Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hawaiian Culture Shock

It has been a month since I have arrived at Akita International University, and I am slowly feeling the effects of culture shock. I miss my friends and family from Hawaii, but I am starting to miss other things such as Hawaiian food and culture. I miss the bicycle racks on the bus, the aloha spirit, and the food from Zippy's. Although the food here is nice, I miss being able to eat spam every morning and not having to pay for my own food. The spam at Japan costs 500 yen compared to $2 to $4 in Hawaii, and I feel that is too expensive. I miss my spam too much that I tried to get my parents to send me a few cans of spam to Japan.

I think when I leave Japan in a year, I may miss my friends and food here, but as of right now, I cannot stop thinking about the Hawaiian food such as lomi lomi salmon, meat jun, saimin, and poke. I definitely want to move from Hawaii, but it is sad to know that there is something that I will miss about that place as well.

In order to deal with my culture shock, I have kept myself busy. About a week ago I got to sign up for a community service event for the school and meet with some of the survivors from the

2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. I did not ask them about their experiences from the earthquake, but I tried to play with some of the little kids and practice speaking Japanese with the elders. In addition, I gave them candy from Hawaii to the survivors. 

Even though my Japanese was very limited, the old people were very patient, and were happy to meet the international and full-time students. I tried to talk to the old people about their personal lives and mention facts about Hawaii. As for the children, I tried to make origami for them. After talking to some of the old people, this old lady gave me this key-chain that resembled a pair of slippers. It was very thoughtful of her and I am happy that I got to meet these people.

My friend posing with the Japanese ladies

A gift that was given to me by one of the ladies I spoke with
The next day, I went with two of my friends to Akita City and explored this castle nearby the train station. My friends and I took the free shuttle from AEON mall to Akita City and spent most of the day at the city. We passed a manga shop, bakery, several department stores, and a library on the way to the bakery. We even passed this hotel called Hotel Hawaii.

Getting to the castle was slightly difficult because we had to walk a lot of stairs and climb a mountain. My Filipino friend had to rest while me and my other friend explored the castle. The castle showed several models of  medieval Japan and contained many ancient artifacts. At the top of the castle, my friend and I could see a view of Akita City, and enjoy the vast scenery that Akita has to offer.

On the way back to the bus stop for the shuttle at Akita city, my friend and me spent an hour trying to find my Filipino friend. He was not at the place we left him nor did he have a cellphone so we tried to walk around the mountain. We made jokes about him getting kidnapped, but we were confident that even if we could not find him, he would be able to figure out how to get back to the university. Thankfully we found him near the castle and the three of us were able to return to the university safely.

Akita City from above

At the university, my two friends and I met with some of our other friends and celebrated the second half of my birthday that was canceled because of my friends' bicycle accident the week before. It was a small party, and some of my friend had cooked foods from their own culture, so I got to try both Mexican and Taiwanese food.

The food was delicious and despite being limited on utensils, everyone had a fun time. At the party, we talked about the norms from the different cultures such as Hawaiian pidgin and Taiwanese swear foods. In addition, we got to Skype with our friends and family from all over the food.

After most of my friends left, two of the girls slept in my roommate's and my room for the night. It was too dark and too late for them to return to the dormitories by themselves so my roommate and me allowed them to sleep in our room. I let one of the girls sleep in my bed while I slept on the floor for the first time. Sleeping on the floor was not that bad because I had lots of blankets and the room was not that hot.

The following day I did homework, and the rest of the week I focused mainly on my studies. At the end of the week, my friend from the University of Hawaii showed me the bicycle path from Akita International University to AEON mall but I got lost trying to return by myself so he had to help me get my bicycle back from AEON mall to AIU. The bicycle path from AEON mall to AIU is pretty beautiful, and I got to pass by plenty of rice fields and ponds nearby. I am hoping to get a few pictures the next time I take the bicycle path, but regardless I am happy I bought a bicycle.