Assistant Abroad part 3: Of mobile phones and mosquitoes
This post is probably going to be an amalgamation of more observations and some opinions, along with a bit of news on what I’m up to!
Mobile Phones and Mosquitoes
Being a foreigner, I have to be 20 to be allowed to buy a phone. While this is massively inconvenient, there are the usual ways to get around this, i.e. getting your 20-year-old friend to sign for you. It has taken me about a week to manage a) to get to the konbini (convenience store) on campus and b) with a 20-year-old in tow. But finally I have a phone!!! It’s pretty basic as Japanese phones go, which says nothing.
Meet the SoftBank phone! Yes, it’s basic as Japanese phones go, but by Western standards, well, wow! 2.0 megapixelcamera, the ability to get on the internet, infrared means that you can wirelessly pass on all your contact details to your friend’s phonebook automatically and best of all: you can attach phone charms to it! Being in Japan, it’s almost wrong to have a phone and not get charms for it at some point.
However, the real selling point is email. This phone can send email messages to any email address in the world FOR FREE. This means that if you’re always emailing your friends, you won’t spend any money and have all the credit you started with, therefore saving credit for important calls to your host family such as “I’m lost! I have no idea where I am, help please!” or “I’m very sorry, while you were out shopping I broke a sliding door”. (NB: These examples are NOT from personal experience!)
As for mosquitoes or 蚊 (か – ka), this is a massive problem. Me being me (i.e. pretty unaware of important things), I assumed that all mosquitoes were big and resembled daddy-long-legs and also made noise. With this in mind, I wandered around Japan for a couple of days feeling safe and secure as I hadn’t seen even one. Some people would show their mosquito bites and complain about them, and I thought “Oh dear, poor them! Lucky me, maybe mosquitoes don’t like me!”
Then my world view was shattered. Sitting in the car with my host family, I watched a fruit fly hover around the inside of the windscreen and there were mentions of “Ka!” I watched it being swatted and then was informed that “ka” meant mosquito. What?! So, it turns out that mosquitoes are the same size as fruit flies and make no noise. Chances are that I’ll end up with large red welts all over my arm because I’m generally oblivious… this is why I flail wildly at any flying thing that comes close, leading to me looking rather stupid in front of peers!
They are square. There is simply no other way to describe them. All cars seem to be descended in some way from some kind of primordial ancestor that was probably a shipping container. I was blissfully unaware of this until someone pointed it out about 10 minutes into my first drive through Japan and into Osaka. From then on, the squareness of the vehicles positively assaulted my eyesight. However, I’m still slightly amused by the number plates, which are pretty similar to English ones- they have one kana (which can very roughly be compared to an English “letter”) and then four numbers.
In bus news, my admiration of buses has bloomed into full-grown love. My new route to university involves taking a bus to the train station then another on onwards to university. The ease with which I can use the bus combined with my new shiny one-month bus pass means that I’m enjoying my commute far too much to be healthy. There’s a chance that in time it will get boring once I start to take it for granted, however. Until then, pleasant journeys for all!
- Children’s television
This drink, “Qoo” (as they inexplicably romanised “ku”) is not just apple juice. “Apple juice” is a term invented by the Western markets to sell a disgusting acidic creation that doesn’t even deserve to be called a beverage. This “Qoo” drink is what happens when you take real red apples, simply remove the inedible parts and then blend it into liquid. It’s delicious and tastes like real apples. “Qoo” is real apple juice! After a stressful few hours, I get a bottle of this and everything is OK. I am about three days away from planning entire journeys around vending machines just so I can get hold of it.
- And finally… Osaka-ben