The first few days I was here, my long commute was exciting, but now it has become routine. It's not a hassle for me or anything, but the other people on the train are always so solemn and quiet that it can be a little discouraging. So today I put on my iPod Shuffle and it played Lady Gaga all the way to my destination. Needless to say, my trips today made me feel fabulous.
When we went to the elementary school, we had to take our shoes off and wear clean indoor slippers. We were introduced to the principal in Japanese and a few other people spoke to us. Then our classroom's children came to pick us up and bring us back to their class. Rachel and I were together to visit a 5th grade classroom, so we introduced ourselves and then answered a few questions from the kids in Japanese. It was a LOT harder than I would have thought; they phrased everything politely and often asked quickly and quietly. If we didn't understand, which happened frequently, there were 30 pairs of eyes focused on us. My favorite question was from a boy who said in Japanese, "I heard that in America, there are paper towels in every bathroom. Is this true?" :) In Japan, there generally are no paper towels because people use handkerchiefs. But what really gets me is when there is no soap, like in some train station bathrooms!
After that, the teacher asked us to draw a map of the US and talk about North Carolina in Japanese, so we did. I also drew Kansas, California, and Texas, and we labeled our hometowns in NC. One student asked if Chapel Hill had any famous foods and I said, "Burritos" and then described them. :) Another student asked about my favorite Japanese foods and I made a huge list. They asked if I hated any Japanese food and I said, "Natto." Everyone was shocked, haha. But natto is gross to me.
Rachel and I taught the class how to sing 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm' in English but we realized midway through that they had already heard/learned the song. Oh well, we tried. :) After that, we all practiced painting kanjis, like the shodo that we did last week. It was easier this time but I still messed up a bunch before I could get it somewhat right.
For lunch, the kids brought in carts full of food and various students served all of the others. I think they do that every day, and they just eat in their class. It was very cute and efficient! We had fried fish (a million times better than American school fried fish), veggies, miso soup, milk, and WATERMELON. Mmm, I ate Rachel's too because she doesn't like it. It seems like Japanese people only drink Vitamin D (whole) milk, which surprises me because it's so fattening. It's definitely the most delicious milk in my opinion, but most Japanese are so slim. Must be all the walking! I noticed in the shower today that my calves are getting super-muscular, definitely from walking all day. Not even counting the 80 minutes I walk roundtrip in my commute every day, I always spend hours walking on my adventures in malls, parks, and tourist districts. :)
The students had recess and showed us how they are learning to grow rice in their recess yard. It was really great! When we went inside, the kids all cleaned up everything. The girls asked me if we do this in the US, and I said that no, usually a janitor comes in after school and cleans. They were pretty surprised!
The girl on the far left in this picture is mute, so her friends always helped her say things. She could hear just fine, and her kanjis were beautiful. She was so cute!!
The kids were pretty wild during class but maybe they were just lively (genki!). I was struck by how much cooler and cuter they seemed than the kids in my American 5th grade class.
An English teacher came in and practiced the English names of fruits and animals with them. Her pronunciation wasn't too terribly English. ;) But it was a really fun thing to see. I was finally like, "I know the answer to this!!" But right as we were about to play an English game, Rachel and I had to go. :(
After we left the school, it was so hot that three friends and I decided to go to a traditional-looking Japanese bar. We couldn't exactly find one, so we just found a place with the kanji for osake on it and went in. It was air-conditioned and quiet!! So we had a great time. We couldn't read the menu so I just asked the waiter what he liked and got that. :D It ended up being tea with whiskey in it, or vice versa. Whatever it was, it was so good to drink on a hot day.
For the first time I felt a little lonely tonight. I get the feeling that my host brother doesn't like me anymore, but I'm not sure why that would be the case. It seems like he only talks to me when he wants me to go away or to use my Nintendo DS. Maybe it's all in my head. I'm missing some people at home, and some people at school are also getting to me. I think I need to hang out with more Japanese friends next week and study harder, and then I'll forget my troubles. :)
It's a good thing that the Nikko trip is tomorrow. I'm not bored by any means, but I could use a change of scenery just for a few days and this will be perfect. :)