March 20, 2016
I had to wake up at four thirty today. FOUR THIRTY. At a time that any sane person would be asleep, I was at the airport with my family and two best friends, Audrey and Rachel. Then again, it’s pretty insane to be leaving the country for a year in the first place. The nice thing about leaving at the crack of dawn is that it’s so early I’m still completely numb to the world and won’t be able to feel any emotions. I mostly spent the morning on my bed, wrapped up in a blanket like a sleepy burrito, not feeling much of anything but cold.
On the car ride to the airport I ate some muffins and felt sick.
Not because of the muffins mind you, but because of the nerves.
If you live in Kansas City you will know that it snowed the evening before, so it was freezing. Normally I hate the cold, but I think the fresh air made me feel better.
We tramped inside and fumbled our way through baggage check. Somehow managing to figure it out. I held Audrey’s hand and I clung to Rachel like a limpet.
Unfortunately, when it was time to say goodbye, I had shaken off my early-morning stupor and was fully aware of the situation at hand.
It wasn’t a pretty sight.
The last time I cried that hard was when I made the mistake of watching the last episode of Majisuka Gakuen at three in the morning.
Somehow I managed to choke out one last “I love you.” and make my way through security like a trooper. A very sad trooper. Think Finn at the beginning of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sad storm trooper. (Well not exactly the beginning but kind of midway through the beginning not really the middle but almost, whatever you get the point.)
I sat by myself on the plane. Apparently, no one wanted to sit next to the super-duper scary teenager with tear-stains and a pink kiss-mark on her head…
Another nice thing about leaving in early morning is the sunrise.
I am notoriously a nervous person, but honestly the moment I saw that sunrise, everything was suddenly fine. I don’t usually claim to be the type of sappy daisy that cries at that sort of thing, but I swear that sunrise moved me to tears. (Who am I kidding, I cry at everything.)
I think it was just the nerves, because I proceeded to fall into a stress coma for almost the whole flight. I did however, wake up just as the flight landed. I exited the plane into a sudden, overwhelming humidity. Although normally, this would be disgusting, I found some comfort in the damp air.
Upon arrival at LAX, I promptly got lost.
But, like any girl with a strong will to survive, I did what came naturally. I stood there for 15 minutes looking very cute and very lost.
To my (very justified) annoyance however, no one was compelled by my big, sad eyes to lend a hand. So I had to set off in search of help myself. A flight attendant was kind enough to turn me around, and walk me to my destination. A mere fifty feet from where I had been standing looking confused and probably rather dumb.
Once I had settled myself onto a bench, I awaited my carriage. (And by carriage I mean the multicolored shuttle bus to La Quinta/Holiday Inn. NOT THE HOLDAY EXPRESS SHUTTLE, an instruction that was very clearly expressed in my instructions.)
Although I was awaiting a carriage, something about the situation rather lacked the decorum of the princess I clearly am. I’m sure it was really quite a sight to see me and my forty-pound suitcase, my over-flowing backpack, my rather unnecessary snack bag, and my various accessories all struggling to maintain balance on a ridiculously curved (CURVED!) bench, while simultaneously snapping my head back and forth like a frightened bird to watch for my shuttle. I waited uncomfortably for 15 minutes, until the first shuttle showed up.
I missed it.
Although not for lack of an undignified run and a truly heartbreaking “Wait!”.
And so I waited another 15 minutes.
But at last my knight in shining armor finally arrived to lift my gigantic oinker of a suitcase into the La Quinta/Holiday Inn shuttle. (And of course by knight in shining armor I mean small hispanic man with the arm strength of an olympic shot-putter.)
The ride to the hotel can best be described as short and terrifying. There was really nothing to see other than some truly daring feats by my small shuttle driver.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of relief when finally finding yourself in the care of a responsible adult after a long day of remembering how small and easily frightened you are when left alone.
I was of course, ridiculously early to orientation. But by a stroke of grace, I wasn’t the only one. I arrived at the same time as another girl who had come all the way from Alaska. I let her share my snacks and we became friends. More and more kids trickled in, immediately identifiable by their 3 bags and general aura of anxiety. Somehow we managed to pass the time until we were allowed to walk to McDonalds next door and get lunch. Although it may not seem much to you, it was actually quite an emotional time for me. The thought that it may be the last time I attempt to give myself a grease-induced heart attack really choked me up.
After lunch we returned to our designated area and I proceeded to fall asleep. (I’m beginning to sense a common theme here…)
When I woke up, a lot more kids had arrived and our rooms were finally ready for us to invade. I followed my roommate (a friendly, talkative girl from Oregon with good taste in pajama pants) up to our room, knowing that without her I would never be able to find my way. I immediately flopped onto it and fell back asleep.
There is a pokémon called Snorlax that I loved when I was little. He is basically a giant, Totoro-like bear that does nothing but fall asleep in inconvenient places. I think I may be a Snorlax.
I was only able to nap for 15 minutes before I had to go back downstairs to meet the rest of the exchange kids. They are about what I expected in terms of grouping.
Of course, there are the kids who are going because they’re super into anime. And then the ones who have Japanese heritage, the smart kids who know it’ll look great on a college application, the rich kids who can afford to just go because they felt like it, and a few assorted odd balls who don’t really fit into any category. Although I grouped them together, they are a really interesting bunch. There is a pair of twins who ride horses competitively and several kids who like to shoot things. In all honesty, I think that I am the most average person here, which says a lot considering that I am a high-maintenance princess and a truly weird kid.
When everyone (for the most part) had shown up, we started the orientation. The orientation was also pretty cut-and-dry. We had some ice-breakers and talked about the program. After which a woman who was born and raised in Japan gave a presentation on some things we should know about life in Japan, which I’m sure would have been great if I hadn’t fallen asleep and dreamed half of it. (I’m sorry, I had a long day ok?)
At the end of the presentation we were given the go ahead to go to bed. And although I was practically dead on my feet I had to stay behind to ask the chaperones for there hope. You see, even though I sent them two emails, my host family still hasn’t communicated with me at all. Which is more than a little worrying. Hopefully, everything will be worked out tomorrow.
Back in my room, I had a lot of fun (no.) figuring out the hotel’s weird shower and taking a really great (no.) shower before bed.
At long last, I was finally able to crawl into my giant hotel bed and (spend my sleeping time writing this ridiculously long and detailed post for all y’all) go to sleep.
P.S. Most everything I post won’t be nearly this long, just heads up.
P.P.S. I’m not going to proofread this I am tired.