Thursday, November 15, 2012

I got a green card!

Finally my green card was approved. It was a long process. I'm so excited!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Harvest party - How do you celebrate fall?

I threw a party last weekend. I often have parties with seasonal themes. The theme of this party was "harvest." So I made decorations and dishes related to harvest or fall. I collected dried leaves, hay, wild flowers, acorns and pine cones at parks and bushes, and bought a pumpkin, squashes and corns. I decorated whole my apartment with them. I cooked Japanese dishes and seasonal dishes using squashes and sweet potatoes. We prepared hot spiced apple cider, too.

My American friend made Tsukimi dango. Do you familiar with Tsukimi? and dango? Tssukimi, literally moon-viewing, refers to Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon. We display decorations made from grass called susuki and eat rice dumplings called Tsukimi dango in order to celebrate the beauty of the full-moon. He did not know about Tsukimi at all, but he looked into Japanese harvest party online and found out about it. He made Tsukimi dango. Even though he had never eaten dango before, it was just perfect; both how it looked and how it taste. I got susuki-like grasses from a bush, and served together.

It was like a party blended American celebration with Japanese traditional celebration for harvest. People enjoyed the decorations and dishes at the party.
How do you celebrate this season?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Birds are dumb?

Do you think birds are stupid? I do not think so. In fact, the smartest parrot in the world named Alex had the abilities of a five-year-old human. He knew 150 words, he could distinguish between many shapes and colors, and he could count numbers. It is obvious that parrots are good at speaking. But Alex was not just mimicking, he understood the concepts. He could communicate with humans. Unfortunately, he died about four years ago. His last words were " You be good. I love you" It made me cry, but the stories of Alex made me feel happy.

If you are interested in Alex, there are many  . Or you could read the book "Alex & Me" which was a bestseller in 2009. I read through the book and I was really impressed with Alex and the scientist.

I have a cockatiel as a pet. He is not as smart as Alex the parrot, but my bird is also called Alex. Actually, I named it after the smartest parrot. Alex is so cute and friendly to me. But he cannot speak any words and sing songs, even though I am teaching him as hard as I can. I thought he was stupid.

Someday, I found out that he loves peanuts. When I was eating them, he came to get one and eat it. Within a few days, he remembered the sound of the container of peanuts being opened. Whenever I open it, he comes to me immediately. I put a peanut on the red lid every time. He picks up it from the lid. He identifies the sound!

The other day, I bought peanuts in the same container except it has a green lid. He listened the sound of the container opening, and he came to me as usual. But I put a peanut on the green lid, he suddenly froze in his tracks. He looked at me and climbed on my shoulder. He seemed to tell me “ It’s a different color”. So I put the peanut on the red lid again, and then he got off my shoulder and ran directly to the peanut on the red lid. Great, Alex, you can identify colors!

I think that he has more potential that I still have not found yet. I want to find it. He might be smarter than I thought. Anyway, Alex is so cute. Here is a picture of him.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What if an American cooks Japanese dishes?

I don't like cooking very much and I usually don't cook. But lately, I have tried to make Japanese dishes with my boyfriend. I think he is good at cooking but he had never tried to cook Japanese food. So it's fun trying to make Japanese dishes together. We look up Japanese dishes we want to eat and find the recipes. We made Katsu-kare which is Japanese curry with breaded deep-fried pork,Gyoza which is Japanese dumpling, and Korokke which is breaded deep-fried mashed potato(?). We also made a variety of rice balls called Onigiri for our picnic. Please take a look at the pictures. They look delicious, don't they? He also liked those dishes. It's always a great success!...except our kitchen is messy after cooking.
I'm wondering what we should try nextWhat Japanese dishes do American people likeAlso I have to consider if we can get all ingredients here easilyPlease let me know your favorite Japanese dishes.:)




Friday, August 17, 2012

Give me a green card!

"Hey the US government,
I'm an important person for the US!"

About a year ago, I started preparing my green card application. I wrote my job description, collected many kinds of certifications and six recommendation letters from famous scientists to prove how I'm a great scientist who is required for the US. I filed about 1000 pages of documents for the application. It took six months to prepare the submission. I paid $5000 for my lawyer and about $2000 in government filing fees. You know, it's costly and tough work.

Yesterday, about six months after submission, my application was approved! Yay!
But, there is a problem... The number of green cards which can be issued in my category is limited, so I'm on the waiting list. No one cannot tell how long it'll take, but I might have to wait for a few years. Until a couple of month ago, cases in my category didn't have such a problem. I'm unlucky. Sigh...

Anyway, now I can stay and work here legally without a visa. I will just have to wait.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A woman's Place

Women are in a position of inferiority in Japan. The proper roles for a woman are liable to manage family and support men. Today, the movement to change this gender inequality has arisen and Japanese life-style has changed, more and more women come to have roles outside the house. However, Japanese women who pursue power, prestige or material success in their own right, still face a problem with their achievement.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, men and women were treated unequally, and women were in a marked inferiority position.  People believed that women had to do housework and take care of their children, while men work outside. The important role for women beside the house work was only respecting for men. These gender inequalities were common all over the world.

However, the equality between men and women has improved by the women's right movement lately, although the movement is not perfect in Japan. The first movement happened in the United States, so that the women's right has made rapid progress in the United States. This movement in the United States has also had impact in Japan. Because of the characteristic of the Japanese to accept foreign ideas and fashions, a Western-style women's movement arises in Japan. This movement is tiny, fragmented and slavishly imitative of the women's movement in the United State, although this women's movement surely will have more power in the future.

Another important reason for progress the gender equality in Japan is from their life-style changes. As advance of globalization, Japanese life-style has been Americanized.  For example, nuclear family patterns have spread widely and household appliances have proliferated, resulting in reducing the amount of the time that a Japanese woman must spend on housework. Therefore, Japanese women come to have both ability and freedom to do something besides managing their family. This life-style change has also caused the problem with shortage of money for their life. Indeed, only one wage earner to support their life has been difficult, because the standard of their desired life have been higher than before, and they need more money for achievement the life. Those sifts in Japanese life-style have given more desire for women to work outside.

Although the movement and shift have improved the gender equality, Japanese women still face a problem with their achievement outside the home. In fact, more and more Japanese women hold jobs every year.  However, unlike in the United States, women still play only the most peripheral part, so that the salary of the average woman is lower than the average man. Despite this inequality, career-minded women are increasing. Indeed, younger women who go to college or university are increasingly common, and they are better educated than their mothers. Those educated women want to achieve outside the house. Furthermore, most Japanese women believed that women who have the desire and ability should be allowed to enter the fields previously considered reserved for men. However, the Japanese industrial and financial institutions are still likely to refuse to hire women except for menial or clerical jobs.

As a resulting of the women's movement, the minds of young Japanese men have also changed and the number of men who help with the children and the housework are increasing. However, many Japanese men still oppose the idea of equality for women. Even if men agree with the idea of equality, most Japanese women still lead restricted lives, particularly during the years when they have small children because of the lack of child care systems in Japan.

Consequently, Japan still has a problem with inequality between men and women. The movement to demand women's rights and the change of their life-style have reduced inequality, but women still have difficulty achieving important roles outside their house. Due to these important changes, woman might gain a position more equally in the future.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My teacher is gone...

I had been tutored in English for more than three years. She was a good teacher. She was a little strict and got angrywith me when I did not study hard. So sometimes I felt it tough for me. But if I did not meet her, I would not be the way I am now. It does not only mean she helped me with English. She impacted on my life.

When I met her for the first time, I did not have friends in the US. I was afraid to talk to people because I was very bad at English. On top of that, I am originally shy. It was not much fun living here. I just worked, went back home late, sleptand went to work...

At first, my teacher told me to join English conversation circles which are groups with a native speaker andinternational students. So I did. But at the beginning, I could not speak at all at the meeting. I was so discouraged that I was crying on my way  back from the meeting. I told her I wanted to quit the conversation circle, but sheencouraged me to continue it. She said that I would enjoy it someday. I could not believe her words, but I have keptjoining conversation circles since then. Aside from the conversation circles, my teacher also suggested that joined moreclubs/activity groups and attend events so that I would have more opportunity to interact with people. So I join volunteer workand dance club. I have many friends from the circles and other activities. Sadly, many of them left here though.

Now, I enjoy those social activities. I enjoy my life here. Yes, her words were correct.

I still struggle with English but I feel more comfortable now. At the last meeting, my teacher said iIn such a way English is getting better now. She was happy.

...and said "keep working hard". :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"spicy underwear"

Do you know the card game called "Apples to Apples"? I guess it is a famous game in the US. I played it in a conversation group with native speakers and international students. The rules are pretty simple. There are two types of cards, one has with an adjective and another has with a noun. Players chose a noun card from the seven cards in their hand which they think is the best match to the adjective on the card given for all players.

It looks very easy, but actually it was very difficult for me! I had no idea which noun was suitable match for the adjective. I think it is because I do not know the connotation of the words even if I know the rough meanings of them. So I mostly chose my cards randomly and it made everyone laugh (lol) Once I chose "underwear" from my cards for "spicy". Everyone laughed and remembered me as the person who made the word "spicy underwear". I am happy everyone remembers me...maybe?

Please tell me how to make a suitable match for this game??

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why don't Americans use the metric system?

I have been in the US for more than 7 years. I have gotten used to many things in the US, but one of the things I am still not used to is the measurement system here.

All of the countries except three countries in the world are using the metric system. The US is one of them. The US is the only industrialized country where the metric system is not the official system of units.
I still have no idea how big, how long, or how hot something is... :(

Recently, I was shocked to realize that the volume of 'one cup' is different between Japan and the US. One cup is 200 ml in Japan, but 240 ml (8oz) in the US. I have been cooking using an American measuring cup for Japanese recipes. Now I understand why my dishes failed...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dentists in the US vs Japan

This is my experience of seeing a dentist in the US.
I have a lot of cavities. I have known about that for a long time but I had not been to see a dentist since I came to the US. It was not only because I do not like dentists, but also because I was not familiar with dentists in US so that scared me.

Last week I went to see a dentist for the first time in the US. I think the dentist was friendly, and I assume that American dentists are in general more friendly than Japanese ones.
As I anticipated, he found a lot of cavities and most of them were serious. He was surprised that I had not not felt any pain with them.

I was comfortable during the dental work. Actually it was more comfortable than at dentists in Japan. It was very expensive, much more expensive than dentists in Japan. I have a dental insurance which covers most of dental work, but I had so many serious cavities that the insurance could not cover them all. I should have seen a dentist before my teeth became this bad...
I have heard that American people go to see a dentist for check-ups or cleaning before they have problems with their teeth. On the other hand, Japanese people go to their dentist only after they have problems with their teeth.

By the way, my dentist is supper kind! Once I biked to see the dentist and it was rain when my appointment finished, so my dentist drove me and my bike home.

I like a dentist. But I still do not want to have bad teeth!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Having a party and building a network

Tulip "Spring Party" 
I used to throw a party every couple of months. But since many of my friends left last summer, I have not been motivated tohave a party and I had not had one for four months. But my best friend is going back to Japan in twoweeks, so I throw one for her. Also a new Japanese girl has just come here. And I invited many other friends. Many peoplecanceled at the last minute, but still quite a few people were there. I think my party is a little different from the onesyou have because mine is pretty international and there are a variety of people.

I like to throw parties but I put a lot of work into them. I try to have a big party and invite not only close friends but alsonew people and friends I have not seen for a while so that we can keep our network. And I clean up and decoratemy apartment and prepare dishes; I organize very well. Usually everyone looks like they are having a good time so I feel happy.But after everyone leave I feel sad. It is so quiet here.

There is a lot of leftover food. I could survive a few days with it...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rock climbing

I went to a rock climbing gym with my friend. I did not know that there is such a kind of gym. I never heard about it in Japan. Is it popular in the US? Have you ever tried it?

It was my first time rock climbing. My friend invited me and I was willing to do it. I like to try new things. When I entered the gym, I was astounded. There were huge walls in front of my eyes. I was excited, but also nervous. Can I really do it??

I had to take a training session from the staff. It took about an hour. I learned many safety issues like how to tie the ropes and how to hold the ropes when your partner is climbing. It was quite confusing for me. But it was important to avoid dropping my friend from a high place of the wall, lol.

Finally, I was allowed to climb the wall. I had no idea how high I would be able to climb up. But it was easier than I thought. I climbed to the top of the wall! it was the beginners course, though. I was so excited. Then, I saw my friend on the floor. I became a bit scared. I realized how high it was. But I did it!

I was tired and I had pain in my arms after climbing just two times...

I had a really good experience and it was a lot of fun. I want to do it again. And I want to keep trying new things. It's great!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The gaijin complex~ Japanese communications

Many Japanese feel uncomfortable with foreigners because Japan is homogenous and still a very closed country and they are not used to interacting with foreigners. In fact, a couple of decades ago, Japanese pointed fingers toward rare foreigners and muted "gaijin" which means "outsider person". Lately, the number of foreigners visiting Japan has been increasing and the number of Japanese obliged to live abroad for business reasons is steadily growing. This internationalization increases the opportunities for Japanese to interact with foreigners and Japanese need to conquer the gaijin complex. However, to overcome the gaijin complex is not easy, and learning English is not a sufficient requirement. Japanese and Americans often approach each other with radically different assumptions, and some serious mutual misperceptions arise. These occur because Japanese communications are completely different from Americans: the gift-giving, vague communication and consensus orientation are some specific areas that are different.

One of the misperceptions occurs because Japanese use the characteristic method of interacting with others to show friendship by gift-giving. Japanese give gifts to friends and people that they respect, and Japanese give gifts to keep their friendships. Such a gift or a favor can also mean a debt for Japanese and might impose heavy obligations for them to repay the favor. In this matter, Japanese gift-giving is complicated but one of the important aspects of Japanese culture to show friendship and courtesy. Unlike Japanese, Americans also give presents to their friends or to help others but do not expect an obligation for the favor. Therefore, Americans might make Japanese feel obligated for even their small gifts. On the other hand, if Japanese expect some return for their favor toward Americans, Japanese are frustrated about receive nothing or a lesser gift in return.

Another source of communication problems between Americans and Japanese comes from the Japanese tendency to use a vague communication style. Vagueness is used to avoid conflicts with each other in Japan. Since Japanese dislike conflicts, they keep an attitude of courtesy to other people. However, their courtesy is just on the surface and they hide their real feelings and opinions in many situations. For example, Japanese try to be good to other people, even if they harbor anger underneath. These behaviors are also found in their negotiations. Japanese might save face for their negotiating partner through vagueness, reflecting a polite way of refusing. Even if they want to say "no", giving a flat refusal to any proposition is difficult for Japanese. Such vagueness arises in misunderstanding on the part of Americans. They do not understand the real meaning of Japanese artificial behavior, and often conclude that Japanese have made some commitment.

Another example of vague communication is that Japanese people state their opinions softly and indirectly, which also leads to confusing Americans. Japanese tend to express their thoughts with an indirectness and unclarity, and they may circle around their topic, veer away and wander off on a tangent. The indirectness is a strategy not to hurt other people, and Japanese can read between the lines even with such unclear expressions and understand each other. However, Japanese find it difficult to communicate with Americans who state their opinions clearly and logically and cannot understand subtle meanings. Such direct communication is effective to debate and persuasion, but it might hurt Japanese. On the other hand, the Japanese vague and indirect communication often result in frustration for Americans, and makes it difficult for both Japanese and Americans to conduct effective public relations.

The third point of mutual misperception arises from Japanese principle that is based on consensus oriented communication not to hurt another's feelings. Japanese build consensus and exhibit goodwill to others. The Japanese principle reflects a difference in managerial or negotiating styles from Americans. When we have to solve some problems together, Japanese try to make concessions to reach a solution and saves face all around. Unlike Japanese consensus orientation, Americans are interested in achieving concrete solutions. Therefore, those different principles lead to mutual misunderstanding. Americans feel that Japanese gestures are meaningless or deceitful, and are interpreted as tacit admissions of guilt. Despite Japanese instinctive efforts to reconcile contradictory viewpoints, Americans regard Japanese as two-faced and opportunistic.

Thus, the communication between Japanese and foreigners is very difficult because their many different assumptions come from cultural differences. Japanese have characteristic culture such as a gift-giving, vague and indirect communication and consensus orientation which are their communication strategies to avoid conflict and get along with others. However, since Americans have different principles from Japanese and use other ways to interact with people, Japanese and Americans have some serious mutual misunderstandings. To avoid frustration from misunderstandings and make good relationships, Japanese should understand another culture and learn other communication methods. This is important for Japanese to achieve their goals in the world.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The place friends get together

I liked the TV show "Friends ". Now I like "The Big Bang Theory" and "How I Met Your Mother". Yes, I like comedy. But I have another reason why I like those TV shows. I like their friendship. In those shows, the small group of friends often get together at someone's house or the bar, and they talk about funny stories and their problems. I always wanted to have such a group of best friends. That is one of my dream! Do you think it can happen in real life? or just in TV shows?

Recently, I sometimes hang out with a small group of my friends. Even though it is still not like a group in those TV shows, I have a good time with them. It is not everyday, but we get together whenever someone wants to. We have a lot of laughs and talk about serious things. Last time, they listened to my problem and I came to feel better. I am glad I have those friends.
Do you have a group of friends like that?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"Improve your English quickly *without* effort."

I often see advertisements for English learners online. Most of the advertisements say something like this; "you will be able to speak English fluently in three months by studying for 20 minutes a day", " Just let English go in one ear and out the other, and you will come to understand movies in English soon" or " Don't study English. Just read this book."

What do you think about it? Now I do not believe those advertisements at all. But, to tell the truth, I believed a part of them before. I was stupid. I was just desperate to find the best way to master English with the lest amount of studying. I also thought that I would automatically become a fluent English speaker if I come to the US. But I was wrong; I could not improve my English at all.

I definitely needed English to survive. So I decided to learn English. I found my teacher and I expected her to save my life. But I was still thinking that the teacher could improve my English all by herself. That idea was also wrong. She could only help me. I finally realized that I had to study by myself. Actually, my teacher was really good and encouraged me to study hard. So my English is improving little by little now. But I feel it is still very slow. My teacher says that language learning is a slow process and we just have to keep studying.

These experiences of mine suggest that both concepts of "without effort" and "quick improvement" from those advertisements are wrong!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Japanese food in the US ~Is it really Japanese food?

There are many Japanese restaurants in my town. I went to a Japanese restaurant with my American friend. I have many friends who love Japanese food. Some of them even know about Japanese restaurants better than me.

My friend asked me if the food in the restaurant was real Japanese food. That is a good question!
Some of the Japanese food in the US are strange to me. For example, I have never seen certain kinds of California rolls and spicy sushi rolls in Japan. We do not put avocado or mustard in sushi. And Japanese usually wrap rice with seaweed, but those rolls are opposite, so rice is outside. Also, we eat tempura, but broccolis and zucchinis are not fried in Japan. There are many other differences...
But I like this American-Japanese food, too. I wonder why we do not make them in Japan.

What are your favorite Japanese foods?

This is inari sushi I made :)