Saturday, April 21, 2012

Party games!

The difficulty of my class has been ramping up something fierce. Most of the grammar that we're covering is still stuff I've already studied on my own, but it's getting to the point where I feel like I may be falling behind in terms of listening and speaking skills. That kinda causes a bit of a problem, because unlike grammar or kanji, verbal communication isn't really anything you can sit down and study until you get it right. I have a television, as well as a fairly large collection of my favorite shows and movies on my computer, so I can practice listening that way. Still, though. It's not really the same as having a real life conversation.

It seems to me that while studying is important at Yamasa (obviously, as it is a school), something that is equally important is leaving your apartment as often as you can and interacting with other people in Japanese. Preferably people who don't speak English so there's no safety net.

Playing difficult Chinese games
Whiiiiiich brings me to last night. One of the other students had a big party sort of thing at his apartment and tons of people went. By "tons" I mean about 20 or so. That's a lot for how big the apartment was though.

There were a lot of students from Taiwan at the party (including one from my class!) and they taught us two fun games. One was apparently called "5 10 15," and you can see the two students in the foreground of that picture playing it. Basically it's a very fast game where the two players take turns saying a number, either 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 (mind you, this game was played entirely in Japanese last night). When someone says a number, both players instantly change their hands to either closed, one open, or both open. If the number of fingers up match the number that was said, the player who said the number gets to go again. Call two correct numbers in a row and you win.

The other game was similar to rock, paper, scissors. This one was played in Chinese because it had a sort of rhythm to it that would be destroyed if you played it in any other language. It was called "Bang Da Lau-Hu Ji Chi Chong." I guess that translates roughly to "Stick beats tiger, bird eats worm." Basically how to play was to say the name of the game in rhythm while touching your pointer fingers together on every syllable, and then call out either stick ("Bang-zu"), tiger ("Lau-hu"), bird ("Ji"), or worm ("Chong"). Stick beats tiger, tiger eats bird, bird eats worm, worm eats stick. As I was doing research on it this morning, I learned that apparently there's some sort of psychological aspect to it that I can't even begin to understand, but it was still really fun to play.

I brought my ukulele to the party wrapped in a towel in my backpack and sang a few songs and taught my Taiwanese friends how to play the chords C, G, Am, and F, since like every song ever just uses that chord progression anyway.

So that was that. Met new people, learned new things, introduced new people to how amazing the ukulele is. Good times.

Today, apparently, we're heading out to Nagoya for some sort of party at a small Australia-themed bar. I don't really know very many details other than that, but I do know that my entire evening will be spend there. Until then, though, I better get my ass in gear and start studying those kanji.

Till next time!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Okazaki Castle, Grand Shrines of Ise, Miscellaneous

I can't find the time to write in this blog, but I know at least a couple people are subscribed to it so I should at least make a cursory effort to write something. So here goes.


A bridge across the river, decked out in Hanami gear
I guess the first thing to write about would be the Hanami festival we attended at Okazaki Castle. The number of people who were there were absolutely huge. I and the two guys I've mentioned before (the Swede and the German) all walked up together with the intention of finding the Yamasa area, but as soon as we got there we realized what a ridiculously impossible task that was gonna be. Realizing this, we kinda just decided to walk around and see the sights, since two out of the three of us had never been to the castle before.

As we wandered around, we couldn't help but notice all of the group dance competitions. It seemed like maybe some of them were high school events, and others had older people participating. Everyone was dressed up in kimonos and other traditional clothing and it was really quite impressive. There were tons of shops set up along the river with all sorts of carnival-type games: archery, some fish-catching game, tons of booths selling unhealthy fried food (I bought a corn dog), and even a haunted house. We totally would have gone in but I'm pretty sure it was for children and we didn't want to be the gaijin making the haunted house even MORE scary for the little kids. Still though, it was a good time.

A bunch of good-looking Yamasa students and also me
Eventually we managed to find another similarly-sized group of Yamasa students aimlessly wandering around for the same reason we were, so we resolved to double our wandering-around efforts together. I have to say, it was pretty awesome walking around and hearing little Japanese kids unabashedly pointing us out to their mothers and excitedly talking about foreigners being in such proximity to them.

Well, long story short, eventually we found the Yamasa tarp and I proceeded to join the other people already cracking open their beverages at a healthy 2PM. The admissions guy brought his beloved Guiness as well as a bunch of sake and lots of barbeque-able meat, so it was a really good time. I met a lot of awesome people and did my best to be as sociable as possible, which is kinda the idea I guess. After it had become a bit later and I had finished my bottle of horrible sugar-liqeur and a couple beers, I decided it was a good idea to go pay ¥200 (I think) for 5 arrows at the archery competition. I missed every single one, but I still got a box of powdery little sugar pellets which ended up being pretty okay. Think American smarties, but smaller and less hard.

That's about all of Hanami I figure is blogworthy.

Class was pretty good. It's getting progressively harder and harder and culminated in this past Friday, a day when I didn't have enough time to eat breakfast in the morning and subsequently was a brainless Japaneseless zombie all day. We had a kanji (an incredibly complicated writing system that the Japanese language uses that was borrowed from China in ancient times and shoehorned into a language it wasn't designed for) test that day and I honestly have absolutely no idea how I passed. But I passed, so I guess that's the most important thing.

Saturday and Yesterday

This was taken early on--more people showed up later
Saturday was the unofficial opening of a bar called Zigzag, but the new location wasn't ready or safe for human occupation yet, so we all piled into the old location with boxes everywhere and hung out and generally had a very good time drinking tons of Guinness and Japanese sake. Never having been to the old location before, I was very grateful to have been able to experience it before it was lost to the sands of time and Facebook. It was also someone's... let's call it 21st birthday at midnight, so we all stayed up way too late the day before the Matsusaka trip drinking way too much. Ah, youth.

The rope is changed in a ceremony on a yearly basis
So then after that, we woke up really freaking early and piled into a Matsusaka-bound van and proceeded to play a bunch of annoying travel games until I was absolutely sure Declan was going to kill us all by swerving off a bridge just to end the torment. The goal of the trip was to see the castle at Matsusaka and the shrine at Ise, both of which were pretty impressive. As an American, I kinda get jealous of other countries whose history goes back thousands and thousands of years. Still, it's pretty amazing that the same ceremonies and rituals we saw at the shrine have been handed down over so many generations. Kinda humbling, really.

You know, that's actually a good point. In America (and I would assume this goes for European countries as well), it seems like a lot of the cultural tourism is relic-based. That is, people want to go see a tree because it has a carving from the 1800's on it. People want to go see such-and-such building because it's the oldest in the region or something. But here, it seems like the idea of going to shrines and castles is not necessarily to see a really old thing--in fact, the shrine we saw at Ise, by tradition, is rebuilt every 20 years--but instead to witness something less tangible: the tradition and culture that has survived for way longer than I can even imagine. Fascinating.

Anyway, that's about it for this past weekend. Now for something far less interesting.

Today marked the first day of elective classes. For me, that meant two extra classes today. For most people, the classes are spread out through the week, but it just so happened that the two classes I felt addressed the things I needed to work on the most both fell on Monday. Whoops.

Unrelated picture wherein everyone looks directly into the sun
The first one was a listening and speaking class, which was a ton of fun. I spent most of the class having getting to know a classmate (in Japanese, of course) from Brazil. Pretty cool stuff. Is it weird that one of my favorite things in Japanese is when I don't know a word so I have to find a way to describe the thing that I want to talk about using simple words? Today's hurdle was trying to describe a nursing home without knowing the word for nursing home. I think I conveyed it pretty well, if I do say so myself, though I'm sure I sounded like an idiot in the process.

The second elective class that I had today was kanji level 2. We spent most of the class drawing kanji on white boards, being sure to get the proportions and stroke order correct. Apparently penmanship is extremely important to some Japanese people so I suppose it can't hurt to try to get my handwriting as perfect as I possibly can. It's also pretty fun to do because I don't consider myself artistic in any way whatsoever, but when I get a kanji character looking the way I want it I kinda feel like an artist of a certain sort. Maybe I should get myself a calligraphy pen and/or take a calligraphy course. That would be so much fun.

Anyway that's about it for now. It's getting late and I want a bright and early start tomorrow morning so that I have time to eat one of my famous (to me) breakfasts of spaghetti sauce and cheese on buttered toast. Lates.

P.S. I've started keeping a blog sort of thing in Japanese on lang-8 so if any of you know Japanese and want to laugh at how awful I am at it, こちらへ

P.P.S. I tried Pocari Sweat and I did not enjoy it :(

P.P.P.S. Goodnight.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

First day of class, food food food

So as I look at the pictures I've taken for this blog post, I can't help but notice that they're pretty much all of food. Whoops. I guess this entry won't have very many pictures. I can never remember to take pictures unless I'm sitting down at a restaurant somewhere. Rest assured that my sakura festival entry will have a bunch of awesome pictures in it, though. More on that later.

Munching on these while I write
So, yep, yesterday (Friday) was the first full day of class. I was placed into 102, for those of you who don't follow me on Facebook and didn't know that. Following a trend, I woke up at the crack of... the middle of the night (around 4ish) and used the morning to clean my apartment, make breakfast, Skype my parents, be on facebook, and all that other good stuff. The truth is, I probably could have slept some more, but I was too excited for class to begin, and it was keeping me up. Oh well.

I arrived at the building around 8:30, found my class assignment, and sat down in a random seat in my assigned classroom. Everyone was pretty quiet, possibly as nervous as I was. Our worries were soon allayed when our professor, Ooae-sensei, started class. She speaks very quickly, but uses simple enough words that, when combined with generous usage of hand gestures, conveyed the points she was trying to get across. It was pretty cool being able to actually understand a native speaker at regular speed, even if she was using extremely simple language.

The way class is laid out, the entire class stays in the room we're assigned, and as the periods change, the teachers pack up and move rooms instead of the students. Apparently, that's the way that high schools work here as well. For the first two periods of the day, we had the same teacher, and the class period seemed to be mostly review. We introduced ourselves, learned how the class schedule worked, got our textbooks, talked about class policies and rules, and other first-day-of-class stuff. All in Japanese, of course. That's a rule, actually--nothing but Japanese in the classroom.

Our second class, headed by Honda-sensei, was a little different. Apparently this class was grammar, so we spent most of our time together reviewing different verb conjugations: te-form, ta-form, dictionary form, masu-form, etc. We also had a little exercise where we would talk to and interview each other in plain form. I had a little bit of difficulty with that portion of the class, since speaking is by far my weakest point. Still, there seemed to be a number of other students in the same boat, so at least I find myself in good company.

For lunch, an Australian girl and I tagged along with the Taiwanese students as they went to a nearby ramen shop. That was actually a lot of fun because we were pretty much forced to speak Japanese the whole time, since I certainly couldn't speak their language. I bet they could speak English (as most of the students here seem to be able to), but I'm kinda glad we didn't. The more Japanese we speak in our off-time, the better we'll be!

You know, one of my favorite things so far about my stay here is how adventurous I've been able to be, food-wise. The ramen shop we went to offered free tea, for example. Back in the states, I never drank tea. It's not that I totally hate tea or anything, it's just that I never branched out and acquired a taste for it. Same with most vegetables, or really anything that wasn't burgers or Italian food. The food pictured to the left there, for example, had tons of vegetables in it. I didn't even know what kinds of vegetables they were (and I still don't) but they turned out to be pretty delicious with the curry flavor and the ramen noodles. The tea was pretty good too; I ended up having a number of glasses of it before we went back to class.

After class was over, I spent the rest of yesterday and the majority of today studying and doing homework. There was a decent amount of homework, all in all about three hours' worth, but I wanted to study all the chapters that would have been covered in the 101 class, just to make sure I wasn't missing any grammar points or important vocabulary words that would put me at a disadvantage. I've finished just about everything I wanted to finish this weekend, class-wise, but I'll definitely have to spend some time tomorrow morning doing some extra studying so that I'm 100% prepared for class. With how intensive this class is supposed to be, I figure it'll be pretty easy for me to fall behind. I'll really need to do my best to stay ahead of the curve.

Anyway, it's about 9:30ish, and honestly this is just about the latest I've stayed up during my entire week here in Japan. I'm incredibly tired so I'm going to go to bed. Tomorrow I'm gonna be going up to the castle to watch the festival and take some awesome pictures, so expect a trip report in the next few days.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My first two real days in Japan: a retrospective

Tuesday (火)

My sleep schedule was still totally screwed up on Monday evening, which meant I woke up wide awake at about 4AM on Tuesday. I used the time to stare at the television and write that last blog post. When 7:00 rolled around, I put on all my warm clothes (and put all the stuff in my backpack in the little plastic bag that my pillow came in--I thought that was pretty clever) and headed out to go explore the city.

I expected to find a bank, exchange all my American cash into Japanese yen, and then hit some random restaurant and see if I couldn't make a total eel out of myself trying to order food in Japanese. I had a map that Yamasa had given me on arrival, so I had a general idea of where I was most of the time, but since the streets don't ever have names here, I was never 100% sure of where I was at any given point.

In Japan, this is a worthless piece of paper.
I ended up getting to Okashin bank around 8:45 or so after a bit of aimless wandering and sightseeing. I admit that I didn't take nearly as many pictures that morning as I should have (in fact, I didn't take any at all), but whatever. The Okashin bank building was open, but the tellers weren't there--the only service available in the building were ATMs. At that point, I didn't realize that there were such things as international ATMs here that would work with my American debit card, so I started to leave, becoming increasingly hungrier as the morning went on. As I left the building, an older Japanese lady told me that the main part of the building opened at 9AM and that I should come back at that point if I want to exchange money. I thanked her profusely and went out to walk around for 15 more minutes.

I walked down the street a bit and managed to pass the Yamasa II building at just about 9:00. Content with the knowledge that I now knew where class was gonna take place each day, I turned around and started back towards the bank. Before I could start walking away, though, I was intercepted by a Yamasa staff member who asked me if my placement test was today. I told him yes, at 1:00, but he ushered me into the building regardless. Apparently there were two placement tests that day, one at 9AM and one at 1PM. So there I was, handed a packet of information and ushered into a small room with a bunch of other prospective students at 9AM without any food in my system and without any activity in my brain.

There were two phases of the test: one was a written portion, which I thought I did really well on, and a speaking portion. During the speaking portion (which essentially was a little informal interview with visual aids such as pictures with empty speech bubbles, etc) I managed to steal a glance at my graded written exam. Awful. There was more red ink on that thing than I thought really possible for such a short test. The interview itself was rather brutal as well.

Needless to say, I have the feeling that I'm going to be placed into 101. 102 if I'm really lucky.

So, after that, feeling a bit demoralized, I decided at least I could go back to the bank and get some real Japanese money so I could actually eat. I went to the bank, took a number, and when I walked up to the counter I tried my best to explain what I needed in baby pidgin Japanese. Apparently, that particular branch doesn't do currency exchange. Awesome.

I did find this delicious looking beverage though.
As I left the bank, it had just started to sprinkle and the wind was getting rather intense, so I stood in the overhang in front of the building and checked my map for the next closest bank, since I had no money and I was becoming rather ravenous. Luckily, I noticed that the dot for the post office said "Post Office / International ATM", so I went there and withdrew about ¥18000. At that point the rain was coming down pretty hard so I ran to the convenience store and picked up some orange juice (which turned out to be super delicious, by the way), two apples, and some ham. Don't judge me.

I then fought my way back to the apartment against the crazy wind and rain. By the time I got back, I was completely soaked, so I placed my clothes out to dry (in front of the air conditioning / heating unit) and ate some delicious ham and apple.

Since I wasn't in the best of moods, I decided to take a bit of a power nap, which kinda turned into a regular nap, which kinda turned into a full-blown 8-hour sleep. I woke up at 9PM and spent the rest of the evening cleaning my apartment, watching television, Skyping my family, and forcing my demoralized ass to do some studying.

Wednesday (水)

Yesterday was a lot better. I managed to get a bit of sleep in the early hours of the morning, and woke up at about 4AM. I ate some ham, noticed I had a frying pan, and wished I had some delicious bacon to cook up. I resolved to go find myself some bacon. I don't care if that makes me a stereotypical American; bacon is freaking delicious.

I spent most of the morning figuring out a good VPN to watch my Hulu shows. That's probably going to become a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, since I'm really not supposed to be watching American television, but one episode of a few shows a week can't hurt.

Seriously though, this guy is everywhere.
I headed to orientation at 1PM after preparing a last-minute 自己紹介 (Japanese self-introduction), since I wasn't sure if we were gonna be doing that at orientation or not. Turns out not. I did get to meet my fellow English-speaking students, though, and the guy who's in charge of the admissions office, Declan. He's a pretty cool dude. We all got a tour of the campus as well as an explanation of the bureaucratic stuff we'll have to deal with in the next few weeks, such as registering as an alien, among other things. I'm pretty sure if I'm an unregistered alien, the Boss is gonna come after me. Frightening. I've seen how he deals with aliens.

Curry udon!
After all the orientation stuff, I teamed up with two of my fellow students, one from Germany and one from Sweden, and we set out to find a bunch of things we still needed to buy for our apartments, as well as some food. We ended up going to the big mall in Okazaki and eating at the food court. I got curry udon and it was way more delicious than I was expecting. I had never eaten anything curry-related before so this was a totally new experience for me. It ended up being great, though I wasn't really able to finish all of it because I don't eat a ton.

As we walked around the mall and found various things we needed to buy, I kinda started to realize that in order to be successful here, we really need to get over our fear of looking like total idiots to native speakers. It really does seem like everyone who we've interacted with so far has been very nice and accommodating, and genuinely grateful that we're even making an effort to speak their native language. I figure if acting like a big dumb white dude American makes people willing to interact with me, I consider that a winning strategy.

Oh, and as a sidenote, I played one of those ¥100 crane games and managed to win this cute little penguin guy on my first play (see right). I should have taken a picture of the machine as well, but oh well. It was some Doraemon-themed game, but I'm not sure why this little fella was in there.

We continued to walk around the city a bit, and we were planning on visiting the castle at some point, but it started to get late (i.e. 8PM or so) and we were all still a little jetlagged, so we decided to head back and call it a day.

Today (木)

I woke up this morning and made some bacon. I kinda blackened the everloving shit out of it because I had no idea that my electric hotplate thing got that ridiculously hot. Whoops. It actually still tasted okay though, so that's good. I spent a long time cleaning my frying pan, though, because as it turns out, I forgot to buy dish soap. Or a sponge. Luckily I had an old rag I had thrown in my suitcase as I was packing so that did the trick well enough.

No class today, but there is going to be a pretty important new student ceremony later on. I think it's at 1PM but I'll have to check my schedule to make sure. I'll definitely need to prepare a short little introductory speech so that I don't sound like an absolute idiot. Or, you know, maybe it's okay if I sound like an idiot. We'll see.

Other than that, though, I don't really have any other plans. Maybe I'll go to the castle today!

What I really need to do is make a shopping list because I keep remembering things I need to buy when I'm at the apartment, but when I'm out shopping I can never remember. Oh well. I guess I'll head out now. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Some First Impressions

Well, it's about 4:30AM (local time, of course) but my body still seems to think it's the middle of the day and therefore not sleepy time. So I figured I'd get some studying and writing in this morning before it's late enough to start unpacking stuff and making a racket. Apparently it's a big no-no to be making noises in the middle of the night here.

The Flight to Tokyo

The plane, by the way, didn't have any outlets. Sucks. I did bring some books and also my paper journal, which was nice to be able to write in. The cool thing about the plane ride, though, was that they had individual touch screens on the back of every seat, so I was able to watch movies and play cheap and dumb little games like Tetris or hangman. As a sidenote, the Muppet movie was as good as I was expecting it to be, and "We Bought a Zoo" was way better than I thought it would be. Kinda sappy, but okay.

Useful, but maddening
Another thing you could do with the touch screen was view the flight plan, a graphical representation of the route the plane was taking. It would plot the plane's location along the route and display the time in Chicago, Tokyo, and wherever it was that the plane happened to be at the moment. That was both nice and excruciating, because it was too hard to resist the temptation to stare at the little plane icon and think about exactly how much longer there was to go.

The worst part of the plane ride: I was starting to feel relieved when there were only two hours to go in the flight until I remembered that after the Tokyo flight I still had to run to catch another flight to Nagoya. Soul crushing.

The best part of the plane ride: I decided I'd try to drink myself to sleep.
Me: Do you guys have wine or something?
Flight Attendant: Sure, do you want red or white?
Me: Red will be fine. How much?
Flight Attendant: [Handing me a bottle of wine] Oh, it's free.
Me: :O
Customs, the Flight to Nagoya, Arrival

Customs was not nearly as bad as I expected it to be. That's probably due to the fact that as soon as I got off the plane, someone handed me a bright orange "priority" slip of paper to show the people at customs so I could jump to the front of the line since my connecting flight was leaving in just over an hour. It all went pretty smoothly and everyone at the airport was incredibly helpful.

Heh. "Travelator."
The first thing I noticed was that mostly everyone in the airport was really good about standing to one side of the moving belt so that others could walk by. Everything related to travel is a bit backwards here; since they drive on the left side of the road, the left lane is the slow lane and the right lanes are used for passing. Took me a little bit of time to adjust to walking on the left side of the staircases and hallways to let people pass on the right.

I made it to my connecting flight's terminal with about 15 minutes to spare. I thought the whole touch screen display thing was only for international flights, but it was on the domestic flight as well. In fact, there was a ton of space on that plane. Honestly coach on that plane was totally comparable to first class on American planes. Extreme swank.

I landed and picked up my baggage, met the driver who was waiting outside of baggage claim, and was driven to my new home for the next six months. Later today I'll post a video showing what it's like. It's set up for two people, but I have it all to myself. Can anyone say, "bwahahahaha"?

Maybe it was the sleep deprevation-induced delirium, but watching the traffic outside made me feel like I was on the planet Pandora. Bright colors everywhere, lights flashing on the road and on the signs and on the trucks and buildings, and all the speed limit signs that I saw were all digital, which I thought was fantastic. I would have tried to have a conversation with the driver but at that point my brain had ceased to function, so I just sat reading the information packet that Yamasa sent with him. Luckily, it included a map, which is going to be extremely useful today.


The view outside my apartment window. Quaint!
So what's the plan today? First, I'll have to unpack my suitcases and bags. Lots of storage space in this apartment (again, it's designed for two people) so that won't be an issue. Again, it's just all about not making a ton of noise when people are trying to sleep. I guess I'll start doing that stuff at 7 or so. After that's done, I'll go out and see if I can find a bank, since I have some American cash that seems to be silently begging me to be exchanged for currency that can actually be used to purchase stuff in this country. Then I guess I'll try to find a convenience store of some kind so that I can buy some of the things I forgot to bring. Most importantly, shampoo.

Also, I have no idea what restaurants are good around here so I guess I'll have to choose one at random.

Not encouraging, Japan.
I'm watching the morning news and apparently it's supposed to rain today, which is not ideal. Oh well, though. I have a jacket.

Then, the last thing I have planned for the day is my placement test for my Yamasa classes, which takes place at 13:00 (I'm trying to get used to 24-hour time, the metric system, and degrees Celsius since that's what they use over here). I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to find the campus. From this map, it looks like it's going to be a 15- or 20-minute walk to and from class each day, which is totally reasonable. Then again, I could be completely wrong about that.

In any case, I'm going to go ahead and post this. Later today, if I find myself at the apartment with some downtime, I'll make a little video of my apartment and whatnot.

But as for now, the adventure begins!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tomorrow, I will be on the other side of the planet

Kinda difficult to believe. Lots of stuff happening at the moment, so I guess it's time to finish up another update as I sit here in the Chicago airport.

Last Week

I finally got my certificate of eligibility and whatever else back from the admissions office on Wednesday, so I spent most of Thursday running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get a package together to overnight to the New York consulate. They received it Friday morning, so the next step, as every step so far has been, was to "hurry up and wait." The consulate needed 4 business days to process my request, which means the visa would be done no later than Wednesday. I told them not to mail it to me when it's done; I wanted to  travel to New York the following week to pick it up. Sure beats waiting for the USPS to get it back to me.

On the social front, I've been hanging out with a lot of friends and coworkers who are nice enough to go out with me for foods and drinks as a farewell sort of thing. On Friday, which was my last day of work, I was actually feeling a little melancholy by the end of the day. I guess I got a little bit worn out, having to continually say goodbye to a bunch of friends I've been hanging out with every single day for the past two years. Still, I've been planning this for years now, so oh well.

This Week

This week started off pretty nice, what with the not having to go to an office all day thing. Be the end of the week I was a little burnt out, having spent most of my waking hours cleaning, packing, calling to get bills taken care of, taxes, car stuff, and then planning and attending a little going away party sort of thing for myself at the Hofbrauhaus. Exhausting. Stressful. But here I am, sitting in O'Hare, waiting for my flight that will start boarding at 12:30 central time. That's in about a half hour from exactly right now.

I really lucked out on the seat assignment. Apparently I'm going to be sitting by the window, which has the bonus of controlling the window shade as well as an outlet for my laptop! That's a relief because I don't know how I'd deal with a 13 hour flight with zero electronics.

I'll be writing another blog entry on the way, probably, but I obviously won't be able to post it, what with being over the Pacific ocean and all. So I guess the next entry you'll see from me will be tomorrow... morning for those of you who are still in the United States. It'll be night time for me, so my sleep schedule will be totally all screwed up.

Sorry about the lack of pictures. My camera isn't charged and I can't find an outlet anywhere to charge it. I'll be able to take pictures once I arrive in Japan, and I think I'll even be able to carry my laptop around my apartment so I can put a little video up when I get there.

Geez. As I'm writing this entry, conservative talk radio is blaring into my head and it's kinda hard to concentrate.

Anyway, I'm gonna head out. See you on the other side!