Friday, September 28, 2007

Japanese children 日本のお子供さん

I love children and I get along with them very well. Everybody who knows me well knows this much. But Japanese children are different, because they are.. well, different!! So, while in Japan I took pictures of my little friends and with my little friends.

In the home stay post you already saw pictures of Mao-chan and Shoutarou-kun. Here's another picture of Mao holding the picture book I bought her and wishing for peace, like all Japanese people in almost every picture..

She's got style, doesn't she?

In the first real day of the program after orientation day we went to Nanba in Osaka and rode the train for the first time. While there a mother and her two kids enter the train and stand in front of me. The mom looked nice so I asked her for permission to take pictures of her children (In Japanese, I swear) ...

That little devil in the green shirt looks cool!

I try to take another shot and he glues himself to his mom, then pulled her hands and tried to hide behind them, but I caught the culprit at the right moment..

Kakkoi na~, omae!

In the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, I found a group of students in a school trip, so I took a picture of them and then they noticed me and started flocking towards me and posing and saying 'san kyuu, san kyuu, san kyuu' (Thank you). Great, I started a scene in the Peace memorial museum, a very grim place. Other program participants started taking pictures and the students -and their 'san kyuu's- kept increasing. I don't know how old they are, but obviously they have passed the 'cute' age and are well into the 'annoying' age. Someone has to teach them a thing or two about smiling though...

Cheezu! Peesu! SMILE!!

And now, the stars of the show! This was in the last day of the program, duing the farewell party. I tried to avoid the adults who were drinking (and drinking) and look who I found!

Sticking her tongue out in shyness. Gotta love the hairdo

There was another little girl beside our starlet but she was shy and didn't want to take a picture. So, to 'break the ice' I walked to her asked 'what's your name?' she said something incomprehensible. Again, 'what's your name?', incomprehensible. I give up. 'Let's take a picture' Nod! Easy!...

Lovely expressions..

Look at me; I keep smiling as I have no idea what's going on.

That's all I got, I didn't see much children and sometimes I didn't have the courage to ask their parents permission for a picture.

During home stay, home stay mom noticed that I got along with Mao and Shouta and she told dad 'there's a sense of attachement, because Samer speaks Japanese'. It was a new word for me in Japanese.. shinkinkan.. I tried to guess the kanjis to understand it.. 親切のしん、最近のきん、感... 親近感. 単語ゲット! :D

See you next post.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

日本で一番好きな場所 - My favourite place in Japan















Sunday, September 23, 2007

Round 1: Home stay photo-fest


Here is the first wave of photographs, all taken during home stay or with the home stay family.

My home stay family lives in Kishiwada, Osaka. Dad is a business man, who works in trading textiles among other things (mainly ornaments) and mom is a hard working housewife. They have one son (Shosaku) and two daughters (Tomoko and Hiroko). They also have three grandchildren: Mao (7 years), Shoutarou (5 years, not quite sure) and Takuto (1 year), who just started walking recently.

When I first met them at the center, I was treated to the unexpected. This dark skinned guy with an earing on his left ear comes and embraces me! (My feeling at that moment can be summarized as follows: ほほっ!) Mom was also there and told me to call her just 'mama'. The family is much richer than your average Japanese family as they live in a 4 floors house (the last floor is equipped with a theater covering one of the walls).

Anyway, lets get to the photos!

First thing I was treated to was a fancy, fancy lunch. Tamagoyaki, sushi, yakisakana, nasubi no goma-ae and oden.

Let's pause a little bit here. This lunch was not just for yours truly, as dad's rich, rich German friend was in Osaka and he was invited too. He told me that his rich, rich friend had just recently bought a personal jet plane for 80,000,000,000 (8 hyaku oku) yen (don't bother counting the zeros). And when we picked him and his Japanese wife we kept talking and talking in English and he kept asking me questions about the Middle East and what's in my opinion the problem there and how to solve it and so on and so forth. I began to wonder when will I speak Japanese today.

So in the end, the guy liked me and asked for my contact information and although I bought 50 business cards with me to Japan, I had none on me (Duh!). He then gives me his business card which has the logo 'Turk Mall', I look at him and say 'Ah, a mall!'. He smiles and says '20 malls'.

Just great!

Next, the first excursion in Kishiwada

Following my family to Kishiwada castle. Fancy isn't it?

This is inside the kishiwada danjiri hall. Some intricate wood work used on the danjiri cart which is hollered around the city in the danjiri matsuri.

Let's pause again here. The Kishiwada danjiri matsuri is one of the most famous matsuris in Japan (Top 3 according to dad). It is well known because of the high speed and energy compared to other danjiri matsuris. I think, 200 guys pull or ride on the danjiri cart and pull it with big ropes around the city. It's a feat that requires a lot of strength, timing and coordination.

When the family knew that I'm into game design they took me to a game center and look what I found there...

People betting on a virtual horse race. I am still stupified by this..

More food. This time it's Ikayaki (squid) and the Japanese pizza thing which I forgot the name for.

Mom and Dad

Big sis (Tomoko) and niece (Mao)

In Dotonbori Osaka, a very famous and very crowded area.

Inside the Gokurakushoutengai.

My family was kind enough to take me to Gokurakushoutengai, which is a place that looks exactly like Osaka in the Showa period (1926 - 1989).

Notice that horizontal writing was - like Arabic - from right to left..

In Jordan, we got Coca Cola long after the Showa period was over.

Amusement the old fashioned way.

Next up is Houzenji, where you'll find a shinto shrine for cooking and a restaurant supplies/cookingware market.

Here, people come to pray to become better cooks, faster. The plant statue, flowers and water flow sounds give the place a serene feeling.

In Houzenji, we had lunch in an old restaurant..

Shouta getting ready for the..

ladies and gentlemen, omuraisu! (omelette rice)

In the market

Shouta and Mao with Takoyaki-chan. In Japan, there's a -chan version of everything.

Don't ask me. I just found this amusing!

Before returning home, we went to Tsutaya and suddenly while there, mama decides that she wants a Wii. They buy it with three games and extra controllers, unpack it at home and start playing. Simple! compared to me, who was following the Wii 2 years in the news before it was even released. It was my first time to touch and try playing Wii, by the way.

Mao-san and her mom playing Wii Tennis

Finally, what better way to end the day than with Kappazushi?

Something looks suspicious!...

Hamburger sushi! Beef instead of fish and Mayonnaise instead of Wasabi!

Leave it to the Japanese to commit such crimes in the name of innovation. If you've been following Tymoor-sensei's blog, you already know about the Tuna-mayo-nigiri and the Ice cucumber Pepsi..

The thing that drives me madder is that sometimes it actually works. I tried Tuna-mayo-nigiri and it was good. But still I have the 'chigau! CHIGAU!' ('That's not right!') feeling inside me whenever I see rice with mayonnaise.

Shouta-kun and Mao-chan with their mom, Tomona-san.

Kappazushi marks the end of homestay, but not quite yet..

One day, I was going to Namba with my Egyptian and Yemeni fellas and just when I slid the ticket in Namba station I accidentally met Tomoya, Hiroko's husband (Did you notice how many Tomo's there are in this family?). I had only met him and Hiroko for 10 minutes in the morning of the second home stay day. He was returning from work and was kind enough to take us to Dotonbori (where he has an accessories shop). There, accidentally also, we met with Mie-san, a program participant from Brazil (she is of Japanese origin, a nikeijin).

Two accidental encounters and a group photo.

When dad took me back to the Center after kappazushi, Mao-chan fell asleep in the car and I couldn't tell her a proper good bye. Tomoya-san told me that when she woke up, she cried. Aww! I was gonna meet the homestay family again in the last day, so I sent dad an e-mail telling him to bring along Mao-chan to give her a suitable farewell.

In the last day, dad and mom picked up Mao-chan from school before the school day was over and they took me to have lunch in Rinku-tower, the tallest building in Rinku-town (where the Japan Foundation Center is located) . Mao-chan gave me a letter and I gave her a picture book!

The view from Rinku tower, the tallest building around.

Osaka from above.

After an open buffet lunch where most of the food had pork or alcohol (i.e. i barely ate anything) and some nice conversations we returned to the center for the last time.

I think this answers the question: Who's your daddy?!

With mom and Mao (doing a cat pose).

That was the home stay related part. I feel regretful because I didn't take as much pictures as I wanted. If I had time I would have taken more pictures of the house and of Hiroko-san and her little Takuto, and of my room and the electric toilet.. Ah, zannen da na~!

But this is not the last time I will meet the home stay family, I believe. Dad comes to Greece and Turkey around 4 times a year and he and mom sounded serious when they told me that they will visit Jordan next time. They told me that every time I tried (and failed) to pay for the food and tickets. I actually brought with me a Japanese book about Jordan and they showed great interest in it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

My two weeks in Japan - prologue: Kokoro

Salam friends,

I've created this blog sometime ago but never really started blogging or anything. This will change temporarily as I will be posting some pictures and accounts of my two weeks trip to Japan.

What trip? In July, I received a letter of invitation from the Japan Foundation to participate in a two week trip called the "Japanese-language program for outstanding students" 日本語成績優秀者研修プログラム starting from September 5th.

In two short weeks I had the experience of a lifetime. I've been to Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo. I've met my friends and teachers, both Japanese and Jordanian and together we spent good times and made good memories.

Something I left part of in Japan

But that was the easy part! I knew from the outset that I'd have lots of fun. The challenging part was to learn as much as I can within those two weeks. I hope to share some of the fun experiences and learning experiences, and also the fun learning experiences.

To wind up this post here's a new song in Japan by Oda Kazumasa. I heard it the first time in the JAL airplane on my way to Japan and many times in supermarkets and kiosks and now I just can't get it out of my head. It has become the theme song of this trip . I couldn't find the music clip for 'kokoro' (the song's name) so here's the song used as the opening for a drama series.

Enjoy and expect more posts and pictures soon..

Edit note: I just noticed that the sign above and the song name are the same. This nice coincidence led me to change the post's title as you can see!