September 11, 2013
To be honest, I don't even know where to start. I have been here for two weeks now and it just seems so unreal. In order to get here I had to take a flight to New York then from New York to Tokyo then a domestic flight to Komatsu. I was beyond frantic because once I arrived in Tokyo I only had two hours to get on board my domestic flight. Those two hours worried me more then anything; I didn't know if it would be enough time to go through immigration and customs, get my luggage, check in, and find my way to the gate. It doesn't help that whenever I thought of Narita Airport, I pictured the typical crowded and confusing airport. Thank god to my surprise, it was very simple and easy and I actually ended up having more then enough time waiting at the gate to get on board. The last plane trip wasn't that long and arriving at Komatsu I had a welcome sign and host club head officials as well as all of my future host families there. It was a great chance to meet everyone and finally get the opportunity to practice that Japanese I've been learning for the past few months!
Despite the hectic first day, the ones to come along beyond that have been truly amazing. Each day I feel like I've learned a new fun fact on Japanese culture. Since I live in Kanazawa, it still takes grand part in the traditional life, but as all great cities go the modern tune has joined in as well. From having my host family show me all the shrines and temples or just driving somewhere and pointing stuff along the way. It simply amazes me how beautiful of a city Kanazawa is and that Rotary did a good job picking it out for me!
Starting high school in Japan... makes me wish I wasn't staying here for just a year. The teachers are beyond helpful and all have gone out of there way to introduce themselves individually. For some reason I keep getting assigned to draw their face and write their name in order for me to make sure I don't forget them. I guess they planned that out between each other. The students are super friendly I was not expecting that. I always read and heard how Japanese are timid but kind. Well maybe my high school was an exception because the kids are always trying to talk to me or coming up randomly to say Hello or Kawaii! It didn't take me long to learn that kawaii was a compliment and I didn't have something wrong with me. The girls and boys always try to include me in things and show me my way around as well as introduce me to more students in the school. Since you never actually switch classes like America, it's actually the teachers that switch room; yo ur classmates never change. I began to realize that the class acts like a family, everyone picks on each other or is comfortable with one another. My class, my new friends, have been more then accepting and welcoming to their foreign newcomer.
Another new group of friends are the inbound students from other parts of the US, Canada, and Australia. There was an inbound orientation and finally I got to meet everyone. It was fun to mention things that shocked us coming to Japan and several small experiences that went on that we could all relate. The rotex took us to hang out after our inbound orientation and we went to go do karaoke. May I just mention, that I have always wanted to go with a group of friends and do karaoke ever since I've seen it in anime. As we waited for our room, we took our time in the game center just a floor below. As any group of teenagers that just came to Japan, we went first to their photo booths. Something I realized right away, depending on the photo booth it kind of edits the photo itself. The one we went in had some sort of model with pink lipstick so once the photo was taking everyone had pretty pink lips... even the boys. Also our eyes suddenly stand out and our skin looks lighter and perfect. To go even further there is a green screen as the background and once you're done you can continue to write on the photos add eye lashes and stickers to it before you print it. It made more some very hysterical pictures but even more great memories. It was these sort of little things and great enjoyments that remind me how blessed I am to become part of a new culture, whether traditional or modern, and how many fun and learning things I have ahead for me.
February 4, 2014
みんなさんこんにちは! 久しぶり! That means hello everyone, long time no see in Japanese. I'm incredibly sorry that I have taken such a long hiatus in between writing my journals. Japan never lets me have a break. A lot has changed since I first came here, I can honestly say I have adjusted to the lifestyle very quickly. I have definitely tried a lot of food that I would never imagine getting even an inch close to my mouth, but that's the fun part of exchange, always try new things. I'll have to admit I was never a big fan of seafood before coming to Japan, but since it is a large part of the culture I have been willing to change my mind. Certain foods have surprisingly won me over but others seem to stay in the 'do not touch' section. That's okay though to any future outbound, it's more the fact that you tried it out and gave it a chance.
Right now I am living with my second family, the Nakamuras, following my previous family, the Dois. Both are very understanding and have helped me come a long way. Japanese culture is a complex culture as well as very traditional. Many don't seem to realize this and only think of the high tech gadgets and colorful anime-looking girls they see on TV. That is by far the worst expression you can get from Japan. Japan is modernizing itself day by day but it remains true to it's values and continues to teach the following generation respect and modesty.
Going into school life, the beginning of each period when the teacher walks in we must bow all at once. The same thing goes along at the end of the period when the teacher walks out. When you pass any teacher in the hallway, you greet them in polite Japanese rather then casual Japanese that you use with your friends (even if they aren't any of your teachers). The teachers, especially your homeroom, are much more involved with your life and will constantly keep in contact with your family or send things home. My homeroom teacher has created a strong bond with all of the students in my class and unites us all. We eat lunch in the classrooms rather than in a large cafeteria. I use to eat lunch with some girls in my class but by the third month I started eating lunch with the girls in class 2-3. I feel like that change was actually a good thing, it expanded my horizons beyond just my homeroom class.
I joined the girl basketball team here in Japan. When people hear of Japanese students, they solely think about studious and hardworking teenagers. I think you'd be pretty surprise how serious they take sports. The girl's basketball team practices everyday after school, varying upon which day of the week makes it longer or shorter time period. We practice 5 hours in the morning on Saturday and Sunday and only have a selected amount of days off from time to time. Luckily my coach is very understanding and allows for me to take some days off when I'm going on a trip or have rotary meeting to go to. It sounds really hard and time consuming, believe me it is, but with this I have grown into another family. The girls in the basketball team are like sisters to me, we get on each others nerves and also cheer each other on. They are the ones that gave me a court name ( a single kanji in which will be easier to call out during practice and games) Bibi. The kanji for my name Bibi is only Bi 美 and means beautiful. I'm more than flattered that I was given that kanji and actually have it on all of my school uniform and practice wear.
Somehow my court name Bibi and kanji writing has been spread around the school, suddenly everyone calls me Bibi anywhere I go. I'm so grateful for all the friends I have made in all of the classes and can't help but smile when someone calls out Bibi and says hello. I have had my share of pictures being taken and 'i love you' haha. Some of the best ones was when we had an indoor sports tournament in my school and when I was playing dodge ball for my class, the boy soccer team of my school kept cheering Bibi. I have really grown to love all of them and really hurts that I'm almost halfway into my exchange.
In contrast to many of the students in my district, my school gave me a unique schedule where I have Japanese tutors every day of the week and also a free computer time in order to study. Recently they also added me into art classes. Women basketball is taken very seriously and it is difficult to attend both club meetings. We all luckily reached a compromise and I attend art classes now during the day with sanenseis (3rd years). In Japanese culture, it is rare to be in more than one club. Mainly because once you are apart of a club, you dedicate yourself, your time, and your effort to the club. As I continue to repeat the word, club, as they call everything by rather than sports being called teams. A club has meetings and practices all year long rather than seasons. Something that definitely surprised me. Luckily for me, practicing basketball everyday also means losing all the extra weight I put on from eating so much Japanese food haha.
Just with the past couple of months, I have had my fair share of traveling. I have been able to visit so many cities near and far and the famous Kyoto has finally been crossed off the list. I've ventured upon ancient villages still kept intact, golden temples, one of the largest shrines, one of the largest buddha statues, one of the largest mountains, and it goes on and on.
I'm actually preparing for my trip to Hiroshima, Osaka, and more. Not long after that is my school trip to Tokyo that I get to spend with my group of friends non stop! I'm excited for whats in store. I'm simply blessed and thankful for being given this opportunity and get reminded that every day that passes in this outstanding country. I'll keep you posted soon, I got more adventures to take on!