I can't believe that I only have three days left in Japan! It seems like only a little while ago that I arrived here. Since classes are over and we've already finished taking the JLPT (Japanese Language Placement Test), we have had a lot of downtime. This is similar to the beginning of the semester when we had about five days to bond with the buddies and get used to life in Japan. Of course, by "downtime" I mean we have freedom to plan our days, meaning our days are packed with things we want to do before we leave. It's unfortunate that our buddies have classes so they're often unable to hang out with us.
My last three days will consist of buying any souvenirs that I haven't got yet and attempting to fit everything into my two suitcases. There's just too much stuff and not enough space. The worst part is that I want to buy more things because everything in Japan is cute and I want it all. It's actually quite difficult for me to restrain myself from buying every adorable thing I see. As a compromise to my inner self, I've settled with just buying cute stickers since they're light, flat, and easy to pack (hey, that rhymed!). I have also mailed a box back home filled with textbooks and some clothes. For those of you thinking about shipping boxes next year, I had several methods to choose from: EMS (Express Mail Service), airmail, Economy Air (SAL), and surface mail. I ended up choosing EMS because it was the only one that guaranteed your box would reach its destination (you can track it). EMS is basically the same as airmail with the added bonus that it reaches the destination faster (only three days to get to Hawaii), and costs less (something that confuses me to no end, but I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth). Economy Air is even cheaper than EMS and the package would take up to two weeks to arrive, but you can't track your package. Surface mail is the slowest so your box can take up to 3 months to arrive, depending on where you live. It's the least reliable of all the methods since there are instances of people never receiving their box as you also can't track it. My box is already sent, so everything else has to fit. I've been praying to the luggage god (Japan probably has one considering the Shinto religion has hundreds of deities) that my suitcase will be able to hold my things without busting a zipper. Only time will tell if the luggage god was listening or not, so for now I just have my average packing abilities to help me.
The fact that I'll be leaving Japan soon has left my heart torn in two. On the one hand, I really want to see my family and I'm really excited to be home for Christmas. On the other, I'll greatly miss the friends I have made here and Japan itself. I felt quite at home during my time abroad here and I finally fit in with everyone else. As a Japanese American in Oregon, I'm a minority and I sometimes feel a little out of place. Even back home in Hawaii where there are many Japanese Americans, I don't live near any of them. On my side of the island, I'm actually a minority. In Japan, I'm finally the majority and everyone looks like me.
The farewell party that we had on our last day of school made me truly realize that the end was approaching. Everyone was determined not to cry and things went well until we all had to give speeches. By all of us, I mean the international students, our buddies, and our host families. Even KGU's president gave a speech, thanking us for coming to Japan despite the March 11 earthquake and the nuclear accident. Many study-abroad students were scared off mainly by radiation fears and KGU had been worried that Linfield would cancel its study abroad as well. To roughly translate the president's message, we did him a favor by coming. He used the verb kureru which means "to be given" or "to do for one", and is usually said by the receiver of a gift. He didn't expect us to come, but we did and it was as if we had given him gift. I didn't cry until I saw some of my other friends cry as they said their speeches. I think I'm a reflexive crier since I really only cry once someone else does. One of my friends was so overcome with tears, that in the middle of her speech, she had to turn around and put a hand over her mouth so the sounds wouldn't come out. As my host mother gave her speech, my host sister started crying. I actually thought she wouldn't cry since she's 10 years old and quite strong. But, as my host mom said that I was like a big sister to her, she cried. After the speech was over, she ran to me and I hugged her for only the second time ever (my host family hardly ever hug each other). I comforted her like I used to comfort my younger brother and it hit me how close I had gotten to my host family, how they had become like a real family to me. I cried again, especially since I had seen my host sister cry. My jacket sleeves were wet with my tears by the end of the night.
As a last hurrah after the farewell party, us and our buddies went to karaoke one final time. The building was amazingly narrow. The second floor consisted of the largest party room (which was maybe about two and a half of our dorm rooms put together), a bathroom, and room for the elevator (that could barely fit four people). We sang to various party songs as Japanese karaoke parlors have a huge selection of songs in at least three languages. Since we sang songs in English and Japanese, there was a lot of mangling of both languages. As only about six people out of the twenty-two people in our group could actually sing, most of the songs were sung somewhat badly and loudly, but that's karaoke. We laughed and smiled so much that my face hurt a little at the end.
Since this is my last post, it became a lot longer than I had intended it to be. We are all trying not to think about Friday, the day we officially fly back to the U.S. Everyone is trying to make the most out of their final days here and no one is looking forward to having to say good-bye. I'll of course miss the buddies, especially my own, but I'll also miss my new friends from Arkansas and Minnesota. As international students, we all became like family to one another and it'll be hard to be in the same country but so far apart.
I won't say "Sayounara" ("Farewell") because that has an implication of finality to it, so I'll just sign off with "Jaa, mata ne" ("Until next time").