Being on the island of Osaki Kamijima is like a dream come true, except you didn’t know you were dreaming about it all. Once you’re on the island it just feels right, at least it did for me. We had to take a ferry over to the island, for some reason on this day I was sick. I hardly ever get ill when traveling, however this day was brutal. Half way across I stood outside and stared out at all the small islands we were passing, the water was blue, and the breeze was hitting my tired face. Waking me up with the mix of salt water and sunshine rinsing through my hair.
The island is mainly fishing community, the people are stoic and friendly. I have yet to meet a stranger who is rude, disgruntled or seemingly inconvenienced at all. The food is fresh and incomparable to anything I have ever had or will probably ever have again. A place this beautiful and so bare is rare. It is the perfect spot for the higher educational institute the HELIO group is trying to build on this island.
The very first night we were split into groups and sent home with different host families. I was with another student from Georgian and a girl from New York as well. Our family barely spoke any English and I barely speak any Japanese. Please keep in mind, in my perspective I am close to death. My head is pounding, I can barely keep water down and I can not communicate to anyone. Also, the program faculty members were extremely helpful and offered for me to stay in a different place if I wasn’t feeling well. However, I am also stubborn, I was determined to make every moment count. My host family was very kind and hilarious. Despite my sickness, we managed to communicate I wouldn’t be able to eat or drink that much. This was important to me because in Japan, not eating is considered rude and wasteful. Luckily I had an amazing family, they understood what was going and promptly made me a incredible bowl of soup to sooth my stomach.
We sat around a fire, speaking in broken English or Japanese. Laughing about the struggle and smiling at the answers to questions. Somehow we understood the jokes they were making, the night resounds the noise of laughter with waves hitting the port in the background. We sang, we played with sparklers and we smiled so much my cheeks hurt.
The next day, we did a traditional tea ceremony. We were taught the art of making tea and serving it in the proper way. In Japan some people study the art of making and serving tea for years. As if it were an instrument. It sort of feels like it might be though. An instrument to the soul and the stomach. We’ve also been able to participate in a ancient drum song, play volleyball with Japanese college students and much more.
Our home is perched on a point along the sea, only separated from water by a small pavement road. The house used to be a inn for travelers. Went we first moved in it was overrun with spiders, big and hairy spiders. Spiders that you know can’t hurt you, but you don’t want to mess with them. By the end of the week the spiders moved, most likely to a more peaceful place. I considered moving in for good. The view was amazing and I felt so assured being there.
It’s always funny to me when travelling how the things that stand out to you the most are the things you least expected. While staying on Osaki Kamijima, one of the organizers’ daughter has been cooking all our meals for us. The cooks, Judi, has her daughter with her. From the moment we first interacted her laugh captivated me. The first night we met, we giggled about silly things. I tried my best to communicate and she just laughed at me. The next few days we all grew to really love Soa, she had meals with us and we even brought her on some of our day trips. She is intelligent and hilarious. Her eyes just light up when she’s speaking, especially when we cannot understand what she’s saying.
Being around Soa, made me wake up to a lot of things. I thought about opportunity and how I wanted her to know how incredible she was. How she could be whatever she wanted. I thought about all the other leaders of the world, sitting in third grade or getting on the bus to go to school. All these children are people, people with so much power. Our world is essentially in their control. What they see us acting upon will impact their futures. With Soa near by, I remembered all the visions and dreams I had. Not even as a child, dreams I curated last year or a few months ago. What happened to them?
My new friend, Beto, stopped me mid-sentence when I was explain this thought of lost dreams with no action. He stopped me and said “why haven’t you done the things I want to?”. He would not take “I don’t know” as an answer. We talked through all the barriers I had placed on myself, seemingly removing them as I discussed them. As if not speaking them out loud was what was giving it the power.
Osaki Kamijima, changed my plans. It disrupted my life in a way I was not expecting. I think as a traveller you know that every trip impacts you and strengthens you. However this is different, in a way I still don’t understand. However I am grateful for Soa’s smile , one that makes me think. Ice coffee in morning while everyone is still sleeping. New friends like Jasmina and Beto who question you in a gentle way. And I’m grateful for an ocean in my front yard.