When I was 15, I was given the opportunity to travel to Japan along with three other students and a teacher from our high school. We were being sent to a YMCA ski camp, where they were going to teach us — kids who have not boarded a plane, let alone seen snow — how to ski.
That was the first time I was truly taken out of my comfort zone. I had gone to seminars out of town prior to then, but this time, I was going to be a plane ride away, I was not going to know the language, and everything was going to be new and unfamiliar.
I remember one of my fondest memories from the trip was also perhaps the simplest. When we got to Nagoya, our first destination, we were hungry and wanted to get something from the vending machine in the hotel but everything was of course in Japanese. We ended up unknowingly getting the extra spicy noodles which were almost inedible. It was so funny that we kept laughing about it all night, and vowed that from then on we would either watch others or ask.
At the ski camp in Yokkaichi, we were split up and put in different groups with other kids who were probably as young as two. We were first time skiers so we were asked to join beginners’ groups. Some of us picked up the skill quicker more than others.
The rest of our time, the volunteers at the YMCA, students just like us, accompanied us around historical places, local spots and restaurants. They talked to us about Japanese culture and we talked to them about the Philippines, which were some of the most interesting conversations we had.
Those days falling and getting back up again and playing games with those kids were memorable and fun.
The trip to Japan overall, spending time with our contemporaries from the YMCA who served as our guides, was very educational. I always point to these two weeks of my life as the time when the whole world opened itself to me, when I understood that there is something other than my little corner of space. There is so much to see, learn and experience. So many people to meet who will teach us something about them, where their from, their story — everyone has a story like every place has a story — and in doing so they will teach us something about us.