It’s crazy how long and short two weeks are. The weeks leading up to my departure for example… those felt like forever.
Forever until I would embark on my adventure.
Forever until I would have answers to my many questions.
Forever until this new life of mine would begin.
But those weeks were also no time at all. No time to say goodbye and no time to feel prepared. Because despite the many training sessions, many goodbyes and months of thought and anticipation, you can never be fully prepared for something like this. That’s what makes it so special. It’s a journey, everything’s new and it’s amazing! The odd sensation of feeling on top of the world and drowning at the same time.
Then you settle into the new and it soon becomes familiar. As if it was never new to begin with… only waiting for you to find it.
I’ve been in Nagasaki, Japan for just over two weeks. I feel connected to this city, despite there being so much yet to discover. Nagasaki is a city on the water (or so the images on google had said) but where I am currently living in Nagasaki is different to what I had imagined. The area, though populated and urban, is surrounded by these stunning tall standing mountains. I was instantly reminded of home (in the best way) and that is what this landscape has become for me – a second home. And one that I can confide in.
The city itself is stunning. It’s standard in terms of it’s structure and architecture but something about it makes me smile as I walk around. Maybe it’s the open blue skies shining down on the clean streets. Or the constant click clack of the city wide monorail on it’s tracks. Or the adorable compact cars that everyone drives. It may be the school children mucking about in sailor style uniforms and bright yellow hats. Or the crisp winter that adds a chill to my skin.
These past two weeks of living in Nagasaki has brought many new things. Such as my first time attending a Catholic all girls school and taking a Japanese style bento box lunch with me. Everyone at school is so welcoming and kind. Yukina, who sits to my right, is soft spoken and kind, helping me with what I don’t understand. Haruka (sitting behind me) has an amazing voice and overflowing passion for music. Every morning she plaits my hair, humming and smiling as she does. Sae is on the basketball club and anyone can tell she really loves it. Though she sits towards the back of the classroom she always makes a point of calling “Ruby-chan!” (chan is used after a name as a term of endearment) and waving wildly from across the room. The first thing I noticed about the Japanese students is that they ‘just get on with it’. They work hard and get done what they need to and do so without complaint. I think one of my favourite aspects of Japanese school culture is the cleaning. Everyday before the class is dismissed to head home, the students and teachers clean the entire school. It’s an amazing thing to do, not only because it stops the students from making a mess (since they are the ones who have to clean it up) but it also creates a sense of community and is a lot of fun.
Another new thing about Japan are the showers. Well that’s the case in the home I’m living in at least. Instead of the shower being within the ballroom there is a separate (fully waterproof) room with a shower and bath within it. Every night I have a bath, and the same bath water is shared between all of the family members, so the purpose of the shower is to make sure you are squeaky clean before you get in the bath. I really enjoy the concept and though there is a chair (or I could stand if I wanted), I find myself most often showering while sitting on the floor.
I had believed that I had everything covered with my four mums at home and I couldn’t possibly need another… but that was before I met Misumi Oka. Misumi (my host mum) has been beyond lovely and helpful. We often stay up late together drinking tea and chatting.
Oh that’s another thing. We drink green tea with every meal. Lucky I’ve got a taste for tea!
Misumi teaches Kenbu (traditional Japanese sword dancing) and cares a lot about keeping up Japanese traditions and culture.
My host brother Koutarou is 12 years old and loves video games. He reminds me of my 13 year old sister Lola.
Last Sunday Misumi and Koutarou (who does Kenbu) had a Kenbu performance, which I sadly missed due to my district’s Rotary meeting.
My host dad’s name is Hidetaka. I call him Hidebo (bo is a kind of nickname used for young boys) because he is young at heart. Hidebo works in the neighbouring city and is only home on weekends. Last Sunday Hidetaka took me to my Rotary district meeting because Misumi and Koutarou had their Kenbu performance at the same time. The meeting, and Kenbu performance were conveniently both held in a neighboring city called Sasebo, about an hours drive from Nagasaki. After dropping off Misumi and Koutarou we had a bit of extra time before the meeting and decided to drive around Sasebo a bit. Sasebo was interesting to explore as it is home to a huge US Navy base and is famous for it’s burgers!
We drove past the aquarium and spontaneously decided to go in. It was really fun. I even became buddies with one of the turtles. Hidetaka is a cheerful and kind man. Without a doubt the best dad I’ve ever had!!
I had a fun time relaxing together and it made it easier to present my speech (in Japanese) at the Rotary district meeting afterwards.
This past week has been just as action packed if not more!
Japan is huge on club activities at school so I’ve been trying to decide what to join. One of my friends in my class invited me to check out the Karate club. Though I new there was no way I would be good enough to join, I went to check it out and I’m so glad that I did. It was a small club (total of four members) but they were absolutely amazing. The speed and precision at which they performed had my jaw dropping. It seemed to me as if a coordinated dance.
I have had so many new experiences of Japanese culture!
Just this past weekend we celebrated the ceremony Setsubun. In which you welcome good fortune and push out the bad. The stand out thing about this particular Japanese festival is the personification of both the good and bad fortune. The bad fortune in particular is represented by what is called an oni which is an evil devil-like monster which you must throw beans at to get rid of. The festival day itself was on the third of February (just this past Sunday) and I was glad to spend it with my host family eating delicious ramen and later in the evening visiting the shrine.
I received ‘BEST LUCK’ for this coming year in the shrine’s fortune.
If these past two weeks have anything to tell about the year to come then I know this fortune is spot on.
There’s so much more I wish to share with you all.
But for now this is all the energy I can muster… with all the new my brain is a little tired!!
I guess two weeks is however long (or short) you make it.
— ruby parsons burns —