Arrival and Trip to Teshima
The past four days have been packed with information- almost too much to fully digest in the short amount of time that is available to us. Originally, I was going to write four blogs, but I honestly think I need to do more in order for me to fully process everything that is going on around me. I’ve started typing up paragraphs based on certain points in the day so the topics might change drastically throughout the blog.
We arrived at the Narita airport right on time and honestly everything was smooth sailing from there. I thought that after over 16 hours of traveling and being in a country with a foreign language, things would be more difficult. We made our way through the air port easily and found the bus stop without any hiccups. While waiting for the shuttle we met 2 girls and a guy that were also apart of the HELIO program and we quickly became friends. Honestly, it was so easy to tell the people who were there for the program from the people who had been to Japan before apart. We were all so awkward and it seemed like we were doing things in slow motion.
The hotel rooms were small, the 2 beds were really close together and mattresses were super tough. The showers were different to say the least. It took 15 minutes of tinkering before I gave up and asked my roommate for help. Then it was another 10 minutes before we got any water from the shower head. It was such a struggle and the solution seemed so obvious once we figured it out. The sink and the shower use the same tap. I have yet to figure out how to use the toilets though; I kind of just hope for the best every time I go in.
After settling in, we took a bus back to the airport where on the 4th and 5th floors they have restaurants and shops. It was so cool. I almost thought I was at the mall until I walked out onto a balcony and saw planes taking off. I had to search for a long time because I was nervous about eating the food, but eventually I found some really good chicken and even went back for seconds. Katie and Steven ate sushi together and Ishaan, Anita, Wenchao and I at a Thai place. We all sat together and got to know each other very well. I also found a little station dedicated to One Piece which made me happy. It was a really great way to start the trip.
There was an orientation meeting on the first night where we were given info about the program. We may be the last group of HELIO students. We are apart of a prototype program to see how students will receive this new form of interactive learning and how japan will receive the students.
The saddest part of the trip (for me) so far was having to come to terms with the fact that I would be separated from not only my school mates, but the new friends I’d just made. We were split into the Fukishima group and the Teshima group. I was apart of the Teshima group which is made up of 5 people a teacher and a TA- everyone else went to Fukishima.
It literally took an entire day to travel from Narita to Teshima. We took three trains and a ferry to get there. I was fascinated with everything around me on the first train so I had no clue how long it took to get to Tokyo. It felt like a short time, but it must have been at least an hour. Then we took another train that I also have no clue how long that it took. It felt like we were going forever. We even took bathroom breaks- there are toilets between the train cars! That took us to another station where I realized I lost my train ticket for the last train to the port. That wasn’t much of a crisis, but I did feel bad for causing trouble since I didn’t know anyone I was with. From there we took the train to Uno Port- stopped for an amazing lunch- and then took the ferry past several islands until we go to Teshima.
Man is Japan different from anything I’ve experienced. Everything is so organized and everyone is so respectful, proper and punctual. The public spaces are quiet. The most you hear are the sounds of nature or trains and cars going by. On the escalators, its just understood that you stand on the left and you walk on the right. Also, these are some of the cleanest streets I’ve ever seen in my life. To the point where, on the rare occasion, when I see garbage I feel compelled to pick it up and take it with me to maintain the cleanliness.
I saw the craziest thing while on the train. In certain locations the houses were slanted along the hills. Instead of cutting a proper foundation into the land the houses were build to move with the land- that’s the best way I can describe it. I’m desperate to know what the inside of these houses looked like and if an egg can sit comfortable on any table top in there.
That’s pretty much what I wanted to talk about for the first two days. I’m excited to see what’s coming next. We spend three and a half days on Teshima before meeting everyone else again. The teachers and TA’s haven’t given us a schedule. They just ask that we remain open minded and flexible.