Work Hard, Play Hard

It’s a pretty daunting task when you do so many things and don’t have the time, energy, or motivation to keep on top of blogging about it all, and it gets backed up like this.  But it’s time for me to tackle this task and let you know how fun the beginning of my school year has been!
I have done far too many things to blog about it all, but I have pictures to share for some experiences, so I suppose those ones will be the lucky winners!
I moved in by simply piling all of my things into whatever bags, boxes, and containers I could find, and making trip after trip between Dialogue House and Global House.  I then met all of my unit mates and got myself settled in.  We had a welcome meeting and later that night we had a sort of welcome party in one of the guys’ rooms, where I was able to meet a lot of people and get to know them better.  At one point, I was conducting one of the oh, so repetitive “Remind me your name again?  And where you’re from?” conversations when I received a shocking reply: “I’m Lou, I’m from France.  You’re Alysse, from California.”
“Wait… how did you know that?”
“I read your blog.”
So, this little page reached France!  And, I found out later, it also reached the Philippines and various states in America.
Over the next week or so we still didn’t have classes, but were kept very busy.
In a nutshell, the end of summer/beginning of the term went a little bit like this:

Hey, let’s all wake up early and go to orientation after orientation, and then let’s all be shoved into a church that has no air conditioning when it’s about 31 degrees outside, and bake an Alysse cake.  Oh, and then Mariko can take a picture of this Alysse cake, so that Alysse can steal it and put it on her blog.  And then, let’s do some more orientations, and some more, and then let’s all sign up for classes.  How about, instead of signing up online or visiting a room to do so, we all fill out a mandatory pretend schedule at home, and then go to one building to print it out, and then go to another building to get it reviewed and signed, and then go to another building to make it official?  Sounds good to me.  Then, let’s start classes the next day.  Let’s also start initiation week the next day, because half of the student body insists that it is supposed to start on the first day of classes, and the other half insists that it is supposed to start Monday.  Then, let’s enjoy sitting in our first class of the year, wearing makeup solely for the purpose of looking ridiculous, and see that only my dorm has succumbed to beginning initiation this week.  Let’s also wear our giant bow and heavy makeup all day, and experience another class for four hours during which the two professors can’t seem to figure out how to conduct the class, and teach me all about how to navigate the train systems in Tokyo, which I know about already, after two months of practice, and end the course with a quiz that includes the question about the exchange rate between USD and JPY, even though I can count at least seven people sitting near me who are from places outside of America and Japan.  Then, let’s conclude our first day of class and decide that it has been a great way to start the year, after all.
Well, maybe that wasn’t so much in a nutshell.
After starting classes, I was able to get back into the swing of things pretty well, because I had only been out of classes for about two and a half weeks.  For a week, every night during the end of Summer and ending on that first day of classes, Global House as a dorm hosted a little meet and greet (called a tsukimi) for a different dorm, with food, drink, introductions, and games.  We played one game in particular multiple times, and I speak for most people when I say it rocked.
We all get into a big circle and make sure there is an odd number of us.  We start out in a pair with the person next to us, with one person in the middle of the circle.  Whoever is in the middle calls out an attribute (“wearing blue,” “Japanese person,” “knows more than two languages,” etc.) and then whoever it applies to has to leave their partner and find a new one.  This means that the people who were partnered with them also have to find a new partner.  The person who was in the middle also finds a partner.  The last person without a partner is now the new middle person.  If you are in the middle three times, you have to do something embarrassing (we saw a Beyonce impression, some dancing, a strange Japanese chant, some singing, and a pick-up-the-first-girl-who-comes-up-thingy).  What is so fun about this game is the way everyone suddenly morphs into a wild animal, latching onto the first person they can find and dragging them with them back to the circle to affirm their safety, accompanied by screams of “mine!” and “you!” from every which way.  Then, when everyone has stepped back to see who the odd man out was, an occasional change of heart would cause someone to abandon their partner and save them from the doom of the middle.  This change of heart often times occurred in chains, with one person leaving their partner for someone else whose partner had left them.  At one point, I had to abandon poor Mariko for Erin (it was very intense in the moment… so just go along with it).
So, with orientations, classes, tsukimis, dressing as a ganguro, outings to get closer to my new Global House family as well as to stay in touch with the friends I had from Summer, and everything in between, I was busy.

Miranda, Misa, Me, Mariko.

Somewhere in there, Mariko, Miranda, Misa, and I made a big dinner for ourselves.  Emi and Olivia joined later.  Misa made some sort of delicious pasta and salad, Miranda made basil pasta and french fries, I made smoothies, and Mariko made blondies.  Ever since that day I have been known for my smoothies.  Apparently I am not conceited, and I truly am as good at making smoothies as I thought I was.  We brought all of our food down to tsuru (the downstairs common area) and enjoyed dinner as people started joining us, bringing their own meals, tea, etc.

On Thursday Global House had our initiation performance.  The guys danced (lamely) to “Choo Choo Train”by Exile, the girls to the beginning of “Womanizer,” by Brittney Spears, and then the whole dorm danced the “Macarena,” by who the heck knows.  You can’t hear the music in the video, but I promise it was there.  You can spot me in the front row, second from the left, in a green skirt and a big white bow.  I didn’t take the video, being as I was dancing, so don’t blame me for the quality.

I know I promised more outfit photos/blog posts about initiation week, but with all the commotion trying to learn the dance, keep up with our obligations, and not having known when the darn thing started in the first place, I didn’t get the chance to get anything for my “costume” until the last day, so here are some pictures to make up for it:

Scary, I know. Moving on!
The next day, Friday, we had a Global House izakaya trip.  About 35 of us went, and the whole night consisted of a lot of hanging out, talking, floating around to talk with different people, a couple of overzealous drinkers (I suppose this really is college, after all), and fun of various sorts.  Amidst all the fun, there was almost always a picture being taken by someone.

Evan (he’s from Florida, but he is a 4 year student here), Becci, and me.

I ordered some sort of yogurt mango drink, and I had to shake it to absorb the yogurt and mix in the mango chunks, but it felt awkward, as you can clearly see.
I also look quite awkward shaking a bag of french fries (to mix in the salt – a thing called “Shaka” in Japan).  I don’t think I had the ability to shake with just one hand.
The next day, I met up with Shiho (FINALLY!) in Kamakura.  Kamakura is an area known mostly for its numerous temples and shrines, and for Daibutsu.  I didn’t get there until about 3:00pm, and temples and shrines all close at 5, so we only got to see one, but it reminded me very much of Kyoto (yes, I am still working on those posts).  I asked Shiho what this temple was called, but after she said it three times I decided to just call it the complicatedly-named-temple.

There was a wedding ceremony going on, and the bride’s kimono was absolutely stunning.  Unfortunately, my camera didn’t pick it up very well.

Shiho and I each drew a fortune (something you can do at every temple).

I had been wondering what these places were, and Shiho explained that, if someone draws a bad fortune, they can tie it onto this fence and hide it away, to attempt to undo it

We were both really hungry so we stopped for something to eat.

And then we visited the daibutsu.  Daibutsu means “big Buddha” in Japanese.  This Buddha was built out of bronze in the fifteenth century.  I was in awe standing at the base looking up at it.  It’s a really humbling sight.

After daibutsu Shiho and I parted ways, but we plan to meet up again soon.
Sunday, I headed out to see the Imperial Palace with some of my friends, because we were required to for our Contemporary Japan class.  I will make a separate blog post about that once I gather all of the pictures.
Also, two events that I forget the dates to occurred that are worth mentioning.  First, a television program called Zip came to Global House to record a segment on the role that pictures play in different cultures.  We have Japanese, American, Korean, Singaporean, British, French, Dutch, Canadian, and many more cultures in Global House this year, so they did interviews and took pictures of us.  I didn’t do an interview, but I was a part of the picture taking.  All of this is very exciting, because it would be pretty cool to be on Japanese television, but the segment was canceled.  How’s that for anti climactic?
Also, I finally had sushi in Japan.  To all you Californians who are such fans of sushi, I’m going to call you out and say that you really, truly, have never had sushi.  This stuff was fantastic.  I even went back today because I started craving it as soon as I left the building.  This is me eating sushi awkwardly next to Olivia.  And yes, I know how to use chopsticks, I just hold them strangely.
And with that, I believe I have caught you up to the wonderful life of Alysse Abroad.  I will leave you with this picture, which was actually taken on our way to get sushi, but I think it embodies my time here very well.  It may not be recognizable to someone who hasn’t been living in Japan for the past two, almost three months, but bike rides down tree covered roads in the sunshine with friends is one of the daily simple life pleasures that remind me just how beautiful my life is.  This picture really embodies that warmth for me.  I hope you can experience a little bit of it from looking at it.