Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oh dear!

Hello everyone! I am so sorry that it has been so long since I have updated about my adventures in Japan!

I have been back in the USA for about 7 weeks now and have been so busy! I got engaged! Yay! Also, I moved back to my college and before that I spent time with family and friends. It's been a crazy time! I will try to go back and write about special times in Japan, don't worry! :)

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 27: Fun at Tokyu Hands!

Day 27: June 13

Something that is bothersome about being an American in Japan is the time difference; one has difficulty communicating with friends and family. Being awake knowing Andrew and my friends are asleep can drive me crazy! Needless to say, I get lonely here sometimes. Also, Japan is a day ahead, so this day was actually Saturday June 12 in America. The day of Andrew's first show at the Plea for Peace Center in Stockton! I was so upset all day that I was missing the show; my heart was hurting badly. I wanted to be there to support him! In the end, he told me that not many people showed up and that it went well. I am glad it was a good experience for him and he made some new friends! Yep, I am proud of my boo! Great job hun! :D

Even though I was pretty upset, Mary wanted to take me and the girls to Umeda to shop at Tokyu Hands. It was a good outing and enough to take my mind off things. It was raining, and shopping indoors is pretty much one of the only things to do on a rainy day. I found myself really enjoying Tokyu hands! There were many nice things to buy of all varieties, although it was not cheap. The cooking floor was so expensive! I wanted to buy Andrew a bar of apricot chocolate, but for 630 yen, I knew he would get mad at me lol! :D Mary was so sweet, she bought me some lovely things, like stickers, stationary, special tape, and some gifts for Andrew's brothers! I bought, with my money, a funky wooden necklace with awesome colors. I was also excited to find the Studio Ghibli section! YAY! :D

After shopping, we had to go home and start dinner. On the way home, we stopped at Kobe-ya and ate some simple goodies. I got a super oily fried curry bread and a chocolate croissant. Yum~! Thank you Mary for a nice day! And congrats to Andrew for what I am sure was a great show! :D

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 26: Shopping Spree in Senri-Chuo!

Day 26: June 12

It was a Saturday dedicated to shopping! My father graciously wanted me to spend some money and have fun, so I did a lot of shopping. Mary was going to Senri-Chuo, where a big shopping area was located and offered to take me with her. I leapt at the chance!

First off, I got a yummy miso katsu sandwich from a place called Victoria's Cafe; Mary loves their sandwiches. It was large, filling, and tasty with the savory sweet miso sauce! Then, I just walked around and went to the bookstore to get some books. I had finished the book I came to Japan with earlier in the week and was eager to start reading again. I ended up buying two books in English (one of which I finished yesterday) and some cool stationary supplies! I was excited!

I then made my way to Hankyuu Department store and was surprised by the high prices. It was very stylish, and I went up and down the whole building just to see what was on each floor. I bought some pretty things and a gift for my grandma, and then went down to the food area! WOW! The food floor in department stores is amazing; they have so much! I walked around the whole place a few times trying to decide what to eat! I ended up choosing a selection of chinese goodies, such as gyoza and little nikuman. It was delicious! The lady in charge of the stand was so happy, and it was amazing to see the man next to her making everything fresh on the spot!

After that, I wandered through the pastry/dessert section trying to decide which tasty morsel I should get. I saw so many delicious and well-made looking pastries, but decided on a one person tiramisu chocolate cake! SO GOOD! I ate it when I got back to the house and it was amazng, so rich and chocolatey! I took some pictures and went back outside to walk around and sit down to eat. I visited some more shops, and took pictures. There were a few spots around that were set up like mini concert spaces; there was a lot of live music!

I bought a few more things at the bookstore again and then was picked up by Mari. It was a fun shopping day, but I was worn out by the end of it!

Day 25: Helping Out at the OIS Graduation!

Day 25: June 11

Friday dawned slow and softly. I didn't have much planned and I was okay with that. That evening , I wound up going to the nearby Osaka International School to help out with their high school graduation! Tradition dictates that the mothers of the 11th grade class have to cook and put on the party for graduation night. So, since I wanted to experience as much as I can, I went to help Mari, since Tessfaye is in 11th grade at the school. It was a bit odd though; there were some mothers who were full Japanese and they all huddled together talking in their nice clothes and frilly aprons. On the other hand, there were some foreign mothers, like from Malaysia, who didn't really speak Japanese so they felt a bit left out. I ended up speaking with one who was so sweet!

Seeing the graduation was fun, and made me think about Andrew's college graduation or even my own! I never think about graduating from college; it feels so far away and I have so much to do before it happens.

Anyway, the food was nice, but I did not get to try all of it. There was Indian take out from a place called Herbal Indo Yoga (bwahahahah love the name!), which was naan, samosa, kebabs, and some chicken tikka masala which I was able to eat~ I also got some authentic homemade Thai red curry! It was so interesting and good! A little spicy, but I handled it! I was able to talk to a super nice Japanese man whose daughter was in 11th grade. We spoke first in Japanese, then he switched to English. He told me some restaurants to check out in San Francisco! He was such a nice man~ I love being able to meet nice people! There was also a very literate and knowledgeable chemistry teacher who knew a lot about ancient history whose wife was from Thailand. They have the cutest, chubbiest daughter lol!

The desserts were wonderful! I was able to get some macarons to try, yay! The lemon one was awful, but the strawberry and matcha ones were good. Around 10 pm, I was exhausted so I walked home and rested after a busy but rather fun night!

Day 24: Cooking Time!! :D

Day 24: June 10

On this Thursday, some of my host-mom's students came over to make us a grand feast! They taught me how to make makizushi, and I helped mix the sushi rice and cut the veggies for tempura! Everything was very delicious and interesting! There even was oden, a Japanese style stew....hmm, it's hard to explain exactly what oden is. It's an interesting mix of foods that are "stewed" in a dashi-type broth. I tried some of it, like the mochi piece and the hard-boiled egg, but I have to admit that I don't really like it. There was lots of tempura, and some fried shrimp too, but the fried shrimp were a bit too bland. I felt like they needed some extra pizzazz~~ (is that how you spell it? haha)

The ladies were very nice, but a bit shy! We had strawberries and yogurt for dessert, along with green tea jelly. Japanese yogurt is interesting...sometimes it tastes too much like butter or something! Definitely different!

It was so nice of them to come over and I learned a lot! Thanks to those ladies, I got to make makizushi and I was able to take many nice pictures for my book project! :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 23: Renoir in Osaka?!

day 23: June 9th

This was definitely the day where my homesickness hit it's peak! I called my father, telling him how I felt, but he told me what I needed to hear. I had to be strong and make the most of my time here, even though it can be hard and it's a bit of a shock. I have never traveled outside of the country for such a long time (well, I did live in France when I was a baby, but I don't remember it!). My dad was right; I needed to take a deep breath and shake off the tears and look ahead!
Luckily, this day I was going to meet one of the new friends I had made! Yu-san, who took me to Arashiyama and Kinkakuji, invited me to go see the Renoir exhibit at the National Museum of Osaka! I met Yu-san's mother, Matsuoka-san (who is a Japanese woman in the extreme, very nice though), Noriko who is so sweet, and saw Kayo again, who is awesome! :D Matsuoka-san didn't go to the museum with us, we just saw her at the Umeda station going into Hankyuu department store, haha~ She was nice, but treated me like a three year-old, which I didn't really appreciate. They all could tell I was feeling a bit down, so they cheered me up!
We took a train to Nakanoshima, a city built on landfill, which is where the museum is. It was a grey day, and starting to get pretty humid.

The museum itself was fun! It was interesting to see an art exhibit, especially of Western art, in Japan! I have to say, the paintings were marvelous, but the gallery where they were hanging was so stark. We followed a labyrinthine path to see the paintings and various sculptures. Some of the paintings were so summery and filled with cheerful colors! Many of the works I had never seen before; my father would have loved it! ;) The gift shop was SWARMING with people! Japanese people love giving gifts and buying souvenirs, thus people were buying so much! I ended up spending a lot of money; I bought tons of postcards (since I collect them), a poster for my new Townhouse next year, a notebook, a matted picture for Mari, and something for my Dad! :D I hope he likes it!

After the museum, we went out and were supposed to meet Matsuoka-san for a bite to eat. None of us had really eaten lunch, so we expected to go to a real restaurant, but Matsuoka-san wanted to take us to a tea room! Before that, we each got a tofu donut from Hara Donuts! So good! A revelation! I got the lemon honey one!

The tea room was called the Musica Tea Salon, and it was high up in a building, as the fancy places in Japan usually are. Most of us ordered a cake set, which came with cake and tea. But, I got cake and some orange juice. The cake I chose was a delightful caramel mousse/steamed cake! It was so delicious! So sweet, and with a pleasantly fluffy texture~ I was so happy~~ Then, we sat there for hours talking, well, Matsuoka-san did a lot of the talking. I got a headache trying to follow her Japanese!

When it started to get dark, we left the quaint tea room. Matsuoka-san wanted to take me out to dinner, but I felt too tired and just wanted to go and rest. In the end, she bought me some okonomiyaki and matcha jellies to take home. Before she left, Kayo-san gave me her favorite bracelet, which had touched me so much! She said she wanted me to have something to remember her by! I really have made some wonderful friends here! I was also so happy to meet Noriko, as she and I have so much in common!

Thank you Yu-san, Kayo, Noriko, and Matsuoka-san for a great day!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Days 21 & 22: Of Food, Elevators, and Hyperactive Pets

Monday, day 21, was not much of a day....I hate to say it but I don't really remember what I did! I tried to take a little walk, but it was hot and rainy, so that didn't work out too well, haha~ I was still in the homesick slump, and with the awful weather I didn't have too much motivation. But, I soldiered on! I knew I had the support of Andrew and my family and friends, so that helped me! :)

Tuesday was quite a day! I was invited to a special lunch hosted by some of my host-mom's students! We went to Suita, a nearby residential neighborhood with steep streets and lovely houses~ The woman whose house we went to, Akama-san, was very lovely! She has an elevator in it!!! Crazy! XD She and the other ladies made lots of food, such as tempura, chunky miso soup, and special rice with egg and fish. For dessert, we had a lovely chocolate walnut cake and some tea~ So pleasant! I spoke to the nice ladies in English to help them and told them about my life in America. Then, I went to another lady's house who lives nearby. She hosts exchange students and wanted me to spend the night. Since I have so much planned before I go home, I am unable to visit her. But, she was very hospitable and had a sweet, super energetic chocolate toy poodle named Hug-chan! XD I enjoyed meeting all the ladies and had my first taste of traditional Japanese home-cooking!

Then, I relaxed the rest of the day~ Very quiet and peaceful~ :)