Friday, January 14, 2011
Before I left for Japan, I had a lot of pent-up stress and frustrations. However, after being 7000 miles away from home, I realized that those problems I had were small, solvable, or not worth my time at all. Now back in America, I feel that nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. I see the world as a bigger place, and I want to explore it all.
In Japan I made lasting friendships, a lifelong bond with fellow exchangers (from Brazil, California, Virginia, and Ecuador), have a bigger view of the world, and now have the confidence to do anything. After going to Japan I realize that ANYTHING is possible.
When I got back from Japan, in a sense, I died inside. It was the happiest/calmest time in my entire life. However, I know that I will be back again, and I know that I still have all of the world to explore and fall in love with.
So what's next? Well, I am graduating from high school and I am going to attend university in the Fall.
My advice for future exchangers is that if you even have the opportunity to go abroad: do it. It will CHANGE your life for the better. If you are ready to jump into the unknown and experience a world of opportunities, then do it. I can guarantee that you will not regret it.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
- Went to Kyoto at night with Vicky: I would not suggest this. Not going with Vicky, but going at night. It was cool in a way, but it's not the best time for taking pictures of the temples (as you can probably see from the slide show). However, something really cool and unexpected did happen. There was this random water show on the top of the Kyoto train station entrance. It was really pretty and reminded me of something they would play at Disney world :D
- Went to our friend Yuuki's "special spot": Ok so Yuuki is a really cool guy, and he speaks great English but he is a little (read: VERY) shady. But then again he is cute...yes, I know, that should NOT be a judge of character. But anyways, the night turned out to be a lot of fun :) He took us to this really fancy restaurant place and we went on the top of the roof (which has a bunch of cool canopy places to sit, and you could see the the city from up there. At night it looks really pretty :D
- Vicky's birthday: On Vicky's birthday, my Okaasan brought a plain cake and told me to decorate it. Now I did work at a bakery before, but they didn't let me near the cakes, let alone decorate them (I was on box making duty...with the occasional cupcake thrown in there), so I was a little skeptical. However, I managed to spell "Vicky" but cutting up kiwis, so I was quite proud of myself ^0^ Maybe I should become a baker...ok, let's not get ahead of ourselves ;)
- Another Kyoto Trip, but this time with Okaasan: Since our last trip didn't work out so well our Okaasan took me and Vicky to Kyoto during the day. This time we went to view the leaves, which were BEAUTIFUL!!! The leaves do change colors in America, but I've never seen any so vibrant and rich before (and also the Japanese seem to appreciate leaves and nature more than Americans, so I might have been brought in by the "hype"). After we got there we preceded to climb a mountain (this host family is OBSESSEDDDD; monkey mountain, killer mountain, tengou mountain, bird mountain, mountain mountain. I've got some serious calf muscles going on right now). Once we got to the top we stepped inside of this giant circle thing to make a wish. It was a lot of fun, but we were all totally beat by the end of the day.
- Yakitori Restaurant: Yaki means "barbeque" and "tori" means chicken. Usually you go to Yakiniku (niku meaning "meat") restaurants, but Vicky doesn't like meat so the family went to the Chicken version. Since it was a whole restaurant based off of the chicken, they had to get...creative. Aka: chicken hearts, livers, spleens gull bladders (well not quite gull bladders, but you get the idea). If I hadn't known what I was eating I would have been fine, but whenever I picked something up my Okaasan would put out to me (using her body as a diagram) what I was eating and then my little brother would act out what sound it made. For example, if I picked up a piece of heart, my host mom would put to her chest and say "see??? right here!" and then my host brother would yell "DOKI DOKI DOKI DOKI!!! (the equivalent of "bathump bathump" in Japanese)", not very appetizing....
- Mountain in Nara: This time we drove up, so my calves got a break :) It was some very intense driving indeed though. There were a bunch of sharp turns and bumps, and even 100s of people going down the mountain to hike. Add pitch darkness, and then you got yourself quite the exhilarating drive. It was totally worth it though, when we got to the top it was like this shopping complex thing, but then when you walked out onto the patio/viewfinder area it was BREATHTAKING. I had never been up that high before and there were so so so so many lights so it was just...wow. And the gift shop was pretty cool too, it had a bunch of turtle stuff. I think this mountain was "Kameyama" (literally means: Turtle Mountain"). I was gonna buy a trinket for my friend whose name is Kameyama (me and Vicky had a laughing fit), but they were too expensive. And the one thing I thought would be perfect for my dad turned out not to be on sale :(( But oh wells, I got a lot of other good stuff.
- Saying Goodbyes: Ok this was the hardest thing. Especially with my school teachers. They presented me with this BEAUTIFUL certificate and went around a circle saying how amazing I was and how they all want to visit me in America. They were all so nice and helpful to me during my stay, I am forever grateful to them, and it made my heartache to think that I might never see them again :(( When I had to say goodbye to my best friends, Chibi and Misato, it was really heartbreaking too. They even told me that they loved me, something the Japanese NEVER do, because they are all so shy. It was so touching and it made me want to stay forever :((
- Seeing the Leaves: The day before my departure, Vicky's school friends took us to go see the leaves in a town (I forget the name, but it's famous for leaf viewing). It was the definition of bittersweet...
I put in a slideshow of all my pictures, but just in case the slideshows decide not to work in the future, here's a link to my pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/jjamison923
Sunday, November 7, 2010
And yeah, hope that clears things up a bit. I live in a relatively…”shady/seedy” part of Japan. So there is a whole lot of yankii where I live. Also, my host sister and all of her friends are yankii too. My host sister thought I was leaving November 1st (I am leaving November 27th), so she was trying to set me up with all of her yankii friends during my “last” week here. It was quite amusing…And I have come to realize that I love the yankii lifestyle ;)
Friday, October 22, 2010
My host dad works part time as a kayak tour person (at least that’s what I think he said) but he’s pretty famous for what he does. He’s in a lot of kayaking/camping magazines and stuff like that. He doesn’t work a lot during the fall/winter seasons though, it’s mostly during the summer (he actually spends the WHOLE summer at the beach kayaking sometimes). Since me and Vicky had been dropping a lot of hints (well maybe we weren’t all that subtle…), he decided to take us with him on one of his excursions J We woke up early one morning and basically started driving. When my Otosan (host dad) was younger, he used to live in Okinawa so he has a lot of Okinawan CDs (which we listened to the whole drive up). Some songs are really catchy, some are funny, and some have ear bleeding qualities about them. Like in one song these ladies with really really (realllyyyyy) high nasally voices keep repeating “Iya…SASASASASASA” and just when you think it’s finally over, again, “Iya…SASASASASASA”. My favorite song is the one about goats though. Yes, goats. Supposedly Okinawa is known for its many goats (?) so there’s a song where this shady guy says “Okinawa dokodemo hija ‘MEMMEMEM’’. It literally means “Okinawa anywhere goats ‘MEMEMEMEM’” The “mem” part is the guy trying to sound like a goat. And then there’s a crazy guy in the back screaming “Memmemme!” in a high pitched raspy voice. The first time I heard it, honestly I was frightened. But now that I have gotten used to it I enjoy listening/singing along. I do quite a good “MEMMEMMEM” if I do say so myself.
The beach itself was really pretty. It felt like we were on a tropical island :O While Otosan was working, me and Vicky walked around the neighborhood. We found a little island with a lot of houses, an abandoned haunted looking building, this crazy Egyptian guy, and a temple. Japan surprises you sometimes like that. On the island with a lot of houses Vicky had to go to the bathroom so we went looking for one. However, all we found was a bunch of narrow streets and alleyways. When we got to the Ojisan (old man) we asked him where a public bathroom was and he chuckled and said there wasn’t any on the island, just houses. But he kindly let Vicky use his bathroom J When he opened the front door to his house his wife looked at us like “What the heck are these foreigners doing in my house?” but then she warmed up to us xD When Vicky was finished we went looking some more around the neighborhood and found this cat lady. But all her cats were sneezing for some reason…Then we found this guy dressed in all black and he started whispering something to us. We decided something wasn’t right on this island and before the townspeople could offer us as sacrifices at the temple we decided to go back to the mainland. Where we preceded to make a sand castle J
Overall it was a pretty fun day, and all the scenery was like out of a Hayao Miyazaki movie. That’s something I’ve noticed about Japan though. I used to think that the scenes in Manga and Anime were just imagination, but it’s really just the real Japan. Aside from the fantasy manga, the scenery and different places in Japan aren’t glamorized or made into something else; for the most part they’re copied down exactly how they are.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Me and Vicky took a train to see the deer in Nara! It was a lot of fun!! And I found my favorite matcha ice cream too ^o^ The deer were really kawaii (cute) but they were very forceful…and I bought some of the sanbei to feed the deer with. They nudge you a lot and there was this one deer that seemed like a demon deer with its cut off horns and gray fur. We pet the deer for a while and then we walked around the shopping district and I bought souvenirs for people in America.
A few weeks back my Okaasan took me, Vicky, and my little host brother to a baseball game. Since this was on my list of stuff I wanted to do I was really excited :D My okaasan made a big lunch of rice balls and sandwiches and we set out. My Otosan drove us to the Osaka dome (another thing of my list J ) and dropped us off. It was a really exciting atmosphere! It was pretty much like a baseball game in America, but there was actually less technology when it came to the tickets. I think that’s because this wasn’t a major league game though, just a small league. We came into a big room and gave a person our tickets (and we got a discount because of my little brother’s school ^^) and they gave us free T-shirts. Tada suki (I like free)!! \(^0^)/ When we got into the arena it was a lot bigger than I thought it would be! And it seemed to perfect, like a hologram or something. I found the cheering very interesting though. It wasn’t like America where people just yell and shout out random things; people knew exactly what to chant/yell. It was very orderly and they switched between fans. Like our team sung/chanted/did a specific song, then the other team did the same. It reminded me of my high school football teams and how the bands play. Oh and something else that I found quite interesting was that there were a lot of foreigners on the baseball team. Like there were 3 whites guys, One Hispanic, and one Indian guy. Whenever the white guys went they played rock music, Hispanic guy: samba, Indian guy: music from the movie soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire xDD Towards the end, we blew up these balloons (that looked oddly familiar to something I learned about in health class…) and we let them go all together. It was really pretty, I wish I could have gotten a video :O Otosan said he didn’t feel like picking us up (gotta love Otosan haha xD) so we took the train home. Overall it was a good day ^^