Another thing that’s pretty common in Japan is for companies to give their employees one week off in the summer for the Obon festival. Obon is the festival of the dead, where spirits of dead ancestors are supposed to return to the family altars. There are usually city festivals with dancing and food. Anyway, I had Obon week off, so my grandmother, who is Japanese, decided to come visit me and her family during this week. We traveled to all sorts of places together.
The first place we went was Kinugawa, which is a river up in the mountains. We took a boat ride to see the scenery:
Next we went to Hunter Mountain, which is a ski resort in Tochigi prefecture that is covered with Lilies in the summer:
Hunter mountain was really awesome. The flowers were beautiful and there were more dragonflies than I had ever seen.
Another interesting thing we did was eat a type of noodle that I’ve forgotten the name of. These noodles were served to us by placing them in a basin of water that ran in a circle continuously. To eat the noodles you had to catch them with your chopsticks.
It was quite odd, but a fun way to eat cold noodles on a hot summer day.
Next we took a trip to Kaurizawa, which is a famous vacation spot for Tokyo residents. It’s up in the mountains, is typically cooler than Tokyo in the summer, and has beautiful scenery.
This is me in front of a crater created by a dormant volcano.
This is Kaurizawa’s famous waterfall.
Our final trip was to Nikko, which is probably the most popular tourist spot near Tokyo. It has a famous temple and is also the burying place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the most famous shoguns of Japan.
Nikko is also home to another beautiful waterfall:
Starting college can be a big transition. You’re moving to a new place, starting a new school and classes, and faced with making new friends in an unfamiliar environment. And, of course, there’s that whole “becoming an adult” thing. But, you’re also leaving a lot behind. Every new beginning means that an old chapter must come to an end. Leaving behind our friends at home may seem difficult, especially if they’re going to be a long distance away from you during the school year. Something I made sure to do was to spend a lot of time with them during the summer after high school. Of course, going to college doesn’t mean you’ll never see your friends again, or that you will no longer be friends with them. Good friendships will last if you put effort into them. It may seem hard initially. Coming into Caltech, it’s a sharp adjustment and many are caught up in the excitement of Orientation, Rotation, and starting classes. It may be hard to remember to check your phone frequently and to make time for phone calls and such. Rest assured that if you have other friends going to college, they’re probably going to go through similar things you will. In this transition period, it can feel like you’re going to immediately lose touch with people that mean a lot to you.
Let’s face it: the US loves being just a little different from everyone else. The obvious example? Units of measurement. As an international student from Canada, even I have no clue what’s going on half the time when my friends talk to me and use these weird nonsensical units. And I’ve literally lived on the border between Canada and the States for all my life. After a year here, I’ve finally got a sense of how the two systems of measurement compare and how you can more easily get your bearings with these weird units.
After a year spent in “soft-lockdown” at home in Atlanta, and as Caltech students prepared to finally return to campus, I was aboard an eight hour flight towards Edinburgh, Scotland. Since my junior year plans were interrupted by the virus who shall not be named, I’m spending my first term of senior year studying abroad through the Caltech - Edinburgh University International Exchange program. I’ve only been here just over a week yet have been exposed to so many new people, perspectives, foods, and classes.
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!