Monday, 24 February 2014

It's not a holiday

Well this week has been odd. You could say that it was a regular week in the life of a Japanese student so I don't have any exceptionally extraordinary tales to tell but I will use this opportunity to talk about how I'm feeling and how things work here in Japan.

Bear with me though, it may be hard to follow. There are fewer photos than usual because I didn't get the opportunity to take many.

It all started on Monday, I had a cold. Just the standard sore throat and runny nose; "she'll be right" I thought. I must of been pretty tired because from form time through to the end of first period I was snoring with my head on the desk. Everyone was kind enough to leave me be! So I tried to study some Japanese later but I just couldn't keep my eyes open. All the while my nose was running something wicked. That day there was no club activities so I just relaxed after school and worked away at a speech I have to give on Sunday.

Tuesday was when it all hit the fan. My alarm is always set for 6:00 am now and I always make sure it is set. I actually double check it and sometimes even triple check it, Monday night was no exception. But, come Tuesday morning it turns out it was either off (unlikely) or I slept through it. I was woken up by Rieko and was late for breakfast, not a good start to the day. (Yes, this is going to get pretty negative, it picks up though.) I got to school for some more sleeping. I just couldn't understand anything today, I couldn't work out why. Normally I can get the jist of what people are saying to me but today I just couldn't. It was quite annoying. "Oh well" I thought, I got back to doing notes for my speech.

 The day wasn't so bad until I got to kendo practice. I was still quite bogged down by my cold but because I didn't get to go the previous week I was determined to train. Not such a good idea. I geared up all ready to go but I had put the helmet on wrong so I held everyone up a bit. Not the best feeling. This night I just couldn't do it, I mucked up most of the moves and I couldn't understand anyone! I was there in my mask about ready to literally cry in frustration when I thought: "Take a deep breath-*big breath*-and just scream it out on the next strike" So I did just that. Kendo is quite convenient in the sense that you can just scream at the top of your lungs. But of course, something went wrong. My voice cracked as though I was 12 and I damn near squealed. I just felt worse. However, I was determined not to let this bring me down and I thought I could find relief in karate training later that night.
No matter how tough it is, there is always something to smile about!

I got home before I went to karate and i had about half an hour of downtime. I listened to some music and decided that I would just smash it at karate. "Bugger this cold, bugger my sore feet, I'm gonna go and let it all out at karate" and I did just that.

*Just a quick note: I've got severely dry feet with quite a few cuts and cracks on them making walking difficult for me, let alone stomping about at kendo and karate.
It is like walking on a knife!
Looks pretty tough though.

So I got to karate and played tag with the kids before actual training started. The lightheartedness of the silly game lifted my mood a bit. Training started and soon enough I didn't have the time or energy to spare to even think about the day that seemed like so long ago. We are training for a tournament in April so we did a bunch of high intensity work. Here I am with a sore throat and a minor cough, doing 300 roundhouse kicks, all to be as fast and strong as possible. After which I just about threw up and found that I had boosted my cough to something near percusis. My lungs felt like they were on fire but it's a feeling I know all too well and I love it.

We did some strength exercises and then it was time for what I had been looking forward to: fighting. That fella I talked about a while ago was there (2nd in Japan, smashed me) so I was looking forward to having some really good fights. Me and this guy, Fuyuki, are quite good friends now, I swear we are tarred with the same brush.

Him and I started fighting and it was just magic. We smashed each other, landing the perfect hits and smiling all the while. He got me with a very powerful head kick that was buffered by my adrenaline, I got him back with a mean axe kick though so it was all good. We fought many times; in one bout he swiped out my legs causing me to hit the deck and roll away whilst in another fight I did the same to him. It gets better though, I remember feeling completely futile against him just a few weeks ago but this time I got him good. I lined up a plain front kick, aiming at his guts and launched with all that I had. My aim was true and it saw him into a crumpled pile on the ground. This sounds quite malicious but it's not. I felt bad for a second but from the crumple on the ground came a big thumbs up. Definitely tarred with the same brush.
Fuyuki, Brennan, Sensei
Once again, there is always something to smile about!

My victory was short lived as in the next round he found more energy and just gave me hell. So of course I gave it back. The night ended in ear to ear grins, pained laughs and a lot of uncontrollable coughs. It seems as though I made the cold worse. Also, my feet were in a pretty bad state. But I was no longer burdened with the rubbish that brang me down that day. I got back home and fell into bed.

I woke up and turned my head to see the alarm clock. Or rather, I tried to turn my head. Oh dear. So I stood up and realised that when I got kicked in the head last night, my head moved very rapidly to the right and I was suffering from whiplash. Great. I have put my neck out. That day at school was difficult; I was coughing a lot, limping a lot and I couldn't turn my head. Because of my ailments I was unable to do kendo but that was alright. That night we did some more work on my speech.

Thursday was painful. At kendo, I was stomping about and screaming away as you do when I saw something red on the floor. Oh? there is a bunch of red spots everywhere... I looked at my feet and sure enough, I had some new cuts. On my both my big toes and both my heels. I don't know if you've ever tried but it's really awkward to walk without letting your heels or big toes touch the ground. After training I limped back to the nurses room where I had my feet taped up. That night at karate was a laugh. With my taped up feet I was slipping and sliding about everywhere. More lung burning kicks ensued that night.

Friday was cool, My speech is finished and now it I just need to memorize it. I got my feet all taped up again and because of the way the tape has been put on I can't really move my ankle so I looked quite pathetic as I hobbled everywhere very slowly. I went to badminton club after school with some girls in my class which was great fun. I could only play a bit because of my feet but that was fine, the girls teams were quite fun to watch.
My finished speech.
I proudly showed it to a girl in class who plainly pointed out the spelling mistakes.
Not the response I was hoping for

Today was Saturday and I abused the fact that I had nothing to do by sleeping for most of the day. I biked to the local 100Yen shop (something like a two dollar shop but with a much bigger range of products) I got some stuff and came back to home where I did not too much.

A little while ago, my parents sent over a parcel loaded with Kiwi chocolate but there was something else I didn't expect at all. While I was skyping them one night, I expressed my desire for a plate of Mum's nachoes. I had  slightly home sick day and I was really craving some nachoes; the way Mum makes them. So in this parcel which I was expecting to be full of chocolate was a bag of my favourite nacho chips, a recipe for how to make them along with the special ingredients that Mum uses. I couldn't have been more blown away!

So just tonight I made nachoes for my host family. It went well! We used chopsticks and had rice on the side! A truly multicultural meal; A Japanese meal of New Zealand style Mexican nachoes. They were only a wee bit different from Mum's, not quite as good but they certainly cured my fleeting home sickness!

A bit about school

I want to talk a bit about school in Japan seeing as I don't have much else to ramble on about this week. School here is a lot different to what it is in Japan starting with the actual school. The building itself is quite different. That sounds alien because in New Zealand every school is completely different with it's number of classrooms and the layout of said rooms. In Japan, every school building is pretty much the same; One big building with five or so floors. The layout of the building is almost always identical to every other building. I could go to a completely random school and know my way around.
My class room.
Yes, that is a chalk board and also yes, those are tennis balls.

The first year student's (That's year 11 or 5th form) rooms are on the top floor whilst the second years are on the 4th floor and the third years are on the 3rd floor. There are specialised class rooms on the second floor and the first floor is where the meetings are held.
What the teacher sees.

Teachers have staff rooms on every floor where they do their behind the scenes stuff. Unlike NZ, the teachers change class rooms here whilst the students stay in their home rooms for most of the day. This is quite weird. To add to the odd conduct of school, there is a 10 minute break after every period. After fourth period there is a half hour break for lunch. Also odd, after lunch, all of the students and teachers clean the school; from wiping down the desks to sweeping the corridors and even shoveling snow outside!

During class time it is a lot less interactive than NZ school. The students listen and write down everything that is put on the board. They don't normally ask questions at all, it is quite weird for me. Before every class starts the students stand up, bow and say "please" (In Japanese of course) then at the end they do the same but say "Thank you."

Apologies for this disorganised mess of an update but I just haven't had the chance to do anything proper just yet.

I will have to do a better job for next week's update (This week)

Whilst I had some ups and a fair few downs last week, it's all part and parcel of life. It helps me remember that this is not a holiday. These experiences are just a good form of character building.

Until next time!

Busy socialising

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Just your regular spectacular week

What a week! I've done so much this week and it has been amazing!

I will start with last Sunday, a big karate training in Aichi prefecture.
I got up at 5:00 am and had a big feed of freshly made bread, waking up early isn't so bad when there is food on the table. I got my karate gear all ready for a big day of travel and training. We drove for ages! It was snowing in Gero and the surrounding area so travel was a bit slow. In the car there was Sensei, Fuyuki and I. Fuyuki is the guy that turned out to be a national finalist. We are all good friends now. We had a bunch of good laughs on the way to training while they tried to explain one of those words that doesn't really translate into English. Of course, this explanation was done with some very broken English and on the whole it was quite difficult. It turns out this word "Kawaigaru" (可愛がる) basically means "tough love" Sensei was telling me to not be disheartene when everyone is beating me up because it is "Tough love" I guess that's nice? It made me kind of nervous though, I had no idea what to expect with this event.

When we got there, it turned out to be a massive fight session. "Cool" I thought, I still don't know what to expect, Sensei is still telling me about tough love. It seems as if I'm going to get a good smashing today.
So many people!
The kids all fought first, they were vicious! The rules in this style are ever so slightly different from Kyokushin's but essentially it is the same. Bow to each other and then give them everything! Great fun!.
I was introduced to this one guy who was described as "very strong" so I thought "ok, cool" I probably wont have to fight him, seeing as he's such a high grade and so strong.
"Very strong!!"
He seemed nice enough!
So i thought that it was all good, I was only gonna get beat up by other people. I fought this one guy, it wasn't so bad! It was tough, I was slightly winded but it got rid of the nerves. Now I was all pumped and excited for another fight! This next guy hit me really hard but I managed to land an axe kick on him! (Basically, you throw your leg up as high as you can and then bring it straight down in the vicinity of your opponent, almost like an axe) This was great! I was doing alright! Then he kicked high and I managed to drop him by kicking his supporting leg, great! What great fun I was having! I stood there, huffing and puffing, a huge smile on my face when I found myself in a very familiar situation. So my sensei, from the sidelines yells out something, I didn't understand but I looked around to see the strong man making his way over to me. Oh dear. So a while ago, I somehow "challenged" my own sensei and received a severe beating. This time, my sensei challenged this guy for me. Thanks. Tough love i guess.

As I said, this was a familiar situation. I started off with a sneaky head kick which was met with a very quick block. "This isn't going to end well" I thought as I hit and kicked him to no response. I was mid way through a combo when someone hit me in the leg with a baseball bat. Wait, he just kicked me. "Oh good" I thought. I see how it is. He started laying into me with no mercy. I was pushed all around the ring, trying to hit back. All the while he is hacking away at my thigh with his blade of a leg. I thought the only way I could bring this back is to get him in the head. So everything went in slow motion as my right leg came up for the best axe kick. It went all the way up past both of our shoulders, I was looking him in the eyes, I could almost see the knockout. Almost there! My leg was vertical when the world was pulled out from under me like a rug. Still in slow motion, I could see the room move away from me as I didn't have a leg to stand on. The bugger had kicked it out while I was plotting my victory. So I'm here, standing on no legs, slowly falling backwards. I could only think: "Brace for impact!" and sure enough, the floor met my back as I fell flat. Ouch. I dashed back up and we resumed our "fight." I essentially threw techniques that bounced off him whilst he monster-ed my leg. The fight finished and I limped back to my side. Oh man, that's gonna hurt tomorrow. We both smiled and everyone was cheering. Atleast the smashing looked cool. As we lined up for the end of class, all of my other pains showed up. My previously broken toe was flaring up, my torso hurt, my knee was doing something weird and my leg wasn't co-operating. It was a good day.

I got to meet a heap of people and I had so much fun doing it.
It seems everyone has a few more dans than I!
 That day on the way back we had a huge feed. I've said it before so I probably don't need to say it again but, I love this food! We had kara-age, which is deepfried stuff. Oh man it was delicious. We had these huge bowls of rice, I mean huge. I was slowly eating away, full to the brim but eating regardless when Sensei finished his third bowl! I was still eating when Sensei had finished his meal and 3x as much rice as I. This must be why he is in charge. I should probably start eating more.
After this, we went about sight seeing. It was a huge day! After I got home I sort of just coma'd until dinner. We had kara-age but done differently to lunch's feed. What a good day. Needless to say, I went upstairs and hit the pillow straight away. Here I was, yet again limping about. I love it.

School the next day was pretty regular. I slept in maths and studied a wee bit. I am beyond tired! Lunch was great, I had left over kara-age and a bunch of other things. I thought I better take a picture of my lunch, since I'm always raving on about it. So here is a picture of the sort of thing I get everyday!
I couldn't tell you what half of the stuff there is but it all tastes good! On the rice there are a bunch of these tiny fish, eyes and all. It is so good. Hopefully you can see why I'm loving it so much!

That night was my official "welcoming party" So we went out for dinner. I was pretty clueless about the whole lot, I thought it was just a family outing but in the car on the way there, Rieko said I will have to give a short speech. "Oh?" uh-oh. How does this keep happening? 

So we get to this Italian restaurant to see that the local Rotary group is there. I sat down, and thought, I really need to find the bathroom, I'm busting here. I pulled my chair out but sat back down when the head man started talking. I'm gonna have to do this speech whilst trying not to wet my pants, not the best situation. Of course, he had a lot to say. Great. Although uncomfortable, I was quite touched by the welcoming words of everyone, it was a nice night. I made a wee bit of a rushed speech and then I had clearance. Once that was done, I could relax. Everyone wanted to talk and I managed to understand quite a bit, I talked to my next host family and they seem really nice! Dinner consisted of MANY small plates of Italian/Japanese food. It was amazing! I didn't get to take any photos but the Rotary crew got a few. It was a long night and I was yawning a wee bit by the end. But it was great fun, I got to speak lots of Japanese and eat lots of food; two of my most favourite things ever. 
I managed to get one photo
Us two fellas are the inbound students in Gero
The girls are all outbound, two for America and one for New Zealand
Once again, I got home and hit the pillow.

The best surprise! Tuesday was a day off! It was some holiday that I had forgotten about. It was something to do with Japan being formed, or atleast that's what I understand. I wasn't going to argue with a day off!

This day was probably my biggest culture shock so far; more on this in a moment.
I used my free time in the morning to write some stuff I had procrastinated on. Kazu and I watched the winter Olympics for a while and then we all went to the 100 yen shop. I picked up some much needed stationary and then we went off to the electrical store. They have some big TVs here! I bought a hard drive but I used my card. The lady serving me had a wee bit of trouble operating the machine because people in Japan normally use cash. Also in Japan, the customer doesn't do any work, so when I pulled the card out of the machine by myself she had a little fit. Woops.

Then we went to an onsen! I know the procedure around these things but I had never been to one before. An onsen is like a spa/hot pool. Similar to the hot pools in Tekapo or Hanmer. BUT, in Japanese onsen, sexes are segregated and everyone is completely naked! I knew this so it wasn't a shock when I walked into the changing rooms. But still, I had a bit of a hard time getting undressed in front of all these men. Once naked, you walk into the bathing room and wash yourself before getting in the water. Once again, I found it a bit unnerving to be walking about with a bunch of naked men. Normally at school, everyone stares at me but it's not so bad. Here in the onsen, everyone was staring at me. This was a wee bit weird. After a while I thought, "whatever, stop feeling weird." Ans after I decided to not be phased with all the people around, I actually enjoyed the water. It is really relaxing! 

After the onsen we went out to a restaurant/pub. It seemed like a pub, it had bunch of people sitting at a bar, eating, drinking and smoking. This is something I might not get used to, the indoor smoking. I order a "Hanbagu" (Ham burger) but the burgers here a little bit different.
My burger patty came with rice! (Can't see in photo)
Also, there was an egg under those chips, oh dear.
So burgers are more like patties but they are no less delicious. This was such a filling feed, especially with the rice. I had one problem though and that was the egg. I hate egg, it's the only food I don't really like. But coinciding with my mission of "eat anything that is put in front of me while I'm in Japan" I managed to eat this egg, ever so slowly. This is a huge thing for me, hence I am talking about it. I didn't like the taste but I'm pretty stoked I could eat it. Pushing the comfort zone, no matter where it is!

Wednesday was a disrupted day, I got up and I had a cold. Oh dear, runny nose and a sore throat. This is just what I want. Took the train to school and sat down, almost asleep. I only stayed for the first period because I was meeting the Mayor! I left school and got a ride to the city hall, all of the Rotary people here have the flashest cars!

At the city hall we waited around a wee bit and met up with a couple more Rotary officials. Then it was up the stairs and across the hall, I was sniffing and coughing all the way. Basically it was like a mini interview; "What is your favourite Japanese food? ... How is school? ... What do you think of the weather?" Luckily, most of these topics I can talk about with confidence because of course, it was all in Japanese. There were a couple of people taking photos for the paper but I don't know when they took their photos; this would come back to bite me. After our talk, I got a photo with the man.
The Mayor and I, crushing each others's hands.
It was an awkward handshake, he had one of those fake laughs going on and he grabbed my hand with a wee bit of force, so I made sure I had a strong grip too. Then we were in one of those situations where we were both laughing awkwardly as we gradually squeeze each others hands. 

Back to school where I slept, studied and accidentally did something wrong in Japanese culture. It turns out that in class you don't leave to go to the bathroom. Let alone ask the teacher for permission out loud. So here I am with snot streaming down my face in desperate need of a tissue, so I thought it would be a good idea to ask if I could be excused to go to the bathroom. I put my hand up and said in a loud voice (so I could be heard, the chemistry teacher here doesn't stop for anyone!) "Sensei, am I allowed to go to the toilet?" (In Japanese of course) The whole class turned around, half horrified half amused. Sensei gave me the thumbs up and I left, slightly confused. I later found out that it is odd to publicly express anything to do with the bathroom. Woops.

On Thursday I got to help out with a 2nd year English class. I brang my laptop along so I could show everyone my pictures from New Zealand. This was all good, I showed the pictures, did a little speech and then we had small English interviews. One thing led to another and we found ourselves watching Korean pop music videos on my laptop as a class. I'm not even sure how we got there. Good times.
I still have a cold, so I was only able to make it to one Kendo practice this week which wasn't too good. I had a sore throat and that doesn't coincide well with a lot of screaming. I also had to skip on karate class which was pretty gutting.

Friday was a weird day, it was snowing from quite early in the morning. Blizzard like conditions. I got to school and had another disrupted day. For a start, it was valentines day. In Japan it all works a little differently; the girls all buy/make chocolates and sweets for the boys, not necessarily with romantic intentions but they give out these sweets to all of their guy friends. The guys then return the favour on "white day" which is sometime in March. In my class of 1st years, everyone is very shy. For a start, they are 1st years, I am also in the academic class. This means that everyone is very focused on their work and not much else. Thus, the girls are very shy. I only got a couple of chocolates :(  But that's cool, I went down stairs to visit my friend in the 2nd year. As soon as I was on the floor I was greeted with screams and hellos. Also, many sweets. I took a few photos and saw a bunch of my mates from Kendo. Overall it was a good wee trip.
I'm pretty tired but there is always time for giggling girls
I stayed at school until 3rd period, after which, the other exchange student and I were off to his place in preparation for some festival I forgot the name of. We went back to his place which is going to be my 4th host family, waaaaaay down the track. We had lunch, a good warm dish of curry and rice and then we geared up to walk to this festival. Wait what? Walk? Oh dear.

So we did just that, umbrellas up, in the blizzard we walked, it was pretty cold, but at this point it was a novelty. We get to the festival and there are people everywhere. We met up with another exchange student and her host family and made our way up this big set of stairs on this hill. At the top there were even more people, all gathered around a temple. There was some ceremony going on and we were watching and waiting for something at the end.
The temple and a bit of snow
It was quite interesting and cool for a start, but after 10 minutes the girl's face on the bottom left of the above photo sums it up pretty well. I was slowly getting frostbite in my fingers and toes even though I had gloves and many socks on. It was starting to get uncomfortably cold. After a really long time, the ceremony ended and these weird "good luck umbrella" things were passed around. Normally they are thrown by the priests and caught by the lucky but because of the snow, everyone swarmed the priests at the stairs and it was a rough mosh pit. Hundreds of hands were hoping to receive one of these things but luckily for us foreigners, we are taller than the majority of people so we could simply reach over and grab one. Awesome.
Our wrapped up good luck paper umbrellas
I'm freezing!
 That night we went back to Jordan's and had a huge feast. Still loving this food.

Saturday was a cool day. I'm still kind of sick though. 
Up at 5:00 am, big feed and then off to see if I can navigate trains. Rieko said goodbye and good luck to me as I was to make my way to Nagoya by myself. This meant two and a half hours of trains and no English. "She'll be right" I thought. I sat there admiring the scenery and panicking slightly as we came into each stop. "Is this my stop?" "Nope, I must of missed it, I will just stay seated." This went on for quite some time, I felt lost. But finally, we came to my stop and I was up and out. I switched trains, hoping like hell that I was on the right one. This train was really cramped and I had to stand. I almost fell over when it took off but it was fine, I just stood there awkwardly with my knees bent ready for any unexpected movement. I got off at Nagoya, "I've made it!" but I quickly found that the ordeal wasn't over yet. In the big train station people were moving everywhere, I couldn't stand still else I would be swept away.
Many people!
I was told to meet the other exchange students at the golden clock. But I wasn't looking up, I was just walking about looking lost. Finally I saw it, I don't know how I missed it. The others were late but that was fine.

Four of us exchange students roamed about Nagoya for the day and it was great fun. We took a small train to some section of Nagoya where we hung out for the day. 
It's kind of unnerving with all these trains zipping past

This was a huge temple, very cool

No monkey business here, move along.

What did they expect?

It's a nice photo, but it was a scary experience.
Many a poor bystander got shat on that day.

Nagoya has some pretty choice architecture.

Just some foreign fun in the train station.
It was a great day, but I missed my train home so I had to wait for an extra half hour. Can't win em all! I got home after another few train rides and fell into bed again.

Now here I am on Sunday. I woke up at 6:00 am, ready for Kendo training but alas, my throat felt as though it had had a good rub down with sand paper. I was also almost drowning in snot. Nice. I went downstairs to ask Rieko if I should go or not. She said I should sleep some more. I'm not arguing with that order. 6 hours later, I'm eating brunch and writing this. It has been a huge week!

I am feeling a bunch of weird emotions now too. As of Tuesday, I've never been away from home for this long so this is brand new territory for me. I feel a little bit sad; I want to hang out with my mates, I want be with my family and I'd love to sit down with a beer (Not in an "alcoholic" sort of way). But at the same time, I'm super excited to be in Japan. My happiness here completely outweighs the longing I have for home but the longing is still there. I guess this is just part of growing up, more unknown territory that I am walking on during my adventure.

Thanks for reading my late update, I've been so busy! I'm probably going to end up saying this with every post but I'm having the time of my life here, living the dream.
Until next time!
How did this happen? I thought I pressed "smile"

Friday, 7 February 2014

Settling In

Well damn, another week has flown past. Time is actually quite a scary thing.
I don't have too much of an intro here so I will just start off where I left last time.

Last Sunday Rieko (Host Mum) and I went to a nearby town for some shopping. It was an hours drive to Takayama which is a bit bigger than Gero, and a lot colder! It was a winter wonderland; all covered in snow! I didn't get to take any pictures because we were busy moving between shops. My reason for this shopping trip was to pick up some more warm clothes because whilst I had warm clothes, I didn't have enough to get a good washing rotation going. This means that I had been wearing the same stuff for quite a while. Not acceptable, so I got a bunch more. Some people say Japan is an expensive place to live and some others say it's dirt cheap. It's a bit of both. I got a whole heap of good quality warm stuffs for under 10,000 Yen but then I went looking for a new wallet and the particular one I was looking out turned out to be 11,000 Yen. Not only is that a bit over $110 NZD, it was more pricey than my clothes. Nope, not buying that.

That day I just ate and ate and ate. We went to this little antique themed restaurant which was actually a sandwich shop? I was a tad confused but whatever, you can never know what to expect in Japan. I was more confused when people were smoking inside, this is quite odd and I still can't really get over that in some places it's completely fine to smoke in restaurants and other buildings. I sat down and read the menu, well, I tried to read the menu. It turns out it's an antique coffee, toast and sandwich shop. I was pretty past trying to understand what was going on here so I let Rieko decide what I should get. Even more random happenings, the waitress came up to us and she says to me "Do you remember my name?" I just sat there and thought "what?" It turns out she was a girl from school and she was quite offended when I didn't remember her name. Woops. We got bacon sandwich and ring toast. I didn't even try to think what that could be. Basically, a big bowl of toasted bread was brought out (it was shaped like a ring but it had a bottom) at the bottom of this bowl there was a sweet syrup which had a cinnamon-y taste. Yum. But the bacon sandwich was more like little sandwich bites. They had two really thick pieces of perfectly toasted bread with lettuce, the nicest mayo and a whole heap of bacon. I was well more than satisfied. They were so good!
This is the girl that served us those sweet sandwiches
It turns out that I did meet her but I have no clue as to her name.
(This photo was taken on my 2nd day of school)

That day we also stopped of for Takoyaki, which is a ball-shaped dumpling with octopus on the middle (Tako is Japanese for octopus) These are so good! Might be one of my favourite foods! Then we stopped off at some burger chain restaurant, more people smoking inside. So I got a "cheese burger" I was about two or three bites worth of bread, cheese, meat patty and one gherkin. Was a nice little reminder of Maccas back at home. We had big bowls of udon noodles for dinner, what a great day for food! I must have already said it but I love the food here.

I had another Rotary meeting on Monday which got me out of a few classes at school, a nice wee break. Basically, I had to give a speech. My speech looked so good on paper but when it came to presenting I stuttered like King George VI. I was pretty gutted but apparently it wasn't so bad. I got back just in time for P.E. It snowed today (none settled but it was pretty cold) I thought due to the cold that we would have an indoor sports day but nope, all outside for soccer. It's a tough life!

School this week has been difficult because I have been so tired. I sleep in half the classes and study Japanese in the other half. I sleep not because I want to but because I am just so exhausted. It is pretty embarrassing to wake up with everyone looking at you whilst you are a tired, dribbling mess. I do karate twice a week and kendo every other day which only adds to the fatigue. I will talk more about sports in a moment.

Sleep aside, school is awesome. I am learning more and more Japanese everyday and I'm settling in. People are always nice to me here but now they we are becoming friends. In the mornings people used to just look at me and smile but now I get friendly greetings, many genuine smiles and everyone is a bit more relaxed around me.
My friend and I after school, casually training karate in class.
Not everyone in Japan has a black belt, but there are definitely a fair few of them!
There wasn't so much action or brutality at karate this week, just technique training. Nevertheless, it is great. The style here do things a bit differently to what I'm used to so it is an odd experience. I learn their ways and teach them some of Kyokushin's. Karate is great but at the moment kendo seems to be the shiny new toy. 

The kendo club at school is a very strong team so they train everyday and it is very strict. This has been bothering me for a a while now because due to the strictness of the club I can't do any other club activities. If I want to do kendo, I've got to dedicate 5 days a week for the whole year. That's quite a big ask. But I'm foreign so I managed to persuade my way around this and can have a wee bit more freedom. I'd like to get into some more judo and also badminton (a group of girls from my class invited me to play so I'm not gonna say no.) 

But over the last week kendo has been getting better for me, it started off quite cold. For starters, it is literally quite cold. It is freezing in the gym in bare feet and the weird kendo pants. The sensei is very strict and it seemed as though he was mocking me a few times which was pretty hurtful. But I wasn't about to go pack a sad because he made fun of the way I was kneeling. I decided to just try harder and show him that I could do the sport just like the rest of his students. He has been showing me what I've been doing wrong and correcting me as if I were a child and every time I do the techniques something has been wrong. But just tonight (Friday night) I must have done something right because when I looked at him through my mask he looked slightly impressed. He may not have been, but he didn't have anything to correct so I think it's going well. I am really enjoying it because it is so different to karate and now I'm mates with all the students! It's amazing how bonds are created when people work together and sweat together. These are good friends!
Some of the kendo students
So I was writing half of this on Friday night but I am now writing on Saturday afternoon. I woke up at 11.00 am today and I looked at the thermostat in my room. "Nice" I thought; it's 8 degrees in here. I was just about to stumble out of my room and hobble downstairs when I thought I better open the curtains.
What!? Where did all this come from?
What a surprise! I couldn't believe it! I had a hot breakfast and then went outside to help shovel snow off the driveway. It's quite annoying to be sweating and hot underneath your jacket but then have a freezing face. A fun experience which I think I will be doing a lot more as the snow stays. As soon as I had cleared a little area, the previous area was already covered in snow again! It was piling up right before my eyes. I was quite slow with my shoveling because I was busy throwing snowballs. I feel like a little kid; all excited and what not.
Kazuzo (Host Dad) and I out front of the house.
Now we are watching the winter Olympic snow boarding and eating udon. I'll say it again, Japanese food is so nice! I'm getting better with chopsticks, I have to eat slowly else I drop my food everywhere. It's quite embarrassing to have my mouth all the way open ready to take a big mouthful and then realise I've dropped whatever it was I was eating back into my soup with a big splash. Slowly but surely, I'm getting there!
Me, Hayato and host brother, Kazu
Watching the winter Olympics after a mean feed of soup and noodles!
So in conclusion: I'm settling in well, the weather is brutal but awesome. (We figured out how to get my heater to turn on automatically in the morning so it's not so cold now!) School is tough but enjoyable. Above all, I'm making great friends and it is the best thing!
I didn't really understand but someone said something funny
Thanks for reading! Sorry it's a bit shorter than usual. Once again, please give feedback :)
Until next time!
Still severely stoked to be here