Winter Break 2017 Recap

In case it wasn't already painfully obvious from the last two posts, this winter vacation has been anything but a vacation. From being denied entry to Malaysia, to our AirBnB from hell, to my poor sister being sick for more than half the time, things definitely could have been better.

But that's not to say that it wasn't enjoyable. Quite the contrary, actually. Despite things not going exactly as planned, it was still a good time! And while it would be hard to get into every detail, here are some highlights:


Fun Times with Old Friends

During high school I was part of a leadership/service club for the gifted and talented (what a nerd, right?), and one of our main activities every year was a five-day leadership camp on the Big Island of Hawaii, which included things like hiking, team-building activities, and seminars led by alumni and special guests. During my Sophomore year, one of our special guests was a woman from Japan who brought her teenage daughter, Hanako, with her. Hanako and I quickly bonded over our pop culture interests and have stayed in pretty constant contact ever since.

In the eight years since then, though, I've seen her only once - the last time I was in Japan studying abroad. So you can bet we made it a point to set up a play date while my sister and I were in Tokyo! We met for lunch, and it was like we just saw each other last week. Conversation came easy, and thanks to keeping up on social media, we never ran out of things to talk about. 

New Years with My Two Sisters

Although I only have one biological sister, I also have an entire network of non-related sisters thanks to being in a sorority in college (Pi Beta Phi, in case you were wondering). One of these other sisters (my big, in fact!) lives in Tokyo and invited us to spend New Years Eve with her. She cooked us ozôni (a traditional Japanese soup eaten around the New Year), and we watched Kôhaku Uta Gassen, a nationally televised song contest between the most prominent male and female musicians held every New Years Eve.

It was quiet and calm and unlike our normal New Years Eve festivities, which include several large family gatherings and lots of firecrackers, but enjoyable nonetheless. 

Playing Host in Hyogo

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One of my only regrets about our original plans was that my sister wouldn't be able to visit the area that I live in. I wanted to show her my home and how beautiful my area was and share as much of my experience living here with her as possible. Well, not being able to go to Malaysia freed up four whole days, which was plenty of time to take her back to mine and drive her around the country a bit.

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Aside from introducing her to my sleepy village, being at home allowed us both some much needed time to really relax (since we couldn't in Tokyo...). We cooked one of our grandmother's recipes together, watched an entire Netflix series (Trollhunters - go watch it now. Dreamworks + Guillermo Del Toro, need I say more?), and fell asleep under my toasty kotatsu. It's been a while since we've lived together, so it was really nice to be able to throw it back to the hanabata days, even if just for a little bit.

Two Days in Fuji

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Our changed plans also gave us time to go somewhere new as well. Thanks to some sympathetic friends we got to spend two days in Fuji City, which is, unsurprisingly, right on the base of Mt. Fuji. Besides the fun that we had, being there also really helped me to put our recent problems in perspective. Everything really seemed minuscule in the face of a massive volcano that's two hundred years overdue for a major eruption. We laughed about how with our recent luck it would probably blow during our stay and that we should be ready to choose a dying pose in case we're immortalized in ash à la Pompeii. But joking aside, it really was humbling to think about how uncertain life is and how lucky we were that our biggest problems were, in actuality, quite small.

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We can't always control the situations we're in, but we can control our reactions to them. Sometimes that's easy to forget, but it's well worth it to always be open-minded and understand that happiness is a state of mind, not a destination.