I will save you the details of how my flight went and just say that, while I survived, I do not plan to visit Guam anytime soon. With an eleven hour overnight (flight arrived at around 7:00 p.m.) in which I was the ONLY person in the airport that was not a security guard or a maintenance person, all the shops closed an hour after I got there and I had to fight off both exhaustion and the thought that I needed to get on the next plane to America, it was the worst part of the trip. Before Guam the layovers had been around an hour, so I had to run around the Houston airport which is MUCH bigger than I thought it would be, and casually walk next door in the Honolulu airport and take some pictures of the gorgeous surroundings. The reason Guam is the dark spot is the simple fact that I had plenty of time to think which in my case, means plenty of time to worry.
I was sitting in my gate around two in the morning (people began showing up again around midnight) because I had nothing better to do before my flight at six and there was a flight going to Osaka at four so it was gradually filling up with Japanese people. There were so many conversations going on around me, and while at first it was interesting and exciting to try and eavesdrop and listen for words and grammar I could understand, the more people that came and sat in the gate the more I felt almost claustrophobic. There was a woman sitting next to me playing with her toddler. Normally this would have been cute and something I would have enjoyed but today it increased my anxiety. When the plane landed and arrived at the gate a security officer rolled over some tall thing close to the gate and made a physical wall between the people sitting down and the people getting off the plane to herd them towards baggage claim. The wall was not see-through and was too tall to look over, too close to the ground to really see under, and pulled too far out into the walkway to see around. It made me feel locked in and added to the claustrophobia until I was fighting down a mixture of terror and panic and the urge to just burst into tears. As soon as the people were off the plane and the guard removed the wall, I jumped up and practically ran to the bathroom where I proceeded to cry hysterically for about ten or fifteen minutes straight. The lack of sleep had finally gotten to me and had made my fears multiply so rapidly that I had myself convinced that I could not do it.
”Who am I to go to Japan? I’m just a white girl from South Carolina who has never been out of the country before. Those people were staring at me at the gate. They’re probably thinking the same thing: ’Why’s this white girl going to our country? She’s all alone. She doesn’t have anyone to travel with.’ I can’t do this; I can’t go to a country for five or six months where no one speaks English. I will be completely alone. And my Japanese skills aren’t that great. No one will like me. I will be completely alone. I won’t like the food. I’ll be stuck eating white rice the entire time. All alone. Why am I here? What am I doing here? Why am I in Guam? ………. Get back on the plane. Go back to Honolulu, back to Houston, back to South Carolina. I want my family. I want my friends. I want to go to Charleston. I want to take classes in Charleston. I want to go to restaurants in Charleston. I want my bed. I want my pillows. I want sleep. I want sleep. I want sleep. GET BACK ON THE PLANE.”
Obviously I did NOT get back on the plane, although I had desperately wanted to. Luckily my mom was able to calm me down, pick me up, brush me off, and put me back on the right track like she has been doing my whole life; and all through texting! I finally got on the plane, still a little panicked but not as much, and was almost dead asleep before the plane even left the gate. So while I guess I shouldn’t blame GUAM for the eleven hour layover or the effects of twenty hours of flying, it is not exactly on my top ten list for now.
Moving on – Japan is amazing! The flight and airport are a little bit of a blur. I slept most of the flight and I was still out of it in the airport, but not so much that I couldn’t realize I was surrounded by Koreans the whole time I was there. There was a tour group full of Korean women, as well as a separate group of about twenty to thirty girls, all holding up signs in Korean for the K-pop group B1A4 (here’s one of their songs).
All their faces lit up when an announcement came on that Jeju Air flight something something from Seoul had landed, and I was looking forward to maybe seeing a K-pop group in the flesh; it was not to be. In a few minutes I was on a comfy charter bus with maybe eleven other people bound for the Kansai Gaidai Seminar Houses (dorms).
I got my (one, two, three, four, five….. Six?) sixth wind once the bus started moving. Camera at the ready, I snapped photos in a frenzy, stopping only because my battery was dying. Osaka is huge! I don’t know what I was expecting, but we drove for about an hour and a half, never got CLOSE to downtown, and still it was nothing but a sea of rooftops from the highway. I was so excited; the memory of Guam was far behind me as I struggled to stay awake to soak in all of the new things that were flying by my window (like blue construction vehicles and signs in… English…). Eventually we arrived at the Seminar Houses!
I have been placed in Seminar House (SH) 4 until either Saturday or Sunday when I meet my host family (I’ll find out the exact date later). In line with Japanese culture, when you walk in the front door of the SH there is a raised platform (hint: raised platforms means take off your shoes). The other students and I ran up to our rooms, dropped off our luggage, and ran back downstairs to join the RA’s on a shopping tour! This is exactly what it sounds like. We walked in a large group to a nearby grocery store called Top World to shop for food and whatever else we needed. Shopping in a Japanese grocery store is definitely an experience; especially when you don’t know what anything says. It’s basically a guessing game where you buy things based only on what it looks like, or the pictures on the packaging, and ask questions later. I’ve eaten quite a few things over the last few days, and some of it I wish I hadn’t eaten; but there have been a couple of things that I have been pleasantly surprised by and that keeps me from giving up and just eating ramen and white rice.
Alright, that’s all for now! I’ll try to update this blog as often as I can with news of my adventures in Osaka!!