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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Asia (02/26/09)

TITLE: Nostalgia
By remi oyeyemi


I remember with fondness my experience in 2002 when I received my MSc in Environmental Protection. I had wanted that degree so much I saved up every thing I could. I was so determined that I applied to several schools and for every scholarship I could find. July 7, 2002 I got a mail from the Michiko University, Tokyo to study Environmental Protection. I was so excited. I told my parents and siblings. We all got on our knees and thanked the Lord for Big favours.
While we were praying, my little sister tugged at my sleeve. I shrugged her off wanting to really focus on giving thanks but she wouldn’t budge. I leaned over and she whispered into my ear, “This Japanese school, do they speak English, I mean teach in English?” At that moment I felt the proverbial light bulb go on in my head. I considered it for a moment but discarded the doubt, after all I had been communicating with the representative through mail and the medium was English.

Four months later I was unpacking my bags in my apartment in the Michiko Women’s Hostel. My new roommate was a shy Japanese girl, Kiu Mun. She offered to show me around the first week. I learnt relevant vocabulary for buying meat and fruits at the market, hailing a cab, and appreciating my lecturers’ efforts. As expected, I got into trouble a few times with the wrong words. Like when I wanted to tell the attendant the meat smelt spicy, I ended up convincing every one on the queue her breath was bad.
I remember another time when I hailed a cab, I couldn’t for the life of me remember the word for University, I had had a stressful day gathering field data and I wanted to just grab a bite and crash. I ended up at the museum as my cab driver couldn’t make sense of my descriptions. And unexpected day out it was.

I spent a few weeks going to the less urbanized areas, meeting with the locals and getting information about their environment and the activities they engaged in. I needed someone to translate for me as I couldn’t get through it alone. The locals did more than assist my course work; they treated me to tasty cuisine I didn’t know existed in the world. I downed the popular Ramen noodles in its various forms: Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce flavoured soup), Tonkotsu Ramen (pork bone soup) just to mention a few. I cleared a full plate of sushi rice in the home the leader of one of the Kamikawa districts. I felt very much like Oliver twist on that night. His wife was gracious enough to oblige my request for another plate.

Almost every where I went people stared, the little children hid behind their mothers giggling all the way. No doubt they were probably not used to seeing a single Black woman in their municipality.
The whole year was so much fun for me. I got out of bed most times and didn’t return until late, especially on weekends. I wanted to see and experience the best of Japan.

The best part, undeniably, was my stint at the Community Church as a volunteer. The youth group in church usually gathered on the last Sunday of every month to visit the needy and the orphans. We took them food clothes, toys books and so much more. It felt good to give back. I learnt more Japanese, made more friends and wait for this, Fell in Love. I couldn’t believe it. I was far away from home and had fallen in love with a cute Japanese Guy. My father would probably have a heart attack. He was the youth Group Physician, always attended to the people, checking their general health and well being. He was in internship in the university where I was studying. We spent a lot of time together. Studying, volunteering and sightseeing.
Akihiko Cho. His name means Bright Prince. He had a Christian name though, James.

Well, I fell in Love, but not for too long. I had to leave, go back home. He had his practice, so he had to stay. It was pretty sad.
I got my degree though, in Distinction. Haven’t been anywhere near Japan for years. I aim to go back someday. Someday…

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This article has been read 413 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mary McLeary03/07/09
Your voice in this story is very upbeat and youthful. You did a nice job of reflecting a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I enjoyed it.
Sara Harricharan 03/07/09
Lovely! I really enjoyed reading this, I felt as if I were right there, enjoying this whole, delightful trip. Is this a true story? It certainly reads like one! Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful experience!
Karlene Jacobsen03/07/09
This was fun. I especially liked the parts when the language barriers brought about different outcomes than your MC hoped for, and through her time and experiences she learned Japanese.
Well done.
Deborah Porter 03/13/09
Hi Remi. Just wanted to leave a quick note to let you know your entry, "Nostalgia," actually did very well in the Asia Challenge. Although you didn't receive an award, you made it into the Highest Rankings for Level 1, placing 9th in that Level. Competition in Level 1 is always very intense, so well done.

If you'd like to check the highest rankings for yourself, you can find them here:

The highest rankings are posted every Thursday evening on the Message Boards.

You definitely deserve a pat on the back. Well done. With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)