Stepping off the plane and being enveloped by the hot humid air felt different from the times in the past. There were no thoughts of rushing to the convenience store or visiting all my friends, eating home-cooked meals, or the inevitable farewell only a few days away. Rather, I was relaxed and slightly nervous, knowing this would be my new home. For the first time in my life, I had entered this country without being bound by time; I could take a moment to breathe, look around, and not have to pick out everything I wanted to eat in one run to the supermarket.
In retrospect, my arrival in Japan did not go the way I had imagined. For weeks leading up to that day, I had spent time saying goodbye to friends (virtually), packing, getting official documents, and preparing myself for the leap across the ocean. The suspense and excitement had reached its peak, and though COVID-19 had put some doubts in my mind, I was ready to start my adventure. But while I got off the plane knowing I had time, something that I had desired for so many years, I felt that I had lost something else; freedom.
The moment I stepped off, the 20 other passengers on the plane and I were guided to a large room to be lectured regarding how we would spend the next 14 days. After being informed that I would be self-quarantining in a hotel with little freedom, I was taken to a small area where very friendly nurses in hazmat suits gave us our PCR tests. With my nose still throbbing from the incredibly long swab used for the PCR test, I was then led to the government facilitated hotel. There I received three meals a day, had no contact with any hotel staff, and could not leave my room. Thankfully, I was transferred to a different hotel after three days where I am now allowed occasional walks to the park, but aside from this, I remain in self-quarantine. I spend quiet days in my room daydreaming about the things I hope to do this year: developing my iPhone application, expanding the concept of “peer-mentorship” in Japan, volunteering at camps, traveling, spending time with extended family, and making friends from diverse backgrounds with many different interests, among other things.
At times it seems like quarantine will never end, but I also know it is the start of my new adventure. Every day I wait, I become more excited about the things to come, the people I’ll meet, and the opportunities that await me.