I am finally here in Sapporo. After all the waiting, interviews, planning, saving, and organizing, I am finally here! I have settled into my homestay, and am finally having the chance to sit and get my thoughts down. The last two weeks have been hectic, but have truly set me up for success in the Teaching Across Borders Program in so many ways.
Time change, language barriers, and other big changes
First and foremost, I have spent two weeks touring some of the beauty Japan has to offer, and dipping my toes into the culture, customs, language, and food in my new home. The adventure began immediately, when I landed at Haneda International Airport around 1:00am (JST). Exhausted from a delayed connection in China, I got in a taxi, and found myself immediately facing language barriers as I tried to explain where my hotel was. I then had to make my first attempt at resetting my sleep cycle, as Japan is 15 hours ahead of Calgary time. The next day, I continued to face the frustration of language barriers as I got lost in Tokyo and tried to communicate with my Uber driver about where to pick me up. The humidity combined with the heat was also a huge shock. I retreated to my air conditioned hostel, and endured my first day/night of jet lag.
On my sixth day of settling in, I had the chance to leave the city, and see a more scenic view in the town of Hakone. I stayed in a traditional Japanese hostel (on a mat the floor), and was served a traditional Japanese breakfast of dried Mackerel, salad, Japanese pickles, miso soup, rice, and tea. Although I am not typically a picky eater, this was a very abrupt change in food, and I ended up going fairly hungry for the day. Trying to navigate transit proved interesting as well. It became clear to me by this first week that I had lots to learn. The western culture I was used to was gone for the next few months. Somehow, I still found myself very grateful for the beginnings of this new perspective.
A view of my traditional Japanese breakfast, Hakone Japan
Over the next week and a half, I had the chance to visit so many breathtaking sites including the Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine and Arshiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto, the Memorial Park and Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, the Momofuku Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka, and Disneyland in Tokyo. See the pictures below, and enjoy some of the beauty I was fortunate enough to intake. (Although these are all sights I recommend you make the time in your life to see, as they are far better in person!).
Arshiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto Japan
The crowds of Dotonbori, Osaka Japan
Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima Japan
Memorial Park, Hiroshima Japan
Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine, Kyoto Japan
Roadway, Hakone Japan
DisneySea, Tokyo Japan
DisneySea, Tokyo Japan
Settling in, and what I hope to get from this experience
So, as I sit in my homestay in Sapporo, having been welcomed into a wonderful family, I have the time to reflect on my hopes and expectations for this experience. Last night, we were thrown a massive Japanese welcome party, in which host families got together, and paid for us to have unlimited Korean BBQ and drinks. We socialized, laughed, exchanged stories about ourselves and countries, and were officially welcomed into the families in Sapporo who have so gratefully took us into their homes. Several of the students from the Hokkaido University of Education have also volunteered countless hours to make us feel comfortable, give us tours, and take us for another Japanese dinner. As a person who has never travelled, and never been away from home, experiences like these are a true blessing. I can honestly say that I have been here now three and a half weeks, and have not felt homesick once (knock on wood!).
I hope now that I have been made comfortable, and have had a tour of our new university and city, I hope that I will be able to maximize my learning experience with my new friends and family supporting my journey to become a teacher. This week, we will begin to learn more Japanese, see more of the city, and learn about the education system in Japan. We will also have the chance to make school visits. I hope that these foundations will enrich my upcoming field experience, and ease the anxiety and pressure I feel going into it.
Finally, I will say (again for the millionth time), how truly grateful I feel to have been chosen to participate in the Teaching Across Borders Program, and how proud I feel to have been seen a good candidate for this country. I hope to represent the University of Calgary and the Werklund School of Education well!
Mata ne! (Bye for now!)
A group photo from our Japanese welcome party, thrown by our gracious host families
My first night with my hosts for this month, the Inage family, with a dinner prepared by my host mother