Monday, December 4, 2006

Textbooks, letters, and Ayami

Sorry for not posting over the last days. Life has gotten busy with college applications, and a liberal...... sprinkling of 2.5 hours of AP European history a night after a small hiatus from home work for this class.

Today in Japanese class we finally received our first official text book of the year after using print outs and packets for the last three months. At Brookline High School we began using the Obentoo 1 text book in freshman year, then the Obentoo 2 in sophomore year. In junior year we switched over to the Adventures in Japanese 2 textbook. This year we are using Adventures in Japanese 3. In freshman and sophomore years I and my classmates suffered from that ilk that’s Obentoo. That textbook was down right awful in comparison with other textbooks I’ve seen at book stores and online. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t until last year that Aio Sensei, and Iida Sensei decided to scrap the Obentoo textbooks all together and use the Adventures in Japanese 1 for freshman, and work up to the 4th volume by senior year. For me, this in reality does not truly matter because I learned a almost a years worth of Japanese alone attending school in Japan. But for my friends at school, it seems just plain dumb that these textbooks were used to begin with.
Obentoo moves at a pain staking slow pace. It also does not cover a whole lot compared to other text books in its 1st and 2nd volumes. I really think it impedes how much one can learn in a year. After speaking with Aio sensei, I learned that the year 1 Japanese students will already be where my class was in late 1st semester of year 2 of Japanese classes by the end of this year. Looks as if my classmates and I were dealt a bad hand these over these last few years.


And now for something completely different:

After traveling to Japan two times in just one year, I’ve become heavily loaded with an enjoyably yet obligatory task that I never had before: correspondence. After two host families, two tutors, and two good friends, I find myself writing an insane amount of letters to Japan via snail mail and e-mail every month. It was worse, it used to be a couple of letters every week. I say worse only because my senior year of high school is ridiculously busy between my Middle East History Seminar, AP European History, AP Japanese 4, Public Speaking, Statistics, and college applications. Oh, and Fencing too…. I love writing to Masatoshi and his parents in Fujidera, Osaka-fu. But I also have to write to my other host family, the Nakagawas in Taketoyo, Aichi-ken. Then there are my letters just to Masatoshi himself, and letters to just the children of my second host family, and even more letters to my friend Ayami (more to come up on her), at boarding school in Aichi-ken. This list fluctuates, but for the most part I feel guilty if my letters are short. This means I end up writing a lot… Even with this, I absolutely enjoy receiving mail every weak or two from Japan. It makes me happy in an indescribable way that my host families and the friends write to me constantly. Knowing that I was able become more than just a friend means so much to me. Having the feeling that there will always be two welcoming homes in Japan is simply amazing and wonderful.

( Me, Masatoshi, and his father. Not seen is his mother who is taking the photo.)

Concerning my friend Ayami:

I could just copy all of my journal entries I made from summer about Ayami and I in Japan, but I think that would be really lazy of me. So about Ayami! It was the last week in Japan that we met. Through AFS (American Field Services), all of the AFS summer exchange students in Aichi prefecture, being about 25, met at Nagoya’s main train station. We were joined by a number of Japanese high school students who were attending an AFS sponsored English summer camp (My host sister Miho worked there as a counselor). Ayami and her friend Yuriko were with us, but at the start of the trip I hadn’t met them yet. It would only be after a 3 hour bus ride from Nagoya to Kyoto that I would encounter Ayami.
The first stop on our 1 day excursion to Kyoto was the temple of Kinkaku-ji (The golden pavilion). I should note that I traveled in Kyoto for 4 days last April, so this 1 day trip was rather disappointing in terms of seeing anything new) Before I continue with this story I want to say a few words on Kinkaku-ji. There is no temple that is as disappointing and crowded infested as this temple in Kyoto. To any future travelers, be warned that this place is infested during also seasons by people. Not only is it visually disappointing, there simply isn’t much there to do, walk over, or see, other than a large array of gift shops. The golden temple itself is stunning, but once you walk by it all that is left is a plethora of shops leading back to the parking lot. There are much better temples to visit than this temple in Kyoto.
Although Kinkaku-ji is rather dull, it was where I met my friend Ayami. I hadn’t noticed that she and her friend came along on the trip. I’m attentive!... So when I saw her exit the bus I walked over to ask her and Yuriko if they were host sisters. That was when I learned they were AFS English summer campers. I ended up spending the first half of the visit at the temple talking with them. Somewhere in the crowds I lost sight of them. So I ended up stuck at the gift shops for the remaining time where I aided a Japanese AFS volunteer in rounding up stray students.
Second stop was Eigamura (movie village). This place was campy and corny in some parts, but it was nevertheless fun. I ended up seeing a new drama being filmed. Apparently the actors must’ve been popular because all of the Japanese girls were really excited, while I stood there clueless as to who these actors were. It was interested to see how they created these dramas, and how after each take the actors were attacked by a horde of makeup helpers who patted their sweaty faces down with perfume and towels. I then went to watch a sword fight demonstration where I got this funny picture taken with a fellow American friend of mine.
When I headed back to the small streets of the movie set medieval town, I ran into Ayami and Yuriko again. We ended up spending the rest of the day together after that 2nd encounter. Strangely enough, I only have one photo of us together from that day.

(Ayami and I at Eigamura)

(Note the guy on the left wearing Shinsengumi kimono)

Kiyomizudera temple the last place we went that day. This temple is by far my favorite temple/location in Japan so far. When I went there in April, the whole forest and hills around it were covered by blooming sakura. It was a sight that I’ll never forget. It was still pretty during the summer, but it lacked its majestic beauty that it only has when covered in cherry blossoms. Ayami, Yuriko, and I spent the last few hours of the trip together at the temple. We went to each other’s favorite locations at the temple, and then headed out for lunch and for a stroll through the historical neighborhood. I’m only summarizing the day through vague descriptions, but the point of this is that we actually only met once in person. And that was on that day. Beginning on my last full day in Japan, we started a continuous correspondence that hasn’t abated since. We’ve sent somewhere between almost 80 letters to each other over the past 4 months. None of this would have happened if I had not taken the initiative to get Ayami’s address right before she left by train from Kyoto back to Nagoya. I’m really happy that I made this decision because I almost didn’t. We will hopefully be seeing each other again when I return to Japan next year. I hope things work out... This event fell into place under the law of trips. You meet people that you wish you’d known at the start of your trip near the end of any trip…
Well that's all for today! I think I've made up for those missed days....

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