six days...and counting

I am actually going to Japan.

Now that it's within a week until I jet off to Sapporo, it's actually starting to sink in that I will be spending 11 days in a country that one year ago I never would have dreamed of traveling to. There are lots of things I'm looking forward to, like:

- Yosakoi community. We're actually going to be interacting with hundreds of groups who do the same thing we do! Here in the U.S., the typical reaction when I say I dance Yosakoi is "You do what?" or at the very least, "Oh, you're in that Asian dance group." When we practice in the student union, we've been mistaken for the ballroom dance club (which meets next door) and a karate demonstration. It's going to be fun to hang out with people who know what yosakoi is.

- East meets West. It will be interesting to see the combination of Western technology and development with Eastern art and thought. Where else can you see Shinto shrines set up next to skyscrapers?

- The food. I don't claim to be an expert on Japanese cuisine, but eating food that is so different from what I'm used to should be a cool experience.

And then there are some things that should prove interesting, although a little uncomfortable. Among them:

- Community bathing. Enough said.

- Japanese style toilets. You have the choice between traditional Japanese style, and modernized Western style toilets, both of which are a bit intimidating. Luckily, the internet abounds with information on exactly what they are, and how to use them. Interesting articles here and here.

- The language barrier. Although we'll be with a lot of people who speak both Japanese and English, I'm sure I'll run into a situation where I won't have them as an interpreter. I guess that's why I'm practicing my Nihongo now. Too bad my Japanese I class doesn't start until next semester.

All in all, I'm looking forward to the trip. Now if I could just get all my packing figured out...


summer reading, a little cooking and passport woes

Finally, the last thing standing between me and an 11-day trip to Japan is my University post office's ability to obtain and hold onto my incoming passport. It has been a nerve-wracking series of events that has taken place over the past three and a half months.

It all began in late January, when I decided that I actually was going on my Yosakoi group's trip to Japan, and that getting cleared for international travel was going to be a necessity. Apparently if you are going to do that, you need one of these:
I applied for mine of February 22, apparently the beginning of the busiest season for obtaining passports. The new laws about needing passports when traveling to Mexico and Canada by air are making this pretty much the hardest time ever to get such authorization. However, "You won't need expedited service," the man at the passport office told me. The trip being months away, and wanting to save an extra $60, I took his advice.
It is now two weeks until I leave for Sapporo, and only this morning did I find out that my application was completed and mailed. However, since I moved out of the dorm address where I was anticipating receiving the passport, I will have to have my university's post office hold the passport for me so I can come pick it up, because they do not forward passports, according to the National Passport Information Center. It's a relief knowing the application is actually processed, but until I hold the little booklet in my hand, I'm not going to be completely at ease.
So, other than waiting for my passport to arrive, what have I been doing with my one week of summer so far? (That is, besides not updating my blog.) I have been...
- Reading. It seems college has ruined my ability to read, or at least complete, a book for pleasure. So I am working to regain that ability. Right now I'm working on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. So far, so good.
- Cooking. I made sushi and okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes) for my family the other night, as well as some very tasty green tea tapioca-filled cupcakes. Yum.
- Working at a local college library, and searching for a second part-time job.
- Practicing my Yosakoi skills and running in preparation for the Yosakoi Souran festival in Sapporo.
I'm excited for the trip, but at the same time it's nice to be home for awhile.


finals week

I am still alive.

I guess the recent lack of posts has been because I'm actually getting some stuff accomplished, so maybe I can claim productivity over inconsistency.

Anyway, it's getting down to the end of my first year of college. It's been a blast. I'm really going to miss some things here during the summer, like:

- Making my own waffles for breakfast, and mixing in blueberries or chocolate chips whenever I want.
- My awesome room and the people who randomly drop by every day.
- Being within five minutes of Wal-Mart, a coffee shop and an Oriental grocery store.
- Being able to walk through the student union and hear five different languages.

But I'm also looking forward to some things I'll be able to do away from school this summer:

- Try out some new recipes on a real stove and a real oven.
- Read a book for fun - textbooks have practically killed my ability to do so.
- Go to Japan!....if my passport gets here in time, that is...
- See my friends and family from home.

I can't believe there's only a week left...