by Lily McFeeters, CCI Greenheart Travel High School Exchange student in Japan
We woke up at what my Dad calls o’dark-thirty to head for the airport; my trip to Japan was becoming a reality. We arrived at Baltimore-Washington Airport at 5:00 AM and checked my bag. When I went through airport security, I was the only person in line! About 80% of the people on the plane were Japanese. In fact, I was the only person obviously not Japanese in my section. While we were getting off the plane, the flight attendant bowed and said, “Arigatou gozaimashita.” to everybody. But when she got to me, she said, “Thank you!” with a big smile and no bow. After a very long flight, I WAS FINALLY IN JAPAN!!!!
Of course, once off the plane, I had to collect my bags and go through immigration and customs. And just like you see in the movies, I searched for the sign that my local coordinator would be holding up for me to see. Even though it didn’t take long for us to find each other, she still apologized to me profusely. Now I knew I was really in Japan.
From the airport, we boarded a bus and headed straight to our hotel for orientation along with two other exchange students who had also just arrived from the U.S. We talked about what we packed in our luggage and what made each of us want to study abroad. Looking out the bus window gave me my first glimpse of Japanese residences. I immediately noticed the stone walls that surround many of the houses and the rounded shape of the roof tiles that stick up instead of laying flat.
When we arrived at the hotel for our orientation, it was time to advance my watch 13 hours ahead. No matter what my body was telling me, it was now 5:30 in the afternoon. I went up to my room and had about ninety minutes to unpack and take that much needed shower after twenty-four hours of traveling.
Orientation began promptly at 7:00 PM. To my surprise, there were about twenty other foreign exchange students from Finland, New Zealand, and Canada, with the biggest group being from Australia. Even though we would all be staying with different host families all over Japan, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that three of these exchange students would be joining me at my high school: a Finnish girl, a Canadian girl, and a boy from Australia.
The next day’s agenda: “Let’s go shopping!” And that’s just what we did. We boarded a bus and went to the mall. Outside restaurants, plastic food is displayed in a glass case to show what’s on the menu.
The food court is called the “picnic court”. I tried katsu curry, a Japanese style curry with pork cutlets and rice. The food was delicious, but the serving size was size was surprisingly larger than I expected. After you eat, you take you’re food to, “The place that returns tableware.”
Then there’s the dollar store, or rather, the “100 yen store”. These stores have many different types of knickknacks. I bought a wallet and a water bottle decorated with strawberries and the English words, “It is sweet, and a little sour.” The bookstore was called “Book Off” and I bought myself a handy English to Japanese pocket dictionary. As we strolled through the mall I thought to myself, “Wow, it really feels like I’m in Japan.”
Next up: the bullet train to Hyogo prefecture and meeting my host family.