From July 26-29, I had my first ever Japanese home stay! I had a great time and it was a fabulous experience! The family I stayed with consisted of a mother, father, daughter, and son, as well as their two small dogs and 1 rabbit. No one in the family spoke English (not that I expected them to) other than the daughter, Akane (age 18), who did ALL of the translating for me. Akane and her family were wonderful hosts and treated me especially well! I feel bad because I was a lot quieter than I normally am, but that is because of the large language barrier between most of the family. (But I was still fun, talkative, and open!)
We finished our American Village style camp and then we departed for home stays. First, we boarded the Global Arena bus and rode it 1 hour into Fukuoka Center and the train station, Hakata Station (the biggest in all of Japan!), coincidentally right across from our hotel we stayed in our very first night in Japan.
About 1/2 of all the American Counselors (ACs) and Japanese Counselors (JCs) on our way to the train station to meet our host families.
Ian enjoying his front seat view (on the other side of the car, note)
One of my best friends here in Japan, Anna, who is going home for the weekend 🙂
Many people were picked up in our group right at the station. However, Ian, Steven, Ying, and I had to take a train about an hour’s ride. We had a JC come with us the first time, but on the way home we were by ourselves (which was really fulfilling and rewarding- I remember when I first took the train from Caen to Paris by myself for the first time; I don’t think I have ever been more nervous or on edge- but then I did it and it was the easiest thing in the world, and soon I was training to the Alps, to London, to Amsterdam, etc.) This was the exact same feeling.
Anyways, so I got off the train and was greeted by my host family; we got into the car, which was blaring HSM. Good start. Once at home I was greeted by two loud, curious wiener dogs, the father, and brother. Shortly after, we ate dinner (on the floor), and my host father hands me a beer and some sake. As for gifts, I gave them some Poppin’ on Broadway popcorn (home town reference) and a Milwaukee Brewers baseball. They really seemed to like the baseball; I have yet to give my peanut butter to my next host family; hopefully they will like it better than my host family in France did! That night, we basically just decided on things to do the following day, I bathed, and went to bed. I was honestly just so happy to sleep in an actual bed for a few days.
The next morning I was up early, at 6:30 AM, because I was going to high school with my host sister, Akane! She is 18 years old and in her last year of high school. The Japanese school year begins in April (as opposed to September in the US and many other Western countries). They have one month off in August, a few weeks off in December/January, and a few weeks off in March, making 3 terms total. Basically Japan has a lot more rigorous schooling system than the United States. Students are students. That is their only job, and almost no one has a job before they are a legal adult in Japan (which is age 20). They do not have many responsibilities before then; and then suddenly responsibilities upon responsibilities, whereas in the United States it tends to be much more gradual. Anyways, school was very interesting with Akane, I really enjoyed meeting all of her friends. Of course, all schools in Japan wear uniforms, both public and private. Additionally the first room you walk into in a Japan school is the changing shoes room- there are a bunch of cubbies and you put your outside shoes in them. At the end of the day, you leave your inside shoes there. I brought my own inside shoes to wear (or rather my host family provided me with a pair not knowing I had packed my own in case they were needed). First we had home room, where of course, I was stared at and people came up eager to use their English. One of Akane’s friends, Roy (but likes to be called Scott), came up and started speaking amazing English (and then proceeded to tell me, “I am shit at speaking English!” (As I thought to myself, “Dude if you can produce that sentence…you need to rethink your priorities…”)
Then we switched classrooms. I was able to sit in English class, Japanese class, and Economics class. It was so interesting to sit in English class. We were given a worksheet to fill out (fill-in-the-blank). It was actually really hard (for the students- not for me!) Many asked me, “Is this hard for you?” During Japanese class, they wrote silently for 40 straight minutes- good thing I brought my Harry Potter book with me! In Japan, teachers switch classes, instead of the students, so we were in the same classroom the entire time.
Because it was the last day of school, it was only a half day! After school was over, it was time to clean. Yes, this was probably the biggest difference of all- after school, the entire student body CLEANS the school. It is so insane! Jobs rotate every week, and students sweep the floors, clean the bathrooms, dust, wash tables, mop, pick up trash, etc. EVERY DAY! I think this is an awesome idea; if students in the United States were required to clean their schools something tells me that they would be so much cleaner and less vandalized, and kept in better condition for longer.
After school, I walked with Akane to the super market, where her mom was waiting for us. Usually, Akane takes the train to school, 50 minutes every day. This comes to my I-wish-the-United-States-used-or-had-better-and-more-reliable-public-transportation rant. But today, because I was there, they drove. Chie (host mom), Akane, and myself went out for a nice lunch. Here are a few photos!
Akane and me
Ingredients before mixing
Yum! In process of cooking!