Hey squad. Today I wanted to do a quick rundown of some things that happened at Keio Plaza that completely blindsided me. As is life, there are negatives, there are positives but most importantly there are life lessons.
1) We’re not all friends here
Having chatted to and met a few of the JETs before jetting off to Tokyo, I had already managed to make a few connections with my fellow South African’s. This ease of connecting really helped me to convince myself that everything would be fine. I was definitely about to meet even more amazing people on this journey!
Well, it’s safe to say that squarely into day two of the training events at the hotel my bubble got burst violently. It’s not that everyone was mean or anything, oh no, don’t get me wrong, everyone was lovely in their own special way, but it was pretty clear to see that there were barriers up in some cases while working the room. Most people came with a set idea of the kind of friends they’d like to make, and if you didn’t meet that criteria then meh, they’d trash it!
Some came to meet their fellow countrymen, others came to meet people from specific places in the world, others came to find others with a common interest and the list goes on. Unfortunate as I always find that difference makes for the most interesting connections.
2) But you could still end up finding your soulmates
If you are willing to look past what makes us the same, be it hobbies or home countries, there are really deeper connections to be made. I guess that’s the beautiful appeal of a programme like JET. I came across a few gems that I’m happy to say I hope to do life within the near future. So yeah, not everyone is your friend, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to find your people.
3) Also, breathing is hard
With temperatures above 30 degrees and humidity flying around the 60% region, it can take its toll on your body very quickly. Day two of the conference showed me flames in this regard and I found myself needing a moment to just breathe. So I stumbled out of the hotel, with 5 minutes or so before my next morning session and just stood on the sidewalk. The air was thick, the bell lady looked concerned, but all I wanted was a few gulps of real air, not the artificial cooled type from inside the hotel. Standing there at midday in heatwave Tokyo helped me to land back in my body and keep pushing through the rest of the day. So when you need to, take that moment, it’s okay to not be okay, most people there aren’t.
4) Best explore Tokyo by night
Leading up to Tokyo orientation I tried to read up on other people’s experience of the event and what they recommended for sightseeing. You see in my head because my actual base town is so far from Tokyo, I have made peace with the fact that I might not get to see the capital city again until I leave for home. So having spent some time on the internet and made a list of things that would be interesting to do, when it came time to go out and about, I found that going with the flow of the city was better than any pre-prepped plan I could have come up with.
During the day when the sun is scorching, it’s probably better to stick to a pre-planned route to avoid heatstroke but at night, the city kind of ushers you along and it’s really cool to be present where you are, wherever that may be .
5) Get ready for another round of goodbyes
Having spent a whirlwind of a week with amazing people in one of the most amazing settings, this next bit of the journey might hit you like a ton of bricks. When I said goodbye to my family at OR Tambo International airport back in Johannesburg, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t need to feel that feeling of loss again anytime soon. Boy was I wrong. I packed my bags and sat down for a final breakfast with one of my new friends on our last day at Keio Plaza with a heavy heart. It might be the psychology of shared trauma or maybe even shared background, but in that moment, I was back at OR Tambo again, waving my last goodbyes through the international boarding gate window, my heart in my throat, my tears clinging for dear life on the inside of my eyelids. Sad for the loss, but excited for what’s to come.