Feb. 24th, 2014

sechan19: (anne)
So, for those not in the know, I applied (and was accepted) to participate in the first annual Ise-Japan Study Program. The three-week program, which is sponsored by the city of Ise and hosted by Kogakkan University, began today with a morning orientation, campus tour, pair of lectures on the history of the city, and a lively welcome party. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself, I think.

I came down yesterday afternoon with my friend, T., who—like me—is studying at Gakushuin with Sano-sensei, and it was a good start to the trip. It's always nice to share an experience with someone else, and the program really sent us in style. The people we encountered along the way were all extremely kind, too. One woman on the train from Nagoya to Ise even gave us one of her mikan (Japanese mandarin) to try. (It was super yummy, and it inspired T. to buy a bag at the local supermarket after we'd gotten settled.)

Things got moving at a pretty fast pace after we arrived, and they've continued to be fast paced. I mean, the above list is no exaggeration: we did all of those things—sometimes rushing from one place to another and occasionally stumbling upon something unexpected.

Our post-orientation tour was a good example of that, actually. Even before we'd gotten ten paces from the International Center Office door, we found a group of Kogakkan University students practicing a traditional/modern dance number. When they saw us watching, they treated us to a full performance—which was extremely cool. The dance style seemed to be a blend of gagaku dance and modern cheerleading, and it carried a truly unique flavor.

We split the walking tour into two sections: pre- and post-lunch. Over lunch at the cafeteria (I had a chicken rice bowl, tofu, and salad), we had a chance to start getting to know the student volunteers, many of whom are learning English and all of whom are very friendly and engaging. I bonded with a number of them over a variety of things: love of baseball, desire to become a teacher, mutual shortness, etc. Almost any point of commonality would do, it seemed.

After the walking tours, which included stops in the campus museum of Shinto art and history, the library, and a nearby shrine, we headed back to the classroom for the first of what promises to be a series of very interesting lectures. Today's topics were city history, and while I admit that I found the early history more engaging than the modern history (sorry modernist friends; I'm just an ancient history fan...) both contained a lot of really useful information that I look forward to one day putting into practice as a teacher.

When class was over, myself and a couple of others walked back to our dormitory, which is about fifteen minutes away from campus. We weren't exactly certain of the return directions, having only walked it once before that morning, but we were able to reverse engineer the trip by means of following the landmarks. I was pretty proud of us, actually, and it'll be nice to feel like I know where I'm going. One of the most important factors for me in feeling settled in somewhere is knowing how to get places by heart. As long as I can make a successful return trip to campus tomorrow morning, I'll probably start feeling pretty at home here.

There's lots more to tell—about the students, and the profs, and the staff—but I'm fairly tired after a twelve-hour day of work, so I'm going to pack it in for now. Suffice it to say, everyone has been pretty awesome. The other participants (who come from Australia, Russia, Germany, Poland, Belgium, and Portugal!) are a good bunch, the teachers and staff are enthusiastic about this program and about us as the inaugural participants, and the university students are both interesting and interested.

I think it's going to be a good three weeks.

May 2014

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