My first day at the new school started, well: boring. I was kind of hoping something weird or zany would happen, I would trip and meet the love of my life or awkwardly embarass myself while introducing myself. But no, this was no Shojo Manga and I think my head spiralled into nonsensical fantasy again. With my schedule in my hand, throusand lists in my backpack and a collection of all extracuriculars in the other, I searched the school for a club that would suit me. This was my first mission. Join a club!
Drama club or English Literature? My mind tried to weigh the pros and cons while my feet took me around and around the school grounds again. I can have fun and act in drama, but I could totally get some bonus points for my english if I took Lit! I bit my lip and grumbled. I couldn’t decide.
Maybe I should think about it more-
I heard the screeching sound of sneakers on a freshly mopped floor, restricted airways and felt the pure pent up energy streaming from across the hall. Looking left I noticed a double sided door, opened wide enough to show its insides. Something inside of it pulled me in, begged me to look.
My heart raced as I heard a loud slam, a ball smacking onto the floor and bouncing upwards. Enthusiastic cheering was heard afterwards and I felt the need to cheer as well. “What kind of club was that?”, I asked myself. I peered into the gym, eyes glistening as I saw the boys volleyball team playing against each other. I gripped the straps of my backpack and repressed the urge to grin widely as I watched the spiker slam in another ball next to clueless collegue. “Weiyooo!”, was the only thing that left my lips as I took a step back and clapped.
A sudden silence fell across the hall.
“Who are you?”.
Well great. You totally got the attention of the whole volleyball club on you know. Clapping? Really?
“Ah-“, I couldn’t even manage to get a word out before two of the young man jumped in front of me.
I took another step back and looked at them in shock. “Hello young lady, who are you?”, one of them said. The other much smaller one looked just as in awe and nodded, waiting for a reply.
“Guys leave her alone!”, a stern voice cut through them and a young man with short black hair stepped between them.
He shoved them behind him and looked to me, apologetically: “Excuse them Miss, they don’t mean any harm. May I help you?”.
Miss? Do I look that old? Wait no, he was probably just trying to be nice. I realised that I started to ramble in my head and everybody was looking at me. Whoops- I should say something.
“Ah no, I was just impressed! I was walking around to check out the school and I saw you practising”. I looked around to see a team of about a dozen guys, all of them in typical basic sports attire. While observing them, some other teammembers as well as the managers approached me out of what it seemed was curiosity, and I smiled and bowed to introduce myself. I guess now that I am here I should be formal I guess. “My name is Hamawi Aya, I am a second year and just transferred here. It is nice to meet you”.
I was sure that I had interrupted them, and some members started to train again while others continued with the conversation.
“A second year? Why did you transfer?”, I was asked by small player with very prominent spiky hair. He just kept bouncing around, which I found extremely endearing.
“Well I personally transferred here to study japanese, but also because my father lives near here. Is this the boys’ volleyballteam?”.
This question was utterly unecessary, the hall, the net, even the tricoloured volleyballs were indicating that it was. I still got an answer from the stern and still friendly member.
“This is indeed Karasunos boy volleyball team, we are practising for the Spring Interhigh. My name is Sawamura Daichi, I am the team captain”.
Bowing again quickly and letting my eyes roam around the gym again I had the urge to stay, for some reason the atmosphere really catched me. “Is ist okay if I watch for a bit? I hope I don’t interrupt as much as I already did”. The team did not seem to mind, so they all jogged back into position, while turned to the side of the field. I quickly introduced myself to the coach and the two managers. One of them was a beautiful third year as I found out, the other a cute and small first year. After settling in I let my back slide down the wall and crouched down onto the floor, watching the team intently.
“Excuse me-“, I turned towards the older manager, “Im sorry, but just to clarify, who is playign what role again? It’s been so long since I played volleyball myself!”.
The small first year turned to me and looked astounded: “You used to plya volley as well?”. I nodded and explained: “it’s been a very long time, I actually haven’t played properly since elementary school.” My eyes darted towards the ball and focused on it, while the older manager explained calmly: “They are all just practising different techniques right now, individually trying to improve. In a volleyball team there is the one who receives the ball from the other team, tosses it to the setter who again tosses to the spiker, the one who attempts to get a point by touching the opponents field”.
I almost stopped listening, as the memory of my own volleyball games popped back into my head, so I bobbed my head and continued to watch the ball. The boys were playing against each other, cheers of encouragement coming from all sides. I did not understand all of their tactics immediately, but I got the hang of exclamations like “nice receive!”, or “don’t mind!” when a move didn’t work as well as it maybe should have. A familiar and exciting feeling creeped back into me, and I couldn’t take my gaze of the small orb dancing from side to side. It was kind of addicting, no matter how hard I tried to concentrate on something else my eyes always darted back to the ball.
Starting to get more into it, I began to bob on the tips of my feet feeling as excited as ever. I started to recognize some of the players like the small one in the front, the very small one in the back and taller ones running back and forth on the field. “So who is the small one running around like crazy?”, I asked with a grin on my face feeling his energy all the way up to the side of the court.
I was surprised when the coach replied: “That is our middleblocker and decoy Shoyo Hinata, he has a certain technique that will surprise you, I am sure of it!”. Confused but interested I started to watch what he would do next, nad it was subtle but I saw some dort of sign thrown to him by the setter. I learned that the setter was the one who would toss the ball to the different spikers, and spikers were the ones who would “spike” the ball into the opponents field. If the spikers ball touched the floor they got a point, if it didn’t the opponents would try to attack. There was still some confusing terminology thrown around, and I started asking the managers all kinds of questions.
“What is a Libero?”, “Is there only one setter?”, “Why do they rotate?”.
Yachi-chan, who I learned was the first year manager giggled and asked me why I had so many questions about the basics, if I played volleyball in the past. “I guess it’s been along time! We also didn’t really specify roles too much. It was more of a ball tossing back and forth, but since this team is clearly professionally training it seems much more complicated!”
Continuing to focus on the game, I saw the setter talking with Hinata again and i had the feeling that secret technique would finally come into play.
The ball was in the air, just received by the Libero when in a quick flash, Hinata basically flew towards the right side of the net and jumped. For such a small guys he could definitely jump high! The setter tossed the ball with a striking precision directly into Hinatas hand and the next thing I heard was that loud slam again.
“WHAT?!”, I exclaimed kind of unwillingly while jumping up to stand in absolute shock. “Are you kidding me? What was that?” It seemed like everyone in the entire gym expected my reaction, most of the teammates grinning wildly and exclaiming euphorically.
The coach explained the quick attack they both did, but I barely listened. my hands were sweaty and my eyes still glsitening I looked at the team. That was something else. That was different. I couldn’t even describe how I felt, but that performance in general was show-stopping. Something I haven’t had any technical understanding of thrilled me so incredibly, I had to see that again. I remembered that my brither, who played soccer, used to have a set game plan so people could cheer the team on. Maybe I could ask someone later about that, it would be cool to watch a real game.
The captain announced the end of practise after individual training and both of the mangers approached me. “Are you interested in joining the club?”, I was asked by Kiyoko-san the older manager. “I will be leaving next year since I am a third year already-” to which Yachi-chan sighed, “-so we could always use more help!”.
Join the volleyball team? I was tempted, sure but if I wanted to play shouldn’t I go join the girls team? And didn’t I want to join a drama club? Or a Literature club? I couldn’t deny it, the adrenaline that flew through my veins while watching the boys play was amazing, but shouldn’t I go do something that I was already good at?
“I am very honoured to be asked, but I have to be honest-” I sighed and looked around, “-this is my first day of school here. You all have been very nice but I don’t want to rush anything. Is it okay if I watch you sometimes? I hope I don’t intrude.” I bowed lightly to be respectful and hoped not to let the girls down. “I apologize for burdening you with such a question so early on. feel free to watch anytime, I am sure the coach doesn’t mind!”
“No I don’t”. Coach Ukai, as Yachi-chan told me his name, seemed to be very welcoming from the start. I bowed and muttered a thank you. “Can I help cleaning up?”. I thought that after being able to see something this amazing, and being welcomed so nicely I could at least give something back. So I just started running around with the managers to pick up the volleyballs scattered around the halls. After finishing to take of the net, tidying up the place and mopping the floors, everyone started to settle in. I realised that everyone would go home now, so I took my bag and left the gym.
Realising that I still had to go to the secretary to fill out some form, I quickly jogged back into the building. While roaming around to find the right room I realised how empty the halls were at this time. I sometimes saw a teacher discussing with a student after class, or a club in their room, but other than that it was pretty peaceful. The sun had begun to set and I liked the way the clouds started to shift into a plum colour, the sun still glaring deep orange waves over the horizon.
After checking out my locker I followed the stairwell outside. The air was slightly crisp and I grabbed my hoodie that I stuffed into my bag. I walked out of the school and threw the hoodie over my head when I realised I was stuck.
“Hamawi-san!”, I turned around, the ball of clothing that I was, and pulled tightly to free myself quickly. Turns out it was Karasunos Libero, that I only saw briefly while practice was going on. I asked myself why I didn’t focus on him so much.
Well there was one reason.
He is tiny!
“Oh, hello! Are you guys going home?”, I asked and looked at the others slowly walking a bit behind in small groups. I recognized the Captain and the other small guy of them.
“Yeah, practice is over, but more importantly-“, He looked at me with eyes that felt like a scanning machine, “where are you from?”.
Normally I would be reluctant to answer after a guy checks me out, but for some reason, maybe it was the stern eyes of Daichi dancing on the Liberos head, I didn’t feel undomfortable.
“I moved here from morocco”.
A sound of surprise escaped most of the ones that were around, and I smiled sheepishly.
“Wow that sounds exotic!”, said another player next to him. His hair was cut short and I tried to remember what position he was playing.
“Whre is morocco? Is it in Europe?”
“Oh my god-“, whoever just talked was pushed to the side by a guy with a bald head.
“I forgot to introduce myself, My name is Tanaka Ryunoske and this small fella is our Defence-God Nishinoya Yu”.
“I’m not that small!”, the converdation quickly turned into a small playfight and I took quick step left to get out of their way. “Will you two cut it out already?”, this time it wasn’t Daichi who gave them both a smack on the head, but another unknown player. He quickly apologized and introduced himself as Ennoshita-kun.
“You are a first year right?”, Ennoshita asked me with a calm expression.
“Ah, actually I am a second year! I go to class 2-4. Please take care of me!”, I bowed slightly. I thought it was important to make contact with students my age. I learned that it’s easier to make friends with other students from your own year.
“No worries, from now on we will take care of you Hamawi-san! Tomorrow Noya and I will give you the best school tour!”, Ryu gave a winners grin and I couldn’t help but copy him.
I laughed and thanked the seconds years, it felt great to be welcomed so casually. “Tanaka-san, you guys please call me by my first name. I’ll be in your care”.
Nishinoya grinned extended his hand for a high five, which I gladly accepted.
“Yeah! She’s a cool one Ryu!”, Nishinoya exclaimed happily.
I heard a grumpy noise coming from Ennoshita: “Please don’t go overboard”, he turned his head to me and said:” Aya-san, please tell these two when they’re just too much okay? They have no restraint”.
Smiling, I shook my head. I loved how outgoing those two were. It reminded me of home, neighbours and relatives that were a little too loud for everyones liking.
“No, no, believe me I’m fine. Thank you Ennoshita-san. I’m used to loud people!”.
Ennoshita smiled sheepishly. He seemed like the sweetest guy to me. If I had a problem I would definitely go straight to him.
“So where are you living now? Did you move somewhere near school?”, the question came from Nishnoya.
A week prior I had gotten the key to my first apartment. It was meant for school housing, and it turns out that the japanese government really supports young students that come from abroad so I was able to snag a wonderful place near school.
“It’s an apartment near school. I’m very happy that I could move in so quickly!”
I caught a glimpse of the time while looking at the display of my phone and realised I had to go home soon.
I slipped my phone back into my pocket, threw my backpack over my back and straightended myself up.
“I’ll have to take my leave now, I should head home”. I bowed deeply and smiled.
“We’ll see you tomorrow!”, Tanaka and Nishinoya replied loudly and I nodded in response. I turned around and took my leave.
I took another look at the map on my phone and started heading to my new home. The sun had already vanshed now, and the sky started dipping into its darker colours. I saw vending machines and other students on their way home, and let my throughts drfit. My new school seemed great so far. My schedule was balanced, I couldn’t wait to get deeper onto my japanese and start learning more about this countries histrory. Japan has felt very homey until now. The only thing left for me to feel perfectly in place is well, my place.
I looked up to the apartment complex and smiled. Home.
The first thing I had to do was get my key card. I slid it through the first slot at the entrance and the door in front of me split into two. Inside was now a structure similar to a lobby. There was no reception, but you could sometimes see a janitor doing his rounds and the security guard at the elevator made me feel safe and uneasy at the same time. This was clearly a new apartment complex, my father told me that it was a bit more expensive which i didn’t like, but he wanted me to be in a safe area so I couldn’t refuse. Thinking about my dad spending more money on me made me feel so horrible, that I stared working two years ago. I took all my savings and paid a lot of stuff so he couldn’t like the first down payments and school tuition.
I nodded towards the security guard and took the elevator to the fourth floor. A “ding” sound rang through the steel room and I left towards the hall. 4A was my apartment number. There were two other ones on my floor, and I couldn’t wait to meet my new neighbours soon.
I slid the keycard through the apartment slot and kicked open the door. The interior still smelled new and I had a sudden sinking feeling in my chest. This is my home now. This is where I will live. Before I could get sad, my excitement took the upperhand again and I closed the door behind.
Grinning, I looked at my apartment. From the hall you could enter into the bedroom through a door to the right. It was pretty spacious to what I was expecting. The room next to it was the bathroom, looking inside there was a shower and a toilet. I still had no idea why the toilet had so many buttons but I would table those questions for another day. Luckily, there was a washing machine installed here by my dad so I wouldn’t have to go to a wasing salon everytime. I went out of the bathroom and continued through the hall into the living space. It didn’t look very lively yet, as everythign was full of boxes and crates. The couch was the only thing that was istalled as of late. My brain staretd churning at the thought of all the work I still had to do.
Looking left, a curtain door led to the kitchen. It was by far my favorite thing about this apartment until now. The kitchen was small, which I didn’t mind, but i loved that the kitchen counter were a mint green colour. I smiled at my kitchen space and saw a small table stuck in the corner. Behind that table was a narrow pathway that looked like a glassdoor to the patio.
“Well, instead of running around I should probably unpack”, I said to myself while I braced myself for work. It was now 6:30 pm, which meant that i actually had some time to unpack and assemble some furniture hopefully. The bedroom was my obstacle to conquer. Five big boxes labeled “bedroom” were cramped into the room. I opened the first one which revealed clothes. I figured it would be stupid to fold and arrange my clothing before I had a place to hang it, so I began assembling my clothing rack. As i just moved here and was sure to buy a lot of new stuff in japan, I tried to pack as lightly as possible and only the essentials. That was also the reason why I didn’t want to get a huge closet or a queen bed. So instead, I opted for a clothing rack for the most important things and a shelf system with boxes as storage unit. It was a lot easier to assemble and gave me more space. my dad had already assembled as much as he could’ve, but I realised that it would take a while for everything to be where it should.
It was about a quarter past seven when i was done with the furniture in the bedroom. It took me some time to understand all of the japanese instructions. Even though I was used to speaking japanese since my childhood, reading Kanji was definitely still an issue. Who would’ve known that you could speak a language fluently out of habit, but its grammatical structures still stood in the way? After a lot of texting with my dad and a lot of google translate i finally found the last screw number and contined to work. The clothing rack was done and set to the side while I unfolded big boxes made of thcik fabric to put in the shelves. To top it all off, I unraveled the futon out of its box and put it on the floor. Making a grunting sound I heaved myself off of the ground and looked at my new bedroom. Clothing rack on the left side, the shleves next to it in the corner of the room and the futon on the opposite side of the room. All that was left were my clothes, bedsheets and decoration. I smiled and patted myself on the back mentally.
“Almost done”, I opened the last boxes full of clothing and started folding and sorting into the shelves. I hung my coat and my pants on the rack as well as bags and other items that should be easy to grab. While unpacking, something I almost forgot fell into my lap. My school uniform.
Thoughts started to whirr through my head, about how and what I should wear tomorrrow. I couldn’t succumb to the urge to procrastinate, so I left the plastic wrapped uniform on the floor and continued with my bedroom. Finally, at almost 8 pm I was done. A grey duvet was draped over my futon and three plump pillows over that. My clothing rack was full and the shelves now held all of my other storage items such as clothing, towels, books, schoolbooks and other miscelanious stuff. The last things I also had was a foldable table. It was luckily very easy to assemble and maybe a little small, but it was the right height to study and sit on the floor.
Contemplating on just going to sleep now without even looking at the other rooms, I flopped onto the floor and let my hand slide over the wooden floor. I was happy that it wasn’t tatami, which I would’ve soiked very soon with stains.
What if i just lay here and don’t do anything else until tomorrow?
My eyes closed and I thought what still had to be done. Assemble the TV table, assemble the dining table, put my toiletries into the bathroom, fill the kitchen cabinets with cutlery. My eyes opened and I looked at my phone. 8:15 pm. Can I do this until 9 pm?
Turns out I couldn’t.
When I put the last spoon into the kitchen drawer and sighed out of relief, it was almost ten. Grumbling, I picked up all of the trash that had accumulated around the apartment. I took my broom and went through the whole now furnished place. Disgusting, so much filth from all the packaging. But at least I was done with everything by 10:30. I called my dad after I was done who was very surprised by my dedication.
“How did you even do all of that?”, I shrugged and replied with I don’t know. I really didn’t know I guess I just wanted to be done with it. He laughed through the phone which made me smile.
“Alright I’m still in town, what do you want to eat?”
My heart jumped. Food!
“Ah baba you’re the best! I want any type of noodle whatever you can get!”
“I’ll be there in 45!”.
I smiled and hung up. I swung of the ground and trotted into the kitchen. The only thing I had was water, some butter, eggs and toast in the cupboard. I should’ve asked dad to bring me some jam or something for tomorrow. That would have to wait.
I got out two plates and two cups. The new dining table would now be inaugurated officially! While I waited for the food, i scrolled through my social media and texted some friends. Japan was my new home, and still I felt a short sting when I saw the pictures of friends in my hometown. A beep disrupted my thoghts when my dad slid the keycard through the holder to come in.
“I’m coming in!”
I grinned and ran into the hallway to greet him. He laughed when I tackled him and was about to drop the food when I kissed him on the forehead and took the bags from his hands.
“Eager are we?”, I nodded profusely and happily jumped into the living room. My mouth almost watered when I opened the bags and a delicious smell greeted me. Opening the container I shriecked in happiness. “It’s soba! Thanks dad!”.
He nodded and waited for me to put all the noodles on the plate, distribute sauces and side dishes. All while i hummed a melody of a song I didn’t know. Eating here with my father for some reason felt just right. It’s not that I don’t see him often, he always took time for me, but still it felt good slurping noodles at almost 11 pm when I should already be sleeping. Baba was fully japanese and met my mom in college. She was a morrocain exchange student and they fell in love since then. Fivteen years after they had me they split up. I still remember the heartache when I think about it, but my parents tried to keep their fight away from me. My mother married another man and moved close to us and I stayed with my dad. They both are still friends, but when my father got a job offer in his homeland japan it felt just right to go with him. I love my mother, but I always had that part of me I wanted to explore, that part of me I didn’t know. Maybe i would learn something new about myself here. i definitely will.
Dad ushered me to go sleep while he did the dishes, and I was so exhausted from this day that I didn’t even argue with him. I turned to my bedroom, threw on some pyjamas and fellt asleep instantly.