My experiences here at the language camp since last Friday were much more interesting. I feel as if I have settled in a little more. I have had no train mishaps (luckily). The one thing I hate most about this country is it is so HOT. The humidity on top of that is killing me as well. I am still not used to the dry heat of California, where I prefer to stay inside where it is safe from the sun. Here the heat is painful. This past Saturday was interesting, however.
This Saturday my host mother and sister and I went to the Dazaifu Tenmangu Jinja, a Shinto shrine located in Dazaifu. Dazaifu was the seat of government for all of Kyushu during the Nara and Heian periods of Japanese history. It was surrounded by large trees and dense greenery.
I was glad that it was raining while we were there. That gladness quickly turned to a slight sense of concern. I did not want to be sick for the rest of the trip, did I? Anyway, after we made our prayers, we got ice cream. It was pouring buckets outside at this point, so we ate inside a restaurant. There we bought mochi, which was the Temple specialty. It was filled with red bean paste, which was delicious. I have noticed that in America, red bean paste tastes nasty, which I do not understand.
Both my host sister and I were soaked. Me less so than her. Dinner was a bizarre combination of pasta, tempura, baguettes, and meat patties seasoned Japanese style. California needs the amount of rain that fell that day.
The next day was torturously hot. I could feel my life slipping away as I went for a bike ride with my host sister. She seemed used to that kind of heat. About an hour later, before I could clean up, we went to visit my host brother’s friend. He was cool, he likes to curse just like me, though Japanese has a much smaller amount of vulgarity than English.
After playing video games, we played UNO, which I sucked at. My host siblings, the friend, his brother, and I then proceeded to play the game of LIFE, which was a mistake, as it lasted THREE HOURS. Our dinner was Bulgogi, pizza, and rice balls.
On the way home, my host mom asked me if I had a big car and a big house. I get the sense that it’s a stereotype that Americans have many possessions, particularly large possessions. My response was that no, I don’t have a Jeep, no my house is not big. I was a bit embarrassed that I didn’t shower when I returned from the bike ride, but the past is the past.
The Wednesday afterward was also very, very hot. I went to Kushida jinja with a group of fellow students. The shrine was nice, but I liked the Dazaifu Tenmangu Jinja better because it was not in the middle of the city. There was a funny little statue of a person peeing out water, so that it served as a fountain as well. Fukuoka seems to have more of those than necessary (I saw a pair of those fountains last week).
Later that day, after the group returned to the school, I attended a “Casual Conversation Class,” where I had a mini bout of sadness. I could not understand much of anything of what the person I was talking to was saying, so he had to repeat himself a lot. I myself did not talk much at all. I felt like I failed my family and the others who supported me for my trip because I hadn’t improved. The class was useless for me, another thing to be added onto the list of things I am inept at.
The JR train is something I find a bit depressing. The crowds of people in the train always look so sad or tired, Like all they do is work and then go home and start all over again. It is a depressing way of life that I am certain I would not last in. I like traveling and eating new foods, but being stuck in one place and just soullessly working your life away is sad.
Aden Jibril is 15 years old and lives in Oakland, California. His goal during his language program in Fukuoka, Japan is to “learn to cook at least one Japanese dish, increase my language skill, and to interact well with my host family.” Follow Aden’s adventures in Japan on his weekly blog post updates.