Thousands of Miles from Home


Rotary District Orientation

The neverending quest to catch up with the present continues:

Last Saturday was Andee's final day in Japan. He was leaving on the Shinkansen in the evening, but I had to attend a rotary meeting that night in Kurashiki. So we both went to Okayama City in the morning to see another person in Andee's exchange program who was also leaving that day. I had never met the girl before, and sadly I cannot remember her name, but she was from Tailand and seemed very friendly for the hour or so I spent with her at the train station. Many people came to see her leave, and she was crying rather hard by the time she left the station.

After seeing her go, Andee and I spent our final morning at Mister Donut with some honey glaze and a coffee. We talked about things that made us laugh, and it didn't quite feel like he was leaving for good. When I said goodbye to him at the station I felt sad, but smiled because I was happy to have met someone like him (cliche, yet true). I gave him a hug right there at the turnstile, then got on a train for Tamano.

Back at my house, my host counselor was waiting with a Japanese girl from my school who went to Texas on exchange last year. I had already packed my bag for the weekend, so we struck out on our journey; Keiko(girl from my school), Aketa-san (host counselor who I have recently realized looks exactly like Ho Chi Min), and me (wearing a sweatshirt that said "beautiful rainbow to the sky"). The rotary meeting was being held at the Kurashiki Seaside Hotel, and aside from seeing a brief schedule I didn't know what to expect. My previous rotary meetings have involved only the students from Okayama Prefecture (about 5, counting outbounds from last year) so I expected something along those lines.

We were the first people to arrive at the hotel, so after a delicious lunch (during which Aketa-san smoked about a pack of cigarettes) we left to put our baggage in the main meeting room. I met Janna from Tsuyama, and she said that lots of kids were there from all over the surrounding prefectures. Exiting the elevator, I instantly spot Micah Ginnis, who happened to be my room mate at the Outbound Orientation in America. We had e-mailed a few times back and forth in Japan, but I didn't expect to see him at all. He said all the exchange students from his prefecture were there, and introduced me to Shaun, Carter, and Tom (from America) and Urte (from Lithuania) In total, about 30 students were at the meeting. (mostly from American and Canada, but also two girls from France and one from Finland) There were also about 15 japanese girls that had either been on exchange last year or waiting to leave this year.

Shaun's main reason for coming to Japan is to learn how to be an entrepreneur from japanese businessmen, then start a string of arcades back in the States. It struck me as an odd reason, but at least it's better than "I came for the culture," which is everyone's usual reply. Before the meeting started, the Rotary district president told me to tell the other students to prepare a skit for that evening about strange or funny things that we had experienced in Japan. I am not sure why he asked me in particular, and in fact I think he called me "Jason" the first time he saw me, but I did as I was told. Everyone introduced themselves by district, we had a small meeting, then dinner. After dinner all the exchange students went to a room to make the skits. I found a very large loudspeaker, and under the auspices of using the music for skit preparation played various tunes from the iPod. Someone asked me if I had any "Disturbed" and I gave them a sad, sad smile.

We presented the skits, some of which were hilarious in their use of Japanese and English, then all the kids went to a large party in the hotel while the Rotary members went out to drink. Micah, Shaun, Carter, and I hit the hotel's onsen, then hung out in various rooms for a while. I got a chance to talk with many of the japanese kids about their exchanges, which was exciting because I rarely get to talk with kids in a relaxed atmosphere.

For the rest of the night, using the large loudspeaker, we contintued the party from room to room. I don't think anyone else was staying in the hotel besides rotary members so we had the whole place to ourselves. There was dancing, laughing, and sitting on the roof looking at the nearby Kurashiki chemical plants, bright on the horizon.

In the morning, we took a tour of Konpira-san, crossing the massive Seto-Ohashi bridge. I had been to Konpira-san once before, but it was a lot more fun traveling with the other rotary kids. A lot of students live on Shikoku, the island south of Tamano, which I can easily reach by ferry. Hopefully I will get to take some trips there on the coming weekends. At Konpira-san, we ate Udon for lunch, after which Micah and I bought ice cream. While walking away from the ice cream stand, we spotted another ice cream stand on the corner. The following conversation insued:

Micah: "Hey, why don't we eat this ice cream cone real fast and buy another?"
Me: "That's a little gluttonous, don't you think? Two ice creams right after each other."
Micah: "Especially when you're lactose intolerant!"
Me: "What?! Why are you even eating that ice cream cone?"
Micah: "I only get dizzy, don't worry."
(Micah then moonwalks through a glass window)

After a closing ceremony back at the hotel, everyone said goodbye for the evening. Aketa-san gave me a ride back to Tamano, where I promptly fell asleep after a large sushi dinner.


  • You should have punched that person who asked you about `Disturbed` in the glasses. (And accordingly provided them with glasses if they didn`t have any)

    By Rahul Syamlal, at 7:35 AM  

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