Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Summer 2015

Sadly, it seems as I get further into my Doctor's course for my P.H.D. I have less and less time to do interesting things. Also, since my scholarship money ended in March of 2014, financially I have been unable to travel or go places as easily as I use to. So, I apologize to the few readers of my blog if you have been waiting anxiously for me to post something... but unless you would like to hear about the hours I spend doing experiments, or crocheting at home, there is just not much to report. So, in this post, I will summarize what I did most of the summer.

In June, the school semester is starting to end, as classes will be finishing so students can prepare for their final exams in July. The Engineering department always has undergraduate juniors (3rd year students) come  tour the various departments during this time period. This is so when undergraduate students enter their senior year (4th year) of undergraduate school they can go ahead and enter the laboratory of their choosing. 'Laboratory' in this sense doesn't necessarily mean research or science experiments, but rather the group of students and Professors a student will be studying with when they enter Graduate school. I think this is a good system if a student intends to enter Graduate level at the same school, but it's often difficult for them to choose a good laboratory. So, to help these students the Engineering Department holds a 'nomikai' to have the students introduce their own labs. The combination of alcohol and showmanship can often have a comical result.

During this time period, I held an 'English Nomikai' at a local pub in order to promote Japanese students and International students to interact. There are very few events provided by the school to promote this kind of interaction, so I usually try to make one or two parties a year to help this. The owner of the restaurant where we held the event at is also an English teacher, so she was very supportive in allowing us to have this party at her business. While we didn't have the best turn-out, the few people who did come seemed to have a very good time. We played several easy word games and finished off with a classic game of Charades, or in Japan it is known as the 'Gesture Game'.

I hope I am able to get some more people for another one of these parties! I think it would be a good opportunity for domestic and international students to talk and just enjoy themselves.

In July, most of the students are in examination season, so the laboratory was nearly empty. I did most of my experimentation during this time period, so I wasn't expecting to do much during the month of July. However, one of Japanese friends had a request that was rather interesting: "Jane, do you want to be in a fashion show?" There was a yukata (summer kimono) fashion show happening in the second week of July. My friend was participating, but some of the girls who were also supposed to be part of this show dropped out suddenly, so he was short two members. He asked one other Taiwanese girl, and me to help him out in his yukata show 'skit'.  I agreed, but I severely misjudged how complex this show was! I was thinking something rather informal, since the whole event is organized by college students. However, this was not the case! This was a very well-planned professional event, and lasted nearly 8-hours from start to finish. Also, my friend, was dressing as a girl in this show, and not as a boy! Sadly, I think he was probably the most cute out of the group... can you guess which one he is?

As for August, there is nothing to report. Again, since most people are gone from the laboratory during this time period, this is when I like to do experiments the most. I also did some part-time work at an English Summer camp, so most of my weekends were spent doing this.

Hopefully my next post about my vacation in Yakushima will be posted shortly! Thanks for waiting!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Trip to Korea

In early April, a group of older friends and myself took a three day trip to Korea. This had long been planned by some of the older ladies, but I just happen to be lucky enough to return to Busan a second time. I was also particularly fortunate that this particular group of friends is an enthusiastic group when it comes to food.
This trip really was three days of non-stop shopping, eating, shopping, eating, and eating while shopping. I most enjoyed going through the Korean markets, and eating the traditional Korean-style set meals. Korean traditional meals have so many dishes! Maybe for our one lunch, you are able to eat between 30-40 different types of food in one sitting.

After eating every meal, we would walk around and visit local historical landmarks, or walk around the local parks to watch the end of the cherry blossom season. We also made several stops to local shopping districts where you can see hundreds of small shops all lined up next to each other.

Since this was only a three-day trip, there is not much to post about. It was nevertheless, a fairly fun trip! I hope I am able to go back to Korea someday soon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Early Spring

During the month of February, not much happened. I think it really is too cold to do much traveling, and usually the laboratory is particularly busy since graduation in Japan is usually in March. Many students have to prepare to graduate, and the students remaining have to prepare for the new incoming students in April.

March, however, is spring break and also my birthday! I had a much more eventful month during March. Unfortunately, since my birthday was in the middle of the week, I couldn't do much on the actual date, but my friends were so kind enough to take me on a day-trip around the Itoshima-Karatsu area.

First we had lunch at a historical restaurant, which is famous for its traditional Japanese cuisine, made from only natural ingredients. This is appealing to people who do not want to eat artificial preservatives, and whom enjoy eating only local produce.

 After eating that much food, my friends drove me out to a great sight-seeing area, where we could walk off our heavy lunch. It is famous for its unique igneous rock formations. The unusual shapes are caused by lava suddenly cooling in the ocean, causing the resulting rock to form the geometric shapes.

We also went to another sight-seeing spot on the beach, which has a local land mark. The rocks were called 'The Standing God Rocks' but no one really knows why. They looked like a normal pile of rocks to me. However, there was a friendly beach cat, that came to say hello.

In late March I attended a conference in Tokyo where I presented a poster. This had been my first time to go to Tokyo without family, so it was a little nerve-wracking since the public transportation and cityscape is extremely complex. Luckily, the other students who attended the conference had a little more experience getting around than me so we were able to enjoy our time inside and outside the conference.

 One of my lab members even received an award. However, perhaps the most entertaining part was meeting the graduated seniors of my laboratory, who were now living in the Tokyo area. Some of them I know, but some of them were new faces. It was a great time, as usual, except afterwards we had to get up early to attend the last day of the science conference!

Next, I will post about my early April trip to Korea! Until then~

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

X-mas and New Years

The winter holidays weren't that great for me, at least in the beginning. This was the first, and probably only time, I returned to the USA during my time in Japan to spend the holidays at home. Unfortunately, on Christmas Eve, two days before my plane ride home, I was hospitalized my first time (and hopefully last time) in Japan.

Around 2 a.m. I started feeling sick to my stomach, and after 3 hours of being sick, I got so dehydrated I started passing out, and woke up on my bathroom floor with a bloody nose. Needless to say, this is really scary when you live by yourself and know you can't go to the hospital by yourself. I had to call my good friend at 5 a.m. to drive me to the nearest clinic, but since it was closed (hard to believe a medical place would close) she had to call me an ambulance to take me to the nearest municipal hospital. I am so lucky to have such good friends, who took care of me this whole time. If I didn't have them, I would have been much worse off.

 I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the hospital, until they cleared me to go home. The following day I flew to the USA from Japan. It was an exhausting few days but I can't sleep in airplanes, so I didn't really sleep until I got home.

However, the time at home was great! I was so fortunate my two good friends joined me this time, and we had a great few days together in Tennessee before they returned to Japan. I stayed an additional week just to rest and buy the things I needed before I headed back to Japan. Of course, I want to thank my wonderful family, and friends who made this a great winter vacation for me. I wish I could have stayed longer, but it's just not possible with everything I needed to do when I got back.

Sorry for the short post, but not much happened during this time period! I'll post more soon.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Halloween and Thanksgiving... sort of.

October and November passed by so quickly. My family always says, right after Halloween it's one holiday after another. Even in Japan, this is not an exception.

As usual, I held a Halloween Party in the Dormitory of the university. This year, I did not think I was going to be able to secure this room to throw the party, since all the lab members who use to live in the Dormitory had graduated or returned from their exchange program. Luckily, another international student was really kind and helped me quite a bit for setting up this party. For that reason, rather than it just being my lab members, we had other international students as well as domestic students. Even some undergraduate students offered to help me out, which was really appreciated when the party happened.

Thank goodness my family sent me Halloween decorations and candy, otherwise it would have been a little disappointing. The decorations I had bought the year before were thrown away when my lab members did the yearly "Osouji - Cleanup". Also as usual, a lot more people came than what is expected. I was estimating around 20-30 people and close to 40-50 came by the end of the night. I think it's because word of mouth travels much faster than e-mail. But, I think it is always a good case for international students and domestic students to get an opportunity to interact. If there were no such events, I honestly do not think they would ever try to talk to each other. Plus, the games were quite entertaining (though hard to organize) with many people:

 The result was good, but next time I think I will have to get a megaphone in order for people to hear me. It's hard to organize large events when your voice does not carry.(If anyone wants me not to use their picture, let me know and I will take it down).

After this party, the following weekend, I attended a part time job held in Kita-Kyushu for an international conference. It was a good experience, but the first day I went the train was delayed! It was quite terrible being late for such an important conference, so I felt awful. Luckily, since it was beyond our control, the teachers were not too unhappy with me and the other student who also had to ride the same train.

I didn't take any photos at the conference itself, but I took some photos of some famous places in Kitakyushu. My favorite are the statues at the Kokura station of famous manga characters.

Sadly, there was no Thanksgiving dinner for me! Instead, during the week of Thanksgiving I attended a Hakata-ori exhibition with a friend. Hakata-ori, or Hakata weaving is a famous textile weaving in Fukuoka (http://www.kimono.or.jp/dictionary/eng/hakataori.html). They are most famous for making obi, or belts, for Kabuki actors. Since I did weaving during college, to be able to see such an exhibition was very exciting for me. Sadly, due to privacy policies, I was unable to take pictures of the weavings, other than the temple where the exhibition was being held.
My next post will be about Christmas and the New Years season! Quite a few good (and bad) things happened, so it may be an interesting post.