Dillon Birdsall
2007-08 Outbound to Japan

Hometown: Palm Coast, Florida
School: Matanzas High School
Sponsor: Flagler Beach Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Nomi Rotary Club
         District 2610, Ishikawa, Japan

Dillon's Bio

Konnichiwa!, my name is Dillon Birdsall, I was born in Connecticut, grew up in a small town in Kingfield, Maine, and now reside in Palm Coast, Florida. I go to Matanzas High School in which I am a sophomore.

I have lots of hobbies and things I like to do. First and foremost I love to make people laugh. I want to be an actor/comedian when I get older, so getting to act and making people laugh is something very near and dear to my heart. I think the reason why I love making people laugh so much is because it makes me feel good to know that I made you happy and laughing, even if you're having a bad day.

I also live for comic books. My whole room is filled to the brim with comic books and comic book memorabilia. I like comics because they combine great art with a really good story, not only that but they look cool. On the same note I really like drawing, I hope some day that I might be good enough to draw my own comics. I'll let you guys in on a little secret: one of the real reasons I wanted to go to Japan is just to read all the comics they have.

Another one of my hobbies is cooking. I love to make food for my friends and family. Food and family have always been the same thing to me. My family lives to eat, we don't eat to live. I'm also a big lover of animals, most of all reptiles (snakes, turtles), but I also think birds and mammals are really cool too. Along with everything else I love to travel. The world is an amazing place and I want to see as much of it as I can.

Well, what's left to say, I’m a six foot three actor/comedian, who can't get enough comic books, drawing, cooking, animals, and travel. So see you later.



August 28 Journal

 Dillon B SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME JAPAN ADVENTURES PART 1

It is Friday, August 17 at 4:30 in the morning. I have been up all night trying to get on Japanese time and in the process make myself very tried. My parents are getting ready to leave, so am I. I look around my house and say goodbye to my pets, room, and home. I feel a weird combination of emotions as I hear my parents telling me it's time to go. My bags are in the trunk - I have every thing I need for a year all in two 50 pound bags.

The car ride to the Jacksonville Airport is a happy one with me and my parents telling jokes and thinking on how just a few mounts ago I was not an exchange student and what my year would be like if I was not leaving. We arrive at the Airport at 6:00 and after checking my bags and getting my tickets it's 6:30. I am not nervous or sad or scared. I am more disembodied as we go sit in the food court. We talk more about how amazing this is going to be and how everything is going to be ok. Josh calls and tells me he is at the airport and that he will be there soon. I only have one hour left. Josh and I talk and take some pictures. I have 45 min left and I need to get past security. I am told only one of my parents can come with me to the gate. I can not choose but my mom tells me that my Dad would really love to be with me to the end and that she will be ok. She is holding back tears, she knows how I hate to see people sad. I hug her and kiss her and tell her that I love her and I will truly miss her. She cries but smiles as me and my father pass security and head to my gate. I only have 20 min left. I sit and talk with my dad until I have no more time left. The plane is boarding and I have to go. I have to be strong. I am determined not to cry but I look at my Father and see silent tears running down his face. This is the first time I have ever seen him cry, I break a little and let out a sob. I tell him I love him and he hugs me very hard and tells me he loves me too. With a tearful eye I board the plane. I fell sad/excited/happy/nervous, and relaxed all at the same time as the plane takes off for my adventure.

The flight to Chicago goes fine. It's only four hours. I am getting ready for the 13 hour flight to come. I arrive In Chicago and head to my gate; I meet Mr. Bokoff and then call my parents to say that the flight went fine. Soon after I meet up with all the other exchange students going to Japan. There are 26 of us in all and every one is very nice. Before you know it, it's time to board the plane, and before you know it, it's time to get off the plane again. But not in Japan. We are still in Chicago - the plane broke down, we are not sure how but it had something to do with the engine. Oh, did I mention we sat on the broken plane for two and a half hours? We get off the plane and head to our new terminal. The next flight they can get us will take four hours. It was ok though - in those four I get to know the other exchange students a lot better. Time passes quickly and soon we are on the plane and taking off. The flight goes fine or as fine as a 13 hour flight can go. Now comes the fun part.

We arrive in Japan at 6:45 pm local time. We have to go to the passport check-in area and we are all very excited. The Airport is very clean and bright. Large Japanese signs look down on us as we make our way to the passport check. All of us are so happy to be there we can hardly stand it. After checking in we head to bag claim. This is where my story gets very very interesting. The time is now 7:00. I have to get on a connecting flight to another Airport at 7:30. I need to get my bags and run to my gate. At the gate I am going to meet a Japanese man who will help me get on the right flight. But that dream is just that: a dream, well getting my bags I see my name on a large sign rotating around the bag claim conveyer belt. So I go to the bag claim officer, she soon tells me I need to get on a bus and go to terminal two. What!!!! What about the guy who was going to help me and about me running to the gate and not having to worry? TOO BAD. So I go where the women is pushing me to go. Oh by the way all the other exchange students are gone. Where did they go, I have no clue.

So I get on the bus and head to Terminal 2. On the bus I look at my watch and see that it's 7:15, how in the wide world am I going to get out of this one. The bus stops at Terminal 2, and I rush off. This Airport is huge so I head to the giant green sign that says information, and ask for directions to my gate. This is funny, thankfully the Info ladies know English.They tell me that no flights go out of Terminal 2, and that my flight has already left. Yes that's right, I am in a Japanese Airport, I cannot speck Japanese well and the words I do know are no help. Oh man what am I going to do, well, call Bokoff Kaplan they will know that to do. But wait, my phone card is not working and the phone is in Japanese!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Calm down ask for help, get it (those poor info ladies thank god for them). They show me a machine that sells phone cards I have some yen and buy two. I call Bokoff but guess what they are not open on Saturdays, HAHAHAHAHAHAH its is just one thing after another. I then call my parents and they have a brilliant idea. The man I was supposed to meet, he must still be at the airport do an all call over the airport intercoms. YES that might just work; in fact it did work thank you mom and dad.

The man I meet is Hanade and he is extremely nice. He was an exchange student so he is fluent in English. He calls my host family and tells them that I will be there tomorrow at 11. He then tells me we need to stay at a hotel for the night, we do. The hotel is very pretty but I am so exhausted it does not really hit me. I get my room key and head up the elevators, the whole time thanking my Japanese savior, we say good night and I go to my room. Hanade is in the room next to me by the way. My room is nice, but I am so sleepy I barely notice. The minute my head hits the pillow I am asleep. What a day. God, I don't want to do that again.

OH, look at all I have typed, Well next Time ON Dillon B SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME JAPAN ADVENTURES Part 2, I meet my host Family, the Mayor, and my whole town.


September 19 Journal

 Dillon B SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME JAPAN ADVENTURES Part 2

HELLO FROM JAPAN. There is so much to say I really don’t know where to start. Well I have been in Japan for little over a month, and so much has happened in that month it is hard to tell it. But let's begin where we left off last journal.

I wake early the next morning and realize I'm not in my bed, Oh yeah I'm in Japan. I then remember last night and laugh, that’s all you can do really - take the good with the bad, you know. I look out my hotel window on to a beautiful sunrise. I now know why Japan is called the land of the rising sun. Fast forward ... I wake up Hanade, we eat and then get on a bus to go to the airport. We are told that we need to get on a bus and take an hour ride to another airport but is ok. I am happy to see some of my fellow exchange students. They missed their flights too and they also have to take the bus. The bus trip passes quick, I then check in, give my bags up, and say a thousand thank yous and a few goodbyes to Hanade and the other exchange students. I head to my gate and wait for about 10 min and then board my plane. The plane is small and the seats are less than comfy but the flight is only 45 min so I just deal with it. I also notice every one on the plane looking at me. I don’t care - I'm so happy that I will see my host family, I cannot wait. 45 min goes quick and as quick as a fox the plane touches down. The airport is tiny so I won't get lost this time. I pick up my bags and see a very happy sight; there they are, my host family and other Rotary members, 12 in all. It feels great to have so many people happy to see you. I say hello in Japanese and they all clap. I shake hands and take business cards. My host father calls my parents, we talk for a minute and then I say goodbye. My host family tells me it is time to go home and I am happy to hear it. I am exhausted and would love to sleep (still being on American time). Words cannot express how happy I was to be in Japan and be with my host family.

Like I said before, I have done so much in this one month, it is impossible to tell it all, so I will tell my high lights. Well, let me tell you about Nomi. It is a fairly small city but that does not mean it’s not an amazing place to live. Nomi is in a valley; for those of you who don’t know what a valley is, it is a flat area of land surrounded by mountains. The mountains in this area are amazing; I can look at them for hours and still be in awe. Also there are lots of rice fields in the area and when I say a lot, I mean that almost every house is 10 feet away from one. I live in a stunning house. It is all hard wood and has traditional tatamie mats. It has 3 gardens that circle the house, all of which could go in home designer magazines. I love this house, and I love my host family. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met and I feel truly honored to be hosted by them. My host father is very funny, my host mom is very caring, and my host sister is totally afraid of me but it's ok, she is extremely shy. Oh and my host grandmother is interesting.

OK, now to the things I have done. On the 3rd day of my exchange I met the Mayor of Nomi. I was a little nervous; I did not want to say anything stupid or insult him; on arrival I also find out I will be in the paper. This is awesome - 3 days and I'm already in the news. OH Yeah. The Mayor is very nice and laid back, he tells me not to worry and we talk for a while, about my stay so far and if I like Japan? I tell him I love Japan and he is very pleased. 2 days after that there was a festival. It was amazing to say the least, in the day there were dance commotions and at night a festival dance. I did the festival dance - I looked like a moron because I did not know the dance, but I got on TV so all is good. Also lots of people were looking at me and a few said they saw me in the paper. I love it - I'm famous and I have only been here a month, but I don’t let it go to my head. I'm the first American they may have ever seen in the flesh.

OH I have also started school, it's very interesting. Every one is extremely nice, but they are afraid I will speak to them in English so not many people talk to me. Although all the girls in my school say I'm cute about every time I walk past them I like that. I have also been to the zoo, Kanazawa, and so many other places I cannot say them all. All I can say is that this is the best thing anyone can do with a year. Yes, I admit I miss America, and my friends, family, and English but every time I meet someone new or eat a new food I feel more and more like I am transitioning into my new life and I love that.

Well until next time see you on the other side (of the world that is).

DILLON B


   

November 19 Journal

 Dillon B SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME JAPAN ADVENTURES PART 3

Well hello everyone, it's me Dillon, coming at you from the other side of the world. SO much has happened since my last journal it is very hard for me to type this one. How can I put so much in without making it a book, but I will give it a try. In my last journal I left off with school , so we will start there.....

School is not very fun right now, I am sorry to say. I have no real friends because my lingo is still that of a 2 year old, I also think some of the kids don’t like me or they are afraid of me and will not talk to me. I try very hard to be nice and say hi to everyone and I talk whenever I can, but most of the time I am ignored or just stared at blankly. Speaking of staring, WOW do I get stared at a lot! I mean... at first it was cool being looked at all the time, but now I would just like people to look at someone else. I know once my lingo gets better I will have a lot of good friends and will be much happier with going to school. The lessons are good and a lot of my art classes are great. Now to what I have been up to.

I have been to some amazing places since I last wrote. One of my favorites was the Tokyo game show. I went with my first host father and it was awesome! I got to see a bunch of new games and some that will never come to the USA. It was huge too, it took up half of the Tokyo convention hall, and that Tokyo convention hall is quite large. I have also been to Toyama, Kyushu, Kyoto and Nara along will a bunch of smaller places. In Toyama I climbed Japan's 3rd most holy mountain, Mt. Tateyama. It was very very hard, but I got to the top and my whole host family was really impressed with my power. My first host father told me not many people make it to the top, which made me fell even happier that I did it! Kyoto and Nara were beautiful, the leaves are changing, which makes everything look ten times nicer. Yeah... it is starting to get cold and I am loving it and I can't wait for it to snow. OH... I have also given a few speeches, and gone to a few more festivals since my last journal as well. I like the festivals so much and I wish I could just go around Japan doing them all. I got to push a very heavy float in one of the festivals and it was very funny to see me and 2 other exchange students in the middle of all these small Japanese guys, pushing this very heavy thing down the street. Oh yeah, I have also changed host families, they are just as nice as my first family, but different in lots of ways. They have only been married for one year and they have never dealt with kids before, but they are good parents nonetheless. It's good to change host families, it is like going on a new adventure with a new tour guide, but I am very happy that I will be going back to my first host family in March.

Well, I wish I could say I have not been home sick, but I can not. Yes my friends, I have hit culture shock and I don’t like it. Living in Japan is very difficult at times, like never having a seat that fits me, or not being able to go somewhere without everyone in my Rotary asking me if I will be ok. But most of all, not being able to talk to people is really starting to get to me! I miss just having a normal conversation with anyone. I feel so frustrated sometimes, I just want to learn this language, but as hard as I try to study and I am studying very hard, it just doesn't seem to be sticking in my brain. I of course miss my real family, but I know if I talk to them for long periods of time it's just a step in the wrong direction. I like being with my other exchange students, but I talk to them in English and I don’t want to do that. I WANT TO SPEAK JAPANESE!!!! I just don’t know how to yet, but I am getting better, but I am still at that stage were my brain just wants it in English and it is having a very hard time converting it to Japanese. Every time I learn a new word or sentence, and I remember it, it makes me feel like there is hope, and as long as there is a little bit of hope, I think I will learn this language, I just hope it comes a little faster then it is happening now.

Well look at all I wrote again, ha ha... you can really can get lost doing these journals.

Well.... until next time, I'll see ya on the other side (of the world that is).

DILLON B



December 26 Journal

 DILLON B'S - SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME JAPAN ADVENTURES PART 4

HELLO everyone it's me.... Dillon, having an amazing time in the "Land of the Rising Sun" and here to tell you what I've been up to this past month or so. So.........let's get started!

The holidays have come and gone in Japan, or at least Thanksgiving and Christmas that is, the funny thing is that in Japan they really don't do these types of holidays, but that doesn’t mean my host families and my Rotary Club didn't try their hardest to make these days fun for me! Let's start with Thanksgiving, well... my new host parents didn’t even know that November 23rd this year was a holiday until I told them. They knew that Americans did "something", but they didn’t know what ?!? I told them that on the 23rd of November... we (and when I say we, I mean the whole U.S.) eat lots and lots of food (more than we normally would) with our families and then we watch a lot of TV! There was no way for me to explain the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock and meeting the Indians and the New World. My new host parents, the Tanaka's had to work, but they told me we would do something special later, and we did, we went bowling!!! I have to tell you all, that bowling in Japan is amazing, and these places are huge!! The one we went to had these giant flat screen TV's, playing all kinds of music videos. Yes... I love bowling in Japan! Then after bowling, we went for the funniest Thanksgiving meal I think I might ever have had or will ever have, my host parents took me out for Chinese food. Yes my friends, on Thanksgiving Day, I was eating sweet and sour pork with fried rice! Before we got to the restaurant my host mom asked me if I have ever eaten Chinese food before, she was very surprised when I told her I LOVE Chinese food and there are lots of Chinese restaurants all over America. It was a very fun and interesting way to spend the holiday, but I sure missed the turkey with all the trimmings though... oh well!

Now........ Christmas in Japan is another story, this is a more well known holiday in Japan, but lots of people don’t do anything for it. Some families do what we do in the U.S. with putting up lights and a tree, but most just get a very small electrified tree and give one gift to their kids on the 25th. People still go to work that day and things go on like normal. The only way I could tell it was Christmas (besides me giving my host parents gifts and telling them Merry Christmas) was on the TV. My Rotary Club wanted me to feel right at home, so on the 22nd they had a Rotary Christmas party! I was asked to cook something for the event, so I made a simple marinara sauce over spaghetti, they loved it!! Well they should, considering Italian food in Japan is about as authentic as Pizza Hut is here in the States! To my great happiness and surprise I got quite a few gifts too! I thanked everyone a hundred times and gave them all hand written Christmas cards.

After the party, I got in a car with my first host family, the Kitade's and they took me to Tokyo for the weekend. I think this is one of the BEST Christmas gifts I will ever get. We went to Tokyo from the the 22nd to the 24th. I went to the Shonen Jump Festival, which is like a giant Manga (Japanese comic book) convention on the 23rd. It was AMAZING!! After the convention we went to Akiehabara, I loved this place, it is full of nothing but video games, comic books and toys. I could have easily spent all my money in this one store, but I didn't. After that, we went to our next hotel, which was very beautiful and very very expensive! The hotel was in Shinjuku, my second favorite place in Tokyo. You may have seen or read about Shinjuku if you look up Tokyo on the internet. It is one of the brightest places on earth at night. There are giant billboards and signs that light up like a fireworks display. It is also Japan's red light district, which I found to be really funny. It was great to finally be in Tokyo, I was finally here... years of dreaming about being in this fantastic place, and there I was, finally....there! I was so grateful and thankful to Hideki and Yumiko for this opportunity. I took lots of pictures, but it just doesn't do the place justice.

On the 24th we went to Ginza. Ginza was ok, but not really my kind of town or style. Ginza, Japan, is like our New York's 5th Avenue. All those really expensive stores that you would find there like, Prada, Louie Vuitton, Gucci and Wako just to name a few. My first host mom, Yumiko loves Ginza, well... look at it this way, these stores are a Japanese women’s playground. We stayed until 12 noon and them drove back home to Nomi, which is about a six hour drive. On the ride home I saw snow, I was so happy to see it. I wished we could have stopped and played in it for a while, but there was no time. We got home at around 6 pm and unloaded all we had bought, then my first host family told me I would be spending the night with them, so they could see me on Christmas Day! I was so happy about this, although my second host family are good, I really wanted to spend most of Christmas Eve and Day with the Kitade's. We had a big Christmas Eve dinner, a bit different then I'm used to (pizza, fried chicken, french fries and sushi, ha ha). I went to bed early, so I could wake up early and give my host family their gifts!!

On Christmas Day, I did what I love to do most.... relax! My host family loved all their gifts and I was just so happy I didn’t mess anything up. After breakfast, my host family went to work.... yes.... even on holidays Japanese people work. I called my parents and we talked for a very long time, it was wonderful to talk to them again since I hadn’t spoke to them in such a long time. Then I watched TV until 4 pm, which is when I had to go back to my second host family. They were at work too when I got home, but my second host mom told me we were going to have a big Christmas dinner that night. While she was cooking Christmas dinner, my host dad was still out working. I opened all my gifts from Rotary, both of my host families and my parents. I received a lot of nice gifts and was really starting to feel at home, here in Japan. My second host mom is a good cook and Christmas dinner was very good, also my second host family loved their gifts too. I do have to say, I had a great Christmas even though it was the first Christmas ever away from my parents and family.

Well... that was a wrap up of my holidays, now for a little bit about me. My lingo is getting better and it feels great to know that all that studying I've been doing is finally paying off! I don’t feel homesick so much anymore, but I will always feel some loneliness, but I don’t let it bring me down anymore. School has also gotten a lot better too, I now have some friends and I look forward to going to school now. My life in Japan is going really well and I know it can only get better with the passing of time. Speaking of time....... it's flying by while being here in this country. I can't believe I have been here for 4 months already. I have to honestly say, these have been some of the hardest and most fun four months of my life and I am looking forward to the rest of my exchange, which I know I will remember forever!

Well.... I seem to have written another book again, oh well. Hope everyone and everything is going great for you all back in the States and I want to wish you all a Happy New Year. I also want to wish good luck to all the New 2009 Outbound Students trying out for their place for an adventure of a lifetime with this fantastic Rotary Exchange Program.

Until next time, I'll see y'all on the other side (of the world that is).

DILLON BIRDSALL



March 3 Journal

 DILLON B'S - SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME JAPANESE ADVENTURE - PART 5

Hello once again it's me Dillon, here to tell you all about my life since December in Nomi, Japan.


Well......... not much stuff has happened to me in the past 2 mouths, so it's kind of hard to write this journal. I mean...... lots of stuff has happened, but nothing I really would put in my journals. I have been living in my 2nd host family's home for about 4 mouths now, and I’m sad to say that my 2nd hosts are not the kind of people to go out and explore Japan and show me new, cool and interesting places and things. They are more like the kind of people who work all day, then come home and don’t talk to each other or me as a matter of fact. They are nice people as a whole, but we really don’t get along so well, that is to say we are really different from each other. I am having a very hard time just trying to have a good talk with them and besides the fact that they really don’t even like to talk to me and are completely uninterested in me. I always ask how their day was, how they’re doing, and they just say “fine” and leave it at that. They never ask me how I’m doing, or how my school day is going or anything?!? I sometimes take it upon myself to tell them things I would like to do or talk about, but I don’t think they’re listening to me very much. Oh well, I can’t blame them, like I said before they have only been married ONE year. I know I wouldn't want a 16-year-old kid from another country in my home for 5 months if I just got married a year ago. But....... I am here and it looks like I’m not going to be doing and seeing as much of Japan with this family as my last, so I decided to see it for myself. For the past month or so I have been going into Kanazawa, which is about 25 minutes away from my home to meet up with some other exchange students and we hang out every Saturday. It’s really good to be with people who have the same sense of humor as I do and I can joke around and be sarcastic with them (by the way Japanese people have no clue what sarcasm is, and that's too bad really). It is also good for me to get away from my family for at least a few hours and relax without worrying about my Japanese, if I’m saying something wrong or stupid.

My Japanese is getting better, it really is, and I’m so happy to say it is, but it's still very, very bad. For anyone who does not know this language, Japanese is one of the hardest languages in the world for an English speaking person to master. I know that I will not be totally fluent by the end of my exchange. There is no way that in the next 4 months I will master Japanese, but this does not mean I’m not going to try!! My study habits are long and hard and go a little like this. Monday 4-5 hours of studying Japanese books and Japanese Internet sites for Kanji, while looking up other important facts. Tuesday thru Thursday 2-3 hours of studying Japanese. Friday one to two hours, and on the weekends I take a break. Even with all this studying you would think my Japanese would get better, but it's NOT! I’m not mad or sad about it, I know I’m trying my hardest to get this language down and that’s all anyone can ask of me. I am seeing improvement and I am happy with that.

Now onto some of things I’ve been doing. Snow is falling thick and fast in this area of Japan. I am so happy to see snow again it’s not even funny. The only thing that I can’t do in the snow, is any of the winter sports I used to do when I lived in Maine. I would love to go skiing again, but there are no ski boots that will fit my size 14 feet, especially not in Japan. I would also like to go sledding down a big mountain, but no one in Japan knows what I’m talking about, plus there are no sleds for sale anywhere either. I would like to have a snowball fight with my school friends, but everyone is worried I would hurt them if I was to throw a snowball at them. Even though I can’t have fun in the snow, I still love looking at it.

New Year's Day and Valentine's Day both passed without any incident. On New Year's my host family took me to a shrine to pray. I was so happy that I was doing something I had never done before and my host parents, but they were bored and kept saying they were cold and wanted to go home. They also enjoyed laughing at me, when I was taking pictures of the shrine. On Valentine's Day I gave my host mother some chocolate and she gave me some chocolate too (In Japan on Valentine's Day women give chocolate to men, weird). I was hoping maybe some of the girls in my school would have the guts to give me some chocolate too, but no go.

I’ve done a few short home stays with different Rotary members, I really enjoy these outings. For one I get to get out of my host house and two, we do a lot of cool stuff I don't get to do with my host family. On my last Rotary stay, I went to Mt. Haksan, another Holy Mountain in Japan, but I didn’t climb this one (thank God), I also went to a really cool dinosaur museum. I never knew that there were a lot of dinosaurs in Japan at one point in history. School is getting better and better too, and I finally have friends now, not really close friends mind you, but people who I can have a laugh with during the day. Also more and more people who were being mean to me are now being nice to me. I finally think the shock of me has worn off and they just see I’m a lot like them in many ways. Now that my Japanese is improving, I can actually talk to my classmates, which I do have to say, makes a nice change from them just looking at me blankly.

Now onto how I’m doing. At the moment I’m just really happy to be in Japan. I just wake up in the morning happy and go to bed the same way. I no longer feel homesick or have culture shock, but also I know in 4 very short months, I will be back home!! Just the thought of that puts a very big smile on my face. :-) As much as I love Japan, and I do really love it here, I can’t wait to go home. To be back with my friends and family after a whole school year. To be back in my own house, in my own room, in my own bed and speaking my own language, English! Just the thought of this makes me so happy go-lucky. Like I said, I love Japan, but now having lived here for 6 and a half months, I've never really felt like I truly belong here. It will be good to go back to a place that makes a little bit more sense to me. It's not that I don’t belong here, it's just that Japan and the U.S. are so totally different and that there is no possible way for me to truly act “Japanese”. I know I will never be mistaken as a member of this culture or country, I know that no matter how well I speak Japanese, everyone will be expecting me to speak in English. I know that every single Japanese person who looks at me, looks at me as an outsider and not one of their own. Is this a bad thing, NO....... it’s a good thing, it allows me to retain my self-identity. I don’t blend into the group and I’m proud of it. I stick out like a sore thumb in this country, but I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m going to live my last 4 months here to the fullest, and I'll go back home to my friends and families with open arms, and that truly makes me happy!!

Until next time, I'll see y'all on the other side (of the world that is).

DILLON BIRDSALL



April 29 Journal

 DILLON B'S - SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME JAPANESE ADVENTURE – PART 6

HELLO - HELLO Everyone..... all over the world, it is I... Dillon Birdsall coming to you from the other side of the world, the amazing land of the Rising Sun, JAPAN. First and foremost, 9 days ago I had my 17th Birthday! Oh yeah... it was amazing, but I’m getting ahead of myself, let us go back to March and continue my story from there. Well... I’m extremely happy to say, that in March I finally moved back to my first host family, The Kitades. They were so genuinely happy to have me back and I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am to be back! I really do consider them my only host family. The Tanakas (my second host family) were nice, but they weren’t really the kind of family I’m used to. The Kitades are amazing and I consider myself amazingly lucky to call them my host parents. Before I left the Tanakas we did finally do something really cool. We went around Ishikawa and saw really cool, old and famous places of the area I have lived in for the past 7 months here in Nomi, Japan. It was a good way to finally connect and share some good times with the Tanakas, it was a nice way to say goodbye.

Right after leaving the Tanakas and going back to the KItades, I went on my Osaka trip with my Rotary and 6 other exchange students. The trip was 4 great days and nights, visiting places I have wanted to visit most here in Japan. The first day we went to Himeji castle, I have to say that this castle is amazingly beautiful!! It's one of Japan's last standing castles. It is huge!! It is one of the biggest and oldest Japanese styled buildings I have ever seen. If you ever come to Japan, I would really recommend visiting it. All of us exchange students got along really well and that first night we went out to sing karaoke. This was the first time I have ever done that and I had a great time losing my voice singing Japanese songs. The next day we went to this amazing shrine in Hiroshima. This is probably the most breathtaking shrine I have ever seen, no picture can do it justice. The shrine is located on a very small island and there is a red giant gate out in the ocean called a Tori. Once again... if you visit Japan you've got to see this place. Later that day we went to the Memorial of the Atomic bomb and museum. Let’s just say... it was not a fun place to visit, just like at the one in Okinawa, I felt like crap being the only American in the group. The next day we went to Universal Studios Japan. It wasn’t much fun, think about Universal in Florida, but only smaller and with ten times more people! The next day we visited Nara and the world's largest ferris wheel, we also visited a few more shrines. The best shrine of the day was one that had like...... a thousand deer living in it. Yes........ deer....... the animal and they are so funny. They are not scared of people, and they expect you to feed them and if you don’t.... they eat your stuff. We visited a few more interesting shrines and then returned home to Nomi.

It is now April and spring has sprung. The weather here is amazingly beautiful and the cherry blossoms have come and gone. They were really nice to see, but they are only in bloom for about 2 weeks. I took lots of pictures during their blooming season. April is also my birthday month and my host family gave me an amazing Birthday gift. On the day before and on my actual B-day (April 21) we went to Tokyo. It was a great way to spend my special day. I love Tokyo, it is an amazing city, but I don’t think I could live there all year round, it's way too busy. We went to all my favorite places, and I was not sad at all that I was away from home for my B-day or anything. Then on the 23rd my host family threw me a small B-day party. It was great, my host family was sad that they could not throw me a big party, but I was totally happy it was just us. It reminded me a lot like my family back home.

Well... now about how I'm doing. There is only one word I can think of and it's..........Amazing!! I think that is the ONLY word I've been saying lately. I am sad to say that I only have 2 months left here in Japan, and time is going by way too fast that I can’t even begin to tell you. It seems so amazing to me that I have only 2 months left when it kind of still feels like I just got here. School is going great at the moment and I have lots of friends. They are not very close friends mind you, but I now have lots of people I can have a good laugh with. My Japanese is still not the best and I don’t know if I will get any better then I am in these last 2 months, but I’m kind of ok with that. I'm not saying that I will stop studying anymore or not trying to learn to be better, but I don’t know how much more I can learn or retain. When I look back on my first moments of speaking Japanese and fast forward ahead to now, I can see and hear how much I have grown... so much it's not even funny. Although I know I will never be fluent in this language, but now at the end of my exchange, I am so happy with the amount of Japanese I do know. I can read my favorite comics now and I can recognize a lot of Kanji. I really feel great about this and that’s the best way to feel.

As the end draws ever closer, I feel two very strong emotions. One...I am over the moon in true happiness to know I will be going home, back to my old life and ways. To see my friends and family again is going to be great, But.... the other emotion I feel, is of course... sadness. To know that I will be leaving Japan for good and for God knows how long. I will be saying goodbye to my new life and my new ways of living life, and this is going to be kind of hard. I know where I belong and that is back home in the States, but now I know I have somewhere else I can call home and that is here in Japan. I know I will return back to the Rising Sun to visit, but I don’t know if I will ever live here again and that is what is very sad to me. Living here is not hard any more, I am not just some confused kid in a far away place anymore. I have lived here, studied here, made friends and family here and HERE will always be in my heart. It’s no longer a strange way of life, but a life I now know and understand. It's my life now and it will be a part of my life forever, and I can’t tell you how happy and grateful I am about that. This year has been and will be, one of the best years of my life. I truly know how lucky I am to be here and I am going to live my last moments here in Japan to the fullest! (man... I have said that a lot, but it is so true).

Until next time, I'll see y'all on the other side (of the world that is).

DILLON BIRDSALL



June 5 Journal

 DILLON B'S - SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME JAPANESE ADVENTURE – PART 7

It was the best of times it was the worst of times…

I guess this statement best describes the feelings I'm having at the moment. I have never read the book, A Tale of Two Cites, but the title is most fitting for me, a Tale of two countries, two lands, hearts, and minds.

Japan, a place I had been dreaming about visiting since the age of six. A place I said that one day I would like to live and experience for at least a year. I can tell you, I did not think I would be living this dream for a very long time, or not until I was older and had the money to do so, but now I know that this was the perfect time in my life to have experienced Japan. This year has been more than I can describe to you all, more than I can write in a journal, more then I can almost wrap my brain around. I have done so much in this year abroad; I have been to so many places and have lived through so many experiences in just this year that I can't even remember them all. But most of all, this year has been my transition from one home to two, from that dream to a reality and to a truly life changing experience.

I know and believe that I haven’t changed very much in the way I act. I believe I'm still the same funny, happy go lucky, make a sarcastic comment, kind of kid that I was back in America. But now.... now I can also think about things from a Japanese perspective and also from a world perspective. Gosh, look at me, writing all philosophical and deep. Ok........ Let’s get back to how I normally am!

Hello......... hello every one from all around the world, it is I Dillon Birdsall coming to you from the breath taking land of Japan. Yesterday was the first of June, which started my last month in this awe inspiring country that I have called my home for the past 10 months. I now only have 27 days left here and then on the 28th I will have to say goodbye to a land I have come to know and will forever love.

I’ve done so many things since I last wrote, but like I said once before, not much I would call journal worthy material. I feel this journal is more for me, something to help me get some of my emotions out there, as I feel I have already done in my opening paragraphs.

If you were to tell me 3 years ago when I started high school, that one of my high school years would be spent in Japan, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you were to tell me, I would learn a different culture and language in the space of time of one year, I would not have believed you. But look at me now, 10 months in and I'm still not completely fluent in this language (and that’s an understatement), but I am in tune with this culture. I am still mesmerized with my own growth. When I look back on my first days here and how it all seemed........ so weird and oh so different, and now it’s......... so normal and sometimes amusingly predictable. But this is what being an exchange student for a year in another country is all about. The change from an American kid to a kid living in Japan, it makes me Japamerican, a person who has melded both cultures into one, and this kid understands them both and loves them both the same way. There are things about Japan and America that I really don't like, things that really don't make a lot of sense to me, things that I will never know or understand and that goes for both cultures. But now, most of those little things that didn’t make sense..... Do. You can only get this way by doing what we exchange students do, and that is dropping out of your old life and by trying something new, like a whole new life in another country. Being totally open and totally happy to try new things and do things totally out of your comfort zone and most of all to say goodbye to what you think you know, and learn something, anything, and everything new!

My emotions are all over the place at the moment and they have been for quite some time now. I think that they will be this way for longer then I thought they would. I am in a state of jubilation at the thought of going home, getting on that plane and seeing my family, hugging them and telling them how much I missed them and my family saying the same thing back to me. But then the thought of my last days here, push their way into my thoughts and my heart and a feeling of great sadness falls over me. For I know the days are drawing near to the moment I have to say goodbye. Goodbye to all the wonderful people I have met, to this beautiful country, and an amazingly loving extended family. I knew this was going to happen the second I stepped off the plane the first one day I arrived. I knew that in a short 10 months, I would once again be saying goodbye to people and places that I love.

But it’s not the end........ I’m happy to say. Yes, my days as a Rotary Exchange Student in Japan are soon to be over, but I know Japan will always be here for me and the Kitades have generously extended an open invitation for me to come back anytime I'd like. This still doesn’t stop my emotions from running wild, but it does give me hope, and a very good feeling to know there is more then one place I can call home. America will forever be the place I think of when I think of my home, but Japan will be right there in my heart as my second home.

I know I may sound weird, but it’s good to say these types of things I am saying, and when you are an exchange student everyone can understand these feelings as well. To be able to get your emotions out there and share them with all of you is a very good thing and I hope all the other exchange students share their feelings too.

This will not be my last journal for my exchange year, but it will be the last one I write from Japan. I will complete one more, which will wrap up my entire year and explain what my last days in Japan were really like. My last journal won't be posted until I’m back in the States and home for a few weeks, this way I can truly look back and reflect on it all.

I am going to be a real geek now, and end this journal with another quote from a book that is actually my favorite, it's Harry Potter. At the end of book four, Hagrid says to Harry............

“What will come will come, and we’ll face it when it does.” I can’t think of a truer statement to reflect on. As I look back on my year abroad, it makes me look forward to the years I have ahead of me.

Until next time, I'll see y'all on the other side (of the world that is).

DILLON BIRDSALL



Dillon's Final Chapter

 DILLON B'S - SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME JAPANESE ADVENTURE – PART 8

THE END

Hello everyone, how are you? It's me Dillon, coming to you, but no..... not from the land of Hello Kitty and Pokémon, but the land of the Wild West and the good old Red White and Blue.

Yes, I'm home, and I do have to say it is amazing to be home, but before I go into why it's so amazing to be home, I need to conclude my past year in Japan.

My last Journal left you all about a month out from my return home and now I will catch you up to today.

My last days in Japan were……to this day I really don’t know how to describe my feelings, so I will just list them: Happy, Sad, Pensive, Reflective, Whimsical, Amazing, Hard, Exiting, and I guess most of all Indescribable.

My last month was filled with many goodbyes, the first of which was at my school. This was actually harder than I thought it was going to be. For such a long time, going to school was not what I would call fun, what with me being the "out cast" for a period of time and not really knowing the language. I thought I didn’t have many people who liked me, but as my days at school drew to an end the more I realized that I really was liked, and what’s more, I realized I liked going to my school. On my last week of school, I had to give a speech to the whole school again, just like the first time I went to school, but this time it was in Japanese and everyone knew what I was talking about unlike first time, and on my last day of school, I said my final goodbyes to everyone. We took pictures and even had people say to me that they were really going to miss me, and that I should just stay, in Japan and for the kids in my school, that is a lot.

Right after saying goodbye to my school, I had to say farewell to my Rotary. This one was just as hard, but not so much on the emotional front. To prove you have really tried to learn Japanese you need to show your Rotary you can give a speech, but not just a quick speech like I was doing every month, but a 15 to 20 minute monologue of my entire year. I do have to admit, I was worried about this speech, but it went really well. I was happy to see that like at my school, the men in my Rotary knew what I was saying and once again we took pictures and said our final goodbyes.

Now I only had one more week left with the Kitade’s, they being the amazing family they are, had one last trip for me. Throughout my year I had been very fortunate to have gone all over Japan to almost all of this amazing country, but there was still one place in Japan I had not yet gone, which was Hokkaido the top part of the island of Japan. As far as I knew, no other Rotary Exchange Student from our district had gone to this part of Japan and I was determined to see all of this country I could. The Kitade’s wanted me to see this area of Japan too, so for three days of my last week in this amazing country, at the end of this amazing journey, my host dad Hideki and I went to Sapporo, Hokkaido. I loved it there, it was one of the coolest cites I had been in Japan, but the whole time we were there, it felt bittersweet. Hideki and I went around and saw all the sites, famous points of interest, ate some utterly delicious food, and enjoyed our time together, but we both knew time was now running out and I couldn’t help but think about all the things I have done and seen throughout the year.

After the Hokkaido trip with Hideki, I only had 2 days left. I used these days to pack and ship my clothes and all the stuff I have bought throughout the year to send home to the US, but what I was really doing was using this time to get ready to say goodbye. I then went around my area of where I had called home for 11 months to just look around, and to take it all in one last time. I just sat back in a local shrine and thought about every single thing. The places I liked the most, the funniest things I saw on TV, some of the weirdest things I was asked, and every other little and large thing that made up my year. It wasn’t the first time I thought like this, but it was the first time I realized that it really was going to be over in only a matter of hours. I wanted to somehow split myself into two people, one that would go home and live the life there and the other half would stay in Japan and live life out here. I wished I really could be in two places at once, but I knew I couldn’t. The last two nights I ate dinner out, the first was with my first and second host families along with some other Rotary members. It was a nice gathering, but a little weird. The last night was with just the Kitades and that is exactly how I wanted it to be, just us having a good time at dinner. We joked around and had a really good time, it was a perfect way for my last night in Japan to end, but the morning was the thing I was least looking forward to.

Now it's Saturday, June 28th at 5 in the morning, I had a good, but restless night sleep. I can hear my host family getting ready downstairs. I take one last look around my room and it looks exactly the way it did the first day I got there. Now I start having memories of my first moments in Japan of me missing my connecting plane, and having to stay overnight in Tokyo and how sorry I was to have missed my flight and making my host families go to the airport for nothing. It now makes me laugh a little. Now I go downstairs and say good morning, in the best happy go lucky kind of voice I can give, and the response back from my family is sad, but they try to give a happy kind of tone. We have breakfast and even more memories came flashing back to me of all the times we had talking in a happy mood because I was happy. I had the whole week to think about and deal with my goodbyes, and in my last moments of being in Japan I want them all to be happy ones.

I had learned over the whole year, that time really does fly by very fast and before you know it, it is time to go home. We all get in the car and I take one last look at my host family's house, my house, and one more long look at everything else around me. Even though I keep up my happy attitude, I still feel weird with a sense of loss as I look around, knowing I might never, ever see it again and this made me feel really gloomy. Then I'm brought back into the moment when I hear Japanese-pop screams over the radio and I manage to smile, I vow to myself that I will see this country again even if it kills me.

We arrive at the airport and there is a surprise there for me, a few of members of my Rotary are there to see me off, along with my second host family the Tanaka's. I check my bags and head to my gate with only 20 minutes left. I say goodbye to everyone and thank them all again in Japanese. I hug everyone and say one last farewell. Then everyone waves goodbye as I walk toward my gate and now we can no longer see each other. I feel fine, but all my memories are swirling around in my head with all the emotions that go with them, but I need to stay focused, I really don’t want to miss another one of my flights, but nothing happens and everything goes well. The only thing I can think about now is seeing my parents again. So then I travel from Tokyo to Chicago, with just one more flight from Chicago to Jacksonville which now seems almost as long as my year, but finally my plane lands in Florida and I run off, and there they are, my parents and all we can do is hug and all I can feel now is happiness.

I have been home now for about three months, and I don’t know what the best part of being home has been. I’m just happy to talk in English again and joke around. I didn’t know how much I appreciated America, until I came back and I also noticed how truly different and the same Japan and America are. I’ve been able to do some incredible things since I came home too. I've learned how to drive, see my friends. My parents threw me a big Welcome Home Party with generous gifts from my Grandparents, Aunts, Uncle and friends. Plus, my parents gave me some really cool Christmas and Birthday gifts that they saved for me over the year, so I could open when I arrived back. The best gift I received was a Wild West vacation with my family for a week, which we took only two weeks after my return. They surprised me with something I had wanted to do for years and that was, to be a part of the largest comic book convention in the world, The San Diego Comic.Con. We also traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, The Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Sedona, and Phoenix, Arizona. The whole trip was amazing and I’m really looking forward to seeing the rest of this amazing United States. I'm back in school and setteling in nicely as a Senior, with a lot on my plate, by playing catch up from being away my Junior year of high school and also preparing for college next year with SAT/ACT and college application, even though it's a lot of hard work, it's exciting to know that in just a few months time I will have graduated from high school and onto another adventure called life.

MY last words.......I have regarding this past remarkable year.

Japan has turned from a land I wished and dreamed of going to, to a second home and a place I will always wish to be. Rotary has allowed me to live one of my dreams and truly one of the the most interesting, educational, incredible and fun filled years of my life.

Now for my all my Thank You's;

A big thank you to my Mom and Dad for all their support and willingness and everything they have done to prepare me for this incredible year and my years to come. A huge thank you to the Kitade and Tanaka families for everything they shares and did for me over this past year in Japan. Thank you to Japan for being so beautiful and amazing.

Last, but definitely not least, a hugh thank goes to both my Rotary here in the States (Flagler Beach Rotary) and my Rotary in Nomi, Japan. Thank you so much for allowing me this opportunity and continuing with this extraordinary program, so other students can be a part of something truly wonderful.

Dillon Birdsall