April has been one crazy month. I had a few parties, went out of town, have been improving with kendo and Japanese, and I made some new friends. I’ve had a lot of fun last month and I plan on continuing to make memories. The cherry blossoms are starting to blossom and the weather is getting very nice. It was even 70 degrees last weekend.
During the first week of April it was still the last half of spring break and I hung out with some of the friends I made when the Junior high school students came to Bloomington last year. I saw the boy that I hosted and some others. We had a lot of fun and went to karaoke. It was great to see all of them again. I hope I get to see them before I go back to America.
School started the next week, and because it was the start of the Japanese school year, I became a 3rd year high school student and new 1st years come to school. The Japanese school system is a little different than America’s school system. Elementary school has 6 years, middle school then starts with 7th grade and ends with 9th grade, and then high school starts at 10th grade and ends with the 12th grade. So when I say that I am a 3rd year in high school, I am saying I am a senior in high school. I have only talked to the 1st year kendo students and I get along with them very well. I wasn’t able to go to the school entrance ceremony, but all of the clubs had kind of a showcase event. They all had some sort of presentation. Most showed pictures and said where they could come and for practice and when practice was. Basketball, Kyudo (Japanese archery), and volley ball had live presentations to show off what they do during practice. It was cool to get a taste of what the other clubs have to offer.
The kendo club had a party for the 1st years, and it is one of my greatest memories. I had a lot of fun joking and hanging out with all of my kendo friends. The 2nd and 3rd year students all did dances. I wasn’t apart of them but I still had a lot of fun watching them. It was just a super relaxed event where we got to know the 1st year students. I also had to do a small self introduction, which was really easy. It has been one of the highlights of my time here.
While I’m still talking about kendo, I was recently told that I will be able to enter tournaments now! I have one coming up next weekend, but I think its the only one I can enter into. I also received my club jersey! The pants are a size too big, but they have a tie at the bottom of the pants so it makes them seem like they aren’t too big. I also got an extra club shirt from my kendo teacher as a gift! I’ve been working really hard on improving so that I can do my best at the tournament.
On April 25th the Sister Cities Committee had another party. I had to write a small speech about my host family and school. Different people, from the last party, were at this party so I got to meet new people. A few weeks before the party, some junior high school kids form Asahikawa went to Bloomington-Normal. The chaperone from that trip was at the party and we got to hear a little bit about it. I was a fun night and the food was really good.
During the first week of May, Japan has 5 holidays in a row and it is one of the most popular weeks in Japan. The weekend before Golden week my host family and I went out of town as a little Golden Week celebration. We planned on visiting my host mother’s parents’ house and going to an amusement park. Our first stop was my host mother’s parents’ house where we had lunch and stayed for a few hours, but before that we stopped at a rest stop which had a little garden type area and some plastic horse statues that you could ride. It was a nice break from the long car ride. After we visited my host mother’s parents, we went over to the hotel where we were staying at. It was across the street from the amusement park and it was a really nice hotel. It was kind of a 2 floor hotel but the 2nd floor was really just the door to get in and a regular hotel bedroom. The first floor was a living room where the bathroom, a sink and counter, and 2 pull out beds. The windows were pretty big so the next morning the sun was very bright and made the whole hotel pretty warm. We left early the next morning to go to the amusement park. There was a small train that went from the hotel to the park. The park was right under a mountain, because the park also had a ski slope. While on the train, you could see a great view of the mountain. I had a lot of fun riding roller coasters and spending time with my host family. The roller coasters were actually some of the craziest that I’ve ever ridden, but were also the most fun roller coasters that I’ve ridden. We had lunch at the park and stayed for a few more hours after and then we had to go to the next hotel that we were staying at. Also at the park was a group of magicians. They came from Tokyo to perform and they were pretty interesting. The next hotel was right across the street from the ocean. I wanted to go to the ocean at night, but there wasn’t enough lighting and I was pretty exhausted. The hotel was an older one in a small town, but it had a really nice hot spring. The food at the hotel was also really good, and they gave my youngest host brother some special treats because he was youngest. The next day we didn’t really know what to do. Since it was almost Golden week we didn’t really know if places would be crowded or not. We ended up stopping at a small park to ride boats, but the waves were too high to ride them. I wanted to stay at the park for a bit to explore it, however we left to try to find another spot. We couldn’t really find anything and stopped to eat lunch. We ate at a buffet, which had really good food. They had Japanese food and also some western food. Outside of the restaurant was a giant globe that I thought was pretty cool. The next stop was an animal farm where you could feed the animals and see the farm. We ate some ice cream and then we flew kites. It was really windy so they flew really well, and It was very relaxing. We left after about an hour and returned home. It was an amazing weekend where I had lots of fun and made many memories.
One of my major rolls as the high school exchange student is to be an ambassador, not just for Bloomington-Normal, but also for America. I am to exchange culture between Japan and America. Many people ask me about the American culture, and I always try to give the best answer that I can. I also try to help people as much as possible. Sharing my culture and language has become something that I love to do.
Studying Japanese has become somewhat difficult. I’ve become pretty good at the language, but there is still so much more to learn. Since I feel like I’m at a good point in learning the language, every time I learn something I feel like I’ve already learned it and it just makes sense. Because of that my motivation for learning has been slipping. I feel like I don’t have a structure for what I’m learning and I don’t have enough time during school to really learn anything. Since I started noticing that, I’ve been thinking on ways to create a structure for learning and improving. Drilling Japanese sometimes feels like it isn’t the best option, but I know that I need to keep going at it until I come up with the best way to learn for me. My host family is still amazing. While the kids can be a bit too loud, I know that they are just kids and still have a lot to learn, just I like do. I try to talk and communicate with my host family with what’s going on in my life and my plans while I’m here, and their plans with work and whatever the kids have planned. We get along just great and I’m going to miss them a lot. Since school started up again, this month has been very busy. From all of the activities that I’ve been doing during the week and the weekend have made it a very busy one, but that just means that I’m having fun and making great memories. I hope that even though next month will be a less busy, that I will still be making memories that are just as great.