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Today, I volunteered to partake in community lessons. The topic of today was taught by Nick Giannini, and it was about the comparison of comic books between the United States and Japan. As simple as this topic may have seemed, the community members were very excited about it, and it gave them a chance to practice speaking English regarding a topic that they are aware of and that interests them. Some of the community members are beginning to recognize me, and they are always so happy to see me. Generally, the people here are hospitable and friendly in every way imaginable, especially the community members. They are excited to not only use their English when they come to the lessons, but they are jubilant when they are able to connect with us teachers further through Line or Facebook so that we can hang out outside of these community lessons. They are nothing short of welcoming, making the initial transition to living in Japan so much easier and smoother.
Also today, I did karaoke for the first time. Like, really sang in front of other human beings with a mic. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d feel comfortable enough to do so because, as some privileged people know, I cannot sing or even keep a beat to save my life. However, I went to a karaoke entertaining place with my newly made friends, and we sang all the 90’s songs imaginable, re-living our emo and alternative rock middle school years (yes, Smash Mouth was an obvious must-do). Honestly, I never listened to most of those songs that were popular back then, but I still enjoyed my time spent with everyone else.
There are many places in Japan solely dedicated to karaoke, almost as many as there are arcades. Basically, you go to the front counter and request a room for so many people and for a specific amount of time. The rooms are roughly the size of an average-sized American restroom. There is a flat screen on the wall that the door is on, there is a booth table that is as wide as the room, and there is a tablet allowing you to search and pick songs. Initially walking in, it may look as though the room and booth can only seat four people. However, that day, we fit ten people into that small space. I came to karaoke not planning to sing but to observe and listen. However, Kevin pointed out some songs by the Lumineers and Mumford and Sons, so we sang a couple of those songs together, both not really knowing the lyrics or melody but enjoying our time. That was the beginning of our friendship, starting from similar music preferences.
This night was the night when the typhoon would hit us, and as part of tradition, many of us gather in the community room of the Shirasagi Residence to watch movies or play board games together. Tonight, some of us played Betrayal at House on a Hill while others played Settlers of Catan. I think we can all assume that I chose to play Settlers of Catan. For those wondering, Settlers of Catan is a strategic, manipulative, charisma-required game that ruins friendships and breaks bonds faster than Monopoly and Risk combined; I love it. This was the first of many Catan games I would play while in Japan. During this game, I was playing with all experienced players who knew the rules, so I cannot take any blame for their poor choices... for the most part. Regardless, I won by a landslide, winning by twice as many victory points as everyone else within an hour and a half. I think I broke some spirits while using three or four monopoly cards throughout the game. But, friendships were reconciled by a couple games of mafia to end the night. It was a great day getting to know everyone a bit better and talking to people I have yet to talk to in the apartment complex.