This is Courtney, posting an update from the beautiful Niigata, Japan! Sorry that it took a few days to get a post rolling, but while we have the ability to access internet at any time, we don't often use it, so this is the first chance we got.
Travelling to Japan was crazy! We woke up at 3:00am to leave fore the airport, where we took a flight to Chicago. In Chicago we connected to Japan, and when we arrived we hopped on a bus to take us to our first sight, Niigata. The bus ride was estimated to be about 5 or 6 hours, but an historic amount of rain hit Niigata prefecture the day of our arrival, and as a result all of the roads were closed. So we ended up stranded at a truck stop for six hours (in the middle of the night!), and eventually arrived at our hotel after a 12 hour ride! We left for Japan on the 27th, and arrived at 3:30am on the 29th after 34 hours of non-stop travel. Then we got about 3-4 hours of sleep to wake up for the opening ceremonies. It was quite a trip, but we're here and we're safe!
Kuni and I stranded at a truck stop somewhere in Niigata. Around 1:00am, maybe?
So far we've been spending a lot of time in our round table study groups and getting to know each other, but today we had a really amazing experience discussing disaster relief. As a group we travelled to the village of Yamakoshi, an absolutely stunning mountanous region that has been struck by a multitude of natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, and flooding. Even though the earthquakes that struck Yamakoshi village happened in 2004, the event still affects the community today, and we were fortunate enough to be able to travel through and witness the beautiful resilience of the community. Afterwards we had a forum discussing disaster relief with many distinguished guests who are active in disaster relief efforts, as well as students who shared their personal experiences and volunteer testimonies. With the recent devastation of the Tohoku Earthquake that hit Japan in March, discussing what we can do as students to address natural disasters provide relief, and it was a really beautiful experience. Looking forward to sharing more as we move forward!