Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chicago-O'Hare Airport and Orientation 3/15-3/19

Playlist of all videos of the Orientation. Please watch c:

So a kind of unexpected event happened before I was to meet my host family. I had an Orientation at the Olympic Center in Tokyo (from the 1960's Olympics), and that lasted until yesterday (3/20), thus I didn't have internet access UNTIL yesterday, and I couldn't figure out the internet access until today. WHICH is why I haven't written before today. Also, a bunch of stuff has happened since coming to Japan, like, a TON of stuff, so I am going to write two posts cause I want to write a bunch and attempt to put a bunch of detail into these posts, and all that info in one post would be kind of way too long.
SOOOOO, this post is planned to be about the Orientation, only!!

Alright so to start this off, I did not sleep on the 15th (the day I left for Japan), as my plane left from Burlington int. Airport at 6 in the morning and seeing as how I am nocturnal, there was no point i n going to sleep. Also I totally could not have slept no matter how hard I tried. I was just too darn excited.
So my plane left at 6:15 or some time around there, and after saying g'bye to my dad which was pretty difficult, I boarded the plane to Chicago, and slept, and woke up with the plane landing at Chicago=O'hare Airport, left the plane, and walked myself into the Airport to be immediately confronted by an elderly lady who was apparently the person responsible for gathering all of the exchange students to Japan. Because I was not expecting someone to confront me at the time, this surprised me as I had originally thought that everyone in nthe airport would have had to fend for themselves and find the correct gate (it was B16). Apparently not, she gathered me and we went off to find another exchanger who I would find out to be a guy that would room with me at the Orientation (actually, all of the other American dude exchangers did). My plane also arrived at Chicago an hour early (HAHA. I still wonder how that happened), and so I was the first exchanger she had to pick up. We went off to get the exchanger from Michigan, then the exchanger from New Jersey and the one from Florida arrived, then the guy from Pennsylvania, and finally the one from Minnesota. They go by the names of Oliver (me), Riley, Devin, Alex, Henry, and Amanda. Us 6 would then sit at gate B6 for about....7 hours until we were off to TOKYOOOO! The waiting kind of totally sucked, but I have pretty cool memories of it. Like, how one of the exchangers bought several bags of Beef Jerky (it had a SUPER strong scent), and we waved the bags infront of one of the other exchangers who was a vegetarian. That was hilarious. We also talked about how to not pay for stuff by pretending we don't speak English in America. We also walked around the area for 5 minutes and saw the huge Dinosaur fossil thing nearby (I'm in the picture somewhere). But besides that we didn't really do much. HOWEVER our plane DID indeed arrive and so we boarded it, and went off to Japan!!! HOWEVER, the ride kind of..sucked. It was I think, 13 hours, a length I had done twice before, but felt so.insanely.looooong. We also didn't have screens infront of our seats, and the food wasn't of the best quality (I ate it and many other people's plates though, which reminded me of my lunch days at EHS), but that was TOTALLY ok BECAUSE, we were going to Japan WOOOOO! One of the other exchangers also had Avenue Q on her ipod, which made me happy.
I don't know what was up with the length of the ride and how painful it was though. Like, I fell asleep at the beginning, and then woke up thinking that we were almost there, to find out I had only slept for an hour which was pretty frustrating. I remember the stewardists also offered water like 40 times throughout the flight, we had 3(4) meals, we/the exchange students also randomly met this college student who is currently in Hiroshima and spoke super intense Japanese (his accent was awesome. It was like a very serious Japanese man which makes him sound like a born Japanese native). Aaahhh...OH YEAH we also started eating the super mega large stash of chocolate I was carrying with me (including a chocolate bunny), and I took some fruit leather (organic) from one of the other exchangers and it was completely amazingly delicious, and I also ate an exchangers bag of gummy worms (they said it was ok). Several movies were shown as well. The new one about Roller Derby with Ellen Paige was shown but the name escapes me, and this other movie about an Australian widowed dad and two Australian boys was shown after that...oh and this documentary/commercialization thing about Hawai'i was also shown.

SO when we DID land in Japan, everyone kind of quietly and tiredly went "woooo Japan.." (I rose my hands wheee) and we were all super happy. When we exited the plane and entered Narita Airport, the first thing I noticed was the scent. IT SMELLED LIKE JAPAN!!!!! Japan has a ton of smells, but they all have the same characteristic as being a Japanese smell. I honestly do not know what it is, but the smell is---Japan. Whenever one of you comes to Japan, you will notice it too (it's a super satisfying smell as well). Another one of the exchangers noticed the smell too, so I knew I wasn't completely crazy.

So we walked through the airport to the passport examination place/where they let you into the country, waited in line for a little while sweating like crazy (the airport was basically completely filled with human bodies), until a man opened a door about 10 feet away from us, and beckoned us (the exchangers) to him with his hand. He didn't say anything but just beckoned, which was slightly confusing, but we/the exchangers figured out that he wanted us to go through the door he was standing outside of. (this paragraph so far sounds extremely awkward and is probably impossible to understand. Sorry about that. Also I'm doing this and my online science class while watching Pirates of the Caribbean in Japanese with my host family in their living room, so I am completely multi-tasking. My host family is always multi tasking which is pretty awesome. Making very good use of their time ;D We are also eating cake at 11:50 PM). ANYWAY, we went through the door to another passport examination area with a shorter line/waiting time, when it was my turn to show my passport, the guy at the counter took a good 3-4 minutes looking at my passport & visa while doing his respectful stuff on the computer, gave me a paper telling me to get my picture taken at my host city's municipal office within 2 months or something (I need to find that paper actually), and then I walked several steps into the reeeallll Japan!!!! We all gathered our luggage from the baggage claim (I of course needed help with my weak body and incredibly huge luggage), we walked to the entrance of the terminal to find a Japanese guy and lady waiting for us. The lady was/is a YFU representative and the guy was/is a returnee who went to the US through YFU when he was in high school (Name: Masato). Apparently the exchange students came to Japan in clumps of countries and in 4 waves, so the first group was Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, second group was Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Denmark, and Hungary, the third group was Netherlands, Belgium, Korea, China, Philippines, and Canada, and the final group was us (US) and Thailand. We and Thailand were the last to arrive apparently (7 PM). We all took a bus of just exchange students to the Olympic Center in Tokyo, and I introduced myself to all of the Thai exchange students who were very friendly. I also asked the Japanese returnee how old he was since he looked like he could be either 17 or 29, but he didn't tell me. I found out later on that he (and just about all of the other returnees) are college students though. So that's all good. Once we arrived at the Olympic Center, we were immediately directed to a lecture room known as c101, which we exchange students would begin to know as basically, THE room. C101 is where everything happened, and also where everyone would meet up for lectures. The Americans and Thai were given a small introduction to this whole Orientation, along with a towel, bottle of water, two masks (I have ALWAYS wanted to try wearing one), several papers, a contact card with our host family's address, two carry on bag tags (color coded, however at the time we didn't know that the color had any meaning. My tags were red, indicating that I would take Japan Airways to my host destination). OOOH we also got name tags with our name and country printed on it. Pretty cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 Also, one of the returnees who went to Australia for high school exchange, had a completely LEGIT Australian accent when he spoke English. GASP. SO SKILLED. He had no Japanese accent at all. The head returnee who would speak at all of the lectures, known as Saki, went to Alaska for exchange.
Note, I was also randomly turned into the Key Master of my dorm's key, and I was also given the Farewell Party info paper for our country. For the Farewell Party on the last night of the Orientation, each country must do a presentation, and I was given the info paper...just thought I would brag a bit if it means anything c:

SO. Everyone was rooming with their fellow same-country exchangers. There were exactly 4 male American exchange students (of 6 Americans), and there were 4 students to a room so that worked out perfectly. We were actually located on the girls floor as well (3rd floor) while all the dudes should have been on the first floor. There were 76 exchange students total (it felt way less than that though). Anyway we got kind of settled into our room, which was really old and dirty but that was totally fine, and I/we went off to the sento bath (Japanese public bath) to cleanse. ew. It was disgusting. My mouth smelled like a bird had died in my mouth and I was overall pretty nasty. The bath changed all that though to a super good smelling body, which was great.
I think I went to sleep after that.

(The big glass building to the left is where C101 and the cafeteria are located, along with basically everything else) The next morning, I had breakfast and then everyone met up in C101 at 9 AM (I would soon find out that being punctual was extremely essential...). We had a placement test that showed our skill and where we should start in the KUMON curriculum. Kumon is a Japanese language practice split into levels from 4A to 1A, to J, I think. After the test, there was lunch, and I met the Korean exchange students. The 4 Korean exchange students and I finished our placement test at about the same time (they were a few minutes faster), and so we started making convo in Japanese. I attempted to write their names in Hangeul, and then we ate lunch together along with a Japanese returnee who had done her foreign exchange in the U.S. ( most of the returnees went to the US for exchange. The rest either went to Germany, Australia, New Zealand, or Finland). The only guy Korean exchange student, Se-Young, really liked my name (and I reeaaally liked his because it is Korean. OMG), and so we exchanged name cards, and Se-Young thus became known as Ollibeo (Korean pronunciation of Oliver), and from then on I called him Ollibeo. That was pretty amazing I MUST say. The Korean exchange students also called me Se-Young. haahhaha, funny. I loved that. After lunch, everyone grouped back up (but in a different room, on the FIFTH floor :O), for our ADVENNTTUUUURREEE GAAAAAMMMEE YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY. There were 8 groups of students, and we had to find a total of 8 games all of which accurately taught about Japanese culture, and we got scores depending on how well we did at each Japanese culture-teaching game. The games were pretty amazing I must say. Just saying, you probably will be jealous. :)

My group had Riri as the returnee in charge of our group (Group 1), and the students were Lola from Austria, Stina from Estonia, Kristiina from Finland, Luisa from Germany, Christian from Germany, San-Yi from Korea, Sara from Sweden, Paloma from Switzerland, Wasin from Thailand, and ME from AMURICA!!!!!!! In the pictures shown, you can see what we were required to find and do once found. We had to pick up Gummy Bears, Beans, and pieces of scrunched up paper with chopsticks, as much as possible within a minute or something like that. We also needed to find this diorama of the entire Olympic Center and count the number of cars in the model (the answer was 9. We got it right). We also had to create Origami Sumo wrestlers and have Sumo matches against the lady who taught us how to make the Origami Sumo wrestlers who was absolutely INSANELY AMAZING at Origami Sumo wrestling matches. Like WOW, I was impressed. I actually tied her though (our Sumo men fell at the same time), so I didn't cry.

There was also a sort of slang-ish/Japanese culture vocab game where this returnee (she went to the US for exchange and her sarcasm makes it super obvious. She was hilarious) holds up cards with a picture on them, and you guess what it is (in Japanese). Like, certain foods, and Japanese slang guessing the meaning. I remember Takoyaki was one of the cards, and I screamed out "OCTOPUS BALLS" (The English name for Takoyaki) and everyone started laughing. Also note that I was the only native English speaker, so I was surprised that everyone else found OCTOPUS BALLS an extremely awkward word before I did. oops. I have a video of this that I may eventually add to this post.
Hmm...we also had this game where everyone had to line up in order of birthdays without speaking to one another. At the time I didn't actually understand how this had anything to do with Japan BUUUTTT I TOTALLY just think I JUST figured it out. Maybe like...language barrier? Communicating without speaking, perhaps. Anyway, we didn't get any points at this game because I messed up, and stood after the Swedish girl when I was supposed to stand before her as her birthday was after mine. darn. (It was totally ok though because our team eventually came in 3rd place, SOMEHOW. Despite my suckish skills at every game except Rock Paper Scizzors).
We also had to count the correct number of steps from Floors 1-5, the answer was 89 I believe. And at the end, everyone returned to the room on the 5th floor of the building, and the results of each team were shown with a bunch of music and awesome power point skills. Of 8 teams, our team INDEED came in THIRD PLACE!! OMGGEEE!!! The top three teams received prizes, and we received HI-CHEW!!! I ate mine in like 2 minutes, while sitting with the Koreans, Belgian girl, and Finnish dude. Koreans shown. The dude Korean (Ollibeo), said "F*** You" to the Belgian girl to show his American-ness too C: I laughed with my obnoxious laugh. The girl from Belgium, dude from Finland, and I, also made conversation about 'Bear In a Can' which is apparently a food item sold in Finnish grocery stores. Bear In A Can
After this, we had dinner, and then free time before having to go to bed at 10:00 PM (I needed to make a mistake in order to understand that there was a strict curfew). I stayed in one of the other dorm's, and watched Coraline while eating a bag of Butterfingers and CalorieMate (as shown) with one of the American exchange students until midnight, forgetting completely that there was a curfew while getting super into Coraline. When I left the room, one of the returnees I had met previously (Yusuke), caught me and asked why I was late going to bed (two hours late). I told him I was watching Coraline, and he didn't understand what "Coraline" was, so he just told me to go to bed immediately. I felt pretty terrible (I most definitely was not the last exchange student to go to bed though...thankfully, haha).

The next morning, I ate breakfast with the two Estonian girls, which was super awesome, and from then on I hung out with them quite a bit. We were late to the morning lecture though, which SUCKED, and made me feel even worse about breaking the rules. I apologized a ton to the main returnees though, and they actually seemed to appreciate that ;) teehee. We also received our scores on the Kumon placement test, and were then grouped into random groups of all Japanese levels, and we were then sent to random rooms to have our "Japanese Lesson". This lasted for 3 hours, and we sort of just went over basic Japanese grammar, and also what to say to our host family as an introduction...our teacher was Kurokawa sensei, and my class was made up of another American, a German girl, an Austrian guy, a Swiss girl, a Thai girl, me, a Finnish guy (same one who introduced bear in a can), and the two Estonian girls. In one of the pictures shown, I explained to Kurokawa sensei what a "traitor" is.
After that, we had lunch, and then our group discussion. This was grouped by country, so our group was made up of 5 of the 6 Americans and 1 Canadian girl. Our group returnee leaders were Asuka who went to Australia, and Masato, same guy who picked us up from Narita airport. We spoke about what we wanted to accomplish in Japan, and how we plan to accomplish what we want to accomplish. The returnees also gave us a bunch of tips regarding Computer use and everything. Like, don't ever spend long periods of time on the computer unless for online classes and homework, stuff like that. Our group was kind of insanely loud and obnoxious because of ME, who didn't stop laughing with the obnoxious laugh I have. I DO have a super great picture of our group though, as shown, which makes me happy. This is one of the awesome pictures I have :) I also have a picture of the group leaving, way before me due to my slow-ness and how I am always the last person out of a room (each returnee had to tell me to hurry up like, 20 times throughout the orientation).

(My page just refreshed itself, so I have to write this paragraph all over again. I am slightly irritated). ANYWAY, after the Group Discussion, everyone returned back to room C101 to have another lecture. This one had several returnees make presentations on random parts of modern Japanese culture, such as slang names for Japanese food chains, like how 'Starbucks' is usually called 'Sutaba' among teenagers, and 'McDonald's' is 'Makku' in Tokyo, and 'Makudo' in Osaka (I am in Osaka. In this area they have an extremely, EXTREMELY differing dialect known as Kansai-ben or Osaka-ben which sometimes resembles Chinese due to the different tones compared to Tokyo Japanese. I actually saw a Starbucks today when I was with my host brother, and I was all like "SUTABA!" and he was all like "YEAH!!" Oh, and I also JUST ate a banana, and noticed that I have NOT been eating fruit. I am totally changing that now). I have this video of the presentation on the customs of a Japanese house, as shown.

Next, we had dinner, but I didn't go and so I didn't use my dinner ticket (we were given tickets for each meal), and so I have it to this day, which is a mighty awesome souvenir. I went to the bath, and then...I went to sleep.

The next morning we had breakfast, and I, being confused as to what I should eat, was confronted by a Japanese college student who asked me what I wanted (in English) and "helped me out!"!!!!! I actually unexpectedly bumped into him two more times that day, which was pretty awesome. I also was confronted by this Japanese man who asked me if I was "Dan". I certainly was not Dan, so I told him, and he apologized a ton, and I told him that it was totally ok and I totally understood how he confused me with a "Dan". That event stood out a lot for its awkwardness and awesomeness. As shown, I also ate about 10 oranges of orange peels due to the lack of fruit in my diet at the time. c:

We then had another lecture in room C101, and then for the rest of the day, we had to pack and get ready for the next day (we would be leaving in the morning to meet our host families), and this time period lasted until 5:30 PM, when the Farewell Party would take place. This got pretty crazy as none of the Americans like, agreed on the same thing and our presentation ended up being a complete improvisation (or as we called it, "the ancient American art of, winging it"), so I actually had spent hours in the American girl's dorm listening to Amurican music for no reason (we didn't play any music). We were going to play Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani (the whole Japan-relation, you know), and/or We Are the World....Colors of the Wind/A Whole New World as they both perfectly represent the United States, yep yep. ANYWAY, eventually we had the Farewell Party, with all of the countries (15 in total including Japan). Here you can see all of the exchange students (I think there were 76), along with the returnees in super intense desk-moving-action.

So....the Germans went first, with a presentation on a typical German classroom. The Thai were next, who did a traditional Thai dance in AWESOME attire. Estonians were third with a sort of stomp-dance-traditional dance presentation, and a comical informational speech on Estonia at the end (each country had a maximum time of 10 minutes), Finland was fourth, presenting a dance involving everyone, linking shoulders and is kind of hard to explain so just watch the video. Fifth country was China, who did a speech in Chinese, I THINK from a Japanese electronic Kanji dictionary. She said she can not speak English or Japanese very well. Philippines was next, and they did an English-Filipino translated speech, and ended with a tourist video on the Philippines. Sixth country was Austria, and they explained the Austrian dialect of Germany and how harsh and hostile it is. Next country was Belgium and the Netherlands, and they explained their respective countries through awesome power point skills. Next was Denmark and Norway, and they introduced a game where they draw something on the board, and we have to guess what it is (the first drawing was a straight line, which represented Denmark cause Denmark is very flat), next was Hungary, and he gave some info on Hungary, then Sweden was up and I remember they ended with a song on frogs. Then WE WERE UP(US and Canada), and I understandably do not have any pictures or video of us, because I was presenting, but we sort of just gave info on our respective states (and Canada) which was pretty cool. Everyone/me and Amanda sort of acted super obnoxiously and "amurican" throughout the entire presentation, which I personally found to be incredibly hilarious. We actually managed to make people laugh a ton too!!!!!!!!!!!! That was all good. After us, Switzerland presented, and they randomly picked a students from each country and a random returnee to come up and try to pronounce random Swiss words. Apparently I had good pronunciation, but my word was really easy so it was nothing special at all. Last before Japan was Korea, and they presented a traditional Korean fan dance in awesome attire, which was very impressive. And then LASTLY, was JAPAN, made up of the Returnees, and they had....A JAPANESE FASHION SHOW WOOOOOOO. That was pretty hilarious. I was quite impressed.
After this, we were provided some food and drinks and stuff, which was pretty amazing, and then everyone went to bed for the big day happening 'tomorrow'. (Pictures. Finnish students. Me with the Thai students [they wanted a picture with me and I reeeaallly wanted a picture with them!!!!], two awesome female returnees and I, Ollibeo and I, Yusuke and I)

Later that night, everyone got ready for the big day tomorrow. I however, came to my dorm to see my pillow, pajamas, and sheets completely gone, stripped from my bed. I had left the door unlocked earlier that day, and literally, someone had stolen my BED (and corduroy pants). This SUCKED. I was totally irritated and was freaking out and getting all emotional, and the rest of the Americans were laughing at me, mainly because it was the first time they had seen me be serious about something (I acted pretty strangely throughout the entire orientation). Well, one of the other American exchange students (CRUUUUNK) apparently had stolen my bed and pants as pay back for stealing something of hers. The previous night, I had stolen her toy Ram named Rammy (female), and so she decided it was ok to steal my bed the next day. WELL, as you can see in the picture, she showed me to my bed (stuffed into a closet in her dorm room)--totally annoying though. I had even been in that dorm room multiple times during this time period and had never noticed my BED stuffed into an open closet in the room....If you check my playlist (and the picture shown here) of videos, you can see a video of her again stealing my stuff due to me stealing Rammy again.

1 comment:

  1. Waah! Was it really just a couple of days?! Amazing...
    Oh and you most certainly weren't the last ones to arrive. Austria and Estonia were the last. We arrived a day after everyone else, so we had to take the kumon test in the evening and everything.
    Aah, I want to read the next post already, so that I could read about your host family and how you're settling in! :D
    I personally can't wait to start school already. I want to wear my super cute uniform! ;D But right now, everything has been tons of fun! Japan is incredible!
    Btw, Avenue Q frackin' rocks!