Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Whole New World

you wouldn't think that one would have so much culture shock in Hawaii. i mean, it's a part of the US...but even though it's technically a state, it's got its own culture, language, and people. in fact, Hawaii is probably the most unique state in the US due to its diverse population and mix of cultures. it would be a culture shock coming from any other state, but coming from a year and a half in Tokyo, Japan, life couldn't have been more different. as i compared in a previous post, Tokyo and Hilo have almost nothing in common. not only is the size of Hilo miniscule compared to Tokyo, but the pace and way of life are about 50x slower.

some culture shocks/surprises of Hilo/The Big Island:
- it usually rains around 5-6 times a day
- people greet you with a hug and a kiss, even if they're just meeting you for the first time
- people don't wear shoes, they wear "rubba slippas" (rubber flip flops)
- people rarely get dressed up, wear jeans or heels
- it is not uncommon to see cockroaches chillin' in your car
- spiders are ginormous
- people are SUPER friendly
- peanut butter is just as expensive as in Japan
- stores open around 10 am and close around 4:30 or 5 pm
- there are no highways
- all the beaches on this side of the island are volcanic rock
- if you're "kama'aina" (live on the island) you get special discounts
- it's ALL about connections, and everyone pretty much knows everyone
- people actually do the shaka (Hawaiian hand sign) - ALL the time
- sometimes locals speak so much pidgin it's difficult to understand them
- hula is a lot more intense than in looks
- you can drive to the other side of the island in less than 2 hours, and we're on the BIG Island
- beaches are either green sand or black sand (though there are a few small yellow sand beaches on the other side of the island)
- The Big Island is the ghetto of Hawaii, and Hilo is the ghetto of The Big Island
- Panda Express closes at 8 pm
- while driving around the island, you can see all types of "____ Crossing" signs, including mongoose crossing and donkey crossing
- there are no squirrels in Hawaii
- frogs are the loudest creatures on the island
- you can actually see stars! in fact, the island is the world's best stargazing site
- while driving around the island, you can find almost every location from Lord of the Rings
- The Big Island is the world's largest active volcano

Monday, April 23, 2012

E komo mai o Hawaii

my first glimpse of The Big Island 
aloha from Hawaii! i know it's been over two months since i actually arrived in Hawaii... sorry for the delay.

i arrived back in America, aka the Honolulu Airport, around 10 am HST (Hawaii Standard Time). after about an hour layover, we were off to Hilo. ironically, there was a group of Japanese high school students sitting behind me on the plane, so as if the transition from Japan to America wasn't difficult enough, hearing spoken Japanese on my way to my new home made it all the more challenging. about 40 minutes later, we arrived in Hilo, my new home. the airport was  super tiny, my first culture shock after spending time in the Tokyo International Airport, Bangkok International Airport and Seoul International Airport. we were picked up by Kent Matsui, the UH Hilo Cru campus director and driven to our new house, only about a 15 minute drive from the airport. because you see, to get anywhere in Hilo only takes about 15 minutes. drive any farther and you are no longer in Hilo. in fact, if you drive longer than 2 hours, you're in the ocean. and we're on the BIG island. like i said in a previous post, Hilo's population is only about 43,000 people. stores open around 10 am and close around 5 pm. we have a Walmart and Target...and technically two Starbucks, if you count the one in Target.

anyway, when i got to my new house, i was blown away by how big it was. we have 5 bedrooms, a gigantic kitchen with breakfast nook, a living room, dining room, sun room, 2 bathrooms, laundry room, garage...and a backyard and front yard! i could hardly believe how much space we had after being in a tiny Tokyo apartment for 1 1/2 years. my room is twice as big as big as my room in Japan. my housemates had made a sign for my door that said "E komo mai o Hawaii!" which means "Welcome to Hawaii!" and had bought me a few little Hawaiian things. after i'd gotten all my stuff in my room, we headed to Walmart and Target to buy food and things for our new home. it was a bit of a bummer buying futons and tables and chairs and things, knowing that we'd be leaving in just a few months. it was good to have something to do though, because we needed to stay away for the rest of the day so we wouldn't throw off our sleep schedules too much with jet lag. we gained almost an entire day coming from Korea.

the next week i wasn't allowed on campus. my team leaders made me take a mandatory week off to rest, recover and adjust to my new culture, environment, team and ministry. the problem was, i didn't want to process leaving Japan. it was too hard. i busied myself focusing on organizing my room, settling in and figuring out life in Hawaii, but it was too painful to think about how i was no longer in Japan and didn't know when i'd be back. i was thankful for a few days of rest and recovery though- i definitely needed it after such a long and stressful semester by myself in Japan. and Thursday of that week i was actually allowed to go to a joint worship night with the two other Christian groups on campus, BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministries) and InterVarsity. it was exciting to walk onto UH Hilo's campus for the first time and meet students, and of course, pray and worship with brothers and sisters. the next day i went to the beach for the first time- Hilo beaches are pretty much all volcanic rock, but still pretty and relaxing to chill on the rocks and watch the waves. that night we all went to dinner with some of the guys from BCM at Lucy's Taqueria- a really wonderful Mexican food place downtown.

saturday our whole team got together and for 7 hours, we planned our "SPP" or "Strategic Planning Process." our SPP was basically exactly what it sounds like- deciding our vision for ministry and then planning out action steps to make our vision a reality. it was a long day, but we got a lot accomplished!
and there ends my first week in Hawaii! more to come...

one last Asian peace sign picture, plus a shaka

my new room! 
my first time onto the UH Hilo Campus
Joint Worship Night with BCM and Intervarsity
At Lucy's with the BCM men 

Monday, April 2, 2012

One Year Later, Part 2...

one year ago today, my STINT team and i returned to Tokyo after spending two weeks evacuated in Kyoto. those two weeks evacuated were almost as stressful as being in Tokyo, because even though we had time to relax and didn't have too much going on, we never knew when we would be able to go back to Tokyo, if at all. we constantly scoured the internet for news, not only to hear what the Japanese government was broadcasting but also America and Britain, because we wanted to know what the rest of the world was saying. the Japanese government doesn't have the best reputation for keeping their people fully informed, but also CNN and BBC were blowing things a little too over the top, so we needed to know what our friends and families were seeing and hearing. our days were filled with skyping and emailing to worried loved ones back home, updating our supporters, and attempting to plan ministry events we weren't even sure we'd be in the country to actually host. we did get some fun moments- we found a great cafe pretty close to the house we were staying at, and a few of us would go there regularly to sit, drink a latte, read and journal. we got to do some sightseeing, and even some ministry on campuses in Kyoto such as Kyoto University and Doshisha. i spent a day by myself wandering around the Kyoto Imperial Palace. i even got to take a couple capoeira classes. and of course, with 7 of us (the KCCC STINTers had been evacuated to Korea) cooped up in one small Japanese house, we had many bonding moments, such as cooking together, watching movies under the kotatsu, and plucking Mike's eyebrows.

it's weird to look back on those two weeks now. it's hard to believe that was a year ago. those weeks seemed like the longest two weeks of my life, never knowing when we'd be able to go back to Tokyo or if Cru would send us back to America. and now, ironically enough, even though there was no natural disaster this year, Cru DID send me back to America, but to be in Hawaii working with Cru at UH Hilo. it's still hard not to miss Japan. every time i think about my friends, about JCCC, about Waseda University and Odori Samurai and Paddy and Diente FC, my heart aches.

i know i haven't really written much at all about life here in Hawaii (and i will soon, i promise), but as nice as it's been to be back in America with Target and no exchange rate and people who speak English, i still really miss Japan, and in many ways i still feel like i'm starting my STINT year all over again, still getting to know my team, still getting a feel for the campus and's hard to not look back and realize that even though at this time last year, things were so uncertain and unstable; however, i wish with all my heart i could be back there right now.