Earthquake!!

There was an earthquake today. I wish I could say I handled it like a champ, but it completely terrified me. It took me a couple seconds to realize what was going on because I had never experienced an earthquake before! At first I thought a loud and heavy truck was banging down the road, but I looked up and noticed that the walls were shaking! I completely froze.

I knew I should get underneath a desk or run towards an exit, but my body didn’t want to move! The earthquake probably lasted about 10 seconds or so before everything was back to normal.

Here’s to experiencing another first in Japan! I’m hoping an earthquake that size won’t happen again while I’m here!

My 1st Tai Chi Class

I attended a Tai Chi class for the first time tonight, or taikyokuken as it is called in Japanese. It was a very calming and enlightening experience. The class was taught only in Japanese, but the lady I went with translated for me. She mentioned that people practice Tai Chi because “Exercise works your muscles, but Tai Chi works your soul.” It was a really nice way to end my day, and I hope to go back in the future!

Uchihara Mall and Japanese Fireworks Festival

Today was a fun filled day with lots of activities! I made some new friends, and we went to two new cities in Japan! First, we took the train to Uchihara and went to Aeon Mall. We went shopping there, and ate some dinner.

The difference between malls in Japan and the ones I have been to in Canada is that the floors are carpeted in Japan. The bottom floor also usually has a supermarket that people shop in for groceries. This is not normally the case in Canada. The escalators are also a lot smaller and people stand on the left (walk up the right side). When we went to the food court to purchase food, we were able to leave our purchases in our seats while we looked for the food we wanted. I had never done this in Canada before because usually people can’t be trusted not to take your things.

I think that is a difference between collectivist and individualist societies. Collectivist societies, such as Japan, look out for the good of the group, so people would not need to fear their items being stolen.

The photos above are photos I took from the balcony of the mall, and the clock inside the mall. The dish is Udon Noodles with Shrimp Tempura on top. (Yum!)

After we finished shopping, we went to a city called Tsuchiura. It was extremely crowded because it was hosting one of the three top firework festivals in Japan! There were thousands of people when we got off the train, and there were fears of us getting lost! Police officers were guiding the crowd with megaphones and light sticks. Although, this was a chaotic scene, everyone seemed to stay very calm. We walked for about a half hour and decided to sit in between two bridges along a river. It was really beautiful because we could see the reflection of the fireworks in the water! The fireworks lasted about an hour and a half, so we weren’t able to watch them all. We had to catch a train in order to get home on time. The river was surrounded by thousands of people sitting on blankets, and the weather was perfect for fireworks. At one point, the fireworks spelled out the name of “Tsuchiura” which was pretty neat! I was totally exhausted after getting home, but it was totally worth it!!

(HUGE!!) Japanese Cockroaches

I may just die of a heart attack while I’m studying here in Japan! I just had my first experience with killing a cockroach, and it was huge! I had previously seen cockroaches while my family and I visited Jamaica, but I wasn’t the one who had to kill them that time! And, I have not visited Jamaica in about 15 years! I was about to make myself some food and noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t think anything of it, but when I looked in the general direction, that was when my blood ran cold!

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I noticed a HUGE cockroach taking it upon himself to come into my home, and he thought it would be a good idea to sit near my fridge! There were a million thoughts that ran through my mind, and as I quickly racked my brain on what to do next I decided to grab a small garbage pail and try to trap him! Little did I know this was a bad idea! So, I grabbed my tiny garbage pail and slowly tried to sneak up on this cockroach, but he noticed me and started to run towards me! I screamed, dropped the bucket, and hopped onto my bed for my dear life!! After I picked myself up off the bed from crying I noticed he had run underneath my bed. So I grabbed a shoe and moved my bed out from the wall. He was stuck in the corner. I took many deep weeping breaths and tried to hit him with my shoe! I thought I had got him, but he started to climb up my wall!! So I had to hit him off the wall, and I hit him with my shoe. He was slightly flattened, but I thought he was dead. So I congratulated myself, and sat back down on my bed trying to come up with ideas on how I would pick him up now. I went back to the corner of my wall, and noticed he had moved. So I found him again, and hit him with my shoe another 6 or 7 times just to be sure he was dead. (I found out this is why people don’t normally put their beds up against the walls in Japanese homes. Cockroaches are common here because the houses are made differently than in North America.) I have encountered a couple more cockroaches since this incident, but they weren’t nearly as bad. Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with any for a while because the weather here is getting cooler, and they don’t like the cold so much. I don’t like bugs, so this was quite a daunting experience!

The Other Side of the Pacific Ocean

I ventured down to the Pacific Ocean today after being told by many that I lived really close. It is hard to find accessible Wi-Fi in Japan because most networks are locked. (Oh, the luxuries we take for granted in Canada, sometimes!) Since I haven’t got a clue where I am most times, I decided to look up the route to the ocean on my phone’s GPS. I left my apartment, took some deep breaths, and prayed that I wouldn’t get lost!

I was nervous at first because the streets here are much narrower, and they don’t really have names. It is much more difficult for people to navigate here, as people usually get around by mentioning certain buildings or main roads! I think it may also help if one can, you know, speak/read Japanese. Fortunately, the ocean is only about a ten minute walk from where I live! I feel very lucky to be able to see this beautiful water up close!! Especially this side of the Pacific Ocean.

I can now cross that off my bucket list!!

See the western side of the Pacific Ocean, up close and personal!!

Lending a Helping Hand

I’ve met some new people, and made a couple new friends today. It was a nice day, and I had a new class today as well. I like my teacher in that class. She seems really nice. The people at this school have been so kind and accepting of me, I feel like they really care about me. I had a class during 3rd period, and the students in that class have to speak English. I realized how easily English can come to me, and how much work it does take to speak a language correctly. The students in my class are mostly Japanese, and a lot of them were having trouble speaking English, but they were all so dedicated to it that it made me happy to see them try! I always try to be as helpful as possible. After school, I went to a supermarket to buy a few things. I went with a girl who is from (I believe) Russia, and a girl who is an exchange student from Vietnam. The girl from Russia speaks very little English, but she can understand it better when people talk to her, rather than when she talks to them. The girl from Vietnam speaks English very well, so she was almost like a translator for us! We went to do some shopping. This supermarket is close to our school, and then we went to another store beside it. I had run out of money, and wanted to buy a few things, so the girl from Vietnam offered to pay for me. She said she does that with her friends. It felt nice that she would do that for me, and I kept asking her if that was okay. She didn’t mind at all! This is just one of the many ways that the people here in Japan have helped me. She then offered to walk me home because I was unsure of how to get home from where we were, which I thought was really sweet of her to do.

Feeling homesick

As much as I’m loving Japan, I am starting to get really homesick. I have noticed that the products in Japan that are “American” do not taste the same. I tried some Mountain Dew today, and I was excited to have some, but when I tried it, it tasted completely different. I am not trying to say that it wasn’t good, but little things like that make me miss home. I miss my family, and my friends, and how familiar everything was. This is my first time travelling abroad, so I was not sure what to expect. I knew that I would get homesick, so I’m going to push through this. I know it will get easier when I start to make myself at home more. I want to have an open mind to everything and make the most out of this amazing opportunity. I feel very fortunate to be able to live here in Japan, and I want to do the best I can in this situation. It gets a little overwhelming at times when I don’t know the language, and can’t talk to others when I’m out and about. Hopefully, it will get better.