Jatalia’s Homestay

While in Japan I stayed with H.I. and her family. My stay with them was fantastic and their home became like a second home to me. My first day “home” I felt extremely welcomed and like part of the family. I will admit I was a bit shy at first because I was taller than the entire family and couldn’t speak Japanese but they were so friendly and patient I quickly began to talk and bond with them.

My first dinner with the family was a pretty interesting one and one I will never forget. It was spaghetti and french fries which I found funny because I was expecting to eat a Japanese styled dinner. In the mornings for breakfast I would either have toast and soup or toast and yogurt, then my host sister and I would be out the door, off to Kikuna Station to catch the train. At night after dinner if I wasn’t too tired I would spend some time with my host sisters and my host mom, getting to know them better and answering any questions they had for me.

On the fourth day of my homestay, I got injured while traveling to the train station, and the following day I stayed home to recover from my injury. It was that day that I found out how well I fit with my host family. My host mom took care of me that day, and while being home alone with her I found out that she shared my love for Korean dramas and was a fan of Korean actor, Lee Minho. We really seemed to bond that day and I felt as if she was my real mom the way she always asked if I was OK or if I needed anything.

My homestay was the best and I couldn’t imagine staying with another family. There was never a time where I felt excluded or unwanted and if it were possible I would’ve stayed forever!

Jatalia Wilson
Eastern SHS

Big Bang/Tohoku!

After school today, I spent some time with C.T and his American counterpart Joel. We went to a 100 yen shop which was fun because they had everything imaginable inside. It was bigger than dollar stores here in D.C, having two full floors, so we spent quite some time inside. There was free time planned in the schedule for today and everyone in the group did their own thing whether it was going to the Cup Noodle Museum or just spending time with their families and having fun.

While I was in America I planned everything out with my host sister and we were able to get tickets to a Big Bang concert. Big Bang is a popular South Korean boy group of five members and is one of the leading groups in the industry. After shopping for a while, I met back up with my host sister, H.I, and we rode the train for about an hour or so to go see the concert. The concert lasted a little over two hours and my host sister and I had an amazing time.

The next day, we slept in but sadly I had to part with my host family to travel to Tohoku. Traveling to Tohoku required catching the Shinkansen, the bullet train, which was very comfortable and definitely less crowded than the normal Japanese subway trains.

Jatalia Wilson
Eastern SHS

Keio’s Tea Ceremony

I really enjoyed my visit to Keio SFC even though it was short lived. I made many friends that I will hopefully be able to meet again in the future. My first day at Keio was during their school festival and it was interesting to see how the different classes decorated and organized their classrooms. Each classroom had a different feel to it and was very lively. My Japanese counterpart’s classroom put on a play and even though I wasn’t able to see it, I’m sure it was very good. I wish we were able to have these types of festivals in DCPS schools because not only are they fun, they give students the chance to work together on something that the whole school can enjoy.

The day I attended classes at Keio was a nice opportunity to see how classes were run and how the students interacted with each other and their teachers. When sitting in the back of an 11th grade I.T. class taught in all Japanese, I noticed how studious and hardworking the students were and how they never once interrupted the teacher. That’s not the case in my school; typically throughout one lesson there are multiple interruptions and times where students get off task, which is what I saw in another class. While sitting in on a 12th grade English class, the students were constantly talking and making jokes with the teacher during the lesson but after all the funny business was sorted out, the class ran smoothly.

One thing I really loved about Keio was the campus itself. It was big, spacious and beautiful with a gorgeous pond. While at Keio we experienced many things, like a traditional tea ceremony, something you don’t normally have at school. At Keio they have a tea ceremony club and I was able to take part in a ceremony and drink green tea. During the tea ceremony I sat and watched one person make the tea while I was served sugar candies and some type of bean based snacks. The sugar candies were very delicious and everything, from how to get in and out of the door to how the tea had to be made, was very specific and precise. Even though the tea club only had four members they knew what they were doing and it was a great experience.

Jatalia Wilson
Eastern SHS

November 10th – Enoshima

This morning we took a trip to Enoshima Island and visited the Enoshima Shrine and the Iwaya Caves. Enoshima Island is a part of Fujisawa and is known for its beaches and its fun, interesting attractions like the Enoshima Aquarium. The island is said to be dedicated to Benzaiten, the goddess of music, entertainment and eloquence. Benzaiten is said to have risen the island from the bottom of a bay and caused the dragon that had been terrorizing villagers to see the errors of his ways, which he corrected by becoming a hill.

In order to get to the island we had to walk over a bridge and today just so happened to be the wrong day for me to wear a dress! The trip over was extremely windy but the view of the ocean was beautiful. After setting foot on the island, it was interesting to see how different things were from the city life in Tokyo. There were few large buildings and lots of small shops and restaurants packed into the slopes of the island. There were also fewer cars due to the narrow street and the mass amount of people walking in it. We experienced a long tiring journey up a countless amount of steps to reach our destination but it was worth it once we got to the top and were able to see an incredible view of the ocean and the island.

After our tour of the island, we went to visit the Great Buddha of Kamakura. It was pouring down raining at the time but it was amazing to see the Buddha in person and to see how big and sculpted it really was.

Jatalia Wilson
Eastern SHS

November 6 – Harajuku!

In the morning the group attended an orientation given by the Akira Foundation where we learned what the Akira Foundation does, and how it strives to achieve their mission, their mission being, “We will seek to fill the gap of social entrepreneurship and innovation for social change between Japan and other countries, by catalyzing and sustaining creative, collective and cooperative development.” We also watched a presentation on Tohoku which was very informational and gave us a general idea of what we would be seeing and experiencing on our trip to Tohoku.

In the afternoon we visited Meiji Shrine which is located in Shibuya. After walking under the torii, a style of gate, there was a pathway leading up to the shrine which was filled with beautiful scenery. Once we arrived at the shrine we prayed and spent time looking at the prayers left by others. Today we also visited Harajuku, a famous shopping district in Japan. We walked and shopped along Takeshita street which had us girls in awe as we saw tons of “kawaii”, cute, Japanese shoes and clothing. The street itself was filled with people, walking, eating and shopping so it was easy to get lost. We broke off into chaperoned groups and shopped for a few hours before meeting up and going to KiddyLand. Again, us girls were in awe at all the cute stuff we saw and I myself couldn’t contain a squeal as I found out there was a Rilakkuma store on the highest level. Though KiddyLand was great, and the group was tired we didn’t want to stop shopping on Takeshita street so we made an agreement with the chaperones to let us shop for a bit longer in pairs of two, unchaperoned.

Jatalia Wilson
Eastern SHS

First Impressions

When I stepped off the plane at Narita airport, everything seemed unreal and it didn’t feel like I was actually in the place I had only dreamed about. My first impression was that Japan was better than America in some aspects. After taking my first step outside and looking around I thought, “Wow. I’m actually in Japan,” and even though it still didn’t seem real, the jet lag did.

A lot of things were different from America but the differences made everything better for the most part. For example, the trains in Japan run on a certain time schedule so you’ll always be able to tell exactly when the next train arrives. The downside to the train system though is that different lines are owned by different companies so you have to pay to transfer. But from what I’ve seen and experienced Japan seems to be more advanced than America in more ways than one. They’re not just advanced in technology, like many people may think, they’re advanced in culture, in the economy, in the way their people live.

I’ve learned a lot in my few days in Japan so far ranging from how to pray at a temple to facts about social entrepreneurship and still everything here seems so advanced and new, but there’s still a lot that can be learned.

Jatalia Wilson
Eastern SHS

Talia’s Summer Reflection

I would have to say that one of the things I enjoyed most about this half of the program was just being able to meet and befriend six exchange students from Japan. From day one of the program we all got along well and in my opinion we were all pretty similar. We quickly connected with each other and clicked soon afterwards, leaving all awkwardness behind. I believe that it was our quick and easy connection that led us to feel comfortable around one another. The first day, I found out who I was going to be staying with while in Japan and even though she was older than me we still were able to bond fairly quickly and find out what we had in common. We all became close in such a short amount of time that it hardly even seemed like it was our first time meeting and it just made the whole experience a lot more fun and enjoyable.

Throughout the program we visited different sites and organizations around D.C like Martha’s Table, United Way and the Holocaust Museum, and I was constantly learning something new. In my opinion this half of the program was not just a chance to show the Japanese students D.C, it was also a chance to show me D.C. It gave me the chance to learn about current affairs and social entrepreneurship and everyday there was at least one new lesson to be learned. I feel as if I took away the most while at Busboys and Poets. Andy Shallal had a lot to say about the life we live and how our society is set up and I really got captivated in what he had to say. The insight and knowledge I gained during this program has helped me to become a more self reflective person and it gave me a broad range of experiences.

I never would have dreamed of being a part of something like this and I’m thankful for the two and a half weeks I had with them. For the past three years I have been a fan of Japanese culture and music so being able to meet with and talk with students from Japan is something that I’ll never forget. My two and a half weeks with the exchange students were the highlights of my summer and something that’ll always be important to me. Each moment spent with the TOMODACHI group was cultural and knowledgeable and I can’t wait to put myself in the Japanese students’ shoes when it’s my turn to travel abroad.

Talia Wilson
Eastern SHS
Washington, DC

DC Day 8: July 29, 2013

Today we met at School Without Walls expecting to meet someone and to do an activity. The schedule was changed, so we ended up touring DC again, which is always fun with the Japanese exchange students around. We visited the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial, both I had yet to visit so it was a pretty interesting experience. At the time of our visit to the Lincoln Memorial, it was defaced with a green substance and I personally couldn’t understand why someone would want to ruin something so important to thousands of people. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my time at the memorial with the Japanese students. We took pictures together, made our way through the immense crowd and even listened to a story about someone who witnessed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech. After the Lincoln Memorial we visited the Vietnam Memorial and talked about why the war was even started in the first place.

We later walked to the National Museum of American History and I partnered up with H.I., the person I’m staying with while in Japan. While at the museum we saw the Food, Star Spangled Banner, Dollhouse, Changing America and the First Ladies exhibits. I would have to say we spent the most time in the First Ladies exhibit but my favorite was the Food exhibit. I really liked seeing how different the food was packaged then as opposed to now and I enjoyed seeing foods and utensils used by people from different cultures.

At around 2 the TOMODACHI crew regrouped and headed to the metro where we caught the train to Judiciary Square and visited the DC Central Kitchen. While there we took a quick tour and talked about how they got started and what they did. DC Central Kitchen aims to help people in ways other than providing them with food. It wants to get people to a place where they’ll be able to provide for themselves and their families. The day was really enjoyable and I feel as if we all learned a lot, whether it was from each other or from the places we visited.

Jatalia Wilson
Eastern SHS
Washington, DC