Sorry for the delay between Part 1 and Part 2 – Jordan, end of semester, big report corrections due, a hair catastrophe – and almost a month passed!
I will start where I left off in Part 1. Through the force of will and the strength of Emiratis in getting things done when things need to get done, we are at the airport.
Oops – I should say I am at the airport, at the arranged time – and super nervous (I really don’t like to fly) and then they start arriving – in Western clothes! I didn’t recognise my own students and it was just so weird to see them in jeans and sweats (!) and Crocs (yeah a former Canadian/Quebec City company started by a husband and wife entrepreneur team!) and hair! (Sorry for the explanation marks, but really, it was weird to see them dressed in Western clothes).
So, finally, everyone arrives – and the fun begins with the line to check in. Some have brought a lot of luggage (I will not name names, but we all know who I am talking about) – and some less – so we check in together and combined the luggage – and then on the way to the gate – and the plane (gulp).
The plane ride had many funny moments and we landed in Tokyo a bit tired to be greeted by the Embassy people and two vans to take us to the hotel. Yeah students and Embassy officials for making our trip so hassle free. Truly, if you want an event or a trip organised well – get an Emirati to do it!
That day was just relaxing and that evening I may have forced everyone to try Japanese food – maybe not my wisest decision – but they tried the noodles and I heard found an Indian place after to actually eat a meal!
On Friday we woke up early to go to the Islamic Institute for Friday prayers and a presentation of the Institute. The boys dressed in their kandoras and warm jackets and everyone was in high spirits. After prayers was a very interesting presentation about the Institute – they are there to build an understanding about Islam in Japan and also have many classes for Arabic language training. I was given the name Ayesha by the imam there and it was really a great experience for all of us.
|At the Islamic Centre after Friday prayers|
After the presentation we explored the city a bit and tried to understand the subway systems – a bit of a challenge, but again the boys did better than I did and were excellent about just asking for help (and the Japanese were excellent about giving help, or finding someone who speaks English to help).
I think the most striking thing the first day was how clean everything was, how polite Japanese people are and how absolutely organised everything is. We also discovered the vending machines with warm karak and coke and water and cold green tea (YUM) – and the corner store with the gigantic apples and weird snack foods and getting change back with lots of coins!
Day 3 & 4
We spent the weekend exploring temples, cultural sites and shopping (Ginza anyone?) with our wonderful, amazing, kind guides from the GCC-Japan Club. They are a group of university students from various universities around the Tokyo region with a shared interest in the GCC – many have visited the UAE and even know Arabic. The students were volunteers and really made our trip a cultural exchange – and extra rewarding in so many ways. I know none of us can wait to return the favour of their wonderful hospitality.
|Enjoying the rain!|
Today was a very big day. Everyone had bought suits and we went to the UAE Embassy to meet with the Ambassador, H.E. Mr. Saeed Ali Alnowais. He shared his years of experience with us as he has been an Ambassador and diplomat for many years. One of the students (also featured in the Poetry blog posts) wrote a poem for the Ambassador to thank him for his generous hosting of us and it impressed everyone present. The students asked questions about trade with Japan, his experiences as a diplomat and any advice he could offer them if they wanted to study in Japan to learn Japanese. After the official meeting with the students (who looked very handsome in their suits) His Excellency’s cook had prepared an Emirati lunch for us. To say the boys were happy to eat “normal” food would be an understatement!
There was a reporter for WAM there and we were featured the next day in the official news outlet for the UAE! (WAM story in Arabic) It was very exciting for all of us and a wonderful visit to mark the half-way point in our trip.
OK- the rest will be said in Part 3 – I don’t want to bore you all writing too much at one time!