First day of school. Not 'work' in a traditional sense, but still living.
The subway was slightly easier this time. I had more of an idea of what I was supposed to do, so I spent less time staring mutely at a machine until a Japanese person told me how to insert a ticket. However, I was so impressed with a 500 yen coin that I forgot to put it back in my wallet and consequently almost dropped it. Once on the train, I focused more on moving than I had yesterday. I managed to get out of the doorway, and was even at the point where I might have been able to grab a seat, but I only had one stop left so I didn't try.
I don't think I've ever been somewhere before where it's easier to find a vending machine than it is to find a water fountain. I've lost track of how many vending machines I've seen, but I've only seen water fountains in one station.
My preparation yesterday paid off, and I got to the school with no difficulty, and plenty of time to spare. I was the second one in the classroom, and that was only because I'd stalled on the way up.
In class (Conversation Level II, where Conversation I still presumes a prior knowledge of Japanese), we began by introducing ourselves. I was a bit surprised when 'science' joined 'watermelon' and 'knitting' as words the teacher thought was worth defining. Then again, I was also surprised when conjugations of 'sleep' didn't come automatically to everyone else, so that's probably an IMSA thing.
The teacher also handed out textbooks. It's been years since I've had a textbook in Japanese. It doesn't have any English in it, relying on pictures instead. We went through the vocabulary in class, so that helped as well. The weirdest thing it does with verbs is not use the dictionary and casual form. Instead, it uses the formal conjugation. However, it does assume knowledge of different conjugations, so that appears to be a conscious choice to be more formal.
During class, there was an earthquake. It was a small one- even a sheltered Chicagoan* like me could realize that. Even so, I hadn't really been in earthquakes before. There were really faint ones that often happened in the middle of the night, but nothing ground-shaking enough for me to stop and wonder what it was. So that was an experience.
Fun fact: the gender ratio is tipped in favor of the girls. I haven't done an exact count of either my class or the program as a whole, but I'd say it's roughly 2:1. This is exciting, because the last Japanese class I took ended with there only being one other girl in it and a good deal more males. So it's nice to be part of a majority.
After class I joined a group of about nine people to go find lunch. I have no idea what the exact number is because we'd barely made it out of the building when some of them decided to buy lunch at the Family Mart. There were now six of us who were still looking for food. After looking at and deciding against two restaurants, one person decided to give up and went into a different Family Mart and bought lunch there. The rest of us continued on.
We found a restaurant, but instead of going in, someone decided to walk quickly in the opposite direction. She couldn't give a good reason for why she didn't want to go in there. We were still a large group, and none of us had ever been in Japan before or had that good Japanese. The next restaurant we saw that served ramen I walked in, hoping that the rest of the group would follow me. They did.
There wouldn't have been a spot for us to sit, except that two people moved from the table they were at to a smaller one, so we got to sit together there. We couldn't read the kanji on the menu, but did get the waitress to explain what the dishes were. They came at vastly staggered times, and was a lot more food than any of us could eat, but it was good.
After that, we went back to the school for a yukata (summer kimono) lesson. We got to pick out a kimono, an obi, a pair of shoes, and a purse. Unfortunately, the pair of shoes were way too small for practically everyone. My feet didn't fit on them, and when I took them off I could see the lines they made.
A yukata is hard to part on. It didn't help that the instructions were given in Japanese, or that the demonstration was given with the model's back to me. However, with a teacher coming over to help practically every step of the way, I got the yukata on looking right.
After they were on came pictures. It was a lot like prom, only without three years of shared memories the groups that people took pictures with were a lot more random. There was also a group shot, or should I say twenty? After one 'official' picture was taken, the teachers asked who wanted their own group picture. Hands and cameras shot up everywhere, followed by a flurry of 'Look at the camera. Smile. Cheese.' I'm glad this wasn't one of those pictures where I needed to squat slightly the entire time.
Finally, after even more individual and small-group pictures, we were free to go. I took off my yukata and learned how to fold it properly. The shoes were gleefully taken off and barely not left behind, and then I went back to the subway. I found the exact place to wait easier than yesterday, but almost got on the wrong train. (I stopped myself because it looked too crowded and the sign said 'express') I was better able to predict motions when it would stop based on when it started slowing down, and got from the station back to the house without difficulty.
It used to be that the Japanese word I used the most was 'wakaranai' (I don't know/understand.) Since coming to Japan, that's changed to being 'daijoubu?'(OK?) While that's probably a good sign, it does mean still mean a lot of unfamiliar situations. At least I'm starting to understand them.
- Traveling outside the Midwest changes my hometown from being a suburb of Chicago t o being Chicago. It's nice because Chicago is big enough that most people will recognize it, in a way they might not recognize it if I just say 'Illinois.'