Welcome to my last blog post. I will get home today by way of trains, planes and automobiles. I’m on the airplane right now that left from the Narita airport in Japan and is headed for JFK in New York. The arrival countdown reads 3 hours and 4 minutes until we touch back down to Earth. Believe it or not, we shaved some time off this trip compared to the last one. A whole 5 minutes. When we took off the countdown was 11 hours and 57 minutes so look at all that progress! I’ve watched a few movies, wrote a final paper, and about two hours ago I tried to write this blog post. Then I gave up and watched another movie. I finally got around to watching the Amazing SpiderMan Movies- highly recommend. Anyways, I have just enough time to write a blog post before I watch the last movie I’ve been saving. That’s the great thing about these posts- all you get to see is the final product so it doesn’t matter how long it takes me to muster up the words to write these posts or how many personal early morning dance breaks I take in between paragraphs. So for this post I’m throwing in all the honorable mentioned photos that didn’t make the cut the first time around. I laughed while picking most of them out.
I’m having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what it is that I want to say or how I want to sum up all of these blogs along with all the things I’ve done in the past ten days. I’ve put a pretty substantial amount of time and effort into these blogs. I’ve dedicated a few hours a night to writing them all and I’m really happy that I did. On the bright side I know my mom reads them all so at least I have an audience other than myself. I have this tendency to buy a journal before a trip so I can write about all that happens and then I get on the trip and never open the book. At least I’m consistent. Well, the same thing happened on this trip. (In all fairness I had the journal long before I knew I was going to be blogging the trip. I’ll save the journal for spring break so I can neglect to use it then too.) I’ll admit though, I always did these posts late at night and sometimes the thought of having to stay up and write a blog as well as find pictures was enough to make me reconsider all of my life choices. However, I would remember nothing about this trip if I didn’t have this blog. Squat. We just did so much it was hard to keep up with it all so it’s really cool to have it all in one place with pictures. How nifty. Maybe even swifty.
Today was a pretty nonchalant day. Although we did participate in a traditional tea ceremony and we got to wear kimono, drink green tea- the whole shabang. We wore these socks that look like goat feet. There one little part for your big toe and then another little part for your other toes with a divider in the middle. It’s like wearing mittens on your feet. (side note- thank the heavens for spellcheck because I spelled kimono ‘camono’. I had to google it to figure it out. Hello, I go to college.) It was interesting to see/ participate in all of these traditional customs that are part of the Japanese culture. Not just the tea ceremony, but also to visit places like Old Tokyo or any of the temples. America is such a young country and we don’t have a lot of these kinds of long-standing traditions. At the same time, that’s what I love about America. We don’t have a lot of traditions. It’s kind of a make-it-up-as-you-go society. In my family we have this birthday hat that looks like a cake with candles on the top. It’s not an American tradition , but in my family you are obligated to wear this hat on your birthday when you blow out the candles. These are the kinds of traditions that I love. You get to create your own traditional origins and pass them down to whomever you please. I really took the time on this trip to appreciate the world that I live in just a little bit more. I really think that going somewhere new and learning about someone different teaches you more about yourself than anything else. I like that America is loud and that we have rules but generally ignore all of them. I like that no one is the same and people aren’t afraid of being bold just because they want to be. I feel like America is made of a lot of brave people. We tend to look at differences as a positive attribute rather than a negative divide between people. Okay, hi. The plane is rocking back and forth and it’s getting hard to type so I’m going to finish this in the JFK airport. (See what I mean? You would have no idea I even stopped writing. The internet is a magical place.)
IMG_1098 -PLEASE right-click this video and open it in a new tab. You’ll understand. I promise. It’s legendary.
Guess who’s back, back again? I’m in the airport and determined to finish this blog. I don’t really have a favorite part or thing that happened. Although my least favorite was the deer that tried to mull me to death. Besides that I think the people I met were my favorite part. It was just so exciting. So get this- I was able to visit Japan, present at an international symposium, make international friends, escape an almost tragic wildlife death, wear a kimono, and create my own blog all because I took a class by accident. It wasn’t so much an accident as it was ‘i couldn’t get into any of the classes I needed and this class happened to be open at the time so I took it’. That’s pretty bananas.
These past ten days have been some of the most incredible times in my life. I don’t really know how to say thank you for all that has happened. I’m so grateful to have gone to Japan. I’m also so grateful to all the students at Kansai University who were so sweet I still don’t believe they’re real. I’m so incredibly grateful that my Mom was able to come on this adventure because frankly, she’s a wizard. I’m so so so grateful I was on this trip with people who were not only willing to try new things, but excited to do everything possible. I’m also grateful she had a camera that took beautiful pictures and then emailed them to me every night. I’m so thankful that the Japanese people were so kind and willing to help in any way that they could. I’m grateful all the plane rides (thus far) have been solid trips and safe trips. And finally I’m thankful for all the sock stores that Japan had. I’m telling you, my future sick ass sock Saturdays are going to be killer.
IMG_1126 _This video is of the doorbell in out hotel room in Tokyo. First, I don’t think I have ever stayed in a hotel room with a doorbell. Second, this doorbell sounds nicer than the doorbell to my house at school, which sounds like a taser. Right click the link and open the link in a new tab!
I don’t really know what else to say here. I’m excited to have had the experience because had I not taken this class, none of this would have ever happened. This experience has made me a more conscious communicator and a more educated international traveler. The most important thing I have gained from this experience is that there is no rule book to life. You can plan and plan and plan some more but, there is no way to know what is going to happen. The world is a crazy place and there’s no way it’s ever going to make sense. Maybe it shouldn’t. I like not knowing what is going to happen in an hour, or tomorrow, or in fifty years. All I know is that I’ll always be Ally, I’ll always have sick ass socks, and I went to Japan.
It’s been real. It’s been fun. It’s also been ten days.
Thanks Japan for all the adventures. I’ll miss you dearly, but hello America, I’ve missed you more!!
Stay weird forever more.
Current wish- that Tyler Oakley would be my best friend.
Feral wildlife survivor
Future cat lady.
I woke up this morning with the goal of ditching the city life in Tokyo. It’s a cool city, don’t get me wrong, but it’s too much like any other city. It’s has lots of people, buildings, cars, but not the dirt. I realized the other day that the streets don’t even have as much as a cigarette butt on them. There also is an extreme lack of garbage cans. And by extreme lack I mean none. Another side note- there are hardly any benches here. There’s nowhere to just sit and rest for a minute. Sometimes I’m so tired I genuinely consider laying on the sidewalk 1. because there’s nowhere else for me to go 2. it’s clean and 3. no one can stop me.
IMG_1004 This is a video of what the train station music is. The little jingle I talked about. It sounds like it’s straight out of Mario Cart. It works best if you right-click the link and open the link in a new window.
So we went to Old Tokyo (at the request of the bassist we met last night in Starbucks.) It really was the raddest place. It was local shops and bakeries that lined the streets. Walking around was like going back to what Tokyo would have been like 40-50 years ago. The first shop we went into was dedicated to cats. Excuse me, it was fantastic. I went into a bakery and ate this asparagus and bacon pizza that probably changed my life for the greater good. Old Tokyo was filled with all the things I hoped I would find while in Japan. I found vases, tea cups, and even wooden painted earrings (which I didn’t exactly imagine prior to coming to Japan, but what are you going to do.) It was filled with things that are a little out-of-place and unique. Walking around the streets was like escaping what is to become apart of what was.
After leaving the 1950s, we took a train to Takeshita Dori which was this giant outdoor shopping mall/street/hoopla of people. I think a lot of the things you could buy there you could probably find in a lot of places. It was more for commercial shopping. BUT they did have a sweet sock store where I did, in fact, buy some pretty nifty sick ass socks. I’m pretty stoked about them.
What I liked about Takeshita Dori wasn’t the shopping, but the place itself. It seemed like the only place I’ve seen in Japan where people seem to let their hair down. People seemed to walk a little more to their own beat instead of the same beat as everyone else. Also, their was a lot of street art all around. Street art is my favorite kind of art, especially to take pictures of. It was almost like visiting a little piece of America while still being in Japan.
IMG_0981 Walked by a store and I was SO excited to hear Fifth Harmony all the way in Japan. That’s all this video is. If you open it I would again,be best to open the link in a new window.
It’s pretty hard to believe this was my last full day here. Sometimes I go on trips and they fly by so fast I feel like I never even left home at all. This trip wasn’t that way at all. We’ve been gone for ten days but it feels more like 10 months. It seems like 30 years ago that I spoke at the symposium which is crazy because I’m only 20. On the other hand, it seems like just yesterday I was on that airplane pretending I wasn’t crying over every movie I watched. I feel like I was able to see so many incredible things, meet so many people, and learn so much about a new place that I didn’t have time to think about all the time passing by. This trip and this place was worth every second of time spent feeling like coming to Japan was just a simple thought or a shot in the dark.
Current temperature- I’m sweating to death in this sweatshirt.
COIL Day!!! Today was the entire reason for our trip to Japan- the COIL International Symposium hosted at Kansai University in Osaka. Japanese people really have a way of making you feel important. When we arrived in Osaka, they had sent someone from the travel agency to pick us up from the train station- sign and all! And then when we got to the University on the morning of the symposium, they had a conference room for us with gift bags, name tags and coffee!
The day started off with a couple of talks about Japan and the COIL program in the morning, followed by a Japanese style lunch. In the afternoon portion, it was our turn to present all of our hard work and show the audience of university administrators, professors, and business men and women what COIL is all about. Our professor and the Kansai professor that we worked with spoke about the COIL program we used in our class, the assignments we had and how they were able to incorporate it in to their coursework. During this part, myself, Ally, and some of the Kansai students got up to explain the benefits and personal challenges we had experienced over the semester. Originally, our student testimonials we not supposed to be very long, but it turns out that the audience had the most questions for us out of anyone speaking all day! They really wanted to hear from the students and what we honestly thought of the program. They asked us about each of the assignments, how we stayed motivated to do it, whether or not we think what we learned would help us in the future business world. It was great to feel like people wanted our perspective the most, because if they decided to incorporate the COIL program into their classes and universities, then they wanted to know how students would react and feel about it.
The cross-cultural competence class we worked with at Kansai was made up of students from Japan, and teaching assistants from the U.K. and Australia, so this really was a completely intercultural experience. After we finished the presentation the Kansai students gave us a full tour around the campus and then took us on the train to Shinsiabashi, a huge shopping area that is basically the Times Square of Osaka. We had pan fried Japanese noodles called “yakisoba,” which I have discovered is one of my favorite things to eat here. I also love the shrimp tempura and dumplings! Some of the girls got “Takoyacki” which is fried octopus! Tacko means octopus and yacki means fried. So there you go. I was truly too full from dinner but I will definitely try one soon! They are also really big into fish here, way more than us, which I like, but I have yet to try “shashimi” or raw fish. Surprisingly, they don’t really eat any sushi here, as the foreign exchange students we have met say it’s more of a special occasion food! And here I am thinking they eat sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner over here in Japan, boy was I misled. But they do like to have fish with breakfast… quite a bit of it.
I really like to try different foods, and love what they offer for lunch and dinner, but as for breakfast? Well, I really need my American food, as do the rest of the people in our group it seems. So I’ve been acting in true college student form and making do with what I have. Every morning before we get on the train to go somewhere, we stop to get food for breakfast, and I buy pancakes in a plastic package, and a small syrup container. I get a tiny ice cream spoon and pour the syrup in the pancake package. And you’re good to go! Now I realize how desperate this sounds (and looks), but a girl needs her pancakes in the morning.
Day 2: Osaka
Everyone. is. so. nice. SERIOUSLY EVERYONE. Take our waitress for example- I asked her how to say “water” in Japanese and because she wasn’t too sure of her English, she found someone to help her and she drew a picture to explain it to me! She really went out of her way to try and help me, something I’ve noticed many people here do, especially in Osaka. We are also having a difficult time with the trains here because everything is basically written in Japanese characters… and no one in our group can read any of it. Problematic, yes I know. Every single person I have asked directions from on the trains can’t speak a word of English, yet they all go completely out of their way to try and help you! We have had people walk us right over to the platform we needed because they couldn’t figure out how to say it in English. Slightly different from the train stations in New York, huh?!
Now today was the day we got to actually meet the Japanese students, so needless to say I was pretty excited! In all honestly, I was kind of nervous as well, because I didn’t know what they thought of our students, or Americans in general. As a culture, Japanese people are pretty polite and they are not blatant at all in what they say (generally unlike many Americans). Sometimes this is kind of nerve-racking because you aren’t sure whether they actually like you or if they are just being nice… I am much more equipped to deal with people who tell it like it is I think! However, I could not get over the overwhelmingly positive response we got from the Kansai students!! It was such a relief. They aren’t really a hugging kind of culture… it is actually part of their culture to bow when they meet people. But after we introduced ourselves formally they came running over to meet us and hug us! I physically couldn’t stop smiling because it was such a warm feeling. Everyone was also so excited to talk to us and practice their English!
Ally and I were invited to stay and have dinner with the students on campus, and they were so awesome that we ended up staying for two hours talking, getting to know one another and our cultures, and just having a good time. Best part of the day? The Kansai students wrote my name for me in Japanese characters!! What I didn’t know is that there are actually two different ways to write it in Japanese, and a third way to write it in Chinese Kanji. (what they call the characters.) So here is a picture of all three! COOL RIGHT?!?! They made my day!
It was pretty incredible to see how infectious all of the smiling and laughing was as we got to know each other and the different things about our cultures. It really goes to show that no matter what language you speak, some emotions are just universally understood! Stay tuned…
WE MADE IT. WE ARE ACTUALLY IN JAPAN!!! (That deserves three exclamation points because it has been quite the journey.) A 45 minute drive to Syracuse, an hour flight to Detroit, a 13 hour flight to Tokyo (where the lovely little child next to me spilt his entire cup of apple juice on my yoga pants to begin the trip), but it’s okay, I wasn’t mad because he was pretty adorable and slept almost the whole flight (lucky him), an hour trip on the train into the city of Tokyo, a night’s rest, and a 3 hour train ride to Osaka early this morning before we FINALLY made it. But let me tell you- it was totally worth it.
If you are reading this blog, you probably would like a little bit of a background about me first (and why I’m missing finals week!) so here you go:
My name is Marissa Sarbak and I’m a senior studying Communication and Social Interaction at SUNY Oswego. I LOVE to travel and experience different cultures and meet people from all over! I’m studying in school to be a reporter, and would love to work for the Travel Channel at some point in the future. I’ve been really fortunate enough to do some traveling in my life already, and I’ve been to parts of Europe, but this is my first time ever to Asia!
I’m currently taking the COM 422/Intercultural Communication COIL class this semester, (which stands for Collaborative Online International Learning). We teamed up with students at Kansai University in Osaka, Japan, to work on a project focused on global issues, and were consequently invited to present our work and our experiences with the COIL program at an International Symposium at the University in Japan! After a long process of trying to get everything figured out, myself, my friend Ally (also in the class), our professor Amy, and all of our mom’s (who wanted to join us for the experience!) made it.
Like I said, we landed in Tokyo last night, and by the time we actually got into the city and got settled in the hotel, everyone was ready to pass out. Amy and myself were really hungry so we headed out to the streets to see if we could grab something quick to eat. After walking around aimlessly and unsuccessfully for about 30 minutes, we finally came to the realization that takeout food doesn’t seem to be a thing in Japan. So we actually went to the corner store and bought cups of noodles in a package. Yes, the first food I had in Japan was actually the same $1 packaged noodles we get in U.S. grocery stores. Not exactly authentic Japanese cuisine… (I am not proud of this choice, trust me) but we were just so hungry!
We didn’t really get to see Tokyo at all yet because we had to catch an early train this morning to Osaka, but we will be going back there for the end portion of our trip so I’m not worried. I’m still a little jetlagged but I’m about to head out for dinner (real Japanese food this time I promise), so I’ll post a blog about today’s adventures when I get back. As we say in the broadcasting world, stay tuned!
There are refugees that escaped North Korea looking to find a better place to live. Many refugees are our age or even younger, and they all want to avoid being caught and deported back to North Korea where they could face death. The refugees all have different stories about how they lived/ are living before some being saved by LiNK. “We need everyone to stand and face this problem together” You can check up on the video here and help donate to fund a rescue! Give what you can to help. I find this something we can all relate to because we have international students here who get the chance to experience college, so why cant these refugees can? We need to give them the chance to be free and safe from North Korea. Check out the website to LiNK as well.
Let’s go Lakers
It’s been one of my many times watching a hockey game up close. These last 2 home games have been rather fun and enjoyable to be a fan for. From the aggressive game play to the crowd’s creative chants, I would never find myself in the midst of boredom during these games. The game looked really intense and I guess I always looked forward to the music being played after we score a goal and blame the opponent goalie.
The game against Cortland was pretty hilarious, but we won. This being my second game, it was funny to me how dirty the Cortland team was playing. This game had the crowd laughing and chanting “You can’t do that!” and we once said “He’s a freshman!” finally ever since last semester a freshman scored. I’m glad to be a part of such a supportive crowd. As a recent Laker fan and a sophomore, I had too much fun watching this game. This game seemed to be a really good one and I had fun watching seeing that we went 9-1.
Lakers vs. Nazareth? Yeah, OK. We won with such a lead and my friends all had fun watching this game go. These 3 games were all fun in general and I grew to like the sport of hockey, at least in Oswego. We were so into the game as a crowd and that’s something I really didn’t expect. The interaction of the crowd wow’d me because I’m only used to going to Baseball games in Yankee Stadium. Overall, I’m thankful with all the fun time I had and will be enjoying from Oswego.