Thursday, 27 June 2013

Summer Holidays (Advice)

I'm not sure how many of my current kohai's will read this, but I've just realised that for you guys, summer break is coming up! (I still have a month and a half to go :/) And if the Osaka people have the same schedule as last year (i.e. you have exams when the break is over), you have my condolences, がんばって!

But if you're in TUFS, you should be looking forward to a long long break. And I think most of you will be thinking of this:

A plane bound for home.
Now, while you should definitely go back and visit your family during the holidays, there are two more activities that I really suggest you do:

First, take a trip within Japan. For example, go to Hokkaido (the link will lead to the first post of my Hokkaido Trip recollections). Go somewhere you've never been. You're in Japan, and you should definitely travel (provided you saved up during the term). I may not travel much this year, but I'll definitely make a trip - if only to go back to Tokyo!

Second, go for 合宿 (gasshuku) or some other camp if possible. It's one of the best ways to bond with your new friends and practice your Japanese at the same time. This time, I can safely say that I will be going to at least one camp this summer! Actually, whether I go back at all depends on when the camps are - I somehow end up planning my summer around them :p

So these are my two main suggestions to you all, my present and future kohai's. You've got an awesome chance to live in Japan, and you should definitely make full use of it. And if you decide to come to Kyushu, drop by and say hi! (Or do more than drop-by and go for a meal with me!)

Sunday, 23 June 2013

TOEFL is OVER

Yesterday, I took the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) for the first time in my life. In the days leading up to it, most of my friends (from Singapore) expressed shock and incredulity - "Why are you taking TOEFL???" was the most common response.

Image credit: australia.edu


And well, when you put "English" as your native language, it makes no sense. But sadly, the university required it.

Hopefully I score high-enough to get exempted from English.

And on the bright side, I went for Karaoke after TOEFL (yes, I love my Karaoke). It almost didn't happen, because my nihonjijyou group almost postponed it. Again. You see, there are only three people that consistently remember about Karaoke, me and two other guys. The other two girls and guy are forever busy.

But after much pleading/whining and a promise to get more people to come, I got my karaoke after all! Because really, you can tell a lot about a person from the karaoke songs he/she chooses to sing.

Plus, my confirmation that Kyudai students are pretty good in English was confirmed when I got my friends to sing in English. They sang Top of the World (which I actually knew how to sing), and it was really fun! And I managed to sing at least one song with everyone (I prefer singing with someone else to doing a solo and subjecting everyone to my vocals).

I don't even remember how or why I have Top of the World in my iTunes, but good thing I did(:

I hope you all have a good week ahead!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Weekend Trip~

Last Thursday (hey, that's exactly a week ago!), I went for a weekend trip to meet my family. Sadly, I didn't go home (although looking at the haze now, perhaps that's a good thing), instead, I went to Hong Kong and Zhuhai.

Family time is personal time, so I just wanted to share a few random things that came to mind:

One, I seriously love non-budget flights. I love SIA the best, but seriously, if I'm taking a plane ride that's more than an hour, I'd prefer not to take budget. Why? It's not because of the inflight entertainment (I didn't have any there, and I didn't have any on the 22 hour flight to America - and seriously, 22 hours, I need a personal screen to watch shows!), it's for the food:

DINNER

I guess I'm one of those lucky people who don't hate airline food. I'm fine with most airline meals, and I actually like SIA meal (sorry, huge SIA fan here). So really, what I like is that if you're flying on a regular flight, you'll get at least a snack and a drink without having to pay for it.

Hong Kong was excellent! I love Hong Kong!

Shopping at the night market

Zhuhai was.... rainy. The shopping was good but I wouldn't want to live here. It really made me appreciate Japan. And I was so sad I was banned from speaking Japanese here!

We did managed to fit in a half-day tour, and I got to ride this:

I'm guessing it's like a ski lift
In the rain. Wheeeeee. Not

Great view, but let's just say that the drop
is really really steep.
Holding an umbrella while riding this thing was a bit scary. But moving on, there was a replica of an ancient Chinese palace and a visit to the tea place!

It may be hard to believe, but this round thing is made of tea. 
I love love love tea, and my dad bought me pu-er tea!

There were some parts of the trips that were so far from ideal that I won't mention them (I shall refrain from giving bad impressions of places), but seriously, the highlight of the trip was spending time with my family.

Well, I have a TOEFL (Test OF English as a Foreign Language) exam on Saturday, so I guess I should go study. And I'm thinking, just thinking, that my next post will be on summer holiday recommendations - I know for quite a few of you, it'll be your first summer break in Japan! What do ya think?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Musings: Language and Appearances - It's Tough Being A Singaporean Gaijin

Like I promised yesterday, here's part two! It's not really about being Gaijin, but it's about three comments that I've got a lot. It's really my personal experience so far. 

Lately, I've noticed that I've been getting the following three comments a lot. As of, well, now, I haven't been able to formate a suitable reply. In fact, if you know the correct way to respond, I would be really really grateful.

The first comment is "Wow, your Japanese is great!".

Um, no, it's not. I can function in society, but my brain is always trying to figure out the right things to say, and trust me, I have never been good at grammar - English OR Japanese (I'm still trying to figure out if Chinese has grammar).

Personally, I think that this comment stems from the fact that I'm a foreigner who happens to understand most of what is being said and can give fairly coherent replies. I'm currently reply with the truth ("No, I'm terrible"), but still, I wonder why I get this comment so often.

And with this first comment comes the second "Your English is great!" (or some variation of this).

While the compliment is very sweet, I honestly can't reply to this. Really, I consider myself to have a barely adequate grasp of English (My English really has de-proved since I got here). Besides, if I accept the compliment, I feel like I'm sending a subtext of "I'm better at English nyah nyah nyah". On the other hand, if I go "no no, I'm terrible", I'm not quite sure how my friend will feel. Especially if I'm helping them with English.

This really feels like a Catch-22.

The last comment, well, I've posted it on Google+ before. While I consider myself to look like a typical Singaporean (Singaporean-Chinese if you want to be nitpicky about categories), I've been told that I look Japanese. By Japanese people. I understood the whole Japanese/Korean mistake when I went to America, but I'm in Japan! I dress and speak funny!

And I know that I don't fit in because a little boy at kendo told me "so that's why your Japanese is so strange!" when he found out I'm Singaporean. Well, he also thought I was 12-13 years old but the point remains valid!

Normally, I just smile and say something like "oh really?" but recently, I was told "You don't look Singaporean." I'm sure the speaker meant it nicely, but it hurt somehow. I love Japan, but I'm still Singaporean to the core.
Spot the non-Japanese person here (I really hope my
friends don't get mad about my posting the photo here too)

ETA: Read Part 1 here

Monday, 3 June 2013

Musings: What Does "Gaijin" Mean?

Why this photo? I could talk about how
this topic isn't very pleasant, like the clouds
that block an awesome view of Mount Fuji
(that is Mount Fuji by the way), but the truth
is, I didn't want a photo of me when I
shared this post to Google+ (shallow,
I know)
Last Wednesday, Tofugu posted a really excellent blog post on what the word "gaijin" (外人)may mean to different foreigners. Coincidentally, I was working on (in my drafts folder anyway), a post on being a gaijin in Fukuoka. (Tofugu, if you read this, look at the synchronicity! You should totally take me on as an apprentice(; ). So, I decided to do a two-day, two-part blog post on being a foreigner. Today, I'll look at what the word "gaijin" means to me, and tomorrow, I'll share my experience.

Note: this doesn't mean that the discussion on the issue is finished. I'm still learning, still thinking, so don't be surprised if some time down the road, part three comes out.

Ok, so words. What do they mean? There's always that nursery rhyme "stick and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me." Perhaps it's due to the influence of the rhyme when I say that the word "gaijin" has no negative connotations for me. Please note the words "for me".

Because seriously, I'm the girl that identifies myself as gaijin. It will come out sometime in my introduction (if my name didn't give me away straightaway). In fact, I sometimes use the "baka gaijin" excuse (basically, I use this excuse to cover every single faux pas I make). To me, I am a gaijin. I will never be Japanese, so why should I care if others don't see me as Japanese?

While I say all this, I must add in two caveats. First, my experience in Japan is hugely positive. I have been told (by my seniors) that there are universities where one is told "you're in Japan, you don't need English", and I have heard of stories of discrimination, but I've never faced anything like this. I first studied in TUFS, where the fact that all the students here major in a foreign language means that they are more welcoming to foreign students. Now, I'm in Fukuoka, which was one of the first open ports (for foreign trade), and is said to be very open to foreigners and foreign influence in general. So obviously, the word "gaijin" has never been used as an insult to me.
This is the face of a gaijin.

The second caveat is simply the fact that I'm Singaporean. And as you should have seen by now, my race is Chinese. This means that I don't stand out that much from other Japanese (as compared to say, a Caucasian). My default look is "blending in" not "standing out".

What about you? Do you, unlike me, see the work gaijin as some sort of insult and should be avoided? I'm simply too lazy to say the word "外国人 (gaikokujin - foreign country person), and well, I use the baka gaijin excuse a lot. If your view is different, or you had some experience you want to share, do tell me, I'd love to hear about it.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, where I talk about my experience in Japan.

ETA: Read Part 2 here