. Friday, March 16, 2018 .

As you may have heard, I'm down one camera for the next few days. My precious Sony A5000 has left us too soon, and I decided to sell it for parts in hopes of making a little cash to pay for my next one. Because of this tragic event, I've been left camera-less (aka contentless) for the next few days. 

With my camera gone, motivation fell to an all-time low. I had no idea what to write about and had no pictures to show for my posts. I started thinking of possible post ideas-- and then it hit me: 

I haven't rewritten my original goal statement from when I started Sincerely, Alice one year ago.

For those who weren't there back in the Stone Ages of Sincerely, Alice: this blog was started as a way to document my travels in Japan. I was keeping tabs on my linguistic growth as well as attempting to vlog the study abroad application process. This blog was here when I got accepted, packed my bags, and hopped on my one-way flight. 

However, I didn't have any goals for when I came back from Japan. I guess past Alice wasn't worried about it, since I thought I was going to be in Japan for a year. But now, sitting here in my parents home in New York, I realize that the direction of Sincerely, Alice might seem a bit... unclear.

If we're being honest with each other, blogging has been a bit of an 'inspiration has struck so now I'm writing 1000 words' kind of deal for me. Some weeks I was bursting with ideas for posts, others I could almost see the tumbleweed travel across my monitor. Despite me pestering friends and family on a weekly basis with 'What should I write about on my blog?', blogging has given me a creative outlet that I love. 

As fellow bloggers may know, the whole blogging process can be a bit of a trainwreck sometimes, especially when life offline starts to take over, but coming back to your blog, writing a post and seeing familiar faces in the comment section makes it all worthwhile.

So, if this is your first visit to Sincerely, Alice: allow me to introduce myself. 

My name is Alice, I'm a 20-year-old girl from New York who loves learning languages, hoarding empty notebooks, taking photos and singing karaoke in the car. I'm pretty short, only 5'0, and I decided to shave the sides of my head on impulse when I was in Shin Okubo, Tokyo. 

My blog is a big glob of me and my interests, and if you're into that and want to see another post, I typically write posts every 3 days, but that really depends on when inspiration decides to strike me.

If you like learning about language learning apps, traveling, vegan food, or the daily life of 20-year-old New Yorker, you've come to the right place! I also make Youtube videos, which you'll see linked here every once in a blue moon.

I thought it would be cute to create a mood board, I've never done one of these before so bear with me. This mood board is the fancy lifestyle I aim to live, but don't reeeaaalllyyy live right now. But, it's a mood! I would say the color palette is pretty accurate, as I tend to dress in earth tones. These images are all taken off of Tumblr, on a little blog I run that's mostly just a mood board image dumping ground.

Your regularly scheduled Alice content should return next week, and I hope to be coming at you fresh-faced, churning out some new post ideas! 

. Monday, March 12, 2018 .

I really enjoy watching 'Study with me' videos on Youtube, so I decided to try something new and record my own 'Study with me' video on how I like to study Japanese from reading various books. In the past, I wrote a guide on how to study, but I feel like a video articulates it way better, so I finally got around to making one!

If you're wondering why I have so many books, when I was in Hokkaido I visited Book Off and found some incredible deals, yet I haven't touched any of them up until recently. I thought it would be a great idea to crack open a new book and give a short tutorial on how I study and some tips that might help you if you're a language learner or avid reader. 

This is my first time doing anything like this, but I'm really happy with the result. It's kind of an ASMR style format because it's softly spoken, so I hope this short video can relax you and maybe inspire you to pick up a book!

Due to my camera being broken, I recorded this whole thing on my iPad, so it's a bit shaky at some parts. I did manage to get some great photos though, thanks Apple! 

Highlighter colors:
The highlighters are all Zebra mild ink color midliners purchased in Japan.
Mild Vermillion
Mild Gold
Mild Orange (I'm surprised because the color came off super peachy! But apparently it's Mild Orange :o )

Please let me know if you enjoy this style of video, I would love to make more! Filming this was a lot of fun, I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I loved throwing it together.

. Wednesday, March 7, 2018 .

Happy Wednesday! I'm coming to you from my comfy room because today is a snow day! I was given the day off because of the copious amount of snow falling in Albany, NY.

I realize that, since my return to NY, I haven't been sharing much about my language journey in Japanese. A few things have changed since Japan, so I wanted to talk about that before I segway into my next language learning challenge!

Originally, I was planning on studying for the JLPT N2, which is the Japanese Language Proficiency Test issued by the Japanese government. There are certain study sets that are created online to prep for this test, so I was planning on using that to increase my vocabulary. However, I don't plan on actually taking this test in the near future, so I decided to switch my goal to focus on a more Kanji-based curriculum and learn vocab from the new Kanji I encounter. 

To evaluate my progress, I'm going to take the J-CAT every 6 months or so. The J-CAT is like the JLPT, but it can be taken at home, in about an hour. It's totally free, but the results aren't as helpful to list on your resume compared to the JLPT.

I would normally use the app Kanji Study, which I did a review on in this post, however, they don't have an app for iPad, which is my main companion while I study. For that reason, I'll be trying out a new app, iKanji. I'll be exploring the limitations of their free app, and deciding if it's worth it to pay for premium. I reached out to the creator of Kanji Study for comment on when the iPad version will be released:

So let's get into the details of the challenge!

100 Days. I think this is juuuust long enough! I was throwing the idea of 20 weeks around, but I feel like 100 days feels less overwhelming.

 I plan to study all unknown Jōyō Kanji up to Grade 5. There are some scattered in Grade 2 and 3 that I don't feel confident about, but the focus will mainly be on Grade 4.

My goal is 10 kanji per week, similar to my previous Kanji Challenge. 

My main study methods will be the following: Using a notebook to write down study notes, paper flashcards to practice memorization, and of course: the iKanji app. I prefer to write things out on paper because I feel it helps me commit things to memory better!

I wanted to show off some cute graphics of my first 10 Kanji. These are Grade 2 level (the last two are Grade 3) that I know but don't feel totally confident with. I hope you like these little photos, I tried to make them very studyblr-esque! 

These are my 10 Kanji for the first week! I'm excited to get started, I hope you enjoyed these photos!

. Saturday, March 3, 2018 .
While I was in Japan I got to do some amazing interviews with friends, and so I have another episode of Shinjuku Stories that I'd like to share with you! This one is a little more lengthy but delves into a lot of the problems that international students commonly faced in Waseda University. Today's speaker is half Japanese, half English. I hope you enjoy! x

Disclaimer: All interviews are anonymous!

Q: So what's been your overall feeling about your study abroad so far, and how would you say that experience has impacted you. 

A: It's impacting me a lot because it's my first time living independently. It showed me what I'm capable of and not capable of. I'm more independent than I thought I was but I also know where I'm not; I know what my weaknesses are but it's not necessarily a bad thing to have those weaknesses.

I know that sometimes things are not my fault. I've been careful with my money and how I use it, but student life is hard. No matter how careful I've been I've still been out of pocket, so being in Japan I haven't really done much fun stuff. Luckily for me, I've done that fun stuff before but for a year abroad you should have fun at the same time. I believe I haven't had that at all, but I've had a lot of fun meeting people you know? Foreign people mostly.

I can't do all the things that I'd like to because money holds me back. Unfortunately, we can't just hang out in the dorms and watch a movie, we always have to go out to a coffee shop and pay 500 yen for a tiny drink or something. [Interviewers Note: Waseda Dorms do not allow visitors]

It's not my kind of thing because I've budgeted so much for this trip. Depending on the month, sometimes I can spend a thousand yen a day, sometimes it's only 5 or 6 hundred if I want to be okay. But that's me still being short on rent so I've learned with my money that I'm not the problem and that's cool to know. I know that I can live on my own and I also know that if I live in Japan in the future I need somebody here with me like a partner. That would stabilize me and get me through everything, I think.

Q: If money wasn't a problem how would that have changed your experience? 

A: If money wasn't a problem I'd probably be having a lot more fun. I would still be upset about how segregated we are from Japanese people so that wouldn't change that but I would probably be happier. I probably wouldn't be as depressed but I'd still be upset because we're not meeting Japanese people. There's only so much time we have to do things so some things are upsetting but in the end, I don't regret anything. 

Q: I noticed you mentioned that you can't meet Japanese people. Would you say that that's your biggest issue withWaseda? 

A: Yeah, I can't meet any Japanese people. It's so strange that you're surrounded by Japanese people, yet there's no opportunity to meet them and honestly, I don't really think they're interested in meeting me. I guess that's number one. As for the teachers, the some of the teachers are helpful and some are not. That's another big struggle. I honestly believe that every single class is useless except for the comprehensive Japanese course and maybe my kanji class. All the other classes are kind of a complete waste of time and effort. And they expect way too much from the student for a one-credit class. I feel like in one of our classes we do nothing in class but we get sheets upon sheets of homework and I don't understand why. I think Waseda needs to revamp their system and ask 'Is this homework going to help the students learn?'. So that's the biggest issue I have with Waseda. I feel like they haven't thought things out properly as to what would actually help the students learn. 

Q: Are you facing any problems with Japan as a country and society? 

A: So, because I'm really Western, I actually found it really hard to find a job because I have a nose piercing so my original issue was something superficial like that, I had a nose piercing and I had to take it out I was kind of sad but as soon as I took it out I got a job. 

Um, there are some racial issues but it's not all the time. I'd say like 30 or 20% of Japanese are really interested in knowing me but the majority are kind of too scared of me. They think of you more like an alien or even like a betrayer. And I think in that sense I got treated worse than a regular foreigner. One could easily say 'Oh that person's foreign so they won't understand' but with me, because they know I'm Japanese. they expect a lot from me and if I can't speak it properly, like even my own family even my cousin, they completely shut me out. They will say stuff in front of me like 'Oh why are you talking to her she doesn't understand a thing. Stop talking to her'. 

And they don't want to adapt to you. But I also think it depends on the people. In Tokyo, it's a bit different. Tokyo is much "in the bubble" and I never had a problem when I was on holiday here because I came with my family friends, but I think meeting people who are Japanese, like, they have no interest. And because I'm Japanese they're like 'wait... you're Japanese but you don't know it? What a joke'. And I get that vibe so I'm not comfortable meeting Japanese people sometimes because I feel like I have to prove myself. I do feel that pressure of being Japanese and not meeting their standards and I'm cracking under it already so I want to go home.

Q: Do think you'll ever feel like you truly belong?

A: I think that really depends on my circumstances. If I make friends. If I'm in a good area. There's a lot of ifs. I think it could happen. I'm not saying all the doors are closed for Japan. I mean I'm closing the door for Tokyo for now. I'm a bit sad to say that the door is closed for Tokyo, you know, I don't want to say it's closed but I think it's pretty much closed... Because I am Western. My thinking as Western and I'm too scared to speak the language because of the judgment. I'm terrified. So I guess it's kind of closed unless something random happens and I come out of my shell but I really don't see that happening. It's all about my confidence and my linguistic ability. I wouldn't want to bring up a child in Japan.

Q: Why is that?

A: It's just too different. The personalities and senses of humor are different. I think Japanese are very disciplined but I was disciplined as well. The reality is if you're part Western you're never going to make close friends. There's a family I know and they're Japanese but they've lived all over the world and have a lot of cultural experience. They have a daughter who's very hyper and excited who made everyone laugh and I thought it was great but she didn't seem very Japanese. In Japan she sticks out like a sore thumb. She sticks out to Japanese people and they're more about being the same over here.

If you want your child to be independent and strong I personally don't think that Japan is the place. It's kind of hard to word this, but my mom didn't want me to grow up in Japan either. She didn't want me to be so inhibited. She wanted me to be informed about the culture but she didn't want it to affect my personality, she wanted me to be confident and open.

When I younger, I was always fascinated with knowing I was Japanese. Growing up I thought I was more Japanese than English, so I think how my kids are raised is going to depend on how much of the culture I introduce to them. Because coming here, I see how Western I really am. I didn't realize all the traits that I have that make me not fit in as much as I thought I would. I think my kids would have the same issues that I have being here. I feel like I don't belong anywhere. 

Q: What would you say is the biggest benefit of you coming to Japan?

A: Finding myself. I'm still finding myself but it happened quite quickly here. I've learned so much in my 4-5 months here and it's been a rollercoaster. I feel like I've gone out of the box a little bit with my learning by studying abroad. So I'm understanding a lot more about friendship and long distance relationships, I just feel like I've learned so much. I don't regret anything. I know my limits, and I've learned what I like and what I don't like. And I know when it's time to go home.

. Wednesday, February 28, 2018 .

I visited Ueno Zoo while I was in Japan, and it was one of the worst zoo experiences I've ever had.

In my latest vlog, I explain via subtitles that some animals were kept completely alone in their enclosures, namely the Panda. It was really sad to see that this animal was not only totally alone but so bored that she walked in the same pattern for hours on end, only stopping when she was given food. As someone who has always wanted to see a panda in real life, this broke my heart. I came to this zoo specifically to see pandas, but I saw one panda for just a few minutes, and nothing else.

In the video, you can hear everyone go 'Awww' as the panda walks away and begins to circle the area again. This continued for the entire 30 minutes I stood, waiting at the enclosure.

All the animals walked exactly the same way, pacing around the door where they are given food, for hours on end. There was barely any animal interaction, and we didn't see any of them really playing with each other except the monkeys.

The enclosures themselves were also quite small. Ueno Zoo is sort of plopped in a random place in Tokyo, connected to a park. I feel like they could expand further and give the animals more space. The elephants, in particular, seemed so restrained.

Ueno Zoo is a really hot spot for babies because they get in for free. I think the best part of this place is that you can see tons of adorable children. If you want to see a ton of kids, I recommend Ueno Zoo.
If you want to see lonely animals in small enclosures pace back and forth for hours, I also recommend Ueno Zoo.