This is going to be a busy semester...

This semester is going to be very challenging! I have a lot of work for two of my classes and the end of the semester is going to be VERY rough. I must plan ahead. My 5 classes are:

Moses Traditions: We'll be discovering how the Bible portrays Moses as a political/military/religious leader for the Israelites and as a Divine figure (but that he is NOT God); What he Egyptian or Israelite?; How he fits into the Hero motif of the ancient Near East as a whole. This class will be a TON of reading (Garfinkel has literally 7 or 8 pages of bibliography that we will be reading. Thank GOD he's putting them up on blackboard) and a TON of preparation of various Torah passages, consisting of translating directly from the Hebrew with the help of various Bible commentaries. NO TEXT BOOK! YES!

The Book of Job: We have a visiting professor from Princeton Seminary; his name is Leong Seow ("Seow, rhymes with 'meow'") and is currently a part of Princeton's intense collaborative work on a new collective Bible commentary. He's writing one for Job, which is why he's teaching the class; it's currently at the publisher's and it's 1500 pages. We'll be dissecting the first part of the Job story: it's language, forms, poetry, meanings, etc. Seow informed us that it is the single most difficult book of the Bible to understand, the old rabbis absolutely hated talking about it and therefore wrote very little about it, and yet everyone heralded it as the most beautiful work of literature ever created, from religious scholars to famous authors. We will be reviewing large chunks of it at a time. We'll need to prepare each section by translating, considering the difficulty of the language and questioning it's forms. Then we'll use Seow's commentary (which he'll be putting up on blackboard!) and then other commentaries for whatever we're having trouble with.

Hebrew 1101: Not as awesome as when we had Nadav because our new teacher is not a native Hebrew speaker. Way too much of our first class was in English. However, Nadav is our lab teacher, so we will still see him once a week! I've already finished all my homework due for Monday. It's going to be the same thing, lots of busy work that is actually quite simple and I'll be finished quickly.

Classics of Jewish Tradition II: This is the second half of a required course on various writings throughout the history of Judaism on the religion and the Bible. Our first class was filled with a lot of emotion and personal feelings on belief and belonging in Judaism. Pretty much that meant I felt quite left out. Ha! But that was what the first class was planned to be like, apparently, and hopefully the rest of our classes will go the way the professor wants it to go, which will be the professor lecturing on the historical background of our reading for class and then a discussion of the reading. I'm hoping it will be much less emotional. Again, no text book, the readings will be posted on blackboard.

Aramaic of the Dead Sea Scrolls: This is the class I am most excited about and of course it's the only one I have not had. It starts on Monday and is only on Mondays, as all of my classes are only once a week except Hebrew. I am not sure what to expect, other than learning how Aramaic is different from Hebrew and reading lots and lots of DSS!!! *squeeeeeeeee!!!* Not sure if there will be a text book, but I am expecting at least some kind of workbook or binder explaining the grammar and idioms of Aramaic. This is also my first class with my adviser, which I am absolutely psyched about! He's such a sweet old man and I'm looking forward to the chance to forming a better relationship with him, because I am quite at a loss about how to focus my studies here and what I'm going to write my thesis on.

Well, there is how my semester is expected to go: a TON of work! But I was expecting that anyway since I'm actually taking 3 graduate level classes plus a required class plus Hebrew, whereas the normal grad student is taking 2 Hebrew classes plus 2 maybe 3 graduate level classes.

Time for me to get some breakfast and head off to the library to get a huge chunk of work out of the way before heading home this weekend!


Friendly Drunks

Last night Stuart and I went in search of a local bar. We walked towards Narima and found some kind of bar that was supposedly open, but looked so dark and quiet we weren't sure if it was even open. As we were pondering entering or finding a different place, the door opened and a lady with big poofy hair warmly greeted us and motioned for us to come in. There was a man sitting at the small but nice-looking bar with a warm friendly face and said with an enormous drunken slur, "Where you from?" "America..." "Amewica?! Come in, sit!"

The rest of the evening was filled with this guy telling us all about his two years in the United States - "Nineteen sewenty-sicks, smaw cowege in norf cawowina" - and his opinions on the importance of learning and teaching English - "What is Engwish? Is not Engwish da Japanese want to weawn, is AMEWICAN!" - and sharing his bottle of whiskey with Stuart, and the four very pleasant women working the bar trying to get us to sing karaoke. They very pleasantly gave us some nice (and evidently expensive) sake to sample. For the entire evening, the only people in this tiny little bar was this 50-something business man and us.

The women ranged widely in age: a very old woman who smoked ravenously and cooked the small bowls of stew we were served; a very proper-looking 50-something Japanese woman, who's eyes politely smiled at us and said very little; and two middle aged women, one of whom wore large shoulder pads under her ugly sweater and had a huge permed hair. She was the most enthusiastic to learn about us and kept jumping up and down saying, "Sensei! Keshon!" which was her attempt to say "question". At one point the proper-looking lady brought out a little machine and a microphone, placed it in front of me and said, "Sing! Karaoke!" NO! My worst nightmare in Japan had come true!!! Luckily, the progressively drunker gentleman sang probably 5 songs, including pieces from The Carpenters and "Bi-Jo" (Billy Joel).

It was a very interesting time, but the awkwardness and bill at the end promptly made us decide to never visit there again. haha.


Toshimaen Onsen & Happy Adult Day!

Today Stuart took me to Toshimaen Onsen, a new hot spring in Tokyo. Our way there was interesting because Stuart realized that today in Japan was actually a holiday. It's the day when all the people who turned 20 in the past year celebrate their adulthood. It's called Seijin-no-Hi. They dress up in traditional kimonos, which are absolutely gorgeous. All of the women were wearing kimonos but most of the men just wore suits, though some of the men wore traditional kimonos. I was so upset I didn't bring my camera because we ended going to the actual gathering place of one of the districts' celebration! I didn't bring my camera, though, because I thought it'd be weird bringing a camera to a hot spring where everyone's naked. haha. So HERE is a montage video I found online of pictures of the new adults dressed up! It also provides some information, which is nice.

Being at the hot spring was really awkward at first, but it was actually really enjoyable after I got used to being naked around everyone (and by "everyone" I mean "other women"; the sexes are separated). I'm glad I decided to check out THIS website to check up on what I'm supposed to do and the proper etiquette. Otherwise I would have been completely lost as to what to do. It was really nice, though. It probably would have been more fun if I had had a friend with me so I could talk to someone and relieve some of the tension about whether I was doing things properly. It was really a rather enjoyable experience! The outside hot spring was the best because the water was SO hot and have the freezing cold air on my shoulders and face made it feel perfect. My face was red for a couple hours afterward, though. haha.

Then Stuart and I went to get him a futon, which in Japan is really just a pad to put on the floor to sleep on. It was a lot of fun picking one out and then trying to distinguish blanket cases from futon cases. Eventually we found something that nearly matched in dimensions and assumed we had the right thing. Fits perfectly so I guess we got it right! Now I can sleep without making one entire side of my body going numb!

Tomorrow we're planning on going to the Imperial Grounds! I'm really excited! Yay! And for anyone who doesn't know my facebook, HERE are my photos so far from the trip! Hopefully it updates automatically and I don't have to keep reposting the link. It's faster to put the photos up on facebook than in here, and unfortunately Stuart's computer is a bit too slow. Enjoy the photos!



Well readers, I've made it to Japan! The flight was uneventful, save for one or two very turbulent spots, and I watched two movies and an episode of NCIS, haha. The flight headed west, over Canada, into the Arctic Circle, and over Russia. The Arctic Circle was AMAZING. I got to see all the floating ice chunks! I've always wanted to see the ice in the Arctic Circle. It was beautiful.

Japan looked so beautiful flying over it. At one point I saw a large river coming in from the ocean with about five fishing nets set up. Interesting to see. I easily worked my way through the airport to the train station and had a quiet and uneventful train ride. The landscape to Tokyo was positively breathtaking. There were so many little villages and farms. It was honestly the beautiful thing I've ever seen while traveling, and I'd only seen 30 minutes of it. The city of Tokyo is so many things to describe. It's very clean for so many people, and I've seen very little trash cans. The city is constantly busy and full of people without feeling rushed. I have no idea how that can be, but everyone takes their time.

The area just outside of Tokyo I'm staying at with Stuart is just the opposite. Still exceptionally clean, but barely a person in site. I have never felt more comfortable but more foreign. It is so easy to become acclimated, I feel, but I don't understand any of the language, so I'm very awkward. I just try to keep remembering to bow (thanks, Heather! ha!).

Stuart and I haven't done too much so far. I gave Stuart his Christmas present (a wonderful pair of mocassin slippers), which he absolutely loves. He says they're so nice, he's too afraid of wearing them outside in case they got dirty, but he hasn't taken them off while we're inside. He also gave me my Christmas present - a brand new iPod nano!!! Now I can listen to music in the subway! When I got in, we immediately went to find dinner at a little local noodle bar. Super tasty but I felt so awkward because everyone else who came in were by themselves, ate and drank the scalding hot food faster than I've ever seen, and finished every last bite. These were some very large portions of food, and I have no idea how they managed to finish all of it. I burnt my mouth so much while attempting to imitate how they ate. I felt so rude leaving so much food left in my bowl. I refused to leave until most everyone else had. haha. Stuart tried to persuade me that I shouldn't feel so embarrassed, but I really was! This "culture of shame" works far too easily for my easily guilty conscience.

I immediately fell asleep when we got back, which was like 7:45, and I slept all the way until 9am! I am still very tired even now, but Stuart is doing a very good job at forcing me awake. This morning we got coffee at Stuart's favorite cafe. It was very good coffee! On our way back to the apartment, Stuart took me down some side streets to show me the little shops and the small local shrine. We saw a little tea store with beautiful tea pots. Stuart bought me one! :) We also went grocery shopping, which was a little interesting, since a lot of the food was very foreign to me. Also, Stuart only has a hot plate for cooking so our cooking options are very limited. After I broke his computer and then finally figured out how to fix it again, we went out to see some of the real city. It's like a giant version of Times Square...it's just a bunch of large shops with bright lights everywhere. It's not even that specialized, just enormous stores full of everything you could think of buying.

We ate dinner at a bar Doma-Doma in Izakaya (spelling?). Super cheap but very tasty. I ordered raw horse meat, which is not super tasty. It's very stringy. The sauces they put on the side made it taste alright, though. I ordered what I think was a dragon fruit soda. I thought it would be alcoholic, but it really was just club soda. They gave me a whole half of a dragon fruit with a juicer so I could put my own juice into the club soda. It was actually really good. Not sweet at all, but it was refreshing.

Stuart made me get us home then, so I know how to get back tomorrow. Stuart's working tomorrow and I plan to do some exploring on my own. I managed to get within a block of the apartment before I had no idea which way to go, but I think I'll be ok for tomorrow. I still am not sure what I'll be up to then, but I at least know how to take the subway back and walk back to the apartment! That's all that matters!

Now to look up some of these places I want to see and not go to bed for a while! I MUST get used to the time zone difference!