A couple of you have asked me about my host-mom. I had posted about this previously, but I want to talk about this a little more in depth.
Way back when I was a university student majoring in Japanese, a conversation teacher told me to change my major in my 3rd year because I would never be able to speak Japanese (I think I could really tell her a thing or two now...)
Anyway, fortunately for me, that same year, my university joined up with an exchange program with a university on the continental U.S. (by the way, we call the continental U.S.--"the mainland"). It was the first time for my university and the students chosen would be the "charter students". I took my chances and applied. One of the things we had to do to apply was write an essay as to why we should be chosen. I don't really remember what I wrote (although if I dig through my belongings, I know I still have it) but I was chosen!
Eight of us, from different majors and different parts of Hawaii, were sent along with 22 others from mainland colleges.
It was the best year ever! Not only did I get to immerse myself into Japan--the culture, and language, but I got to meet new friends and learn about "college life" (I never drank until my study abroad...)
Everyone was paired up with a family that best matched their family structure at home. My family was really kind, they sent me a letter welcoming me to their family, along with some rules of their home.
After arriving in Japan, we were all taken to a ryokan (Japanese Inn), where we were allowed to get to know one another, take some tests to see what classes we qualified for, as well as be briefed on how we should introduce ourselves.
We had to get up on a stage in front of EVERYONE with our host-moms and introduce them to everyone. Talk about being nervous, especially since I didn't like speaking in front of a crowd. But, I got through the introductions and then everyone went their separate ways with their respective families.
My host-mom was very kind and patient. She spoke slowly and always smiled. The first thing she told me was "don't worry about grammar, just speak". This really put me at ease. And although a lot of times I didn't know the right word for things, somehow we were able to communicate.
The first time I had to go to school, I remember she rode the bus and train with me, just to make sure that I made it. And anytime I had to go somewhere, she always drew me maps or wrote things out for me, so that I could at least ask someone when I got near the destination.
I was very fortunate to have a kind and patient family. Some other students were not so lucky. After the program ended, we kept in touch, writing letters and then sending email. I would go to visit them but they always said that they would only come to Hawaii when I got married.
In 1997, when my host-sister got married, they invited me and treated me like part of their family. Then in 2000, they were able to come to Hawaii to attend our wedding, and at our 2nd wedding reception, my host-father helped with the greetings in Japanese (since my father can't speak Japanese). And when my host-brother married in 2001, Satoshi and I were again treated like part of the family.
I am very lucky to have 3 moms (my mom, mother-in-law and my host-mom), 3 dads (my dad, father-in-law and my host-dad) and a whole lot of brothers and sisters!
If it were not for my host-family, I definitely would not be able to speak Japanese. They made my year in Japan a very memorable one, which still seems like yesterday sometimes.