Once every three years, a group of students from the University of Puget Sound travels to Asia for nine months of rigorous academic work and experiential learning. Visiting eight or more nations, the group engages with different systems of culture, economics, politics, religion, and philosophy. Two students from the 2017–18 PacRim group shared stories about their experiences.
A Kyoto Morning
By Claire Wallace ’19
My commute in Japan was longer than those of the other PacRim students. From the suburbs outside the city, here I lived with my host mother, it took about an hour and a half to get to class in downtown Kyoto. The monthlong homestay gave me a taste of everyday life in Kyoto, a thriving city known as the historic capital of Japan. I hiked up Mount Hiei, ate fresh mochi on Nara Street, and wandered through the red torii gates of Fushimi Inari. After a two-month whirlwind of traveling in Asia, Kyoto was a much-needed respite.
Due to the possibility of missed buses and early morning Kyoto traffic, my homestay mother insisted that I leave early. Although there were moments that I was very thankful for that early morning departure, other days I was left with an hour or more of time on my hands before our classroom opened at 9 a.m. Sometimes I spent these mornings at cafés, other times calling my parents, but my favorite moments were when I ended up walking through the nearby neighborhoods.
I never started out with the goal of simply walking, but usually had a purpose in mind. One morning, I needed to find a restroom. Like any good caffeine addict, I knew where the nearest Starbucks was, but I had just come from that way, and I disliked retracing my steps. I struck out in another direction, through a neighborhood with a temple at the end. Both the map and past experiences indicated that there should have been a restroom near the entrance to the temple complex. Both were right, yet I failed to factor in the time, for, like most places early in the morning, it was closed. I had 30 minutes to 9, and I figured that distracting myself while wandering was a reasonable backup plan.
The area was not touched by modern architecture, and the neutral white and grays combined perfectly with the overcast sky; however, the main color that dominates my memory is green. The green of trees peeking over the tops of walls, of gardens glimpsed through open gates, and the moss growing abundantly through the cracks of stone walls. At that moment, I could imagine living there, spending my mornings walking among the quiet houses of Kyoto.