Tuesday, May 31, 2011

体育祭![Pt 1 - Preparations]

After a long time, I'm here to update you with another exchange related post. This time is about a truly high-school exchange only event called 体育祭 "tai-iku-sai" or "Sports Festival", which is not to be confused with 運動会 "un-dou-kai" or a "Sports Day", which is a generic term for things like 体育祭!

I participated in 清真学園高等学校・中学校(seishin gakuen koutou-gakkou / chuugakkou; the official name of my school)'s 第三十一回(dai san-jyuu-ichi kai; 31st time) 体育祭!

For more understanding, let's break down the kanji. Just a bit of extra information, I use Denshi Jisho (website only, keitai/iphone/mobile websites available), Usagi Japanese Dictionary App (I use Android version, iPhone also available) and JED App(I think there is only an Android app) on my phone, and mahou for looking up different kanji.
体 たい body
育 いく bring up, raise
祭 さい festival
体+育 =  たいいく which is Gym class!

運 うん carry, advance (this kanji actually has many meanings, most are situational)
動 どう move, motion, shift, shake
会 かい meeting, event
運+動 = motion, or to exercise!

Now do you see the difference? There really isn't much! However, 運動会 is meant to show off different talents to family, friends, teachers, classmates, which is something you do at events like 体育祭!

**From here on out I will relay how things were at my school. I have only been to one school's 体育祭 so I can only speak for my school. Things may vary school by school, so if you're doing exchange, please do not look to this as an end-all to understanding how these run**

For my school, all six grades (中1年から高3年まで from Middle School 1st years [in the American system, grade 7] until High School 3rd years [American System grade 12]) participated. Usually, we're divided by grades via colors on our shoes, gym uniforms, gym sneakers, but for the 体育祭 we were divided into different groups (from A団(A-dan or Team/Group A) to F団) by colors.

The 体育祭 is always held in late April, right before the Golden Week vacation and is the first big activity of the year[note: The Japanese school year begins in April]. It is also used as a way to introduce the younger kids to their 先輩(せんぱい; senior-ranking students) and as a way for kids to get to know other kids in their homerooms. The group that the student will be on from their first year until their last is determined when they enter the school. However, seeing as I had entered in as a 高2年生(kou-ni-nen-sei; 2nd year HS student) in October, I was not assigned to a group. Now, you would think, that they would have done it in April when they assigned me to a new homeroom, but alas - that was not done.

After Christmas, all that was on everyone's mind was this 体育祭 business and every five seconds I was bombarded with "ステイシーは何団??" ("Stacy wa nani dan?" "Stacy, what team are you?") At first, all I could manage was "What the heck are you talking about?" but then I asked my Japanese teacher who assisted me and the Thai exchange student in being placed on a team. I was placed on A団, whose color was yellow. I was placed on the team with one of my best friends from my first home room.

After that, the big thing was to decide what exactly the gaijin would do. I was nominated for dancing. Yep, the blonde foreigner was going to dance. We then decided the theme would be "Abloom". The other themes included: ecstasy(yep, they allowed it), crescendo, dazzling, etc. When it came to our mascot, there was a rather intense debate over who was better: manga character Tiger Mask or American children's puppet show character Big Bird. Yes, I'm not kidding. There LITERALLY was debate over this.

Big bird won. You can imagine my disappointment. Big bird won, I kid you not, because the Tiger Mask costume would be "too complicated". Uh... suuuuure.

And then it became 春休み or Spring Break. During this time, my phone went on the spritz and I couldn't mail anyone from au, which is what my friend had, so our communication was cut. I also switched hosts. Was informed of a two-week trip I'd be taking right before the 体育祭. And wasn't able to make -any- of the practices. My best friend was coordinating the dance for our group and, fearing her wrath, I nervously asked where she was on the first day of school in April. The first thing she said was "お前っ!" (omae - a very masculine way to say "you", in this case expressing her obvious discontent with me). I followed it with a long, deep bow and a "本当に申し訳ない". The literal translation is "hontouni[really] moushi[polite speech for to say] wake[reason, explanation] nai[don't have]". In essence, it means "I really have no reason[excuse]/anything to say [for my behavior, for what I've done]".

Once we started practicing and I had learned the first 20 seconds almost perfectly our first practice she started to forgive me. And then we had to really, really work hard. Because it was my first 体育祭, I had no idea what was going on so a lot of people had to explain things to me. It also gave me many chances to talk to people I'd never spoken to before and I made a lot more guy friends. The captain of my group in particular made it a point to talk to me a lot more and he was really hot so I was happy~

We practiced every day after school and also for extended practices on Saturdays. Our practice uniform was just our usual gym uniform, but sometimes we'd sneak a different shirt. I often wore my class shirt from America, which got a lot of "Ooh, I wanna go to America~" responses. Then discussion began about the costumes for the dance. Everyone was supposed to make their own dresses, but hello~ I'm an exchange student. I didn't have the resources or know-how of where and when I could access a sewing machine. I offered to ask around, perhaps we could use the home ec machines?! but nope, I was told not to worry.

I probably should've done it myself because after all, Japanese female bodies are nothing like my female body and it was less than flattering. If I had to make it myself, I probably could have made it a little more flattering, but alas, they made it for me and I had one less thing to worry about. We were supposed to wear fishnets underneath, but I had moved from Kashima to Namegata, which is like moving from a small city with everything you need into it to farmland with nothing there. Ugh, it was just bad.

It was during this time I really started to feel bad for how much everyone had to help me out and take care of me. My last host family was very much "we do our thing, you do your thing, lets just eat dinner together" so even if I asked, it was very hard to get the help I needed.

But, it despite all it's snags, it all came together for a very eventful and memorable day, which will be in part 2. :] (and a lot more pictures!!)

Would you like to see an in-depth review of the sites/apps I use for dictionaries? That's something easy that I could do, haha!

My next post will be announcing my giveaway's winner! Thanks to everyone who entered! I had quite a few entries and I'm really excited to pick the winner! I'll also announce what my next giveaway will be. :]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

this past week..

this past week I spent away from home and it was just what I needed.

Recently, some new people and new opportunities have come into my life and I'm really excited for them all!
I'm not ready to publicly blog about them all, but if you continue reading I'm sure it'll all come out \(^_^)/

now onto my week:
it included lots of rain >_<, lady gaga, japanese and taiwanese food, replaying "ET" by Katy Perry and Kanye West, walking around Baltimore Harbor, yummy foreign drinks, shopping, and at least 12 hours in a car. If this is what summer is going to bring, let me grab my beach towel and sunscreen and lets goooo~!
Last weekend at my friend's, they decided to make this drink. I just love the glasses XD
I was scolded for taking the photo from this side. Okay, Mr. Photographer, just be quiet~ XD
cute new stationary. Ready, Mutsumi? XD
sooooooooooooooooo yummy! I'm craving it right now >_<
pretty flowers we saw on our walk around the harbor.
it stopped raining this afternoon, so we walked all the way around the harbor. and climbed a hill! *has giant muscles now*
candy from the Japanese restaurant. we got four, probably because we left a big tip^^

my first time trying anything lychee! and other drinks from Taiwan!

what trip to an asian market is complete without bubble tea? XD

Got this at Maruichi, a Japanese Market in MD. It says Ni Hao^^

Maruichi gets. Look at all this foooooood~!

but wait~~ we forgot some, and my cute new chopsticks I bought^^
I was very sad to leave. I had such a great time, but not all good things can last. But there is always next time!!!

On the way home, we drove through a mix of bad storms. One was really bad, and I swear, it looked like tornadoes were forming about 10 miles from where we were on the highway!! It was soooo scary! I snapped this photo before the skies turned black for about 20 minutes. Luckily we made it home a little late, but safe!

And that was my week^^
Don't forget my giveaway which ends soon!!!

May this post find you happy, healthy and enjoying life, no matter where you are♥! 

Saturday, May 07, 2011

gets: shoe ver+new glasses+Hello Kitty

Hello everyone~!

Based on answers from my giveaway, I've decided to include some more personal posts and I'll start finishing all those drafts I have partially typed. I swear, there's at least 15 blog posts!

Last night I edited some photos so I decided to blog on that. Recently I bought two pairs of shoes from AMI Clubwear. The site has soooo many cute things! Shipping is expensive, but if you spend $50, you can use a coupon for free shipping!

Tan/Beige Mary Janes

Black OTK Suede boots.
I know, I know, OTK boots are sooo last winter. Well, I don't care! I love them, and they go with a lot of the outfits I want to wear this summer, so I'm sticking with them!

And the Mary Janes are shoes I bought kind of on a whim, but I've noticed they go really well to create a retro-girly kind of look, which I've always loved!

If you take at look at my (recently not updated at all) poupee, you will notice that I LOVE Charlotte Russe. I honestly own wayyyyy too freakin' much from there and it doesn't help my best friend is also obsessed.

I bought these shoes back in February, but I cannot wait to wear them out more! Winter in Pennsylvania makes it so hard to coordinate because there's always lots of snow and random snowstorms and the last thing you want is to be stranded in heels like these. Or really anything other than water-resistant, lined boots, haha!

Yesterday, Jenny made this post which included a picture of a girl with shoes similar to these and over-the-knees similar to these from sockdreams! I currently have white socks that go to my knees, but I'm really tempted to get those from sock dreams, too.

The box pictured above is the new shoe box design. Compare this box above to the box below! I bought these red heels over three years ago! Can you believe that? I recently found these in my room at my dad's house and I thought, "Hey! I might still be able to get some use out of them!"
notice the spot in the right corner? editing fail~ lol
I still really like these heels though! They work well with jeans, which is nice for family Christmas dinners, haha!

Two weeks ago I dyed my hair, again. I really love the two-toned look, so I think I'm going to keep it for while. This time I went with copper red on the left and blonde on the right.
during the dye process.

a couple days ago. can't see it well, but I haven't taken many face shots lately, haha!
And good news: my hair is starting to grow out! In January, my hair was butchered. Like cut so short I cried for three hours and constantly whined about how I had been robbed of my femininity. Now, don't get me wrong, some women are made for short hair. It looks great on them. I am just not one of them. And for some reason every single beautician I go to thinks I want an emo mullet/shag cut when I specifically say "Long, blended layers". Ugh, it still makes me depressed just thinking about it.

Yesterday afternoon I picked up my new glasses. I haven't had new glasses in two and a half years, so it's nice to have the new glasses feeling.
They're purple with a flower design on the side.
I think they make my face more adult-ish. You know what I mean? Probably not, haha~

Yesterday I also painted my nails. Tonight is "Girls Night" with my resident nail artist/bff Melissa, but I just HAD to do something. I was going crazy with all this plain nail-age. So I painted them Dolly Wink #9 ミントグリーン with a dollar store (!!) brand nail art holographic gold.

Did I ever show you guys my Hello Kitty laundry bag? If you know me personally, you would know I'm obsessed with: the brand Harajuku Lovers, the brand Body Line (I eat up loli-kei stuff<3), and I will fork over ridiculous amounts of money for HELLO KITTY! I LOVE Hello Kitty. My travel toothbrush is even Hello Kitty (thanks Danielle, luv yaaa! haha)

So, it seems only natural I would have a Hello Kitty laundry bag, right? Maybe you have no idea what that is? Well, before Japan, I didn't either. In Japan, they use them to put smaller items (like underwear, camisoles, or delicates) in the washer without losing them/ruining them. I began telling my mom this and she went, "Uh... I used those when you were a kid too..." Shows how much I remember, haha! My fourth host mom knew I liked Hello Kitty, so she bought it for me so I could put my undies in them on a week long trip I went on! 優しいんだね^^ I try not to use it, but lately I've used it to just hold random things (like my makeup and toiletries on my trip to Japan in March!)
For Easter this year, I didn't get much (but I'm also agnostic so, big whoop!). But my mom got me......... Hello Kitty Jellybeans!! Do you think I've opened them yet? Nopeeee~ Maybe I will in July. Jelly beans don't expire, right? Right?!

I'm moving so I've started going through my books. I have a lot on Japanese culture, studying Japanese, different dictionaries and phrasebooks, even the first textbook and workbook in the Genki textbook series used by many colleges. If I were to make a sales post, would anyone be interested? I'll do reviews beforehand, I think. Most would be around $5USD plus shipping. I honestly don't care to charge anyone an arm and a leg for them, you know? Let me know if you're interested!

And lastly, don't forget my giveaway! It ends on the 25th, so don't forget to get as many entries as possible by then! :] 

The next part: The Japan haul! (I really didn't think I had bought much, but I guess I didn't factor in the eyelashes, boots, eco bags, and the snacks! haha!)

May this post find you smiling and enjoying life, wherever you are!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

the 和風 giveaway!!!!!

久しぶり!(long time, no see!) My laptop charger recently died after we experienced a blackout after lightning struck a pole near my house! But, I had it looked at and after confirming it was only the charger, I have a new charger and my laptop is back~!

I was so bored during this past week that I actually hand-wrote a couple blog posts. Yes, my life is that boring! hahaha~ I also took a bunch of pictures that you will see in upcoming posts. I've decided that I'm going to start including more of my personal life because I know that once I move I'll have a much more interesting life笑

I've had this planned out for awhile and I was going to hold off, but the weather has been so nice recently, summer is just around the corner and I'm just feeling so great about life that I want to share it all with you guys! That's why I'm announcing my next giveaway!

the 和風 giveaway
The theme of this giveaway is 和風 or Japanese style! I chose this theme because I love all things traditional Japan and I'm sure someone else does, too! haha

the prizes:
- a hand-painted uchiwa from Asakusa, Tokyo!
- a 和柄 (traditional Japanese pattern) flower cell phone strap!
- Bath & Body Works Signature Collection fragrance mist and shower gel in Japanese Cherry Blossom! (my favorite fragrance!)
- a matcha green tea flavored Nestle Kit Kat bar! (comes in a cute box too!)

the rules:
- open internationally
- must be a follower (GFC, bloglovin', bloggers, RSS feeds, anything works!)

how to enter:
- comment with your name and a valid email address.

for extra entries:
[+1] in your comment, state your favorite part of Japanese culture. For example, you could mention Sadou (Japanese tea ceremony), sushi, sumo, maiko, geisha, ikebana, anime, jpop, jrock, kabuki, noh, the possibilities are endless!!

[+1] in your comment, say what you would like to see more of on hello nippon!!. For example, "Things I Learned in Japanese", advice on living in Japan, personal posts, Japanese language lesson posts, reviews of products from Japan, travel posts, etc.

[+1] Retweet my original tweet on twitter or link to this blog post and tag me [@stacywahh] in your tweet. Post the link to your tweet in a separate comment.

[+2] Make a post on tumblr linking back to this blog post. Post the link to your post in a separate comment.

[+2] Make a blog post linking to this blog post. Post the link to your blog post in a separate comment.

each person may have up to 8 entries for this giveaway!

also, feel free to use the picture below to promote the giveaway!

the deadline for this giveaway is Wednesday, May 25th 2011 at 11:59 PM EST! After the entries have been tallied, the winner will be selected by random.org again, and then the winner will be emailed. If the winner has not responded to my email in three days after being selected, I will choose a new winner.

Thank you all for your support and I wish everyone lots of luck!!