Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The six month mark

And with the start of March, my first semester at Kyushu University ended. So at this point, it has been six months since I arrived in Japan. It's so hard to believe that I've been here so long, and have learned barely any Japanese (what's up with that?!).
March was a crazy month for me, just because of the sheer amount of big events going on. It's when all the new students are getting accepted into college, and when all the senior students are graduating. This is also the same month as my birthday, my Dad's birthday, and the month I had to move out of the dorm and into a new apartment.

So to break it down here is how the events happened in order:

First things, first, the first week of March my friends took me shopping for things to put into my new apartment. With copious amounts of help from them, I managed to find a nice apartment complex near to the main train/bus station in the area. It was a brand new building, close to stores, and at a relatively low rental rate for the area. While that is all fine and dandy, I needed A LOT of stuff to live there. So, to get an idea of price range, and to order big furniture to be delivered, my friend Haejoo and her husband took me to a mall called Marinoa City. It's a giant outlet mall, so ideal for finding household goods. There, I ordered a bed and several other things. That was a pleasant trip that weekend, but it's a little tiring going to so many places and not knowing exactly what you need.

That week, our lab was having its going away party at a local restaurant. It was the same place as my welcoming party, so luckily I didn't get lost. Again, the lab members (and teachers) drank and ate an incredible amount. I was starting to worry about some of the smaller people, but luckily most of them showed up to work the next day (though at a late hour). At the party, people graduating from the department were given special cards, and some money as a thanks from the department and the students. At the end, we took a large group photo, so everyone can remember the lab of 2012-2013.

The weekend following that party, was my birthday! I am starting to feel old, but luckily I turned about 50 when I was 13, so physically, I am just catching up mentally (if that makes sense). It wasn't the most exciting birthday, but it was definitely a nice one (I had donuts!). My family and friends mailed me presents and cards from the USA, and my Korean friends here threw me a small party. We had cake and coffee at my friend's home, and then went to a Korean BBQ for dinner. For just three women, we probably ate half-a-cow's worth of beef. It is always a good time with them, and so I think I had a great day. However, I don't I'll ever feel like I'm truly 24 for a while. For some reason it feels like that when you're 24 you should have accomplished something big or grand, like owning a entrepreneurship or something. Alas, maybe 34 is the new 24. I'll just wait another decade and see what happens.

After that, it was more shopping. Big shopping. My friends made a day trip to go to Ikea and CostCo. which are roughly 2 hours away in a rural area. This was a non-stop shopping in a crowd of people. I can't believe how packed those two places were. Luckily, with my Mom's help I had a membership card for CostCo. but the selection was disappointing. Plus, with all the people there, there was no way to look around and shop. You just grabbed what you could and moved on. I got a lot of things at Ikea, like a table, chairs, and some dishes, but at CostCo. I barely got anything. I was really hoping to find some confectioners sugar and coconut, but no such luck. They do have some American foods, but most of it was really nothing I needed. Somehow, we managed to fit everything we bought into Kayoung's small car, and drive back in one piece. It was a fun day, but I hope to never have to do that again sometime soon.

So, after my birthday, the following weekend was the day I needed to move out of the dorm! This took a ton of preparation, cleaning, and spending money (Ugh, so much money). I packed everything in my room that wasn't essential and moved it towards my door. Luckily, I had been saving the package boxes my mom sent me, so I had plenty of packing to put all my junk in. I also had to call every utility company to tell them my address. This normally wouldn't be a big deal, but I had to constantly ask a friend or a lab member to help me since my Japanese is not good enough to make a phone call to a company. The people here are always so nice to help me, but I hate not being able to do stuff by myself. Relying on others too much, makes me feel lazy, and I would certainly not want anyone to think that I am that.
Moving day was relatively painless, expect for the sheer amount of paperwork and running around we had to do. My friends were too kind to help me out. We made three trips to move goods, so that was not difficult, but everything else that could go wrong, did. First off, the water company came to the dorm to get their last payment from me, two hours earlier than what we requested. My dorm room check was at 3:00, so we called the company to tell them we could NOT meet them at 3, and to please come at 5. So, they came at 3:00, of course. Next, there was no light in my room. In Japan, you are not given lights at all in a new apartment, and since my apartment has no windows, and the back veranda faces another building, there was no light. Needless to say, we had to go out and buy one. Next, my lab member brought me a TV and refrigerator for me to have. While this was a kind act, the fridge was too big to fit into his car.... so Kayoung let them use her car. The guys loading the fridge, though, were too weak to properly lift it, and promptly scratched the back seat of her car.... I felt awful, but there was nothing I could do. Finally, once all the junk was loaded into my room, paperwork completed, and  appliances set up, they took me to get some food. The day was over, and since I had no bed, I slept on the floor... it was a long and exhausting day.

All that following week, I did nothing but set up and buy things for the house. Several furniture pieces were delivered, so I had to stay at home for that. Most of the delivery people spoke a little English, so they were nice and helped me read the instructions of how to set up stuff.  There is also a major problem with storage in Japan (because everything is so compact) so I had to buy several things to store my stuff. My other senior lab member, also brought me a washing machine, so now I can do laundry! However, since there are no dryers in apartments... you have to line-dry everything. This is a concept I am not fond of. While I am certain is is very energy efficient, I don't want to hang my clothes outside for everyone to see. I had to buy (again goodbye money) a laundry rack and pole for my room. I have no idea how I will dry big things, but if every Japanese person can do it, so can I.

Speaking of Japanese people, spring is time for sakura! Sakura, or cherry blossoms, are one of the biggest symbols in Japanese culture. March is the peak season for these lovely trees, so many Japanese people go out for something called Hanami. Hanami is basically a picnic to go out and enjoy the cherry blossoms, and eat lots of food. Last weekend, I went out with my friends to do a hanami, so I made some chicken salad sandwiches for everyone to enjoy. Haejoo and her husband brought lots of Korean food, and Kayoung brought beverages.  Originally, we were going to go to Ohori Koen, the most popular park in Fukuoka, but on the ride inside the train, we saw a shrine covered with cherry trees. We decided to go there, and miss the crowd. It was a fun time, eating, drinking tea, and playing some Korean hand games. My camera died half-way through, but I did manage to get several pictures of the cherry trees and other flowers.

This weekend, I am hoping to throw an Easter Party for my friends, to thank them for everything they have done with me this month. They'll only be here one more year, so I need to thank them as much as possible for how much they helped me. But, of course, to throw a party, one needs serving ware etc. so I had to go out and spend more money! Luckily, my friend Taku came to Fukuoka before moving to Yokohama, so I went to go meet him out in Tenjin. If anyone know where to get cooking/serving/food related things, it's Taku. It was great to catch up with him, and as I knew, he knew all the places for me to go buy a tea-set, tray, dishes, etc. We walked to several places to look for a tea/coffee set, but most places were out of my price range. I wasn't expecting to find anything cheap, but even though there was beautiful beautiful sets to be had, I am not spending nearly $50 per cup and saucer (if I could I would though). However, Taku was smart enough to think about going to a 300 yen store. Sometimes they have kitchenware, and Taku said that thier quality is not bad, considering the price. Just to my surprise that had a full set! It was just what I needed, but the store only had a setting for three. I need a setting for four, but I wasn't about to let someone else take it... I bought it anyways. I will try later to go buy a fourth setting when I can get someone to go with me to Tenjin as a guide.

So for those of you who think I don't update enough, I'm sorry. As you can see, this month in particular has been a full plate... and I didn't even have any classes this month. Maybe coming April when the new school year begins, I will be able to update with more exciting news. Everyone take care, and enjoy spring!

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