Monthly Archives: May 2008

English

Lost in Tokyo

Unlike Bill Murray who was lost in translation – I got lost in Tokyo.
It all began one day when I went to buy a bicycle – it was about a month ago if you remember. They promised that it would get delivered before the end of the May – but probably around the 15th of May. I don’t have to tell you that they kept the promise – after all this is Japan. But the thing in which I was really disappointed was that I got it at the end of the month – not around the 15th.
A package arrived for me on Monday during the first class. By the shape of the package you couldn’t mistake in guessing what was inside. I asked teacher to be a bit late for the next class – just to take it to my room and it was OK.
It arrived in a bad moment – just 4 days before the midterm exam. But that didn’t stop me from trying it out the next day.
I put on my helmet, put on the sneakers and asked my friend, and my official photographer ; ) Dono-san, to take pictures of me going to the maiden voyage of this bicycle.
Because I don’t know the streets around here – I decided to go only straight from one place – and to see where I will end up. I almost got used to drive on the left side – but it can happen that when I turn into another street that I go to the right side. So as planned I went down the road for some 30km – or more – I really don’t know because I didn’t buy speedometer – but after that I saw a nice park and went in there. I stopped around – took some photos – and when I wanted to go to the part where it is the “hanging world” – various parts of the world represented somehow (I don’t know how – I didn’t see it) – I was notified that the working hours of the park are over and that I should leave. So I will have to return here some day – if I am able to find it again.
The return trip was a bit harder – because at the end I didn’t do my rule – just go straight – I ended up not knowing how to return. So my only solution was to ask people how to return – and it can be only done in japanese. So I do it. I ask people and I get responses like… “Fuchu-shi…aaaa… Sumimasen, Wakaranai, sumimasen” (Fuchu… ahhh… I am sorry but I don’t know, I am sorry), or “Fuchu-shi… tooi desu….” (Fuchu – ah that is very far…). So from some of them I got instructions, some people didn’t know where it is. At the way back I stumbled upon one more park where I have found the perfect place for barbeque on May 1st. In that park some kids were attempting some tricks with skate’s.
That was meant to be a short drive trough the Tokyo since I didn’t have much time – but when you get lost – you can not affect the time needed to get back. I think I have spoken to something like 20 people on my way back to ask for the directions. I have to say that it was very safe to drive the bicycle on the streets of the Tokyo – drivers always gave me enough space – even slowed down on places where they could not overtake me because of the vehicles from the opposite directions.

English

Why does every post have to have a title?

As you may have already noticed – I didn’t have too much time for myself here. After all, this is Japan and we have to study really much. I was, and still am, lagging a bit behind and was concerned about my capability to study because I was noticeably lagging behind the rest of the group except one guy. But I found the reason for that. This year, unlike before, majority of people have already had some classes of Japanese – and all of the people from my class, except me and one guy, learned already Japanese and knew already around 150 kanjis before coming here.

We had a visit to Fuchi-shi recycling center and watched a movie about recycling in there and saw the machines. The movie was in 日本語 (Japanese) and we were not provided with translations but I could understand the point. I can tell you one thing – they are crazy… As I have already told you they require you to separate all your trash to several categories – but it’s not only that. YOU have to WASH cans and bottles etc. before you throw it to trash. If you want to throw out something huge like old chair – you can not just throw it like that – but you have to take it to recycling center – and to pay them to take it. There they have also a store of recycled things – recycled furniture, recycled bicycles (they have a mechanics who assemble bicycles from parts available – and it seems that they do a good job).

Two days ago we had guest teachers from other universities to practice talking with them. I was very nervous about it prior to the class but in the end it wasn’t that bad and I was astonished how good I could talk. Also somehow came the theme of what languages we can speak – I think it was when I mentioned that I know Russian. So he asked me which language we speak in Serbia – I say Serbian, and he was like OK, you know Serbian, English, Russian and now you are learning Japanese – wow… And later I had just to add – I know also Croatian, Bosnian, I can understand if I struggle Macedonian… I am sorry that I didn’t add Montenegrin and that I can understand a bit of Bulgarian. And like a cherry on the top I added that I learned Latin in school… Now he was like no way… and asked me to tell him something in Latin… But the good thing is that I really learned a bunch of quotes from Latin and that is the only thing I remember. I could maybe read now Latin – but probably couldn’t translate anything. I even started learning German – my friend, Lijljana-san, gave me classes of it but I was really busy and… heh… irresponsible…. so I didn’t learn it… My Russian here is improving a lot…

Hmmm… next few lines will be only for Serbian speaking folks for undisclosed reason ; )
Juče htedoh da zapalim sa poslednjeg časa jer tu ne vode evidenciju ko je prisutan – u principu se gledaju neki filmovi i sl – ne mogu da se setim čega je čas – al nebitno… U principu stižem ja u lift i ljudi mi kažu – e javili su nam da danas vode evidenciju ko je prisutan… i svi smo otrčali nazad na čas… Stvarno su upisivali… Mada vredelo je ostati.
On last class we have watched one part of the very long movie called “Corporations”. I recommend to all to watch it – it is about how the corporations came to life in this world, how are they abusing the planet, manipulating media, using the people in poor countries etc. Please watch it.

Today we had a international welcome party in our cafeteria. There were people from embassies of the students, all students introduced themselves, there were also guests from Japanese government who are responsible for these Monbukagakusho scholarships. If I understood correctly – majority of the students are for arts – and less then 50% is for natural and social sciences. I cannot say that I was surprised, because I was not, that no one from my embassy came. And as Komatsu-sensei told me – they even did not care enough to respond to invitation to say if they are coming. Eto… to su Srbi… odgovornost na nivou…
On the party everyone wanted me to take photos of them – so if I fail in studies – I can go and pursue career in professional photography of this type of events ; ) We had a lot of delicious food available (for free) and at the end of the party they told us to take food with us. And there was a lot of food. So we took it to the dormitory and made after party… We were eating and eating, people came with boxes and carried to their rooms for next days… And we still did not manage to empty the plates. I ate a lot, so much that I couldn’t even breathe anymore, and those of you who know me know that it has to be veeeeery much ; )
I must apologize to a lot of people for not replying to their emails because I really am very tight with time. And when bicycle arrives – it is going to be a disaster.
Tonight expect some photos – at least I expect that I will upload them ; )
If I remember something more – I will write – but for now I can not think about anything interesting…
Now heading to the gym.

P.S. Za one koji su se pitali šta znači ono “Čuvajte mi Jugoslaviju” – to je bilo za one kojima sam obećao da će to da bude sadržaj oproštajne poruke kada budem napuštao Srbiju. Inače tu rečenicu je izgovorio drug Slobodan Milošević kada je išao u Dejton da potpiše sporazum…

English

Long time no see…

Finally after so many days I found time for writing blog. As you can imagine learning Japanese is not easy – and we have very busy schedule here. Each day we spend around 6 hours in the school – and after that I have to prepare for the following day, to do the homework, to eat something and stuff like that…
I hear that some of you forgot the meaning of the word gaijin… OK, it is shortened, pejorative, form of the word gaikokujin – gai – means outside, koku – means country and jin means man. So gaikokujin (外国人) is a man from foreign country and gaijin (外人) would be something like outsider…
Today is the constitutional day – a holiday! And so is tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after… Post office worked yesterday only until 4PM – and will not work until next week. That is just information for those who say that in Japan people only have one free day in a year. And that is not all. Here if the national holiday happens to be on the Sunday – it is moved to first working day. There are more than 10 national holidays each year. For example Emperors birthday, Constitutional day, Children’s day! etc… So people – please stop speaking of Japanese as a hard working people. Oh, and for those that told me – you will see, Sunday is a regular working day – well… it is the truth – but that companies have some other day defined as a free day. For example you will find a store that doesn’t work on Wednesday but it works on Sunday. That is a good thing from mine point of view – because you can do whatever you need that day – go shopping, go to bank etc. Banks are working only until 3PM and only there you can exchange foreign currency. After that in banks you can only use ATM machines, but in those machines you can also remit money. Most companies work until 5PM – but for shopping you can go until 8PM or to some of malls even until 11PM.
I have bought a bicycle! Or better said – I payed for the bicycle and I will have to wait for it until mid-May or even until the end of the month since the model I want and in the color I want is not available currently in my size. Not in any of the shops. Not even at the manufacturers ; ) I also wanted  home delivery of the bicycle – and it costs 5000¥ – it is 50USD – but as the people who know me expect – I managed to get free delivery. As I told before – they really do respect customers. And in lot of the shops you get those loyalty cards – according to the amount you buy you get some points on your card and based on that points you get discount next time. Even in a bakery I got a loyalty card…
I prepared mine first meal since I became expat – it was something very simple, but I missed some spices from Serbia. Nevertheless some Japanese friends tried it and told me: これはおいしですね and for those who do not understand this – they told me that it tasted good. But for me it wasn’t enough salty and stuff like that and when they saw the amount of the salt and pepper I am adding (only spices I have at the moment) they couldn’t believe their eyes. After first successful meal I started buying some kitchenware and started stocking the vegetables in my fridge. If I continue this way after this year when I go to another dormitory I will have to hire a moving company ; ) Even a friend did a caricature of us – and on my shirt it was written “I love shopping”. I already got reputation of a shopper…

Last week we went to a city museum (as you may have already seen in a gallery). We from the social studies went to see something that students from social studies should see – some movie about the culture, festivals and stuff like that and the lucky students from natural studies went to the planetarium. Well I managed to go with natural sciences. I always find a way… The planetarium was fascinating! As a friend told me it is bigger than one in Moscow. The story they spoke in the planetarium was in japanese but the images were so good. Everything seemed so realistic, everything had a 3D effect – you could think that that planet that is approaching is going to hit you. We also have seen animation of two planets colliding – so real that you can’t believe that it is animation. It is unexplainable – you have to go there to see it… Oh yes… the worst nightmare of a photographer happened to me there… I ran out of the batteries for my new camera ; ( But I was ready for that – and pulled out another camera ; ) You can imagine the looks I got while carrying two cameras…

Yesterday I went to my favorite chinese restaurant to have a meal – but this time alone. And what I heard about going to restaurants here alone happened. The guy working there wanted to chat with me ; ) He is very friendly. So here the situation is like that – either they are ultra unfriendly or very friendly. We chatted in Japanese – it was a very simple conversation. He asked me how long I am learning Japanese and instead saying one month I managed to say from the January (in Japanese the name for January is “first month”, which is very similar to “one month”) and when he heard that I didn’t learn Japanese in my country he was very surprised. He was also interested where I am from, what do we eat etc… Of course I told him that we eat a lot of meat – and the next question was which meat we eat? Oh… I wished I knew to say in Japanese that we eat everything that moves… But I had to say pork, chicken, sheep, fish etc… I think he got the picture…

That’s it from me for now…

Čuvajte mi Jugoslaviju ; )