Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Finding my Japan.

I first started studying Japanese in the fall of 2002(?). I was 13, and in the 8th grade. My grandfather had been an interpreter during the war, and my parents had had their honeymoon in Japan, but if you asked me today why I started learning Japanese, I wouldn't be able to tell you. It is possible that food video games, and comic books had an effect on me that that time, but I gave up my interest in those long before I left for Japan.
Being a 13 year old studying Japanese at the college level, and especially since my education prior to taht hadn't prepared me for anything nearly so rigorous my grades were low, and I struggled in class regularily. In the three years, and 10 classes that I took, I got one, and only one, 'A', and had close to zero confidence that I could speak read, or write.
In my junior year of high school I knew that high school would be getting harder, and I knew I wouldn't have much time for JApanese so I didn't take 4th year, but I did finally get myself applied to a study abroad program. I was accepted, and would leave for JApan in the spring, in time for the Japanese school year to start.
Since I wouldn't ne getting grades, I stopped working during the second semester , but really had a great time learning, probably my favorite time in American high school.
And then I left.
I arrived in Narita, met Issey, a former exchange student, and he took me by bus to Shinjuku. Shinjuku at that hour of the day, 6-8pmish?, was marvelous. We boarded the Odakyu line, and got off several stops later at Sangubashi, and went to some place which despite the number of times I have been there, can never remember the name. It was there that the orientation was held, and there that I spent my first nights in Japan.
Those first days were spent doing various lessongs and games put on by the program, and mostly worthless. Sometime was given so that as a group, the inbound students, outbound students, and former students could meet and explore the city a little. I enjoyed Meiji-Jingu, which was right next door to where we were, very much, even though we spent very little time there because everyone else wanted to see Harajuku, a place I never cared for, throughout my entire year there. Looking back on those days, I was already beginning to distance myself from the other students. I spoke the best Japanese and wanted to use it, unlike the others who just appeared to be in this for a good time.
After the orientation, I took the train with my counselor and another student to where he would be staying, and then my counselor and I went for a walk. We walked a pretty path to a lake, all the while enjoying the flowers that were just blooming. I remember talking with him, or trying to, only in Japanese. We went back to the station, and took the train to where we were to meet my host family. I remember really enjoying taking the trains.
Upon meeting my Mrs. Nemoto, I said goodbye to my counselor, got in to her car, and she put on some of here favorite music. Linkin Park. She also had more pictures of Marilyn Manson in the house than pictures of her children. She also had stuffed Disney todays. I don't remember those days, but according to the journals that I kept back then, I was frequently lonely, something that would be a common occurance during my trip.
I remember always wanting to 'tanken', explore, and tried to get out of the house as much as possible. One regret I have now is not going far enough, or for long enough periods of time. I would always go to the same small number of places in a small number of directions, and would give myself way more time than was actually needed, and wound up spending lots of time home alone.
I was always alone, and that had greatly affected my image of Japan. I was in a small host family, whom I rarely saw, and wasn't able to, for one reason or another, to spend much time with the kids from school.
I recall that, throughout the year, I was constantly angry at the three authorities above: my host family, my school, and my exchange program. I often regreted and dwelled upon things that I had no control over. This along with the constantly putting the blame on those authorities, put me in an awkward position, which I really only came to realize now. those big 3 put me in various positions of discomfort and gave me various reasons to be upset with them, but after that, I really failed on my part of the bargain. I thought that I couldn't do anything about being put in those situations, and so I complained and fought. I failed in the task of making the best of those situations, which played a critical role in my depression.
The last two months in the country, once I was free of those three, really openned things up for me. I was able to get out and do things I had been unable to uptil then, but could have done a better job.
When I go back this summer, and possible longer if things work out, I am not going back for a second round, or a second chance, or even to make amends. I am going to find my Japan.

4 days to go.


At 12:33 PM, Blogger -Nathan said...

Fantastic. I wish you the best of luck, and say hello to Clifford for me.


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