Thursday, July 29, 2010

Allergy, Shinjuku glory times, Yuwa's house

Well, yesterday was a whirlwind for sure. I woke up with trouble breathing and rashes everywhere, so after freaking out a bit and calling a lot of people, I went by myself to an English-speaking doctor's office 40 minutes away (walking and train). I got really upset because I didn't know what was wrong and I was alone, so I cried on the way there and stuff. The doctor told me it was an allergic reaction, but we didn't know to what, and they gave me really expensive medicine that I couldn't afford. Also, the insurance I have doesn't repay me until I get back to America. So it was going to be like $185 but I only had $140, so I got half of the medicine instead. 

The only good thing about that morning was that the doctor's office was literally RIGHT next to the Tokyo Tower, which I saw on my first day in Tokyo. :) So here is the view from the door of the hospital.

Anyway, I probably should have rested after that, but I wanted to meet my friend Rika in Shinjuku. So I ate a quick, super-cheap ($3) lunch in Roppongi just to see what it looked like (not too interesting to me) and got a few calls from my worried parents. I wasn't feeling very good due to the rashes and such, but I felt better since the doctor told me it would be all right. 

Then I met Rika in Shinjuku, after playing phone-tag a lot because I got lost in the giant Shinjuku station. It was sooo hot, but we wandered around anyway. I really wanted to see the Tokyo Metropolitan building, but I couldn't remember what it was called in Japanese. So we went on a lot of wandering adventures and saw really awesome buildings. 

Here's Rika. A long time ago, she and I went to Ueno and Akihabara, and she taught me how to do purikura. She goes to Kanda University and parties in Roppongi a lot, usually for the entire night. :) Her birthday is next week, and she's turning 19!

I think I'll let the pictures speak for themselves for a little while. I really, really love Tokyo's architecture. It's amazing to me that these huge buildings can withstand big earthquakes.

This next building is called the Cocoon Tower. Rika said, "There's a Pokemon named Cocoon too, right?" Hahaha.

The next building is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building that I was hoping to see. There is a free observatory from the top of both towers, so we went there. I LOVED IT, although by that time the rashes on my feet were really starting to make walking difficult. The next few pictures are the views from the top!! On a clear day you can see Mt. Fuji, but it was a little hazy for us.

I loved this reflective building! As always, if you want to see a bigger version of my pictures, just click!

You can see a huge park in Shinjuku in this picture. How nice to have it in the middle of all that city.
Rika and I saw the world's cutest Japanese baby in the observatory, so I had to take a picture. :) He stared at me so much, haha. There were a lot of French-speaking people in the observatories.

Here is the view from one observatory towards the other. What a great building! It was so nice that the observatories were free.

I saw this bumper sticker and I really wanted to buy it, but was $20 and no way was I paying that, haha. 

By this point my heel rashes were hurting so much that I had partially taken off my shoes and socks just to walk around the observatory. Rika and I were going to go do purikura but then I got a rash on my face and I was feeling physically awful, so I asked to go home. Unfortunately it was the last time I will get to see her. :( 

But I went home, packed up all of my things, and tried to clean up my room. I really wanted to rest, but I only got a few minutes of rest before I had to leave to meet Yuwa at the Oji station. My host parents arrived home just before I was about to start my trek, and they offered to drive me to Oji. I'm so glad, because I would never have made it there on time and I certainly would have been in a lot of pain from carrying three huge bags with all the rashes. We got there early, so my host family and I ate McDonald's in the car. :) I got a chicken Aurora sandwich that was actually really good. Then we said goodbye until Sunday, when we will have dinner together. My host mom hugged me three times, which was the first time I had ever seen her hug someone. She also started to cry! I was sad to see that she was sad, but maybe it means they liked me. For a little while, I wasn't too sure, although they always treated me very, very kindly. I loved living with them!

Yuwa and I walked 15 minutes from the Oji station to her apartment, and the wheel on my carryon broke. :( So it was a little bit of a rough journey and I was totally worn out by the time I got there. I had just eaten and her mom offered me a lot of food, haha. We soon went to bed, after Yuwa and her mom watched their favorite drama. :) I was really exhausted so I couldn't understand any of the Japanese! 

This morning, I woke up at 11:30 because I needed a lot of sleep. It was raining so the apartment was nice and cool. They don't like air conditioning here. Yuwa's mom made me really good pasta for lunch! She was embarrassed because she couldn't find any spaghetti but it was so tasty. Look at all those veggies! And bacon, mmm.
After lunch, I went with Yuwa's mom to try to change some traveler's checks in to yen, which was successful. Then we walked a really long way to try to buy a new suitcase for me, but instead I found a metal luggage carrier for about $20 that will work just fine. The walk made me really tired and my knees/ankles were hurting so much, so I came back to the apartment and rested. Yuwa's mom and I ate the cake that Koki-kun's family gave me, it was quite good! Dinner tonight was also amazing. I took a long nap before it, and now I'm going to shower/bathe and go to bed. 

What a long two days it has been! Tomorrow I'm not sure where Yuwa and I are going, but we'll do something fun. Then on Saturday, we're drinking with Sachi's host mom again (hehe) and seeing the fireworks in Asakusa. On Sunday, Yuwa and I are going to Yokohama during the morning and afternoon, then eating dinner with my host family for the last time. On Monday, I leave for America. Crazy week ahead!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ikebukuro with Lori and her sister

I wasn't going to write a blog tonight because I'm too exhausted from all these 2am bedtimes, but I'll do it quick!

Today I went to Ikebukuro to meet up with my friend Lori from 2006 HOBY World Leadership Congress. We were roommates. :) She and her sister went shopping with me! Since I'm tired, I'll mainly just describe pictures.

On the way there, I couldn't help noticing in the station that nearly everyone was using their cell phone to text/surf the webs.

 Before Lori and her sister Eva got to Ikebukuro, I went into the basement of the Seibu department store and ate a lot of free samples. I took a video of one of the employees. This is what "IrrasshaimaseeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEE" sounds like, so you can see I was NOT exaggerating. :)

We walked to Sunshine City department complex, which was pretty neat.  We bought some clothes and earrings, and tried on sunglasses.

Yesss, look at that hat.

Very cute sisters.

Ikebukuro's Sunshine City mall.

One thing that was pretty funny was that we went into a plus-size store, but there were no fat people there. The clothes were definitely what a "small" would be at Wal-Mart (I remember getting frustrated at Wal-Mart as a kid because all the shirts were too wide and short for me). Here's a picture of a "happy price" shirt in the plus-size store, with a woman shopping there.

We then went to an underwear store and it was nearly impossible to find panties that would fit an American bootay like mine.

I guess we shopped til we dropped, although I didn't buy too many things. I was really tired and the girls had to go yukata shopping with their mom, so we parted and I went home. It was great to see them. Lori's Japanese was awesome! She's been learning it for a year and a half and is taking a month-long class here.

The view outside the Sunshine City mall:

For dinner, my host mom took me back to the Sushiro restaurant we went to on my first day in Japan. How fitting, because tonight is the last night I'll stay with them. I'm really sad! The sushi was great again. Now I'm at home and packing for Yuwa's house tomorrow. Before I go to the airport on Tuesday, I'll have to come back to the Moriyama's house to get my luggage, and we'll have dinner together on Monday. :) 

Dang, my Japan adventures are almost at an end. :( Tomorrow I will go with Rika to Shinjuku and see one of the tallest buildings. Hopefully I can see Mt Fuji from there (it is possible!). I'd better get to bed right now, then.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Daiba power!

So, today I woke up late and went off to Daiba, a really neat city within Tokyo with lots of history and new technology! It used to be an island obstruction built by the shogunate to keep out foreign ships. Now it has really awesome buildings and neat things to see. I had to take three different train lines on the way there: the Tozai line to Monzen-nakacho, the Oedo Line to Shiodome, and then the monorail to Daiba.

Here's a view of the the area next to Daiba. Unfortunately I realized halfway there that I left my camera battery at home, which meant my camera was just a hunk of metal and plastic with no worth to anyone that I had to drag around! I couldn't return home to get it. Oh well, Google images can attempt to show you the beauty. Click for full size!

The only way into the city was by monorail or car, so obviously I took the monorail. It was shakier than a regular train, which was scary on the epic but gorgeous bridge.

I was pretty upset that I left my camera battery at home, because the views all around the area from the bridge and before it were amazing. You could even see Tokyo Tower from right before the bridge! Without my camera, I honestly felt lost for a little while; I kept reaching into my bag for it and then realizing it was useless. Eventually I decided to grin and bear the situation, because it would mean I'd finally learn the worth of an experience even if I couldn't document it for the rest of the world to see, or for my own personal memories. Sometimes it's nice not to always be behind a camera lens, although that's my preferred position. :)

The main reason I went to Daiba, also known as Odaiba, was to see (and photograph, gah) the Fuji TV headquarters because that building's architecture really knocks my socks off. I had seen it from the highway one day when my school was taking a field trip, and I tried to take a picture but failed. But anyway, it's a neat place. I went up to the 25th floor (the sphere thing) and looked out the windows. Gorgeous view! There were tons of Japanese game shows going on in that building and I even saw some of them.

Right outside the building, there was a concert going on, with singers in hilarious clothes doing campy dance moves. A ton of kids were watching and cheering, and it was being recorded, probably live for tv. The song was really happy and the dances were so funny, so I had a great time watching it. Then one of the performers did a rap and I wished I could have videotaped it. Oh well, good memory.

I went to the Decks mall (6 floors of serious shopping) to eat lunch: gyoza and a really good ice cream sundae make from milk from Hokkaido cows. :) Here's a Google image of Decks.

In the Decks mall, there was a Sega amusement park for videogame lovers. I know some people who would have loved to go in there. :) It was called Joypolis and costs about as much as a regular theme park ($25-30) so I didn't go in. I only had a few hours in Odaiba before I had to return home.

Then I walked around and even saw a mini Statue of Liberty! Cool beans. By then I was getting a little tired, so I got on the monorail and headed back.

I stopped on the way home and bought cream cheese, capers, bread, and a present for someone back home. Those things, except for the present, were for dinner that I made for my host family tonight. I used the smoked salmon that my family gave to my host family (and my host family didn't know what to do with) and made smoked salmon sandwiches. I don't know if they liked them but I thought they were pretty good.

After that, I gave English lesson to the Koki-kun again, and it was a lot of fun. I feel like he made some progress! Too bad English is so hard. My host mom thinks it's easier than Spanish but I heartily disagree. We all agree that Chinese is the hardest, though. Anyway, I taught Koki-kun how to make plurals of words like box, class, dictionary, and leaf. I had forgotten how hard those were to learn when I was little! BoxES, classES, dictionarIES, and leaVES. Then we had some conversations that went like this:
"I like apples."
"Because they are delicious."
"Oh, I see."
"I don't like swimming."
"Why not?"
"Because I get tired."
"Oh, I see."
It was fun. :)  He was a great student, picking up pronunciation and grammar rules pretty fast. I was delighted when he asked me how to memorize a big list of vocab his teachers had given him to memorize over the summer break. I showed him my kanji flashcards and taught him how to make flashcards, and how you can study them easily on the train, or study one bundle on Monday, one on Tuesday, etc. until you learn them all.  He responded to most of my questions in Japanese so I had to prod him to speak English more. And I didn't have the heart to speak to him only in English, because I remember hating that when my Spanish teachers would speak to me only in Spanish and I'd understand almost none of what they were saying. I think it's better to use both at the beginning of language instruction, unless you're dealing with a 5-year-old or younger child who can pick up languages like candy and eat them.

We also practiced counting conversations, which went a lot like this:
"How many pens do you need?"
"I need eight pens."
"How many bags do you see?"
"I see four bags."
This probably sounds too easy to some English native speakers but it was a fairly difficult concept. It seems every more difficult when you consider how drastically the word order changes from Japanese to English.

Anyway, again it's 2am and I have yet to go to sleep. Time for BED BED BED. Tomorrow I'm going to Ikebukuro with Lori, my Taiwanese friend from the 2006 Hoby World Leadership Congress!! It's been so long since I've seen her and I'm so happy she can speak Japanese with me now (I don't know if she spoke it before, but I sure didn't).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

English lesson and relaxing. :)

Today was a really good day. I woke up at around 9am to go teach English lessons to the Moriyama's neighbor boy, Koki. It was a very nice apartment and a nice family. I hope Koki learned some English and I'm teaching him again tomorrow evening.

A picture of Koki. He's about 12 years old.

His family has an older sister and a very tiny, 2-month-old baby! He was really adorable. When he finally fell asleep, the other two children took pictures of him with their Nintendos, haha.

How cute! His mom was so nice. The sister was great too but she was too shy for pictures.

They invited me to stay for lunch and we all ate sushi. Then the mom cooked a dish with squid filled with rice that was actually sweet. I loved it.

I stayed at their house until 3, learning some Japanese, speaking some English, talking about America and Japan, and showing them my blog. They gave me some really yummy tea to take back to America. :)

When I got back to my host family's apartment (the next building over), I took a much-needed nap, then relaxed for the rest of the day. I did some packing after dinner, though; how sad.

At my house we had a great dinner. I wish I could take a picture of how it smelled!

A funny game show video:

The people were at a 100 yen store (~$1 store) and trying to figure out which things were 100 yen or not. This one guy, dressed as a woman, had a funny sound he makes when concentrating I guess. ;)