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After a week dominated by not-quite-early-enough starts and constant work, it was nice to have a weekend defined by sleep and recreation. Of course, there was homework as well, but it wasn't too bad. Tomorrow, I'll see how much homework I forgot to do.
Earlier this evening, Nori left to return to Kyoto. He offered to let me stay at his place should I want to visit. I might take him up on that offer, since the shinkansen (bullet train) alone costs more than $100 a ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto, but makes the trip in about 2 1/2 hours. The bus, which is about a third less money, takes 10 hours on an overnight trip that can either be a nice place to sleep or an uncomfortable nightmare, according to a friend of mine.
The farewell was not as long-winded as the ones I'm used to back home: Nori packed his things and headed to the station without a lot of heavy emotions on the part of the rest of the family. He's still close enough to visit every now and then.
I still have a lot of sightseeing and souvenir shopping to do, so much so that I'm keeping a list of things I should buy and things that I already have as souvenirs. A fair amount of novelty gifts are actually free: old game flyers are given away by stores who don't need them any more, and many food and drink companies give away little trinkets to keep people brand-loyal. I now have a key chain featuring Coca-Cola's large-headed cute blue mascot "Qoo" (pronounced "coo") which came free with a bottle. Still, to get more personal and more regional gifts, I need to travel around some more. Hopefully I'll be able to do that in the coming four weeks.
Task: This week, make sure people on campus know how to contact me off-campus. I can't count on e-mail here, since I check it so infrequently. The dorms' persistent Internet connections spoil the dorm students like I was spoiled at CMU. You don't realize how great a high-speed persistent 'net connection is until it's gone.
Early on, I was extremely pessimistic about food matters. My host mother was giving me these large portions and then acting very concerned as my weak, jet-lagged body could barely finish half. Now, my appetite has been back at full strength and my host mother knows that I tend not to eat as much as my highly active older brothers here. Noodles and rice have made up no small part of the meals here, and that's good: both of those are very simple foods which provide plenty of carbohydrates for energy. On each of the last two days, lunch has consisted exclusively of soumen, very thin noodles served ice cold with a thin sauce and onions. Everyone serves themselves from a large bowl, so I only need to take as much as my appetite allows. The food is good, and none of it goes to waste.
My host mother was very surprised yesterday to hear that I would like to have unagi, a broiled eel dish. Popular year-round but most plentiful during the summer, unagi consists simply of eel broiled and usually served over rice (the combination is often called unagi-don or una-don) as a main dish. The meat is very light and easy to eat, and tastes very good. Unagi is fairly difficult to prepare, so even skilled chefs like my host mother buy it in stores instead. At its cheapest, a bowl of una-don will cost as much as ¥1200 ($10.40) from a small shop or substantially more at a fine restaurant. One of the nice parts about being in a homestay is that I pay a monetary gift up front and then receive meals like this for free. Most families spend more than the value of this monetary gift on meals for the student, so we students get more than we pay for. As long as the food's good, I'm not complaining.
Goal: Get up extra early in the morning, go to Mister Donut near the train station in the morning, enjoy a Choco-Ring on the train to school.
Congratulations to former Carnegie Mellon College Bowl club president Shannon Sisk on her marriage to Terry Watt on Saturday, July 20. You made it!
Sighting: An opera-singing Santa Claus doll on clearance for ¥1000 ($8.60) at a department store Saturday. I thought for a long time about buying it.
I now have 12 Coca-Cola stickers from bottles and cans, enough to buy one entry into one of the lotteries that Coke is running this summer. Other Coke lotteries with better prizes cost 20 and 30 stickers to enter, respectively. I can do this.
I'm starting to listen to J-Pop, thanks to a CD with about 10 hours of the stuff that Justin gave me on Friday. I've only listened to some of it so far. Some is excellent, some is as good as American pop, and some of it is just weird. Not all the CD is J-Pop per se; some of it is Japanese experimental music.
Most Japanese desktop computers don't include floppy drives any more, so that USB memory device I bought yesterday has already proven useful for transporting my report downstairs. As long as I don't lose the device, which is about the size of a cigarette lighter, I'm in good shape.
The amount of Stuff around my room is growing day by day. I have to make sure not to accumulate too much.
Goals for week 3: Get up on time, have something non-caffeinated every morning, control bitterness in class, make more and better leisure plans, and stay on top of everything.