Saturday, October 8, 2011

A New Home in Japan

I’ve now been in Japan a few weeks and I’m getting settled into everything here. I live with my host mom, Toshiko, host dad, Hideharu, and host sister Asuka in Wako-shi, in Saitama prefecture. My host dad is in the military so we live in an apartment complex near a military base. It’s a really nice area since it’s near a big park, there are lots of trees, and on a good day we can see Mt. Fuji from the balcony!

Before I arrived in Japan, I saw on my host family’s application that they had a pet squirrel, which I thought was most likely a slight mistranslation for hamster, however when I arrived I was surprised to find that ‘squirrel’ was indeed a fairly accurate translation. He is actually a chipmunk and his name is Cha-Cha. My host mom explained that in Japanese the word for the color
Our pet, Cha-Cha
brown is Cha-iro, so Cha-Cha means something like Brownie. Now I will always remember how to say brown in Japanese.

My host family helps me a lot and is patient with me as I’m learning how things work. Part of my host dad’s job is working as an English translator, so he is able to explain more complicated things to me in English. He's been all around the world with the military
Ice skating with my host mom and sister
and has lots of photos and stories. My host mom also speaks English and has been to Wisconsin several times since she has a friend who lives there! She often says things in Japanese though, which is really good for me as I’m beginning to learn the language, and she always answers my questions and teaches me new words. The more times I hear something, the easier it is to recognize and understand the next time. My host sister Asuka is almost 11 years old and her favorite things are playing soccer andwatching Pokemon. She doesn’t speak as much English as my host parents so this makes me want to learn more Japanese so that I can talk more with her. 

My host dad eating onigiri for lunch
Being in Japan makes me really want to be able to communicate in Japanese, even though I came here knowing almost nothing. Though at first is seemed a little overwhelming, learning Japanese has become kind of a new hobby for me. When you stop worrying about how hard it seems or everything you can’t understand yet and focus on the things you can recognize or express, it’s interesting and rewarding, kind of like a puzzle that I’m figuring out little by little. Every day I am learning new things from everything around me. It’s great to be in the kind of encouraging environment that exists in the Hippo Family Clubs, the Hippo office, and my host family. It makes it easy to learn new things when you are not afraid to ask questions or make mistakes and there are so many people willing to help you who are excited about the progress you are making. I think this is one of the really great things about Hippo. 

Hippo 30th Anniversary Workshop
A few days after I arrived, there was a big workshop and party for the Hippo 30th Anniversary. There were about 700 people at the workshop and when I got there I learned that I was to go on the stage and introduce myself to everyone in Japanese! I was nervous because I don’t know very much Japanese yet at all, but I knew how to introduce myself from the Hippo Family Club activities that I attended in Mexico last summer and I repeated it over and over to myself before I went on stage. I’m sure what I said wasn’t perfect, but the important thing is that everyone understood what I was trying to communicate and it was really amazing to see 700 people smiling back at me and applauding!
View from our apartment

-Stephanie (すちゃん)

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