Saturday, July 14, 2012

What a Busy Day

Man oh man, my feet are tired from yesterday!  And I'm sure everyone else is too.  Yesterday, the whole group traveled to the heart of Kyoto to go look at some Temples on the eve of the eve of the Gion Matsuri festival.  A lot of these things are pretty dang impressive.  They're huge and insanely intricate, which for most people may not seem like a big deal, but you must remember that these things are centuries old.  I don't think I've ever seen structures so large in my life!  And this is not skyscraper large either.

One temple was halfway up the mountain and a pure water spring running underneath it.  Everyone who came to visit was required to take a drink of the pure water, and of course almost everyone in our group did.  Deer Park likes to brag about about perfect water, but I'd like to seem them drink the same crystal clear water that monks did centuries ago and stick by their claims.

To get to most of the temples and shrines, we had to pass through dozens of shops and stands in preparation for the festival.  For those of you anime nerd friends of mine, it probably was exactly what you expect.  For everyone else, imagine the sorts of tents and stands you see at street fairs.  Stores that sell trinkets (where admittedly every store sells the same thing) that make great gifts for dates or tourists, stands and stores with snacks and drinks everywhere (so much green tea ice cream!), and in the heart of the city, loads of games and even muscians.

Speaking of, there were people EVERYWHERE.  Later that night, the streets of Shoji were packed with people.  I don't know what a million people looks like, but I think I might have an idea now.  Ducking and weaving through the streets was enough of an ordeal that I'm surprised we didn't lose a single person on the way to our restaurant reservations.

And this restaurant was pretty cool too.  It was kinda set up like an old school Japanese restaurant with a big long table where everyone could sit.  We even had to take off our shoes to sit down.  Our sensei got a bunch of different foods for us to share and try and it was all delicious... even though sometimes it took forever to arrive.  They also had a giant section in the menu with American foods.  You haven't lived until you've eaten sashimi and french fries at the same time.  And the cocktail menu was pretty cool too.  I got a drink with, uh, blue stuff and Calpis in it (Calpis is not bovine urine, it is a milky soda here) and it was really good.  I think I'm gonna try and get some Calpis on its own now to try that.  My friend Laura got something that was kinda a lot like it, except hers came with a sparkler.  It goes without saying it got everyone at our table excited.

After dinner, I stopped by the arcade right quick to play a few rounds of Taiko no Tatsujin and Project Diva.  I never thought I get an opportunity to see that cabinet-- its only in Japan and other asian countries along with one random machine in a major San Fran arcade.  They also had those sweet Street Fighter IV cabinets and even a few for the new Persona 4 fighting game!  That was pretty sweet too.  Its not a huge arcade, but its pretty cool for being about 10 minutes away by subway and walking. I sorta goofed and almost missed the train when I lost track of time, but I got back safe and sound, albeit learning a lesson along the way (don't worry parents, it wasn't bad).  But hey, what is traveling to a foreign country if you don't get a little lost for even just a moment?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Random Thoughts After My First Day in Kyoto

So, I don't have any cool stories or anything to share yet, but I'll make up for that by noting some of my first thoughts upon arriving here, as I lay on my bed at 6 in the morning, waiting to go ahead and start getting ready for school.

  • Everything here is smaller than I expected it to be.  And not in a bad or strange way, its just all so very compact.  Big difference than the big buildings in Richmond which, comparatively, take up a lot of space.
  • We immediately began classes yesterday.  After a 14 hour flight and many struggles through customs, it was a bit overwhelming.  But I like it so far.  I'm learning, but I'm sure its very apparent that I am new to this language.  Very new.  Also, our teacher is awesome!  He's super friendly and really funny and really takes a hands on approach with us.  At times it feels like he might be going a little fast, but honestly, that just makes it easier to learn.  Now if only my brain would catch up from all that traveling.
  • Went to a 7-11 yesterday.  Totally not the same as American 7-11's.  For starters, no Slurpees (boo...) but its more like a restaurant/store than just a place to buy random crap like in the states.  Think kinda like Sheetz.  Just surprisingly a lot nicer.
  • It's been raining.  A lot.  It's supposed to stop in time for the Gion Matsuri festival coming up, but it still doesn't mean its not raining now.  Fortunately for me, this is my favorite kind of weather... and it's probably keeping it cooler than it really is right now too.  But it is still pretty hot right now too.
  • We met our host mom yesterday she's really nice and really helpful and friendly.  I feel a little awkward because there is a bit of a language gap right now, but I hope that in a few days, I can communicate most things with her without having to use as much English.  I'm still thinking too hard about some words and phrases and jumbling them up.  Ahh!  Plus, she's got another student here right now too, from Germany.  I tried to use my German skills, but my brain was still running a little slow at the moment.  I will probably try yelling at her in German again another time.   ...which sounds a lot worse than it really is.
So that's about the main gist of what I've been up to so far.  It's almost time to get started on my second day, and I'm ready to take it on by the horns!  Thanks a ton to everyone who's been supporting me and sending me well wishes up until the trip.  And those of you who threw little pro-tips my way, a lot of them are already coming in super handy.  Everyone here is super friendly and is ready to help!  It's gonna feel so weird when I go back to America where everybody hates everything all the time.

Aw shucks, now I'm getting all sentimental.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Greeting from Scenic... Dulles Airport

Howdy, people!  I was contemplating making a new blog for my trip (and I still may) but for the meantime, I'm just going to use my pre-existing blog.  Woo!

And for those of you who didn't already know, I am traveling to Japan for a month to study language and culture.

So yeah.  Um.  I don't have much to say right now.  Just chillin at the airport, eating some lemon pound cake, and waiting for the gate to open.  I can already taste the adventure!