Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 36 (U.S. Embassy)

The YFU students from my prefecture today visited the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to host a question and answer session with Japanese students. All I had to do was get to Musashi-Mizonokuchi station by myself and change trains. There would be an adult waiting for me on the platform. The plan was so simple - Kasumi and I even went step by step yesterday to where I would get off and transfer! Of course I managed to get lost anyway. I was confused when Kasumi handed me a map of the bus and taxi pick up at Mizonokuchi last night. I didn't really understand what she was saying so I figured it was a new plan. It actually turned out to be a map of getting back home.
So there I was, late, standing in the middle of the bus pick up panicking. I finally gave in and called the YFU emergency line. The woman gave me the number of the woman I was supposed to meet and I ended up writing the number on my map with mascara. It's interesting how creative one can get when in a tight spot. Of course the woman didn't pick up her phone so I called Kasumi and she explained my mistake.
We weren't late to lunch though - we were actually early so I didn't mess everything up. After we ate lunch at some swanky hotel the entire group headed to the embassy. We were dispersed throughout the room and I sat and waited for people to arrive. Shy students of all ages trickled in and I noticed the Americans with blonde hair group's filled up faster. I was by myself with about fifteen people who did NOT want to talk. So I rambled on and on about how different the United States was - the food, transportation, people, and just everything that came to mind. I'm pretty sure they couldn't understand me so I tried to talk really loud and slowly. Apparently I was too loud because I was notified later that entire groups were staring at me. Like I couldn't embarrass myself anymore today.
An intern at the embassy showed a quick power point of Ten Things about American High School that were so true. Little things like picking your own classes, teachers moving from class to class, driving cars there, focus and sports and PROM! After that each American had a translator and I raved about prom and tried to explain how much homework we had and what you had to do to get into college.
At Tama High homework would be a joke. There are no research projects, discussions or presentations - only worksheet after worksheet. No variety at all. They also take one test to determine if they go to college. If they fail the test they have to study another entire year and take it again.
The biggest difference I've noticed about Japan is that instead of individuality, uniformity is encouraged. In America uniqueness and confidence are a good thing and here it just isn't as stressed. Maybe that's why 99% of the students at my school are totally shy.
We were able to tour the embassy and it re-inspired me to follow my dream of becoming a journalist. We explored rooms that announced press releases and held interview of Presidents since the 1970's. The guide encouraged us to become part of the embassy but I was turned off to living in a compound.
We were released to go back home around 2:30PM so a few friends and I decided to tour Tokyo with one of the guy's host brother. We explored Shibuya and Hioshi which are the major shopping and nightlife areas of Tokyo. Crepes are extremely popular here so I tried my first one at a roadside stand in Shibuya. It was deliciously filled with blueberries and cheesecake but there were so many to choose from! I am proud to say I made it back home all by myself without getting even a little bit lost. I think I've even gotten a little street smart. The first time a man stopped me on the subway, told me I was beautiful and asked for directions I actually listened to him until Haruka pulled me away. Now I don't even take a second look.
I realized today that many everyone has the same feeling about leaving and the best way we came to describing it was "empty".

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