It is a strange thing to be in another country where they do not speak English and they also do not speak Spanish. I found myself trying to default to Spanish upon hearing a language that was not English and that I did not understand. “Gracias” does not mean “thank you” in Japan; “arrigato” means “thank you” in Japan. Spanish is my comfort zone, my security blanket, for when I am hearing unfamiliar language, and here it does me no good. There is still unspoken language, however, and that has served me well. My eyes wide open, accompanied by a big grin, and constant bowing seem to get across how grateful I am for all the assistance I have received.
Tokyo itself, what I’ve seen of it in the past 12 hours so far, is for the most part exactly what one would expect. My expectations are a little off, but this is most likely due to my recent viewing of “The Last Samauri.” (Japan, as it turns out, is not still in the late 1800s.) There are lots of people, but polite people. Busy people. Lots going on here in Tokyo, even at 9:30pm. The weather is humid, but it is not too hot yet so the humidity is bearable in shorts and a tank top. I literally forgot to bring pants on this trip, but think I will manage just fine with only shorts and one skirt. Lots of bright lights, smells of savory food, and sounds of busy traffic. I will be ending my trip with two days of sightseeing in Tokyo, so I will have lots more to share in a week.
Figuring out the trains – where to buy tickets, how to buy tickets, which platform to wait on – is tricky. Most of the signs also have English on them, but not all. And did I mention the busy people? They are patient when you get in their way, but barely. We had been told that Americans are given quite a lot of grace here in Japan, and I have definitely seen that. Whenever I travel, I try to not be the stereotypical “dumb American.” I try to be respectful of local customs, traditions, behaviors, etc., participating in the culture here and trying new foods and drinks (instead of sticking to McDonalds and Starbucks, both of which are right outside the train station), and I like to think that generally I succeed. Even so, there is not a lot I can do to hide my blue eyes, blonde hair, and freckles.
I definitely would have been overwhelmed coming here on my own for the first time. But now, even after less than a day here, I know I would be fine to navigate around on my own.
I have often said that my experience living abroad opened my heart and soul to foreign experiences, that it keeps wanderlust close to the surface, and that it has made me ready for whatever adventure God has next in store for me. This current adventure has been an exciting one so far, and I look forward to the days ahead!
Keep praying for me, the team, and the missionaries we are partnering with here. Everyone is in good health and good spirits so far, but I suspect jet lag has yet to catch up to us…