. Here’s what happened. I went onto the website and clicked “Reservations.” Curiosity led me to click “Japanese reservations” (of course, written in kanji) instead of “Reservations in English.” I filled out the forms and chose my dates and got to the end page… and it said 2500 JPY per night. That’s about 28 USD, which for a hotel in the heart of Kyoto is practically unheard of. Particularly since most capsule hotels do not allow women–9 Hours has separate elevators and floors for women–and since most of them charge by the hour.

Of course, I was thrilled, but wanted to be absolutely certain that I hadn’t done anything wrong. So I went back and followed through the steps via the English reservations… but much to my surpreese (if you recognized that reference, congratulations, you have no life. =D), the price had suddenly jumped from 2500 JPY to 4900 JPY per night. Well! I at first was a little mad. But then I decided to go back through the Japanese language reservation and see what was up with this change in price.

Surprise surprise: the hotel is attempting to draw local people from the surrounding prefectures, so if you can understand Japanese and get online, you get the special “Internet Price” of 2500 JPY per night (except weekends, where it’s 2800). The normal price for everyone IS 4900–the hotel just hasn’t bothered to offer this to English speakers because they don’t get enough business from travelers from outside of Japan to make the effort worthwhile.

I sent an e-mail, wondering, and got back a very nice, lengthy reply that explained how few English speakers ever come to 9 Hours (I sent the e-mail in Japanese of course).

In any case, I cut the price I would have paid in half. Thaaank you, Japanese classes! Whoo.

Karate and Ramen.

Aaah… could this day get any better? I had my very first, ever, karate lesson today. And then I went out to lunch at YouMe Town and tried the famous tonkatsu ramen, which was so amazingly good (though, LOTS of noodles). Never thought I’D be liking soup, but there you have it.

I’m a bit sore from three hours of karate, but it was well worth it and I will definitely be returning. I learned to walk, today.

 

This may not… seem like the most terribly exciting thing, but it’s absolutely essential to karate. When I told Sensei that I was level zero (lit: Never studied before), he clapped his hands and more or less said, “Goody! You’re ahead of the curve since I don’t have to retrain you.” So he taught me to walk.

Let me ask you something. When you walk, do you think about it? Do you plan each step, feel what muscles you’re using to achieve this end? The answer is most likely, no.

So. Three hours of karate drills. I learned not only how to walk, but how to block, punch, and kick. Of course, right now, I suck at all of those. But ‘s okay! I’ll learn. But as you can imagine, I’m exhausted, so… no pictures today. I’m. Going. To. Sleep. G’night!