Journals from Kanto Gakuin University
2009-09-10 Just Beginning
My name is Lily, and I'm a senior with a major in Intercultural Communication and a double minor in Spanish and Japanese. I've already been in Japan for two weeks, so to catch you up I'll include the email updates I've sent to friends and family so far. They're a bit long (sorry, Professor Richardson!), but I hope you enjoy whichever stories you have the time and inclination to read. See you back at Linfield!
I'm here, safe and sound! Sorry, parents, for not sending an email last night when we got in we made it to Hayama house around 9pm last night, which Seattle time meant that I had gone about 24 hours without sleep (and without much food; airplanes, yuck), so I went straight to bed! But I'm awake now, and happy to be here.
Dad and I left Seattle around 7:30, headed for the airport in Portland, where we waited a good long time for the whole group to arrive (ok, all but one of us were there really early), and said goodbye. Then came the ten-hour flight to Tokyo's Narita Airport; it was long, but as always, I enjoyed it. I chatted with my Linfield neighbor and the Japanese folks in the row in front of us and the row behind us, and attempted to communicate with a sweet little old man who really wanted to look out the window. He was awestruck by the view, it seemed, and kept pointing down and saying something like "Tiang yang peng! Tiang yang peng!" I have no idea what it meant, or even if I'm remembering it right, but he seemed nice enough. I asked him in English where he was from, and he just gave me an "I don't understand you" shrug, so I tried it in Japanese, with the same result. I gave it a go in Spanish, just for kicks, and that really confused him and he went and sat down. At the end of the flight, though, he gave us all a "bye bye!"
We made it to Tokyo around 5pm, where an enthusiastic KGU (Kanto Gakuin University) welcoming committee greeted us with cheers and colorful signs. It was an uplifting surprise after such a long journey; I had expected a bus driver and one or two representatives from KGU's international programs office, but there were ten students and two ladies who looked like they probably worked for the college. The students turned out to be our "buddies", one for each of us, and we walked around the airport for a while chatting and joking. My buddy is the "captain" of the student group, and he's quite a character. He put on a huge, ridiculous, stuffed Daffy Duck hat from Tokyo's Disneyland, maybe so that we wouldn't lose him, maybe just because he's a goofball. His name is Yusuke, and he hardly speaks any English at all, which I was happy to learn, since I resolved to stick to Japanese as much as possible as soon as we got off the plane. And it worked! (Mostly; the occasional "gracias" and "s" slipped out, but the English stayed pretty contained.) I thoroughly enjoyed the two-hour bus ride from Tokyo to Yokohama, chatting with the Japanese students about baseball, school, etc., almost all in Japanese. We got confused a couple of times, but for the most part the conversation went pretty smoothly. I'm sure I'll get frustrated eventually, and run across several situations in which I just can't quite figure out the words I need, but all that successful conversation last night certainly was encouraging.
Now we're here at the Hayama Seminar House, which is basically an off-campus dorm for exchange students. I love my little room; the desk, TV, large bed, large closet, and private mini-bathroom make for very little floor space, but it's cute and cozy and has a nice view of tropical-looking trees out of a very large window. The best part is there's a shower! With hot, consistently running water! I hit my head a little bit on the shower head (5'7" is a bit much for Japan), but overall the accommodations are great. I know it's funny that I'm so excited about the shower, but after the trickle of luke-warm (luke-cold?) water at my host family's house in Ecuador, and bathing the good old-fashioned way with a little pail in Honduras, this seems pretty deluxe. And the set-up is kind of cool: the shower head is one of those regular spray handles, connected not to the wall but to a hose that connects to a handle on the sink. You flip the handle one way, and water comes out of the sink, the other way, and it comes out of the shower. You control the temperature using the sink.
Ok, as usual, I've written too much. I should probably get going, breakfast is about to start I wonder what Japanese breakfasts are like?