Well, there are a lot of things on my mind right now that I want to say, so I’m going to try to get them all out clearly.
First, to Kate and any FEA members, scholars, and/or associates, as well as my loyal readers (here I go again trying to be a writer), I want to touch on the topic of adaptation. Culture shock is something that was stressed repeatedly over the months leading to my term in Japan. I was told about that communication difficulties, the honeymoon phase, the re-entry shock following my return, and no matter how mentally strong and prepared you are for it, the experience will vary by the individual. When I got here, I loved it so much. And I still do. But some things have changed. First and foremost, to express how difficult it is to adapt to a new culture, especially one like Japan, you really have to understand that the Japanese not only rely less on words and details for communication, but rather, they rely on body language and tone of voice. I love my host family, but communicating with them has been a nightmare because my host mother speaks too damn fast and doesn’t get that she uses phrases and words I haven’t learned yet. The kids don’t like talking to me in Japanese, they try to talk in English (when they feel like talking, that is). My host father is the easiest to talk to because he speaks slowly and takes time to show me something when I can’t understands the words. Problem there is, he works like 18 hours a day, so I almost never see him. And that’s just at home. Still, I try my best. Secondly, the culture itself will take time to get used to, even for an open-minded person such as myself. The reason for that is because we (in America) generally speak our minds and communicate verbally. When we have a problem, most times we talk about it. When we’re happy, we talk about it. We talk to express ourselves and use physical communication to reinforce the feelings (most of the time, and as appropriately as possible, lol). But it is very different here and I find myself becoming frustrated because I can’t express myself or explain a point or ask a question. Sometimes I just don’t know the damn word for what I want to ask and it drives me nuts! But all hope is not lost. In the short 6 weeks I’ve been here, I’ve made friends, I’ve had great times, and I am being socially active. I do not let my frustration stop me from trying hard, nor do I let it hinder my ability to learn and stay focued.
Next topic, the city. When I walk around Shinjuku, I think to myself, “Wow! This is such a big city and this is only one ward.” Tokyo is such a big city. It reminds me of New York City….and I hate going to New York City. Not because of the city itself. I love the city, but the people seem so lifeless. And it feels the same here. It feels like you’re just another face in a sea of faces and they have no expression. Like lifeless robots programmed to travel seemlessly from point A to point B. And I understand, they have responsibility, as do I. But is that what life is for them? Just like in NYC? To go from point A to point B and no one else between there really matters much? In a city of over 12 million people, I feel just as alone as when I am in NYC.
Which brings me to my final topic, family and friends back home. You know, when I thought about it at first, I thought being away from people for 3 months would be great. It’s not like I see people that much anyway. I thought it would be a good time away from them and hopefully make them realize what it would mean if I weren’t there. I guess I just look for people to show more appreciation for me. I try so hard all the time to make everyone happy and do what I can to help everyone and at the same time still have my life and my hobbies and so on. But I just feel like people don’t care half the time. Yet, being away for just these past 6 weeks, I know who loves me. I know who appreciates me. And I know why I’m going back home after this semester. Those people at home who have been supporting me and coming on here to read these blogs and watch the videos and look at pictures…you’re why. I love you all. And to my family, who (with the exception of my sisters) I know don’t read this, the feelings I’m feeling right now and the way my mind is changing you have to learn to accept and try to understand a bit better. Losing my mom 3 months before this life-changing trip really hurt me. I dream about her almost every night still and my job right now is to make her proud. If at any point I make a decision that you don’t like, I do NOT care. You are not my first priority and my decisions are not for you to like. My sisters don’t always like the decisions I make but they support me. They still love me the same and I still love them when they do things I don’t like. I expect the same from you. If you’re not willing to do that, then I have no problem cutting ties. That will be the end of that rant.
My apologies to my readers. This was not meant to be a rant against my family. It was merely a message and a demonstration of how I’ve changed since I’ve been in Japan. This has been a mentally and emotionally trying experience, even more so because of my emotional state after losing my mother. I wanted my mom to be proud of me and although she also didn’t like some of my choices, she was my biggest supporter. She was my safety net. I could always take chances and not be afraid because she was always there, even though I hadn’t lived with her since I was 17, she was just there. Few people know that I spoke to my mother every morning and we were closer than any one knew. When she learned that I was coming to Japan, she was so worried and scared, but she was so proud of me. When she learned that I won the scholarship from FEA, she was thrilled. I never got the chance to tell her that I was awarded 5 out of the 6 scholarships I applied for and was paying nothing for this experience. That would have just made her so much more proud. I miss her so much… I originally planned to come here because it was something I wanted to. But after this summer, it turned into something I had to do, for her. And my plans over the next few years are for her. Her dream for me was to go places she couldn’t even dream of. And that’s what I plan on doing.
Thank you all for enduring this long post. To all of you who are reading this and considering a semester abroad…stop thinking…and do it. Don’t make excuses. A semester in Japan, or Spain, or wherever you choose to go, will be the best decision you will ever make. It will literally open you up to a world of opportunities.