Thursday, November 21, 2002

I just want someone to call anata!! :-P

"Last night I had a dream about you

In this dream, I`m dancing right beside you

And it looked like everyone was having fun

The kind of feeling, I`ve waited for so long...

The time is right, to put my arms around you

You`re feeling right

You wrap your arms around me too

But suddenly, I feel the shining sun

Before I knew it, this dream was all gone...

Ooh, I don`t know what to do...

About this dream and you

I hope this dream comes true..."

-Digital Love

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

First of all, I would like to apologize to my faithful readers (yess! I actually have an audience! yay!) for being so long in posting on this blog. And most important of all, I want to apologize to my friends and family back home for being so negligent in keeping in touch. Please don`t think that I have forgotten about you all. Yes, I am having a very wonderful experience by being here in Japan, but all of you are in my thoughts and I miss all of you (and the US) very much. My excuse (for not keeping in touch--even with my family!) at the beginning of this month was the Sodaisai--or the Soka University Festival. I thought things would slow down and I would have time to write plenty of emails and update my blog. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, for there is a huge Kanji test looming ahead and there have been events organized for the foreign exchange students, so I am as busy as ever....even though I don`t think I will be as busy as I was at Sodaisai!

At the beginning of the semester, as we were preparing for Sodaisai, people kept telling us that it would be a lot of fun...and in many ways, they were right. Yet, those few days of preparing and participating in the festival were one of the busiest in my life. I would spend over 12 hours at school going to classes and going to meetings and rehearsals. And during the festival, we were busy cooking and selling food in our respective region`s stand. So this is basically what I did for the festival: on the first day, which was the `Commemorative` (of the school`s founding) part of the festival, I took part in a dance performance with other foreign exchange students. At first, I was reluctant about taking part, because I didn`t want to get too involved in the whole Soka thing....but then I decided that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it for myself and myself only...and it would be good excercise. So I decided to do it and I don`t regret my decision at all...I mean, I probably won`t have a chance to perform a dance again. It was kinda strange because on the day of the performance, people were crying backstage...but I only felt excitement. People, who seemed shaken up, would go up to me and ask if I was ok....but it wasn`t me that needed to be asked that. What made me almost cry was when I heard that our friends (who did not participate in the dance) showed up to watch us perform. It made me so happy that they actually cared enough to come and watch us...but later on, I found out that they had little choice in coming. But anywayz, I felt so triumphant as I walked out onto the stage and danced....it was the moment when all the hours of rehearsal paid off....and I was doing something I didn`t think I`d ever do again...perform onstage. I didn`t care if no one else liked the dance or if some important person was there to watch....I was performing for myself and at the same time, I was sharing this with the people I had become friends with.

In the evening after the dance, it was straight to work on one of the cafeteria`s kitchens to prepare perogies with the North American group. We were there till almost 11pm and then we were supposed to be there at 6am the following day to cook some more! I am a big fan of sleep so I didn`t get there until 7:30 am or so. The next two days were quite busy as we had to churn out those perogies to meet the demand. I don`t even know why we chose perogies....it`s not even a North American dish! And they proved hard to make....because you have to peel the potatoes, mash them, then chop onions, and make the dough, etc. I dared not taste a single one....but from the observed reactions of people who bought them....they weren`t very good. There were of course, other food stands which were so much better than ours! There was kim-chee from Korean group (it was delicious), fried bananas from the Phillipine/Thai group, crepes from the Western European group, just to name a few. That`s another thing I never thought I was able to do....to help organize and run a food stand for such a big event. And it was so awesome because throughout the month-long preparations, I became good friends with the people in the North American group. It`s unfortunate that I don`t see them as often now.

Another thing that I got to do that I have always dreamed of doing was singing onstage. Actually, I got to sing backup for Don`s rendition of Mariah Carey`s "Dreamlover". At first I wasn`t going to do it because, first of all, I was terrified of the thought of actually singing in front of so many people and second of all, because I was already so busy with the other Sodaisai stuff. I remember one day, I was going to tell Don that for sure I wasn`t going to participate, so I went to the computer lab and shortly after getting there, she had told some people that I was going to sing "Dreamlover" with her. Several minutes later, she turned to me and said with a grin "You can`t back out now". I`m so glad that I didn`t. We got to sing the song twice and then again at the Sodaisai`s staff`s request! I have to say that it was all Don...her voice and her stage presence are amazing! Once onstage, I got shy as far as my stage presence....but not as far as my singing. I think I did well....especially the second and third time. I had wanted to look sexy for the performance so I chose this sleeveless shirt with frills, but the weather outside was so cold that for the first performance, I took my jacket off long enough to sing and the second time....there was no way I was going to take off my jacket. But that`s ok because it matched the light blue bunny ears I wore for the performance. About my second performance....when Don and I were due to go onstage....I was in the bathroom changing!! Tsveti had to call me on the phone, so I had to rush to the stage. I was so embarrassed, but Don had entertained the crowd...she was probably beginning to think that I was bailing out ;-)...I uttered to the crowdosokunatte sumimasen, "Sorry I`m late".

The next day we had cleanup. In reality, I think that there were more than enough people helping out....so they would give us any small thing to do (like taking a wet rag and wiping the desks at the bekka bldg.) just so we could say we helped to clean up. At lunchtime, they gave us a free meal (the last of the many free dinners/lunches given to us during Sodaisai preparation activities)...and in the meal were leftover mashed potatoes the North American group had prepared for the perogies!! I ended up leaving a bit early, since I had not been back in my dorm for over 24 hours...and it was a good thing I left because apparently afterwards, some people dumped flour all over the Tomodachi Niwa (where the Foreign Exchange Student Food Stand was held).

Another interesting event was the trip to Hakone and Mt. Fuji for the new foreign exchange students. It was, in one word, a tease. The area around Hakone and Mt. Fuji was simply gorgeous. The mountains were bright with the colors of the autumn leaves. As Tsveti said, they looked like patchwork quits! And also, the weather was simply beautiful so the sky was nearly cloudless. The bad thing about this whole thing was that they didn`t give us enough time.....and I mean, in three out of the four stops we made, we had only 20 minutes to look around! The closest we got to Mt. Fuji was the visitor`s center, and that wasn`t very close up....but fortunately I took some really nice close-up pictures of Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, most of the lovely scenery was seen from the bus. There were so many times when I wanted to stop the bus to get down and take pictures...The best thing about Hakone was the aqua blue lake. There were many boats on that lake including a red and gold old fashioned ship. Tsveti and I called it the `ship of dreams`, since it was the first thing that came into my mind when I saw it. We also got to eat at an all-you-can-eat restaurant or tabehodai. �@Apparently they also have all-you-can-drink establishments, called nomehodai, I mean, nomihodai (hopefully some Spanish-speaking person out there got the joke--Dad? ;-)) Anywayz, Hidaka sensei and Yamamoto sensei were nice enough to take Tsveti, Tomi, Don, Era, and I on a walk around a park in Hakone. If you want to experience a Japanese autumn, defenitely come to Hakone. I defenitely want to go back there on my own time without having to be rushed.

On Sunday, the foreign exchange students were invited to a concert held in Ikeda Auditorium. Little did we know it was a huge event commemorating the founding of Sokka Gakkai. Thankfully they told us to dress nicely. It was an amazing concert. It began with a rendition of `Finlandia` by the school`s orchestra. It was amazing....It brought back memories of when I played the violin...There were these middle-school aged girls who did a baton-twirling dance....it was fantastically done. I can`t imagine how much they rehearsed for this. Also, the school`s marching band did a whole marching show. Mike....you would have been amazed! Towards the end, however, it got kinda strange....During the finale, there were these little girls in the front row who began to cry....and there was no reason for them to cry...and that in itself made me want to cry.

Sometime in late October during class:

I`m having the biggest craving for all things American...like Arby`s, Milky Ways, Cool Ranch Doritos, etc.....

The sad story of yakisoba:

Yakisoba are Japanese fried noodles that I absolutely fell in love with during my first visit to Japan in 2000. Upon coming back, I bought several of the three-serving yakisoba packs that are very easy to prepare. I would make yakisoba for dinner so often that I would get comments like "You really like yakisoba, don`t you?" and "You`re having yakisoba again?". Well, I finally had enough of yakisoba and as of now, I can`t go near that stuff. I don`t know if this is a permanent taste aversion or just a hiatus...;-)

"President George W. Bush`s absence from the summit conference on sustainable development, which was aimed at resolving poverty and other problems, proves he does not understand what is required to cope with terrorism..."

-Kochi Shinbun
October 29, 2002

There`s no turning back now: today I disposed of my last American toothbrush and replaced it with a Japanese one. Now I will have to become accustomed to the difference (if there is any--I haven`t used it yet).

Today was the Sodaisai kickoff party, which was surprisingly a lot of fun considering that the party at Pari (Paris cafeteria) was kinda blah. There were less speeches and more music and dancing (well, more like swaying back and forth). They decorated the `terrace` next to A Building with flags from all over the world, which looked really nice. Bogdan took down the Bulgarian flag because it had the seal from when Bulgaria was a communist country. Both last year`s and this year`s Sodaisai ryugakkusei dances were performed by people in charge of the dances. It was so funny when they were doing this year`s dance because we were yelling out the counts for the steps and yelling out "EE-ah-sa-sa-sa!!" and "Chie-Chie!", which is part of the dance.

It was a brilliantly beautiful autumn day. I realize now that Soka`s fall foliage is not the typical Japanese red as I had imagined, but there are more yellows, greens, and browns that today, as the sun shone through the trees, reminded me of a 70`s movie.

Today is exactly one month before my 23rd birthday! Yay!

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