This post’s title has a double meaning (English teachers love double meanings).
The first is that the tone of my trip to Asia has taken a 180 degree turn from what it has been so far. Think about it: one day my life is flip flops and ponytails, watching the nightlife of Seoul with my cousin at 1 AM while eating Captain Crunch and discussing very deep topics such as which Leonardo DiCaprio movie is the best (a toss up between Titanic and Catch Me If You Can, obviously). Then, suddenly, BOOM – life is high heels and dresses, and I’m in a board room at the US Embassy discussing foreign policy with Ambassador Caroline Kennedy (yes, THE Caroline Kennedy. JFK’s daughter). I mean, both experiences are awesome and my-life-is-so-cool-right-now moments, but they’re so wildly different that’s it’s laughable. My brain is a little jarred by the complete turnaround.
Today was my first full day of the Keizai Koho fellowship program. The other teachers seem really awesome, and I think we’re going to have a great time. This morning we started with breakfast at the hotel. The view was amazing – we overlooked the imperial palace. The hotel has a “western breakfast” section, which is supposed to be American(ish), but they served weird things like broccoli and salad. I don’t usually have broccoli for breakfast, but it was good! At least I knew what it was, which doesn’t happen often in this country. A recognizable food any time of day is a good thing.
We had meetings this morning, and we got to talk to a journalist who’s been covering education policy in Japan for the past fifteen years. I took pages of notes. He had an interpreter speaking quietly into a microphone as he talked, and we had headsets that allowed us to hear what she said. It was pretty fabulous.
After our meeting with the journalist, we went to the US Embassy. This is where we met Ambassador Kennedy and also a public relations guy named Jeff. I was quite a bit intimidated (wouldn’t you be?!), so I didn’t ask many questions. Now I wish I would have. I couldn’t take any pictures in the embassy, as all of our phones and cameras were taken before we went inside.
After a morning/afternoon of hard work, we took a break and did some sightseeing. We saw Tokyo’s most famous temple and did some shopping. I bought a kimono, and it’s so beautiful that I want to wear it every day for the rest of my life. Except I probably won’t do that. We also got some ice cream, and I took a selfie with the guys who were with me. They are (from right to left), Peter, who ordered sesame seed ice cream, me, who ordered kiwi chia ice cream, Jay, who ordered purple potato ice cream, and Dan, who ordered chocolate ice cream. You can bet we gave him a lot of flak for coming all the way to Tokyo and then ordering CHOCOLATE ice cream. How boring. He liked it, though, so whatever. Kiwi chia was pretty good too.
This evening, we went to dinner at a fancy hotel. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting a private room on the twenty-seventh floor with an eight course meal and 180 degree views of Tokyo (see? There’s that double meaning). On the first course I made the mistake of asking what we were eating (answer: jellyfish). Then I learned to eat the food first and ask questions later. That way, when I ate weird foods such as duck skin (which was another course), I didn’t know about it until afterward. I’ve decided this is going to be my policy for the rest of the trip. The views made up for the weird foods, so I’m calling the experience a success. I really like the last picture in this series, as it shows our group’s reflection in the window after the sun had set on Tokyo.
Now I’m exhausted from the excitement of the day. I actually don’t even know what’s on the itinerary for tomorrow, and I’m too tired to go look in my folder. You’ll have to wait and find out. Sayonara!