Goodbyes

•August 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Saying goodbye to Host Mommy was the worst thing ever. I said goodbye to friends, but we made it all very nonchalant because we may very well see each other again, or at least that’s the mindset. As I packed, she hovered. Just like a mother. She asked me if I needed all the stuff I was leaving behind and then asked about my umbrella. I said I didn’t need it and she responded with, “I will use it so I can memorize you.” Then, of course, like everything she has to demonstrate and she threw the umbrella over her shoulder and posed a little. So cute. When I had to leave she actually hugged me! My dream had come true of hugging host mommy! Yet, as always with the Japanese, it was very awkward. I walked away and she watched me go and I cried. I couldn’t help it. I most likely will never see this wonderful woman who took care of me while I was sick and gave me extra snacks. I love her.

Ryohei was helping me to the next station with my luggage (which was a lot, but also comparatively not all that much), which was a huge rolling suitcase, a heavy duffel, and then my backpack and purse. Heavy, but not too bad. I tried to restrain my tears as well as possible. Once, the bus to take me to the airport started moving (because Ryohei stayed until it left) I just silently cried for a little while. I knew that I would miss this so much and we drove through the entire city it seemed like. I kept remembering all the things I did in all those places. It’s so melodramatic, but I just had such a wonderful experience and it felt cut short.

I went through all the motions at the airport. The man checking my passport asked if I was finished with school and I said yes. Then, he asked for my gai-jin card. He took it. The man. He took. My gai-jin card. NOOOOOOO!!!! I was devastated. Not my foreigner card that says I’m accepted here. Not that. Take anything else. I have presents. He at least could’ve punched a frickin’ hole in it and given it back to me. I wanted that thing. Then, walking to my gate I saw my friend Monika. I had the chance to say a last goodbye to her, so that was nice. Then, I had the chance to say a last goodbye to Jake who was at the gate practically right next to mine. That wasn’t all that fun. I watched him walk to his plane. It was one of those things that makes things somewhat final for my time here. This here and now, was over.

After this, to cheer myself up. I went and walked to see if there was sushi in the airport. And there was! Thank God. I had sashimi as my last meal in Japan and it was ridiculously expensive, but so delicious and worth it. No where else has sushi like that in the airport. Then, I went browsing through the gift stores on crack. They are obsessed with gifts, so I took advantage. I bought a pair of chopsticks for my mother and tried to refrain from much else, except for spending my change that doesn’t convert. I also haven’t converted the rest of my yen because the exchange rate is so bad. I’m waiting, holding onto it like gold to see if the value increases. Keep your fingers crossed.

Eventually I had to get on that plane. I thought a few days earlier I had changed my seat to an aisle seat, apparently I was mistaken. Yes, middle seat. Again. Score. Luckily, I was extremely exhausted so I passed out before the plane took off. I slept a lot of that flight, watched part of Iron Man 2, and then very impatiently waited for the plane to taxi in for a solid half hour. I hate that. But I made it to LA safe and sound after about 10 1/2 hours with the taxiing. (Although that word looks wrong, it is correct. I checked.) My family was there to greet me and I spent the day getting In-N-Out, on the beach, and at dinner. I didn’t sleep all day until the ride back from dinner at 10, where I passed out in the trunk of our rental car. Always classy.  But I had made it. I had yanked myself out of Japan and into my least favorite city in the U.S. That was an accomplishment in itself.

さよなら東京

•July 31, 2010 • 1 Comment

I’m sorry I’ve been so bad about updating, but I’ve just been ridiculously busy and actually stressed out about leaving this country. The thought of me crossing Shibuya crossing for the last time (which was the best Shibuya crossing I’ve ever had by the way) and the last time saying goodnight to Host Mommy and the last time riding a jam-packed last train almost puts me in tears. My eyes are glossy right now to say the least. I love Tokyo it’s the kanji in the title (東京,) the rest says sayonara or goodbye. I have loved roaming a city that has been completely out of my comfort range. I have to come back and host mommy says if my relations come to Japan to contact her, so welcome relations to the world of host mommy. It is fantastic.

I know I won’t miss rando’s taking my picture, japanese style toilets, and soggy omelet type food, but I will miss the rush of being in this city more than any of that. It’s weird how I know how unfamiliar I’m going to feel in such a familiar place. I won’t have to think about how to say that in Japanese if I want to do something. I won’t have to bow or wonder what I’m ordering at a restaurant. It will be dirtier. It will be louder and more rude. I won’t be abnormal looking. Ugh. All of that seems so unfun to me. There are people I need to explore more of Tokyo with. There is so much I haven’t done. I had a farewell party tonight with my host family and we had some wonderful make-your-own sushi (they call it something else, but I can’t remember it) and Miho was talking to me about the people you meet when you study abroad and how they’re different from other people. They are. I love everyone back home and that is my family, but I met people I would have never spent time with before and people who made me grow even farther. I have loved this time and I will miss this break from reality, but I guess it’s time. That time was too short.

This city will forever be my home away from home in another country. I know good places to eat and where to see and what bars to go to. I know what parks are wonderful and what subway lines are a pain in the ass to take. I know how to give off the air of “don’t touch me” on the trains. I know how to read the kanji for the important places. I am an English-speaking Tokyo pro. What a joke. I’ve just figured out my way around this city as best I can. I made my way around a giant food area today looking for Jager and found it solely because I know the kanji for sake (alcohol 酒.) Nice. By the way Mom, I learned that in class. Japanese 1: Kanji for alcohol.

Well, I guess the moral of this story is…I’m going to miss Japan and everything that came with it, especially the people. I am not going to look forward to carrying my most likely overweight bags to my bus and then through the airport, but I’m game. Host mommy told me my bags were “Not Daijoobu” today. That is a direct quote, mixed English and Japanese (I guess I’m rubbing off on her.) So, I summoned Ryohei to my rescue for my literal 10 minute commute to the station where I’m taking my bus. Whatever. It gives me an excuse to see Ryohei again and give him the present I forgot to give him tonight. Good work Rebecca, as usual. Hopefully I will get those traveling mercies my friend Neah sent me. We’ll see. It is me and there always tends to be a glitch.

A Bit of A Review

•July 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’ve just been thinking about the last several months and where I was when I first arrived in Tokyo. I wasn’t nervous at all to come here. I had one single freak out day and I cried in the Cog at Gonzaga (the cafeteria) wondering what the hell I was doing with my life after I figured out that I was definitely not graduating exactly on time, whether I would like my host family or not, and what the hell I would do if my credits didn’t transfer. But before and after that everything was fine. I felt like I should’ve been nervous at least on the flight over, but nothing. I loved it here from the minute I wasn’t too exhausted to realize where I was. There was not even a point in worrying at any moment, which is how I normally look at things. I came in with no expectations, which made this far exceed any that I could have ever had. Although, I had some serious disappointments, some moments of extreme heartache, and a bout of homesickness around my birthday when I wanted to turn 21 in the states in my mountains, I have never once regretted the decision to come to Tokyo.

I remember the first couple times commuting by myself getting up out of my coveted seat to check to see if I was on the right train. Getting lost by myself can be an adventure, but also extremely inconvenient as I cannot find my way back by myself (reading maps is hard ok?) and I can’t speak Japanese very well. Now I know each train that leaves from Shinjuku and when. I know which one is the local, the express, and the semi-special express. I know that each of them goes to the stop I want to go to. I also know that my last train from Shinjuku is at 12:15, so if I don’t get there I have to weigh my options. There is so much I don’t know and will never know, which kind of drives me insane. I want to be able to fully understand. But it’s nice to know that I came so far, that I can find my way around Tokyo by myself and the help of the Tokyo Transfer Guide in English online (this is not cheating.) I also feel more comfortable at restaurants and stores ordering things and talking to people. I might not have great sentence structure skills, but I can usually get across what I want to say. I can understand more of what host mommy says to me too.

I have made friends that I don’t want to leave, I didn’t think that this would happen for some reason. My heart is no longer broken, far from it. My disappointments have made me stronger. My commutes and getting lost and wasting time and waiting for crowds have made me more patient. I hope. Although I won’t mind actually being able to get to a bathroom before I’m almost positive I’m going to pee my pants because I can’t get through the people. My adaptation into the culture has also made me in general more adaptable and more accepting of people in general. I like to think I’ve grown, I’ve been able to take care of myself more wholly. I don’t know if this is entirely true, but I’m sure it’s had some effect. I know that I will always be a little bit lost without the mountains, not just because they show me which direction is West. I’m more confident in myself. I have become a far worse speller. I catch myself writing words the wrong way all the time. Damn Engrish, it’s getting to me. Although, I do feel like I’ve gained confidence in my writing, maybe not the editing part so much. I just get lazy. I’ve also become a far less motivated student. I want to take my exploring to Spokane and go do more things instead of study. There are many things I’m looking forward to when I return, but I am so happy that I had the opportunity to live four months in Japan and find out all the things my mom never told me about this country and all the things she doesn’t remember.

This is all fairly cliche and sentimental, but cliches are a cliche for a reason and I’m kind of sentimental anyway. I’m just going to miss experiencing this life out of my comfort zone every single day. I guess I just need to plan the next adventure.

Fire Flowers

•July 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

There’s there are these things in Japan called Hanabi, they are fireworks festivals. Except 花火 (hanabi) means flower (hana) and fire (bi.) So instead of fireworks they are fire flowers, which I think is so much more appropriate. My friend Chiri went out in the ungodly heat at 12:30 to save us great seats. The fireworks didn’t start until 7:20. In other words, Chiri did us a huge favor. She said she wanted us (the foreigners) to be able to really experience it in the best way possible.

I arrived at the station at around three and Anna dressed my friend Momo and me in Yukata. It was so so hot. I was dripping sweat just standing there in a tank top and shorts, but we managed to get all Yukata’d up in the bathroom of the station. Classy. I wore one of Anna’s and she made the decision to not wear one because it was so hot. Great. We walked to the hanabi area, which took about 40 minutes probably because we stopped along the way to pick up food, drinks, ice cream because we were hot, etc. We had an area of two tarps and there was an incredible amount of people already. We picnicked and hung out for about three hours before the fireworks started. It was nice having the time with all these wonderful people before I left, although I probably should have been study. Whatever.

The fireworks started at 7:20 and it was amazing. Previously, the best fireworks I had ever seen were in Washington D.C. for Fourth of July. Those were pretty spectacular then. Now, I will never be able to look at fireworks in the states in the same way again. This was absolutely incredible. They lasted for over an hour and all of it seemed like the most epic grand finale ever. They had portions where it was set to music and everything. They do competitions and this was one of them. They had colors I had never seen before, they had shapes of some of the famous Japanese characters, they had extremely giant ones. They had fireworks that looked like absolute magic in the sky, fairy dust or something. It was spectacular. There were levels of fireworks too, like they had fountain like things at the bottom and another row of fireworks above, and another one above that. I wish I could explain this in a way that did what I saw justice. It was beautiful and loud and amazing. I was in awe for a solid hour and 10 minutes. It was really nice with Chiri’s fireworks commentary in the background. At one point there were really bright flashing ones, so I hear “Oh, I feel like I’m a model. Is this how models feel on the runways?” I turn around and of course, she’s model posing. Chiri, Tiff, and Anna were telling me that these were good, but this wasn’t even the best one. I’m not sure how it could get better, but I wish I could stay in Japan to find out. It’s just another one of those awesome traditions that is nonexistent in the states.

We had to wait for close to an hour to leave the area because it was so crowded with people. Chiri took advantage of this and decided to take a nap, so Japanese (the ability to sleep anywhere.) After that, we cleaned up, packed up, and set out. We made an adventure of the walk to the station with dancing, playing at parks, and Chiri taking pictures with random men. Nice. It was such a wonderful evening, especially since the wind started blowing and it wasn’t so deathly hot. I will miss nights like this and experiences like this, but I am so glad that I had the chance to have such a Japanese experience.

Engulfed in Sickness

•July 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This is a whiny post, just as a forewarning, but you can’t hear the high-pitched nasal voice that normally comes along with that. You wouldn’t be able to hear it any way because I don’t have a voice hardly at all. It is unfair to feel this shitty during finals week and my last week in Japan. It’s just unfair. I’ve been trying to study for finals, but I get too tired to concentrate because all my energy is spent a) coughing or b) blowing my nose or c) sneezing (because of course I can never sneeze just once.) I am proud to say that I am single-handedly keeping the Scottie tissue paper company in business. I have also concerned Host Mommy, which is nice. I can’t run the air conditioning because it makes everything worse, so I get ice packs and lots of medicine. It took her forever to figure out what to give me because apparently her medication doesn’t work on anyone but Japanese people. I’m pretty sure this is false, but she did find some suitable medicine for me to use eventually. It’s helped slightly. I’ve been doing everything in my power to help myself. I’m avoiding dairy and caffeine and alcohol. I’m drinking a ton of water, washing my hands, etc. I still feel like I’m going to keel over and die. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but I do feel quite terrible. My cough burns all the way down into my chest.

Tonight, I went to go meet Ryohei and Daigo, who are both originally friends from Gonzaga, but both moved back to Japan. Host Mommy called me to tell me I was sick and shouldn’t have gone out. Thanks for watching out Host Ma, but I am still 21-years-old and make bad decisions. This may be one of them, but I had to say goodbye to Daigo. I don’t think I will see him again, maybe ever. This was a sad realization I had when Daigo and Ryohei gave me a going away present, which was this beautiful wall-hanging thing. I don’t exactly know what to call it, I’m sure there’s a word for it in Japanese, but regardless it has a geisha and flowers and kanji and it is absolutely beautiful. I was so touched that they did this for me. I get to bring them back with me in a way. It again made me realize that inspite of this nasty cold, nasty weather, and nasty air conditioning, that I’m going to miss the people I have to leave behind in Tokyo. And on the way home I even saw a girl in tennis shoes high heels and a woman that had a dog on a leash that was carrying an unopened pack of Twining’s tea in it’s mouth. Oh, Tokyo I will miss you.

To Answer My Question…

•July 21, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I met a new friend the other day. His name is Koji and he is in a wheelchair. I talked about how I wasn’t sure how people in wheelchairs got around via the train system, but hanging out with him for a night showed me how difficult it can be. First of all, there are two main train systems in Japan. There’s JR (Japan Railways) which are the trains above ground and there is Tokyo Metro, which are the subway trains underground. JR is much less accommodating for those with physical disabilities, so Koji almost always takes Tokyo Metro trains. I always preferred JR, mostly because the stations are cooler and the trains are typically nicer. I had no idea that there was a disparity between the convenience of these two.

We had to take many an overheated elevator and make sure where they were, which isn’t always exactly where you want to be. It’s frustrating, not because it takes so much more time and because I had to wait, I didn’t care about that. But because this is a social justice issue. Everyone has to use these trains, they should make them more convenient for the people who are not as blessed with working legs. It made me angry that Koji had to worry so much about how to get around. He can’t take the trains to school in the morning because they are always so busy and they make people in wheelchairs wait because there is not enough room. The trains have an unusually large amount of space between them and the platform (probably close to a foot,) which makes it difficult for many wheelchairs to get in or out of the trains. I know it will always be more difficult to get around on wheels than on your feet, but I just wish that the stations were built to be more compatible for people. Anna was telling me that there are some places that it is just impossible to go to with a wheelchair via train. AAHHH! It just makes me so angry. If I were Koji, I would be so bitter. Yet, he makes the best of it and never complained. This involves patience on a daily basis that is hard for me to comprehend. Especially since I’m about ready to bash my air con in with a bat because I’m so angry that I’m so incredibly sick right now. I guess that means that’s something I need to work on.

Where Japan Went Wrong

•July 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As I sit here writing this I am hating my life. Why? The air conditioner is slowly killing me. I’m sure of it. This might not even be an exaggeration. The lack of central air conditioning is really chapping my ass in this absolutely ungodly heat and humidity. I know there’s worse, but the humidity kills me. I mean I’m from the desert. It’s not the fact that the whole house isn’t cool that bothers me, it’s more along the lines that if I run my air conditioning it really messes with my respiratory system, especially if I run it over night. So either way I lose. I’m either hot and sweaty all night long or I wake up and can’t breathe and have gunk in my throat that is very uncomfortable. Right now I have both. As my throat condition worsens on a daily basis, it is single handedly making me feel fine about leaving this country with it’s poor housing and heating/cooling systems and going to more suitable climates with central air conditioning that doesn’t mess with my lungs. In case you’re wondering I am positive that it’s the air conditioning because the second I turn it on I feel it in throat. I think I may go live in a love hotel for the next 10 days. Screw it.

Phew. I apologize for my rant. But this does start off my list of things I won’t miss. That is by far number one, ichi ban, I will not miss this is at all. I also will not miss..

2. The Rain: I love a good rainy day, in the middle of Colorado summer where every other day is sunny. When it downpours for six days in a row, not so much. I don’t appreciate going to school and coming home drenched from head to toe even though I’m using an umbrella. It is unpleasant. It is grey and depressing and makes it difficult to do things. It also perpetuates the ever present humidity of which you can already tell I am a huge fan of. I think I will be fine not worrying that my shoes may mold or wondering if I’m going to have to buy an umbrella that day because I forgot mine. Welcome back dry weather and driving.

3. Loudspeakers: Japanese people do not have yards in which to put campaign posters. They are not allowed to hang them in public really. Instead they found this really great alternative called shouting at obscene volumes through mega phones. It’s delightful, really. I don’t know how I lived without it for so long…………………………………………………NOT! It really is so obnoxious and I hate it sometimes they aren’t even stationary, they move in vehicles down the street doing this so they can bother even more people. I don’t even understand what they’re saying and it drives me nuts. I’m guessing if I did understand it would only make things worse. I will be glad that what will be loud at home will be music and basketball games.

4. No Trash Cans: I will not miss carrying my trash around for hours and then having to leave it in a locker because I am so fed up with trying to find a trash can. I don’t feel bad solely because they make it so incredibly inconvenient for you. I know this doesn’t coincide with the convenience thing, but there must be anomalies.

5. No Soap/Paper towels/toilet paper: Why the super clean Japanese choose to have bathrooms that don’t paper towels and sometimes don’t supply soap and toilet paper still baffles me. I love bathrooms that have all three of these things and don’t make you pay for toilet paper. That is just plain unfair and sexist in my opinion since I would quite enjoy toilet paper after a pee. I don’t want to have to carry around a wash cloth to dry my hands or free kleenex for the times that there is no toilet paper. It is just obnoxious. In less than two weeks I won’t have to.

6. Last Trains: I will not miss having to worry about last trains. I don’t enjoy having to interrupt my fun to literally book it through train stations. Although I do enjoy dodging Asians sometimes, I also would like to know that I won’t have to find something to do until five in the morning. I really hate being dependent on anything really, so I won’t miss having to depend on the trains, although they are a nice mode of transportation and always entertaining.

7. Texting: Japanese cell phones are great and high tech and incredibly convenient. If you are Japanese. If you are kanji illiterate, which I so am, they are a bitch to text on. I will not miss ABC texting with predictive text that only gives me capitalized words. I will not miss taking 10 minutes to write a simple text message. I also will not miss not being able to call people because it is so much more expensive. I will quite enjoy using a phone made for English speakers.

8. Bad Mexican Food: They just can’t seem to accomplish Mexican food well. I will not miss this. I want Mexican food.

Those are my horrendous problems with Japan. I’m sure there are other little details, but these are the things I dislike most. Oh, what a rough life.