Looking Back 振り返ってみた (Part 4: Study Abroad in Japan 第4:日本で留学)

I left for Japan just after my 19th birthday in September. When I arrived, I used my pink DoCoMo mobile phone Yasushi had given me when he came to visit in Pennsylvania, and called him to say that I had arrived at Kansai Int'l Airport. He replied "I'm in Osaka." "...WHAT?" He had decided to hop on the shinkansen and see me on my first day in Japan, even if only for a few hours. We ate some fugu sashimi together, walked around a bit and it was already time for him to go back to Tokyo.

The next few days were filled with orientation and information. We had an official welcome party, where for some reason I was asked to give a short speech in Japanese. We met our host families and went home with them. My host family was a family of four, mother, father, and 2 boys aged 6 and 8, living in Ashiya. The mother was a piano teacher and the kids were learning piano and violin, and so every day I was treated to lovely Classical music coming from the living room. The father was a surgeon, and although he wasn't around much, when he was, he was a lovely kind man and someone I could enjoy a challenging, intelligent conversation with.

After moving in with our host families, we started to prepare for school. In the morning, we had Japanese class. In the afternoon, we could choose from Japanese-related classes taught in English. We had our Japanese placement test, both written and interview. Even though I had only been studying (formally) for 2 years, I placed into the highest level class. While for me conversation was fairly easy, writing and reading kanji correctly was very challenging. On weekdays, I would always spend the few hours after the kids went to bed and before Yasushi finished work studying kanji.

Weekends and school holidays were always busy and exciting. When I stayed in Ashiya, my host family would include me in family outings with them such as going to the mall in Kobe, up Mt. Rokko, Himeji Castle, Universal Studios Osaka, amusement parks, BBQs with friends, and hot spring trips. I also went on several field trips as part of the study abroad program. And almost every month I would get my small blanket and pillow and ride a bus from Osaka to Tokyo 8 hours overnight to see Yasushi. In that one year, I probably went more places and experienced more things in Japan than most Japanese people! I stayed at a Buddhist temple in Mt. Koya, went to a tea ceremony and saw autumn foliage in Kyoto, saw whirlpools and learned about the Hanshin Earthquake in Awajishima, made Sanuki Udon in Kagawa, ate rabbit stew and went in a natural hot spring in Akita amongst 6 feet of snow, saw the giant torii in the ocean and monkeys in the mountain in Miyajima, visited the Peace Park and ate okonomiyaki in Hiroshima, painted Tobe-yaki and went to Dogo Hot Spring in Matsuyama, saw cherry blossoms blooming in both Shukugawa and Ueno Park, went to Disney Sea, saw a Takarazuka show in the original theatre, and went to two Hello! Project concerts.

Yasushi and I spent our first Christmas together that year, and I ate my first Christmas cake! For New Years, we went to his grandparents' house and we all had a big family dinner. The next month, we celebrated the 1st anniversary of the day we met, and got engaged. But just one week later, things took a tragic turn for the worse.

"My father's been in an accident. I'm at the hospital now. The whole family is coming..." I rushed and rode on an overnight train to Tokyo, but he passed away at 12:18. The wake was at his house the next day, and the funeral was to be that following weekend. I stayed by Yasushi the whole time offering support, but the shock, grief, and frustration I experienced that week was too much for me to handle, and I started having panic attacks. I seeked out counseling when I went back to school, and was told "You've been through a lot, you'll get over it". I tried to go on, and kept a B average in all of my classes as well as participating in a Korean class at the university.

But the anxiety didn't just go away. I still had panic attacks when in stressful situations, even after I returned to America for a few weeks in June, to visit my friends in PA and NH and go to the new vacation condo my parents had bought in the Caribbean. I hesitated to open up to my parents about the panic attacks because I didn't want them to worry about me. Or maybe it was actually because I didn't want them to insult and mock me and ignore me again. Unfortunately, the second sentence came true as I had a panic attack once in front of them and that's exactly what happened. We were in a loud restaurant, and my mother had been insulting me continuously for about 10 minutes, calling me an "asshole", a "jerk" and saying that I didn't deserve to be taken out to a restaurant because of my horrible personality. I started to cry and hyperventilate, my heart pounded and my hands shook uncontrollably. My mother, even seeing my distress, started to mock and insult me more. "Are you having an asthma attack?" (I had never, ever had asthma in my life) "Do you need to go to a crazy hospital?" I calmed down eventually as the attack naturally subsided, but I couldn't stomach more than a few bites of my dinner when it came. My parents ignored me and ate and carried on the rest of the night as if everything was fine, or as if I wasn't there. I called Yasushi after that and broke down again telling him what happened, and he reassured me that I would be in Tokyo soon and that he would give me a big hug when he saw me. I always felt so safe when he reassured me like that, even a week later in PA when I was talking to him on the phone and my mother was on the other side of my closed door, shouting and screaming through it that I am "a jerk, an asshole, and Yasushi would divorce me within a year." He always insisted that he would be there for me, and he never broke that promise.

So even another week until June 27th felt like an eternity when being abused every day. I got on the plane to Narita Airport, and stayed in Tokyo until August. Even though I didn't have school or work and was considerably less busy than I wanted to be, I was still happy. I watched TV and read books in Japanese, studied Korean in study groups, took walks, cooked, and started posting videos on Youtube. I was inspired by interesting channels like MrCook and TokyoCooney. At that time there weren't many foreigners who spoke Japanese making videos on Youtube, so my channel became a little bit popular. However my "fans" from 2channel took things a bit too far. But I overcame that and kept making videos, as it was a fun and rewarding hobby for me. In August, before I had to go back to Hawaii, Yasushi took a holiday and we went to Okinawa for almost a week.

But then it was time for me to go back to Hawaii. But now graduation, and marriage, was something so close I could touch it.







1 件のコメント:

  1. I am glad you jumped to Blogger. It's like a fresh start, now you're on a whole new chapter in your life (motherhood! life back in the US!).

    First off, congratulations on your pregnancy! You won't regret having chosen a homebirth, that's the very best welcome your baby can have.

    I have read your "looking back" entries. It is sad that you had to endure so much for being who you are, but see, your experiences have made you stronger and wiser and given you the tools to be a great mother to your child.

    I wish you the best of luck!