Jasmine Norris  
2012-13 Outbound to Japan
Hometown: Winter Park, FL
School: Winter Park High School
Sponsor: District 6980, FL
Host: District TBA, Japan
Club TBA

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So I can't believe that I've been in Japan for one month but it has been so packed that it flew by. I experienced culture shock the first day I was here and it was kind of scary when I realized how far I was from home but I got over that once I started having fun. The first week I just did the tourist things like shopping in Harajuku and Shibuya, visiting shrines, karaoke, and saw a summer night festival. All of those things were fun and exciting but the second week I started to settle into my life and do normal things like wash dishes, ride bikes and trains, and go to school, we started school the third week.

First impression:

When I first got here I came with barley any expectations. I wanted to keep an open mind and try new things even if I didn't like it.. hahaha the food. When I got off the plane I went straight to the bathroom but of course it was high tech and I didn't know how to flush the toilet. 45 minutes after getting off the plane and struggling through baggage claim, I made to 5 rotarians wondering if I was the right Jasmine because they meet two before me. The ride home took 3 hours because of traffic in Tokyo but it was worth it because I got to see the skyline of Tokyo and finally got some sleep. When I got to my host family's house they quickly told me the rules and told me I had to make a speech for the Rotary meeting I'll be attending in 12 hours. Let just say I knew I would have to work hard from there on out.

The Food.

The food was the only thing that I was worried about coming to Japan. I didn't like fish, most vegetables, RAW FISH, coffee, tomatos, and many other things I had the first week but to be honest, I think I'm use to it and kind of like eating those things. I'll admit not everything is my favorite and I eat it because I don't want to be rude but I really like soba, a type of noddles, octopus, some sushi, and I always drink tea. I still prefer Korean and Chinese food over Japanese but most of the food is still great.

School.

So I started school 4 days ago and it's Sunday right now and I'm actually at school writing this because we're having a school festival that last all day. There's nothing in America like this. It's like homecoming week on steroids shoved into two days where the public is invited. Yes I do have school on Saturdays but every other saturday and it's only for half of the day. School has been fun at times and lonely at others. I've made a lot of friends from my class (which has 42 students) but not close enough where they want me to hang out with me and do stuff out of school. I know those relationships take time but I've been here for a month and I still haven't seen any exchange students ( a blessing and a curse within itself). There are those moments when your on top of the world because everyone knows you and says hi and I love your eyes and eyelashes but than I have those moments when I think why isn't anyone talking to me why can't they explain to me what's going on. Some things that are different from American school are the boys and teachers. The boys are so shy. So many boys say my name and take pictures when they think I'm not looking but they never approach me. If the come near me and barely touch me, they say sorry and if I move out of the way they say thank you; weird right? No, just Japanese style. The teachers are really nice to me and the principal is so happy that I came to this school. Teachers change classrooms not the students, so this is technically our classroom which we must clean. I've only been here for less than a week so I'll see how many interesting stories I'll have next month.

Language.

Japanese makes me want to cry. Everyone here wants to speak engrish ,yes that's how they say it, to me but it only makes it harder for me to learn Japanese and it makes me feel like a burden. My friend e-mailed me and say that she will study English harder so she can talk to me more but I'm the one in her country, I'm the one that needs to learn the language. I think the hardest part about not knowing the language is having so much to say but you can't get your point across and you have to sum it up in one word that you can barely pronounce. So, why not learn the language? Trust me I am but not fast enough. I study at least 3 hours a day but I usually remember 5 words. It's hard and I can't give up but the end result will hopefully be worth it in the end.

Family.

I have met my fourth host family who seems awesome and loving. I know my second family who has a daughter in Florida, D6950 and I'm in love with my current host family. I'm living with the Tonuma in Kawaguchi, Saitama basically because they speak english. I'll admit that sometimes I do take advantage when it comes to speaking english but I'm extremely grateful because they translate for me and it's a lot easier to learn Japanese from them. I live about 10 minutes outside of Tokyo so I've gone there often but the problem is everything I need to attend is far away meaning school and Rotary. To get to school I ride my bike 20 minutes to a parking place. Than I walk to the train station and take a 20 minute train from Nishi Kawaguchi to Yono. After that I walk 25 minutes to school making my commute around 1 hour and 5 minutes. My Rotary club is one station away from school so you might see my dilemma with transportation. Other than that, I've h ad an amazing time with my host family. They've taken me to Harajuku, Shinokubo, Karaoke, a summer night festival, and Nagano! I'm made many memories already and they now consider me family. I already know it will be hard to leave them.

Rotary.

Rotary in Japan is so different from RYE Florida. In a good way or bad way is yet to be determined. I've been here for a month and still haven't seen any exchange students. I understand why Scott might be happy thinking, "less english.. good," but it does get lonely sometimes. I have friends at school but they just don't understand some of the hardships that I go through. Being away from your comfortable bed, not seeing your friends or family, not being able to drive yourself places, just being a foreigner. What I'm trying to say is that our Rotary clubs are more involved with the exchange students than our district is. Actually, it seems like my district is run by Rotex but I could be wrong seeing how I haven't been to any events. With that said my Rotary club is awesome. They have had a dinner for me and are paying for my expensive class trip to Okinawa! Everyone in my district also has their own personal counselor with definitely has its benefits.

I can't believe I've been in Japan for a month already. That's so much to do, places to see, and people to talk to. Of course this wouldn't have been possible without Scott, Mrs. Lutz, my mom, Sarah, family and friends. Arigatou gozaimasu. Now it's time to go enjoy Japan more. じゃね!