Tuesday, September 2, 2014

As I Set Out on This Journey (Paula/ポーラ)

"As I set out on this journey" seems like an ill-fitting phrase as I write on an airplane to Hong Kong.  During the entirety of my time over the summer and at home before the trip, I approached my exchange experience with a feeling of dread; dread I feel burning in my stomach even now as I sit somewhere outside of the terminal at O'Hare Int'l. I look out my window at the yellow and grey of lines on pavement. The last time I was on an airplane was my sophomore year of high school on my first trip to Japan.  I remember the feeling of excitement of being in a new place and the misery of being in a culture devoid of touch. I imagine I will have a more manageable kind of wonder this time around. Maybe I will have none at all. I remember being culture sick during my three-week stay and imagine the ache of being separated from home, culture, and family for five months. I remember the ear popping, stomach dropping, bladder testing, hungry, tiring plane flight to and from Japan, and I understand why people are afraid of flying.

Hong Kong Airport; boarding for Narita

God bless the TSA. They make it just hard enough to get on a plane that the idea getting off; changing your mind at the last minute and running back to the people who love you causes cognitive dissonance strong enough to keep me in my seat. I watch the trailer for "Divergent" on a tiny television set that strains my farsighted eyes and make small talk with the woman sitting next to me. She is going to China for a year. She makes me seem like a pansy, and assures me that they will have Mexican food in Japan, it just won't be any good. As the plane readies itself to take off, the summer air warms my feet. I have never been afraid of flying; I'm not afraid to be alone; and I won't get through this -- I will love it. I settle back into my seat as we take off, and after 20 minutes of watching the blue line move like an elegant and expensive toy, crawl like a caterpillar, and finally disappear, I feel a little closer to the Dauntless.


Maya Furukawa said...

So, I just wrote a long comment to you, my dear, and the Beloit internet crapped out and deleted it. Here's a second go--
Paula! I miss you!
I'm so excited that you have embarked on this adventure. I have no doubt that it will provide you with experience - learning ones and otherwise - which you will cherish long after your study abroad in Japan has concluded.
If you feel homesick, talk to me. But I think it's possible that you will be so busy having said experience, that it will leave very little time to feel homesick.
Look for new things (I'm sure there are many). Try new things (probably somewhat unavoidable when you're abroad). But most importantly, just have fun.
We miss you back here in Beloit - but I want you to have the best experience you possibly could while you are in Japan. Beloit will be waiting for you :)

Sarah Simms said...

Paula, I second Maya. We all miss you!

I'm so excited thinking about all the adventures you're going to have at Akita! I completely understand the airport mixed feelings. Both times I traveled out of the country alone, I had "Oh God, what am I doing on this plane" moments. But now you're there, all the fun and exciting things are to come! I can't wait to hear about everything you do in your time in Japan. In the meantime, we're all sending lots of good thoughts your way!