By Maria Garcia (Japan in DC)
The trip to Japan was truly a life changing experience for me. I was able to embrace so many new things, things that I had only ever heard about. Some of those things I learned I still use to this day. Before every meal, I make sure to use the phrase “itadakimasu,” which was a way of saying thank you for everything that leads to the moment we have and the food we have with us. I love the bathrooms, not just the heated seats, but the fact that we were able to use squat toilets. Last year at this time, I had no clue toilets like that actually existed. But today, thanks to the KAKEHASHI Project, I am able to look at life in a more appreciative way. At school, all of my friends are happy I was able to go to Japan. In the stories I have told them about my adventure in Japan, I include something valuable that I will always remember. The food was amazing (it was new) and really delicious. I loved the fact that no matter your status everyone was treated the same, and as foreigners they treated us the same (it was really cool).
The most amazing thing to me was the culture, because I had only heard of it and even though I hadn’t embraced it, I was mesmerized in the little I had heard. Now, actually being in Japan, was an eye opener, because I was able to see kids my age excited to teach me all that they could. At some times, such as the homestay when language was a problem, I would open my little blue book and try to at least pronounce each word I wanted to make a sentence. It didn’t work all the time, but at least I tried, and my host mom would be very confused, but was very patient. She would try her best to teach me new words and I would try my best to remember them. When we were back with the group, I realized how crucial it was for me to try and speak more.
I didn’t want to leave, and still wish to be there, but the trip soon came to end. I never cried during the trip, but when we were on the plane, I realized we were leaving and I was leaving something very special. All the connections I made along the way, especially Ms. Fujimoto, were part of my family and having to leave was the hardest for me. That is why I am thankful for the opportunity I was given because it gave me so much.