First off, thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes. My inbox kind of overflowed with them.
Sorry about the really long silence, but I've been absurdly busy with
- preparations for visiting Mary
- filing a whole bunch of paperwork for next year
- working on my final grad school app
- writing my essay for class uggggggh
...also, A Game of Thrones has stolen my soul. So, yeah.
Friday night, right after I had gone to sleep...
Dorm people: DANA! DANA, GET OUT HERE.
Me: ...I'm sleeping.
Dorm people: HAPPY BIRTHDAY WHOOOO 8D
So my dorm throws parties for everyone who has a birthday, but, uh, I was expecting them to do it on my birthday, not the night before. I was pretty incoherent and exhausted, but everyone put up with my inability to form complete sentences.
Also, I got cake.
And they gave me a card, which included...
...this incredibly accurate portrait of me. BEST PORTRAIT EVER, AM I RIGHT?
Saturday morning I woke up early to go to Susanoo Shrine to help out with the tsukinamisai (monthly festival, if you've forgotten) preparations. They were very grateful that I came because, as it turned out, Shigehara-san, who normally helps out, was unable to come, which meant that there were three of us plus Nakano-san trying to set everything up. So I got a glimpse into the insane number of preparations that go into a festival. Keep in mind that this is a small festival (tsukinamisai is not terribly important) at the second smallest level of shrine (smallest level with parishioners)! But in the hour leading up to the festival, I
- took all the offerings out of their bags (since vegetables in Japan come in bags) and arranged them by type (fruits, vegetables, not vegetables, things we can pretend are vegetables)
- filled all the water containers
- found lids for all the water containers
- filled the sake containers
- transferred sake around because I divided it up wrong the first time
- realized that there was a funnel there that I could have used, oh well
- found lids for all the sake containers
- arranged the sake, water, rice, and salt offerings on trays
- arranged chairs on the ceremony stage
- rearranged the chairs because I did it wrong the first time
- arranged slippers for people to use on the ceremony stage
- carried the offerings out to the stage
And after the ceremony, I
- removed the offerings from the altar and carried them back into the shrine office
- washed and dried the sake, water, salt, and rice offering containers
- wiped down the offering trays
- counted a whole bunch of omamori and ofuda*
- put a whole bunch of omamori and ofuda into boxes
- carried the chairs back inside
- wiped down the small tables used for the ceremony
- helped pass out the divided up offerings
- helped arrange the tea sweets for the naorai
Of course, Nakano-san also had to purify all the omamori and ofuda for the New Year during the ceremony, so it was a bit more complicated than usual, but you can probably tell that a fair amount of work goes into it. Plus, it was freezing cold, and you can't wear shoes on the ceremony stage, so I spent about three hours running around in socks and no gloves. I discovered that my hands swell up when it's cold. It was exciting?
In any case, because I proved my competence, I've been cleared to help out at New Year's, which is SO EXCITING. Also, Nick and Miranda are invited, which is also SO EXCITING. WHOO.
On a somewhat random note, I found out something interesting about miko (shrine maidens). Traditionally they were virginal, prepubescent girls. Then they changed the restrictions so that they had to be young girls who were unmarried ('cause how are you actually going to check the virginal thing without that getting really awkward? Plus, child labor laws). Then, on Saturday, I discovered that apparently someone realized that, hey, sometimes people have sex outside of wedlock (I KNOW, RIGHT?), and so the restrictions have been changed AGAIN so only women under 20 (the age you're considered an adult in Japan) who have never had a boyfriend are eligible. Of course, this assumes that
A. nobody has sex while they're not dating
B. everybody who's dating is having sex
neither of which are true. But I suppose it's less awkward than putting "Are you a virgin? Y/N" on your job applications.**
Yay, random asides!
So Saturday afternoon I went to see The Adventures of Tintin, which cost 2,000 yen ($26), and that was WITH a student discount. It was fun (and gorgeous to look at, for the most part), but not really worth the price of admission. Oh well. I did discover that 3D glasses in Japan are HUGE (imagine like those snow goggle/sunglasses things), which meant that they very comfortably fit over my regular glasses. Sweet. Even better, the 3D didn't give me a headache, although I'm not sure whether that's because of a different projection technique or because of my new glasses ('cause I haven't seen a 3D movie since getting them).
And then after that I went to get Taiwan ramen. YUM.
So that was my 21th*** birthday. I thought about trying to get drunk on chocolate (Miranda's suggestion), but then I realized that if I ate that much chocolate, I would probably die. Plus it would be expensive (I'm not going to eat that much cheap chocolate, geez, next you're going to tell me to eat Hershey's). So, that didn't happen. Oh well. Maybe next year.
Yesterday (Monday) I had penmanship class, where we were working on calendars. This meant that we got to write the kanji for all the different years in the Chinese zodiac.
So I think this looks extraordinarily derpy, but apparently it's really good, so...what do I know?
And then we practiced writing the kanji for this coming year, which is the year of the dragon.
So then Nakano-san told me to practice writing the kanji for dragon by itself.
Nakano-san: Your letters are too skinny. Make them fatter.
Nakano-san: Still too skinny.
So then she gave me THE FAT BRUSH (its actual name), a brush so extraordinarily large that one of the other students was afraid to use it.
Nakano-san: There, that's better.
Here's the finished product! The left side got a bit squished, but whatever.
...also, you can totally see my toes in that picture. That's a little weird.
Then, because I had to wait for my calendar to dry, I practiced writing the years of the zodiac in hiragana. YAY.
So today, Tuesday sensei came into class and gave us a choice between a regular class or a conversation class that definitely was not a party. We picked the latter and ate snacks and had a party, I mean, a totally serious lesson.
Also, everyone is incredibly upset that Tuesday sensei will not be teaching the second year class. One of the girls threatened to fail the class so that she could take the first year class again.
Also, it's time for...language fails! Failing at Japanese is an art, and a lot of foreign students will keep track of their particularly spectacular ones. Here are a collection of language fails from Japanese class this semester...
Sensei: Please describe how to make rice in a rice cooker [suihanki].
Student: Well, first you take the rice, and you...you measure it? You measure it with a cup. Okay. Then you wash the rice. And then you put the rice into the vending machine [jihanki].
Sensei: HOW DO YOU MAKE RICE????
Japanese student: I want to get a boyfriend, so I'm thinking that next year I'll do konkatsu [sort of like match-making activities].
Foreign student: Wait, how will that help you get married?
Japanese student: ?????
Foreign student: Oh...OH, you said konkatsu. I thought you said tonkatsu.
Sensei: Why do you like Japanese boys?
Student 1: Because of their kizukai [consideration].
Student 2: Their kisukai [kissing parties]?????
Anyway, that's the short version of what I've been up to. Tomorrow I have some administrative stuff to do and some last minute Christmas-shopping-like-stuff, and then Thursday night I head out to Saga prefecture where I'll be staying until the 27th. Nick comes in on the 28th and Miranda comes in on the 29th, so, uh, I'll be fairly preoccupied. This blog may not update a whole lot, but I'll try to at least post something every week so everyone knows I'm still alive.
Now it's off to finish this dangblasted essay...
P.S. Happy Hanukkah to everyone celebrating it! I keep seeing the emails about latkes in Tech House, and...and now I really want to eat latkes. Darn it.
*Slips of paper which are placed in household altars and believed to carry a bit of the essence of the kami.
**Is it legal to discriminate on the basis of sexual experience????
***Edit: Oh geez, I've been reading way too much Cake Wrecks. That should be 21ST. 21ST. This is why you don't write blog posts late at night.