February 6, 2018, United States time zone
February 7, 2018, Japanese time zone
I was just handed a package of rice crackers and a small cup of tomato juice. I’m on flight JL009 headed for Tokyo, Japan. The day is February 6th and it’s 11:44 A.M. in Chicago. 2:44 A.M. on February 7th in Tokyo.
I’m leaving for the future.
With extra time between winter break and my orientation in Wellington, NZ, I decided to visit someone my family and I hosted for a year through AFS while I was in high school. This “someone” is named Saori (nicknamed Sahyo) and is basically my sister. Over the course of a year we formed a friendship that I believe will last forever. She left our house with our door forever open and hers just as welcoming.
I’ve finally accepted her invitation and couldn’t be more excited! The past few days, however, I’ve felt more like a comedy show than anything else. My excitement has been expressed through sobs muffled by words like “I can’t wait” as I stand there smiling but choking on tears. And I’ve expressed my love for others by lashing out, specifically at my parents. (Sorry guys if I seemed stressed at the end).
Two days ago I would have said I wasn’t nervous, that I had this whole study abroad down. But last night I was so scared. Though I couldn’t pinpoint why. Unlike my first post, I have a place to live, my visa has been approved, I’m obviously (more like hopefully) completely packed, and I’ve successfully maneuvered my easily-lost self onto a plane. I’m not too worried about classes since they’ll be taught in English, and without a language barrier it should be easier to make friends.
I even passed through security. Surprisingly too, since I look like I’ve been living on the streets for the past week, with dark circles under my eyes and layers of baggy clothing. These include sweaters I wanted to bring but are too big to pack. I may be sweating now but I’ll be cute in New Zealand. I also rigged the security system by not emptying my pockets of a little ceramic toad I’m holding for memories, or this super stylish (trust me, your grandma would love it) fanny pack. The security guard was unimpressed.
Regardless, I’m freaking out.
At least my rice crackers offer me hope. The words on the packaging promise me “tastiness, happiness and peacefulness.” If rice crackers can bring peace people have definitely been using the wrong methods.
They also claim to be suitable for vegetarians so I won’t need to spend the next 13 hours learning the Japanese kanji on the ingredients list. The lunch menu is getting passed around and thankfully there are pictures. This said, I’ve decided to let go of my vegetarianism for the next few months. Actually that’s good since I just got the menu and I can choose between salmon and chicken.
I chose based on the carrot pictured. Salmon it is.
Before I eat I have to write down everything I see on my plate! I’m not sure what everything is but I can confirm there’s a small salad, fruit, miso soup, noodle sauce, udon noodles, salmon with a teriyaki glaze and sesame seeds atop white rice and what looks like shredded eggs, a carrot and a green onion, and a roll with butter. Unknown to me is what’s with the udon noodles. It looks like a piece of bread from tiramisu (I highly doubt this is the case), and maybe a little egg and seaweed?? There is also what appears to be raw or smoked salmon (in addition to my teriyaki one). Oh wait, maybe that’s ginger. And some sour cream dressing? Well, time will only tell. Itadakimasu!
I finish lunch without complaint, thanks in part to a little tub of Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream followed by green/black tea and coffee.
I can confidently confirm I passed my food guesses with a 100% fail rate. The sour cream was a tuna salad, the tiramisu-bread thing was a chewy bread that tastes like soy sauce—no idea on the name, and the egg with it is ginger. The ginger/salmon item is salmon which with my lack of animal product knowledge is either raw or smoked, I have no idea. But the shredded egg is indeed a shredded egg. Or at least I think so. I find it interesting that since my eyes can’t give me the answers my taste buds aren’t helping much either.
To avoid writing a novel on one airplane meal, I’ll sum it up by saying everything was tasty! It’s left me in anticipation of the new food I will experience this week. And as excited as I was to see the familiar vanilla ice cream, I’m ready to let go of everything American. I left my fork in its package and used my chopsticks. I’m letting this serve as a goodbye to my premonitions of life in both Japan and New Zealand, and I’m going into this open-minded. I’m eager to grow academically and to learn about life abroad and the cultures that form them.
A big part for me is letting go. I decided I can’t be strung up on goodbyes, although I can accept they hurt. My friends and family will be there when I return, and I will love them all just as much as I do now. And I’m sure my dog, Teddie, will not forget to steal my shoes when I return or bark at my reflections in the window.
I’m bringing memories from home like my Kaleo hat from the Madison concert, and my ceramic toad, a little present gifted to me before I left.
Saying goodbye to Sahyo two years ago was a heartbreak. Without any other siblings, she was the closest I’ll ever have to a sister. But every time we FaceTime or text it’s as if we never left each other. I know this will be what it’s like with my friends back home.
My nervousness melts away with each hour that passes. There’s no turning back and I love it. I’m using my fear of what the next months will be like to foster my curiosity.
When I wasn’t busy typing out my thoughts or eating the meal, I’ve had my hands pressed to the wall, eyes wide, staring out the window. I guess three hours of a blue dessert still excites me. Perhaps I’ll watch a Japanese film or catch up on lost sleep. Even though I’ve been exhausted the past week between early mornings at work and late nights in Madison, my body feels fully fueled. I know this won’t be the case soon, though, so I think I’ll try to catch some of those Z’s. Oyasumi. See you in Japan.