study abroad photo

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Here’s some other photos from today’s acropolis wanderings!
1. Altar of Dionysos near the various incarnations of the temples to Dionysos Eleuthereus.
2. Theatre of Dionysos where the City Dionysia competitions were held.
3. Erecteion.
4. Parthenon.
5. View of Athens from the acropolis.
6. Odeon of Herodes Atticus.

When entering the room with Nero’s bathtub in the Vatican Museums, make sure to look up! 

Musei Vaticani, Vatican City

My First Day of Japanese High School!

9/1/15

{Warning- this is an extremely long post. I apologize for the giant text wall!}

Today was my first day of school here in Japan! Well, almost first day- today I was just there for a few hours to take a tour and give my self introduction. But I still count it as my first day because I am now officially a student of Fujimigaoka.

I woke up at 5:30 (which is the same time I woke up in America) and went upstairs to eat breakfast. After eating I went to get ready. Right now all the students are still wearing their summer uniforms. I will make a video all about my uniforms, but I don’t have everything yet so I will wait until I have all the pieces to make the video. The belt was too big for me, so I didn’t wear that. In the summer you can either wear long-sleeve or short-sleeve blouses, so I chose the short-sleeve one for today (Japan is so humid!). On top of the shirt is the sweater vest, and although it’s cute I don’t understand why it’s necessary in summer! Everything seemed to fit, but the vest was a little baggy around the arms- at the fitting they kept giving me bigger sizes even though I told them that the medium was fine. But the story about my uniform fitting is for another time (^ u ^)

At around 9:10, my host mom and I left the house; but first we took some pictures. I look so awkward (> u <) Of course on my first day it happened to be raining- only lightly, but I was hoping for some sun. Just as we stepped out of the house and onto the sidewalk, my host Rotary counselor pulled up in his car. Even though the train station is only a three minute walk, he offered to drive us there; we were all going to meet up at the station anyways, so we thought that we might as well go together. At the station my host mom charged one of the older train cards my host family had so I didn’t have to buy a ticket every time. This is what the card looks like (it’s a popular train pass brand here):

As you can see, mine’s a little beat up! Oh well, it still works and that’s all that really matters. Tokyo train stations are so busy and crowded, especially in the morning rush. The previous night my host dad explained to me my train route to school. I have to take two trains, but the entire journey only takes about ten minutes. The maps of the train lines are a little confusing, even though all of the stations and routes have the names printed in English. I guess it’s difficult because there are just so many train lines. At the station I also met my counselor’s assistant- she is such a sweet lady. Everyone was commenting how cute I looked in my uniform (I disagree- I don’t think it looks good on me!). The route to my school is so confusing, even my counselors and host mom struggled a bit to navigate the stations. But somehow we finally made it to the right area. From the last station it’s about a five minute walk to my school. My host mom held the umbrella over me so I could film the walk there (I filmed it not only for YouTube but for me to watch it and memorize the route). Everyone here has been so supportive of my YouTube channel- I’m so happy!

When we entered the school, one of the ladies at the desk showed us the cubby slots to place our shoes in. We had to change into these really attractive (can you feel my sarcasm?) indoor slippers which had the school name printed on them. The front mat had the school crest on it (almost everything at Fujimigaoka seems to have the school crest!).

We were all led into a conference room, and in a few minutes the school principle and vice principle came in to go over the basic formalities. They had my Rotary application and proceeded to ask me questions about myself. Some of the questions I could have answered in Japanese, but I was so nervous that my mind blanked and English came out of my mouth before I could stop myself. The principle asked me what I like to do, what my parents do, and if I knew Japanese. When I said my mom is a doctor, he looked stunned. He said I come from a very respectable family. I told them I’ve been studying for six years, and took one Japanese course at school; he almost rolled off his chair in surprise. They told me that I didn’t have to worry about the self-intro speech, and that I could do it in English or a mix of Japanese in English. I surprised everyone, including my counselors, when I said that I was going to do the entire thing in Japanese. The principles said they looked forward to hearing it, and then they took their leave to prepare for the opening ceremony. My counselor asked me if I wrote my speech in romaji (Japanese wrtitten with the english alphabet), and my host mom stepped in and said it was all in Kana and Kanji. I passed them my notebook, and my counselor’s jaw hit the table.

I was getting a little more nervous as I heard the all the chatter of the other students on their way to the auditorium. Soon I would be in that auditorium, in front of everyone, giving my speech. Everyone kept telling me to relax, and I did my best but I was still on edge. When one of the teachers came to escort us to the auditorium, I almost tripped because my feet were unsteady. This was going to be the largest crowd I have ever spoken in front of. The building itself is huge, and it’s six stories high- I barely saw even a quarter of the entire campus. I had seen pictures of the auditorium online, but it was even bigger in person. The bleachers were almost entirely filled; all of the girls were chatting and sharing stories of what they did over the summer. Many of them noticed me standing awkwardly in the doorway. I sat down off to the side with my host mom and counselors; my moment was approaching quickly. But first the principle said his opening words. After him, the two new English language teachers from the UK gave their self introductions. It didn’t sound like they knew Japanese that well; my host mom leaned over and said my speech was much more advanced.

One of the teachers is from London, and the other is from Scotland. They both seem really nice and energetic- I hope I get to meet them in person later. The Scottish teacher had spent a year of university in New York, so maybe I can ask him about that later. They both went through powerpoint presentations about themselves, and the students seemed pretty enthusiastic about it. Finally, after all of that was done it was finally my turn. I gave my camera to my host mom so she could film, and I waited to go up on stage while the principle introduced me. He said a little about me, and the second he mentioned I was from America I heard a squeal from the girls. But the the thing that surprised me the most was the reaction I got when he mentioned my mom is a doctor. There was a loud gasp of awe from the entire auditorium- I think being a doctor is a pretty big deal here in Japan. I was ushered onto the stage and told to go to the podium. Because the indoor slippers had no grip, my sock-covered feet kept sliding out of them, so I had to concentrate really hard on not losing a slipper as I made my way up the stage stairs.

The lights felt way too bright, but as I looked out at the crowd, everyone looked really friendly and eager to hear what I had to say. I took a deep breath and began. There were a few parts I stumbled over, but the crowd was hanging onto my every word. When I said my Japanese isn’t very good, everyone started making sounds of disagreement. I think they thought I was joking, because there was a little laughter too. There was a huge roar of applause when I finished, but when the principle mentioned that I would be studying here for a year one group in the crowd started clapping and bouncing in their seats- they looked really excited and happy that I am going to stay for so long. I bowed to everyone and returned to my seat. Everyone congratulated me on my speech, and I left the auditorium feeling a little lighter. But I wasn’t done quite yet. Later I would go to my class and make another self-intro speech.

We went back to the same meeting room to leave our things, and then I went with the teacher, my host mom, and my counselor’s assistant to a room where I would be fitted for my gym uniforms. There are so many pieces to a Japanese school uniform; I have so much Fujimigaoka merchandise now! I had to change into the uniforms to try them on. Again, no one believes me when I said I needed a size medium, and they gave all larges. But once I emerged from the dressing room looking like an oompa-loompa in the oversized clothes they immediately gave me the right sizes. I have a summer and winter gym uniform, and a separate gym skirt for dance class. Ugh, I hate gym class because I am terrible at sports. Back in America I wouldn’t have to take gym anymore, but it looks like I will never escape PE! I also got fitted for my cleaning apron- in Japan the children clean the schools; there are no janitors. Finally I was allowed to change back into my regular uniform. I hope we have a lot of time to change, because it takes forever to button and unbutton my shirt!

After I changed back we went to my classroom. The room itself is pretty small. All of my classmates were there, and they started squealing as soon as I came in. I gave a very short introduction, because they just heard my long one, and then I said goodbye (I won’t be going to school again until Monday, September 7th- that will be my first full day). In the next class over, there is a girl who will be coming with me on the train every day and helping me out for the first few months. I am so grateful for that- she is so nice! I hope we become good friends. For the next hour or so we were talking with my teacher in the meeting room. My host mom and counselor were asking different question, and because it was all in really fast Japanese I kind of zoned out. I know I should have been more attentive, but I was exhausted and I felt a headache coming on. I knew my host mom would explain everything to me later. I also got my school schedule- I will explain it in another post once my classes are finalized. I was asked what clubs I want to join, and I said calligraphy, flower arranging, or tea ceremony. Because I said I like art, sensei (teacher) asked me to help paint things for the upcoming school festival.

Finally around 1:00 PM we were ready to return home. I bid my teachers farewell, and my host mom and I started our journey back. My host mom got me a nice new train card, and she said we have to find a cute train card pouch for me to keep it in.

 On the way we stopped at the store and picked up some bento meals for lunch; I chose オムライス (omuraisu- omelette rice). Its an omelette on top of a bed of rice with sauce drizzled on it. It is so yummy!

We got home around 1:30 PM, I ate, and I fell asleep on the couch. It was a long, tiring day- but it was a great first day of school. I’m excited to see how the rest of the year goes!

(Video of my first day will be posted soon!)

Pantheon means “honor all Gods” and was originally a Roman temple, but was transformed into a church in 609 CE.

Pantheon, Rome, Italy

The square was opened initially as “Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Square,” but the name was eventually changed to “Liberty Square” to honor Taiwan’s transition from a one-party rule to a democracy. 

Liberty Square, Taipei, Taiwan