Friday, November 23, 2012


Though it's Friday (and technically not Thanksgiving anymore) in Japan, I celebrated Thanksgiving by myself while hanging out in Nagoya. It turned out to be an amazing Thanksgiving because I was forced to truly be thankful for what I have, not just because I was participating in what has become a big commercialized holiday.

I was kind of down in the dumps this morning so I decided to take the subway to a random spot in Nagoya. I was too lazy to change lines so I just ended up at the last stop on the opposite end of the line that I live on. This isn't a popular stop at all. I was basically the only person left on the train by the time I reached my destination.

I headed out of the station and choose a random direction. The cloudy weather matched my mood perfectly. Not long after I set out, it began to sprinkle. I found a river and decided to follow it for a while. Soon, I stumbled upon a little park meant for very young children. I decided I needed to swing for a while. As I contortioned myself on the swing so that I could use my long legs to propel myself forwards despite the incredible low swing, I noticed lots of people staring at me as they drove by.

A man and his small dog soon appeared at the park. He was obviously staring at me in bewilderment, but I just kept on swinging. The next thing, I knew he was talking to me (in Japanese) and we're having a whole conversation about America, where I'm from, and the fact that I was a little homesick. Just as I thought our conversation was winding down, an older lady and her two grand children came down to the park. He introduced me to them and we all begin to talk. It was so nice to have someone talk to me in complete Japanese and be totally interested in me and why I'm at a random park in the middle of nowhere. The kids and I began to play together and we talked the best we could. They were so excited to have made a foreign friend.

As we were all talking, the weather cleared up and the sunshine lit up the beautiful red leaves on the trees. It was then when I realized that though my family and friends are thousands of miles away, they are safe and happy, which is all that matters. As I looked around me, I was suddenly so thankful for the beautiful day God had blessed me with and all the friends I've made in Japan. My Thanksgiving didn't have a turkey or lots of pies and I wasn't surrounded my family, but it became of day of true thanksgiving. God has blessed me with so much: family and friends on two continents, a chance to experience a new culture, and so much more. It would be impossible to number the amount of blessing bestowed upon me. This is probably the best Thanksgiving I've ever had because I've come to realize what it truly means to be thankful.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'll smile more tomorrow than I did today

Today, started out terribly. I was feeling rather down facing what looked like it was going to be another boring day at school. There are times when I have absolutely nothing to do at school except study, alllllllll day long. All the second years (my grade) had exams today so I got kicked out of the classroom for the entire day.

But since the Japanese don't believe in central heating systems, only certain rooms in the school have heat. I was supposed to go the library, but since the windows are always open there, I decided to try out one of the study rooms. It was cold there too. So I killed two hours, while suffering through the chill, before heading to my cooking class. As this class started, I was ready to cry. I was so sick of cold rooms due to no heat, not understanding what is going on, not being able to have a normal conversation with my friends, and also being completely bored at school. Now that the initial excitement of my exchange as worn off and things are no longer new, I've been experiencing my first bout of culture shock. I'm afraid I've recently sunk into a depression like state. Nothing has able to catch my interest. I've started going to bed early and can barely get myself out of bed in the morning. No matter how much I sleep, I can shake feeling exhausted and I walk around in a fog. I've given up trying to speak in Japanese and barely talk to my friends at school. Things that are differently from the way they are done in the U.S.A. sometimes annoy me. I want my mom's cooking. I want to be warm. I miss my family and friends. I just want to go home. I can't remember why I came or can barely come up with a reason to stay. The only thing that makes me feel better is my nightly run.

My cooking group gave me things to do and I started to feel a little bit better. Plus, all the gas stoves running and the steam we produced while cooking warmed up the room and I finally got warm. But I still wasn't quite usual enthusiastic self.

After this class, one of the girls in my cooking group introduced me to a friend of hers who studied aboard in the U.S. This new friend and another girl from my cooking class, who has also studied aboard, went up to the roof to talk. I ended up telling them, in a mix of English and Japanese, what I've been experiencing lately. Not only did were they sympathetic, but they understood because they themselves have experienced the same thing. It was so refreshing to talk to people who truly understood what I am going through.

The next thing I know, I'm being invited to one of the girl's P.E. classes since I didn't have another class to go to today. We had to stop by the teacher’s room and get permission, before we dashed to my classroom to get my P.E. uniform. While I was changing in the bathroom, I realized that I'd forgotten to grab my gym shoes and my head band, but I couldn't go back to my classroom since the exams had resumed. My friend offered me her shoes so we ran up two flights of stairs to her classroom. These shoes ended up being at least two sizes too small, but I managed to jam my feet into them. My new friend also lent me her P.E. sweater since the air outside is currently rather chilly. We raced down four stories and eight flights of stairs while trying to beat the bell. No dice. The bell rang before we were even outside. I was carrying two school bags and my uniform wadded up in a messy bundle, all of which wasn't helping a speedy decent to the first floor. When we finally made it to the tennis courts, I had already missed the stretching session. The gym teacher immediately commented on my rumpled appearance. I had forgotten to tuck in my shirt and my pants were on backwards. Everyone got a good laugh about it, me included.

It was my first time playing tennis, but it turns out I'm not too bad at it. But the best part was talking to my new friend and her classmates. It was the most fun I've had at school in a while and brought me out of my sleepy state.
I studied in the library for the last hour of school before heading to English club for a while. I managed to leave school at the perfect time and found my bus waiting for me at the bus stop. As soon as I got home, I went for the longest run of my life. While I ran to an unknown portion of Nagoya, I realized I'm fine. Being an exchange student isn't easy, but it's worth it. The friends I've made here and the things I've gotten to experience make this difficult time completely worth it.