Coming off of a thirteen hour plane ride the day before, the one hour trip to Aomori seemed to end just as it began. No sooner did it seem that the plane had taken off, that it was landing. Here we collected our baggage, and rendezvoused with one of Cindy’s former students who is working in the Tsugaru local government. We all loaded onto yet another bus, and embarked on the hour long ride to Tsugaru city. Along the way we saw a very mountainous landscape, as well as the many apple orchards and rice fields that Aomori and Tsugaru are famous for.
Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the Tsugaru city hall where we were given an orientation while waiting for our host families to arrive at the welcome party. After some quiz games and a brief overview of our schedule, we all lined up single file, and walked into the room to the applause of the various host families and board members. After several speeches, our names were called individually, we stood, and our host families waved to us. After this, our host families came and collected us from the front of the room like lost sheep, and brought us back to the table where they had prepared a spread of food. It was at this point that my ego was very throughly busted, as I realized how seldom the names of fruit and college majors come up in casual conversation. In this fashion, our game of charades began interspersed with the shouts of clarifying verbs and adjectives. This ultimately proved very amusing, and persisted throughout the whole 30 minute car ride back to the house after the party.
Upon reaching the house, I was introduced to both of my host grandparents, and given a tour. I proved myself to be culturally aware and graceful by improperly removing my shoes, and then almost face planting in the hallway in front of the bathroom. Both of these events were met with laughter after a moments panic, and I found myself laughing as well, for in spite of all of the hours of YouTube videos I have watched on Japanese culture, I am still very capable of making basic mistakes.
After watching my host father pantomime how to use the shower, an enactment good enough for cable TV if I do say so myself, I finally took a shower myself. Refreshed, I changed my clothes, and emerged back into the light of the kitchen where both of my host parents and host sister were sitting. Though I have two host brothers, my host sister is the one that is interested in the exchange trip, and was the one peppering me with questions in broken English and via Google Translate. After a short while, I was presented with a welcome gift, a pair of chopsticks with a Kabuki actor’s image on the front. In return I gave them the salt water taffy, something which they had never heard of before. After establishing that the contents of the box was candy, and was in fact edible, they all tried a piece and seemed to enjoy it. Though it wasn’t terribly late, I was incredibly tired, so it was at this point that I went to bed.
– Anthony Hardy, 18, Cumberland