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Nihon de: The adventures of Maggie » Plane Flight

Stumble to the Starting Line

Posted by maggie on May 12, 2012 in In Japan

I’ve decided that 13 hour flights stink. Pretty much anytime you have to fly for longer than maybe 2 hours stinks. The novelty of flying wears off quickly, and it’s hard for someone like me, who is so used to multitasking and getting stuff done (listen to music + play a game or read with a movie on or some combo like that) to only do things one at a time. For 13 hours. I could have killed 3/4 of the flight by watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy but I got bored after the first hour or so and had to switch to something else. The only thing I could watch all the way through were T.V. shows. The nice thing, though, is there was a wide selection of things to choose from. I never had to break out my laptop and rarely my iPod. The seat I was in was very nice and had lots of leg room, and the man next to me was very pleasant. He wasn’t Japanese like a good number of the other passengers, but he was social and informative when we were both good for it, but it didn’t feel awkward to turn away and start reading or something at some point. It was a nice balance for me, and he told me about how he lived in Japan and worked for the government, which was cool. To summarize, the flight itself was a drain on my energy and patience, but it wasn’t all bad. It was the price I paid for this trip, and it was well worth it. Thanks to my mom for procuring the nice seat :)

Now I’m here. The hotel had no Wifi, so I couldn’t update earlier to talk about the flight. I thought I’d get that out of the way right now. A good portion of the day was spent riding around on trains, getting a feel for them as well as getting where we needed to go. I’d been told that there would be no English, but there was some. Plenty of romaji, which is the romanization of Japanese words, which is easily readable for any English speaker who can read.

We had a nice big partially Japanese breakfast at the hotel, then went from Narita airport to Shinagawa, which I think is part of the Roppongi district, if the subway map I’m using is right. We broke into groups and went looking around the station for an hour or so before dinner with our host families. There was a lot of shopping and food places there. Katie, Cindy, and I had chocolate croquettes I think? Whatever they were, they were delicious; really melty on the inside and flaky on the outside. We also wandered in and out of convenience stores. I found Orangina, which made me very happy. :)

Around 3 I met Sueko Oyaizu, my host mom. She speaks little to no English, and I speak basic sentences of Japanese. I thought at first this was a disaster waiting to happen, but we communicate alright. It’s stilted and slow and very simplistic, at least on my end, but she’s very patient and pleasant and has gone out of her way to make me feel welcome. She gave me stationary, an envelope, and stamps and let me write a letter home tonight; she helped me address it while we were watching T.V. This communication reminds me of my brother somehow. I often wonder how he views the world, as an autistic kid. He can speak very basically, expressing simple wants, and becomes easily frustrated when not understood. That is just observing from the outside, but it offers me a weird sense of understanding and appreciation. In his own way, his thoughts must be coherent and understandable to him. I feel stupid in the presence of others who speak so much better than I do, and when I can speak basically and communicate correctly I feel like a child in elementary school again. It feels weird, sure, but it’s not all bad. I understand how my roommate must have felt my freshmen year, coming to the U.S. with some English but not as proficient. It’s very humbling to be on the other end.

Sueko-san gives me motivation. I like her. I want to be able to speak to her and understand her. I want her to be proud of me like she is of Haley, her last homestay student. I want to give her something back that isn’t necessarily tangible, like the gift of Virginia peanuts I brought. :) I want to improve my Japanese much more before I leave, and I have a feeling she can help me do it. I’m feeling a little of that culture shock, but it’s no where near as bad as I thought it would be.

A little extra detail: I like the big bath tub with no overflow drain. :) It’s funny that the toilet is in a different room, but I guess I understand why it’s considered dirty to put them together. I figured out the toilet just fine; I just ignore the buttons unless I have to. I may have some trouble figuring out the shower, but that will come with time I think. I hope :). I like that the northeast part of Tokyo that I’m staying in seems smaller and a little less crowded, at least still you get to the train station.

It’s quiet here. Maybe a little because it is night, but I get the sense this is a calm neighborhood. The nearest convenience store is literally a block and a half up the road. My room is small but homey and comfortable. I hope it all goes well.

Tomorrow we practice getting to the University and meeting people there. I tell you more as it comes up. :)


BTW, these weren’t pictures I took. I’m slow to do that just yet because A) I feel like a stupid tourist, and B) I’m just getting settled. I’ll pull out the camera more when I have more energy. See you soon

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The Night Before…

Posted by maggie on May 9, 2012 in Pre-Trip Thoughts

As you can tell from the title, it’s right before I’m supposed to fly and I’m feeling a mix of extreme anticipation and extreme dread. The details have finally hit home, and they smack me with a baseball bat, saying, “You’re going to Japan.”

Thinking of the Beatles movie “Yellow Submarine,” which I watched with my Dad a few nights ago in some last minute bonding time, I feel as if I myself am about to embark on a strange journey through several seas filled with vibrant colors and weird creatures. Well, the comparison isn’t perfect, but really what is? Will I survive? Will I be able to understand anything? Am I going to be fighting off blue meanies with the awesome power of song?

….probably not the last one. But still!

So many stressors are going through my mind. My homestay mother sounds as though she speaks very little English. I’m about to go to a country where my language of choice isn’t the preferred means of expressing myself. A good friend of mine is leaving the area and I’m really sad to see her go. My grades from Spring Semester just came in and they’re mostly crap. Not the worst, but average. This adds a whole new level of agony as I spend the rest of the night making sure every last thing is organized, while all the while thinking about how I could have done better. I’m beating myself up so much about it when it doesn’t do any good, but it’s what I’m used to. I feel like I failed, and now I’m off to do something way, WAY bigger and I worry about that. Some of this can be attributed to lack of sleep and stress for the past few days, but I can’t rationalize enough to make myself feel better.

I’m so excited, but once again, a little voice inside of me is telling me to back out. “Change scares you,” it says. “You were fine before,” it says. “Why such a big step? You’ve got time; why not stay comfortably at home for the whole summer and think about this again someday later,” it says. Of course I won’t listen to it. I’ve wanted this forever, money has already exchanged hands, it’s a great opportunity, etc, etc. But there’s a little part of me that’s always been afraid of change, particularly big change. What will happen? How different will I be when I come back?

But of course, I have to ignore it. It’s a defense mechanism, but here it isn’t helping in the least. College was a huge step, leaving my home town to go to school two hours away with no friends or family there. And it turned out great. I couldn’t be happier, and I’ve seen great changes in myself. I can only imagine what flying 12 hours away will do. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? I sort of can’t imagine, so what will happen?

Here I have to force myself not to be so focused on control. Some of the best things that happen in life are not planned out or controlled, and for me, this could be a big one. I have to trust it, which is hard, especially with all the stress and stuff. But I’m at least resolved in this: I’m going. I’m going to do my best. I’m going to a place I’ve only dreamed about before to study a language and culture I love right at the source. This is great. It’s beyond great. I need to get more hyped!

Last pre-trip thoughts here. I’m going to miss home a lot. I had lunch with some friends today for some last minute authentic “American” food before I leave. I’ll miss family and friends, even if there is skype or google chat, etc. By tomorrow, sleep and stress willing, I’ll be ready and excited, as I fly over on my first ever completely-on-my-own-flight. I have to be open, and welcome what good changes may come. To everyone who is supporting me and wishing me well, Mom, Dad, David, and everyone too numerous to name (cheap cop-out, I know) I can’t thank you enough. I will not waste my time over there, nor will I curl up in a corner and whine. I am going to go over there and do the best job I can. I owe that to myself and anyone else who is going with me, even if they’re not physically going with me. You know?

By the next post, I will be across the sea, and actually have some NEW and INTERESTING info to relate. :) For now I say to myself, “There will be an answer. Let it be.”


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