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October 25, 2012

Local voice from around the globe: What an adventure home on the train

By Sarah Cook
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Konnichiwa!

So it has almost been two months since I have arrived and I am finally settling in a little more.

I will be changing host families on Oct. 21, so that should be an experience. My next host family has a daughter who is my age, and a daughter who has just graduated. I have enjoyed my stay at my current host family, and will be going to a Japanese wedding before I change host families.

OK, so I’ve learned that if people know you are a foreigner, they are usually more than happy to help if you need it. So I’ve been stuck on the train. Yes, I was coming home from a party (more like a Rotary hangout) where we had celebrated two of the exchange students’ birthdays, and I got on the train by myself at about 8 p.m. My curfew was 9 p.m. and my host sister and mom were going to pick me up at the train station. So I texted my host sister telling her I was leaving and she said she would be at the train station in about 10 minutes. Well, the train wasn’t moving. I was super nervous, then we moved to the next station and we didn’t move again.

I started to get really nervous because it was rounding 9 p.m. and I had no idea what was going on and over the loud speaker on the train, they kept making announcements. Of course I had no idea what they were saying, so I called my host sister and she explained to me that there had been an accident and all trains were stopped. She told me it wasn’t my fault for being late and to just relax. 

Well the guy next to me had heard me talking on the phone (I’m guessing) and more announcements were made.

One of them I had missed, so I looked in his direction and he said “three minutes.”

I had to do a double take; I couldn’t believe he had spoken to me … AND in ENGLISH!! I thanked him in Japanese and we soon were on our way and I was home about 10 p.m.

 I have had a couple of experiences like that and I can’t explain the feelings excitement and amazement of how people come into my life.

Another experience: I was on the train home from school and we stopped at a normal stop and a group of school girls got on. I had seen them before and some of them got on at the door I was standing at and more of the group got on the next door down, and one of the girls from the bigger of the two groups walked over to me and said “Hi!”

I replied, “hi.”

They all got excited and called me cute, which is a normal occurrence here in Japan. I have also had random school boys say hi to me in the middle of the train station, which is extremely awkward when you have never seen them before. I’ve started taking things more light-heartedly and have started looking at things as a learning experience.

School is great. I have started to make more friends and have even participated in my math 1 class. I went to my first festival the other day and had the time of my life! There, I met the governor of Hyogo prefecture and a lot of other people. The festival moving shines (people carried them) and they would fight. When I say fight I seriously mean they would push them until they fell. Each different town had a different color; there was pink, blue, orange, red, green and yellow. I was cheering for the pink team, due to staying with a family who was staying in the pink town.

So I do miss my home, and my friends … I have had my days where I’ve just wanted to be home in my own room in America, but at the same time, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. 

Everything seems so normal here, taking public transportation, speaking Japanese (which I am getting better at), going to an all-girls high school, walking up the hill to my school, and not understanding a lot in class. Well, next time I will probably be writing about my experiences at a Japanese wedding, but until then don’t forget to check out my blog, www.sarahsjourneytojapan.blogspot.com.

Sayonara.

Sarah Cook is a Rotary Exchange student from Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School.