Monday, May 20, 2013

Hello Japan!

After more than a day of travel, I have made it to Japan.  It is most definitely more humid here, even inside the airport.  I am sweating profusely in my light weight cardigan and capri pants, yet none of the natives around me seemed to be phased.  They are wearing suits, pants and long sleeves and barely breaking a sweat.  I think they must be pacing themselves for warmer weather yet!

After making my way through customs, claiming my suitcase and rechecking it for my last leg of my trip, I headed to the domestic terminal for All Nipon Airlines.  On my mind was to withdrawal some yen from an ATM so I had cash for my cab ride to the university when I arrived in Matsuyama.  Granted it was still early in the morning, but imagine my surprise to find that found that nearly all the ATMs I came across were non functional until later in the morning!  The one I did find that was open rejected my card leaving me wishing that I had at brought more USDollars with me so that I could at least exchange the money.  Thankfully my layover between flights was long and after an hour or so, I tried another ATM and was able to withdraw some yen.  (Phew!) I also found a little convenience store where I bought myself a little dinner (US time)/breakfast (Japan time)--a Coke, mandarin orange. Up and sushimi.  No McDonalds for me!  Later on after going through security to get to my gate, I stumbled across a Starbucks.  Feeling slightly weary, I decided to try out a something you cant get at a Starbucks in the U.S.--a chocolate brownie matcha (green tea powder) frapaccino.  I have to say that it was quite delicious.

I will soon board the plane for Matsuyama.  As I think about my experiences in Japan so far, I realize that there is nothing like traveling by oneself to a foreign country in which you do not speak the language to evoke a fresh sense of humility and gratitude.  While I do know a few customary greetings in Japanese, my inability to communicate further in Japanese has made me very grateful for signs in both English and Japanese at the airport, and kind hearted people who are wiling to go out of their way to help you, even if it means using their limited English skills.  It is humbling to think that although native English speakers make up just a small percentage of the world's population, the rest of the world caters to that group.  It is a privilege that I think should propel more of us to study other languages.  It definitely makes me want to reinvest myself in working on my Spanish fluency and even studying a couple other languages.  Moreover, it makes me want to ensure that my children study another language and when they are old enough, to study abroad, as both Matt and I had the privelege.  Who knows--maybe Joshua or Daniel will study in Japan and provide me additional reasons to return.

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