Japanese hiragana

Here are some mnemonics to help with learning Japanese hiragana – which is a good place (just before katakana) to start learning written Japanese (Check out this hiragana chart, and this one, too!):

  • あ – a: Looks like a man with a snake wrapped around him screaming “AAAA!”
  • い – i: Looks like a pair of legs, perhaps kicking something that goes “IIII!”
  • う – u: Looks like a child pointing out a toy he wants to his mother and going “UUUU!”
  • え – e: Looks like a woman putting her hand up and walking away from a man she’s not interested in and going “Eh…”
  • お – o: Looks like a man rowing a boat with his “O”ar.
  • か – ka: Looks like a man doing a backflip! It’s amazing that he “K”an do that!
  • き – ki: Looks like a skeleton “KI”y!
  • く – ku: Looks like a bird’s beak that is “KU-KU”ing!
  • け – ke: Looks like one person carrying something, and another person asking to help. Alternatively, looks like a “KE”g.
  • こ – ko: Looks like a “KO”iled spring.
  • さ – sa: Looks like a guy with a big, “SA”gging belly!
  • し – shi: “SHI” has long hair!
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My 2012 in pictures

2012 was simultaneously long and short, but either way, it was a very, very eventful year for me:

The Netherlands Part I

A windmill in Leiden, the Netherlands

I started the year off still in Dutchville on my December 10th – January 7th trip to the Netherlands. This was the first time I had ever left my own country at all, much less gone to Europe. I watched bikes regularly come within centimeters of cars, witnessed just how liberal Amsterdam is, and participated in and saw the aftermath of New Year’s fireworks as well as an awesome example of the extreme efficiency of public transportation. I ate a ton of new food and had the best, barely-modified meat I’d ever had. I learned a lot about water control and saw many times over how the Dutch control water levels very intimately (the Dutch will regularly live barely a few inches above canals!) and I fell in love with the environmentally-friendly and effective way in which the entire country operates (not only do you bag your own groceries, but stores don’t even offer plastic bags, only reusable! If you don’t bring one to the store, you have to pay a quarter or so to get one). I went to the store a bajillion times a week like the Dutch and got a lot of practice in listening to the language. I felt the Netherlands become my second home. I watched Eurovision for the first time. And I experienced a friend group much like the ones I have in Florida and felt completely at ease in my new surroundings.

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Reverse culture shock

Atop Stoltzekleiven in Bergen

Hello everyone! I’d like to take this post to discuss a phenomenon I’ve always wished to experience (and now finally have): reverse culture shock.

It’s easy to find stories of culture shock; people go to new places and see new things and meet new people and start new activities and it’s completely understandable given that they’re not used to these new ways of doing things. While it’s indeed an interesting phenomenon in and of itself, I feel it pales in comparison to the psychology behind reverse culture shock; that is, coming back to your country of birth and feeling as if it’s a foreign country.

Coming back from the mountains of Norway, I experienced this. I set foot in the Orlando, Florida airport and was immediately struck by the large amount of Disney advertising everywhere. Yeah, sure, Disney and theme parks, a common thing to advertise and see in Orlando. But it went much further than that: I stepped outside, and it was hot. In actuality, it was only about 23 C (74 F), but the air was wet and heavy, something some people call “muggy”, the kind of weather that makes warm weather feel hot and cool weather feel cold. I felt damp to my core, dunked underwater by some unseen force – this was a marked difference from Norway! Norway doesn’t have nearly as much humidity as Florida, despite it having ample water surrounding it all the same. Norway’s winter was relatively dry compared to those of Florida (if Florida can even be considered to have a true “winter” :P). As I went on through the week following that initial airport landing, I noticed more things, like a thick loaf of bread half my height that cost a mere $1.59. After being away for three months, I couldn’t help but think upon my return: is this really the country I’ve been living in all these years? Here are some of my observations:

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