Monday, 31 March 2014

The best times are the busy times

Another exciting week has passed and it was filled to the brim with good times!

I left off last week on a lazy Sunday with not much to do but relax and enjoy the weather but come Monday I was back into the thick of it! We had to get up pretty damn early as my new house is quite far away from school. After riding the train for about 40-50 minutes, we arrived at school. I got to see my class mates again which was great, everyone had a few stories to tell and I certainly had enough to go around.

We all went to the hall and sat on the floor as we listened to the final closing ceremony. I really don't understand what's going on, I thought we had already officially finished but apparently not. It took an age and it didn't help that the wooden floor wasn't all too comfortable. Eventually it ended and we got to stretch our legs, have lunch and go home; it was a half day! I caught the train home and studied Japanese with my family for a wee bit.

Tuesday was a good day but it was quite painful. Firstly, I had no plans for the morning so I got to sleep in for a good few hours which was great! I got up and had lunch and got back to relaxing, my only plan for the day was karate so it was pretty cruisey. 

Soon it was time for karate and I was keen for a fight! Training started off as usual and it was awesome! Fuyuki and I were fighting pretty hard (I've talked about him a few times, him and I are pretty equal.) We we had agreed to fight full power and man, it was great. We were smashing each other with all we had; I would land a punch him and it would be returned immediately with a counter kick and vice versa. I can't express how much fun this was until the fight finished. I heard Sensei give the command to stop, the time was up, the fight was over. I heard this and relaxed, I stepped back ready to walk back to my starting position when I was hit one last time. Fuyuki hadn't heard the command because we were so intense.

Last week in my blog I compared getting smacked by and unblockable punch to saying goodbye to your friends. Almost as if to make sure I knew what that feeling felt like (the punch) I got to experience such a blow at training.

I had my stomach muscles 100% relaxed and he was using 100% of his power. The punch literally sunk into my guts and that was that. I heard a ringing in my ears, my vision went blurry and I couldn't do anything but fall to the ground. I was in a fair bit of pain, I wanted to vomit. It was horrible. He even commented on how odd it felt punching me. I was just not ready. More than anything though, my pride was hurt. He dropped me and that wasn't a good feeling. But that's OK, I will get him back next time!

Wednesday brang with it something of a challenge. I had sore legs from the previous nights training and funnily enough, I had sore guts too. I had to get up early again and ride the train to school for morning Kendo training. It was quite tough. I had a good time though, yelling and smacking people with sticks. After training I missed the first train home. (Mainly because it leaves about five minutes after training finishes.) So I had not much to do between 11:00 am and 3:30 pm. It was pretty dull. It was raining and I was alone so I stayed in the club room and slept. 

Thursday was back to adventures! Some exchange students and I went to Nagoya for a day of stupidity and laughs. We didn't really have a plan but rather we just kept walking wherever our feet took us and we laughed the whole way. It was an awesome time.
Ready to hit the city

A few people here and there

Sakura are starting to bloom

Damn tourists...
A small bit of calm...

After a very long day of mucking about in the city we made a mad dash for the train station. We all got split up somehow and had to make our own way through the subways and the stations. Trains are very punctual in Japan, they leave on the minute so if your ticket says your train is going at 7:23 pm, it wont be there at 7:24 pm. I had to run through the station and look really out of place (more than usual) but I made it. Just.

No time to rest! I got home to packing for the next days adventure! My family and I went to Shiga prefecture and stayed in the flashest hotel on the edge of lake Biwa, Japan's biggest freshwater lake. It's got a surface area of 670 km squared so it's a bit over seven times the size of lake Tekapo. It was huuuuuuuuge!
Lake Biwa

In this photo we have: Mayuko, my sister, my Grandmothers and my Mum

The lobby

We had a pretty choice room

Seriously lovely people
We had Italian food for dinner and it was delicious. I got to use a knife and fork again and it was great. My host Dad shouted me a beer with dinner which too, was great. We finished dinner and went to the onsen. Dad and I chilled out in the sauna for a while and then went back up to the room where we had a small feast of snacks and had a few beers and maybe a couple of wines. It was an awesome night. 

I feel that I am really getting along with this family and it is awesome.

The next day we checked out and went off sight seeing. What trip is complete without a castle?
I can never get sick of these amazing buildings

And the views are amazing
Although the stairs inside of the castles are always so damn steep.

More Sakura!

The weather was pretty plain but it was a pleasant day

Castle gardens, beaut.
After our trip to the castle, we went into the city and wandered the streets as the weather picked up to become quite hot.
Temples are sweet as

Japanese art is pretty cool too



I don't even know what this is

Giant kaleidoscope! 
Into the markets
So that was a great day but it was quite long. The best thing to do at the end of a long day is to go and pig out on sushi! So off to one of those big sushi go round places. I couldn't take any photos because I was eating. Sorry. It was delicious and I definitely over ate but I don't mind really. The food is just too good.

So we got home quite late and I went to bed because once again I had plans for the next day.

Sunday brang with it rain. And it was shit. My friends and I had planned a trip to Inuyama-shi. That translates to "Dog mountain city." I don't know why.  The weather just poured down on us the whole time and we got pretty soaked. We went to this place called "Little World" which was like a big village with various different styles of buildings and cultures from around the world. But the weather made it pretty difficult to do much.

We did however, find a circus. We sat down in a sort of stadium and watched as these Russian athletes did some pretty awesome stunts. It was actually awesome. They had this clown who interacted with the audience and of course, he picked out us foreigners. He handed a bunch of people small basket balls which we threw at him and he would catch them with a net on his back. Except me, he decided to muck me around. Foreigners...

The weather picked up ever so slightly and we wandered about without much aim but rather just had fun conversing and hanging out. It was awesome!
Japanese culture

Photo timing

I decided to jump in and make this photo better

Almost missed this photo
It was a good day! There was more running about in train stations as we were jumping between trains but that's all part of the fun!

So it seems that my week wasn't all that busy in the first half but it picked up. I am pretty tired but not at all uncomfortable. I still sit here sometimes and marvel at the fact that I am living the dream. This time last year I was sitting in school, day dreaming of going to Japan. Sometimes I don't believe it but here I am!

My favourite thing is the language. I am still learning but now I can have conversations with people, I can understand lots more now than I could when I arrived and I love it. There is still so much that I don't understand but that is just as exciting as speaking. There is this feeling you get when you learn something new. At first when everyone is talking, it all sounds like gibberish but little by little as I learn new words, I start to notice them pop up in conversations. And what was once gibberish now has meaning and can convey a message.

That's all for now! Until next time!
Not so amused

Sunday, 23 March 2014

A week of epic proportions

This week has been crazy. I have had so much fun I almost don't believe it myself!

Tuesday was an odd day for the emotions. I woke up reasonably early and proceeded to stuff my life into a suitcase. It took a good hour to do so and then another hour to return my room back to it's original state.
Packed and ready
I looked over my room with a lump in my throat, I was determined not to cry but I would be lying if I said I didn't. A few silent tears fell. I waited in the lounge wearing my Rotary blazer and sat in reflection. It is an odd feeling to wonder: "Will I ever be here again?" We drove to my new place and almost ran over a monkey walking across the road.

After arriving at my new place of residence and greeting my new host family it was time to make my farewells. Once again I was determined not to cry. I didn't, but I did make odd gurgling sounds instead of talking. After a hug and a handshake, I had left the Imai family and become part of the Kaneyama family.

Sadness was quickly replaced with excitement. I felt welcomed in already after the first night. The kindness of people is one of the best things about anything I reckon.
My new room
It's pretty awesome!
I studied Japanese with my host sister, Mayuko, she is the same age as me and is going to New Zealand later this year on the Rotary Youth Exchange. We don't know where yet. So we managed to study both Japanese and some proper Kiwi Englush, it was sweet as!

I slept until midday because there were no plans. Wednesday night was pretty cool. I met my older host brother, Ryo, he's twenty something and I also met my older host sister who is also twenty something. Over dinner I also met her husband who I get along with very well. We talked long into the night even though I had to get up early the next morning. Many laughs were had.

Thursday morning was an early get up in preparation for a ski trip to Hakuba. There was going to be exchange students from many nearby districts meeting up and it promised to be quite fun. I got car sick but that's pretty regular. After transferring from car to van to bus, we arrived in Hakuba. It was literally a winter wonderland. Completely covered in snow! It was beautiful!

We all gathered in the lobby of this big hotel complex thing as strangers and got geared up ready for the first day of skiing. The most common question for quite a while was: "Where are you from?" Everyone said: "That's so cool!" When I said I was from New Zealand, my national pride grew a fair bit. There were so many accents and I'm pretty proud to say I have an accent too! (Everyone thinks it's awesome!) 

My district's crew
Blurry photos everywhere

This fulla cooked up a mean feed!

A vicious snow fight ensued.
(This was the small group who were game enough to go outside)
 I rounded everyone up for a photo (It's amazing how a loud voice and a camera can direct people!) and as soon as the photo was taken I was smashed with snow. Standard. Jake and I (Jake is the one holding the snow ball in the above photo) decided it would be cool to jump of this big mound of snow into the deep snow. I was expecting to go ankle deep. What I got was a huge shock. I jumped and fell belly button deep into the snow. Jake was also stuck. It was quite hilarious until we actually couldn't get out. We had to be dug out!
If you look closely, the people in the behind us are also giving the piece sign!
 Skiing was great fun! The first day was raining so it was a bit shit but it was still great fun. We ski'd for a few hours and I had a good few wipe outs. I accidentally went with the pro group!

The second day was blizzard like! Fresh new snow and all that stuff. But I didn't have any facial protection, just my goggles. So my face stung something wicked when I got any speed. And whats more, my goggles always fogged up so I literally couldn't see anything infront of me, quite dangerous on a mountain with heaps of people! So I normally just didn't use them. But that created another problem! I could barely see because of the snow in my eyes! It was tough, but great fun!
Very hungry.
 So me and Jessie here were being interviewed by this guy and he asked us for a photo. We thought this was what he wanted but when he yelled at us in full and proper English: "NO! I want a photo of you talking!!" We just looked at him with mouths stuffed with food and could only laugh. I reckon this would have looked better in a newspaper.
Shenanigans at lunch time

I'd like to say I won...
This girl, Yurika, went to Germany for a year and she could speak fluent English, German and of course Japanese. What's more, she was a hardcore volley ball player and we had to settle in a draw in the above arm wrestle. I couldn't believe it!
Lunch time fun!

So many students!

Smiles on the bus

The outbounds from my district and I

Jake getting some action

You could just jump into any photo at any time, it was great


My current host sister on the far right, Mayuko

Jessie must have seen something different to what I saw

I won a Hello Kitty toy!
 We had this huge game of bingo and I promised the girl beside me that I would jump up and make a huge scene if I won. The only problem is, I was very nervous. I was double checking my numbers like crazy cos I would die of embarrassment if I made a huge scene and had the wrong numbers.

When my luck shined, I jumped and screamed. It was glorious, I had eyes for the Hello Kitty soft toy and I was gonna get it. Woops, I missing a number. Ah shit. I hung my head in shame and sat down with my failure.

Bam! My missing number was called out next! Dreams come true if you truly believe! I walked over to the toy and picked it up, turned to face the crowd and held it over my head gloriously. It was great! But as soon as my hand touched the toy, screams of protest erupted from every girl in the room, it was quite hilarious.

So it was a three day expedition, the first night was reasonably tame, I hung out with a group of Americans and other assorted foreigners and we talked until something like 1:30 am.

The second night couldn't have been more different!
Late night shenanigans 
I hung out with some girls who were in the room next to mine for a while and it was like a mini party! We had snacks and talked and laughed for ages! But come 1:30 am, it was time to leave...

To another party!
Good times!
I went up up to a different floor and found another group of people who were keen to chill. We had loud music, more snacks and plenty more laughs!

But once again, it was time to go. Better go to bed I thought. And I found that my door was locked. Well, I had better get back to another party. 

I found a ton of people in this one room but it was pretty quiet. I remembered the power of the voice and invited everyone to my room! We rounded up the other party goers from around the floor and managed to make an elevator malfunction due to excessive weight. There was a ton of us!

So we all piled into my two person room which was already packed because there were three of us staying in it. But we smashed that three person limit and had about 20 of us all partying in the room! We had music and food and drinks, it was awesome!
Party at mine

So we were all having a blast in my room and sharing photos and what not and I just happened to have a photo of Shrek the sheep. Before I knew it, I was spinning a yarn about New Zealand's most famous sheep and everyone was listening. Spreading Kiwi culture to the world!

We party'd until early morning and it was the best!
Thumbs up at dinner time!
 This weeks photos are definitely not in chronological order so you'll have to bear with me. The first night's dinner was a buffet of amazing foods, I definitely over ate. The second night was a traditional Japanese feed and it too was delicious but I had to wolf it down because I spent so much time talking!
The second night's dinner
 On the first night (with the buffet and bingo) all of us inbounds exchanged badges. There were some pretty cool badges but I had forgotten to get mine from my room. So I went and got mine and brang them down in what I thought was an inconvenient box. I don't know if I told Mum but I reckon I had too many badges. It turns out that the box was incredibly convenient and I had a good amount!

Me and some guys literally stole a table and used it as a counter to give away badges from. The loud voice came in handy again and I herded all the students in and donated badges and shared more Kiwi culture at the same time! It was actually amazing, we positioned ourselves so that when people entered or left the room they would have go past the badges. Now there will be many people walking around with a bit of NZ on their blazers!
Photos in the lobby
My roommates and I missed the first days breakfast because of sleep. Woops. But on the second day I managed to get up in time for a feed which was good. Breakfast buffet!

We had a small meeting and made our way in buses to a nearby castle!
Walking the streets of Matsumoto

This hurts my head a little bit

A bunch of us infront of the cottage


400 something years old!

Once again, I could just sit and stare for ages
We all boarded a bus and made our way back home. We had a stop off in a lovely little area with some choice as scenery
Only one cloud!
Soon the bus stopped and I was reminded of karate. Those times when you are fighting and you can see a big uppercut moving towards your guts but you have no way of blocking it in time. It was the same feeling if inevitability as I knew I had to leave and it was gonna hurt. I know that I will meet up with some of the people I met again in the future sometime but there will be people who I may never see again. You learn not to dwell on that fact and instead smile at that fact that you got to meet them in the first place!

Now it is Sunday and I am pretty tired. There is a ceremony of some sort at school tomorrow and at the moment I am relaxing. I have settled in well here and I am having a blast!

Until next time!
Quite pleased with my win