About half a year has passed since the earthquake happened. Everything has started to become normal again, and the mess caused by the tsunami in affected areas mostly cleared up, though there are still shipwrecked ships and empty areas where destroyed houses used to stand. Only the roads, surviving buildings, and some trees, tells us where everything was. Electricity is gradually returning back to normal, though some energy conservation measures implemented since the earthquake are still visibly in place. Sadly, it seems as if the world has stopped caring about the incident itself.
There have been small earthquakes since then that were more frequent than usual, which might be possibly be and aftershock of an aftershock. There was a typhoon that nearly threatened to hit the already-damaged nuclear plant and scatter its radiation just recently, but it became weak enough to be not much of a threat when it arrived.
Some boys in school have started to talk to me often since the start of the academic year than over the previous year, and I sometimes find myself walking with them to train stations. I don’t really see them as friends as they never come across my mind, but they are talking to me as if we are. To me honest, my mind is still filled with Tatsuya. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just too depressed to notice that I am surrounded by friends that care about me.
These days, my brother doesn’t even want to head home together with me. This is partly because he wants to hang out with his friends, and another being that he is in third year of high school and is preparing to enter university. His current grades allows him to enter any average college, but he’s aiming for a better one. Even he, like everyone else, wants to enter the top universities in Tokyo. So there’s stiff competition there, not only from our school, but the whole county. Chances may seem slim, but he says that if he doesn’t even try, there isn’t any! At best, at least one that is not the top, but still rated above-average.
Being in the later half of high school second year, this means that excursions would be taking place soon, as the third year is mainly focused on studying for college entrance examinations from around this time of the year until before the exams itself. I also doubt that such things would even happen in college or working life, at least with a large group and not have pay most (or all) of the cost with my own money.
The excursion trip usually brings us to somewhere with all the second years. The committee behind organizing it has been indecisive on choosing between local (Kyoto in particular) and overseas: some argued about knowing “our” culture, and experiencing what it’s like to be in a foreign country as almost everyone has never been out of the country before. Since the effects of the earthquake is still being felt with disruptions, and the value of the yen is getting stronger against many currencies, the overseas option was chosen. (Sadly, it’s not to Europe or America as everyone was hoping.)
The cost of things at the current exchange rate seem as though everything outside of my country is cheaper, with the exception of the ones made here being sold there. I feel strange seeing things from my country at a place overseas. According to my brother who claimed to have overhead the committee behind it, the country we would be headed to would have expenses, in our currency, be at least two to four times cheaper. I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, but I do know that the school had already used quite an amount of the school funds to help out students and parents of students who were directly affected by the earthquake.
Barely a day after the school announced the initial plans, an anonymous sponsor approached to help finance a large majority of the costs involved and allowed the school to pick a better place to visit and stay using the sponsor’s money entirely. There are rumours that the person helping out doesn’t want the money they have, which seems quite a lot. This has allowed the school to upgrade to a better place, though they said that since we “already had a lot of exposure of western countries”, they picked another country that is in the same region as the initial choice, though the standard of living there is closer to ours.
Except for those who chose not to go for the trip, we were told about what to pack, the necessary documents to prepare, and changing some money of the currency there. Everyone was amazed with the money from how colourful it was and most of them never had a hold of a currency besides the yen before that they are most used to. It appears that some of my classmates have been to overseas before, but only with their family.
The school told us some things that almost caught us off-guard: we would also need to get an adaptor for electrical devices to fit into the wall socket there and check if it supports a voltage used there, which is different from the one here. We were also told that, except for some particular models, our mobile phones might not work. Even if it does work, steep fees might be faced. They suggested getting a prepaid card with a compatible phone there, use pay-phones (if there is anyone who could be called on top of being uncommon these days), or use online services.
The day of the school trip has come. Unexpectedly, a girl in a uniform of the college at Mizuho Academy was seen together with the teachers. On her name tag, “羽田 奏” was written, which tells us that her name is Haneda Kanade. Her uniform looks almost like a formal business outfit, but in a different colour and texture. Not sure if the shoes and stockings she’s wearing are part of it too.
[Author’s note: Students of Japanese schools wear their school uniform during school excursions, including overseas trips.]
She’s might be attracting attention when we are over there. I don’t know why a girl from that elite school came along for. Her uniform alone stands out from those from my school, and I have this odd feeling that I’ve seen her more than once before. Except for what students aren’t allowed to wear, with more specifics for the course they take, students of normal colleges could wear practically anything while studying there, but the college at Mizuho is the only one I know of that actually has a standardized uniform like those in middle and high schools. What is she doing here with us anyway? Kobayagawa High has no relations with Mizuho Academy at all.
When the plane took off from the ground, it felt like I was riding a roller coaster, but in an enclosed space and infinitely going up without ever heading down. My ears felt funny too.
The duration of the flight takes just as long from the start to the end of a school day to get to, according to the flight info. Since I’m mostly confined to my seat since boarding it, my body has started to feel funny. I have my friends around to kill my boredom, but I’m not the kind of person who likes to sit in a chair the whole time.
On landing, the first thing I noticed are that the license plates of vehicles are completely different, but the ads on the bridge that links the plane to the terminal is from the very same bank as where we left! I don’t feel any different from being in a foreign land, but seeing things that I’m used to, but in a different style, feels as if I am looking at a new thing I’ve never used before.
Being in a foreign land and how things here work and look are different. Wait… Doesn’t that make me a foreigner here?