This past trip was exciting, but it was also really challenging for me. I struggled with balancing all my schoolwork with also being in the moment and exploring the places we were living. Prioritizing is hard. I always turn in all my assignments and do all my homework no matter what, because I want to get everything I can out of my classes. But sometimes this means spending all day in our hotel room, or bringing homework on trains and planes so I can study in time for all my classes. On past trips I was happy to spend time wandering and just being, but this time it felt like I had so little time to explore I needed to spend all of the free time I had actually doing something. I wish I had had more time to just wander. While I sat in our hotel, apartment, or house doing homework and attending classes, my family visited temples and markets without me.
I did get to do some exploring though, and the upside was that my busy schedule made the break time even more fun. In Tokyo I got to go on photography expeditions with a friend from my school. One afternoon I went out with my family and found a cool Japanese flea market in a temple- musty antique kimonos, old scrolls, and colorful tea cups. We visited a garden where we found a traditional tea house for my favorite treat- macha and a smooth anko tea sweet. We were walking back to our hotel in Ginza and we came across some musicians with melodicas kneeling at a closed crosswalk. As people walked across, stepping on the lines on the road, the musicians played a note. It was like a giant keyboard on the ground, which was cool in and of itself, but the most fascinating part was how people opened up to the new experience. Even in the relatively closed and formal Japanese culture, young families, elderly women, and business men alike all stopped to hop across the crosswalk, and some people even attempted to play a tune. We stayed at the “giant keyboard” for a while, and I had as much fun just watching the people experiencing the crosswalk as I did exploring markets, shops, and temples on other afternoons. This reminded me that even though I have very little time to explore, I should also spend some of it just observing and being, because I learn best when I have time to reflect. I am discovering how to balance the work of life with the tasks of school, and I am learning to be a true student of the world.