I'm sorry if my last post seemed too negative, but it was fueled by something that had just happened so I was a little miffed. I often worry if by pointing out the different not-so-pretty parts of Japan makes me too negative? I'm really not a negative person, at all!
Btw, I will get back to everyone's comments/emails/everything soon! (maybe even today)
But, to turn this into a more balanced blog...
I've decided to introduce my host families, in order, so you can see more about my exchange.
藤井家(the Fujii family)
I lived with this family for four months - from September 25th 2009 until January 20th 2010. There were three people I lived with - Youko (early 60s, my host mom), Kenji (also early 60s, my host dad), and Obaa-chan("grandmother" whose real name I've forgotten because I've never called her it. >< mid-80s, my host mom's mother). There was also the frequent visitors: Mariko, my host brother's wife who was a librarian and liked to practice English for me, eldest host brother, his wife and three children, my host sister and her daughter (who stayed with us for part of my exchange), and many cousins, friends, and neighbors.
They had hosted twice before, a girl from India and another girl from Australia, I believe. Those were only three week long exchanges, so hosting me was the longest they've had a non-family member living with them.
They owned three restaurants and two taxi companies in the area we lived. My host dad's "hobby" was his chicken farm, which produced all the eggs for the home and the restaurants. Our garden also provided much of the vegetables in the restaurants as well.
|Three of the workers at one of the restaurants. And yes, that is a fish head. They tried feeding it to me and I politely refused.|
My host mom and I were extremely close. She would often let me stay home from school and she would skip work and we would go exploring together - a "Garden Viewing Tour" in Tokyo, helping introduce the Philippine Rotary members to Hakone Mountain, onsen, and a few other historical places, soccer games, etc.
And speaking of soccer, my host mom is a huge Kashima Antlers fan. We saw many matches together, and before game day, she would deck out her taxi cab with all these Antlers stickers and then she'd insist that she pick me up from school in it. Obviously the desire to embarrass your children is not lost in translation... haha!
|My host mom, myself, the Kashima Antlers female mascot and my host mom's grandchildren.|
Another one of my favorite memories is our trip to Hakone. We went to an onsen together, so we essentially saw each other buck naked. THAT was embarrassing, but after, we went on a boat sight-seeing tour of around Hakone. After that, we went to a place near the lake where samurai would use so they were not caught. It was really interesting!
|The first picture of us together! I love her and her tattooed on eyebrows! haha|
At the bottom of this post will be a mini pic-spam of photos taken while with this family.
My host dad was HILARIOUS! He was a joker by nature, so from day one, he sought to embarrass me as much and as often as possible. He taught me bad Japanese (we would practice how to say "うるせんでお前！" and his personal favorite "ベッカ" in place of "バカ". My host mom would always laugh, scold him, and then remind me that ladies did not talk like that. We would also "play-fight" all of them time. He would get home, say "ただいま" to which I would respond "やべっ"(a masculine way of saying "oh no!") or "いやだ！" (a way of showing disgust, dislike of something, the kanji for it is the same used in "kirai" - "hate"(adj)).
He would call me an "alien" or "invader", and then tell everyone I came to Japan to "mix" with Japanese. He said because my family is from all over Europe, it makes me "super strong" so I was sent here to "mix with Japanese" and "make stronger babies". Imagine all of this, with engrish galore, being told to completely unaware Japanese people who would just look at him in complete bewilderment. But we would be laughing hysterically together (uchi/soto much? XDD)
He would also ask me EVERY SATURDAY to go on "secret dates" with him. Of course he knew this creeped me out, so he did it more often. We also had a sexual harassment joke going on between us that is probably not very Rotary-approved. But oh.my.gosh. was it fun!
|My host dad yelling at me for taking his picture on Christmas.|
He also gave me my "Japanese name" which is "Steiko" (ステイ子). My host mother's name has "ko" in it, which means child, and in Japanese, my name is ステイシー (su-te-i-shii), so using just the first part of my name and "ko", I got my "Japanese name".
My host grandmother,
|side-view of my host grandmother and my host mom, around christmas last year at an art display of my host mother's.|
My host family's cat was Kei-chan, and she was my buddy. She would follow me around the house and always want to be in my lap. She was sooo cute. My host dad, the smart-a** he was, would called her "Steiko" and then go, "あぁ、違うか？"("Oh, was I wrong?")
|Kei-chan sleeping in "her" chair. There's a special towel to collect all of the hair, haha.|
There were a few hardships, but I think it was mainly because after three months, the honeymoon period is over, and being a host parent is just tiring. They were also very busy, which meant little time to spend catering to my every need, which was also added pressure. I also could not speak Japanese while at this home, so it only added to the frustrations of trying to communicate effectively. There were a few other things, but I don't want to go into too much detail because they are best saved for other discussions.
On the day I moved, my host mother cried and gave me a hug. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Harder than leaving America, because when I left America, I knew I'd be back in a year, and everything would be the same. My home would still be my home. My friends would still be my friends. My room would still be my room.
But, when I switched hosts, I would never return to there with the idea that it was "my home". Those people would never again have to worry about how I was, if I was eating properly, and if I was homesick. I would never again call this place home. In a way, it was worse than dying because I would still exist, they would still exist, but it'd never be the same again.
Or so I thought. My host mom and I are still close, still talk occasionally, and when I called her recently after being home for a couple months, she just about cried with joy. She kept saying, "I can't wait to see you! When are you coming back? I miss you! When are you moving back? How are you getting here? I miss you! I can't wait to see you!" I love her so much. I cannot wait to go see her again.
To me, having her family accept me and take me in without even knowing me meant a lot. She is one of the most important people in my life and I really appreciate everything she did for me. The Fujii family was my first Japanese family and ずっと大切にしよう気がします♥
And now for a pic spam............
|My room at their house - I guess they hadn't expected I'd have soooo many clothes. haha!|
|My host mom's car navigation system! haha|
|The Johnny's Jimusho mags that my host mom bought me to "study" from. XD|
|The sign for our tour~|
|My host mom fast asleep!|
|Our boat from the Hakone Tour in the background.|
|Us in front of the Samurai place.|
|At the Tokyo Imperial East Gardens.|
|We drank matcha together and had little leave-shaped okashii! 美味しかったわ！|
|Our Christmas cake! I got to eat the santa.|
|My host mom and me with the guys we helped serve food at a local festival.|
|Hope this post finds you well and genki whenever you are♥|