9.22.2005

A little taste of home

This week's blog is about getting more settled in around here. I am
starting to establish a routine for leaving for work, bedtime, and
when to do certain errands. Perhaps that sounds to wimpy for a world
traveller to have a routine, but it does simplify some things in life
while others are still very complex and not yet understood. I feel
like I've passed the honeymoon phase of cultural adjustment and the
long-term contact with Japan is setting in. The Japanese classes have
helped because I need the confidence that langauge instruction
provides for trying new things with the language. I don't speak too
much Japanese at school because my students expect me to speak
English, most of the faculty speaks enough English to convey important
information, and the Japanese English teachers enjoy the practice. So
that leaves my personal time to get outside of the house and practice
Japanese.

The apartment unit that I have here is spacious even by American
standards. Granted its a one-bedroom, but I haven't lived in one so
big before. So, I don't need to get out of the house to overcome
clostrophobia or anything. But I should. Yet there's the written
language barrier that I reach every time. Perhaps you know that
there's 3 writing systems in Japanese: Hiragana and Katakana
(syllabaries, one for Japanese words the former for foreign words) and
Kanji (ideagraphs of Chinese origin that are much more complex to
write). To make it even harder, each Kanji has one word for its
pronunciation and another word for its meaning. Are you confused yet?
Now you know how I feel! Now don't get me wrong, I think the Japanese
have got a great thing going here. It condenses the information into a
smaller package so one can write a lot more to the page. But the
buy-in for new learners is costly.

I think the most challenging thing with Kanji is that there is no 1-1
relationship with English words or a way of alphabetizing the Kanji
characters so one can use a bilingual dictionary to look up the
unknown Kanji. I think various people have tried to systematize Kanji
into a dictionary, but they all weigh 15 pounds so its hard to put it
in the pocket for easy reference on the street. After all this, I
certainly have more empathy for illiterate people in America who have
to verbalize everything to understand what's going on as well as hope
that nothing out of the ordinary happens that one would need to read
to set it straight again.

But I digress from the homey feeling theme of this blog entry. So
after Japanese class tonight I fould an oasis: Mister Donut. Back in
California I didn't belly-up to Winchel's or Dunkin' Donut on a daily
basis with the Po-lice. But I do enjoy the occaisional indulgence in a
donut as my dad can vouch from our evening Krispy Kreme runs. "The
light is on!" So there's a Mister Donut in the mall where my Japanese
classes take place. I went there after class with my Indonesian
classmate. Donuts are about 100 Yen a piece and we had hot tea with
ours. I don't think the USA's Mr. Donuts (the only one I knew was in
Alton, IL during college) has complete tea sets at their
establishments, but in Japan its the basic level of service. I enjoyed
the familiar taste as I fumbled with an unfamiliar lingua franca in
order to communicate with my Indonesian friend.

The moral of this blog is: the more I get out, the more I find a taste
of home. I think I'm still hungry though...

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Mrs The Experience said...

I love your posts. Japan has a special fascination for me. Keep writing and post pictures! Glad to read that you are settling in.

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