Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Helping Hand

In this blog I wanted to share something that happened a couple weeks into my stay in Kofu that meant a lot to me, Just to give a little background information, there's a grocery store that's located just about a mile from my dorm that I go to often. The major difference between this and any other grocery store that I've been to is that they don't give you plastic bags, you have to provide your own. I made a trip a couple weeks into my stay here and when I was done shopping I realized that I didn't bring any bags with me. The only one I had was from the dollar store that I had just went to. I tried fitting most of what I could in that and then had my arms full with the rest.
I didn't have my bike at this time so I had to walk all the way home awkwardly trying to not drop anything. The bag was pretty heavy since I tried to fit all that I could into it, I probably didn't look like I was having the best of times since I was still trying to get used to my life in Kofu. I was stopped about two blocks away from the store by an elderly lady. I couldn't fully understand what she was saying but she pulled out a couple plastic bags from her purse she had and handed them to me. This was a simple act of kindness but it meant the world to me at that time. I thanked her over and over again trying to hold back tears. This is one of the many examples of the kindness that I've encountered throughout my stay in Japan.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The little things

I've been studying abroad in Kofu, Yamanashi, Japan for about 4 months now and have had many wonderful experiences. I plan on sharing those in the future but for this post I want to write about something that's been happening recently. For the past week our dorm building's boiler has been broken, which means no hot water. This has been a problem since showering in freezing cold water doesn't sound appealing to me and my dorm mates. There are other options available of course, it's not like we have to shower in the cold water, about half of the residents belong to a gym so they've been showering there and the other half have been going to onsens (public bath houses). I do not belong to a gym nor am I comfortable enough to go to the onsen. My solution to this problem is that I've been heating up water in huge pots and carrying it to my bathtub in my room. I've noticed that these baths feel a million times better than others I've taken. I'm guessing it's because I did more than turn on the faucet. My situation could be much worse, I'm not complaining at all, I've just realized this past week that you really shouldn't take the little things for granted. It could be worse.

These are the pots I used, I had to make about 8 trips each.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

First couple weeks abroad

After the long flight and traveling halfway across the world, I was pretty tired. One of the first things I noticed when I stepped off the flight was the humidity and heat. I knew Kofu, Yamanashi was hot in the summer, but nothing would have prepared me for this. I landed at the Narita Airport in Tokyo, so it was still a two hour drive to Kofu, where I'll be living in a dorm with other international students for ten months.

My first week in Japan was a lot of running errands and getting things set up, like my insurance. There was a welcome party held at the dorm for me and a few other residents who arrived a couple weeks before me. That was a lot of fun because all of the dorm residents made food from their native countries. I met a lot of other residents and made some friends too.

That night, the dorm residents and I went out for a night of karaoke. I've always wanted to do Japanese karaoke and it was as much fun as I imagined. Japanese karaoke is a bit different than what I'm used to, instead of standing up in front of a huge crowd at a bar, you have your own room with just your friends. It's a lot less nerve wracking that way!

At the welcome party, residents of the dorm and their friends

Picture of me taken by the dorm manager on my second day in Japan

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Study abroad in Japan

My name is Devyn Christoffer and I'm currently studying abroad in Kofu, Yamanashi, Japan for ten months! It's always been a dream of mine to study abroad in Japan. In December my Japanese teacher, Robert Steed, from Hawkeye Community College, told me about a study abroad scholarship from Iowa Sister States.This scholarship allows the recipient the chance to study abroad in Japan for ten months while attending classes while writing a research paper. I decided to apply for the scholarship sort of last minute, since we had found out about it a week before the deadline. I was so nervous, even though I had nothing to lose if I didn't get it but everything to gain if I did. A few weeks passed by and I received an email inviting me in for an interview. I couldn't believe it, I was so happy! I had my interview on a Friday and that Tuesday I received an email stating that I had been chosen for the Scholarship. It seemed like it happened so fast, one minute I was just randomly checking my email and the next I knew I was going to be in Japan in a matter of months!
The next few months flew by, trying to get everything ready for my trip, passport, applications, packing, trying to figure out what to take, what I don't need, making sure I had a place for all my things when I was gone. The months passed by like weeks and then the time had arrived. I left the day after the fourth of July, which was perfect. I got to spend the fourth watching fireworks and spending time with my family before I left the country. My flight in total was about 13 hours, thankfully the international flight had a personal TV in the headrest with many movies and TV shows to choose from, it also had a map that showed where we were and how far we had to go. I watched a few movies and a couple episodes of some of the shows so it went by pretty fast. When we arrived at Narita airport in Tokyo, I still couldn't believe that I was actually in Japan. I stepped off the plane, I had finally achieved one of my life's dreams, I was in Japan!!

One of the movies I watched during the flight

The map that showed where we were