I was going to do a lot of entries about my past travels, but figure that I'll just keep getting more and more behind and won't want to take the time to catch up, so I'm going to just start focusing on what I'm doing now and maybe write about some adventures when I get in the groove of classes and start having more free time.
My first week and a half of classes are over, and I'm finally starting to feel organized and like I have a schedule. My homework isn't too bad so far; there's a good amount of reading for Zen Buddhism and Pop Culture as Social Practice, but it's interesting stuff and the classes are only twice a week, so it's very do-able. My Japanese classes have some written work pretty much every day and voice recording to be done every week, but I think it's fun--I'm very eager to learn the language, since it's pretty vital to my life right now!
This weekend and last weekend I had some adventures. On Saturday, I met up with one of my new friends, Grace, to go shopping. She lives with a host family in Kuzuha, so I agreed to ride the train from Hirakata to Kuzuha...and even though Kuzuha is only like two stops away and should have been very easy to navigate my way to, I still managed to get on a train going the opposite direction and ended up taking an extra half-hour to get there. Luckily we weren't pressed for time or anything, and I realized my error within one stop. I consider this a learning experience...
But finally, I arrived at Kuzuha-eki, and our shopping adventure began! It seems that in Japan, train stations are usually a shopping and entertainment hub as well (this information is based on...3 stations I've seen so far), and so I wasn't surprised to find that a newer looking shopping center was right there when we walked out of the station. We spend pretty much the whole afternoon and into the evening in the mall. It was big! I'm actually pretty proud of myself, I managed to limit my purchasing to sale and "love-at-first-sight" items.
After shopping, we traveled back to Hirakata-eki to find an izakaya to hit up. I texted another friend, Marissa, and she texted a Japanese friend of hers who knew of an izakaya at the station, and then he showed up with a guy from New Zealand that we hadn't met before, and we became a group. The izakaya we went to was sweet, and I wish I had had more time to spend there, but unfortunately I am limited to the bus schedule, since Hirakata station is too far away from the Seminar Houses to walk (especially after a night of drinking). So I could only stay about an hour.
But what an hour it was. The joint was pretty packed, and we just managed to squeeze into a booth in a corner area. I noticed the couple at the table next to us stop talking when we sat down, and I figured it was because most of us are foreigners--we get stares almost everywhere we go outside of the school, it's something you just get used to. We ordered our drinks (I decided to go for a pineapple-y drink that Marissa's friend Yu suggested instead of beer), and as we settled in for the evening, I noticed that the lady had walked around the table to sit on the bench right next to me. I looked over to say hi, or at least see what was up with her, and realized that this lady was not only leaning in to stare about 3 inches from my head, but was also completely trashed and had the biggest smile in the world on her face. She reached over, grabbed my arm, and, wobbling and blinking hard, proudly proclaimed: "Pree...ty. Preety. Pretty girl." This lady's name was Kanako, and she learned some English in middle school, and has been waiting 15 years to finally use it on a real live foreigner. Her day had come.
And so our evening went, with us drinking (and Kanako hovering around us and proclaiming "Beautiful!" or "Nice guy!" to the girls and guys at the table intermittently). I think I really like izakayas! One thing that I noticed about the drinks I was ordering, though, is that they didn't seem nearly as strong as what I'm used to. They were girly, fruity drinks, but even those have a kick to them usually in the U.S. I had 4 drinks and didn't feel anything. So next time I think I'll stick to beer. I wish I could have stayed at the izakaya longer; next time, we're going to try and hit up the one that's closer to the seminar houses, so I won't have to catch the last bus.
(And yeah, it just took me pretty much a week to write this post. I would start, then get bored and start to do something else and save the draft, then start up again, etc. I'm gonna try and make better posts from now on. My roommate has been updating her blog pretty much every night, and it makes me feel guilty!)