Melissa "Mely" Rivillas
2009-10 Outbound to Japan

Hometown: Coconut Creek, Florida
School: Monarch HS
Sponsor: Coral Springs - Parkland Rotary Club, District 6990, Florida
Host: Takahashi Rotary Club, District 2690, Japan

Mely's Bio

“Dream as you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” –James Dean

Konnichiwa! That’s hello in Japanese in case ya were wondering. My name is Melissa Rivillas (Mely) and I’m proud to announce that I will be spending my 2009-2010 year in Japan. I’m an 18 year old senior at Monarch High School. I currently reside in Coconut Creek, Florida with my mother and step-father.

I enjoy cooking, jogging, and working… Umm, never mind, scratch working because is not one of my favorites but shopping is LOL!!! But my main passion in life is to travel the world. Before I die I want to visit the remaining wonders of the world.

I am guessing you were wondering where I’m from. I’m Colombian and American. That mixed is called Colombinamericana haha. Last of all, I wanted to take this time to thank the Rotary Club and my parents for supporting me on this adventure that I’m about to partake in.

Typical Universal Studios Global picture

Typical Universal Studios Global picture

Valencia 1

Valencia 1

Valencia 3

Valencia 3

Valencia 4

Valencia 4

Yummy sweets

Yummy sweets

150 years old hotel

150 years old hotel

Valencia 2

Valencia 2

150 years old school building

150 years old school building

Aids campaign

Aids campaign

Trip

Trip

Barcelona 1

Barcelona 1

At my favorite mall

At my favorite mall

Barcelona 2

Barcelona 2

Train

Train

Barcelona 4

Barcelona 4

Barcelona 6

Barcelona 6

Barcelona 5

Barcelona 5

Traveling around

Traveling around

Barcelona 8

Barcelona 8

Barcelona 3

Barcelona 3

Barcelona 9

Barcelona 9

Barcelona 7

Barcelona 7

Barcelona 12

Barcelona 12

Barcelona 10

Barcelona 10

Barcelona 14

Barcelona 14

Barcelona 13

Barcelona 13

Barcelona 11

Barcelona 11

Barcelona 16

Barcelona 16

Barcelona 15

Barcelona 15

Boat trip with host parents

Boat trip with host parents

Boots

Boots

Best mehod of transportation

Best mehod of transportation

Chrsitmas tree USj

Chrsitmas tree USj

Coyfish

Coyfish

Climbed at mountain

Climbed at mountain

Clock im Yonago

Clock im Yonago

Downtown Osaka

Downtown Osaka

Crew of people

Crew of people

Enjoying ourselves

Enjoying ourselves

Fall season 1

Fall season 1

Fall season

Fall season

Friend Mall

Friend Mall

Guide lady

Guide lady

Hiroshima Peace Memoria

Hiroshima Peace Memoria

Handbell concert

Handbell concert

Host dad together at Universal Studios

Host dad together at Universal Studios

Hiroshima Dome

Hiroshima Dome

Host mom bday dinner

Host mom bday dinner

Host Families Dinner

Host Families Dinner

Host mom, sister, and me USJ

Host mom, sister, and me USJ

Host sister-Mely

Host sister-Mely

Japanese flag

Japanese flag

Japanese ritual

Japanese ritual

Karaoke

Karaoke

Miyajima mama

Miyajima mama

Miyajima

Miyajima

Nagano's ancient school

Nagano's ancient school

My first snow ever

My first snow ever

Nature 1

Nature 1

O Matsuri

O Matsuri

Okayama Garden 1

Okayama Garden 1

Oiishii obento

Oiishii obento

Nature

Nature

Okayama Garden

Okayama Garden

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki

P8220007

P8220007

P8220003

P8220003

P8220005

P8220005

P8220008

P8220008

P8220010

P8220010

P8220009

P8220009

P8300135

P8300135

P9050155

P9050155

P8300142

P8300142

Pampering the best man in Japan

Pampering the best man in Japan

P9050164

P9050164

Parade USJ

Parade USJ

Popcorn machine

Popcorn machine

P9060170

P9060170

P9060169

P9060169

Performance

Performance

Rotary Christmas Party

Rotary Christmas Party

Sakura fields

Sakura fields

Snow on the floor

Snow on the floor

Sawa-Mely school

Sawa-Mely school

Shrine with host mom

Shrine with host mom

The best flag ever

The best flag ever

This goes to all the exchange students with their monthly reports and pictures

This goes to all the exchange students with their monthly reports and pictures

Train Wheel

Train Wheel

Mely's Journals

August 25 Journal

I can't believe that time has flown by so quick that I'm already in such a beautiful country. I always remember as a video that keeps playing in my head the day Mr. Kalter told me that news from Japan had just arrived. Just there I felt the compound of emotions hitting me from head to toes. I didn't know whether to scream because of joy or to cry because I was leaving. I remember when I watch this Japanese scary movie, and that same night I had a dream that I was speaking Japanese; what a quick transition I just made there.

In the month of July I traveled around to many places, but just couldn't wait to leave regardless of how much fun I was having. Packing sure was easy, despite of me being a girl. Both of my luggages only weighed 40 lbs. I departed from Miami airport August 21st. I must admit that it has been one sad day. I recall seeing both of my parents, and step-parents crying so much after I hugged them and still at that moment it hadn't hit me yet.

The flight Miami to Chicago was a smooth one accompanied by Michael Anderson, also outbound to Japan. My first smile of the day was when Grant Simon, outbound to Japan hugged me and said we are going to be living so close to each other, I immediately responded, "what a dream come true," and after that my whole trip was filled with nothing else but happiness and thankfulness for everything. It was an amazing feeling to see all of these exchange students talking to each other at the airport all departing all over Japan.

Once again, I sat by Michael Anderson the whole 13 hours to Tokyo. After departing from Chicago, an hour later, the airplane instantly became chaotic because of all the 20 exchange students just up and down that plane filled with mixed emotions, because in just 13 hours their new lives were about to take a 360 degree turn. I thought to myself, "I am more than ready."

My arrival to the Narita airport in Tokyo, was better than I would have ever thought. The lines and craziness weren't as much as I was told. Grant and I each paid 3000 yens to take a public bus from Narita airport to Haneda airport. It took about one hour and 30 minutes to get from one airport to the other. After arriving to Haneda airport our wait time was 3 hours. Time actually went by so quick - good thing because I just couldn't wait until I meet my new host parents, which by the way are just the best of the best.. My stomach was filled with butterflies when I saw my host mother and sister jumping up and down filled with joy to see me with a big sign that says, "Welcome Mely," with my all time favorite Tweety bird drawn. I am currently living at Yurika Ozaki's house (09-10 Inbound in Florida). The drive from Okayama airport to Takahashi City was about one hour. My dinner that night was vanilla ice cream mmmmmm how delicious. I begin school September 1st and can't wait :) Since my arrival to beautiful Takahashi City, I've been getting to know the city and am just impressed with how kawaii (cute) it is.

実現するすべての夢

October 16 Journal

Let me begin with… I love Japan!

It is unbelievable to witness how every minute flies by so quickly. It has been over a month since I first arrived to my host country, and already been through many stages. The changes I have made both physically and emotionally have become noticeable at this point of my exchange. The lack of dependence from both my mother and father makes me a better and stronger person as the days pass by. I feel very privileged at my host parents’ home because I feel like one of them in every sense. I am blessed to have everything that has been given to me. My natural parents back home support me, love me, and are there for me no matter. My comfort zone here is as if I was back home, so good to be true. I love when my host parents brag about how great I am. I give them a cute smile, then, blush. As time passes by, more and more memories are being built forever; the best memories I shall say. The simplest things reward me in every way; for example, helping out the elder at the train stations, giving the people a smile, and seeing things in a positive way. Fortunately, homesickness has NOT struck me, and hoping it will not get to me.

In less than two months, I have visited various places. On a special trip I took to Hiroshima, with my school teacher and friend, made me see the world in different eyes now. It was unbelievable to me getting up close to the Atomic Bomb Memorials; I immediately felt the shivers to think something that horrid could ever happen, and how it was afterwards. The best part of traveling is the transportation method. I take the Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train) whenever I travel long distance. I have never been on such a comfortable train in my life. It feels as fast and powerful as an airplane, yes for that one. Sometimes, I can’t believe America doesn’t have the technology Japan has, seriously! It is the funniest thing every time I see a Shinkansen, I say it’s my boyfriend and shout out bye-bye.

Recalling back when I first arrived to Japan, I went to a store and got so stressed out to see how expensive it is to buy a simple pencil. When I look at the bright side, I have already become more adjusted to the prices and have learned how to manage my monthly allowance well. Japanese teenage girls get entertained easily. I LOVE that about them. That would NEVER happen in America, because we always make everything hard and get bored easily. So, on October 12th, I turned 19 years old. I already feel so old. Had a blast the whole day, luckily there was no school that day, so instead I went shopping and got a few things. Until next time… 

November 10 Journal

I have no regrets to have come to Japan. Three months have already passed into my exchange here. The fall season here is awe to my eyes. The season change is different in every way compared to Florida. It is my first time ever to see the leaves change colors from green to yellow, orange, red, and brown  It is priceless to ride along the train, listen to smooth jazz, and look at nature that sounds me all around.

I didn’t get the country of my choice but, at the end of the day it isn’t all about getting the country that you wanted. You begin to realize that, once you fall in love with your new surroundings and life. As I say, “Nothing is ever easy.” Perseverance is the key to a successful exchange. As I turn into a young adult, I can notice the change in me each and every day more, and more. At times, I feel as if I didn’t know who I really am anymore. So, I meditate for a couple of minutes to clear my mind off, and continue my day as smooth as possible.

While on my exchange, life has taught me many things in a short period of time. From life changing experiences to tough lessons learned. At the end, I see the tough lessons learned as something positive in my life because, it’s all a stage in which we must go through. I feel very fortunate to be here regardless of the pain I have encountered because of culture differences.

During these three months, I have learned the hard way that my family is and will always be #1 in my life. At some point during my early teenage days, I was one rebellious girl that didn’t value anything, and viewed life as a joke. Ungrateful with everything, treated my loved ones as nothing. Thankfully enough, this exchange has changed my life forever. Today, my mind is tuned to positive thinking, my heart opens a little more each day, helping the ones in need, expanding my knowledge, accepting everything as a stage I must go through, and the most important thing is my family; my greatest treasure ever.

In this journal, I have expressed many personal things from the past. Hopefully, this changes someone’s attitude for good. Time is gold for me, so I must go now. Please be safe and take care.

Until next time,

Mely

December 22 Journal

I can’t believe the holidays are here. The winter season in Okayama Prefecture, Japan, is 100% different compared to Florida’s winter season. The average weather here since October has ranged from the 60’s to the 30’s. I’m not used to this cold weather; therefore at times I get a sore throat and begin to cough. I finally got to see snow for the first time in my life. It was such a dream come true to witness the snow falling. I have been praying for the longest time for it to snow. I can’t wait until I go skiing with my first host family in January; fortunately my first host father is professional at skiing.

On November 29th, I moved into my second host family’s home. On that same day I had many surprises that awaited me. My host mother took me shopping for winter clothes, to the supermarket, and later that night we went out for dinner. I felt like it was my first day over again in Japan. Can’t seem to understand how fast time passes by so quickly. Today, December 22, 2009, is my fourth month since I been here. Unbelievably enough it’s true. I am very grateful for everything. This is a once in a lifetime experience; therefore I take advantage of everything my host families ask me to do with them.

What I love most about Japan is that, you will never feel bored because life here is always busy. I never have time to think about anything that may bring me down, that’s a plus. I am grateful that I haven’t felt homesick at all. At times I remember the holidays in the U.S. I just live in the present and don’t look back. It's nice how in America there is always some event going on for every holiday. For example, this year I missed out on my yearly Black Friday shopping and didn’t get to have turkey this year either. Instead, I had another day. I remember how every year I would buy everything I needed on Black Friday for Christmas and quickly filled up the Christmas tree with gifts for all of my loved ones. It sure is different here; there isn’t even a Christmas tree here or extreme commercializing for things. Good thing that the days are flying by quickly that soon I will be back in The Sunshine State.

Every day I think about how fortunate I am to be in the position I am in now. I am glad I got chosen to be here because I’m living my life and getting to know myself much better in a different perceptive. My friends here are always available to answer my questions. I have made a few, but very good ones. The Saturday before Thanksgiving Day, I cooked a Colombian meal which my first host family got to eat. The meal that I made included rice with beans, grilled chicken, soup, vegetables, and a mix salad. Too bad the ingredients aren’t the same here, but I still tried my best to make it happen. On November 30th, I went on a yacht ride to a private island with my host parents and their friends. We had a fish lunch and it was absolutely divine. The scenery was absolutely breath-taking in which we sat and ate next to the shore with a view to the orange-reddish mountains.

On December 15th, I went out to a dinner with my Rotary Club and ate traditional winter food. As always, I did my speech and had to make a little performance in front of all of the Rotarians. It’s great that lately I been speaking in front of crowds, because it helps me practice my public speaking skills. I love how every time there is an activity here, I get to speak Japanese and everyone understands even though I’m not great at it.

December has been flying by a little too quick. It’s almost the New Year, and then there will only be five months left for me on my exchange. Incredibly 33% of my exchange has passed by in a heartbeat. There are times in which I sit on my bed and stare at the wall asking myself, “How am I going to say my goodbyes to everyone?” It makes me sick to death at the moment. Regardless of how different the holidays are celebrated here, I still involve myself with everything and take part. On the 17th, for the first time I went to a Hand bell concert. They played the traditional American Christmas songs. I was called on stage to play the Hand bell. The melody was so sweet that it made me feel emotional for a couple of minutes. I closed my eyes and thought I was back home, then I opened them and realized it was another day in Japan. At the Hand bell concert, everyone dressed up with semi-formal clothes. After the concert, my host parents took me to a traditional Japanese restaurant and ate so many types of fish you could ever imagine. I notice myself addicted to Green Tea, I always need it now. I drink it at least three times a day with every meal. In America, I would always make faces at tea and say I would never drink that. It’s funny how I wouldn’t do many things before and now I do them.

For the first time in my life, I feel like a princess. I have never gotten so many presents from people I just met. That is common here within most people in Japan. On the 20th, my host parents took me to Universal Studios Japan, in Osaka, for my Christmas present. Even though they don’t celebrate Christmas here they still managed to please me by taking me to something Americanized. We left the house early Sunday morning. We took the Shinkansen which is my all times favorite. The Shinkansen is a high velocity train. It is common to take the Shinkansen when you need to get somewhere quickly or traveling far.

Today December 23, 2009, I will have a semi Americanized Christmas Party, and I will be the main chef of the evening. My host mom made a homemade cake, my host father made some rice cakes, and we will also have some Cambodian guests over. Can’t wait for later!!!

Sayonara, Mely

March 11 Journal

Konichiwa! Minna genki desu ka? Gomen nasai chotto osoi desu. Sorry everyone that I haven’t updated in so long.

Wow can’t believe how time has flown by in a heartbeat. It’s sad to say that I have less than 1/3 of my exchange left. I have been very busy lately, traveling, preparing things around the house, involved in Rotary activities, and with my personal life. In these past three months that I haven’t written a report there has been many things going on in my life. It is unbelievable to see the changes that have taken place in my life since last year. I could say that I have the biggest blessings ever.

Unbelievable as it sounds, I got the opportunity to go to Spain for a week. I remember back in November 29th, 2009, when I moved to my second host family’s home, my host mother mentioned something about going to Spain with her husband. This all happened while we were shopping for food to make dinner that night. It only took for me to say; “I wish I could go too”, then she looked at me and said, “We are going to Spain”. All I could do at that moment of shock is just stare back and say, “Ok”. Later that night, while I was having my first meal with my new host parents, my host mother decided to mention the Spain trip to my host father. As she was telling him about what she had decided to do, I just minded my own business pretending that I didn’t understand Japanese at all. My heart was having the biggest celebration ever, my stomach was filled with make-believe butterflies, my hands were sweaty, and I felt my face burning hot. He was fine with it after she told him, and then we began to celebrate with champagne.

Let me go back in time to New Years. I welcomed the New Year with my current host mother, and my Cambodian host sister. We went to a Shrine 15 minutes away by walking. At the Shrine, I prayed, meditated, ate an orange, and had a traditional New Year’s drink. The fun didn’t last for too long, by 1:00 a.m. I was already home. For the next three days, I ate the same meal for breakfast. Eating the same food three days in a row for New Year’s is traditional in Japan. I was absolutely fascinated with the idea of eating the same thing. The meal had a variety of foods such as, fish, soup, vegetables, eggs, rice cakes, beans, and for dessert sweet potatoes and fruit. Luckily enough, my host parents had a vacation for five days, so the next day we went to one of their apartments in Central Okayama, which is about one hour away by car and slept over. During our stay there, we shopped at the stores around there, and went sightseeing to new places I have never been to before. I took advantage of the opportunity took some pictures, and bought some winter clothes.

On February 18th, I went to Tokyo with my second host family. We took the famous Shinkansen (bullet train) back and forth. I did a range of things during my stay over there. On day one, immediately after arriving, we went to Tokyo’s famous Disneyland. I thought that Disney Park was very much like the one back home, so I felt like as if I was in Orlando. We enjoyed our day there, but the best was yet to come. The next day, my host parents surprised me with this bus tour all around Tokyo. On that sightseeing bus, we toured to the best places in Tokyo. That same night we went back home. Once again back to reality, a great reality.

This month I will be changing homes. I will be moving back to my first host family’s home. Things will be different from before, but I’m looking forward to enjoying my music nights with my host father. At the end I always think of everything happening for the right reason, so I smile. At times I can’t believe I’m in this position. This has been the best months of my life, thank you from the bottom of my heart to Rotary for the best of the best always.

Much love to everyone and enjoy the rest of your exchanges,

Mely

May 14 Journal

Yaho! Moshi-Moshi! Hey everyone!

Unbelievable to say that the last time I wrote was back in February. It can’t seem to cross my mind that in 20 days from today I’ll be flying back home to reality. My ten months in paradise will soon come to an end once I step on that plane. Reality will smack me in the face, when I notice reverse culture shock at home. Frankly, there aren’t words to describe everything that I’ve learned while aboard here nor how thankful I am. It will break my heart when I say my, “Sayonara, matta ne,” (Good-bye see you later/soon), but in reality I’m ready to go back home as another person.

When I think of the day I first came here, I remember a nervous, ready to explore girl, shy, outgoing, willing, and strong-minded girl which just landed from that plane on August 22, 2009. Fortunate enough, my mind was well set on the right channel and I was ready for everything that would come my way. The most embarrassing things happened to me more than once, but yet I smiled as if it was a good thing. The first time I ever freaked out was when I saw everyone eating with chopsticks, then I realized I was in an Asian country. Seriously right then I was out of place. Something else that seemed too hard to believe was the thought of every family member taking a bath in the same water. Wow! In a low toned voice with my slacking eigo-nihongo (Japanese-English) I would ask if it was alright to take a shower instead. My host parents would say yes in this surprised way. How funny that is it to remember all those times.

I’m one lucky girl. In March, I changed to my first host family again. I’ve got to admit that it sure was hard for me to say goodbye to my second host parents  Everything I did with them felt just as if I was back home. They would let me act like myself, the same way I was back home. Most of my days over there were the happiest ones I had. I would frequently sing to them in English and Spanish, then joking around they would tell me to sing in Japanese. Oh those days…  Our relationship became even closer when I had the opportunity to travel with them as far as Paris and some parts in Spain. During the time that I was there with them, I felt that this brick wall that was between them and myself suddenly felt apart. A total plus on my side because it turns out that after that trip a secure feeling grew stronger between us.

On April, weekend after weekend I went on different trips. I was so glad that I went to Nagano, this small city and attended a festival that only occurs every seven years. It was one fascinating festival which involved a couple of trees and many strong men. I did the usual sightseeing and omiyage kaimono (souvenir shopping) for the host parents back home. On Golden week, the first week in May, I went with my current host mom, sister, and brother to my host mom’s birth city, Nagoya. During my stay in Nagoya, we met up with her family and did various things. We had a barbecue the first day, sang some songs at a karaoke box, went twice to onsen (hot springs), sightseeing around, Nagoya Castle, to an amusement park, and the best of was that I spent it with them. This was my last trip here in Japan. My next one will be very soon. More to come until next time 

Ja, matta ne,

Mely yori