[Until next time.]
Exactly eight weeks later after coming, I left.
It seems a little too precise. Too on the dot, mechanical. 8 weeks and done. I wish it wasn’t like that.
For one, Kanazawa is an incredible city. To be a tourist in, and to live in. My first impression upon arriving in Kanazawa is that it was so big and goddamn nice for a city so small. It feels like an extremely modern city. And then you turn down a side-street with low wooden buildings and sliding doors and small red shrines nesting along the way.
But I didn’t come for the city, I came for the program–the chance to learn Japanese. And I’d say I did. I’m basically able to carry out any sort casual conversation in Japanese now. I still have difficulty understanding often, and while I know than twice as many characters as I could before, reading is still near impossible. But the real benefit of my Light Fellowship experience has been the people—my host family, my teachers, my fellow students, Kanazawa University students, the people who live here.
Japan, a world apart from Philadelphia and New Haven, is so incredibly different from America. In particular the way people interact with each other and present themselves. Also the conceptions of the roles and natures of community, family, respect, art, government, sex and sexuality, and the natural environment. And yet… and yet it is still a place that can feel like home (I mean Pokemon Go was just released here and 5/10 people on my bus home yesterday were playing it). People eat three meals a day. They go to school and work and love it or hate it or anything in between. People have hobbies. They like sports, they have friends, they go out together, they go on hikes and to the beach. They want to sell you things, they want to help you. Japanese people are stylish and very well dressed. There are foreigners among them, some living there permanently, with Japanese spouses or with families that immigrated all together. They are frustrated with their political situation (shout out to the bartender last Friday for giving me an angry rundown). Some of them are rich, many are not. Some are homeless but wear suits and ties so people on the street do not know. They will welcome you into their shop with a warm smile, greeting, and bow. Many do not talk to strangers, but some will start a lively conversation, and give you a special ten yen souvenir coin from the Phoenix Hall (thank you random lady). And of course, every one is an entirely different person. And of course of course, this is only about the Japanese people that I met on the course of my travels, not even starting to go into the Korean high schoolers at YMUN Korea, the other PII students who are from all over the world.
Here is a photo slideshow from the final week. We had our graduation ceremony and a special event with our host families today, where there was a lovely lunch buffet and each class put on a group performance. Our class sang and danced. Embarrassing, but fun.
In order: Yummy pancakes, a local shrine, Shirakawa-go (a traditional village and world heritage site), a local garden in Kanazawa, me and my host parents, the sea, my class dancing.
Thank you so much to the Light Fellowship for making this summer possible for me. It’ll be one I’ll never forget!
Japan, see you next time.