Well, tonight brings to a close my first week in Kyoto, Japan. Needless to say, I’m too happy for words. I suppose I’ll have to write something out anyway to get this blog ball rolling, though. But first, some business.
For those of you unaware of why today marks my first week rather than a few days ago marking my second week, I’ll do a quick sum up. First, the Japanese Consular Office in Portland misplaced my visa, passport and other Japanese government documents. After they found all my items underneath a stack of unapproved visas (and after many calls), the office sent my documents back to me. UPS dropped the ball as well at this point and lost my package with all of my documents (passport, visa etc.) for about a week. It was later found in Illinois and shipped back to me in Boise.
By this point, I had missed my flight by about four days. My aunt managed to work some magic and rebooked my flight from Boise to Osaka so that I would arrive in Japan about four days after that. The hitch was that I would have to sleep in the Vancouver airport overnight if I wanted to save some money. Well, since I was going to spend about a year in Japan, saving money sounded like a great idea. So save money I did.
I slept reasonably well considering it was on the floor of a well-lit building. When I woke up, Delta had lost my bag. I had to run back and forth across the Vancouver airport in order to motivate the staff to find it before my flight to Osaka. They came through in the end, after realizing they actually didn’t have anyone working in customs.
But all that’s a distant memory now. I’m in Japan! I’ve done so much exploring and acclimatizing in the past week I don’t think I could even begin to sum up my experience so far. So instead, I’m going to provide you all with a few vignettes and memories that have popped into my head while writing this. After all, a blog, just like any piece of writing, is really just a product of the moment in which it’s written. I think this might be close to what my blog will be throughout the next year. With that, some memories:
I arrived at my host family’s house straight from the airport. I took a taxi to my host family’s house. The driver asked me in Japanese if this was my mother’s address, and I responded “Yes,” I suppose it was. The taxi driver ran me to my door and held an umbrella over my head as it rained. We’d flown through a typhoon into Osaka, but from the ground it was actually a pleasant warm summer shower. The driver asked me if this is the right house and I said “Yes, I think so.” “Oh, is this your first time?” It felt kind of nice that he could even think it might not be. “Yep!” “Oh, I see. Well, goodbye!” “Oh, bye.” I stood on the porch in front of the door as it rained and realized I didn’t know whether to ring the doorbell, push something that looked like a pager, or knock. I noticed that the mailbox had “Jesse Clyde Moneyhun” written on it–the largest text on the mailbox.
I decided to knock. I heard some bumps and shuffling inside. My host dad opened the door. “Ah, Jesse. Hello.” He smiled. “Hello.” There was a small pause. “Come in.” I stepped in, took my shoes off, and he provided me with slippers. I studdermumbled through an introduction but the spirit was there and my dad chuckled a bit. We walked over to the couch and he told me to sit. We quietly watched TV for about 20 minutes, not saying much but both content. Eventually he said, “Your mother and I speak no English at all. Sorry about that. You’re going to have to do you best.” “Ok, I’ll try.” We continued to watch the TV and chuckle until my host mom came home.
The moment she came through the doors she saw me and yelled, “Jesse! You’re finally here!” and gave me a huge hug.
At dinner I was grasping at all of the Japanese I had studied, but things were a little rough. We talked about my various troubles getting to Japan and about how worried they were about me. We all agreed that it was wonderful I finally arrived. My dad asked me if I wanted a beer. I said a definite “Yes,” and he returned with a beer from the fridge. He kept filling my glass as soon as it emptied.
My 36 hour day gradually came to a close, and thanks to the food and drink and broken communication, we all went to bed laughing. It was a great start to a great family.
On Thursday, Mathew Hirano (Whitman), Lya Hernandez (Whitman), and I explored the famous the famous Kyoto train station with out new friend Clara (from Connecticut College). Fun and food was had.
Three days ago my host sister came over and brought her kids to visit their grandparents. Her three year old son wanted to play a card game, but everyone seemed a bit busy. I was so jealous of his mastery of Kansai dialect. My mom suggested I go play with him if I wanted to. I said yes, and he grabbed my finger to lead me to the table. Heart melted.
I was in sore need of bug spray four days ago. I memorized the word for bug spray and went to a local convenience store. I asked the man behind the counter if he had any bug spray and he instantly replied “Yes, we have some. Spray type or gel type?” I was a little shocked that he understood me, and then that I understood him. I reacted quickly: “Spray type.” “Right this way.” He showed me their stock and recommended one in particular, which I later bought. At the cash register, he asked me, “So, are you a foreign exchange student?” “Yes.” “Oh, nice! Where are you going?” “Doshisha.” “Oh, Doshisha! That’s a nice school. Where are you from?” “Nagaoka-kyo” “Oh. Really?” Because of the stream of conversation and the way he phrased it, I thought he asked me where I was staying in Japan. His question could have been interpreted either way in Japanese, but my brain decided he was asking about Japan. He asked, “Oh. Sorry, I mean where are you from?” “Oh, right. Whoops. America.” “Oh, ok. Nice! Well, welcome!” I’m still not sure what to make of it. But I’m definitely laughing about it.
My blogs will be a bit shorter from here on out, but I thought this first one needed to cover a bit of ground before I got started. I’ll update it every Sunday, and maybe post some in-between.
Much love from Japan,