The night leading up to the night at which I departed was quite honestly one of the most stressful nights I had ever gone through. My thoughts were as much a mess as the two suitcases, carry-on backpack, and camera bag that I would be taking with me. My abuela asked if I had forgot anything as I exited my home for the rest of the month, and I figured that if I did forget anything, it was most likely not worth taking with me. As I raced down the I-94 freeway towards the airport, I realized I had left something behind that I could not risk leaving to Japan without. I tell this story to show how truly uncoordinated and disorganized I am, and not just in this moment but in most waking moments throughout my life.

My trip that spanned over 6,400 miles and 19 hours showed how much these qualities about myself would prove to pay a factor over the course of my trip. I lack room as is on the plane, but my large backpack proved to be quite troublesome and made my flight much more uncomfortable than I should have been. Navigating the streets of Tokyo are already troublesome for someone with little Japanese language knowledge, but this process proved to also be physically straining as I struggled to lug around my suitcases. I can only owe my arrival to Sakura Hotel-Nippori to a fellow traveler and a kind local woman who sensed our confusion as we exited the train station.

Despite my initial troubles, I would not let this trip be a repeat of my previous study abroad experience, in which I did not take full advantage of the opportunity that I had worked so hard for. From the first night there, I did my absolute best to be as open as much I was comfortable with being. I feel as if this continued effort has carried well into my time into Japan, and because of it, I have been able to do so many different things that I would have never volunteered myself for, for fear of separating from the things I had grown used to. The best thing about it was that I was able to remain comfortable in this new-found level of uncomfortability. In Ishinomaki, my home for the next 3 weeks, I did my best to continue with the same patterns, trying new foods and volunteering for more hikes and walks that I knew my body would hate me for later. The people of Ishinomaki have made this process far more easier than I would have ever anticipated because of their warmness and willingness to do something as simple as greeting a complete stranger, both to them and their home country, This level of humanity was unprecedented considering the fact that it rarely ever happened in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

One of these experiences that I took full advantage of happened this past Sunday, May 20th, as a friend and I embarked on a hike across the bridge. Our intended location was a trail that we had not explored the last time I had been in the mountains. What seemed like an easier way up proved to be something that was still quite a trouble for the both of us. From the onset of the trip, I knew that I would have to do my best to find the positivity in the day despite the physical strain that came with this endeavor. This was honestly no trouble at all because the trail that seemed like it would just take us to the middle of nowhere, lead to two beautiful clearings that allowed for quite scenic views and a much needed break from the our travel. As we continued along the path, we were greeted with fun things to do like slides, playgrounds, and sledding. The latter proved to be the biggest obstacle of the day because as I embarked on my 5th trip down a seemingly familiar slope, I lost control of the sled and myself as I tumbled halfway down, eventually ended up with sensitive hands and a leg that was so badly skinned, I could not bare to look at it. Still, I pushed on and had so much fun and laughs that I could not feel anything but the peace that was so very welcomed after a long few days. I sure felt it the next few days, but the way I see it, it is only a reminder of my time here.

I will not say that my comfortability was solely my own doing, because it was not. The group of people that are on this trip are nothing short of remarkable, and have been there to support me at almost every step of the way. The most glaring showing of this is exemplified through my injury and the amount of check-ins that I have received makes me feel very cared for. Group leaders have helped me navigate the city and the language barrier to ensure that I was cared for. I have been able to find my footing in a way that I have not quite known before, leading me to believe that I coordinated in an unfamiliar place.

One Reply to “Uncoordination”

  1. Malik, this is a lovely story of how you became comfortable in an unknown place with a different language and culture – comfort you found through your own resolution and a little help from your (new) friends. It speaks to a common humanity among cultures and people. But I still want to know what you left behind as you raced to Detroit Metro…

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