Saturday, June 24, 2017

Nagoya Meshi: Misokatsu

Hi, friends! It's time for another blog post from yours truly!

I'll be talking about Nagoya meshi today - local cuisine in Nagoya, Japan that is unique to this region. Many of these dishes are variations of typical Japanese foods. The flavor of Nagoya meshi tend to be on the strong side. Mamemiso, hatcho miso, and red miso are often used in these dishes. Mamemiso is made with soy beans, salt, and water. Compared to other varieties of miso, it is darker (a brown closer to black) and not as sweet. Nagoya's miso soup uses this miso. When it comes to the prices of these dishes, they can range from inexpensive to expensive.

Misokatsu from Yabaton - a famous misokatsu restaurant in the region (from what I've heard). We waited in a line that went around the restaurant! It went by much more quickly than I expected though. I ordered this misokatsu with rice and miso soup as a set for $11.

One of the most popular dishes (and so far my favorite one) is misokatsu. Misokatsu is thick, salty-sweet red miso sauce poured over tonkatsu (deep fried breaded pork cutlet). The sauce is made from miso, bonito fish stock, and sugar. Misokatsu is also delicious with toppings such as Japanese mustard, mayonnaise, and sesame seeds. It's honestly worth trying misokatsu several times, as the flavor and consistency of the miso sauce, toppings, and the thickness of the katsu varies from place to place.

Misokatsu from one of my university's cafeterias! You can very clearly see the difference in the miso sauce compared to the one from Yabaton. This misokatsu was topped on a bed of rice and it cost just $4.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Nagoya, please take the time to try Nagoya meshi!

Other Nagoya meshi:

  • Tebasaki (Japanese-style fried chicken)
  • Ogura Toast (red bean paste on toast)
  • Ankake Spaghetti (spaghetti with a spicy and sticky sauce)
  • Miso Nikomi Udon (noodles in miso broth)
  • (and so much more!)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Welcome to Incoming 2017 Students

As you’re beginning to prepare for your time at Maryville College, you may be wondering how to find out a little bit more about what’s on campus and the surrounding area.

Maryville College is known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience, all while building a community of students, staff and faculty that will help you along the way.
picture of Barlett Hall atrium with international flags hanging
Bartlett Hall with flags representing all of the students on campus
Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation in partnership with others. Founded in 1819, Maryville is the 12th oldest college in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Maryville College has about 1,200 students, representing approximately 40 states, the District of Columbia and 30 other countries. To take a virtual tour of campus before you arrive, go here and click on the “Tours” tab. You’ll be able to watch videos about the campus and do small photo tours for some buildings.

In Maryville, there are many things to do within walking distance. If you’re a coffee lover, you may want to visit Vienna Coffeehouse for a cup of Joe or to see one of their many live music performances. There are also many restaurants, cafes and shops downtown and beyond. In the early Fall and late Spring, Maryville hosts a small Farmers Market on Saturday mornings where you can explore local produce, baked goods and other delicacies. If you like being active and outdoors, you’ll love Maryville’s Greenway, a system of biking and walking paths around Maryville and Alcoa. A short drive away there is also Foothills Mall, a small mall with shops, department stores, and a movie theater. In neighboring Alcoa, there are many shops, restaurants and supermarkets that are easily accessible by car.
Maryville Downtown
Maryville Downtown and Greenway

Outside of Maryville, there are many fun and interesting places to visit close by. Knoxville is just a 30-minute drive from Maryville and has many fun things to do. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is an excellent way to reconnect with nature and is a short drive away.

Get ready to explore this coming year because eastern Tennessee has a lot to offer!

Foreground: Anderson Hall (the oldest building on campus!)
Background: Great Smoky Mountains

Monday, June 19, 2017

by Brittney Mack
Nagoya, Japan

I was so excited to come to Japan, but as soon as I landed in Tokyo I had a few issues. First, in the U.S., my luggage goes directly to my final destination, which in this case was Nagoya. So I didn’t grab my check-in luggage at the Tokyo airport. I later realized that I needed to grab my luggage and recheck it in even though I wasn’t going far. I had a difficult time trying to find my bag and was worried I would miss my flight. I eventually found it and received a new ticket which was different from my original. It took me to Nagoya but, an hour later than I expected. As a result, my pick-up service was no longer available. I freaked out for a bit, but it was late and I had to be at the dorm before 10p.m. So I immediately got a taxi to the school. Luckily, I had yen on me and the address in Japanese. Once I got to the dorm, my Japanese was put to the test. The caregiver was explaining the rules and how things worked. I got the just though I barely understood. I began to think about how much I would struggle with my level of Japanese. I worried about the kinds and cost of food, transportation, and books for my classes. I was the only one in my dorm room that night, so I spent my first night in Japan alone. I felt very homesick.

However, I felt significantly better the next day. I walked around the area and found the campus stores, the supermarket, and the subway station. I also met some friends and my Japanese roommate, Yukimi. Since then, I’ve met many more people and now feel comfortable living here. Also I have been enjoying my classes and my community. Now, I almost don’t want to go home.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Beginning of the Prague Experience

My first two weeks in Prague have been a blur. I do not only have a great opportunity but I am also in a great atmosphere. I get to learn in the beautiful, old city of Prague. While I enjoy living in this city, and in this great apartment, there is still a lot to get used to. The first major adjustment is being a small town girl in a city. It is much louder and busier than what I am used to but the change in pace is welcome. The language barrier is not a major burden considering many people in Prague speak English or, at the very least, can understand me. We were also given a short lesson on some important words to know in Czech. Thankfully, History of the English Language has proven to be useful when it comes to pronouncing these words and phrases. 
Food is another thing which I will have to adjust. While McDonald's appears to be universal and the local restaurants offer some of the best food I've ever tasted, I am not used to the limited selection of products in the grocery stores. Grocery stores in cities tend to be lacking, especially when grocery stores tend to just be mini markets, but it is also compounded by the different, and missing, brands and packaging in Central Europe. However, this is a welcome challenge as I get to test my cooking skills. I look forward to being challenged over the course of my time here. This is a great opportunity to learn and grow and I am glad I made this decision. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trash in Japan

Before I left on my study abroad trip, I had heard about how difficult sorting trash in Japan was. I had no idea it was this complicated though.

Trash is sorted into different categories - the ones I've used the most are empty cans, pet bottles, burnable garbage, glass, and plastic containers/packaging. Trash categories are typically labeled somewhere on an item itself or the label. Depending on the area you live in, each category of trash is collected on a different day. It's very important to have your town's trash guide, because each town and district has completely different systems. Also, different categories require certain designated bags that you have to purchase at the store. Not only do you need to sort your garbage, you also need to clean it. Pet bottles, glass bottles, and plastic containers need to be rinsed out and completely empty before you throw them away.

You must be thinking why trash collection is so tedious here. Well, the fact is that there is a lack of land suitable for landfill. When it comes to the United States, it has much more land to use for landfill.

After I drink a bottle of Coke, I rinse the inside of the bottle, throw the cap away in the plastic trash container, pull the plastic label off, throw the plastic label into the plastic trash container, and then the bottle is disposed in the pet bottle trash container. When it's time for glass bottle collection, I have to walk a few meters away from my dormitory to throw the glass bottles away in a bin on the street.

At supermarkets in Japan, plastic bags are three-five cents a piece. Everyone typically brings an eco-friendly bag for their groceries. In addition, trash bins in public are very scarce. Unless you're at a convenience store or at the subway station, it is very likely you'll have to wait until you arrive at your destination to throw away your trash.

I went to a cafe at Nagoya University this past weekend, and this is what the trash section looked like.

On the left, you throw out what's left of your drink (if any), and then place the cups on the tray so it can be sorted accordingly. Other restaurants/cafes follow the same rule, so it can be quite nerve wracking if you are new to this kind of trash system!

Until next time! 👋

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Every Ending is a New Beginning


A lot has happened within the past two weeks. I finished my exams and have enjoyed the now-pleasant weather that has come with summer "vacance" (though the chill in the air is comparable to springtime back home). Now, I sit in my bare-bones dorm room, writing to you one last time from France. My semester here has come to an end, and in an hour, I will leave the place I have called home for the past few months. The is a bittersweet time for me, because I know I will miss this place-and not just that. The people I've met during my time here have been the best part about studying abroad.

Whether it was international students like me, or native French people, I have come to know and love such a diverse group. As we all return to our little corners of the world, I see a piece of myself also returning to those places, and one day, I hope to follow my heart to every single one of those countries.

My adventures here in Europe are far from over. I will be attending my first French music festival this weekend, and then, I will fly off to Rome for a few days of solo travel. As this is my first time traveling alone, I am both quite nervous and excited. Whether or not I am able to write a blog about that last little adventure, I know that, come the fall semester, my heart will be gushing with tales to tell and memories to relive as I assume my position as Study Abroad Ambassador Co-Chair.

I am so lucky to have gained such a position that will allow be to work with I-House and be involved with my fellow students, so, for those of you attending Maryville College this coming year, I encourage you to ask me your questions about my own study abroad adventure or about what you can do to follow your heart on your own adventure abroad.

When I first arrived here, I was scared, but one of my classmates, a girl from China, did not see my fear. When learning that I had come to France by myself, she remarked that I had a "muscle" heart. I do not feel as though there was much courage in me, but pushing through the fear, I now understand that what I did was courageous, but also, necessary.  I remember using this quote by Judith Hanson Lasater to get me through:
"Which do you want: The pain of staying where you are, or the pain of growth?"

I have grown in my time here. I have no doubt of that. So, now I ask you the same question: "Which do you want: the pain of staying where you are, or the pain of growth?"

Embark on your own adventures, whether within your city, state, country, or world. Do it. In this, you will finally "Vivre Libre" (Live Free).

I now say "Au revoir" and hope that, if nothing else, I have shown you the beauty of travel, of people, and of life itself.

 -Albrianna Jenkins

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Japan is Weird

"10 Reasons Why Japan is So Weird!"

"Why did you want to go to Japan? It's so weird there."

"Look at what weird thing Japan has!"

When people talk about Japan, it's usually about how weird it is. "They have robots everywhere! Their clothing are so outrageous and out there!" Even when talking about my study abroad, people were confused on why I would want to go here since it's so weird.

I've come to the conclusion that Japan is not weird.

The things you hear about that make Japan weird belong to an extreme niche of people. One of the prime examples of weirdness is that there is a vending machine that gives out female underwear. I have yet to see a vending machine that even has food in it, let alone underwear. I'm more than sure that this vending machine is an outlier. I also know that Japanese people find this weird as well. So how can we claim an entire culture 'weird' based on something that natives even consider weird?

It's not just the actual weird stuff that gets called weird. During my stay here, I often hear people describe something different as weird. Heck, even I catch myself saying it. It's the little things, like bagging your own groceries or having to give money on a plate instead of in their hand. If Japan isn't weird, than what is it?

It's different.

It's a different culture. They like different things. They experience things different than us. If we come at it from an American view, of course it's going to be strange to us. But I'm not here to look through the eyes of an American. Yes, my American view will come through, that's inevitable, but I can at least try and understand from a Japanese perspective. The reason why you place money in a plate first is so that the money doesn't get dirty. They even run coins through a washer in the cash register sometimes. This isn't weird. Instead it showcases the cleanliness that's so important to the Japanese people.

By keeping in this perspective, it ends up damaging your experience. You actively keep your self from growing.You have to realize that everyone can see the same object, and interpret it differently. That doesn't mean it's weird. Instead, it showcases their backgrounds. By exploring their backgrounds, you gain a much firmer and better understanding of them. The same can be same for cultures. By exploring it, instead of limiting yourself because it's weird, let's you understand better.

Unfortunately, this mindset of weird in a way is harming Japan. People outside of the country view them as the things that even they view as weird. Like everyone wants underwear from a vending machine. So for foreigners, the Japanese are these weird people. Why visit if they are so weird? They are missing the deep and complex culture that's here in favor for touristy (like robot fighting) and exaggerated experiences, because that's "Japan". 

Japan is a fantastic country. It has it's quirks, just like any country, but it's certainly not this weird out of space place the internet likes to make it out to be. Like any country, it's just different. But different can become familiarity, like how it's become for me. So if we keep that in mind, we can all gain and learn more from each other, and gain a better appreciation for each other. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I'm Coming Home a Mermaid. Blame France.


Here in France, the days are finally getting warmer, and the school year is coming to an end. I have only two exams that stand between now and the freedom of summer break (and Italy!!). While this is exciting, I am also sadly watching each day slip by, knowing I must leave this country soon and head home.

I admit, it feels strange to call the U.S. "home" when, for the past few months, Caen has been that place for me. I feel like a real-life mermaid, not completely belonging to either country, and yet, my heart resides in both. (Here, I could honestly break into the "Part of Your World" song and find it perfectly fitting.) I've already practice-packed and decided what to keep and what to donate. There are many things I'd like to take back with me, and while I may pack some souvenirs and take with me all the memories and the growth I have undergone, some things just can't fit into my rolling suitcase.

The glorious baguettes and exceptional coffee would be impossible to pack. For one, by the time I touched down from my nine-hour flight, it is quite possible that the lovely morsel of fresh-baked goodness will have become stone-hard and considered a weapon by the U.S. customs. Concerning the coffee, realistically, I would have downed it as soon as I bought it.

The friends I have made here absolutely make this list. If they could even fit in my luggage, I would've considered taking them with me (even facing an extreme weight-limit surplus charge when boarding). I am so thankful that social media exists, so that I don't have to truly leave them here!

 There are also certain French values I'd love for the U.S. to adopt: the appreciation of art, education, food, and traveling, the intolerance of fake friends, and the importance placed on living happily.

This last quality was one that I found to be quite difficult. I came from a calendar-oriented life to a life of cute cafes, numerous dogs, and many places to sit down and just breathe. I am not saying that every aspect of adjusting to France was easy. Even now, I feel restless at times, but the culture has shown me the value of being happy in each moment. Why else would so many cafes, public pianos, macaroons, park benches, and pretty fountains exist here?

It could be easy, in this state of living, to imagine a whole long life ahead of me, a future of infinite possibilities and uncountable adventures. That could even be true, but recent events have shown me the reality of life-life and death. My Maryville College community lost a truly amazing soul only a week ago. I lost a fellow Bonner-scholar, a bright shining light on the campus, and an example of someone who seemed to love life with his every breath. Xavier Sales impacted many of our lives and our hearts. His smile was the most genuine and his laugh, the most contagious. He spread love and respect, and all the way from France, my heart mourns for him, his family, his friends, my college community.

I will return from France a changed person, that mermaid. I am torn between two worlds, but I am more appreciative, more understanding, and more excited than I have ever been to live life as happily as I can. I admire Xavier's way of giving love and respect, and I hope more of that shows in me as well. This post has made my heart heavy, but my heart is also full and for that, I am the most thankful.

 A bientot. -Albrianna

Monday, May 8, 2017

Food for Thought


First, I must announce that the new president of France will be Emmanuel Macron and not Marine Le Pen! You, as an American or person of another nationality, might be wondering "Why does this matter?" and to that I will answer: It matters because what is happening on the other side of the world DOES matter. Even if you are unable to see the events, even if they don't directly affect you, it matters to be aware and informed. Of course, I cannot claim to be informed of the political events of every country in the world, but it doesn't hurt to look at the world outside of our own backyards every now and then.

I was talking to a new friend that I had the privilege of meeting during my trip to the U.K. about the United States and our lack of knowledge about the world outside our borders. Of course, I can only speak for myself when I admit that before traveling to France, I had no idea which little dot on the map was really the country. Even within the U.S., I'm not sure I could label every state on a map (Trust me, I failed my 5th grade U.S. geography test.)

What I mean to point out is that traveling broadens the mind, the heart, and the soul. It allows you to become emotionally invested in the world outside of your own four walls. It is possible, even, to tap into your curiosity and empathy without purchasing that oh-so-expensive plane ticket! Find a pen-pal. Support a charity that helps in foreign aide. Recently, there was a French man named Jerome Jarre who began the hashtag: #SaveSomalia. This spread awareness about the drought and famine in the country. Good things can happen when people are aware of the need. To be aware, one must be watching, reading, and updating.

I shared in my last blog post my newest goal to go to Italy and as of today, I have booked all necessary flights, train tickets, and hostel stays to do so. I have only 35 days remaining to spend on this side of the Atlantic, and I will live each one to the fullest. A few of those days will be exam days, as I finish my semester here at UniCaen. One of the days will be spent at a French music festival. I will have a few days in Italy, a few days in Versailles, and the very last will be spent in Paris-the city that now owns my heart.

As a concluding thought, I leave you with these wise words of Mark Twain:
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

A bientot. -Albrianna Jenkins

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Meeting My Home Visit Family

The weekend after spring break I finally met my home visit family! Now, a home visit family is different from a homestay family. The home visit program is only available for those living in a seminar house/dorm. This way, those living in a dorm can experience having a family in Japan and see how family life works in Japan. Due to spring and winter break, I wasn't able to meet my home visit family until two weeks ago. It was great to finally meet them!

Before officially meeting everyone, I met my home visit sisters in Umeda station in Osaka. Riko is a fellow Kansai Gaidai student. In fact, all the home visit families have one student from Kansai Gaidai. Riko is a sophomore here. She has a little sister, Rui, who is nine and a younger brother, Sho, who is fifteen. Riko and Rui were there at Umeda station to meet up with me.

After about 15 minutes in trying to find each other in the train station, we finally meet up with each other and head towards Hep5, the shopping mall with the ferris wheel on top that I talked about in the beginning of my blog posts. Here, we ate a little dessert at the Gutatama Cafe, or Lazy Egg as it's known in the States. Riko and I both had this delicious cake, while Rui had a hot chocolate with a design on it.


After our little sweet break, we moved on to the Sky Bridge Buildings across the street. The two buildings are connected via two escalators. It's pretty thrilling! On the roof, there's a magnificent view of Osaka.







It's now time for dinner! We take the train for about an hour to the local train station. Riko's mom met us there and drove us to their house. It's a lot smaller than my house back home, but it's perfect for Japan. Out of necessity, most houses are small. After taking off my shoes, they showed me their living room. Instead of a couch, they have a heated, plush carpet type mat. The dad and brother were sitting there waiting to met me when the mom was just a couple of feet away in the kitchen. I sat down and tried my best to talk to the rest of the family. Sho and Riko are the only ones who really know English, with the mom and dad knowing only a few words here and there. Rui is still too young to learn English in school.

In Japan, the culture revolves around gift giving. If you go on vacation, you are expected to return with a gift for friends, family, and even coworkers. That's why a lot of the stores in Disneyland had boxes of food and souvenirs, or omiyagai. So to follow this gift giving culture, I gave my home visit family two gifts. One was a tin of chocolates from Disney Sea. I knew that if nothing else, Rui would love it. The second gift was much more special. I give them a little carved bear from Dollywood. It's a link both to my family, since my Papa To (grandpa) was a carpenter, and to my home, since it was from Dollywood and a black bear. I tried my best to explain this in Japanese, though Riko jumped in a couple of times to explain better.

After giving my gifts, we had dinner. Mom, you're going to be so proud. I had a salad and ate it all. I really don't like salad. In Japan, it's extremely rude to not eat everything on your plate. This led a wonderful conversation about salad dressing. They use Japanese mayo for dressing. It's a little different than our mayo. The family was shocked when I said we use honey mustard for salad dressing. I mentioned McDonald's to describe what honey mustard was. This then led to a everyone trying to mimic how I say McDonald's for about five minutes. In Japanese, McDonald's is pronounced almost like it's MacDonald's. So everyone around the table just kept on trying to say Mc instead. We also talked about my family. While talking, the food was so good. It was really nice to have a homemade meal that I didn't make. There was even a dish with potatoes! The mom asked what I liked and was very impressed when I said I liked basically all Japanese food, including raw fish.

Following dinner, I was invited upstairs to Riko's room. I was very surprised, because traditionally, you don't invite people up to their rooms. I was very honored. The four of us, the kids and I, entered the room and played card games. They wanted me to teach them some American card games. Me, being the big gamer I am, was thrilled!! So I taught them the number one card game in America, Go Fish. It's a simple game. Since my Japanese is not good enough to explain, I ended up explaining in English with Sho and Riko understanding, and then translating for Rui. We all had fun with the classic card game! I found out that they call Jack, Queen, King, and Ace, by numbers such as 11, 12, 13, and 14. They then teach me so Japanese card games and also perform a magic trick for me. It was fun sharing games from each other's cultures.

I had such a fun time meeting my home visit family. They were so opening and welcoming for me, which I very much appreciated. I can't wait to meet them again this coming month!!