May has passed me by with such speed -- I completely forgot to write that mega update blog.
Here's a mini-update (minus pictures -- I may add them later).
I went to Tokyo for a quick weekend trip the first weekend of March. We stayed in a youth hostel and wondered around Tokyo for about 2 days before I headed back to Amagasaki and the rest of the group went to a conference for returning JETs (I wasn't allowed to go because I've only been here for 1 year). While in Tokyo I also got to catch up with a sorority sister who works for GAP in Tokyo, which was pretty cool since I haven't seen her in years!
Later, my family came to visit for a week. We traveled all over and I got to show them where I "hang out". They also got to meet a bunch of my crazy friends and we all did puri kura together (sticker pictures). They're pretty hillarious. We went to Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima... It was a pretty packed week! We also ate a lot of good food and I introduced them to the wonderful okonomiyaki!
As my family left to go back to the US, 3 friends and I went to South Korea! We stayed in Seoul and basically had a "girls' vacation" -- we shopped and spa-ed and a couple girls pierced their ears! We did try to do at least one cultural thing everyday. We went to one of the palaces, a Japanese atrocities museum (in an old prison - you can go in the cells and they have moving manaquins mimicing how Japanese soldiers tortured the Korean "patriotic ancestors"), ate spicy spicy spicy Korean food, and the most interesting: we went to the DMZ. The DMZ is the De-Militarized Zone between South and North Korea - a sort of no man's land. On the tour we actually got to go into the DMZ and ride (on a bus) around the buildings where North and South Korean governments have their discussions. Usually on the tour you are allowed to go into the meeting building, but it was "under going maintenence", which in military code means: the day before our tour there were protests on the North Korean side of the DMZ and it was deemed unsafe. That's my theory anyway -- there really were protests that day! Anyway, on the tour we also got to go into one of the tunnels that the North Korean army has dug underneath the DMZ, trying to invade South Korea. They have found 4 tunnels -- the most recent one was found within the last 20 years!! That was pretty cool. So, I got to see into North Korea, which was so so so interesting.
School started April 8th with a new batch of first year students. It's so nice in the beginning because they are so well behaved. (Now they are not so well behaved.)
I also went to my first baseball game in Japan. The local team is the Hanshin Tigers and they are known for having the craziest and most loyal fans. (Side note: I thought Ichiro was from the Tigers, but actually he was on the Kobe team, the Blue Wave. Sorry to whoever I may have told that to.) The fans are pretty crazy! They get all dressed up and have these special plastic banging sticks that they make a lot of noise with! Each player on the team has a special chant or song... It's pretty wild.
At school we had the first round of midterm exams. Always a hoot.
My friends and I had many many BBQs to take advantage of the spring weather before the rainy season (which has just started - early June).
Last weekend I was invited to go to Kyoto with one of my teachers. We went to Kiyomizudera temple, Ginkakujin temple (its supposed to be silver, but was never finished...so it's just normal, but famous for almost being covered in silver leaf), and an old samurai's hermitage -- this was my favorite. This samurai was the assistant to the shogun in Hiroshima about 900 years ago or so. When he retired, at the ripe old age of 33, he decided he wanted to study Chinese poetry. So he moved to Kyoto, built this beautiful house with a gorgeous garden where he could study. He became a master of Chinese poetry and had many students. He lived to be about 90 years old!! Now his house is open to the public and many famous people have visited there (there were pictures of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, a couple Japanese princes, etc.).
Oy! I think that's mostly everything. There's only 3 weeks of school until finals week and then I'm done with school! I'll be home before you know it! Actually, my flight is on August 5th!! Only 2 months away!!
I have to go - a student is patiently waiting for me to finish :)