2014 Kurashiki Student Ambassador Essay: Ian Graham
I’d like to preface this essay with a huge thank-you to the Japan-America Society, my host families and the people of Kurashiki. A special thank-you to Miss Patty Woods, Mrs. Lydia Kanki, Mr. Fran Lemery, and Mr. James Benson. The work all of you have done, not only for me, but also in the years past, has been invaluable to this exchange. Thank you for all of your hard work.
The 20 days I spent in Japan were unforgettable. From when I first got to the airport in America, all the way to when the trip was over and I was back in my own bed, every second of the exchange was a precious experience that I will remember for my entire life through pictures, new relationships, and hopefully someday, a follow-up visit. Kurashiki has become part of my home.
When we first arrived in our hotel with Mr. Benson, being jet-lagged was not on the forefront of my mind. All I could think about was what amazing experiences were out there, and I was very eager to get started with them. Fast forward less than a full day later, and I’m with my first host family, and they are the nicest people I have ever met. At first it was a little difficult to speak Japanese together, especially since I was so nervous, but I remembered one phrase I learned in class that sounded like advanced Japanese, and when I said it, it was like flipping a switch.
After that, my family thought I was “jozu” and only spoke fluent Japanese to me, which was very entertaining and good for studying, even if I could not understand all of it (did I remember to thank Google for their translation
app at the beginning?). I don’t think I will ever be able to forget my first meal with my family. We ate udon noodles in the old part of the city, and being as I had never eaten them the traditional Japanese way of taking them from the plate and putting them into the soup, I was awful at it. I gave everyone quite the show, not
being able to eat my food, and eventually I got a fork and ate the best noodles of
Japan’s food was probably one of my favorite parts of my experience – the ramen, the dumplings, and the eggs. The only thing I did not care for much was the fish, being as I’m not a big fish eater in the first place. My mom was so nervous that I’d go to Japan and be hungry because I would not eat octopus or fish or vegetables, but actually it was the opposite! I ate so much there that when I came back all I wanted was some good ol’ dumplings.
Both of my host families were fantastic, just wonderful people all around. I wish I had seen first host dad even more (he worked so hard), but we still had a lot of fun when we did get to see each other. My only host sibling was a very shy little boy in middle school, and we really bonded a lot while I was there. It was truly like in the short time I was there I became a part of their family.
Another thing I really loved was the beautiful landscape. It was absolutely mind-blowing that everywhere you look in Japan is so magnificent, humbling even. It’s also truly reflected in the heart of the Japanese people that they appreciate it. They treat it, and their culture, with such a deeply-rooted respect.
From visiting their temples regularly, to regularly sweeping every street corner, the Japanese are the most honorable people with how they treat and respect everything.
Leaving was, just as everyone knew it would be, the hardest thing we had to do. We managed our suitcases while we watched everyone else cry, consoling them while maintaining our tough American fronts. This was definitely not good-bye; it was “see you later.” I realized on the plane ride home that I still had so many questions to ask. It was also bittersweet because on the plane ride home, I learned the most useful expression of my entire exchange. All we could think about was going back, giving our host families one more hug. One more word. One more day. But our exchange was over, and now we can only wait until the next time, when we will surely go back, and resume our love for the most beautiful country in the world.