And I have to admit: Neil Told Me So.
He told me I'd better take my tennis shoes because there's no way I'd be able to do the kind of walking around that someone does in another city with my sandals. He was right. I admit it. Only after coming home the other day, putting my feet up on the bed, and actually having them cramp from being walked so hard in shoes that were not made to walk.
But the walking was worth it!
After 4 hours of placement test (yep, that long, including an oral interview that for me went beyond the test so I couldn't complete the last page), I tagged along with a couple of other people for lunch... and we ended up at McDonalds! It was fine, but I felt gross after eating just because it's McDonalds and ... not very healthy. Not a good idea. The good part is that it's on a street with a bunch of other stuff, and the guys who went to the noodle shop that's directly across the street said it was great. That's where I headed today for lunch, and discovered that while the service isn't fast, it's delicious, healthy, cheep, and overwhelmingly huge on the portions. I was afraid to go yesterday because if the entire school heads it's really awful to show up to these little tiny noodle shops with more than 3 people... and there are 50 of us all trying to eat lunch at the same time. But today there were only four of us. However, back to the story...
So, to make us feel better after our test (and get us used to the subway) our RAs took us on a short hop to Meiji Shrine. It's actually in part of Yoyogi park (the place where our housing accomodations are too), and we could've walked to it. Instead we took a private train and then the public train (the system's set up that way - private lines and public lines that all use the same prepaid card) and it dropped us off on the other side of the park. I've got some fantastic pictures of the shrine. It was kind of anti-climactic, to be honest, and really really touristy, but there was this absolutely amazing bonzai / wabisabi exhibition in 1 corner ... I've got these really incredible pictures of bonzai trees that I can't wait to show you! They even had one there that was 150 years old. Sadly, since I can't get a connection long enough to upload, you'll all have to wait for the pics.
After that I walked into Harajuku and when the group (we'd whittled it down to about 6 of us) wasn't going where I wanted to I totally split off. I spent an hour and a half walking around these little streets all filled with crap to buy - it was great! Really old houses were right next to a bunch of really high shoes in a glam store, right next to what looked like very hip hairdressers, and then old gardens with bamboo all squished up between them and a Gucci shop. I know I'm overusing the word, but it was fantastic! I took a single picture (because people started to look at us weird as soon as we whipped the camera out - I think Neil's given me his phobia about being a total photo-takey tourist) of the first part of the overcroweded street. And managed to resist buying anything. It's all the same kind of stuff you'd see on the old Melrose or around Venice Beach - except Japanese, of course - or the high end stuff that's really all over the place because it's all about a label. Hence, easily resistable. I was just happy to FINALLY be out of the complex and out on my own!
I even successfully navigated the trains too. It's always sort of thrilling to have to do those things completely by yourself - it's when you really see what you paid attention to. I had a feel for everything, but having done it another time tonight I'm pretty confident on how in the heck to get to my station, at least.
Tonight Megan and I decided we were going to find the 100 Yen ($1) store and purchase little thingies that we kind of need. It's the kind of place that has plastic hangers (since we were only issued 2 hangers), and mini staplers (since I forgot mine), and things to make flashcards with (since we now have vocab to memorize). The nearest one's in Shinjuku (which is two stops away from our little station). Oh my god. I don't think it's possible to die of city overdose, but it might be considered a malady if anyone ever came to Tokyo unprepared for it. Imagine 40 or 50 story buildings, one on top of the other, lined with lights. At the bottom swarm people going in and out of little shops so tiny you forget that there's this looming building above you. Barkers are calling out about electronics, and sake, and whatever else it was that I didn't pay attention to, and people are passing you up and down the street so fast it's enough to make your head spin. I LOVED IT. Megan and I had this moment where we were crossing the street, and I turned to her and said, "We're doing that crossing the street thing with like 300 people at the same time!! We're in Tokyo, crossing the street!" And sure, you might think I'm a little crazy to be that excited about crossing a street - especially when there's not even a sense of claustrophobia because everyone maintains their distance from eachother. But haven't you ever seen a street scene in a movie with Tokyo in it? Well I have. And I was there!
The 100 Yen store is actually in the 8th floor of a skyscraper (only a little one, though). The rest of the stores there are filled with other shops selling things and since we took the escalator up we kind of got a birds eye view of all of them. But really, the wonderful part wasn't the little store, it was the street! We're going back so I can take pictures - I didn't take my camera tonight because I thought I was just running out to the store. Stupid me. Megan's also going to throw the ones she took tonight on her zip drive and bring 'em over when she finishes her homework, so that'll be lovely too.
Oh, and I suppose I should actually acknowledge that I'm totally tickled as pie to be back in school again. Even though taking the longest test in the world definitely hurt a lot, I'm glad to be placed into the class that I'm in. We're doing a whole bunch of review, and I simply love the long day format (3 hours of instruction, break for lunch, another hour or so). It feels so much better to me to be going through multiple grammar structures and to use them all in the same day!
There's news on the homestay front (since our homestay is next week) but it's 1:30 am here, and I should really get my butt to bed so I sleep a little before tomorrow! Goodnight all!