Reflections Abroad: Oct. 12-Oct. 23

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DS Kageyama Method: Dennou Hanpuku Tadashii Kanji Kakitori-Kun. DS software designed for kanji practice.

Bleh…

These past two weeks have been incredibly busy.  So busy that I haven’t hit my weekly blogging deadline.

But at least there were tons of good things that happened!

October 12, 2015: Wet Hair

Having thick curly hair is a blessing and a chore.  Sometimes (read: all the time), thick hair takes a long time to dry.  And when the weather isn’t on my side, and I don’t have a blow dryer or hair dryer to help me out those days, I wake up with one side of my hair mashed in–the sides, the back, or both.  Like somebody decided to cut my hair in the middle of the night without telling me.

Okay, it’s not quite like that.  I can pluck it back out into shape.  It’s just one of those things.

But I’m not going to blame my hair problems on Japan.  This happens in America, too.  Just hadn’t happened in a while.

October 13, 2015: Interviewing

I had to interview students for my Japanese class.  And while it was difficult formulating my questions about the state of video games in Japan, I didn’t give up.

That was the best part.  That my interviewees saw my frustration and were willing to help.  They didn’t judge me, as they knew I was a student.  But it felt good to know they were on my side.

Sometimes, I forget to be on my side.

October 14, 2015: Odd Weather

Japan’s weather is quite dramatic.  Hot summers.  Cold, dry autumns.  Alternating between the two in the span of a few days.

That’s a taxing weather system.

California can get like that.  But the weather usually doesn’t flip back and forth like that, nor make me wish I slept without the covers.

But I adapt.  I stay hydrated.

And I don’t give up.

October 15, 2015: Communication

They say a problem half-shared is a problem half-solved.

I believe it now more than ever.

Talking is one of the few ways I can see into others minds, and how they think.  When that window gets cut off, I get scared.

I don’t like being scared.  So I listen, and talk.  I try to do a fair amount of both without getting trampled on.

I solidified my thoughts about that on this day, for reasons I won’t discuss.

October 16, 2015: Autumn Rain

Got some more rain, but not a typhoon.

Good.  Let’s keep it that way.

October 17, 2015: My Aunt

On this day, I received a care package from my lovely aunt filled with Sees Candy for me, and for those who have been “especially helpful and kind” during my stay in Japan.

Nothing quite says California like Sees Candy, and Halloween like candy itself.

As for my aunt’s question about whether or not Japan celebrates Halloween, they don’t celebrate it to the extent that America does.  Japanese people like to dress up in costumes at the time, but they don’t take their kids trick or treating around the neighborhood as far as I know.

But I would be happy to show my appreciation to my Japanese friends, and share American Halloween culture.

Making sure they don’t have nut allergies, of course.

October 18, 2015: Yumori no Sato

Yumori no Sato is an onsen, a Japanese hot spring.

My roommate and I went there on October 18, 2015.

While I’d been in an onsen before in a hotel, by myself, at night, I hadn’t been to an actual onsen with multiple rooms and multiple bath types.

Yumori no Sato is one such place, and for 1200 yen, a little over $10 USD dollars, you can enjoy all of its rich baths for as long as you want (even until it closes).

Yumori no Sato is like stepping into a palace.  Patrons can enjoy the bath that lies inside the main building and view the scenery from afar, and listen to the calming thunk of a shishi-odoshi, or “deer scarer”, as it fills with water.  Or one can step outside, step in the healing warm river waters of oil and leaves to clear your skin.

Or try the red room, my favorite, to relieve one’s emotional moody temperament, sitting in bubbly warm water that relives the tension in your muscles, while one remains still like a rock.  (Though, I believe that’s only a bath that is available to female guests, so sorry, male guests.)

I would love to go again sometime.  I found all the different types of baths enjoyable, though I had to be careful not to get in and out to quickly to save myself from a woozy head.

Just remember, dear reader, that if you wish to go to an onsen yourself, be mindful that you will be naked in front of strangers, most likely the same sex as you, since they have baths separated by gender.

I found that I got used to after awhile, or rather, I made an effort to look at a person’s face rather than the rest of their body.  But if I saw the rest of it, I didn’t care.

It’s all skin.  It’s all human.

October 19-21, 2015: I WROTE.

After what has felt like more than half a year of writer’s block with my novel…

I wrote more.

And it felt amazing.

What helped was not only setting up a specific time to write every day, but also get to the root of my writing problems:

My anxiety.

My anxiety sometimes manifests as compulsions, and I’ve found that it can seep into my writing as well.  It can make me fuss over one part of a plot that does not have a lot of significance over and over again, and bring forth no results.  However, I found out that what actually brought me more results wasn’t brainstorming.

It was writing.

Writing brought me out of my block.

I had been trying to solve my problems without doing any writing.  I was scared of doing any writing for fear of having it not come out perfect.  Yet in my striving for perfection, I ultimately brought nothing new.

And so I wrote.  I wrote for three days.

And then…

October 22, 2015: I took a break.

Which is fine.

It’s hard to building a writing habit on top of studies.

And on this Friday, I hit a bit of a snag in the plot.

Which is fine.

I can fix it now or later.  Preferably later so more writing gets done.  Just make a note for later and move on.  Carry on like the story is as you want it to be later.

This is how I challenge writer’s block, and not give up.

October 23, 2015: Tadashii Kanji Kakitori-kun Review

I often say that while my level of Japanese is quite good, and better than the next guy, my level of Japanese, really, is that of a Japanese kid’s.  And lately, this feels true.  I can memorize vocabulary about taxes and outer space and cooking, but I never get any opportunities to talk about it.

So I don’t use it, which means I don’t sound like a Japanese adult, even though I am an adult.

And so, one day, I thought, Well… what if I used software meant for Japanese kids and worked my way up at my own pace? What if I appeal to that inner kid in me?

And so I bought Tadashii Kanji Kakitori-Kun for the Nintendo DS.

Kanji are Chinese characters that Japan adopted long ago in their writing and language system.  It’s become one of my weaker points in the language, and trying to study the way I would in class doesn’t seem to be working.

The Nintendo DS Software in this blog post helps Japanese elementary school children learn all 1,006 kanji taught in elementary school–from first grade through sixth grade.  Its sequel focuses on the rest of the kanji taught in middle school and high school .  These kanji make up what is known as the jouyou, or “general use” kanji that everyone should know how to read and write, according to Japan’s Ministry of Education.  However, in 2010, the Ministry of Education added 196 more to the list of 1945 jouyou kanji previously mandated in 1985, and removed five.  The sequel to the game that I bought was made in 2009, so it doesn’t reflect this change.

But, I thought if I liked Tadashii Kanji Kakitori-kun enough, I might consider getting its sequel.

So I thought I would give it a try.

I can’t say it’s my definition of fun.  It’s no Monster Hunter 4 or Pokemon Alpha Sapphire.  But, then again, it isn’t exactly meant to be “fun”.  It’s supposed to be a personal kanji tutor.

But it makes me care about kanji, and it makes me think about kanji.  And I like that.

It takes attendance.  It tracks your rate of progress.  It has two mini games that you can utilize for further kanji study.  It has an option for you to practice with or without a tracing outline.  It has super kanji tests for even further study.  It has example sentences for you to practice inputting kanji and kanji compounds.  It has stroke animations.  It gives you hints on the meaning of the kanji compound.

But the one thing I hate about this program is the fact that it emphasizes stroke order.

While it’s good for electronic dictionaries to recognize what I write, the real world does’t care.  As long as the shape is correct, and people can read it, my kanji is fine.

But it wasn’t even the kanji I was getting hung up on.

It was one of the basic hiragana characters.  And it wouldn’t let me pass because I never wrote it the way it was showing to me.  It was trying to detect a very, very subtle change that was hard to see on the stroke animation, which made it hard for me to write, because I never learned how to write that character in that way.

But other than that frustration, Kakitori-kun seems alright.  I don’t believe it’s a replacement for all types of kanji learning.  I still need flash cards for difficult words and to make sure I write it out by hand.  And if I find better software, I’ll certainly look into it.  But as of right now, it feels good reviewing kanji I hadn’t learned in a long time.  And I’m hoping I can learn higher level kanji in the same way.

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