The wait was over. After more than a year of endless fundraisers, meetings and Japanese lessons, we were on our way. We were a motley crew of six awkward teenagers and seven adults, traveling as a friendship delegation to Tsushima, Japan, where we would stay for five days, before going on to Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo
Our flight left at noon, and as the plane left the runway, my heart pounded. This was my first venture outside of the United States. The girls and I squealed a little, and the boys rolled their eyes. The flight lasted almost twelve hours and we passed the time playing Tetris and watching movies. Finally, after 24 hours consisting of plane ride, a layover, a train ride and walking, we arrived at our hotel in Nagoya, exhausted.
After touring Nagoya on our first morning, we traveled by bus to Tsushima, where we would meet the families with whom we would stay for five days. I waited nervously, and watched other members of my group leave with their host families. Many anxious thoughts raced through my head: What if they didn’t like me? What if we couldn’t communicate? What if they didn’t understand that I was a vegetarian?
All my fretting was for naught because when my family arrived, the daughters spoke perfect English. I was so relieved! We loaded my luggage into the car and went to their house. I instantly bonded with the older daughter who was my age. She was very talkative and friendly, and we compared life in Japan, America and Poland, where they had lived for two years.
My host family was amazing. They were a perfect family for me. We stayed up until midnight every night just talking and laughing until we had tears streaming down our faces. My most memorable moment with them was when my host mom made me iced cocoa with a chopstick as a stirrer. I mistook the chopstick for a straw and tried to sip out of it. Needless to say, that didn’t go so well. They never let me forget this.
My home stay taught me how easy it is to bond with people on the other side of the world, who you have never met before. It shocked me, to be honest. I never thought that I could get so close to a family in a mere five days. Even though we visited so many other exciting places while in Japan, the experience with my host family was my favorite part of my trip—hands down. As we said our goodbyes, we cried—this time tears of sadness—and my host mom told me that I was “like her daughter who didn’t speak Japanese.” I thought this was so sweet, and it made us laugh through our tears.
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