Finding a Family

(Quick starter note: So, I’m going to change the way I do things on this blog. Instead of trying to post things in order of which they happened aka recapping my time here, I want to break things down into sort of categories and reviews and recommendations. It will make for smaller and more manageable posts for me and concrete ideas/messages to impart on the reader. This post does not fit into this, but is extremely necessary for me. Please note: This post deals only with the people who left Japan/are leaving.)

I made/adopted a family while in Japan.

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It happened as a joke at first. A few friends and I were sitting around a table, making a fruit salad and talking shit and someone (it might have been me but Hell if I remember) said something like “If we were a family who would be who” or something similar. I jokingly said I’d be the mom. At first this kid Tyler was picked to be father until everyone agreed that was illfitting. Disante, whom I officially met two hours prior, was the oldest of those sitting around the table and was elected father. He took on this role immediately and gave his agreement in a deep, anime Father type grunt. Candy and Katie, the other two were elected daughters. Tyler was given the role of my estranged brother.

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We kind of ran with the idea.

I quickly got an older sister in the form of the wonderful and ever gorgeous Katelyn. Disante got a brother in the form of Jay. Disante and I adopted Bo Kyung as our middle child. Somewhere along the line Yuri became the oldest sister and was married to Landon. I think the last proper member was Kohe as our son.

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This post isn’t about the family in the sense that I want to give you a blow by blow of how it panned out. This family was a game, but all of these people became a family away from my family. A home away from home. The game gave way to friendships and fun times and things that felt like they might break and disappear on August 1st when most of the people that made Japan an amazing place to be went home.

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This post is to remind those people that I miss them and to inform you, the reader, that making friends is an important part of studying abroad. It will be filled with pictures that have less to do with Japan and more to do with people I have grown to love.

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I fell in love with Japan because of the people I was able to experience it with. That’s important, I think. Having fun with those people allowed me to really fall for Japan. Had I been on my own left to my own devices or surrounded by people I didn’t get along with, I’m not sure if I would have been able to so quickly enjoy Japan. I sure as heck wouldn’t have gone to as many places so quickly.

Great people make a great place and both together make great memories.

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I can’t talk about everyone so I’m going to focus on a core group. Those that aren’t mentioned–even if they weren’t part of the ‘family’–are still missed and greatly appreciated.

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Katieanne Randloph is the other half of my soul coin and before this trip had become a constant part of my life and family. This trip served in showing me that I could TOTALLY live with her 24/7 and not get sick of her and still have shit to talk about all the time. And it was 24/7. I think there was just 5-6 days that we didn’t sleep together in my room. By the end of the trip, she had basically totally moved in. We spent every minute together. I love her more now than I did before. After the mad dash that was getting her to the airport, I stood outside security until I couldn’t see her anymore and cried. I then proceeded to cry all the way back to the dorm. I still miss her.

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Candy was the first person me and Katie become friends with. She arrived with us and spent the first few days with us constantly. She seemed quiet at first, but turned out to be one of the most entertaining, crazy, and funny people on the entire trip. She is one of the most sincere and honest people I think I’ve ever met. She wore herself on her sleeve proudly and when something kinda sad happened to me, she wrote me the sweetest note and I still am so… thankful for the gesture and kind (FUNNY) words. I miss her dinosaur face and zombie face and her laugh a lot. She had a great laugh.

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Disante of the Johnson variety became the second most common fixture in my room next to Katie. He outlasted 2 of the 3 fishes as well. He was at once on of the most graceful and well spoken people I’ve ever met as well as one of the most clumsy (boy couldn’t hold his own phone…) and silly. His voice impressions were amazing and his listening skills were top notch. The amount me and Katie spoke to him about BS is astounding. The fact that he still wanted to be our friend after it all–unbelievable. He loved movies which was perfect because we watched a lot of those. He was just a lot of fun. And funny. Really funny man. He also wrote a letter that made me cry in a Tomato Cafe Jr. Damn you, Disante.

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Katelyn was… By the end of the trip it felt as if I had known her my whole life. Her, Katie and I could talk about just about anything and send each other into fits of laughter. We bonded over Game of Thrones, relationship/boy troubles, hair, Japananese–hell, she helped with a ton of my homework assignments. She was talented with nail polish, she always looked gorgeous and had stunning, looong legs. By the end of the trip I was giving her relaxing head rubs and playing with her hair and she was the third most common feature in my room.

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After the first week, I don’t think there was a single day that Katie, Disante, and Katelyn didn’t appear in my room.

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There were tons of others. Yuri is one of the most beautiful and impressive people I’ve ever met while at the same time being fun and silly and just an absolute blast to be around. Bo Kyung was one of the cutest people ever. Kohe was the biggest 180 (week 1 – quiet loner. Week 5 – one of the silliest people ever). Tyler was hysterical. Jay was willing to wear a sailor moon Cosplay for a dance which was amazing.

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There are too many. I am thankful for everyone and especially thankful for those that became very close friends. I am thankful that my first month in Japan was as amazing as it was and thankful that it was this group of people I ended up coming to.

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I thought once everyone left, maybe Japan/Fukuoka would lose its magic and I’d find out that everything had been dependent on those people. That isn’t the case. They showed me how fun Japan could be and now that I know that I am actively taking part in enjoying Fukuoka for myself and potentially help others see how amazing it is.

Long live the family and memories!

Until next time, みなさん!image

South Africa, Botswana, Cyprus and Greece (Say What?!)

What do the places in the title of this post have to do with each other? Two are on the same continent, so that is sort of a connection, but the other two are European and are heavily populated by olive skinned people who speak Greek. They have different climates and histories. What is the common thread that ties them together for the purpose of this post?

Me.

I have been to all four places.

I figured it was about time to share my previous travel experience. I haven’t traveled extensively and though I’ve been out of the country, I’ve only been to one other state besides the one I live in. So I wouldn’t call myself well traveled. Lucky, yes. Well traveled? No.

I’m lucky because I’m connected to all four places in some pretty substantial ways that have allowed me to visit them. Let’s start with the place I was born and have visited the most:

South Africa

I was born in SA and lived there until I was about five. I’ve gone back three times to visit family and I absolutely love it. South Africa feels like home to me in such a strange and integral way. It’s not about the buildings or even the people (even though my family in SA is amazing and I love them so much). There is something about South Africa itself that makes me feel like I’ve come home. It’s the smell. It’s the red dirt. It’s the sounds. Its the hills and kopjes. I don’t know. I just love it. It is so beautiful and I miss it all the time.

The house i spent the first five years of my life in.

Now let’s go to something slightly similar:

Botswana

Botswana might be the most off the beat and track place I’ve been. As mentioned before, I work for a safari company and so does my mother. When I was turning sixteen, my mom planned a trip to SA to visit family and was going to take me for my birthday. Work decided that if my mom was going all the way to Africa she might as well check out some properties. These properties just so happened to be in Botswana and I got to go with. I was on safari for a grand total of four nights and they are four of the most amazing nights of my life.

Botswana was incredible. So much open space and wilderness and so few humans or anything I had grown so attached to up to that point (IE: laptop, cell phone, internet). The camps we stayed in were spectacular, but the scenery and wildlife were the truly breathtaking aspects. I took nearly two thousand photos in those four days.

Me in a Makoro

Botswana felt like an integral part of who I was as a human being and while I was there I felt like I was connected to rest of the world and universe for the first time. It wasn’t about being home or feeling like I was home like South Africa. It was feeling like I was suddenly connected to nature and I loved it. I cried like a baby when I had to leave Botswana. I had decided I was going to live there for the rest of my life. My mother had other ideas… Like finishing high school and going to college. Oh Mom.

Me in the copilot seat of a tiny little airplane!

Greece

I’m Greek. My family is Greek. My uncle lives in Greece. I’ve been twice to visit him, but both times were very short (a few days each time, if I’m not mistaken). I saw the Parthenon and ate yummy food and went to a beautiful beach.

Me and my sibs outside the Acropolis.

Cyprus

So, my family is Greek but (plot twist) we are Cypriot Greeks. Yes, indeed, my family comes from the small Mediterranean island that is half Turkish, half Greek. My grandparents (both sets) live there and it is where my mother was born.

I’ve been all over the Greek part of Cyprus. My one set of grandparents lives in Limasol, my cousin lived in Nicosia, we visited Pafos and Platres in the mountains and traveled along the coast to different beaches. I saw the place where Aphrodite is thought to have emerged from the ocean. I spent most of my time in Cyprus in Limasol but overall I got to see some really beautiful places!

Cyprus was also the country that made me realize I am not cut out for city life and I would rather live in the countryside surrounded by farmland and mountains.

Me and the Fam at Cape Greco

Cape Greco and my sis

So those are the places I have traveled! None of them are anything like Japan and I went to all these places with family that guided me and translated where necessary. Going to Japan I’ll be on my own most of the time. I’ve never been on my own. This is going to be intensely exciting.