Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 9th or an exercise in masochism

Today I had my placement test for the Japanese classes I'm starting next week. As long as I have hirogana and katakana, their alphabets, memorized they'll take me but I had to take the test so they knew what level I'm at. I am at the imbecile level. The first hour was a written exam. The entire thing, including directions was in Japanese. I think there was a section on vocabulary, a verb conjugation table, and sections on particles. There is no English equivalent to Japanese particles. After that there was an oral exam. Two very lovely women asked me questions in Japanese. Once again, I think they asked me my name, where I was from, where I was living in Japan, something about TV and some other stuff. I just kept saying I'm sorry and I don't understand. So that started off my Saturday on a real feel-good note. One bright spot was I met some friendly foreigners. One Iranian woman even recommended an Iranian restaurant to me.

This all happened in Sannomiya, so after I was done I called Craig and he took the train in and we actually managed to find the Iranian restaurant and had lunch. It was a buffet and was delicious. One bizarre thing was the music in the restaurant. It was so we listened to church hymns while enjoying our shish kabobs. On Sunday we asked around and no one knew of members who own an Iranian restaurant. When you have to point at the menu to order you don't do a lot of small talk with your waiter so we didn't ask while we were there.

After lunch I started the second phase of destroying my self-esteem. We are going to Tokyo at the end of this month because a friend from Montana is conducting the Tokyo orchestra in a performance of one of her original pieces. She's getting us two free tickets and we're pretty excited. We decided we needed to buy some fancy clothes for the occasion. Craig wanted a suit and I wanted a pretty dress. While I was walking to my test I saw a pretty red dress that looked garment appropriate so I didn't think this shopping trip would be so bad. We found the shop and I tried on the dress. It was too small. I could zip it but I needed a bigger size. The store only sells one size. I discovered this is not unusual. We decided to find Craig a suit next. At the first place, he tried on the tallest suit they had and the jacket sleeves were three inches too short. The sales woman recommended a place we could try. We actually found it and he got a really nice suit. Even in Japan he was able to buy the fitted style. Suits here aren't very expensive either so that part of the trip was a success.

I should share some statistics. According to Wikipedia, I am two inches taller than the average American woman. I am four inches taller than the average Japanese woman. I weigh about 20lbs less than the average American woman. I weigh about 25lbs more than the average Japanese woman. I found a bunch of articles about how skinny Japanese women are and, apparently, how they're the only industrial nation where the women are getting thinner. Men and children are gaining weight. The government is concerned because the trend is unhealthily skinny; it is causing birth weights for babies to drop, disease and serious issues with eating disorders. It is also making it impossible for me to find a dress. Additionally, I am broader than a lot of women here. Hold up a hanger to your shoulders. Using a hanger we brought from America, my shoulders aren't quite as wide as the hanger. In the Japanese stores, my shoulders stick out over an inch on either side. This means buying a strappy dress and a little jacket thing isn't a possibility because I can't actually move, at all, in a little jacket thing. We browsed the Sannomiya area for about 5 hours. This is the shopping district for Kobe so we went through three malls worth of stores and then just walked the streets and looked so it wasn't like I wasn't trying. If I saw a dress I liked I would ask if they had "big" sizes. The majority of places only carry small or medium. I tried on two dresses at a place with large. If I pulled the sleeve over one shoulder it would bunch against my neck on the other side. I could zip the dresses over my waist but not over my rib cage or bust. If I wasn't looking for a fancy dress I probably wouldn't have had such a hard time but I'm not going to test that theory. I'll be wearing a church dress to the symphony for the sake of my psyche and just look under dressed.

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