The power of sweet stuff.

This weekend with the help of movie club and all my pals I was able to whip out my documentary and turn in a shiny Japanese version for movie club on Monday. Although the English version wont take me long, I’m setting it aside to focus on my studies, which I must confess are piling up rather impressively. Tests and projects abound, but after next week I’ll be out of classes and free to go on a romping-rampage all over Japan. (This of course means whatever day trips I can manage).

I did let myself have some fun this weekend though. I went to Kawaramachi again to shop and eat parfaits and be girly with my pals Beth and Alex. It was only for a few hours because we all had stuff to get done, but after it I was a happy gal. Here’s why.

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We went to this famous parfait shop that has over a hundred different kinds of parfaits. I labored over the decision I tell you, but being unable to resist I elected to have the milk tea parfait you see here. Oh Japan and your milk tea. It’s one of my favorite drinks. It’s like sweet, cold, tea flavored milk, and let me tell you it was incredible in ice cream form.

But for real I could drink that stuff all day.

After feeling sufficiently gorged on this wondrous layered ice cream, we shopped around and looked at everything from bad English T-shirts to funky stickers to cool boho goods. Kawaramachi has a lot of stores selling the kind of stuff you’d find at Earthbound, only a little more legit. Incense from all over, parachute pants, woven hats, vests, jewelry from Africa and the Caribbean, and even Japanese house slippers with funky Indian designs on them. As you can imagine I was quite happy.

We got home and I hit my Kanji books in preparation for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) that I had coming up the next morning.

I was only taking level three so I wasn’t entirely concerned, but some of my peers here in the dorm were taking levels high as one (that big sucker you need to pass to gain citizenship). We all rode the bus together to the prestigious Kyoto University and wandered on to a campus busting to the seams with other foreigners. The majority were Chinese, but many were European and some even African. I don’t think I’ve been surrounded by that much cultural and ethnic variety in once sitting in my whole life.

They finally let us in to the test rooms, and under the strict eyes of the overseer went to our assigned seats.

He started giving instructions in Japanese, speaking slowly and clearly as we were only taking level 3. Don’t open your test booklets until I say, don’t touch your pencils until I say, if you drop something let me know so I can pick it up and you won’t be accused of cheating. If we broke any of these rules, we could either get a yellow card, as a warning, or a red card, ejection from the test. And so they handed out the test booklets.

Bam, several test takers open their test booklets. Yellow cards everywhere. As the test went on we had a couple more yellow cards for pencil touching and two people even got kicked out, not understanding no matter how many times he repeated the rules.

This was frustrating for me because when the test came around I watched as these same people breezed through the kanji section and finished incredibly early, and I had to struggle on with the rest.

That’s just the inevitable imbalance in studying Japanese though, a lot of people find them selves skilled readers/writers, or you end up like me with a talent for speaking/listening. Standardized tests like this are no good for me as our ability to communicate isn’t even measured. At least they had a listening section, with things as simple as two people talking about the weather and having to select what kind of weather they’re talking about. I doodled little rain clouds in the margins.

Later that night I tried to catch a festival for Tanabata, the Japanese holiday that celebrates the one day a year their mythical Milky Way Princess is reunited with her Prince in the sky. Homes and business put bamboo trees outside and hang children’s wishes in the branches. We didn’t make it in time for the festival, but we did catch the fireworks. Several groups of kids aged anywhere between middle school and college ran around on this riverbank shooting a fortune’s worth of fireworks. IMG_8650

It was fun to watch, despite missing the festival I came home happy, ready to get Gaijin turned in and face yet another busy week. I know I can get through it, I might just have to have a few more parfaits first.

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