Hare experiences life in Japan

Hare experiences life in Japan

Much to my surprise, Ramen noodles are a real food. And to think I held them in the non-food category. Like Little Debbie Snack Cakes and January tomatoes, I figured there was a faux food farm in Texas that churned out synthetic edibles like politicians make promises.

Yes, Ramen is a real thing; just ask Bailey Hare, ISU student and, this past summer, a ten-week resident of Japan. Hare – unlike many college students who take the summer off – took the past two and a half months to learn about another culture while performing her summer job as a lifeguard.

bailey_ramen

Hare participated in the trip through Camp Adventure USA, a program run by the University of Northern Iowa that sends American college students to American military bases, embassies and British Military installations throughout the world. Camp Adventures selected Japan as her destination.

“I am much more open-minded about food now,” said Hare, who visited ten cities in Japan. “Ramen is made differently in every city I visited. My favorite was pork ramen that I ate in Fukuoka.” Hare shows me a picture of the plate and, unlike its American counterpart, it has long, straight noodles and has meat as a good portion of the dish.

Hare lived on a naval military base in Iwakuni, a city on the southern coast. At the military base, she conducted swim lessons for the children of military personnel. “I did have one Japanese student who did not speak English,” said Hare. “Through the demonstrations of the strokes and repetition, she learned just as well as the American students and moved on to the next level.”

Hare took full advantage of free time to travel the country, visiting Tokyo, Fukuyama, Onomichi, Tomonura, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka, Harajuku, and Miyajima. “I will never forget what climbing Mt. Fuji felt like. I bought a hiking stick, so I could get a stamp on it at every station on the mountain.

bailey_fuji

“We started out in the pouring rain at 10 o’clock. At the very top, it was like standing next to a tornado. I was standing above the clouds, so I couldn’t see anything beneath them. Nothing felt real. On the way back down, it had stopped raining, so the views were even better with the grass, hills, clouds, and city in the background. It took me a total of five hours.”

Hare stayed in hostels or resident’s home or apartments they were renting out to visitors. “We slept in bunk beds with up to eight people in the same room or on mats while traveling. One place didn’t have air conditioning or doors; a sheet covered the doorway, and it was around 80 degrees at night.”

Aside from her openness to new foods and sometimes tedious sleeping arrangements, Hare was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the people. “The people in Japan are great, friendly people. One man paid for our taxi, another lady gave us a ride to the beach, and a man helped us navigate through the train station in Kyoto. My Japanese coworkers would take us out to eat and even got me a birthday present.”

She did find that traveling could be frustrating at times. “We didn’t have Wi-Fi unless we were at a train station, a hostel, or a convenience store, so we had to look up directions before we left base. If we didn’t, a few people who didn’t speak English would still try to help us by using maps and pointing directions.

bailey_kintai_bridge

“Ordering food was hard when they didn’t have English menus or pictures of things, so we just went in blind and picked something! I learned little Japanese… only the words like sorry, thank you, and excuse me. Coworkers taught me how to count to ten in Japanese which helped when we were ordering food. We lost our maps, and missed our trains, but I made the best out of every experience.”

Hare also attended a Japanese baseball game with a friend.. “We met ladies at the Carps baseball game that taught us the chants and gave us balloons to release during the 7th inning stretch. In Japan the cheer for their team by banging miniature bats together, and they gave us those too. We had so much fun!”

bailey_ball_game

Hare’s experience is one she won’t likely forget anytime soon. “My advice to people is to travel if you can. It’s such a life-changing experience. It wasn’t rare for other people to go out of their way to help us. I can’t think of a time that I’ve ever done that. One man told me he wanted to repay all the people who helped him in America by helping us. I want to do that same. I’m grateful for all the people, memories, and unforgettable experiences in Japan.”

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