About sayheymaria

Hi! I'm a 21 year old planning to go to Japan for a semester in Fall 2014! I'm a History and English double major who loves reading, writing, watching asian dramas and reading manga. I'm trying to branch out and learn more about Japan's history and culture. My blog is to chronicle my experience trying to get to Japan and what I learn on the way!

Finding a Family

(Quick starter note: So, I’m going to change the way I do things on this blog. Instead of trying to post things in order of which they happened aka recapping my time here, I want to break things down into sort of categories and reviews and recommendations. It will make for smaller and more manageable posts for me and concrete ideas/messages to impart on the reader. This post does not fit into this, but is extremely necessary for me. Please note: This post deals only with the people who left Japan/are leaving.)

I made/adopted a family while in Japan.

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It happened as a joke at first. A few friends and I were sitting around a table, making a fruit salad and talking shit and someone (it might have been me but Hell if I remember) said something like “If we were a family who would be who” or something similar. I jokingly said I’d be the mom. At first this kid Tyler was picked to be father until everyone agreed that was illfitting. Disante, whom I officially met two hours prior, was the oldest of those sitting around the table and was elected father. He took on this role immediately and gave his agreement in a deep, anime Father type grunt. Candy and Katie, the other two were elected daughters. Tyler was given the role of my estranged brother.

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We kind of ran with the idea.

I quickly got an older sister in the form of the wonderful and ever gorgeous Katelyn. Disante got a brother in the form of Jay. Disante and I adopted Bo Kyung as our middle child. Somewhere along the line Yuri became the oldest sister and was married to Landon. I think the last proper member was Kohe as our son.

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This post isn’t about the family in the sense that I want to give you a blow by blow of how it panned out. This family was a game, but all of these people became a family away from my family. A home away from home. The game gave way to friendships and fun times and things that felt like they might break and disappear on August 1st when most of the people that made Japan an amazing place to be went home.

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This post is to remind those people that I miss them and to inform you, the reader, that making friends is an important part of studying abroad. It will be filled with pictures that have less to do with Japan and more to do with people I have grown to love.

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I fell in love with Japan because of the people I was able to experience it with. That’s important, I think. Having fun with those people allowed me to really fall for Japan. Had I been on my own left to my own devices or surrounded by people I didn’t get along with, I’m not sure if I would have been able to so quickly enjoy Japan. I sure as heck wouldn’t have gone to as many places so quickly.

Great people make a great place and both together make great memories.

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I can’t talk about everyone so I’m going to focus on a core group. Those that aren’t mentioned–even if they weren’t part of the ‘family’–are still missed and greatly appreciated.

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Katieanne Randloph is the other half of my soul coin and before this trip had become a constant part of my life and family. This trip served in showing me that I could TOTALLY live with her 24/7 and not get sick of her and still have shit to talk about all the time. And it was 24/7. I think there was just 5-6 days that we didn’t sleep together in my room. By the end of the trip, she had basically totally moved in. We spent every minute together. I love her more now than I did before. After the mad dash that was getting her to the airport, I stood outside security until I couldn’t see her anymore and cried. I then proceeded to cry all the way back to the dorm. I still miss her.

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Candy was the first person me and Katie become friends with. She arrived with us and spent the first few days with us constantly. She seemed quiet at first, but turned out to be one of the most entertaining, crazy, and funny people on the entire trip. She is one of the most sincere and honest people I think I’ve ever met. She wore herself on her sleeve proudly and when something kinda sad happened to me, she wrote me the sweetest note and I still am so… thankful for the gesture and kind (FUNNY) words. I miss her dinosaur face and zombie face and her laugh a lot. She had a great laugh.

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Disante of the Johnson variety became the second most common fixture in my room next to Katie. He outlasted 2 of the 3 fishes as well. He was at once on of the most graceful and well spoken people I’ve ever met as well as one of the most clumsy (boy couldn’t hold his own phone…) and silly. His voice impressions were amazing and his listening skills were top notch. The amount me and Katie spoke to him about BS is astounding. The fact that he still wanted to be our friend after it all–unbelievable. He loved movies which was perfect because we watched a lot of those. He was just a lot of fun. And funny. Really funny man. He also wrote a letter that made me cry in a Tomato Cafe Jr. Damn you, Disante.

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Katelyn was… By the end of the trip it felt as if I had known her my whole life. Her, Katie and I could talk about just about anything and send each other into fits of laughter. We bonded over Game of Thrones, relationship/boy troubles, hair, Japananese–hell, she helped with a ton of my homework assignments. She was talented with nail polish, she always looked gorgeous and had stunning, looong legs. By the end of the trip I was giving her relaxing head rubs and playing with her hair and she was the third most common feature in my room.

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After the first week, I don’t think there was a single day that Katie, Disante, and Katelyn didn’t appear in my room.

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There were tons of others. Yuri is one of the most beautiful and impressive people I’ve ever met while at the same time being fun and silly and just an absolute blast to be around. Bo Kyung was one of the cutest people ever. Kohe was the biggest 180 (week 1 – quiet loner. Week 5 – one of the silliest people ever). Tyler was hysterical. Jay was willing to wear a sailor moon Cosplay for a dance which was amazing.

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There are too many. I am thankful for everyone and especially thankful for those that became very close friends. I am thankful that my first month in Japan was as amazing as it was and thankful that it was this group of people I ended up coming to.

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I thought once everyone left, maybe Japan/Fukuoka would lose its magic and I’d find out that everything had been dependent on those people. That isn’t the case. They showed me how fun Japan could be and now that I know that I am actively taking part in enjoying Fukuoka for myself and potentially help others see how amazing it is.

Long live the family and memories!

Until next time, みなさん!image

An Unexpected Side Effect: Feeling Beautiful

Hey world.

This is a post that will have very little to do with Japan. Actually, that’s a lie. It has a lot to do with Japan, but not so much about my adventures in Japan. It has to do with me IN Japan. I realized I haven’t touched on that. I haven’t touched on a lot of stuff actually. There are so many things I have yet to post about (mainly due to the hassle of getting photos off my phone!) but I REALLY haven’t touched on me.

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It should be a surprise to no one that I love Japan. The past month has been one of the best of my life and I met so many wonderful people, made lots of new friends and even managed to make a few REALLY good friends. Most of those wonderful people have buggered off to their home planets, leaving lil ol‘ me in big bad Japan. I’m not alone though! I made Japanese friends (who’dve thunk!) and they are still around and I’m currently staying with my homestay family! They are absolutely wonderful and will get their own post one day.

Anyway, back to the title of this post:

I feel beautiful at the moment.

Yes, let that sink in. I, Maria Theodosiou, feel beautiful!

What’s the big deal, you might be thinking?

Well, dear reader (and friends and coworkers), generally, in my life, me feeling beautiful has been conditional.

I thought I looked beautiful IN something (A dress, a shirt, make up).

Someone else thought I looked beautiful and I felt it through them.

Do you see the problem? The above are all external. What I was wearing. What someone else thought. I was never just Maria and beautiful.

I, at the moment, feel beautiful.

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Not because of a guy telling me I’m beautiful and me believing him.

Not because my family said it or my friends.

Not because of a banging outfit.

Today I was taking a shower (my homestay family has a mirror in the shower) and I paused for a moment and looked at myself. I have never really been comfortable with my naked self. Everyone looks at themselves and finds things to nitpick or condemn. But I looked at myself and just felt content. Then I realized I was content with myself. Holy shit, was that a revelation.

I was content! I thought I looked pretty even when naked! Is that even possible?!

I then wondered why that was.

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My first instinct was to point at the foreign country I’ve lived in for the past month and a bit and chuck all the honor on it but I realized that wasn’t completely true. It has a lot to do with a lot of different things.

Japan has been a huge part. Honestly, that is kind of unexpected for me. Before coming to Japan I was worried about my weight and feeling like a whale amongst all the pretty, slim, well put together Japanese women.

I don’t. Maybe because actually getting here made me realize that while they are mostly all skinny, I’m not half as big as I pictured myself. I can get into clothing in Japanese stores (something I thought would be impossible). I never feel out of place because of my weight because–Hell! I’m foreign! I could be a toothpick, but I’d still be Caucasian!

Yes, Japanese women have gorgeous skin, but they are all so pale! I often feel like a sunkissed beach babe next to them compared to home where (amongst my family) I am the palest person! Their makeup is always on point and gorgeous, but looking at them closely made me value the things I have that they don’t: Like my eyelashes. My eyelashes are long for Caucasian standards, but hear a lot of women wear falsies to get lashes like mine.

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Don’t get me wrong: I haven’t turned into a narcissist nor do I think Asian women are suddenly unattractive. I’m not perfect by any means and Asian women are still (by and large) absolutely beautiful and I am NEVER as well put together as most of the girls who roll up to school in their high heels.

But none of that changes how I currently feel.

I just feel pretty.

It has a lot to do with coming to a new country and making new friends and getting close to brand new people and handling the experiences I have been given. I have gained confidence in myself as a person away from home and all the comforts I am used to (my supportive family and my lovely lovely routine life style). I have improved my Japanese which is amazing. A lot of things internally have changed or grown for me and I feel like a lot of this shiny new pretty feeling comes from within me rather than my actual body.

But, not to leave it out: a few things have changed.

I cut my hair.

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It happened for a few reasons. 1: Fukuoka’s summer is not long hair friendly. It gets hot and humid and I was tying my hair back far more than I wanted to. 2: I needed a change. I’d been rocking the long hair look because I felt like it made me look more mature and adult like and womanly and even began wearing it down all the time because someone told me I looked better with my hair down. But it got heavy and bothersome and so off with its ends!

I am a short hair girl! My hair does the best short (I don’t have to style it or anything and it looks good! Low matience = win!) and it just sits nicely on my head. I don’t feel like a new me, but as if I’ve returned to something wonderful.

I’ve also lost weight. Not so much in Japan itself (though I think I have lost a bit recently– not sure because I haven’t stepped on a scale at all) but beforehand. Quite a bit of weight and I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin but mainly in my clothing. I got back into dresses that had gotten too small for me and a number of other things I thought were shoe ins for the give away pile.

Holy crap this is a long post about myself… Maybe I have become a narcissist?!! (:P)

Anyway!

Japan is wonderful. I’m doing really really well.

I’ll see you again next time (with actual stuff about Japan!).

Field Trip Around the City

Last Tuesday, the school took us on a field trip around the city. I had, prior to arriving at the designated meeting spot, believed we were going to be subway-ing, bus-ing, and walking our way through the city. Thankfully, as we all rushed to make it on time, we came face to face with the wonderful site of a coach bus parked by the one cafeteria on campus.

I was thrilled because I had made the unfortunate decision to wear jeans because I thought it was going to be ugly and rainy because at the time a typhoon was supposed to be striking the next morning. Sadly, the sky was absolutely clear and the day was sunny and hot as all get out. I regretted my decision immediately, but we had no time to change so when I saw that bus I thought heaven had handed me a small gift.

Sadly, beyond our first stop and our third, most of what we did involved walking outside.

Anyway, our first stop was the Fukuoka Tower, which is beautiful from the outside and the fifth floor (it isn’t just five floors, but they only have five usable floors the others are empty/nonexistent) has amazing views of the city.

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The views were amazing and I took way too many photos. The above is just a small fraction. The fourth floor was designed specifically for couples which is why Katie and I just HAD to sit ourselves down and take romantic photos on the “Lovers’ Bench.”

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We also found it super important to take a picture in the gigantic heart garland–Becuase there is a ton of love happening all over the place, man.

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Aren’t they just so beautiful?

We also spent 1000yen on a couples locket for our ‘family’ so everyone wrote their initials on the one side then the date on the other. We then secured it forever in one of the designated areas. Yup, thats right–my adopted Japanese family so like… a real thing. We even took family photos but that will be its own post.

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Next we went to a Budhist temple famous for its rather large wooden Buddha (which we were not allowed to take photos of but which was super cool!). It was extremely beautiful and I bought my first lot of souvenirs for family and friends in the form of protective charms.

One of the most interesting aspects of the temple was in the room with the giant Buddha. If you walk to the left side of the platform that the Buddha was raised up on there was a door. Walking into the door brought you into a long halway. On the left side of the hallway were very intricate pictures of Hell and demons and eventually you had to exit the hallway through a super dark and terrifying winding passage that brought you back to the Buddha room.

We couldn’t take pictures of the paintings but they were so so so cool and also so terrifying. By the time you came back the Buddha you were filled with relief and thankfulness. It was at that point that I bought the protective charms. Go figure.

Anyway, after that we adventured around the rest of the temple and I got some great pictures:

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Our tour guide. She was so cute!

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Next we headed to lunch, which was quite a drive away in a more rural/suburban area of the city. It was an all you can eat buffet that also had a burner in the table where you could grill thin slices of meat for yourself. It was really delicious!!

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The buffet had everything from an entire area of raw meat to sushi to croquets to yakisoba to… likeanything. It was all yummy!!! The meat was its own yummy adventure.

For dessert they had cakes, pudding, ice cream, soft serve and even cotton candy machine–You make your own!

Here is the lovely Katelyn eating her cotton candy.

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Next we went to the Kyushu museum, which was partially up a mountain which is why the restaurant was in a super rural area.

The museum was amazing and filled with really amazing historical items (including a giant anchor!!) and filled with terrible English translations of the context blurbs.

Sadly, we couldn’t take pictures, but I snapped the following of the lobby and outside the exhibit:

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One particularly spectacular shot of the Japanese countryside as we drove to the museum.

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The outside of the museum.

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Attached to the museum was an escalator path that led to a Shinto shrine (Dazaifu) and a long street of shops. The shrine was beautiful and I particularly loved the three bridges that lead to the shrine. The first bridge symbolized your past and was curved, the second was the present and was flat, the third was your future and was curved. Our tour guide and one of our advisors kept telling us that if someone called our name behind us on the first bridge that we shouldn’t look back–since it was our past and all.

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A restaurant we passed on the way to the shrine that had suuuuch a pretty view!

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The past bridge leading to the present bridge.

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Present leading to future.

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Once in the shrine we washed our hands so we could go pray.

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Praying involved walking up the shrine, throwing in some money, ringing the bell, then bowing twice, clapping twice, making your wish, then bowing for a last time. The god of this shrine was a god of studying so we were asked to make study based wishes!

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Boxes where you throw in the coins.

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I then proceeded to buy even more charms and good luck things for family and friends and then we all walked to the street with all the shops where I proceeded to sink money on chopsticks for someone, a Kokeshi doll for me, and shaved ice (remember it was hot as anything… Katelyn nearly passed out from heat exhaustion! Okay–maybe not that bad, but I was close to overheating.)

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The day ended with Katie and I in my room with Katie’s new best friend, Batt– Her “good luck studying” octopus. His name is Batt because on his head is the word “Ganbatte” which means “Do your best!” so I picked Batt.

It works, I swear!

Any way, more stuff to come soon!!! I promise!

Until then!

 

On the Plane/In Atlanta Airport

The first part of this post was written while on the plane flying out of Florida and I tried to get it published before we arose into the air like on the wings of a heavenly angel ascending to the heavens (i.e. Katie has been given the laptop while Maria sorts out the seating issue on the flight from Atlanta to Minnisota), but then Katie got off the phone and she needed Maria’s vast knowledge on the intricacies of temperament and patience. I’ll  (Katie will) take over from here, and you’ll know where I am by the green text.

So! I‘m on the first plane, and I have a question: what the heck happened to airplane pretzels?? They’re way better than those cookies they served. And why do they serve you 3/4ths the way through the flight? You’re just about landed by then and there’s no way you can enjoy the watered-down soda!

Moving along.

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Things haven’t gone super smooth. When we got to the airport and tried checking our baggage, we found out that our Atlanta to Tokyo flight is so delayed that we’d miss our Tokyo to Fukuoka flight. Lucky, we’ve got a new flight! Atlanta to Minneapolis then Minneapolis to Tokyo! Only thing is to make sure we have seats next to each other on the flight to Japan.

Shout out to Mr. Bill for answering 9 phone calls this morning about this whole thing. I’m never really worried when I know Mr. Bill is behind a desk working on any problem! I wish I had a fabulous taskmaster to call when my flights went wonky. One time I was flying back home from Maria’s house and a bolt was loose on the plane so the flight was cancled! There was no one, and I mean NO ONE, around to help and they essentially herded us to a corner in the airport and told us to wait for their imaginary “help”. So yeah, Mr. Bill, you a bad b*tch. If that sentence ends awkwardly, it’s probably because Maria removed the ill-advised language I used. Uh-oh, she’s back. I guess that’s it from me!

Any way! Flights getting ready now!!! Woohoo!

Atlanta here we come!

Hey all. I (Maria!) have wrestled the laptop away from the claws of the fearsome Katie monster. 

We are now in Atlanta! The minute we landed I got a text from Mr. Bill saying he’d gotten us seats next each other on the Minneapolis to Narita flight! And we still have our economy comfort! Wooooohoooo!!!

Atlanta is cool. I just went up to the Delta desk to get our seats for this next small flight and our boarding pass for the Tokyo flight. They printed someone else’s name on Katie’s boarding pass. YIKES.

We will be boarding shortly.

I’ll see you all in Minneapolis!