Circling an Unknown and Distant Star

So, after almost a year of preparing for this, I’m finally here.  I’m in Japan!  After my time in Hong Kong, arriving here felt a little surreal.  It was nice being able to read the signs though.  In Hong Kong, everything was in Chinese…I don’t speak Chinese (yet), but in Japan, all the signs are in Japanese! (What a shocker…) So I can finally read like….maybe half of what the signs say here.

Anyway, so I arrived in Fukuoka at about 5pm on the 15th of September.  A lovely senior student came to pick me (and another student who is now my best American friend here) up at the airport.  She escorted us back to the hotel and I have to say, I was so excited to have my own room.  After three nights sleeping in that hostel in Hong Kong (which was nice, but it was 10 people to a room….I’m looking at you, snoring people -.-), it was fantastic to be alone.  I say that…but I immediately went out to find dinner with another foreign student (the same one from the airport) because I was sooooo hungry after not eating for almost 35 hours by this point.  (By the way, this student is Chinese American, so he has two names.  For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to use his Chinese name, which is Gen.)

So Gen and I went out to find dinner at a nearby mall (which had four floors dedicated entirely to food.  After walking around ALL of the shops on each floor and watching Gen compare ALL the prices, I was so starving that I just grabbed his arm and dragged him into a ramen place because he JUST WOULDN’T DECIDE.  (“EXCUSE ME, starving lady on the edge over here, we are eating NOW.”)

The food that I had was surprisingly spicy, but it was pretty good.  The staff spoke really fast though, so I barely understood anything.

Anyway, enough about Fukuoka (I barely saw any of it anyway).  The next morning, we got on a bus to Nagasaki and arrived to start orientation….which lasted for six hours….yay….

But, for the last hour or so, I could barely pay attention because I was so nervous about the upcoming meeting with our host families.  Less than half the students are doing homestay; the rest are in the dorms.  I had been corresponding with my host brother for almost three months by this point, but I was still nervous as hell.  They led us to the Lounge, where our host families were waiting.  They’d been sent a picture of me, so when I walked in, my host mom and brother started waving to me from across the room.  I went over to join them at their table and we introduced ourselves again (we’d already established our relationships and what I’d be calling them by email, but it seemed right to introduce myself properly).  As I’d expected, I barely understood any of what they said, especially okaasan (it’s Japanese for mom and I’ll use it from now on to refer to my host mom).  She talks really fast and quiet and has a thick Nagasaki accent, so even now she’s way harder to understand than anyone else.

After we introduced ourselves and chatted using my limited Japanese for a bit, we started working on how I’d be getting to school the following morning for more orientation and okaasan said that she’d be accompanying me on the walk to the bus and the bus ride to the school to make sure that I knew where I was going since in Nagasaki, there is practically no English at all on the buses.

Once we had that worked out, we went and got in niisan’s car (again, niisan or oniisan is the Japanese for brother, so I’ll use that to refer to my host brother; his actual name is Tsuyoshi though) and he drove us home.  I had my backpack and large suitcase to carry, but niisan carried the suitcase for me because it was heavy and my family lives up several steep hills and two long flights of stairs.  Okaasan took me upstairs to my room (the stairs are almost like a ladder, they’re so fricking steep) and I found out that I actually had two rooms to use as well as a small bathroom.  I use one room as just a hanging out room because it has a couch and a small tv while I use the other to lay out my futon (aka my bed), store my clothes, study (I have a table to use for my laptop and homework), and generally just put all my crap.  The room I chose to sleep in is right next to the bathroom, so it works out. =D

After okaasan went back downstairs to work on dinner, niisan stayed to help me figure out internet for my laptop and just to talk for a while to help me get settled in.  By this point, I was so in over my head that I felt like I was just holding myself together by sheer willpower, so I appreciated their kindness and patience with me when I didn’t understand anything they said.

For dinner, we had mostly sashimi (raw fish) and rice with nori (seaweed) to make wraps.  Oh, also, I only live with three people: niisan, okaasan, and Megumi neesan (Megumi, my host sister); however, okaasan has four kids, not just two (they’re all between the ages of 38 and 45), so my first night, I had dinner with okaasan, niisan, Megumi neesan, Miho neesan, Kaori neesan, Takumi-kun, and Shiho-chan. Niisan is youngest, then Megumi, then Miho, then Kaori; but Miho neesan has a little daughter named Shiho (she’s only 1 year old) and Kaori neesan has a son named Takumi (he’s 18).  So….to say I was overwhelmed is putting it lightly.  Everyone was speaking Japanese to each other really fast and Shiho-chan was toddling around the table trying to touch everything, feed me whatever she could grab off the table, and sit on my lap.  I was thinking, “Oh god this is so different and weird and I thought I was prepared and I was but I really wasn’t and oh god what have I gotten myself into?!”

But the good news is that while I was on the brink of a panic attack my first couple of days with my host family, now I can firmly say that they are the main reason why I feel completely at home here now.  Okaasan is like a second mom to me, niisan is the nicest, most patient person on the planet and I don’t know what I’d do without him, and Kaori and Megumi are so funny and I love hanging out with them every day telling funny stories.

Nagasaki really seems like home to me now and the city is so beautiful.  I’ll have more posts soon about my trip to Unzen, making friends, and day trips with my host family.  Sorry there are no pictures for this one, I was so nervous my first few days here that I didn’t take any.  xD  Anyway, I hope everyone is doing well; I’ll keep you posted. ❤

One thought on “Circling an Unknown and Distant Star

  1. Thanks for posting these – it’s really great to get your memories (and sometimes pics) down before you forget details and feelings! I certainly wish I’d recorded something about my slides for our trip to Israel/Egypt, because now some pics are like “Oh, I remember that place (sort of)! It was built by Pharoah whats-his-name.” *sigh*

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