Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Asia (02/26/09)
By remi oyeyemi
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While we were praying, my little sister tugged at my sleeve. I shrugged her off wanting to really focus on giving thanks but she wouldn’t budge. I leaned over and she whispered into my ear, “This Japanese school, do they speak English, I mean teach in English?” At that moment I felt the proverbial light bulb go on in my head. I considered it for a moment but discarded the doubt, after all I had been communicating with the representative through mail and the medium was English.
Four months later I was unpacking my bags in my apartment in the Michiko Women’s Hostel. My new roommate was a shy Japanese girl, Kiu Mun. She offered to show me around the first week. I learnt relevant vocabulary for buying meat and fruits at the market, hailing a cab, and appreciating my lecturers’ efforts. As expected, I got into trouble a few times with the wrong words. Like when I wanted to tell the attendant the meat smelt spicy, I ended up convincing every one on the queue her breath was bad.
I remember another time when I hailed a cab, I couldn’t for the life of me remember the word for University, I had had a stressful day gathering field data and I wanted to just grab a bite and crash. I ended up at the museum as my cab driver couldn’t make sense of my descriptions. And unexpected day out it was.
I spent a few weeks going to the less urbanized areas, meeting with the locals and getting information about their environment and the activities they engaged in. I needed someone to translate for me as I couldn’t get through it alone. The locals did more than assist my course work; they treated me to tasty cuisine I didn’t know existed in the world. I downed the popular Ramen noodles in its various forms: Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce flavoured soup), Tonkotsu Ramen (pork bone soup) just to mention a few. I cleared a full plate of sushi rice in the home the leader of one of the Kamikawa districts. I felt very much like Oliver twist on that night. His wife was gracious enough to oblige my request for another plate.
Almost every where I went people stared, the little children hid behind their mothers giggling all the way. No doubt they were probably not used to seeing a single Black woman in their municipality.
The whole year was so much fun for me. I got out of bed most times and didn’t return until late, especially on weekends. I wanted to see and experience the best of Japan.
The best part, undeniably, was my stint at the Community Church as a volunteer. The youth group in church usually gathered on the last Sunday of every month to visit the needy and the orphans. We took them food clothes, toys books and so much more. It felt good to give back. I learnt more Japanese, made more friends and wait for this, Fell in Love. I couldn’t believe it. I was far away from home and had fallen in love with a cute Japanese Guy. My father would probably have a heart attack. He was the youth Group Physician, always attended to the people, checking their general health and well being. He was in internship in the university where I was studying. We spent a lot of time together. Studying, volunteering and sightseeing.
Akihiko Cho. His name means Bright Prince. He had a Christian name though, James.
Well, I fell in Love, but not for too long. I had to leave, go back home. He had his practice, so he had to stay. It was pretty sad.
I got my degree though, in Distinction. Haven’t been anywhere near Japan for years. I aim to go back someday. Someday…
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