Compliments come in all forms

When I was studying abroad in Tokyo, I lived in a one-room apartment in a four-story building with a bunch of other foreign students. I’m sure there were some Japanese folks living there too, but we never saw them. It was a great setup, really; we all had our own private spaces, but the building also had a common room with a computer, free wifi, a microwave, and a couple really old, beat-up couches for us to hang out on. I spent many a weekend morning in there using the wi-fi to chat with my family while some poor hungover classmate lay face-down on the opposite couch.

Ahh, good times.

I kept my room pretty spartan, because I was only intending to live there 6 months. Therefore I didn’t see the point in making everything look nice. After all, I’d just have to tear it all down again soon after, right?

But not everybody followed this train of thought. Enter my French classmate, who I’ll call L-chan.

L-chan was a friendly, outgoing lady who loved food, loved company, and seemed to love studying in Japan. We somehow hit it off, and I was lucky enough to be invited into her apartment a few different times for tea and snacks.

And oh wow, what a room.

The first time I walked in, I was hit with the scent of it. The place smelled like homecooked food, and tea, and cinnamon. She must have used softeneer on her sheets, because I could smell that too. Everything was full of color; rather than stick with our allotted sheets and curtains, she’d spent her own cash to get what she wanted. In short, the room felt like a home.

“Your place smells so good,” I said to her, and she beamed as she hustled me onto one of her two tiny chairs for tea. As she got separate strainers for our tea and set out honey, milk, sugar, and separate teaspoons for us to use, I marveled at how very Adult she seemed to be. From someone who had until that point lived at home and had just hit 20, I thought it was like magic.

Someday, I said to myself, I want a home just like this. A place that feels like a home not only to me, but others.

Fast forward. L-chan and I have sadly not been in touch for ages (here’s hoping she’s still doing well and still making delicious crepes!). I’m in Japan, living in a slightly larger apartment (two rooms instead of one).

My room is not what you’d call “adult”, but it does look colorful. Purple bedsheets, wintery kotatsu covers, corkboards full of pictures of people I have come to know.

As for the smell?

This morning I made banana chocolate chip muffins. Last week I made peanut butter and molasses cookies. I use my slow cooker for roasted garlic chicken dinners or chili or pumpkin soup on the regular.

And I have friends that, every time they come over, say, “Your place smells so good.” They settle in at my kotatsu table and I’m able to provide matching sets of chopsticks, or wine glasses for fancy drinks, or mugs for tea. Basil and succulents line my windows. “I wish my place smelled like yours.”

Just like L-chan, I find myself beaming with pride.

Look at me being all Adult.

Long time no see!

Hello, blog! It’s been quite a long time- a couple of months in fact. How time flies when you’re scrambling to get everything done, eh? Well, things are much calmer in my life now, so I’m back to give this another go.

What’s been going on? Well, as I mentioned before, I was attempting two very large things in November 2015: completing NaNoWriMo, and studying for the JLPT. I have done both before, and succeeded at both before. However, trying to do both at the same time? 0/10 not recommended!

Still, somehow I managed to pull through, and what happened immediately afterward? The holidays. *dun dun duuun*

Present-shopping, party-going, food-eating, plane-riding, family-meeting, picture-taking holidays. And here I thought once December hit I’d be good as gold and able to get back into the swing of things. But! Now it’s January, and things really have calmed down. For now. So! I will be getting back into the swing of posting weekly if possible.

My goal for this year is to be as consistent as possible with Stefanie, What?! A secondary but also important goal is I’d like to reach out to some bloggers that I’ve followed over the past few years and show a little more appreciation for their efforts in keeping the rest of us entertained and informed with whatever they choose to share with us. This starts now.

Hope you all had great holidays, and see you next week!

Something a little different… (Taiko)

Part of the reason I’ve been absent lately is because I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, for the eight millionth time in a row. (Number might be slightly exaggerated.) Another part is that I’ve been excited to receive a DVD copy of my very first stage performance doing taiko.

What’s taiko? Basically it’s Japanese-style drumming. You can find more information if you look up wikipedia or any other number of sources, but let’s just say taiko is loosely based off of a very old tradition, but since the 1990s has been changing very rapidly into a popular form of music that’s spreading not only in Japan, but worldwide.

I joined my taiko school about two and a half years ago and finally got up the nerve to take part in a performance, and I’m so happy about it that I’m beaming and ready to do it again.

Maybe if I get permission I’ll find a way to show off my face doing the thing. We’ll see!

More to come as November progresses…

What’s a second language worth? — Part 1

In elementary school my parents signed me up for this after-class Spanish lesson that took place at least once a week. My memory on the whole thing is fairly hazy–I can’t remember if I asked them to sign me up, how long it was precisely, or even how often it was, but I can remember feeling baffled about the idea of foreign languages in general. I mean, what was the point of them? I already knew English, and learning how to understand that had been tough enough.

While I do recall enjoying the small get-together where we sang songs to learn the days of the week and whatnot in Spanish, I also can remember feeling relieved the day I left, with a little Spanish-English dictionary as a present from the teacher for completing the program. There, I learned another language, I don’t have to do that again.

Middle school arrived with all of its inherent confusion; along with the fear that I would never learn how to handle lockers came the looming prospect of having to learn a foreign language. Again. But I already did it, I thought to myself as the language teacher at my school came to speak to the class.

“You don’t have to learn one yet,” she’d told us, as we squirmed impatiently in our tiny desk-chair combination seats. “But we offer foreign languages starting from eighth grade, so if you want to get a jumpstart on learning something that’s the time!”

Pffft yeah right! I’ll worry about it when I have to take one in high school.

I did my research; at my particular high school (which had grades from 9-12, for reference), we could either do one language for three years, or two different languages for two years in order to graduate. I opted for the former, thinking it would be less work.

My adventures in German are worth another post entirely; let’s just say I was the smart-alec in the back of the class who, when she was called, would smugly answer, “Es tut mir leid, Ich weiss nicht. Ich kann nicht verstanden.*”

Yeah. Total jerk. I know.

Three years passed, and I spent my senior year in high school enjoying the fact that I was done. I was all set for graduation. Despite being a rude brat to the German teacher, particularly in junior year, I had somehow managed a B+ average. I never needed to worry about taking a foreign language class again.

Then college came.

“Oh, you’re going to be an English major? Here’s the list of the required general education courses you need,” I was told. Upon perusing the list, I was utterly dismayed to find…

“I need four semesters of a foreign language?!” I demanded.

The man explaining the requirements smiled, either not noticing my distress or not caring. “Well, of course if you studied an AP course in a language in high school, we can count that toward your requirement,” he said.

I sat there, defeated for a moment, mulling over my options. Then, grimly, I went to the course listing to see what my choices were.

In middle school, we had only been offered Spanish, perhaps French. In high school, our options were those two in addition to German, Latin, and American Sign Language. College offered more than double that in options, including Asian languages.

Well, rather than feeling stupid for taking a beginner class in a language I already studied, let’s try something new.

Enter Japanese class.


*I’m sorry I don’t know. I can’t understand.