I am actually having the time of my life here. I know everyone says that college are the best years of your life, and I tend to not believe that since I think that life only gets better if you believe it will, but these past few weeks have actually been some of the best of my life without a doubt. The only downside, to be honest, is not being able to share everything that happens with my friends and family back home. I have yet to find a good way to motivate myself to write in a blog – it’s so difficult to find the time! I am constantly running around Kyoto and beyond, getting home too late and leaving too early the next morning to sit here at my computer for a half hour and write a new post. But I suppose sharing pictures and stories will have to do!
Being in Japan has made me aware of an entirely new phenomenon: that of being a minority. It is very strange for me to be waiting for a bus and have a group of 20 middle school kids waiting next to me start whispering “gaikokujin” or “gaijin” (both meaning “foreigner,” the second with a slightly negative connotation) and pointing at me. It’s similarly odd to realize that every time you walk onto the train that you ride every morning, even though you feel like you’ve become a familiar face, people still do double-takes and peer over at you when they think you aren’t paying attention. I don’t think, or assume, that the attention is negative, necessarily. I am not always upset by it, although when people start talking about you in Japanese because they assume you don’t speak any it can get a little frustrating. But in general, I just keep in mind that many people, especially since I chose to study in a city that isn’t swarming with white people (like I’ve heard Tokyo is) do not see foreigners all that often, and when they do, they seem to always be on a tour bus and so aren’t integrated into society at all.
I am enjoying being at Doshisha University immensely – it seems like the students here are the friendliest in the world. All it takes is to ask to sit next to someone at lunch in the cafeteria, and the next thing you know they are asking to hang out with you this weekend and practice Japanese and English together. The cell phones here all have an infared information exchange function, so staying in touch with the friends you make is as easy as holding your phone up to theirs for 5 seconds and pressing “ok.” Not to mention the fact that there are probably 5 different clubs on campus dedicated solely to Japanese-English relations, whether for conversational or just purely social reasons. It’s also getting easier and easier to communicate with everyone here – I can ask for directions (which I do all the time, like literally every day) without a second thought, and my listening comprehension is improving staggeringly quickly. I can’t even remember how I thought the listening sections on my Japanese tests were difficult last year!! ^_^
I still sometimes can’t believe that I am actually here. I find myself standing around campus watching some beautiful Japanese bird fly overhead, or sitting on a bench eating takoyaki (octopus-filled fried dough balls) at the equivalent of a monthly flea market/craft fair at a Japanese temple, or even just hanging out in front of the TV with my host parents chatting (in Japanese!!) about whatever comes to mind, and I have to shake my head. It’s incredible that I am actually here. Not learning about it in a textbook, not seeing pictures of it online, not reading someone else’s blog – I am here.
(Taken from directly beneath the web, standing in the street.)
I guess that’s all for now!