Will I Ever Be Back?

Hey guys, Win’s here. Sorry I haven’t update about my trip on Japan to you guys since my last post. I’ve been extremely busy once I’ve reached the coun­try of many islands. I landed on Seat­tle soil yes­ter­day morn­ing, Sep­tem­ber 19th. After a long slum­ber in the hope of get­ting rid of the jet lag, I woke up at 8 am this morn­ing try­ing to adjust to real­ity. Some­how it’s too hard for me to get my mind off Japan for just a minute. My pre­sen­ti­ment regard­ing post-trip feel­ings of empti­ness I men­tioned in my last post came true. Now, I’m sit­ting here try­ing to blog about my expe­ri­ence in Japan. I don’t think this is a good idea at the cur­rent state, but I think writ­ing and think­ing about the trip will some­what put my mind at ease. I don’t know, we’ll see? I’ll be writ­ing a para­graph for each day in Japan and accom­pany some pic­tures along to help you visu­al­ize. So to those who like to read, there writ­ing is there and for those who like to see pic­tures, the pic­tures are also there. Best of both worlds? I think so. Here goes, Win’s adven­ture in Japan!

Sep­tem­ber 3rd – Day 1 (Seat­tle, Washington)

This is the group of indi­vid­u­als that I spent my times with in the past days in Japan. This was taken before we headed to Narita air­port near Tokyo, Japan. We started out as strangers, as stu­dents and teach­ers, and as indi­vid­u­als. How­ever, I have been get­ting to know each and one of these peo­ple and had plenty of fun times with them. Once we left, I felt like they were a part of a fam­ily that I never had. The air­plane ride was long and I couldn’t even sleep once. How­ever, I got to watch a bunch of new movies on the way.

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Sep­tem­ber 4th – Day 1 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

Landed in Mat­suyama in the evening after roughly 12 hours of plane ride. It was a day ahead of Wash­ing­ton. That’s time trav­el­ing, guys. We got accus­tomed to the share house and then headed to a tourist place called Dogo to buy break­fast for Day 2. There are con­ve­nient stores all over Japan that would open 24/7 that sell from drinks to lunch boxes. I would say they are your typ­i­cal Seven Elevens, except fancier with­out the Slurpee. The amount of vend­ing machines was over­whelm­ing to me. There were one at every cor­ners. There were soda and cider drinks that have Dragon Ball Z print, my gen­er­a­tion child­hood on a can right there. I bought an man­darin orange cider that are spe­cial­ized in Dogo as well as some ramen (I basi­cally ate a load of ramen for break­fast in Japan, they were delicious).

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Sep­tem­ber 5th – Day 2 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

Woke up at 4 am to remem­bered that the glass bot­tle of cider I bought the night before exploded in the freezer because I left it there overnight (that’s what jet lag do to you). Three great events hap­pened on this day; bikes, Japan­ese foods, and rice. Scratch that, the fourth thing is meet­ing our first Japan­ese friend. We meet with a Japan­ese cute female stu­dent at Ehime Uni­ver­sity (the uni­ver­sity that affil­i­ates with UWB and where we also learned about nuclear energy) named Yuri. She took us to a bike shop near the cam­pus to rent our bikes. The feel­ing of rid­ing a bike after 10 years of absence was inde­scrib­able. The wind I caught with the speed felt like time was flow­ing faster. We headed back to the campus’s cafe­te­ria to grab our first real meal in Japan. I had karaage ramen (fried chicken noo­dle), Japan cold omelettes, weird tex­tured veg­gies, and an incred­i­ble pud­ding for dessert; all for under 5 dol­lars. Just to warn you, I ate exten­sively large amount of foods while I was in Japan. So some pic­tures will look impos­si­ble for a small guy like me but I made it hap­pened (kind of gross, I know, but the food was just so good!). We headed to the out­skirt of Mat­suyama city where golden green rice pad­dies were blended within the edges of the moun­tains. This was where we helped the local farm­ers har­vest­ing the rice. It was a great expe­ri­ence to worked along­side with every­one as well as the farm­ers on the 1000 years worth of nutri­tious soil. Made me feel like say­ing “itakadi­masu” (an appre­cia­tive expres­sion to say before every meal in Japan­ese) isn’t really just for show.  We ended the night with a din­ner at a tra­di­tional udon restau­rant. It was a super supper!


Sep­tem­ber 6th — Day 3 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

I am still very much jet lagged on this day, my brain woke up at 1 am. We had our first class today at the Ehime Uni­ver­sity. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive named Takana-san and Takana-sensei (-sen­sei here is added to a teacher’s name in order to show respect when address), had us learned about the radioac­tive rays and what mate­ri­als can block them. To my sur­prise, water can block all three of the radioac­tive rays. There­fore, to live in an almost radioactive-free envi­ron­ment, it must be under­wa­ter. Once again, I enjoyed the cafe­te­ria lunch VERY much! We headed down the main street to see Mat­suyama Cas­tle. Ruth-sensei (the fac­ulty that works at Ehime, the main con­tact for UWB’s Global Ini­tia­tives for the study abroad in Japan, and our group’s tour guide) gave us very detailed expla­na­tions of the castle’s struc­tures and his­tory. In the cas­tle, I got to tried on a samu­rai armor. We ended the night by eat­ing okonomiyaki (a type of Japan­ese not-sweet pan­cake that is called the soul food of Hiroshima) at the local mall named Okaido (I’ll tell you more about this mall later). Once again, the food was delicious!

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Sep­tem­ber 7th — Day 4 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

This was a free day, where every­one can roam around and explore. What I had for break­fast? You guessed it, it’s instant noo­dle again! Every­one decided to go shop­ping today and end the night with some karaoke. We headed to Dogo tourism area first, this was where every­one started to split apart and did their own things. Few of the friends and I headed down to Okaido, a mall strip just down the road of Mat­suyama Cas­tle where it’s not in a secluded area but is built within blocks of the city’s streets. David (another class­mate) and I were the only male stu­dents in the group. We even­tu­ally went ahead of every­one and headed to Gin­ten­gai (another mall strip that is con­nected to Okaido, except it’s not con­nect straight but to the right of Okaido’s cut point). Let just say Okaido and Gin­ten­gai cre­ate a big L on the map. At the end of Gin­ten­gai, there’s a 9-story mall (or depart­ment store in Japan) with a Fer­ris Wheel on the top floor named Takashimaya. Being boys, David and I didn’t really shop but got attracted by crowds, foods, and enter­tain­ing objects. We first stopped by a kaarage shop (fried food) to grab a quick lunch. Here, there was only one worker there, a Japan­ese guy with some funky dyed blond hair. He greeted us with excite­ment. Every time we ordered, he would smiled and blurted out “ARIGATOUGOZAIMASU!” to us (it means thank you very much). He had some really upbeat music play­ing while he was oper­at­ing his skills in cook­ing the food. And every time he tried to drain the oil out, he would bounced up and down to the music. Though the lunch was not that great in quan­tity, it was extremely delight­ful in qual­ity. And some­how, the pres­ence of the employee made the lunch com­pletely a dif­fer­ent din­ing expe­ri­ence! So we rode a mechan­i­cal panda and the Fer­ris Wheel. Later in the after­noon, we headed home to grab some din­ner and headed to Dogo Park near by. They had live tur­tles and fishes in the pond! Then every­one headed to JoySound for a fun night of karaoke.

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Sep­tem­ber 8th — Day 5 (Gogoshima, Mat­suyama, Japan)

I finally got rid of the jet lag! This was a Sun­day, so it’s another free day. We planned to go to an island that is near the city named Gogoshima for a group hike. Some of us stayed back at the share house for a much needed rest after an adven­tur­ous day yes­ter­day. Yuri and Matt-sensei came to pick us up. We got to use the train and ferry sys­tem to get over to the island. Every­thing ran on time to the sec­ond, the Japan­ese pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem is very effi­cient! Once we got to Gogoshima, the town seemed a bit quiet. There was not a lot of locals walk­ing around inter­act­ing. Our group split into two because some didn’t want to con­tinue up the dark trail that has a big spi­der web dan­gling in the front. The hike was can­celed due to the trail being mas­quer­aded by over­grown plants and col­or­ful spi­ders. We decided to hike over this small hill instead. The trail was still very crowded with plants but we made it over to this humon­gous slap of pave­ment that extended out in the water with a sole shrine at the very end. It was an incred­i­ble envi­ron­ment where the sea breeze con­stantly blessed us with a cool tem­per­a­ture dur­ing our lunch break. It worth every bug bites I received. We then vis­ited school after­ward. Our guide was a 10-year-old boy who would spoke Japan­ese to us like we know the lan­guage. Every­one headed home in the early after­noon and rested. At 6 pm, Yuri came around to take us to a con­veyor belt sushi 20-minutes bike ride away from the share house. Did I men­tioned that try­ing Japan­ese made sushi was my pri­mary pur­pose of this trip in my last posts? If not, then I just want to let you know that I ate 20 plates worth of deli­cious and inex­pen­sive sushi!

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Sep­tem­ber 9th — Day 6 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

This morn­ing, we learned about nuclear waste man­age­ment in Japan from some­one who works at an energy com­pany in Tokyo. In the after­noon, we trav­eled to the other side of Mat­suyama Cas­tle to visit the Japan­ese gar­den where the war­lord lived to learn about tea cer­e­mony. This day, another Japan­ese stu­dent joined us with the inten­tion to improve his Eng­lish. It’s also the day where I made friend with a very kind guy. His name is Kohei, and I con­sid­ered him to be my Japan­ese brother and he thought the same. After the cer­e­mony, we migrated back to the share house. There, we found the com­mon room crowded with Japan­ese ladies prepar­ing to teach us how to cook some Japan­ese dishes. The din­ner was great with all the com­pany. Here, we had the chance to laugh, to share sto­ries, to cook, and to bond. After din­ner, every­one gath­ered around to talk about nuclear energy and how it affects the Japanese’s ways of think­ing about energy in the future. An end­ing to a very mean­ing­ful day.

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Sep­tem­ber 10th — Day 7 (Hiroshima & Miya­jima, Japan)

Our group went to Hiroshima early on this day. I learned how to make origami crane for the first time. I made a total of 25 cranes. Another friend made 25, and together as a group, we put together more than 50 cranes for the peace park that we vis­ited. It was a very emo­tional and hard moment to walked through the peace park and the Hiroshima museum. We went to an island named Miya­jima neared Hiroshima to lift our spir­its a lit­tle. The island was the most beau­ti­ful phe­nom­e­non I’ve ever seen, and the sunny weather that day added some majes­tic touches to the scenery also.  There were live deers that roamed around the island like they’re friends of human. On the island, we got to visit the Itsukushima Shrine with the float­ing torii gate. This is where my cam­era just sud­denly broke!

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Sep­tem­ber 11th — Day 8 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

On this morn­ing, the group got together at the col­lege with Matt-sensei to dis­cussed about what we have learned so far regard­ing nuclear energy. After lunch, we had a Japan­ese teacher, Tsuchiya-sensei, who went with a group of Japan­ese stu­dents to talked about nuclear energy in Mary­land came to give a lec­ture to us about the U.S. and Japan rela­tions dur­ing the Cold War. It was a very infor­ma­tive lec­ture. After class, the “boys” from the group went with Kohei to another depart­ment store named Fuji Grand and an enter­tain­ment build­ing called Kisuke Box to hang. We tasted takoy­aki (octo­pus balls) there. We had sushi for din­ner (this time, Ruth-sensei guided us to a dif­fer­ent restau­rant), and of course, I ate a tons of sushi! You guys still with me? Half way there!

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Sep­tem­ber 12th — Day 9 (Ikata, Japan)

We vis­ited the Ikita Nuclear Power Plant on this day. Our group was trans­ferred by a big bus, made me thought I was a mem­ber of a sport team when entered the bus. We took a 2 hours ride to the rest stop before head­ing to the actual plant. I stayed up late that morn­ing so I was knocked out cold on the way, I missed a sight of a nice beach on the way. At the rest stop, we were offered a very nice look­ing obento (lunch box) from the com­pany. After lunch, we headed down to the plant to just watch it from a watch dis­tance. The secu­rity was very tight there. There was an actual life-size tur­bine there. I learned a lot about nuclear plant pro­ce­dures that day. Later that night, a small group of us went for some karaoke again. I got to sing my favorite Japan­ese song this time! We had a blast.

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Sep­tem­ber 13th — Day 10 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

We got some basic Japan­ese lessons today by a friend of Ruth-sensei’s in order to pre­pare us for the home­s­tay over the week­end. After lunch (of course, once again, I had a big lunch, I’m in my bulk­ing phase, you know?), we headed back to the class­room to find it was filled with many Japan­ese stu­dents. It was an exchange pre­sen­ta­tion from them to our group. The Japan­ese stu­dents started out by singing 5 acapella songs, they were so good that I had goose­bumps every sin­gle songs. Then we learned how to fold some more basic origami. Last game was a game of Picture’s Shir­i­tori (a sim­i­lar game of cha­rade). We then received gifts from the Japan­ese stu­dents. It was such an amaz­ing time mak­ing new Japan­ese friends at the exchange. Later in the after­noon, we headed back to the school main gate get­ting ready for our host fam­ily to pick us up. I was greeted by a mother, Keiko-san, with a small daugh­ter, Haruka-chan. I learned that their fam­ily name is Tomiyoshi. They took me back to their house in an sub­ur­ban area. There, I gave the gift that I pre­pared to Keiko-san and Haruka-chan. They espe­cially loved the “It’s Rain­ing in Seat­tle” globe. The old­est son, Yosuke, got home from school around 6 pm. We then had din­ner and played a game of Monop­oly. Haruka-chan beat Yosuke and I badly. The hus­band, Shohei-san, got home late so I didn’t get a chance to inter­act with him that much. I went to bed with antic­i­pa­tion on what will I be doing the day after!

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Sep­tem­ber 14th — Day 11 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

I woke up early the next day to go with Keiko-san and Haruka-chan to where Keiko-san works, at a tea cer­e­mony school. Keiko-san teaches with 6 other teach­ers and they all wel­comed my pres­ence with warmth. There was a lot of kids turned out for the class and I had to talk in front of them. It was funny see­ing small eyes look­ing at me ask­ing “why is this big man here?” Oh yeah, I had to sit in seiza (a respect­ful way to sit on one’s knees) a lot of times through­out the day. I was very amazed at how long these lit­tle boys and girls could main­tain the pose. After­ward, we departed back to the house for lunch. After lunch, the fam­ily gather around for a good o’ game of Uno and watched the Pirates of Caribbeans. Later that night, I had the chance to try out Kendo (a Japan­ese sport that prac­tices swords­man­ship) at Yosuke and Haruka-chan’s dojo. The head teacher of the class, Matsumoto-sensei, gave me a per­sonal les­son on the basics. I would like to go into details about Kendo in my con­clu­sion sec­tion. You guys can skip every­thing but please read this part where I’ll be dis­cussing on my views of the Japan­ese culture.

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Sep­tem­ber 15th — Day 12 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

It was my last day of home­s­tay. We went to Yosuke’s school to watch the sport fes­ti­val. Every ele­men­tary school, mid­dle school and high school hold this event either on a Sat­ur­day or Sun­day for the par­ents and friends to come watch. It’s amaz­ing to see all the stu­dents prac­ticed so hard to put up such a great show and showed a col­lec­tive effort at such young age. Keiko-san pre­pared a very nice obento for every­one to enjoyed. I didn’t get to watch the whole fes­ti­val because I had to be back at the school by 2pm. Keiko-san drove me back to the school. On the way back, we exchanged email addresses in order to con­tact each other in the future. The biggest regret for me was not be able to take a pic­ture with my host fam­ily. Every­one meet up at the share house’s com­mon room to exchanged our home­s­tay expe­ri­ences. Every­one else had great time, too!

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Sep­tem­ber 16th — Day 13 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

I once again slept at 4 am on this day because I was hav­ing a boy’s prob­lem, it was laun­dry prob­lem. So I drank so much cof­fee in order to keep myself awake to the extend that I had to use a bowl to drink from, and I don’t drink cof­fee. We meet up at the Dogo main gate with Ruth-sensei and Matt-sensei to head over to Ishiteji tem­ple, one of the 88 tem­ples of the Shikoku pil­grim­age. I got to ring a big bell that said who ever hit it would have power trans­ferred to that per­son. After a moment of peace­ful pray­ing, I hit the bell as hard as I could and walked around it. Some­thing hap­pened and my mind was com­pletely awake. Maybe it was the cof­fee that finally kicked in or just some­thing else. We then had the rest of the day to our­selves. I spent my time with the group shop­ping, eat­ing at another sushi restau­rant (I broke my record by 1 plate this time!), and went to the arcade. This day was the day that I found myself a new hid­den tal­ent, claw machine games. I was able to win a lot of prizes for my friends. Later that night, the group watched a scary Japan­ese movie in 4D. Yes, you read it right, 4D!

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Sep­tem­ber 17th — Day 14 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

We had a very relaxed morn­ing because every­one was try­ing to pre­pare for a pre­sen­ta­tion that we have to present the next day. After lunch, we got to the class­room to have a dis­cus­sion with Tsuchiya-sensei’s stu­dents about nuclear energy. After class, I decided to head to Gin­ten­gai to try to win big pillow-size plush toys for each of the girls in the group. I attracted a crowd because every time I got a win, the whole group would lit­er­ally yelled and screamed in cel­e­bra­tion. Even a Japan­ese lady and the employee there sup­ported me. In the end, I was able to win 7 plush toys for the girls. It was amaz­ing to see every­one so happy. Later that night, some of us went to the Dogo Onsen (the old­est hot spring in Japan) to try out the bath there. I felt great after­ward, now I know why Japan­ese cul­ture likes to include tak­ing a bath as a daily ritual.

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Sep­tem­ber 18th — Day 15 (Mat­suyama, Japan)

Last full day in Japan! Our group gave pre­sen­ta­tions on what we have learned and expe­ri­enced through­out this trip. We had an audi­ence of 30 or so. Every­one did their best and I think our mes­sages got through to the Japan­ese fac­ul­ties and stu­dents. Later that night, a big group of us went to a beer gar­den on the top floor of a sky­scraper to have a farewell party. On the way home, we got to see three geisha (geisha are a very rare sight in Japan) and be able to took pic­tures with them! What an end­ing to the last night in Japan. Unfor­tu­nately, I couldn’t get any of the pic­tures for this day, so here are some other pic­tures instead. Enjoy!

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Sep­tem­ber 19th — Day 16 (Mat­suyama & Narita, Japan -> Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton, USA)

The group woke up early to do some final pack­ing before the bus arrives. Kohei and Yuri swung by to said their good­byes. We took a funny pic­ture of every­one as Bat­man (inside jokes). We also said our good­byes to the Indone­sian stu­dents who were also at the share house with us. We still very much enjoyed the Narita air­port while wait­ing for our lay­over. I bought a lot of sou­venirs for the folks at him. Then until we landed at the SeaTac air­port. It hit me hard that I have left the coun­try that I have always dreamed of visiting…now I’ve lost it.

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My Con­clu­sion

On the day of the pre­sen­ta­tion, I had this slide and it says ” I’ve come to love Japan, and its peo­ple espe­cially. The hos­pi­tal­ity of the strangers I meet in Japan is con­ta­gious.” Though I came there for the sushi, I think that the peo­ple have got­ten my heart instead. There would be many sto­ries that my group and I coun­tered (like the story of the guy who works at the kaarage restau­rant) that would loudly express of how nice and gen­er­ous the peo­ple of Japan are. For instant, my host fam­ily and Matsumoto-sensei. The night after I got dropped off from home­s­tay, I received an email from Keiko-san. The con­tent of the email basi­cally said that they had a great time with me and told me that they would never for­get me. Before I left the Tomiyoshi’s house, I men­tioned that I like to buy some of the Kendo head­band for my ten­nis. Keiko-san and Shohei-san would go to the super­mar­ket and bought me 7 of the head­bands as presents. In the email, there was a short mes­sage from Matsumoto-sensei say­ing that the dojo’ door is open any­time to wel­come me back.

Not only Matsumoto-sensei gave me a per­sonal les­son free of charge, he also gave me one of his head­band that has the kanji “ninja” on it as a present, and it was our first time meet­ing. Dur­ing the les­son, he was talk­ing in Japan­ese while I was lis­ten­ing with an Eng­lish ear. I don’t know what it was but I some­how would under­stood most of what he said. And what I got out of his les­son were three state­ments that that would stick with me for­ever. “Prac­tice Kendo is to spread world peace”, “to prac­tice Kendo with your oppo­nent is to care about them, and “when­ever you strike your oppo­nent, it is not hate you’re trans­fer­ring but love itself.” For a sport with some­thing we con­sid­ered using a weapon to hurt oth­ers, it can also be a prac­tice to give one a peace­ful state as well as spread­ing love around is just a really ideal phi­los­o­phy for me. Before the class started, the kids would be walk­ing about strik­ing and yelling in order to warm up their basics. Then Matsumoto-sensei talked to the class about a story. Of course, I was suf­fer­ing because of the seiza posi­tion. Later, Keiko-san told me that the story was about a great retired Kendo ath­letic who joined a very weak Kendo team at a police sta­tion. The team then became strong. Matsumoto-sensei said that it was because of a great mind who joined the team. But he then ended the story by say­ing, “to prac­tice Kendo is not the mat­ter of win or lose, but it’s to cre­ate peace within one­self”. I found it’s a very great sport that is taught to the chil­dren of Japan. While they’re learn­ing about peace the have the chance to train their body and hone their sports­man­ship. After the les­son, one of the kid bowed to me and thanked me. I didn’t know why but I bowed back any­ways. Keiko-san told me that the group usu­ally would prac­tice very hard and tense but because of my pres­ence today, they were able to gained some great moti­va­tion to work harder. I felt flat­tered but at the same time aston­ished by how amaz­ing the Japan­ese cul­ture is in deliv­er­ing the sense of hard work and give love.

One last thing I learned from this trip was appre­ci­a­tion. Tea cer­e­mony, say­ing itadaki­masu, har­vest­ing rice, sit­ting in seiza form for a long time, sleep­ing on the hard tatami bed, etc. taught me to not tak­ing the things given to me for granted. There would be wastes every day all around the world and there would be peo­ple who need what have been wasted. We tak­ing what given to us from the bot­tom up as a mere magic that we don’t fully appre­ci­ate them when they’re gone. Try this, sleep on your car­pet for a night and you would miss your comfy bed dearly. Appreciate!

Sorry that you have to read this long essay. There are a lot I like to share with you all so that you would see how great study abroad would be and how much it would enriched your col­lege expe­ri­ence. Trust me, when you embark your­self on a trip to visit a for­eign coun­try with antipo­dal cul­ture to your own, you would learn so much about the world and even your­self. I am still very depressed about leav­ing Japan, I guess only time would heal this lost of mine. I just have to accept it, even­tu­ally. As time erases all of the traces of feel­ings I’m endur­ing today, I will never for­get the peo­ple, the expe­ri­ences, and the time I have spent in Japan 2013. The hira­gana alpha­bet in Japan­ese started with “a” where you would open your mouth wide and then ended with “nm” where you would closed your mouth to pro­nounce it. This is just the same as every­thing on this world, if there’s a begin­ning, there would be an end. My chap­ter in Japan has closed, but your chap­ter in that for­eign coun­try you been want­ing to visit could begin soon! Reach for that dream!

Win’s out!


Learning is fun

nguyen blog1(2)Kon­nichiwa — that means hello or good after­noon in Japan­ese. I’ve been refresh­ing my Japan­ese, you see. Get­ting my vocals ready to “social­ize” with the locals in Mat­suyama to the best of my abil­i­ties. This past week, my brain was in con­stant learn­ing mode after a whole sum­mer of idling from crit­i­cally think­ing about learn­ing new sub­jects. Started on Mon­day, August 26th, I attended classes that were four hours long for the whole week in prepa­ra­tion for the sub­ject that the pro­gram is cov­er­ing as well as for “sur­viv­ing” in Japan. The classes were divided into two parts, physics and Japan­ese. Though physics isn’t my great­est friend to hang out with in a class­room, the lessons taught by Pro­fes­sor Matt DePies were quite inter­est­ing. Then the Japan­ese por­tion was guided by co-director of the pro­gram, Aspasea McKenna, who was also a study abroad stu­dent dur­ing her col­lege years (check out her blogs too!). It was good to be in a class­room envi­ron­ment again!

On Thurs­day the 29th, the group headed over to the East side of the state to see the B Reac­tor. This one day trip made me think about the expe­ri­ence when any­one travel to a dif­fer­ent place would encounter. Lis­ten, or read, closely and care­fully on what I’m about to unfold that could pos­si­bly be an exper­i­ment where you can feel what it’s like to be in a dif­fer­ent dimen­sion of the world. What’s more, it’s just right in your back­yard, a very big back­yard. You’ll see what I mean in the next paragraph.

nguyen blog2(5)Our group gath­ered on the Both­ell cam­pus at 9am on Thurs­day. The tem­per­a­ture was up in the high 50’s, and you guessed it, good o’ Seat­tle rain was bless­ing over us that day. I wore a long sleeves shirt with a no-sleeves jacket and jeans that day, think­ing it’ll be fine. How­ever, I totally for­got it’s still sum­mer over on the other side of the Cas­cade Range also. Once the cars headed out of the pop­u­lated area that was still under the black-gray clouds and pour­ing liq­uids, “things” changed dra­mat­i­cally. Blue sky, sun­shine, no more tall green trees, winds with friends (that’s my ver­sion of big gusty winds), hot­ness (the tem­per­a­ture moved up 30 degrees), and vast lands were the “things” that stood out to me. To those who have never been over on the East side of the state before, it’s really noth­ing like the West side. At that moment, I felt like I was def­i­nitely in a dif­fer­ent region.

Time is sus­pect”, as declared by the world famous physi­cist, Albert Ein­stein, when he showed humankind the famous the­ory of rel­a­tiv­ity. The short ver­sion of this phrase is that the defin­i­tive time isn’t the same for every­one. Or another word, you and I can see the same mov­ing object in dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, but the object is mov­ing at one speed. Con­fused? Yeah, I still am too. How­ever, this was the great­est anal­ogy that I with­drew from the physics les­son, so that I can uti­lize it to talk about my thoughts on writ­ing blogs about my trip.

nguyen blog1How Einstein’s the­ory has any­thing to do with my blogs, you asked? Well, take a look at the pic­tures that I cap­tured on the way to the B Reac­tor. Here, you see some white polls with three fans on it, sim­ply not mov­ing. There, you see a pic­ture of a scenery that you’ve prob­a­bly seen way too many times to the point where it’s not really impres­sive to give you the “wow” fac­tor. And then you see this big aligned metal image and think what exactly this is? Imag­ine dri­ving along I-90, when sud­denly sur­round­ing you are hilly yel­low­ish grounds that engulfed the road and made the high­way looks like a black snake swiftly zig-zagging along. On the hills are white pil­lars with pro­pellers that could eas­ily com­pa­ra­ble to half-sized Space Nee­dles. These wind tur­bines were mag­nif­i­cent, I tell ya. Here is how Einstein’s the­ory applies. Peo­ple say that a pic­ture worth a thou­sand words…or so. So that’s how they see the place, usu­ally via the image. But no mat­ter how high-def the cam­era is or how great of a writer I am in describ­ing what I expe­ri­enced, it would never be the same for you (I have a none high-def cam­era and also a lousy writer, for­give me). Am I mak­ing any sense to read­ers out there? If not, please leave some com­ments. What I want to say in, don’t be the per­son that look­ing at the pic­ture, but be the one to cap­ture it with your senses. UWB has many great oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents to study abroad, do take advan­tage of what the cam­pus has to offer.

Some of you guys prob­a­bly won­der­ing how I am feel­ing for the trip to come. I expect myself to be pumped up, excited, ner­vous, sleep­less, etc. How­ever, I don’t feel that much of emo­tional dri­ves, yet. On the last day of class, we talked about this adap­ta­tion graph when trav­el­ing abroad. It goes from hon­ey­moon stage, to cul­ture shock, to cul­ture adjust­ments, and finally up back to adap­ta­tion. My com­ing to Amer­ica to restart a life had me learn­ing to adapt to dif­fer­ent aspects in life very quickly. More­over, the Viet­namese cul­ture is not so much dif­fer­ent from the Japan­ese cul­ture, so I am not very sur­prised by how I’m expected to act in Japan. Except that Japan has Godzilla and Viet Nam doesn’t, I do not know how to react to that. But to my con­cern, I will most likely to suf­fer the post-trip feel­ing of empti­ness. I tend to feel sad after com­ing back from a fun place. This time, I don’t doubt that will hap­pen to me because I’m vis­it­ing Japan.

I am pack­ing my gears ready to tackle this brand new adven­ture. It’s my turn soon, and hope­fully your turn will come shortly. Stay tuned for the next episode of Nguyen’s Adven­ture in Japan.


Best Summer Ever!

nguyen blog1(4) “Move­ment is life”, this phrase was declared by the char­ac­ter that Brad Pitt acted in the movie World War Z that I watched recently. Though my blog has noth­ing to do with zom­bie apoc­a­lypse or dooms day, but the word “move­ment” will be sur­round­ing what I want to share in my blogs. If you think about it, it’s essen­tially true. We move around to func­tion, to sur­vive, to find food, to breathe, and ulti­mately to live. This phrase has stuck in my mind recently because of my planned trip to Japan via the Study Abroad pro­gram at UWB. What’s your def­i­n­i­tion of life?

I once moved my whole life across half way around the Earth. Car­ried along with me were dreams, expec­ta­tions, mem­o­ries, excite­ments, and a bag full of Legos. At the age of 11, a bag full of Legos was the only thing that I can called my prop­erty and I was sure proud of it too. I was born and raised in a small coun­try, shaped like an S located in South­east Asia, called Viet Nam. When I was told that my fam­ily will be mov­ing to Amer­ica, the land where money grows on trees and robots as ser­vants, I was extremely psy­ched out. As a kid, I saw pic­tures and videos of what Amer­ica was; big build­ings, cars, Eng­lish speak­ers, tall blond haired peo­ple, cars, ham­burg­ers, bright lights, and cars. When the air­plane that took my fam­ily to Amer­ica landed in Sea-Tac, I was like Gul­liver in Lil­liput, except Gul­liver is the tiny 6-inches peo­ple and Lil­liput is like that of a giant city. My jaw was opened wide most of the time, espe­cially when I went into the restrooms at the air­port, I never seen a restroom so clean and high tech. On the way back to my uncle’s house from the air­port, I-5 was actu­ally the first grand con­struc­tion that had me con­firmed that I was def­i­nitely in Amer­ica. Cars and trucks all over the place run­ning in orderly fash­ion with super speed (to me, 60 mph at that time was tremen­dously fast). Another thing was, there’s no con­stant honk­ing from cars. If this was Viet Nam, your brain will explode with the noises from hun­dreds of mopeds’ horns com­bined. That was my first expres­sion in the biggest move­ment of my life. What was your first expres­sion of your biggest move­ment in life like?

Sorry, I for­got to intro­duce myself. My name is Nguyen Tong. If you’re hav­ing trou­ble pro­nounc­ing my first name, just know that the N is silence. If that doesn’t help, I also go by Win (See what I did there?). I’m a senior at Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton Both­ell expect­ing to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Com­puter Sci­ence and Soft­ware Engi­neer­ing in spring of 2014. In about a week and some days, I will make my sec­ond biggest move­ment in life. To visit Japan was my child­hood dream because I was sur­rounded by the black and white of Japan­ese comic, manga. When you’re a child, comic was the igniter for the fire of imag­i­na­tion. When I’ve learned about the oppor­tu­nity to study abroad in Japan, that same fire started up inside me telling myself to grab a hold of that child­hood dream, and I did it. Now I am anx­iously wait­ing to board the United Air plane that will take me to Japan. See, another move­ment was made. What were the move­ments that you made to achieve your goals and dreams?

We moved away from the past, advanc­ing along the present, and migrate toward the future. No mat­ter the moment we’re in, move­ment is ele­men­tal to life. This sum­mer, I self-taught myself to learn the lan­guages to build a web­site. A move­ment to advance myself intel­lec­tu­ally. While learn­ing the lan­guages of the web, I also coached a team of ten­nis enthu­si­asts in a sum­mer camp. A move­ment to aid the younger gen­er­a­tions to enjoy the best sport in the world as well as get­ting a tan. I took the Amtrak down to Ore­gon to stand in the longest line I ever seen for food. What kind of food, you asked? Mag­i­cal VooDoo dough­nuts that come in pink boxes. A move­ment of buy­ing 3 dozens of dough­nuts and rubbed it in the faces of those who were still in line. My friend and I bat­tled past strong oppo­nents to win the men’s dou­bles divi­sion at the Muk­il­teo Light­house Fes­ti­val Ten­nis Tour­na­ment. A move­ment to happiness.

Last but not least, a trip to be remem­bered in Japan a week from now. An ulti­mate move­ment that con­firmed I’m still liv­ing and to high­light pos­si­bly the best sum­mer I ever had. That was a lit­tle bit some­thing about my feel­ings toward the trip that I’m about to embark on. I’ll see you in the next blog where I’ll be talk­ing about my week of study­ing about nuclear energy, prepa­ra­tion, and per­spec­tive on trav­el­ing to a brand new place.

What’s your next movement?