Wednesday, August 02, 2006 

Pictures of my Journey in Japan



Now that my adventure is over, I feel like it is time to announce this blog as finished. I have done what I set out to do and accomplished what I wanted to do with this blog. On November 14th I set this goal...

"My goal for the first part of this blog is to capture the process of finishing and submitting my application. My goal for the second part is to show the process of preparing for my exchange. And of course, my goal for the third part is capture (in all different mediums) my journey to Japan.
So, basically, this blog will describe my journey. From the initial paperwork of the application to coming home on the airplane. My journey to Japan."

Now that goal is accomplished and I really think it is time to seal this blog just the way it is. It is finished and now it is time to move on to the next phase in my life. Thank you everyone who has encouraged me, helped me, or even just known me during this time in my life and I pray that you enjoy this blog now and in the years to come.


Well, I seem to have fully recovered and home seems like home again. Thank goodness! : ) I called my host family yesterday and said "ohayo gozimas" (it was 8 o'clock in the morning in Okinawa when I called). Okasan seemed really happy to hear from me, and we talked in broken Japanese and English just like we did at home! ^-^ Miu also woke up and I felt bad because she didn't have to wake up until later because school is now out for her. And, I totally didn't recognize her voice when she got on the phone, it sounds really different! I had to ask "donata desu ka?" (who is this?) Miu just started laughing and once she said "it's Miu!" I started laughing too!

We move to Michigan very soon. I am a little nervous about it, but I know God has plans for me there and it's time to move on to the next phase in my Michigan! : )

Here's my new house in Michigan!

Friday, July 28, 2006 

I'm Home!

Well, I finally made it through 24 hours of airplane rides, bus rides, and you can't forget layovers at the airports. It feels weird being home, kinda surreal. I don't really know why, but I guess it just dosn't really feel like home anymore after living in Okinawa for 1 month 1/2. I do miss my okasan and Miu very much, and I wonder how they feel since I left. And after we got to the California Airport me and Brad were talking about our exchanges, and we also wondered if we were feeling what YFU calls "reverse culture-shock". Culture shock hits you when you go into a different coutry with a culture radically different from yours, but I guess "reverse culture shock" hits you when you go back to your home culture after adapting to the new culture in you host country. I think that's what I might be feeling right now. Don't get me wrong, it was wonderful to see my friends and family again and catch up with all them, but I still feel like I don't belong here. Almost like everything has already changed here without me. I wonder how long this feeling will last?

Thursday, July 27, 2006 

Last Night in Okinawa

It it so quiet tonight. I have finished packing (finally!) and I can`t believe how much extra gifts I have accumlated here, I seriously had to pack twice as much as I came here with! : ) After I finshed packing Okasan weighed my bags and the small one is below the weight limit, and the the middle sized one is above, but I guess together they meet the weight limit. I`m hoping so anyway...

I also can`t believe how generous Miu and Okasan are. They bought extra gifts for each person in my family and I have six people! They are so kind and thoughtful, it makes me feel really bad that my mom couldn`t send their presents. (It was too expensive to send them all at once, something crazy like 250 dollars or something)

I am glad I am going home tomorrow, but it is like a small happy feeling tinged with sadness. I don`t really know how to describe it...I`m really happy to see my family again, but I know once I get back it`s going to be work to move and there`s all this drama about the move and my dad`s job going on I kinda don`t want to go back. It`s so simple and nice here, I love my family and I am used to the regular routine where as I go back home everything is going to change.

I also can`t belive my life here in Okinawa is going to end. No more waking up and walking out to the family room/kitchen to see Okasan making a wonderful breakfast. No more of the feeling of independce by walking to school on my own, and being able to walk out the grocery store with bags of groceries for my family. No more wearing fuzzy slippers around the house, yelling "tadima" when I come home and hearing back "Okirenasai" or yelling "iitakimas" and hearing "itterashi". No more walking into class and hearing my morning chorus of "ohoyo!" along with my friends smiles. No more singing me and Miu`s special song "the mickey mouse song" as we toil up 4 flights of stairs to get to our apartment. No more daily shopping trips, puricura taking, and browsing at the mall. No more walks to Chica and Tomo`s house, or seeing Kana or Koya (the cutest little kids ever). No more crazy times at Haebaru High School (coco). No more "kichigi" Tomoyo or funny yuriei, or chaoic Karate Classes with the crazy boys. No more visiting amazing places in Okinawa I`ve only ever read about, no more days were I don`t know what I am going to do and then Okasan and Miu come up with a great schedule for me to experience Okinawa. No more people asking "daijobu? daijobu?" and answering back with a smile "daijobu daijobu".

As I leave tomorrow, I don`t know exactly what will happen or what I will feel. But, I do know that I will forever summer in Okinawa. Okinawa will always have a special place in my heart.

Sunday, July 23, 2006 

YFU Get-Together in Nago City!

The YFU get together in Nago was really fun! I had an absolutely great time, and it was pretty well organized and planned. Me and Miu left for this adventure on Sat. at 2 p.m. Since we live so close to each other, Alicia`s host family came to pick us up and drive us over there, it was really nice of them. And I think Okasan was a little glad she didn`t have to drive us, because it takes and hour to get there! : )

So during the hour long drive to Nago, me and Alicia got caught up with what we`d both been up too since we didn`t get a chance to at the festival. (It was too busy and loud) Miki (one of Alicia`s host sisters) and her friend came. Along with my host sister, Miu. Once we got to Nago and the YFU site, we found out it was a community center and we went inside to sign in and pay. As I was looking around it was really nice and clean for a community center, and I ended up really liking the rooms which were traditional tatami mats and paper screen walls. After we were all signed in, we went into the next room for our first meeting. Everyone from YFU Okinawa was there, and I had such a great time seeing everyone again...Michelle, Jocelyn, Josh, Kenshi, Sasha...after so long apart we had alot of catching up to do over the weekend! : ) After the long speeches were over and they gave us our room numbers, we grabbed our stuff and lugged it over to our new rooms. Out of Alica, me, Miu, Mikki, and Mikki`s friend...I ended up being the only one in room 315 everyone else was in room 301. At first I was kinda worried, but Michelle, Joceyln, and Sasha were all in room 315 so I figured it would be ok.

Once we finished putting our stuff away, we ran back downstairs to go to our "activity". Me, Michelle, Jocyeln, Miki, and Miu had to choose from volleyball, a nature walk, and something else but I can`t remember what it was. We choose vollyball so we all changed into our sports clothes and ran over to the inside court. It was like a sauna in there, but the vollyball games were really fun and everyone had a blast! : ) Thankfully after that it was lunch time because we were all starving...

Yummy...Yaki Soba is my favorite japanese meal!

From left to right: Akiko (Michelle`s host sister who`s really cool), Michelle (with a crazy face no less), Mikki, Mikki`s freind, Joceyln, Brad (the other YFU person from AZ), Sasha (who has had 5 host familys), and ME! : )

Once we were all finished with lunch, we headed back upstairs to relax in our rooms for about an hour and a half and then we went to the YFU dance party downstairs. Now I really don`t know were the dance party came from, because it wasn`t on our list of activites but apparently it started at 7:30 and everyone was there! : ) It was really fun and I even danced! Michelle went crazy with her dance moves and kept making all these silly was absolutely hillarious! And me, Joceyln, Michelle, Josh, and Kenji hung together during the dance party and had tons of fun!

I also had my first experience with Japanese coffee. They only had three drinks to choose from (unfortunately none of them being water), green tea (which isn`t that tasteful), coke, and this choclate drink which I later found out was coffee. Now, I really don`t like coffee, and usually never drink it. So with Japanese coffee being even stronger than American coffee I was up all night and wide awake, it was really annoying but foretunatly Shasha had had some too we just talked all night and the coffe only wore off about 3o min. before we had to wake we only got thirty minutes of sleep! Oh well, there really wasn`t anything we could do about it so we were just a little tired the next day. It was still a great get together and I willl see everyone at the airport for out flight back to the states! I know all of us were thinking about the fact that we only have three days left in Okinawa!!! I can`t believe it!!!

Friday, July 21, 2006 

Haebaru Matsuri

Today was the Haebaru Matsuri (Haebaru Summer Festival)! Apparently, each town/city has their own summer festival (matsuri) and today`s was Haebaru towns! It was really fun, and it was neat to celebrate with my host town. Haebaru is such a close knit and wonderful community and you can see it in the way they all participate in community activities. Everyone came out for the Haebaru Matsuri, clapping, waving, banging on was really cool! I met Alicia and her host family on the way to the parade and we both got to beat these really pretty sakura (cherry blossom flower) drums with the other woman in the parade. At first I was nervous because as a foreigner in these types of situations you really stick out, but everyone was really encouraging and me and Alicia caught on the "drum rythum!" : )

During the parade walk to the festival, they also had these tall poles with banners hanging down with characters on them. They were really pretty and really ornate (they also looked really heavy!: )

Once we got the festival site, we were met by crowds and crowds more of people. Everyone was so happy and excited for the festival to start!

First, they had taiko and drum preformances, then all the men dressed in white came out and showed off their skills with the wooden staffs. Let`s just say they were pretty good! After that, it was time for everyone`s favorite activity at the festival...Tug of War!!!

Bringing out the huge, woven rope...

The acual tug of war battle was really intense. Both sides of the rope had hundreds of people tugging and pulling and my "east side" worked really hard. Everyone pulled with all their might, and we even had a pulling chant, but in the was my side that lost. Oh well, we put in a great effort! : )

After the festival was over and it was time to leave, Alicia`s host sister invited me to attend her Japanese class that she teaches on tuesday. She is so cool, she spent a year in Australia and is pretty fluent in English so she teaches Japanese to foreigners (mostly Chinese and Americans she says). I was really happy for the chance to go to her class, and it is also the same day as my farewell party. Only 6 days left in Okinawa!!!

Thursday, July 20, 2006 

The Last Day of School at Haebaru High!

Part 1:

Time has gone by so fast! Today is not only the last day of school at Haebaru High school, but it also marks that on this day next week I will be flying home to the States. I only have one week left!

Early this morning Sueko-Sensei called to tell me that not only did I have to make my speech in front of the entire school today, but I also had to make a short speech at the morning teachers meeting...which offically started in 30 min.! Usually I have about 45 min to get ready so I was running around like crazy trying to get ready in time. And then, when I acually got to school early so I give give my little speech to the teachers, Sueko-Sensei looked at my prepared speech for the ceremony today and said that since I say "thank you" to the teachers in that speech I didn`t need to give a speech to the teachers this morning after all!!! First, she makes me get up early in the morning, run around, call me just this morning, and make me worry for...nothing??? nani, eh???

Everthing was ok though, once I got to the classroom. Seeing all my friends in class 2-3, walking in, smiling, and saying "oahyo!" and hearing a responding chorus of "oahyo!" and "Oahyo goziimas"is the highlight of my school mornings.

After we had short homeroom time, everyone pitched in and did an absolutely through cleaning job of the classroom. We mopped, scrubed, and cleaned the floor; and we also washed the windows, took out the trash, cleaned the chalkboard, washed the desks and the chairs, and basically cleaned for about an hour. Once we had finished cleaning, we left the floor to dry and went to the assembly in the new gym. This was the part I was so nervous about, I had butterfiles in my stomach all the way through the assembly. First we had to listen to a policeman talk about fire safety for about 35 min. The we watched a video of crash tests of cars hitting dummies on bikes at different angles...I don`t really know why because they didn`t tell you how to avoid being hit by a car, just the horrible things that happen to you if they do. Then we had 3 people come up to speak for a long time, then Jared (the ALT from Hawaii) spoke, then it was my turn. Now, the way I worked it out with Sueko-Sensei was that I would speak in English and she would translate it into Nihongo and it worked ok, with some gliches, but hey! We had never had a chance to practice...and I also wrote my speech only yesterday... : ) Here is my speech...

Hello everyone! I have thought long and hard about what I want to say
today. To not only Haebaru High School, but also to the Haebaru
Community. First, I have to say thank you. To class 2-3, thank you
for accepting me. We have laughed together, talked together, and shared
together. I will never forget the times we have shared and the memories
we`ve made these past few weeks. To Haebaru High School, I am so glad that
I got to share with you such a special time as your 30th Annivesary!
Haebaru High School is a wonderful school, but what makes it wonderful is not
its image on the outside. It`s the kind and hardworking people on the
inside. The teachers, staff, and students are who really make Haebaru High
School an amazing place. They say that a school is a reflection of the
community surrounding it. If so, then Haebaru High School is a true
example of this community. A community that helps, shares, and grows
together. Words cannot express the experiences I have had, the things I`ve
learned, and the new understanding I have gained of Okinawa. Words also
cannot express how thankful I am for all you have done for me. But,
I do sincerely wish to once again say thank you.

Once it was over I felt much better and then it was time to party back in the classroom! YATA!!! : )

Me, Yurie, and Chaki, plus to others (I don`t know their names) are looking at my American High School Yearbook. They thought it was pretty cool!


Part 2:
During our end of school party...I showed some of the girls my high school yearbook (they even signed it for me!) and they had so much fun looking at the class pictures so they could point out cute American boys! *lol* ^-^ I also got to show the class my high school DVD of some of our assemblies, some of the dance preformance, and sports. They boys in particular thought that the short on Boys Basketball was really cool...I know because they asked me to play it over and over. : ) The whole class also got these cool hats that say "30th Anniversary Haebaru High School" so I got together with some girls and we decorated ours with markers. It looks really cool now!

It`s a yearbook picture!

Okinawa, Japan...and the best class ever...(plus me!) class 2-3!!!
Tomoyo and me modeling the cool Haebaru High School hats.
It`s the party girls!!! Watch out!!!
Awwwe...How cute?! is the "official" gangster pose picture.
Everyone in my class is so sweet, they bought me this message card and each of them wrote a message to me in English. I was so suprised and it was so nice of them. I will always have it remember them all by! : ) Thanks you guys!!!
From left to right: Anna, Tomoyo, Me, Ima, and our homeroom sensei. This is offically my last picture at Haebaru High School...I miss everyone already!!!


Part 3: Shopping with Anna, Haru, and Tomoyo (of course!)

After we had finished cleaning up once the party was finished...Tomoyo, Anna, Haru, and me waved one last goodbye to a couple of people and headed off to go shopping at the Haebaru Justco. I even got to ride the public bus for the first time! At first I was confused at waht to do, but Tomoyo helped me out. When you first get on you grab a little white ticket with a number stamped on it and you hold on to it until it`s time for you to get of the bus. In which you put it in this turning slot along with the money you owe for the ride. Pretty simple acually, once you get the hang of it! : )

Once we got to the mall we looked around at the "cool" shops, talked, laughed, and basically had lots of fun! We also each purchased these heart shaped metal clips that go on your cell phone. The big heart has "friends" on it and the little heart connected to it has each of our first initals on it. It is soooo cute and we all have one! After that we went and had some delicous Udon for lunch, it was good and the whole meal was only 210 yen!

Udon anyone???

After we finished our delicious udon, we headed over to the arcade to do puricura! It was so much fun, and we all looked so cute in our high school uniforms! : )

This is my Puricura book...isn`t it kawaii? ^-^

Once we had finished all our shopping, we left Haebaru Jusco, hopped on the bus and I took Haru and Tomoyo to my house (they kinda invited themselves over, and Anna had to catch a different bus).

We may be tired and worn out shoppers, but we`re still smiling! (and for some strange reason my face is really shiny...)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 

What do I Always do When Hanging Out With Miu`s Friends...SHOP!

Today, you guessed it...I went shopping with one of Miu`s friends. Her name is Aikiko, which I thought was a cool name. She told me she is also 18 and majoring in English, so we spoke entirely in English just for her. We had so much fun asking each other questions about our familys, likes and dislikes, things like that...she had lots of questions for me, especially about America and I was just so happy to speak normal, up to speed English I didn`t mind all the questions at all! : ) She was so funny to talk to, and always laughing and smiling. I taught her the word "squishy" which she thought was the funniest English word ever and I guess in Japanese it`s "puny" "puny!" I still think the Japanese version is much funnier, but Akiko argued that the English is funnier so each time one of us said "squishy" or "puny puny" we would randomly start craking up. I think we scared some people at some of the stores we visited, I think they thought something was wrong with us! *lol* : )

This happy face happens to be Akiko silly! : )

I wonder...who was the one to totally show me up at Ice Hockey??? : )

Look!!! It`s a huge strawberry!!! You can`t eat it...but you can sit on it! : )

Awwwe...Miu and Saku!