Mito Diaries #1: My Host Family
Welcome to my diary! These writings will contain excerpts (edited to provide context and clarity) from a diary that I kept during my student exchange life in Mito, Ibaraki
This is my attempt at sharing the lessons I’ve learnt, the mistakes I’ve made, and the memories I’ve created.
First Encounter: March 22nd, 2014
"What if they don’t like me?"
"Gosh, I can’t even speak proper Japanese, how am I going to survive this?"
These thoughts flooded my head as I sat in the bus contemplating my life for the next ten months. Needless to say, I was nervous... very nervous. The bus came to a halt and I got out obediently.
Then, I saw them.
There was a Japanese woman holding a sign that read "AFS" (AFS was the student exchange program coordinator), and a couple standing behind her. I hurriedly walked to her, and we exchanged a short conversation in English. Then, she introduced me to the couple who would soon be my parents.
After a short handshake and an awkward attempt at introducing myself in Japanese, it was time for me to see my new "home".
Okay, it’s official.
My host mum brought out mini plates and cut out a piece of matcha roll cake for me and the lady from AFS. As the two of them talked over school arrangements, money matters, rules and whatnot, I was busy stuffing myself with the cake. It was really good.
That day, I was handed my uniform for high school, which included indoor and outdoor shoes, and a Japanese flip phone. They also explained the house rules to me. These are the ones I remember:
- Curfew is at 7:00PM
- Don’t fold up your skirt to make it shorter because it is against school rules
- If you’re hungry, say so. We don’t want you to starve
Yup, the third rule was my favorite.
First Mistake: April 19th, 2014
Our class had an educational trip to Ibaraki University to check out the science exhibition. Some classmates wanted to hangout at Mito station after. I was fairly new to the school (only a month had passed), and naturally, I wanted to spend time with them and to hopefully make some friends. So, I texted my host mum and honestly thought that I had been given permission to be out until 7:30PM.
At 7:00PM, I got a call from my host mum who demanded my whereabouts. I could tell she was furious. I apologized to my classmates and basically ran home (Thank God the house was only 7 minutes away from the station).
- "Tadaima..." I quietly said as I entered the house.
I felt an air of tension in the room. My host dad was watching TV, and my host mum was preparing dinner. The only sounds that could be heard came from the TV and the chopping of vegetables. No one said a word.
- "Gomen-nasai" My voice was small and squeaky.
A sense of guilt and confusion washed over me. My host mum turned around to face me, and she started expressing the reasons as to why the curfew was necessary, how dangerous it is for a girl to walk in the streets after working hours, and so on.
To be honest, at that time, I only half understood what she said. My Japanese skill wasn’t there yet. So, I mostly nodded and hoped that it would end soon.
Deep down, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted these restrictions in my life. They were not even my real parents, yet they had more rules than my own parents.
I went to bed that night wondering if I made a mistake in coming to Japan in the first place...
My Thoughts: The Present
It took me awhile to see it, but I did. I finally understood that their rules were there for my sake. I saw that they truly cared about me.
They would buy me small gifts now and then, bring me on family vacations, treat me to amazing food, and so on.
They treated me like their own daughter.
I always tell people that the best part of my whole student exchange life was my host parents. I had my best memories with them. I am grateful for their rules, and happy to live with them.
P.S. I gained 5kg after the exchange program, because well... house rule #3.
Thank you for reading! There will be follow-up articles on this soon.
If you enjoyed this article, please like it, and I’ll produce more content like this.
Comment below if you have any questions, and I’ll be sure to get back to you.
Stay tuned for Mito Diaries #2: Japanese High School Life.
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