INFES 2009: AHAppy trip!

INFES 2009. What to say about almost an entire semester’s worth of preparation that all came to an end yesterday? It was an incredible experience to say the least.

One hot, summer day last September, Shiroi-chan and I were at school to meet Shiroi’s speaking partner. By chance we went to the CIE and found many KG students in black t-shirts with different colored fonts. Curious about what was going on, we asked someone and we found out that these students were preparing for the first meeting of INFES 2009. On a whim, Shiroi and I thought it would be interesting to see, so we signed up in the CIE office. Not half an hour later more international students arrived and soon we were all standing in front of the CIE office, confused about what booth we were to join. Since I had just signed up, I hadn’t picked a booth. All I remember is that someone came up to me and asked if I can dance, I said yes, and there I was, separated from my friends, who were doing Food Booth. Disappointed and confused as I was,Β  I decided I might as well get to know the 2 other foreigners who were in DB with me. One was a girl from Colombia, then other from Massachusetts, who funny enough knows Adele, my roommate from Spain (they did a course together in Argentina for a year). Crazy.

Next, we were told to enter one of the classroom buildings of KG, and stood outside a room where we were to be introduced one by one… in front of a crowd of Nihonjin. Our names were called and we were finally seated. I was sitting at a desk surrounded by Nihonjin girls. At this point I didn’t know sufficient Japanese beyond “What is your name?”, having only been 2 weeks or so into the school year, but the Nihonjin were more than sympathetic and we did our best to break down the language barrier. As I mentioned in a previous post, we ended up playing a quiz game and winning, then went outside to jump rope. It was excellent team bonding and even now I can vaguely remember thinking that most of the DB group was made of girls who danced Racenica, a dance from Bulgaria. Lucky me. Later on, I went to one of their practices and I was hooked. I did, however, also go to Soran Bushi and wanted to do that, but I received many a text message from the group leaders that I should stick to one. So I chose Racenica. I loved the girls who were in the group and figured I should give Kasey (my friend from Australia) some moral support.

Learning Racenica turned out to be more difficult than I had thought. I looked at the videos on YouTube and thought it looked pretty easy compared to Tap Dance, Belly Dance, and Soran Bushi. I actually thought Soran Bushi was easier when I went to their practice because at Racenica, I had to learn how to shift my weight really quickly. Every practice I was determined to learn it and yet I felt like I couldn’t hop like I was supposed to. But with lots of encouragement from the Nihonjin and of course Kasey, I practiced at home and eventually got the hang of it.

Practice was once a week. Every Tuesday from 5:30-7:00 p.m., we would meet in a room on the second floor of the CIE. At times I didn’t want to go, being tired or just not feeling like dancing, but then I would go to practice and I would love being there. It was a great relief at the end of the day to see my friends and be silly with them. Plus, they taught me all kinds of Japanese words and believe that had I not joined INFESDB, my Japanese would have surely been incredibly bad. They enjoyed teaching me though, and helping me improve. They praised me and encouraged me constantly when I started to doubt if I was improving. These are some things that I learned from them:
Gattenshochinosuke: A very formal way of saying “I see”
Katajikenai: A very traditional, samurai-like way of saying that you are grateful or indebted to someone, usually said as a joke nowadays.
(So essentially, I was being taught how to be a samurai… haha)
Some tongue twisters or Hayakuchi Kotoba:
Akapajama, aopajama, kapajama
– Nama mugi, nama gome, nama tamago
and then something about two chickens next to each other… I can only say it

Rehearsal week was last week. A week ago today (Monday, November 16th), the weekend seemed like a long way away and we were rehearsing together as an entire booth, uncoordinated and not ready to present to crowds of 100 people, 4 times over the course of the weekend. During what theatre people would call tech week, I was rather ill, and didn’t make it to some of the full run-thru rehearsals. It was all well and good because I practiced at home anyways and hoped for the best. Plus, I had to learn “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical online because I missed most of the practices.

On Thursday, Nihonjin students were setting up all the food booths around campus. Each club and circle had a booth and made some sort of tasty food, which they advertised like professionals- Getting up into people’s faces and trying their best to convince we money-holders to buy their goods. At the festival I ate:
– Tempura ice cream (fried ice cream)
– Yakisoba (a type of noodle)
– Some kind of unidentifiable egg thinger that was like a takoyaki, but more like a pancake…?
– Yakitori
– Takoyaki without the tako… it’s the dessert dough balls that I don’t know what they’re called
– Orange and chocolate crepe (on the paper cone that the crepe comes in, you have to write your name so that the people can identify you when your order comes up. Andrew put Takeshi on his like always, and because he ordered mine, he wrote Mary… haha Gotta love Genki workbook characters!)
… and other foods that I can’t identify, which were interesting-tasting to say the least.

The festival started on Friday, November 20th, but only the Nihonjin portion, which was the food booths outside. The international festival started on Saturday, November 21st and ended on Sunday, November 22nd. On Friday, I walked around with Andrew and Genki. We walked around campus and saw the booths and went to the opening ceremony. At the ceremony a little kid marching band played. They took it super seriously and were super cute!! We also went to a A Capella show, which had Nihonjin members that Andrew and I met at the piano one day. Some of the groups were pretty good and sang English and Japanese songs.

A little later, went to go see Kana (Genki’s girlfriend) at her flamenco show in the afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised at how professional these dancers and singers were. The show was definitely a lot of fun and Kana was super cute in her flamenco outfit. We then went to the solar panel area on campus, right outside of McDonald’s to watch Genki’s friend DJ. As we sat and listened to the guy mix beats, he smoothly changed songs to one that we all knew: “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay. Out of nowhere, a guy named Logan showed up and started dancing right behind our group. Of course we had to stand up and dance with him. So there we were, a group of international students and a couple of Nihonjin creating a dance party for all the other Nihonjin to watch. Just thinking about that moment brings a smile to my face. It was the best spontaneous dance party I’ve been in in a while.

After the dance party, Kana had to go back to flamenco, so it was just me, Andrew, and Genki again. We decided to go to one of the many live houses on campus to listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. To state it lightly, they weren’t really the best cover band ever. Not to mention the fact that the lead singer wasn’t a good singer and was reading the lyrics to each song (one of which he forgot the chorus…), and the guitarist (although very talented) forgot the guitar solo and the band prematurely ended “Under the Bridge”, started it back up eventually, and then ended it where it was supposed to end. Genki, Andrew and I gave them the benefit of the doubt and guessed that their real singer was probably sick… which is what we thought until the entire band forgot what came after the guitar solo in “Under the Bridge”. Luckily, Andrew had tickets to another live house and we went to go see a band that covered Lenny Kravitz songs. Compared to the “Red Hot Chili Peppers”, “Lenny Kravitz” was definitely at a higher caliber. The person who did their lights also didn’t seem like he was on crack and did a good job providing an entertaining light show.

After Lenny Kravitz, I had to head to INFESDB dress rehearsal, which was from 5:30 to around 7:30. After running through all the dances, we taught the group YMCA and Macarena and the Nihonjin taught us High School Musical. We all left rehearsal anticipating an interesting weekend.

Saturday morning came and we arrived at the school early to prepare for our 1:00 p.m. show. Saturday was definitely a lot of fun, but we weren’t able to go around the festival too much since our shows were so close together. Both shows ran pretty smoothly and the mistakes we made were only ones that we could learn from for our performances on Sunday.

On Sunday, the people trickled in between 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.. We were already sad about the end even though our day hadn’t begun yet. Before each show we had an “attraction”. The first attraction was High School Musical and the second was Soulja Boy. We also sampled a bit of our dances for the very thin crowd and went around yelling: “Mina-san, kite kudasai. Dansu Boosu! Mite kudasai! Ni ji han, san ni zero hachi!” [“Everyone, please come! Dance booth! Watch please! 2:30, 3208!”] We also let out a “Irashaimase, douzouuuu” [Welcome, come innnn] once in a while in the clerk-voice kind of speak. It was really fun because we tried to target mothers and grandmothers just walking around campus. After walking around in the really cold weather, we rushed back inside and did our last minute preparations for the show. Our performances on Sunday reflected 2 months of hard work and our last performance was packed wall-to-wall. It was nice because a lot of my friends showed up to see it. Andrew actually came for 3 out of the 4 performances, bringing different people every time. It was hilarious because all the Nihonjin kept pestering me with questions about him. And whenever he introduced himself, he went through this whole ordeal of saying his name was Takeshi and he was from Hokkaido. A few of my friends actually believed him, so it was more than funny when I broke the news to them later that he wasn’t really Japanese. πŸ˜€ I was also really happy that Keiko, who was originally my speaking partner- but I don’t like calling her that because she’s such a good friend of mine- was able to come.

So the Sunday performances ended and we were left to take down the decorations. It’s always incredibly sad that it takes such a short time to take everything down when it took so long to put them up. After we cleaned up our room, we went downstairs to the CIE lounge for the opening ceremony. The winners of the karaoke booth were announced, there were superlatives, and there was a slide show. There were a lot of pictures of dance booth. It was a lot of fun to reminisce about the 2 days that we had spent together. I noticed that at the closing ceremony, the group was a lot different than the original group that one day in September. There were a lot more foreigners in Dance Booth for one thing and some of the original foreigners and Nihonjin weren’t even there.

After the closing ceremony, I biked home with Hiromi and then we met up around 7 p.m. at the bus stop to go to Hirakata-shi. We also met Miyu at the bus stop and from Hirakata-shi we met the rest of the Dance Booth to go to a nomihodai (all your can drink, although since it as a school event all we drank was different kinds of juice hahaha…) restaurant. At this point I was super hungry and all I could say was tabetai [“I want to eat”] and I learned shini sou [“It seems like I’m going to die”] (haha I love Japanese). I also learned Itsumo watashi no jinsei ha onaka suita [“My entire life I’m hungry”…. or something like that…]. So we went to the place, I’m not sure what it’s called and ate lots and lots of food from salad to steak to yummy ice cream. Not to mention getting a lot of juice. That was pretty awesome. Since we couldn’t all fit at one long table, we had two other tables. So every few minutes you would see people get up from the long table and sit in the aisle or at one of the smaller tables with the other dance members. The conversation topics were everything from everything to everything and there was a mixture of Nihongo [Japanese] and English in the air.

As everyone was getting ready to leave, the group presented Saori, the group leader, with a huge card that everyone had signed over the last 2 days. Saori was also the leader of the Bulgarian dance group, and she’s another good friend of mine. She deserved a lot of praise because she worked so hard throughout the semester. After a short speech and lots of Arigatou gozaimashita [“Thank you very much”] and Otsukaresama deshita [“Thanks for all your hard work”], Hiromi, Miyu, Kaori and I left since we needed to catch one of the last buses back from Hirakata-shi.

It seems like so long ago that we were making decorations and posters, goofing around, and having a good time with each other. Now the weekend is over and a part of me wishes I could go back and do it again.



November 23, 2009. Uncategorized.

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