Saturday, December 16, 2006

Reflections

It has now been a few months since I have returned from Japan. When I arrived back in America, everything felt so surreal, I told myself to let it all soak in for a while. The funny thing is, not much has changed. It still is surreal. There aren’t many other words to describe what this past summer meant to me. I have documented pictures, tangible gifts... and even a translated health insurance report about my hand, - yet the trip seems too big and too good to be true. To put it in a different perspective, I haven't been too successful at efficiently explaining my trip to friends and family. When people ask me " How was your trip? Tell me ALL about it" it is almost overwhelming. I tell them to ask me questions, smiling, because otherwise it just seems impossible to even start talking about Japan. Even my blog doesn’t cover minute by minute what happened (and I did learn things minute by minute!), it just retrospects the highlights of the day. One of the YFU requirements is to make speeches of your exchange experience when you return to America. I was offered to make a few presentations in my school to groups of faculty, foreign language classes, and social studies classes. When I was preparing a picture slide show, I was worried how I would present it to the audience, and if I had enough content. This worry is now a laughing matter. To put it in perspective, I barely got through my first week of my trip in my hour-long presentations, each time I did them. There is just TOO much to say. In my reflection about Japan, to truly serve it somewhat justice, is to write a book about it (... maybe this is a head start!). Japan has so much to offer. The country is a land of contrasts, and although that is almost cliché now, it is so true. As in old and new, I drove through Fukuoka seeing state of the art buildings right next to ancient shrines. Industrious and natural: Japan may be a technological leader, but it still puts so much emphasis on the natural aesthetic world. Maybe a plate of food delicately placed, a structured tea ceremony, ikebana flower arrangement, or simply a car dealership in an urban landscape backed up to a small family rice paddy can show this. The list of these is endless, that is why it is so hard. The country has a uniqueness of having native traits as well as adapted, borrowed ones. Never in my life thus far have I learned so much, so fast. The great thing is, only parts of these things were Japan specific. They are skills important everywhere. From this experience, I learned that it is just as important to give as to receive. What I mean is that you must teach while you learn. I didn't go to Japan just to learn about the country. I also went there for them to learn, or possibly change their perception of, America. This is what I discovered there. As I learned and fixed my misconceptions about Japan, I also was able to see what the world thinks of America. This alone is an amazing reason to travel abroad. The new perception of the world. I feel myself not making any conclusions in my writings here. This is possibly because this trip was not a timed learning experience. My learning has really only just begun, and new interests have been discovered because of this trip. Of course, I still cannot not express how thankful I am to Organizations like YFU and the JBSD for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime. I also am so thankful for my host family. I feel so lucky; since I truly believe that I received the best host family anyone could ask for. I still keep in contact with them by phone every weekend. This brings up another fact that amazes me still. When we talk on the phone, time flies by. Hour and a half conversations aren't rare. Before this summer I never would have imagined having the ability to talk, fundamentally in Japanese, on the phone for that period of time. I am still very close with my host parents and sisters, as well as ALL the friends I met along the trip, Japanese and American. The bottom line about this trip is that everyone should do something like this. If you have the opportunity to go somewhere, do it. If you have the opportunity to bring someone in to America, do it. I have met some amazing foreign exchange students over the past few years that have come to America, and their excitement and enthusiasm is one reason that influenced me to travel. The world has so much to offer, and I don't think that many people realize that. The connections and lessons that I have learned from this trip have only inspired me further. The experience was a once in a life-time one. There are memories from this that will last forever, and so many different opportunities that will come out of this. My journey has only just begun! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The longest day of my life

Wednesday, August 2nd was the longest day of my life. Literally. Technically it was 37 hours long. I had seen the sun rise twice. On the way to California we actually were beating the sun, until it caught up to us, for a beautiful 2nd "in-air" sunrise. When my plane from Saga arrived in Tokyo, I met up with a bunch of other YFU students in a bus to go to the other Tokyo airport to head home. The air trip from Saga was the perfect amount of time to just think about everything from the past summer by myself. Meeting up with my YFU friends was great, since there were so many stories to share. Although many of us were exhausted, we didn't sleep on the 10-hour trip over the pacific to California. We all were out of our seats, practically sitting on floors in the narrow isles just to talk with friends. Like I said before, we may have only known each other for days, or hours, but yet we were so close due to our experiences being in common. It was so funny because I think EVERYONE had their last box of Pocky or other Japanese candy to share on the plane. Along with this many had cheezy souvenirs from their past summers, but each had their own unique story to go along with it. When we got to California is where many of us began to depart our separate ways. It was annoying, since all of us were confused as to what was going on. We felt like a heard of cows, on top of the fact of feeling light-headed and dirty from the long plane trips. On that day I spent almost 18 hours in flight, and up to 24 just being in airports. It was a long day. So long in fact that saying bye to Japan, and saying goodbye to American friends actually felt like different days. Regardless, all of the discomfort was forgotten when I was greeted by my friends and family that night at the airport, and the next morning at my home. I am sure other YFU kids are experiencing the same thing I am right now: peace sign withdrawls. It is hard since I have to remind myself not to do it... it has become so natural! The only immediate reverse culture shock that I can report right now is the fact that Michigan and Troy's space took me by quick surprise. I hadn't realized how crowded everything was in Japan. It may be one of the first of many things that I am realizing I took for granted before. I think this new awareness will be a good thing.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Coming home

I published the last post only minutes before leaving the Kai's house with all of my luggage. I am now back in America, safe and healthy, trying to look back at the whirlwind that was the last few days. I said goodbye to my host father right after pictures, since he had to go to work. It was a happy goodbye (however I received a phone call on the way to the airport. Erika said he sounded close to tears. That goodbye was a little more formal.) After I packed my luggage into the car, I went to the convenience store to say my last goodbyes to Ojichan. While pulling out from the driveway, I was lucky enough to take a picture that is now one of my favorites from the entire summer. Nothing can sum up my last view of the house better than Ojichan outside waving me farewell.

Driving to the airport was awkward. It felt just like a regular drive anywhere. We listened to music, and laughed a bit. When we got to the airport we dragged my luggage to the counter to check in. Just a little more bad luck. I was off by just a bit. Next we had to re-open my luggage and re-organize right there in the lobby. Time must have flown by, since when we went upstairs they were telling me to quickly get through the gate. I was confused, but instantly realized that it was last calls for my flight. My host mom was signaling for me to quickly get through, but I couldn't pass up my time for goodbyes. It all happened so fast. Much like my summer. I am not a person to cry, but something mixed up with the frustration of luggage and the hecticness of the airport burst me into tears hugging my host mother and sisters. The funny thing is, I don't think they were ready for the hugs... they just don't hug in Japan. It was actually the first and last time I would hug them this summer. I took a deep breath, walked through the gates, waved one last goodbye... and I was gone. I got myself situated, and discovered a surprise out my window. Up on the balconies of the tiny Saga airport was my host mother and sisters waving goodbye. I was so frustrated I could not wave back. It meant a lot to me. They were there the entire 15 minutes my plane was in stand-by.

I thought a lot about what my last day would be during the summer, but never thought I would feel the strong feelings that I did. During take off I took a look out my window, and once again burst into tears. What had gotten into me. I never cried. I had truly become attached to this city. The Kai's really are an extension of my real family, and Saga is a second home to me. Looking at my stuffed luggage and camera reminded me of my great adventures, yet looking at the clouds and checkerboard rice paddies below made me realize that "just yesterday" I had seen the same thing, anxiously wondering what my host family waiting for me would be like. I was so satisfied with my experiences. I wouldn't change a thing. However, I felt a heaviness of depression that one of my life dreams was already over... amazing... yet, over. I realized then and there that I had a lot of reflecting to do. I have never experienced such strong feelings like this. I did not want to be sappy when writing this... but it is true, even I didn't expect it out of myself. Luckily I had the hour and a half flight to Tokyo to put all the pieces together.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's hard to say goodbye

School, Friends, Parties, Families, Stitches, Thousands of pictures, and 22 "tada" tissue packets/fans later, my summer is coming down to its final hours. It really doesn't feel like it is over. It went by fast, yet I have so much to account for it. The stress on my luggage zippers is proof. All of my pictures show all of the great activities I did, and also some of the wonderful people I met. That may be the most important of all to me. What really proved that I built relationships with so many people here was that many made special visits at the BBQ and after Saturday just to say goodbye. As for my host family, we have spent the last few days relaxed and quiet, opposite of the upbeat weekend, just spending time with one another. I liked that. We have had a fun time laughing and sharing stories and jokes. (We had a little celebration when I finally successfully packed.) They really have provided me with SO much this summer, as in great hospitality, care, food, fun, education, and so much more that doesn't match up with words. My feelings over the summer evolved. Of course when I first arrived in Japan, I was in a daze of excitement, and everything hit me really hard and fast since every experience was new. Although the summer was great, I cannot lie that homesickness and culture shock affected me a little. There were a few days where I just thought, "I need to have a conversation in English!" or something along those lines, but then usually minutes later a friend or event would get me right back on with why I am here in the first place. To learn, meet people, and have fun doing it all. My phase as being a "guest" was very short, if not nonexistent, meaning that I fit in with my family right away. However, the actual feeling of being acquainted with the city, and the people of Japan came much later. Only this past week did I feel like this was my home, and my city, and I wasn't a visitor, but really a part of the society. That sounded really weird in writing. Much of this does. Living abroad does something special to you, and now just when I consider myself "molded in", it is time to go remold to America. Kind of unfair. This post will be the last one I write in Japan. It doesn't mean I am done writing. There is still going to be stories of my flights home (in terms of my luggage... there will be stories). There is still a lot that is unwritten and must still be shared. This isn't the end. It is a very unique beginning, with so many special opportunities that could only come out of an experience like this one.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Chef Yurina

Early on in my blog I introduced the fact that Yurina studies cooking, and has participated in a few big contests also. She is very shy and extremely modest about her accomplishments, but in the past she has won honors in two contests. One in a junior ramen contest, and another in a junior pastry contest in Tokyo. Throughout the summer she was very timid to make me her award winning dishes. As a matter of fact, it was my host mom who told me everything about the contests. Well today was a surprise for me. Yurina offered to make me her award winning Ramen noodle soup. I thought it was very cool, and watched her prepare everything. Her ramen is a vegetarian broth. It has a base of shoyu and oyster sauce, as well as toppings of green onions, tempura, and seaweed. The soup was very delicious. After we ate it she even showed me the video of her competition. It looked like it was a lot of fun. As a matter of fact Yurina wants to eventually study cuisine in France. Her aunt lives there (my host mom’s sister), so my host family has a high interest in France on a personal level. Along with this interest, Japanese and French cuisines often share traits off of each other. Aside from that, French style bakeries here are almost always attached to Japanese wagashi shops it seems!

ス [su] ト [to] レ [re] ス [su]

Japanese has many loan words from foreign languages. It is fun to sound them out phonetically to figure them out. Su TO Re Su... Yup stress. Right now the final hours of my stay with my family are ticking down. We are making the most of it, spending a lot of quality time together. There is a lot of stress though, since I have learned that I am a terrible shopper and packer. I have already unpacked and repacked 5 times... I'm trying to get the puzzle pieces of weight and size just right. At least my family’s humor helps me not go semi-insane. I am trying to pack everything... I bought too much. I never have been a shopper, and have always hated spending money. Well, Japan triggered something different in my head. The land that is a "shopper’s paradise" really made me follow suit. The nice thing about the past few nights is there have been many visitors stopping by just to say a last goodbye. It is very nice and very fun to sit and chat with everyone. The joke with my family is that I am Un ga Waruii... living bad luck. My hand, luggage, and other embarrassing moments have all earned my prized title. We have been using an internet translater sometimes when language difficulty gets in the way. Pretty much our translations have all come down to the simple phrase "life’s lessons". Simplicity is nice. The past few nights have been simple, which I have enjoyed, since it is the best way to keep building all of these great relationships that have been created. The pics are of my host sisters and Ojichan. This past summer I observed that my family would ocasionally buy Ojichan some wagashi (Japanese sweets) as an unexpected present. I did the same sometimes and would surprise Ojichan with some mochi or something, and enjoy some time with him in the R shop. Our conversations never got too detailed due to our language/dialect barriers, but the times were always nice. The next is Erika, Honami, and me, when Honami and her mother came for a last visit. Later that day Toshi and his family came by to visit. Toshi is a unique example of a great international relationship. Of all of my classmates, Toshi probably had some of the most limited English skills, however, we sat close to each other, and he is now one of my closest friends from this past summer.  I Just re-read this post, and realized how unorganized it is. I guess that sums up how the past few hours of packing up have felt like.


Monday, July 31, 2006

Okonomiyaki

After the concert we went out for dinner to a restaurant that specialized in a dish called okonomiyaki. The restaurant had rows of tables that you knelt around and each had their own flat iron grill! The dish of okonomiyaki is a Japanese classic. The best way to describe it is like a Japanese omelette or pizza because of the variety of ingredients used. The word okonomi means "as you like", or "what you want" and yaki means "grilled" or "cooked" so, when eating okonomiyaki, it simply means you can pick whatever ingredients you want combined along with the grilling time that you want, since it is done at your table. First you order what type you want. My family got 2 that had pork, shrimp and squid in it. After you place your order, bowls with all of the raw ingredients, along with batter, egg, and shredded cabbage comes to your table. You mix it all up, and make one huge "pancake" right in front of you. It is very fun! After it is cooked, special okonomiyaki BBQ sauce and mayonnaise goes on top. For as popular as this unique Japanese dish is, it has gone largely unnoticed in the states. I think that is a shame, since it is delicious. This one quickly made it on to my recipe list! The evening was a very fun and social one to spend with my host family. It is so nice to spend time all together.


Yurina's Band Contest

All summer Yurina's band class has been practicing hard for a large band competition that happened this past week. This was not just any average recital, this was a very highly attended musical function. Bands of all ages and levels from elementary to college came to play for awards in their divisions in this three day concert competition. Yurina plays the tuba. She can be seen in the far left. We went to the large theater where the concerts were taking place to watch some performances. The theater was able to hold hundreds of people, and it was packed. Yurina's band's practice definitely payed off. They sounded very good. Later that night we found out that they received gold in their age division. 1st place. We were all very excited. The family decided to use this opportunity to celebrate by going out for dinner.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

More Friends, More Memories

It's all standard. Japanese party : Food, friends, fun (Yeah, that's Nintendo all right!), fireworks, pictures, and peace signs!


BBQ : PARTY : SAYONARA

It is hard to sum up today in words. Big. Fun. Amazing. Today my host family hosted a big party in their side yard as a goodbye party for me, since this is my last weekend here in Japan. Many, many guests visited to have some fun. It was a great time. I have to start somewhere, so the morning is a good place to begin. We first prepared the house and a bunch of food for the party that was to take place later on. My contribution was some chocolate chip cookies, and oatmeal cookies (neither very common at all in Japan). The funny story about the oatmeal cookies is that it was made from instant oatmeal packets I brought for my host family to sample for breakfast food. They simply told me that Japanese people don’t like oatmeal, so I got creative and researched a cookie recipe. My cookies were a hit that night . Anyways, a few of Erika’s friends came over early around lunch time, and so the party began! From that point on many guests filtered in and out throughout the afternoon until late into the night. The neat thing about the BBQ was that it was Japanese style... always going. When you were hungry, you grabbed the THINLY sliced meats from a selection of beef, pork, or chicken, and some vegetables (cabbage, squash, corn) and took it to the grill. It is all a "do it yourself" process done with chopsticks. Yakiniku (literally grilled meat) is very fun. I have to try to make it the same way in America when I get back! The afternoon was very social, with many friends stopping by. The neat thing was that so many people stopped by, and each had their own special story from this past summer. Not all of the kids were from Ryukoku high school. Many people were from other schools, or even other cities. Going along with the unwritten rule of Japanese hospitality: if someone hosts a party, always bring a gift. I think almost everyone brought big bottles of juices and teas, or gourmet desserts. There was a lot of food! With all of the friends, we socialized, partied inside, outside, grilled, and talked some more. It was so much fun. Even though I already stated it, it was so great to see all of the people I met this summer, and your challenge is to match them up with their part of my journey. I was so grateful for my family for providing me with such an amazing day. To finish it all off, when dusk fell, we walked down the street to light off fireworks and firecrackers. The evening was very laid back, and all of the people were extremely nice. I really have made so many great friends here. The least I could do was give them some small Troy trinkets and my email address. I really crammed a lot into this post. There are so many great side stories about my time spent with each great individual that I have met, left unwritten. So many great memories have been created. A few more still to come with my final few days!


Friday, July 28, 2006

Only in Japan

While walking the streets of the festival, one of the vendors at a snack booth was dressed as a pikachu! Some people really get into their summer festivals, and this guy wanted to add something extra to his booth. Well, it caught my attention. The funny thing is, people look at me the same way I probably looked like seeing this pikachu man, since I am a gaijin. When the guy saw me taking a picture, he laughed, and stood up to take one with me! After that some girls wearing their summer yukata were giggling at me... next thing you know I am taking pictures with them too. Being a gaijin has it benefits, haha! These pictures are just an example of some of the crazy stuff you see in Japan, but also it shows the funny situations I get into because I am a foreigner. You know I love the attention.

Great food and Fireworks

Tonight Erika and I were invited to attend a different Natsu Matsuri (summer festival) with Honami's family. The festival was in a different part of Saga, in more of the mountainous region. Along with the festival, Honami's family was also going to a special company dinner for Honami's father. He is part of a carpentry business. It was very nice for them to invite Erika and me along since the restaurant was very nice. The restaurant was in a large building up in the mountains. As a matter of fact it looked over the Kasegawa river that I visited a few weeks ago. There were pricey cocktail lounges in the building that had perfect views over the river and mountainsides! At the restaurant we walked to our own special reserved room for the party. The restaurant was in a traditional style, with sliding doors, tatami mats, and ground level seating. We met a few of the other families attending and got ourselves situated. For dinner we had very nicely plated sashimi (raw fish slices) and tempura (Japanese style deep fried seafood and vegetables). Along with this, there was a buffet with many Japanese salads, side dishes, and soups. It was very nice! After dinner we walked out of the restaurant to another part of the building. We went to an outdoor terrace that many people were settling down at for the night’s fireworks show. That was a surprise for me. The building itself wasn’t that tall, but because it was tiered on the side of a mountain, it seemed very grand. We had a great view of the river, bridge, and roads where the fireworks were going to take place - prime seating! The fireworks show was great. Like the Umi no Hi show, this one was also one hour long! The Japanese like to slowly enjoy their fireworks. Although seeing the fireworks over an ocean was neat, I think the mountain and river view was even better! It was also great to be looking down at the bustling festival streets. The fireworks show consisted of airborne fireworks, water plunged fireworks, and even large strands of sparklers over the river. It was so cool to see the Bridge ignite into a sparkling outline, and also large strands of sparklers to go off over the river, which looked in the reflections like a waterfall of fire. It was an excellent evening. After the show we strolled the streets of the bustling festival. It was great to take in all the excitement from the atmosphere. The pictures are of Erika, Honami, and me at the restaurant, Honami and me overlooking the terrace, and finally the fireworks display!

Hanging out with friends

Today was a neat day because some of my friends actually came to my host family's house to hang out. Yoshi and Bernardo (Yoshi's exchange brother from Brazil who is 18) came over after their school today. It was just like hanging out in America: tv, music, snacks... except it was just all in another language. It doesn't strike me as being an out of the ordinary experience until I think about it later. "I just spent a few hours with friends speaking a totally different language!". Luckily both understood a little English, which helped some conversations to be more smooth. It was a neat experience to have friends visit me here. We had a good time.

A real Onsen!

Today I was invited to go to an onsen with the Kais' relatives, the Ootsukas, which is Takuji's family. Okay... so in terms of America, yes it is weird to attend a public bathing facility with friends, but that is just because of the nudity factor. In Japan it is totally common, and even a highly practiced form of gathering! It is a big social activity. As a matter of fact, many groups of teens from various sports teams attend the public baths after games and such. I don’t think I could ever see that forming as a hang-out activity for American teens. Today though, we were going to a REAL onsen, which is filtered with natural spring water from the mountains. It is said to be very healthy due to its minerals. (I got to wear a nice latex glove, secured tightly with velcro straps to keep my hand dry. Well... I guess I was more clothed than other people then!) We drove up from sea level, to the winding roads in the mountains. The roads were narrow, and much like those at the Kasegawa viewing post a while back. We first stopped for dinner at a restaurant that the Ootsuka family highly recommended. It was so cool because it viewed all of the bamboo and pine forests on the mountains through the windows. This traditional restaurant had floor seating and low tables which I still find very nostalgic. The specialty there was soba noodles. We all ordered cold soba with dipping sauce, and tempura. Wow, what a day! All my Japanese favorites... Sushi, Soba, Tempura!! It was a very neat experience. After dinner we drove a little higher, but then actually went down just a little. In contrast to the other onsen that I visited last week, which required you to go up to enter the spa area, this natural onsen went down. You first entered the building, and after that, went down to a walkout basement where all the baths were. This may seem very cliché on my part, but this onsen was very nice simply for the fact that it was, well... natural. It was set up with lots of bamboo, wood, and rocks, in a very tranquil mountainous area that was beautiful especially at night. It was different than the, "man-made" onsen because it didn’t have all of the special pools. It was just hot, warm, or cold water. Of course at this onsen the baths were man made, but the water is not artificially pumped in. That is the main difference in addition to its location and decor, but it was the more natural feeling of the place that made the biggest difference. From both of my experiences, I have to say that if you ever go to Japan, make sure you visit an onsen. It is very cultural, as well as relaxing. It was very generous of the Ootsukas to let me join them, and I had a great night. Since it was a Thursday, the facility was much emptier than last Saturday’s experience! The pictures are of Takuji and me sitting in the restaurant, the tatami room in the facility, and finally Takuji, his sister Tomo-chan, and me outside this onsen.

An afternoon with my host dad

Even though my host dad may have tediously long working hours, I have had many opportunities to spend time with him, and they have been great. Today he actually had a day off from work. This would be the first time it would be just me and him to hang out together for the afternoon, so I was excited. We ran some errands, and before we knew it, it was lunch time. My host father loves his sushi (as do I), and today he found out about a good lunch special at one of his favorite sushi restaurants. For as much as I am crazy about those kaiten sushi (conveyor belt) places, I have found out that they are more economical and almost "family style" in terms of quality (still better than anything you could find in America... or at least Michigan for that matter). You have to go elsewhere for the apparently "real" stuff. I have only had sushi relatively seldom, so I am by far not a connoisseur, but I went with it. We went to a very traditionally decorated sushi bar specializing in Osaka style sushi (The best translation I could make out was that it deals with the education of the chefs). Of course we were first served our warm towelettes for our hands, and then green tea. The sushi came soon after. It was plated so beautifully and artistically. It definitely lived up to its growing fame as being a "sophisticated" meal. It was very good. So fresh, that the pieces just melted apart in your mouth. Along with the sushi were steamed vegetables, a salad, and some miso soup. My host dad also wanted to treat me to some traditional Japanese desserts, so we ordered some azuki bean treats. This classic, traditional sweet was served like a soup. It was very sweet, with mochi and melon in the bowl. It was very good. The outing today was filled with many great grammatically incorrect conversations, and along with the delicious lunch, it was nothing less than a great day!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

One Crazy Night

Some more pics of me sporting my pj's and sweats, oh yeah, and my new bandages, along with the great medical staff that helped me at the hospital.

Hospital : Just one more check to mark off on my list!

Okay. The title of this post is a complete joke. The events tonight were a big surprise to me, as well as my host family.

Let me start from the beginning...While riding our bikes back from karaoke we were going down some narrow sidewalks. Well, in the blink of an eye, I somehow sandwiched my hand in between the cement wall and my bike handle and tore up my left hand. It stung for a second, but I just shrugged it off, and let my hand stay high to stop all the bleeding for the rest of the half hour bike ride. It was only a bit of bad luck...

When I returned home, I washed up the wounds, which were pretty sore, and bandaged them up myself. I had dinner, and even typed up the previous post with my amateur-bandaged hand. After I took a shower, I asked my host mother for some antibacterial medicine. This is the first time she seen my open wounds and kinda freaked out. It had been almost 2 hours since I had returned home, and my hand had swelled, and the slightly dried gouges presented their depth. Almost ironically, my host dad arrived home just in time for the "hand inspection". They were both very concerned. I now know it is a universal parenting trait. To the hospital it was for me... at 11 at night.

My host father took me to the local hospital, which wasn't Beaumont hospital huge. It was a quaint hospital, barely lit, since only one doctor and two nurses were there at this time of night. When we went in, all three were immediately caring for me with gauze, paperwork, and questions. A quick, funny story... This past year in Mrs. Lowry's Japanese II class, we spent a significant amount of time learning vocabulary about sickness and health. Many of the kids in my class complained, saying, "when will we EVER use this". Well the moral of this is, today I did, and I used it in a very big way. On the bright side of this whole ordeal, I was able to use a whole new array of Japanese vocabulary. The two nurses treated me as if my hand was off. They were very caring. First I had x-rays taken. My wounds were then cleaned out with saline water and iodine, which wasn't too fun - yes... stick some gauze and tweezers into a small, but deep open wound...ouch. Then I found out that I would need a few stitches for some of the gouges on my knuckles. It all happened really fast. Iodine, anesthetic shots, gauze, stitches, ... pictures, haha. After the procedure was done, we were ready to return home... at 12:30 at night. Wow, what a day. After the hospital, we stopped at 7-11 for some puddings to take home. When we arrived, Erika and my host mom were waiting, and my parents at home in America were already notified by Okasan! The situation may have given my host parents a few gray hairs, but now it is definitely something to laugh about. It was surprisingly a great bonding time. Now I laugh, while trying to type this with my tightly bandaged hand, that there were so many things I planned to do in Japan, but there have been so many great surprises. If I have a scar or two, or not, I will always be able to think back to this crazy, hectic night here.