The Final Post

January 12, 2017

I don’t even know where to start. I get it now…how study abroad can be the best time of your life. You change; you come home a completely different person. I’ve moved around quite a few times throughout my life – New Jersey, Germany, Italy, Okinawa, Virginia – and I have always considered Okinawa to be home. It’s where, for the most part, I grew up, I took care of my family without dad around, made stupid decisions, and maybe even learned from my stupid decisions. Going back every summer and winter break is what keeps me going during the school year, honestly. Knowing I can eat Okinawa Soba, chill with friends at the seawall, and swim in the clear ocean again. Okinawa is home, no doubt. This was the first time that returning home to Okinawa felt unfamiliar. It almost felt wrong. I was leaving home to go to Okinawa.


Immediately after spending two days in Akita, everything became…light. There’s something about Akita. I felt more like myself in Akita. It’s not really the actual place of Akita that made me feel like myself because man, I’m not going to lie, we all hated that we were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rice fields. But honestly, if given the chance to study abroad at Tokyo or Osaka, I would choose Akita every single damn time. You could walk 5-minutes off campus and see older people working on the rice fields. These older individuals were all very sweet and had no problem speaking to us despite our broken Japanese. You’d hear a car pass by you every 10-minutes so walking around with the sun beating down on your face was such a nice way to relax. There were shrines nearby that we would walk to, always placing a 5-yen coin and praying at the entrance.

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I’m never going to forget the quick walks to Banafi, the convenience store right off campus. The amount of riceballs and beers bought there was endless. The older guy that runs that store is so dedicated to his job. Working from 7am to 7pm almost everyday and remembering our faces. He even brought his dog into the store sometimes – an old, fat beagle. The dog would slowly wobble over to me and hint for me to pet it. Sitting on the benches in front of Banafi while eating our bentos (boxed lunches) during the summer and drinking our hot cocoa from a can during the winter.


Or the quick walks to aBar right next to Banafi. Since we were in the middle of nowhere, the only bar near us was this one. It was made for the international students, although Japanese students would go as well. There were karaoke competitions, DJ nights, band performances, etc. that students would participate in, hoping to win a free drink by the end of the night. Everyone would go so you’d obviously talk to students you wouldn’t talk to otherwise in class. Oh man, the nights spent there were too fun.


The one and only Shimohamahimehoma beach trip during orientation week is still my best memory from Akita, well, everyone’s best memory. We had only been in Akita for about 5 days and we all decided to go to the beach together. All of the international and first-year students since none of the other students had arrived on campus yet. Waking up super early, riding the train (after missing the first train, of course), swimming for hours, drinking beers and blasting Chance The Rapper, singing karaoke at the shack with the wandering dog, Udon in the city afterwards…we were all so tired and red by the end of the day but full of so much joy. It definitely set the tone for the rest of the semester.

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Train 2.jpgSpeaking of missing trains, you become a true international student at AIU once you miss at least three trains or even buses due to reading the schedule incorrectly. I can’t tell you how many times I have been yelled at for messing the schedule up HAHA it was fine though because honestly, the memories made while waiting for missed trains are some of my favorites. Creating videos of the Mannequin Challenge because of the nonstop laughter or the photoshoots I did with my friends around the entire station.


I’m so thankful the school planned out field trips for us. I know that sounds like a cliche high school thing but these bus trips definitely gave us the chance to explore Akita more. All of the international students signed up so once again, you’d spend time with students you wouldn’t otherwise talk to during class. We went to a samurai town, aquarium, deepest lake in Japan, Oga Peninsula, and watched a Namahage performance. Not only did I explore around Akita, I was also able to travel to Tokyo twice and Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara once. Meeting up with high school friends in Tokyo, walking around Shibuya at 4am, and eating ラーメン in individual stalls are a few of my favorite memories from Tokyo. And Osaka, wow, watching Isabella get rammed in the butt by a deer begging for food was absolutely hilarious. I couldn’t breathe from laughing so hard. Or the time Isabella went running ahead of me, desperately searching for a bathroom for me at around 12am, and us ending up going to a club and dancing for 3 hours solely because I needed to use the bathroom.

The small, close-knit community and campus brought us together – eating the set lunches together everyday, chilling in Komachi lobby, staying up till 4am every night. I could list all of the wonderful memories but there’s too many to list. You wouldn’t have the sense of family at any school as we did in Akita. We were all there for each other. It was the people, definitely. Especially Patrik and Isabella. The both of them changed the course of my study abroad experience.


Patrik, man, I don’t know where to start with this guy. Be honest, right? He actually went back to Okinawa with me for the couple of weeks of winter break. We became friends after day 2 in Akita. He complimented me on my smile and I thought he was an arrogant boy. Funny how quickly things changed. Surprisingly we were in the same Japanese class (his Japanese is 10x better than mine), and as a result we were always together, studying Japanese, eating meals between classes, learning the lyrics to Childs Play, talking for hours about the meaning of life…he really loves asking people what the meaning of life was. I still remember the first time he told me about this “beautiful sadness.” I’ve always been told that sadness is a bad thing but now I understand that it’s the complete opposite. We have all gone through pain but it’s only made us aware of ourselves. Patrik made sure that I understood how sadness helps you grow. Without sadness, we wouldn’t appreciate the happiness. Every time I was down, he would come in with this dorky smile, raise his voice, and bounce his shoulders and explain to me that because I was sad now, I know that I was happy before. I made great memories and now I have those to cherish. A beautiful sadness.

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I want to share with everyone that I fell in love with someone while studying abroad. Making myself vulnerable to her seemed like a risk knowing we would only be together for a short time. But, it was a beautiful risk, creating the space for her to make me feel more protected. I experienced the most intense feelings with her…confusion, desperation, pain, heart-exploding joy, and passion. She made me happy. It has been two weeks since I last saw her smile. You know, if it’s meant to be, it will be. We might come back to each other, but we might not. You can’t let the uncertainty stop you from doing anything. Fall hard and deeply in love. Go all in, man, because when are you ever going to have the chance again? Just live in the moment and let things play out the way it’s supposed to. I’m so happy that I fell in love with her while studying abroad. My time in Akita wouldn’t have been what it was without her by my side. Thank you for being vulnerable and letting me be a part of your life.

Like I said, it was all the people. I’m not sure what I was expecting from Akita. Maybe to speak Japanese fluently, meet some cool people from Europe, and leave knowing I had “ the best time of my life” as most people claim study abroad to be. I do have to say, Akita far reached my expectations. Akita has become one of my homes to me. Thank you Akita, for the confusion, heart-exploding joy, pain, constant excitement, and beautiful sadness.


Naomi at Akita Week 17: Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara!

January 9, 2017

I’m going to briefly go over each day in Osaka. I just want you all to know that I had a wonderful time there; it was a great trip to end study abroad. Isabella and I even made it out to Nara and Kyoto as well with the hour-long train rides. I’m so excited to share my trip with you all! Okay, here we go…it may be a lot but just bear with me.

DAY 1
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So, the first day we got to Osaka we arrived at our Airbnb place at around 4pm. We unpacked and rested for a bit before heading out. Since we didn’t have the whole day we decided to walk around our area. The Shinsaibashi shopping arcade was only a 4-minute walk away so we decided to head there. Isabella and I were both pretty hungry and ended up finding the Luke’s Lobster place that was recommended as one of the foods to try in Osaka on Facebook. Oh my gosh…I don’t even know how to describe how delicious this lobster sandwich was…it was drenched in butter and the sandwich was just filled with fresh lobster. My mouth was watering…man, now I want it again.


After walking a little longer, Isabella and I ended up in Dotonbori. We were pretty surprised since we weren’t expecting everything to be so close in walking distance. But look! This is the running man I was talking about in my first post! Apparently it’s not an actual person but just an ad created by Glico to inspire and motivate athletes. It was so surreal being in Osaka. I always look up the city online and see pictures of it on Google images. I always thought the huge displays of food and the flashing lights were super cool so actually being there and seeing it…wow. Isabella and I stood on some benches and took sooo many pictures.


You know we had to get some たこ焼き (takoyaki). I mean, Osaka is famous for this food. Isabella and I were mesmerized watching the two women cook the takoyaki, putting the octopus in, and flipping the balls around. It was a true art form, really. Let me tell you, it tasted delicious. I’ve eaten takoyaki before in Tokyo and Okinawa and it does not compare to takoyaki in Osaka. Man, this was only the beginning of all the good food we ate during our trip.


After eating takoyaki, Isabella and I walked around even more and bought some お土産 (souveniers) for our family and friends. Then, I made her try だんご (dango), similar to mochi, covered with a sweet sauce. THEN, after walking around even more we got pretty hungry (again), so we decided to eat ラーメン (ramen). There was this one outdoor restaurant that seated only about 15 people at a time. There was a very long line but ラーメン is a very important food to Isabella so, of course, we were both willing to wait in line for about 30 minutes. It was well worth it. The restaurant even allowed you to top the ramen with unlimited kimchi…Isabella and I both really like spicy food so you can imagine how much we piled on.


I thought the lighting everywhere was pretty cool. There was one street lined with lit up trees and it was beautiful. There were also several street performers playing holiday music. Man, I still can’t believe Christmas is so soon.

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Isabella and I ended at the river at Dotonbori. It took me so many tries to take this picture. Kevin messed with my camera and changed the settings, forcing me to learn how to take more creative pictures. So, I have to mess with the settings in order to figure out the correct aperture, ISO, and what not. I’m grateful he did that for me but Isabella had to wait for about 5 minutes before I could get some good pictures. I actually yelled out “KEVIIIIIN” while taking pictures, making Isabella laugh but also roll her eyes. Oh man.

DAY 2
We took several trains to Nara solely to feed some deer. We didn’t eat until we got to Nara (it took us about an hour to get there) and guess what we ate? McDonald’s!! I know we should try eating all the Japanese food we can but let me tell you, there’s nothing like some Japanese McDonald’s. I got the エビフライ (shrimp burger) and man, mouth watering, again.


I was surprised to see how big Nara Park really was…I mean there were temples and shrines everywhere, some of them even classified as UNESCO world heritage sites. I tried taking a picture of the five-story Kofuku-ji but it was almost impossible. That’s the best picture I could get and still, the first story is cut off a bit. Isabella and I walked for a bit until we finally caught sight of one deer. Isabella immediately started freaking out. When she got close to one and tried petting it for the first time she actually jumped. She was terrified but after we bought deer snacks sold at the stands, she felt comfortable petting and feeding the deer. Isabella found out online that the deer can actually bow so she had some of them do that before feeding them. Also, after feeding one deer we wanted to go feed a different one but the deer would refuse because it wanted more food. One ended up even ramming its face into Isabella’s butt. I couldn’t stop laughing.


After Nara, we headed back to our area and went to the Kuromon Ichiba Market, trying even more delicious food. Originally, we wanted to try sea urchin and clams but decided against it because it was a bit pricey. Instead, we tried crabmeat mixed with corn and melted cheese. We also bought some Toro sushi…oh man, I’m sorry I keep saying that but wow, my mouth was watering once again. You all just need to go to Osaka. They have such a variety of delicious food. Isabella did most of the research on food so she told me that we had to find quail egg stuffed octopi. I was so eager to try it when she first mentioned it to me a couple weeks back. When we finally found it we decided to eat the octopi tentacles first. After we both ate the head in one bite and WOW, the egg taste was overwhelming…in a good way, of course.

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After the market, we walked to アメ村, an Americanized shopping area. My friend Ami, the one who visited me in Akita, recommended the area to us. Once again, we were surprised by how close it was by foot. We ended up walking into several stores solely for the music. It was nice hearing American music again. In Japan, you’re allowed to drink in public so we did that and ended up sharing a pizza later that night. Isabella had been craving pizza for a while now. Well, and pasta…just any Italian food in general.

DAY 3
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On our third day, we headed out to Kyoto to Arashiyama. My mom’s friend recommended this place as she used to live in Kyoto. We had to take several trains to get there – about an hour ride again. Our friends from AIU, Annabelle and Chris, came to Osaka as well and decided to meet up with us there. So, Isabella and I walked to Lawson to buy some riceballs and instant pho to eat breakfast before they came.

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When Chris and Annabelle finally arrived we started making our way to the bamboo grove. It’s a popular tourist destination, as the walkway is just surrounded by long bamboo sticks. It was beautiful. I bet pandas would be in heaven if they lived in Arashiyama. Afterwards, we walked around the area a bit more, passing more UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as temples. We decided to head to the bridge and found ourselves next to a river. There were several trees lined up next to the river. I bet during the fall the color of the leaves look absolutely beautiful. Despite it being December, some of the trees had orange and yellow leaves clinging on.


After Arashiyama, we made our way to Iwatayama Park…the monkeys. We had to climb up thousands of stairs to get to the park, as it was secluded from civilization since monkeys just roamed around the area. I’m telling you, after this trip I never wanted to walk up stairs again. Anyways, when we finally got to the top we found ourselves surrounded by monkeys. Some of them even started fighting around us. I thought one of the angry monkeys was going to run into me – thankfully, it didn’t. There was a feeding area where people had to go inside and feed the monkeys through cages. It was only 100yen for a bag of either peanuts or apple slices. Isabella fed some monkeys and even fist bumped one of them. Another monkey grabbed Annabelle’s phone but it was too big to go through the cage so the phone was saved!

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We started to get a bit hungry so we rushed over to the Nishiki Market via train. Thankfully we made it before closing time. We tried some black sesame mochi, fried vegetables, and matcha ice cream. I found this well-known, yet secluded, soy milk doughnut shop. This is a cool display I saw in the market. I waited for this guy to move so I could take a picture of it but he stood there for about 10 minutes. My lack of patience got to me though so here’s a picture of the guy standing in front of the display!

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To end our day, we headed to the Fushimi-Inari Shrine! We passed only about 5 people while walking through the gates. Going at night was definitely the move, despite having to change my settings on my camera for 10 minutes. We wanted to walk all the way to the top of the mountain but we realized we did not make any movement on the map after climbing up stairs for 20 minutes. We were all very tired from walking around so we went to a local restaurant and ate some ramen, which was delicious by the way, and headed home!

DAY 4


WE WENT TO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS ON OUR LAST FULL DAY IN OSAKA! It was super cool. I felt like a kid again. Isabella and I did research beforehand and discovered that going on more than 2 rides at USJ was nearly impossible due to how busy the park gets. Knowing that, we decided to head straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to ensure we would get on the ride inside Hogwarts. We waited in line for about two hours – this was after entering the park about 30 minutes after opening hours. No worries though, I brought a deck of cards with me so we played war while waiting in line!


Here are some pictures of what we ate and rank at USJ. I don’t know what I was expecting from Butter Beer but wow, it was sweet and tasted like caramel. We got a hot and cold one and just shared both drinks. Of course, we had to make sure to get the moustache going on. We also ate chocolate filled matcha churritos, turkey legs, and this chowder…I forgot the name of it. All the food was very delicious. I know it’s typical to eat turkey legs at carnivals and theme parks but this was actually my first time trying one and I gotta say, I regret never buying one before.


Altogether, Isabella and I made it onto three rides. In addition to the HP ride, we rode the Flying Dinosaur and this Jurassic Ride, similar to Splash Mountain. I saw the waiting line was only 30 minutes for the Jurassic Ride so I dragged Isabella along even though she was adamant about not getting wet. You wouldn’t believe our luck. We were placed in the first row so of course, we got soaked!


I didn’t know this till later at the park but apparently the Christmas tree there holds a World Guinness Record for having the most lights on an artificial tree…yeah, something like that. There was a performance before the lighting of the tree and I felt like the entire park had come to this one area just to see the tree. I could not move an inch without rubbing against someone else. The lights on the tree kept changing colors after it was lit. There were fireworks. It definitely put us in the holiday spirit.

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After USJ, we headed back to our area to show Annabelle and Chris Dotonbori. It was around 915pm when Isabella decided she wanted to go to the small animal café we had passed the first night we got there. It closed at 10 but she really wanted to go. Chris and Annabelle were both down to go. Tristan decided to stay back and find some food – vegetarian options. Well, you wouldn’t believe it but for about 10 minutes we sprinted through the shopping arcade, through Dotonbori, and through several crowds. I almost ran into some people as the streets were crowded. I was in the lead so Isabella followed me while Annabelle followed her. Chris couldn’t run as fast because of his heavy shoes and backpack but thankfully, we never lost him. We finally made it to the café, ordered our strawberry flavored drinks, and played with some animals. It was crazy holding a hedgehog, chinchilla, ferret, rabbit, rat, and rabbit. The woman working there brought a closed hand over and told Isabella to open her hand but Isabella ran behind me knowing there was something bad in her hand. I held my hand open instead and she placed a baby rat in my hand. It was so cute with its small tail!

DAY 5


I have to say, this Osaka trip was one for the books. I’m pretty sure I like Osaka more than Tokyo. Osaka has more to offer with food and UNESCO World Heritage Sites…also, Kyoto and Nara are easily accessible by train so you have even more to see! I was upset to say bye to Chris, Annabelle, and Tristan. They stayed in Osaka for another day and flew out from there to go back home to America. Isabella and I headed back to Akita before heading back home. The Colorado Crew were the first people I had to say bye to so it started to hit me that study abroad was indeed coming to an end. What a bittersweet feeling. Isabella and I headed back home to Akita and got ready for our departure our following day. I will be writing my last post soon, writing about my last hours in Akita and the travels back home to Okinawa. Anyways, Osaka was a great time and a great trip to wrap up study abroad! If you’re ever in Japan, please do yourself the favor and go to either Kyoto or Osaka, and make sure to take the day trip to Nara.

By the way, look at my cool socks that I bought in Osaka! All sushi!


Naomi at Akita Week 16: Finals

December 29, 2016


Isabella invited a couple of us to come over around 10pm since she was making a huge pot of stew. The stew came out soupy but it was still super 美味しい (delicious). It was a very chill night. We became pretty nostalgic knowing that it was the last week of classes. Isshin started playing the guitar and we sang some songs together, including Sorry by Justin Bieber and Closer by The Chainsmokers. I found out that Isabella bought the guitar on the “AIU Buy & Sell” Facebook page for only ¥1000. I was surprised considering Isabella doesn’t play the guitar; she said she always wanted to learn though which is why she bought it. Turns out Isshin wanted the guitar too but someone had beaten him to it. He found out it was Isabella when we got to the room HAHA!


I’m really going to miss my Japanese classes – JPL300, Reading, and Kanji. We all had such a great time joking around and attempting at understanding Japanese grammar. Our JPL300 teacher never spoke English so it made us try harder in speaking Japanese. We all struggled together with the exams, ポスター発表 (poster presentation), and endless amount of homework. I’m feeling sentimental just writing this all down. I’m most likely never going to see any of these people again but we all became a family. It was nice meeting so many people that shared the same interest as me in learning Japanese. Man, what a great semester.


Isabella and I decided to get dinner together at the AEON mall as a goodbye, although I’m going to see her again next week before I actually leave Akita, thankfully. We got McDonald’s for dinner…I was planning on getting the エビフライ (shrimp burger) but when we got up to order Isabella pointed at the Mega Mac picture. She told me I should get it and I felt up to the challenge so I ordered the burger with four patties in it…oh man, I was so full. And to top it all off, Isabella practically forced me to help her finish her food. I ate four more chicken nuggets and finished up her fries. I couldn’t walk afterwards. After McDonald’s…oh, by the way, I don’t know what it is exactly but McDonald’s in Japan is so good. Compared to the states, it’s more flavorful. Like I said, I don’t know what it is but man, I love Japanese McDonald’s. Okay, so after McDonald’s, we took プリクラ (sticky pictures) together! I look so funny in the pictures with my big eyes and weirdly shaped heads. I love taking these pictures though because you always turn out looking super girly. Also, you get to design the pictures and write/draw whatever you want on them. We walked around the mall some more, looking in shops, and ended up buying some Mister Donut. Oh, and Isabella asked a random mom to take our picture in front of the Christmas tree. We’re trying to get in the holiday spirit so you know.

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This is a funny story. Annabelle found a bug in her room; apparently it jumped on her hand while she was writing her paper. She immediately freaked out and started messaging everyone to come to her room and kill it. No one was willing to do it because everyone else is also afraid of bugs. I asked her if it was a cockroach before going over to kill the bug for her because if it were a cockroach then I wouldn’t want to kill it. Cockroaches creep me out…along with centipedes. Anyways, when I walked in her room, I found her standing 6 feet away from her desk (where the bug was), staring at the bug to not lose sight of it. I immediately started laughing. I took some tissue and killed it. I held it up to her to show her that the bug was harmless but she started trying to get into the suitcase and wow, I laughed so hard tears started rolling down my face. Turns out the bug was a stink bug and it actually started smelling a bit.


This past week has just been snow…everywhere. I don’t have boots so walking around has been quite the struggle. To top it off, my shoes have holes in them so my toes are basically frozen by the time I get back inside from walking outside. The snow looks very beautiful though. I couldn’t believe it when I woke up one morning and walked to my morning Japanese class. I was in awe.


Sandy and I got lunch together at the restaurant near campus as a goodbye lunch (I’m also going to see her again next week before I leave though, thankfully). I never thought to go to the restaurant because I have a meal plan on campus. All students from AIU get a discount from this restaurant though so that was nice! Sandy was craving meat so she got pork cutlet with a small bowl of udon. I decided to follow and ordered pork cutlet with egg. The egg was still bubbling when it got to the table and it was absolutely delicious. Sandy enjoyed her meal so much she literally said “yum yum” after every bite. You know, after knowing her for this long, I still don’t know her age? She won’t tell me. She said she’s going to wait until we say bye to each other to tell me….oh brother.

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Well, this post isn’t as eventful since it was just finals week. Many people are leaving tomorrow to go back home or go on trips before they leave Akita. Next week is finals week but many students were able to get their finals pushed up, like me. I was able to move up my International Trade final to this week; thankfully all of my other classes had finals scheduled for this week. Since I have another 6 days till I leave Akita, Isabella and I decided to take a trip to Osaka! We leave tomorrow morning and will be there till the 21st. We come back to Akita on that day and leave the following morning. So, I’ll still be able to see my friends when I get back on the 21st. I can’t believe this semester has come to an end. Time flies when you’re having fun, huh? I’m trying not to get to nostalgic and upset about leaving Akita…yet. I’m going to enjoy my time in Osaka – sightseeing, shopping, and eating good food! I’m super excited! I also definitely have to buy some birthday and Christmas gifts for my mom, Tyler, and Patrik. Like I said, Patrik is going home to Okinawa with me this winter break. They all have December birthdays….can you believe it?


Week 15: 焼肉 Family Dinner

December 15, 2016

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After our Japanese reading class, I asked Patrik if he wanted to go to the convenience store with me to just buy some hot coffee and hang out for a bit. We both didn’t have anything after class so he agreed. Of course, we stopped in his room first so he could drop some stuff off. As we were leaving his room, he told me to put my hand out. I did as I was told and he dropped some peanuts into my hand. Surprisingly, I’ve never eaten peanuts with the shell. I’ve always eaten peanuts from jars that were already de-shelled. He had to show me a trick on how to crack them open. Apparently everyone back home eats peanuts all the time around Christmas…his mom even sent these peanuts to him all the way from Slovakia. We ate them while walking to the convenience store and they were delicious. I’m going to have to ask my mom to buy some peanuts for us to eat on Christmas!

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Isabella surprised me with box of Wasabi Kit Kats from Tokyo. I remember trying one in high school; my friend’s mom had some and had us try it. I thought it was the most interestingly delicious Kit Kat. I always talk about it around Isabella and Annabelle because they’re obsessed with finding different types of Kit Kats. Well, while they were in Tokyo they found a store with several different types of Kit Kats, one being wasabi, so Isabella bought some for me. I had her try one too and she even admitted that it was good! I gave Patrik one as well and he liked it too. I don’t know how to quite describe the taste because it takes just like wasabi but the Kit Kat is also very sweet. I love it.

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This week, I went to my last RCOS activity with Patrik, Isabella, and Annabelle. We all decided to sign up for one together. I know Patrik and I have already gone to two together but we thought it would be fun for Isabella and Annabelle to experience hanging out with Japanese elementary school students. We arrived at Nangai Elementary School pretty early so the man in charge told us that we could walk around and explore the school. At the moment, the kids were doing work and cleaning around the school. Everyday the kids have to clean the floors, bathroom, classrooms, and well, basically do housework in the school. I snapped a picture of a couple of kids wiping down the basketball court floors. There were several other kids washing the floors. They would look up at us and see that we were international students and scream “HELLO” and “NICE TO MEET YOU.”

Instead of playing games with the kids, like Patrik and I did at Omagari Elementary School and the kindergarten, the children asked us questions in English. Each student had a sheet they had to fill out after asking us what our favorite fruit, sport, subject, country, food, and animal were. They sat in groups of four so we would each sit with a group then move onto the next group after about 10-15 minutes. The kids were surprised when I answered with Okinawa Soba for my favorite food. I explained to them that I used to live in Okinawa and they were very shocked. At the end of the interview, the kids were allowed to ask us any questions they wanted to until the time ran out. One of the groups asked me what my favorite Japanese word was and I answered with 時差ぼけ (jisaboke), which means jetlag. I learned this word for one of my vocabulary quizzes in Japanese class this semester and I don’t know why, but I love the word. You wouldn’t believe this, but after saying 時差ぼけ the children immediately asked me what that word meant. I had to have the teacher explain to them the meaning of the word. I guess I didn’t know what jetlag meant when I was in elementary school either? Who knows? Anyways, we all had such a great time interacting with the children, even Isabella and Annabelle, who don’t know much Japanese. It was a fun last RCOS event!

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After Nangai Elementary School, Isabella, Annabelle, Kevin, and I wanted to go to the mall to go grocery shopping, so we decided to eat dinner at the food court there as well. Patrik stayed on campus to eat dinner so I bought him his carton of milk from the grocery store. He always drinks a carton of milk after drinking and partying since it apparently helps prevent hangovers. I should probably start doing that…well, Isabella, Annabelle, and Kevin all got dinner from Pepper Lunch. This fast food restaurant serves the steak in a sizzling plate so you have to cook the steak yourself once you sit down. I decided to get udon because they had some spicy special and I love spicy food so, of course, I had to order it. After we ate, we shopped around in different stores, went to the pet store to see the cute puppies, and went to an ice cream shop. Annabelle and Isabella are obsessed with the matcha ice cream they serve. I also bought Kevin a 6-pack of beer to thank him for letting Patrik and I sleep over in the Airbnb they rented in Tokyo. He started drinking one of the beers immediately after I bought him the back. It’s legal to drink alcohol from a can in public in Japan; Kevin loves to take advantage of that rule.


Remember the ポスター発表 (poster presentation) I mentioned before? Well, we had our presentations on Friday. An elementary school even came to watch us present some of our posters. I was very nervous but thankfully, I was able to memorize my speech! I did mess up a couple of times but my message still came across so no worries. At the end of our speech, we are supposed to ask 何か質問はありませんか, which translates to “are there any questions?” I had a couple of people ask me about 5 questions and oh man, I loved it. I love talking about Okinawa. It made me even more excited to be going back in just a couple of weeks for winter break! Don’t get me wrong though, I’m also very upset that I’ll be leaving Akita soon.

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For her flower arrangement class, Isabella was allowed to create her own flower presentation. When I first saw it, I jokingly said it looked like Easter. Unfortunately, I never took a picture of the flowers while they were alive so here is a picture of the dying flowers. I opened the curtains and let the lighting in and I don’t know about you, but I think this is a pretty cool picture despite the dying flowers.

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For dinner on Saturday night, Patrik told us about this all you can eat 焼肉 (yakiniku) that costs only ¥2000 per person. It was a 15-minute walk away from the mall, which we were all dreading considering the amount of snow on the ground. By the time we got to the restaurant, our hands were freezing so we used the grill in the middle of the table to warm up our hands. I was so surprised with the amount of food available to us. Not only did they have a large selection of meat, they also had regular food (spaghetti, ramen, udon, meatballs, fries, etc.) and many different types of sushi. They even had a dessert section where you could make your own crepes and cotton candy. It was a beautiful sight really.


Nils and Kevin decided to take the fish from the sushi and grill some of it. Kevin ended up liking it so much that he came back with about 20 pieces of squid sushi and grilling it. Kevin doesn’t like rice so he ended up stacking the rice from the sushi in a bowl. Don’t worry though, it didn’t go to waste; Griff ate it all with his meat. Oh, I forgot to mention that there was an ice cream section as well. They had matcha flavor and oh boy, Griff went all out. He LOVES match flavored ice cream. I’ve never seen such a happy boy. All of us got full after about 30-40 minutes of straight eating. I couldn’t sit up straight. We all sat at the table and talked while letting our stomachs digest. Patrik’s crazy self kept getting more and more food though. Every 5 minutes he was sitting back down with another dessert. He really wanted to get his money’s worth.

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Here’s a selfie Patrik took of all of us. What a great last family dinner. I’m not going to lie though the walk back to the mall was probably the best part. The guy and I all had a snowball fight. We were trying to form alliances but kept going against each other. The girls were all the way in the front trying to avoid us. One minute they were next to us…the next minute they were 100 meters ahead of us. We ended up catching up to them and hitting them with snowballs.


Isabella and I decided to do laundry at 1am just to get it out of the way. We needed to change so I broke my ¥1000 bill in the vending machine and bought hot coffee for me and hot milk tea for Isabella. The snow was beautiful so we walked outside for a bit while sipping on our hot drinks. The picture above is of Isabella concentrating on the snowflakes attaching to her eyelashes. I couldn’t stop laughing because it looked like she was staring off into the distance…we were laughing so hard. Oh brother. Sleep deprivation is a wonderful thing.

15403156_10210866845014487_103781612_n.jpgThe snow just keeps piling up. I still don’t own any boots so I’m walking around with my slip on vans. Did I mention that my vans have holes in them? There’s only two weeks left here though so I think I can manage. I should probably buy a pair of boots before I return to Richmond though considering it snows there too. Oh man. Well, last week of school starts tomorrow then I’m off to Osaka. I don’t think it’s hit me that I’m leaving Akita yet. It’s hard to believe that I’m never going to see most of these people again. 11 more days and that will all be over. I’m so used to walking around, going to class, and grabbing meals with friends. It probably won’t hit me that I’m leaving until I set foot into the airport. I’m really going to miss this place.


Week 14: 東京 and Owls

December 12, 2016


For our JPL300 class, we have to create a poster and present on any topic that interests us for 5-7 minutes in Japanese. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty nervous about this because speaking in only Japanese for that long of a period…man, I have to start practicing soon. Patrick is presenting on テレビゲーム (video games) and I’m presenting on 沖縄 (Okinawa). We worked on our posters in Isabella’s room Tuesday night. We started at around 9:30pm thinking it would only take an hour but ended up working on it till 1am. We didn’t mind though because we enjoyed working on it and listened to some music on the speakers – hip-hop/rap, hard rock, and EDM. We all have very different music tastes. In my presentation, I’m talking about Okinawan foods (goya chanpuru and Okinawa soba), the pretty beaches, and the Orion Beer Fest. I had some extra white space so I decided to draw on my poster. I was really proud of my Shisa dog that I drew (on the right of the title). I did copy it off a picture on my laptop but considering how horrible of a drawer I am, I thought I did pretty well.

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I’m not 100% sure if this is correct or not but Patrik told us that Pac-Man originated from a missing pizza slice. Apparently the man who created Pac-Man was out eating pizza, took a slice, and thought of the character’s shape right there. Patrik also said the man said to himself, “everyone likes pizza!” so everyone would then like Pac-Man. I couldn’t stop laughing when Patrik was telling us this because he sounded so animated when imitating the creator of Pac-Man. Like I said, I don’t know if this is true or not so don’t take my word on it. I still think it’s pretty cool and worth mentioning though since I didn’t know about this.


I mentioned earlier that Patrik and I went to an elementary school in Omagari to play with the kids. Well, this past Wednesday morning, Patrik and I went to a kindergarten in the same area. We each had to introduce a game to play with the kids. Patrik chose musical chairs and I chose Duck, Duck, Goose. There was one girl who was chosen as the goose who could never run fast enough to get into the new sport. After about the fifth time of her being tagged, she started crying. She cried later on as well when she couldn’t get a seat in musical chairs. Poor girl. After we played our games, the kindergartners showed us their own game. The all sat in a circle with cards sprawled out in the middle. Each card had a hiragana character in the corner. The kids would have to grab the card with the hiragana character the teacher read out loud. It got pretty intense. The kids would all just jump into the middle of the circle looking for the correct card. I was afraid some of them would bump heads. Sometimes multiple kids would jump on the correct card at the same time and because the teacher couldn’t tell who got it first, the kids did Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who would rightfully win the card. With every disagreement, Rock, Paper, Scissors was played. I thought it was adorable and smart. I think even older kids play this game to come up with a settlement.


When Patrik and I went to the elementary school, we were given the same small lunch as the kids. We were expecting the same thing again this time but in kindergarten, instead of the school supplying the food, everyone brings a bento box from home. In Japan, making bentos is a hobby. Many people, usually mothers, get very creative when making bentos. For example, one girl had a bow shaped sausage and another girl had a crown shaped boiled egg. Patrik and I even got our own bentos and wow, they were delicious. It had a variety of vegetables and meats in addition to the rice topped with an umeboshi (dried sweet plum).

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We headed to Tokyo this past weekend and before doing so, Patrik wanted to bleach and dye his hair gray. I helped him bleach his hair Wednesday night and dye his hair Thursday night. There was some leftover bleach so Patrik and I decided to put some in my hair, only a little though. It didn’t really do anything; I guess my hair is too dark. My left hand is a bit purple from the dye. Weird, huh? The hair dye also came out purple on Patrik’s hair instead of gray. Well, some parts are gray and other parts are purple!

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So, this past weekend, Patrik and I went to Tokyo! I told my mom that Patrik, Isabella, and the CO crew were all heading there to visit for the weekend. My mom then offered to buy round trip bus tickets, just as long as I don’t miss class! I took the bus with Patrik to and from Tokyo. We both couldn’t sleep on the 10 hour bus ride both ways. I just listened to music and practiced memorizing my speech for Japanese. There was a guy on the bus who talked to us during the stops. He was visiting his grandma in Akita and going back home to Tokyo. Of course, Patrik and I talked in our broken Japanese. At our last bus stop, the guy asked us for our ages and he was surprised that I was 20 and Patrik was 22; he thought we were older. I asked him for his age expecting to hear 23. Instead, he told us that he was 19! I was shocked. Right before we got back on the bus he took off two bracelets and gave one to Patrik and I. Now we have matching bracelets! I was so happy.


Patrik and I arrived in Tokyo at around 6am. Patrik had to go to the NHK TV Station at 12pm because he was invited to participate in a shooting. So, I decided to hang out with him till he left then I would go and meet up with Isabella and everyone else. We walked all the way to the Shinju Shrine (Sandy told us to not come back to Akita unless we go to this shrine). I was very shocked when walking to it because we were just surrounded by trees and green. I didn’t expect there to be so much nature in the middle of Tokyo. It was a pretty big shrine as well. There were tourist groups walking around and people taking pictures everywhere. Patrik and I threw our coins and prayed. Then we washed our hands with the water scoop. Afterwards, we walked to Harajuku and looked around. Patrik tried Mos Burger for the first time – Japanese chain fast food restaurant. Many Americans don’t try it because the name sounds unappealing but the Mos burger is actually very delicious. Anyways, Patrik ended up leaving and I walked all the way from Harajuku to Shinjuku instead of taking a train. It was about a 45-minute walk. My feet were in so much pain.

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Isabella and Annabelle were keen on going to the Owl Café so after I met up with them at H&M, we made our way to the café. It was ¥1800 for an hour…I thought it was quite expensive but these goofballs really wanted to go. When I walked in I was surprised to see 10 owls, all different kinds. The guy working there spoke broken English so I was able to hold a conversation with him with my broken Japanese as well. He put owls on all of our heads, hands, and shoulders. One of the owls looked so animated – you can see the owl on Isabella’s shoulder in the picture above. It’s eyes were just beads…Isabella kind of looks like it in that picture! The guy working there told me that he had never been to America but was going next summer for his wedding. Vegas!


On Sunday, we all slept in a bit after a night of going out so we woke up around lunchtime. Isabella found this recommended ramen restaurant called Ichiran so we made our way there. There was a line outside but we didn’t mind waiting. When we finally made it inside we were shocked to see that each chair was closed off. You basically got your own stall to eat your ramen; if you’re anti-social this place would be perfect for you! When ordering our ramen, we were asked what spiciness level we wanted. It went up to 20 but 10 was the recommended high. Isabella LOVES spicy food so of course, she put down 10. I saw Patrik put down 10 as well so I had no choice but to put down 10. Patrik likes spicy food but he doesn’t handle it well. Patrik and I were seated next to each other but Isabella and Annabelle were seated elsewhere due to lack of seating. I’m not kidding when I say Patrik and I were breaking a sweat. We stripped our jackets and hoodies off. Patrik drank 4 cups of water within 2 minutes. It was pretty great. He couldn’t finish so I finished the rest of his ramen for him. Afterwards, we waited outside for the girls. It was freezing outside but we were still so hot from the ramen that we just stood outside in our T-shirts.

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After Ichiran, we decided to go to Asakusa. I know I’ve gone there several times but Patrik, Isabella, and Annabelle had never visited before so I insisted on taking them. I didn’t think it would be difficult to figure out the train system but it was…it took us a good 30 minutes till we could figure out where we had to go. Please, never rely on me for directions.

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We were so relieved when we finally made it to Asakusa! Annabelle was so happy to see all of the shops. She wanted to buy all the souvenirs she could find. Isabella and Annabelle both bought some snacks while walking down the street. Patrik and I split a 6-pack of postcards. It was nice just walking around. Diane, the friend I visited the last time I went to Tokyo, met up with us at Asakusa. I was extremely happy to see her again, especially since the next time I see her will probably not be till later next year. We walked up to the temple and threw our coins and prayed. Afterwards, we stopped at a convenience store to buy some drinks. I was in desperate need for coffee and Isabella was in desperate need for a warm drink. Unfortunately, she has been sick for the past coupe of days – sore throat and runny nose. Hopefully she gets better soon, especially with finals coming up!

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After Asakusa, we headed to Shibuya to show everyone the Shibuya crossing. We weren’t hungry for dinner yet so we shopped around. Diane ended up buying some yoga pants from Bershka – she’s starting to work out more at a gym near her apartment. Isabella and Annabelle didn’t find anything. Patrik and I don’t care to shop as much so we just talked and walked for the most part. It started raining a bit so we decided to look for a restaurant. Again, we are an indecisive bunch so deciding on a restaurant took a while. Diane found a building with restaurants on three floors so it was easier for us to choose from that.

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The five of us had to squish into a four-seater booth. It was pretty tight but we all wanted to sit next to each other. I was very happy that everyone had the chance to meet Diane. It’s funny thinking that I have friends from study abroad that have met my high school friends AND my mom and brother. Sometimes I feel like study abroad is such a temporary thing and you meet people that you will never see again. But, for me, it’s more than that. I know that Patrik and I are going to be friends for a looong time. I mean, he’s coming to Okinawa with me this winter break. He’s going to see where I grew up and meet my friends from high school. It’s like my study abroad life and my actual life are coming together? I don’t know…it’s hard to explain but it’s a very nice feeling. I’ve made friends that I know I will see again and meet up with. Even Isabella and Annabelle. I’m sure I will see them again in the states. I do have an aunt living two blocks away from their school.

Well, there’s only two more weeks left of school. Time is ticking.


Naomi at Akita Week 13: Mission Impossible

December 2, 2016

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Remember how it snowed for the first time a couple of weeks ago? The snow melted right away and since then it hadn’t snowed. Well, it started snowing again this past week and it was actually pretty bad. Some of the snow melted and froze during the night; the next day I could barely walk. I was basically ice skating everywhere in my slip-on Vans since I wanted to refrain from slipping and falling on my butt. I really need to buy some snow boots…

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Thursday evening, my mom and brother, Tyler, landed in Akita! They stayed in a hotel near campus – only a 5-minute walk away. My mom decided not to get a rental car in fear of sliding on the icy roads. Practically all of the ice had melted by the second day they were here but she insisted on using the buses and trains for transportation. We all got dinner in the school cafeteria since my mom wanted to try the food they served there. I was surprised to see that there was a Thanksgiving special considering we’re in Japan! The turkey was actually very delicious when drenched in gravy. Since we had nothing planned for the night, we took the bus to AEON so my mom could buy some food for breakfast. We met Patrik there – he went earlier to get a haircut before the shop closed. After the mall, my mom and Tyler headed back to the hotel. They were tired from traveling and Patrik and I had to work on Japanese homework due the next day.

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After my 10:30 Japanese class, I walked to the hotel. My mom’s friend and husband from Iwata (different prefecture) drove about three hours to visit us. My mom has been a friend of this woman since 3rd grade – they’re pen pals. The last time they saw each other was in 1993…that’s 23 years ago. She lives in the area that was affected by the tsunami in 2011. My mom wanted us to visit her there but since we didn’t have a car we would have had to travel by train and it would’ve taken 6 hours. For lunch, we ate at the restaurant in the hotel. I got the Lunch Set with the ハンバーガーステーキ (Hamburger Steak) and it was delicious. Afterwards, we decided to walk around my campus. We showed them our beautiful library and stopped at the only café on campus for some coffee. They left around 4pm so my mom and Tyler just sat at one of the tables outside of the café. Patrik and Isabella both ended up coming to hang out with us before Isabella left for dance rehearsals. They both kept asking my mom and Tyler for embarrassing/funny stories about me, giving Tyler the opportunity to make fun of me. All of us were laughing so hard, especially Tyler and me. The both of us even started tearing up – it was great.


After Isabella left, we got on the bus and headed to AEON for dinner. Tyler wanted to go to 焼肉 (grill in the middle of table so you cook your own meat) and Patrik found one that was a 15-minute walk away from the mall. However, while on the bus, Patrik admitted to not wanting to go because it was cold and snowing outside. So, we walked into the restaurant area of the mall not knowing where to eat. We looked at the menus of all the restaurants there and then stood in the middle of the walkway trying to figure out where to eat. It was very inconvenient that the four of us were all very indecisive. Thankfully, Patrik had made an earlier comment that he hadn’t eaten pizza in a while so my mom said we should go to the Italian restaurant. Once we sat down we realized that the pizza given to us wasn’t that big, it was more of a side of pizza – only 15cm wide. The four of us ended up getting spaghetti with a side of pizza. Patrik and I both got spaghetti with squid ink – it was a Black Friday special. Patrik got honey pizza and I got pizza with spicy pollock/cod roe. It was obviously a Japanese-style Italian restaurant! After dinner, my mom insisted on going to Baskin Robbins so she could get a free scoop of ice cream with a coupon she got from her phone company. Once she got it, she took two bites, said it was too sweet, and gave it to Tyler to finish. Oh brother.


On Saturday, Patrik and Isabella joined us to head into the city. My mom was on me about making Christmas cards to send to family and friends. I told her we could use pictures that we took together during the summer in Okinawa but she was persistent in taking some pictures here. While I gave my camera to Patrik and he proceeded to take some pictures of us.


Oh, here are some pictures of me throwing a snowball at Patrik. I missed. BUT, I missed intentionally because I didn’t want to hit my camera.


We got to Akita Station and saw some guys dressed as Namahage! My mom told us to run over and take pictures with them before another group of kids jumped ahead of us. I felt like an elementary school student being forced to take a picture with one of the scary movie characters at Disneyland. After we took that picture, we walked towards the city and passed a souvenir shop with a big stuffed bull. Isabella started freaking out and I could tell she wanted to go hug it so I told her I would take a picture of her with it. Tyler ended up jumping in too and the both of them look so happy! It makes me happy.


We walked to a fish and vegetable market. There was a guy chopping off fish heads. We saw puffer fish and lots of cheap ikura (salmon roe) – Tyler’s favorite. I actually really love going to fish markets. I don’t know why. I love seeing all the different kinds of fish and as weird as this is going to sound, I appreciate the smell. We walked outside and saw someone selling different kinds of mochi – a Japanese rice cake. The rice is pounded for several hours until it turns into paste and then shaped. In Akita, zunda mocha is popular so my mom bought a package of four. Tyler and I shared one. It tasted nothing like the mochi we are used to; it was super sweet and soft to chew. I guess the rice was pounded for a longer time.

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After the market, we walked to Senshu Park. Isabella and Patrik have never gone so I decided to take everyone there since there isn’t that much to do in the city here. Tyler’s a senior in high school so he needs senior casuals for the yearbook. I offered to take some pictures for him. He found a bunch of leaves sprawled on the ground under a naked tree. The leaves matched with his hoodie and shoes so we thought it would make for a nice set of photos. I told him to throw some leaves for a couple of the pictures and it turned out looking pretty cool. There’s a castle at the park that I wanted to show my mom but we had to climb up a pretty steep hill. Tyler had to help her out and we were all laughing, even my mom. She felt like a grandma hanging out with us kids, she said.


After the park, my mom treated all of us to some ラーメン (ramen). The place was very small and only had maybe 15 seats altogether. Each table only seated three people so we had to sit separately. You had to order at a machine, which allowed you to receive a ticket you give to the cooks. I was shocked when my mom told me the only sizes they had were regular, large, and extra large. We all got the regular size but the bowl was still so huge. I’ve never eaten so many noodles in one sitting. Isabella couldn’t even finish her bowl. Tyler was still hungry and ate some of hers before we headed out. His stomach is bottomless, apparently.


Saturday night, we went to Isabella and Annabelle’s dance performances. There were 24 dance teams performing at Dance Virus. It was the last dance event for the semester so it was very emotional for the seniors graduating soon. It was a lot of fun to watch though and I’m glad my mom and Tyler came this weekend to see everyone perform. Even dance teams from other schools came to perform. The last performance was very exciting though. A bunch of people danced to “You Can’t Stop The Beat,” the song from Hairspray. Not many people know this about me but I love watching musicals. My mom watched them while I was growing up so it has rubbed off on me. I was rocking out in my chair when the song played.

 

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My mom and Tyler had to leave for the airport at 10am today but Patrik wanted us to complete Mission Impossible before they left. We met up at 8am and Patrik gave us that first paper shown above and told us good luck. There were 7 missions and we had to walk around campus looking for the next clue. I was laughing throughout the entire game. It amazes me that Patrik made this for my mom and Tyler; he’s such a sweetheart. He even created mp3 files that we read with a QR scanner on Tyler’s phone. We had to guess the national anthem of different countries to find the next location. We used Shazam to find out some of the anthems – we couldn’t figure out the Italian national anthem. We told Patrik that and he told us they sing “Italia” in the song….I guess we have bad hearing. At the end, my mom and Tyler were rewarded with maple cookies and syrup from Canada. Patrik’s sister lives in Canada so he asked her to send that over for us. What a wonderful weekend. It makes me happy that Patrik gets along with my family so well considering he’s going to Okinawa with me this winter break.


Naomi at Akita Week 12: 黒い舌

November 28, 2016

It was a beautiful day and I had an hour break before my next class so I decided to go on a walk. I’ve noticed we only get about two nice days per week here in Akita. The other days it’s either pouring rain, constantly pouring, or simply cloudy. I walked off campus, passing Banafi (the only convenience store for miles), and headed to a bridge that overlooked some rice fields. It took only about 5-10 minutes to walk to the bridge. I was listening to Chance and enjoying the cold wind hitting my face. While I was looking over the bridge I heard someone call my name. My friends Toshi and Ria were driving past me. Ria stuck her head out the window and kept yelling my name. Toshi messaged me immediately on LINE afterwards asking me how the weather was. It was a good way to start the week. I’m glad I ended up going on a walk because, as expected, it rained the next few days.

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Here’s a selfie I took on my walk. My friends always get mad at me for making this face: the Nomi face. I don’t like smiling in pictures so I always end up making this face. I would also like to mention my mom sent me that FILA sweater I’m wearing in the picture and I can’t emphasize how thankful I am. It’s only November and it’s already so cold here that you need all the sweaters you can get.

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After my walk, I still had time to spare so I went to the IT lab and kept Patrik some company. He goes there a lot since his laptop is broken. I know in the picture he’s obviously scrolling through YouTube but he was actually working on his five haikus for Japanese literature class. Listening to music inspired him to come up with some haikus. He wanted to write them in Japanese and translate them into English. I helped him with one of the haikus – the squid ink one, you can see it in the picture. I ate a squid ink riceball for the first time in Okinawa a while ago and wow, it was delicious. My tongue was super black afterwards. I told Patrik when we go this winter break that I would make sure he tries one. The other picture is of one of the haikus he came up with. I couldn’t stop laughing because I’m not kidding when I say Patrik has had a constant cold since he first got here. He gets sick all the time and carries nasal spray around him because his nose is never unstuffed. Poor guy. It makes for a great haiku though!

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Patrik and I went to the IT lab again to print out our third draft for the ポスター発表 (poster speech). At the end of the semester, all students in JPL300 have to give a 5-7 minute speech about anything they wish. I’m tremendously nervous for it because it’s just a lot to remember in just Japanese. I’m talking about Okinawa though so it should be fun! Anyways, I snapped this picture of a girl passed out at the computer – a good representation of the life of an AIU student. Just kidding, people here are so lively, full of energy and on top of their studies at the same time. It’s a wonderful community, really.

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I Facetimed Madison, my friend from UR, this week! I’m not good at keeping in contact but she is, thankfully. She messages me and makes sure we Facetime biweekly to update each other on our lives. She’s studying abroad in Madrid right now so the time difference isn’t too bad, only 8 hours. We give each other advice on our dilemmas, of course. Unfortunately, she’s studying abroad in Spain for the entire year so I don’t get to see her when I return back to Richmond this January BUT I might visit her in the summer and travel around Europe with her for a bit. I’m not sure though, it’s up in the air. I miss her!

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Annabelle and Isabella are both in JPL101 and they had to give a short speech in Japanese for class. They talked about their vacation to Korea this past summer. I listened to them and corrected them when they made a mistake. The participles threw them off a bit but they went over it about 5-10 times and had it all down by the end. Annabelle made a PowerPoint full of pictures from their vacation and it was fun to look through. They went to a Dog Café while they were in Korea and there was a picture of Annabelle with a huge smile spread across her face next to a pug. The pug looked terrified and its eyes looked like they were about to pop out of its head. It was wonderful.

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Oh man, don’t get me started on Japanese Reading class. I don’t remember if I have mentioned but with our JPL300 class we are able to take supplemental classes, such as reading and kanji – I’m in both. Well, for Reading class, we are assigned a reading per week and have to answer questions based on the reading. Recently, the readings have been getting increasingly hard with all of the vocabulary and grammar. This week we read a story about an old man calling for a priest, monk, and minister to pray for him before he passes so he can go to heaven. He gave each of them ¥10,000 ($100) to come and pray for him. However, before he dies, he asks each of them to place ¥2,000 ($20) in his coffin so he has money in heaven. At his funeral, the priest and minister each place the ¥2,000. The story ends with the monk taking the ¥4,000 from the coffin and placing a check inside for ¥6,000 ($60)….do you get it?

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Patrik and I took a while to finally understand the story. Our friend Sandy who is also in our class helped us translate it. When we finally understood what the monk had done we cried full of joy. Not really, but it felt like we were about to…we were so relieved to finally understand the story and answer the questions. Sandy, from Taiwan, comes to my LDIC sessions to improve her English so I’ve gotten close to her. She comes every week now and it’s great. I can tell she’s improving in her English and becoming more confident in speaking it!

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Michelle, another friend from Richmond, sent me a postcard this week. We wanted to be pen pals but after our first letters she stopped because she became too busy to write a letter. Instead she sent me this postcard, which is totally fine because I love postcards as well. She actually just started working at the gym on campus so I’m glad I still get to see her often despite her graduating this past year!

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We had another nice day this week so I asked Annabelle and Isabella to join me on a walk. My friend Isshin showed me this open space in the beginning of the semester so I decided to go there. The goofballs made me walk in the front just in case there were spider webs. I brought my camera with me and told them I would take photos of them. I guess they were so excited for a photo shoot that they even wore matching sweaters. I played some music from my iPhone and they just started doing random poses.


They did several cute poses, as you can see in the first picture. Isabella asked Annabelle if she could touch her toes for a picture and Annabelle couldn’t do it. She claimed to be inflexible and I kept telling her to straighten her legs for the picture. We all couldn’t stop laughing. Then, Isabella reached over and said, “Annabelle, I can touch your toes.” That’s when we all lost it. My stomach actually hurt from laughing so hard.

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My iPhone shut off because it was too cold outside so Isabella started playing music until her iPhone also shut off due to the cold. Annabelle pulled a weed from the ground and started playing with it so Isabella did the same. They both started practicing their dance for the dancing event next weekend. My mom and Tyler, my younger brother, are visiting next weekend so we’re all going to go and see them perform! We ended up walking back to campus as the sun was setting. We used the flashlight from Annabelle’s iPhone to make sure we wouldn’t walk into any spider webs and thorns. By the time we got to the cafeteria for dinner, our fingers were numb. We couldn’t even use our chopsticks correctly.

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I tried getting a nice picture of the sunset yesterday but my camera skills are lacking. I just wanted to say that a lot of us are starting to get upset knowing that the semester is coming to an end. After this weekend, we only have four weeks of classes left. It’s unbelievable how quickly the semester has gone. It feels like yesterday we were all meeting up at the beach, singing our hearts out at the karaoke place. Instead of getting upset over it, I’m going to enjoy the rest of the time I have here and make the best out of it.


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