“spinning dizzily down”

2/19/11   –   15:13

So I’m back in Japan! Sorry for the belated postage, but the first few weeks were busy with registration, getting settled in the dorms, and more paperwork so there really wasn’t too much stuff to blog about, but now I’ve had sufficient time to gather random thoughts and events to patch together an entry. It’ll be mostly scatter-shot in nature so I felt it appropriate to have bullets. [Haw.]

– All the Japanese students are out on break until April so the CIE/campus is devoid of most of its native population. It’s a little 寂しい but Saori, Mai, Aji, and Sena make appearances every once in a while and it makes me happy. I brought them banana chips from the Philippines and they were elated. Win-win. [Plus a third win for the Philippines for having the best snacks]

– Getting back into speaking Japanese all the time was a little like trying to pedal on a rusty bike. All the mechanism is there but you just have to work a little bit to get it moving. I was surprised at how easy it was to slip back in though.

– I was trying to find the closest Japanese equivalent to “scruff” and came up with 無精髭 which refers to “the state of having facial hair because you’re too lazy to shave.” That’s about right, right?

– I contacted the Otsujis once I got back to Japan and I was like “zomg my trip was so fun I hope you’ve been doing well ★★★” and she responded with “oh that’s great! btw grandpa died and it’s been a pretty sad month for us here. Good luck with your classes, yeah?” which brought the mood down.  My condolonces, Otsuji family. :/ Moment of silence for おじいさん.

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– Classes have started and Level 7 is a bitch. Basically all we do is read excerpts from Japanese novels and read real articles from the newspaper x_x aka here’s all of the 漢字 that you can’t read. Learn all of them before your test which is… tomorrow. 頑張ります。 T.T

Being in level 7 is sort of motivating in that way, though. It’s like “here’s everything you don’t know and why don’t you know it. Do you even belong here?” Especially in my weakest areas aka speaking. The other kids in that class talk  so fluently that it makes my sentences sound broken and childish in comparison. It gives me goals, y’know.

~ ~ On a partially related linguistic tangent that’s completely okay for you not to read~ ~

So I guess my goals as far as Japanese is concerned can be boiled down to:

“The ability to render everything I see in Japanese into natural English and to a lesser degree of importance, rendering everything I see in English into intelligible Japanese.”

And this is pretty much the same goal for most learners of second [third/fourth/nth] languages. How one goes about processing things can be changed too though. A lot of teachers and textbooks I’ve encountered advocate trying to think in the language you’re trying to learn which I mean is fine and all but it’s overall more difficult.

My friend Minako, who is a native Japanese speaker and also speaks phenomenal English, had a different take on that though. She likened her brain to a computer processor. She thinks in Japanese but translates everything in her head into English before saying it. In this way, all she has to do is train her processor to work faster until the translation is both instantaneous and seamless. I think I like this method better.

Here’s a quote from “Filipino ng mga Filipino” by Virgilio something-or-other.

“Ang Neanderthal siyempre’y isip-Neanderthal. Posibleng matuto ito ng Ingles, magsulat ng kolum, at maging opisyal ng gobyerno…” [Google Books cuts off there]

“The Neanderthal will always think in Neanderthal. You can teach them English, how to write articles, and they can even become government officials…” but they will always think in Neanderthal. [or so the implication goes].

I think I’ve decided to adopt Minako’s stance as far as foreign language is concerned. My language abilities are strongest in English anyway and I just need to work on being able to transfer those into other languages. One of my Spanish teachers, after reviewing a lackluster set of papers from the class said[… in Spanish]:

” You all forget the one tool that you have in your arsenal: your mother tongue. You have the ability to express yourselves so beautifully in English. Just pull from that when you write in Spanish.”

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– It’s been snowing in the Kansai area. This is also my first time seeing snow actually fall from the sky. [Yay!] But yeah, impressions on my 初雪. I was walking to school really excited because stuff was falling all around me and it wasn’t rain and then I just thought it looked like a million people were washing their cars on a really windy day and the suds had gotten everywhere. They landed on my jacket and subsequently disappeared, just like suds. When i got to school it looked like I’d rolled around in one of those freezers you see that hold the ice cream at convenience stores, which I guess is a fair approximation of what I did. But yeah. It was nice, and there’s been more of it recently. The cold is more rewarding than Korea’s cold because I mean, if it’s going to be cold enough to snow, it might as well snow. At least snow is exciting. It makes the frostbite almost worth it. Also, if I can take Korea, I can take anything. The end.

– Snow also makes everything really pretty, incidentally. I was holding off on visiting 金閣寺 in Kyoto until it was covered in snow, so when I heard that it would be flurrying up there, I set out immediately. It wasn’t the 深々と降り積もっている雪 that I wanted, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

– Snow gives off a very japanese aesthetic, I feel. (See featured pic) The moment when a patch of snow falls off of a branch has its own fleeting beauty [the Japanese are quite fond of that]. At least until it falls on your head, which actually happened. And then it was cold and wet. :/

– 僕のスピーキングパートナーが誕生日プレゼントとして弁当箱を買ってくれた!すごく便利でよく使うんで、嬉しい^_^!毎日使うようにする。美香大好き!:D

– I bought a bike. It has a basket and a bell and it makes getting places really easy. One of these days I’m going to try biking to Kyoto or Osaka.

– Valentine’s Day came and went, lol. In Japan, the custom is a little different. On February 14th, girls bake things or make chocolates by hand and then give them to their target males 「本命チョコ」, friends 「友チョコ」, or themselves 「ごほうびチョコ」 [ahoo]. On March 14th, a month later, it’s the guys’ turn to give chocolate back. If they reciprocate the feelings, they reciprocate the chocolate. It’s a lot more cut and dry in Japan, I think, lol.

I got lots of 友チョコ on Valentine’s Day and it was pretty awesome considering I started with nothing and ended with a hand-made stegosaurus caramel. :P Time to gear up my confection…ist skills for next month.

– The featured song really makes me think of snowfall for some reason. Also, it was used in the trailer for Big Miracle, John Krasinski’s newest movieeeeeeee which I can’t watch because it’s not coming out in Japan for a while, I think. However, recently out in Japan is the movie adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close = 「ものすごくうるさくてあり得ないほど近い」. The book was spectacular. I am definitely going to watch this movie.

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