Though I feel studying abroad is the best decision I've ever made, I do miss my family. When I'm here I find myself longing for that 'homey' feeling, with younger siblings and pets, a home made meal, and a place where I feel welcome.
Add to that my desperate desire to learn more Japanese, and I had every reason to sign up for the Homestay program this semester.
Last semester, I was too scared to sign up. I thought my Japanese wasn't good enough, and I was too shy to meet strangers. This semester, I was still scared, down to the minute I turned in my application. But as soon as I met my family in person... a Mother, Father, two younger daughters and a dog, all my fears were dashed away.
The Homestay program with NUFS was great. If you use an outside program, your family may be really far away, or there might be expensive fees to set everything up. But the program through my school was free. Prior to the actual home stay, Nufs organised a "Cultural Exchange Party", where we could all meet and chat on campus, enjoying a catered lunch provided by the school.
A few weeks later (last Saturday morning), my host mom picked me up in the lobby of my apartment building. We drove off to my oldest little sister's dance recital first, where I watched her perform hip-hop routines. After, we all enjoyed a cold soba and tempura lunch at the shopping centre. I took Purikura with my adorable sisters in the arcade.
Later that night, we went back to my host family's house so I could meet their dog and my host Dad. My host mom had prepared a home made temaki dinner. Basically, you spread rice on a sheet of nori, choose your filling, roll your sushi by hand and eat it fresh. It was delicious! My host mom had everything from tamago-yaki to ikura. My host Dad had also bought sake, made locally.
That night I drew pictures with my host sisters, and slept in a tatami room with screen doors. The next morning, we all woke up early and headed out for an adventure, to Biwako. I had never been, and only knew it was a huge lake close to Kyoto.
We started at Hikone-jou, a castle from the 17th century which overlooks Lake Biwa. My host Dad said, it was still mostly original architecture. Many castles, including Nagoya-jou which I visited last September, are mostly reproductions.
After, we headed to the nearby town of Kurokabe, known for its glass art and old-style architecture.
There also happened to be a figure museum!
Afterwards, we drove "home" and enjoyed some relaxing conversation. My host Dad broke out a travel guide of Japan and told me all about the places they had been with other host students.
He seemed to really have a thing for old-style Japanese towns, which are abundant in this area of Japan. He said that back in the day, this region had many trade routes passing through, so "inn" towns and such were abundant. But sadly, those towns are going extinct.
Seeing my Host Family is one of my best experiences in Japan so far... I adore my family, and got the rest I needed to finish up this semester. I really hope I get to see them again, before I leave!
Time is going by so fast. I can't believe I leave in July... I really don't want to think about it! I love Japan, the people, the life style and the language. As much as I love Hawaii, and seeing my family, I don't want to leave. I know one of the first things I'll do when I get back, is apply for the Jet Programme or search for opportunities to work in Japan. Then as soon as I graduate, I can head back!
I know these next few weeks will pass before I know it... between cosplay events, volunteering at a local orphanage, finals and outings with my amazing new friends. I can hardly wait to see what's in store, in the exciting future!