Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Moving Again

Well another week has slipped past but it's been full of all sorts of emotions. We've said farewell to the last of the "seniors" and I've changed families again. The weather is getting hotter as the summer holidays begin.

Monday was supposed to be a school day, but a national holiday took it's place and we got to relax. Except we didn't because we had a big Rotary meeting. It was the last big meeting for the outbounds before they go overseas. This of course meant a whole bunch of speeches and the like.
Giving my speech

Everyone was having a real good laugh at these phantom feet
Until the boss Rotarian gave me a pretty angry look

The group is getting smaller
All the outbounds had to give English speeches and us inbounds had to translate them into Japanese. (As per usual.) It's pretty tough but I think it's kind of fun!

This meeting went on for ages though because the outbounds had to be briefed on all the small details like flights and the like. It took sooooo long and it was ridiculously hot but we got there. (It was really just an hour or so.)

I got back home and had dinner with my hosts. We had a big feed of sushi and it was amazing. I seriously love sushi.

The next day was the last day of school. I had a small snooze in first period because our teacher didn't show up and I was feeling fatigued. I accidentally fell asleep on top of my pen.
School was another half day but there was still kendo. I had hopes that it would be a short session because it was the last day but those hopes were washed away as the time ticked on. We started training at 1:30 pm. I was hoping to stop at 3, that would be nice.

It was so hot, I was sweating like anything as I looked up at the clock, 3:20: pm, hmmmm.

Maybe we will stop at 4. Nope, four o clock came and went.

I was shattered, sore and sweating. Finally, 5:00 pm came and that was it. Just a short three and a half hours. Everyone was exhausted. And I still had karate to do later!

I was contemplating not going but I thought I had better. Turns out that it was a good thing that I went!

Fuyuki and I both knew it was my night for revenge so tensions were high.

We started our fight. I couldn't land many hits, he kept blocking them all. Every time I kicked low with my left leg, he would block and send me reeling with a sore shin. But I couldn't show pain, just gotta endure and keep trying.

I started to land a few of the kicks and some punches were finding their way through. I even got a couple of head kicks on him!

It was going my way! At one point he came at me with a big roundhouse to the middle but I managed to sweep out his standing leg and put him on the ground. I could see his leg was starting to get sore.

He got me with one of those punches that just comes out of nowhere. It put me on the back foot for a wee while but I came back with three big kicks to his sore leg. That was it. Three in a row put him out of the fight. He was still moving but the bout was finished real soon.

It went my way. I was pretty stoked. But he said that he'll get me back later on tonight. I was actually very scared.

After about 30 minutes of resting (fighting other people) we got back for the rematch. I was panicking, I knew he was gonna smash me.

So I went in with all guns blazing. It wasn't long until one of my punches found its way through his defence and sunk right into his guts. It put him out for a wee while. When he got up I could see that he was hurt. 

Some punches and kicks later, a kick to the thigh put him back on the ground and that was the night. We finished up, both sore but this time it was Fuyuki who had the most bruises. 

I dread next week, I think I'm going to get wasted.
I may have 'won' this round, but I still got hit pretty hard
You can see where Fuyuki managed to kick me, more than once. 
The next day was a holiday so I got to sleep in. And I sure did!

I had brunch and then went with my host Mum to this really small town called Maze.

We were going to do river/rock climbing. There was this hostel where a Japanese man runs all sorts of outdoor safety courses and other things like this rock climbing and rope courses.

He was also fluent in English and French! (Plus, of course, Japanese.) We turned up and got ready to go to the river with this guy. But of course I'm foreign so we spoke a bit of English. When they found out that I could speak Japanese they asked if I would like to come over tomorrow and help out with and English course.

I said sure! There were going to be two Americans and two French people as well. Well this should be interesting!

This Japanese man, Rocky was his name, plans to open up a language school one day and teach language his way. He doesn't sit people down in a classroom but rather gets them outside and gets them active. He wanted us foreigners to basically just be there and speak English to these people who were keen on learning English.

It seemed an interesting take on learning but sounded quite fun.

But that was for tomorrow. Today we were doing river climbing. 

My host Mum and I climbed into this guys van and the three of us drove off down the road to some small car park on the edge of a cliff. I was pretty skeptic at this point, there was no track going anywhere!

We jumped a fence and climbed down this cliff, followed a dirt path under a bridge and found we were confronted with a river.

Gonna have to go through it! And from there the adventure started!
Ready to go

It's hard work!

It was cold!

But we were getting there!

It was hard work climbing up these rocks in the water, but it was awesome fun! I'd love to do it again sometime!

We got back to the hostel/lodge and organised the next days activities. We were going to be catching fish with our bare hands, cleaning and gutting those fish, cooking them, doing a ropes course and of course, speaking English. It promised to be quite fun!

Host mum and I got home and relaxed, it is so hot here. My room is on the second floor and there isn't any real air conditioning so it gets really stuffy and more often than not, I'm sweating as if I were in a sauna. 

The next day we got up early and made our way back to this lodge for a day of English and fun. I met the other foreigners and they were all pretty cool people! We were to be 'teaching' a group of nine people, ranging from three years old to 65. The adults could speak decent English but the wee kids were obviously not so fluent. But that was why they were here!

And what a fun day it was! 

Cooking fish

Bread on a stick!

Looking for fish

Not so well balanced
Harder than it looks

But man it was good fun!
So we spoke English when we could but I think more often than not we were speaking Japanese. Nevertheless, everyone had a great time! I know I certainly did. I might be going back sometime later in the holidays to help them out again if they are busy, which is pretty cool I think.

I got home, tired and sore. It's hard work speaking English and doing things at the same time! I relaxed a wee bit and then went to karate for a session that hurt quite a bit. I felt it the next day. 

It's Friday and I can't believe it is my last night in this family. I move tomorrow. This has really snuck up on me. Today we were going to have a grand feed. I had told my host Mum that I wanted to make them a pavlova and she said that that would be a great dessert after homemade fish and chips. It was going to be a real kiwi night.

So I learnt how to do the egg yolk separation thing right then and there
(Thanks to host Mum's help)

Manly pink wizz

Pre disaster.
 I'd like to say it was amazing but from here on out it went downhill. I burnt it slightly and then botched up the whipped cream. It was my first pav and it didn't go so well, but I tried. To be honest, it had that pav taste, but it was drowned out by the black edges and 'not-so' whipped cream. Fish and Chips were a hit though. Probably because host Mum made them, I supervised and tasted.
I trained in the chippy for ages, just for this moment.

Last dinner, sushi, chips and a beer. Pretty good Friday night.
We talked late into the night and there were a few tears as we realised this was my last night. Can't believe it. They said how good of a kid I was and said my parents have raised me so well. I wanted to say a whole myriad of nice things back but I was unable to speak due to things like the language barrier and more tears than I care to admit.

It must have been 11 o clock when I decided I should get some sleep. I hadn't started packing yet. I wanted to go straight to sleep but tonight I was packing. I don't know why but I got quite stressed. I couldn't figure out where to start with all the rubbish I had.

It was hot, I was literally dripping sweat and it was midnight. I had managed to get all of my stuff onto the floor from where I planned to "organise" it and pack it away. I sat there and actually got quite mad. And then I got mad at myself for getting mad and figured I had best go to bed. 

I woke up at 10 am and got straight to packing. It was a lot easier now that I had rested. I managed to cram my life into a few bags and I tidied my room up a wee bit.
Ready to go again
Before I left, my host Mum and I went to this new Italian restaurant that was actually opening today. And we were their first ever customers. We got free drinks because of that! And it was an awesome feed too.
It says in the corner, Open today!
So we go in, up an elevator and it turns out we know the owners. Well I don't, but host Mum does.
It was delicious before I even put it in my mouth

And it just kept getting better!

My eyes are bigger than my stomach

But there's always room for dessert

The very first customers!
 I was stuffed. We went home and then off. Just like that.
My bags multiplied?
We drove off, deep into the country side and then further deep into the mountains. I mean, we were driving up a narrow rode with no houses in sight whatsoever. I was told that this place was country, but shit, it really was.

We found some small civilization and then found my next family. They own a big rubber factory (A factory that produces rubber things, not a factory made of rubber.)

The factory is right next to their massive house. I was greeted at the door by my family. They are a good bunch. I said goodbye to my previous host Mum and gave her a hug. I wanted to say something nice but I was tearing up again.

I can't be crying in front of my new host sisters!

I got inside, put my bags into my room and got changed out of my Rotary gear and into something more comfortable. Tonight, myself and the three other outbound girls from my town plus the Rotary head boss were going out for dinner, followed by a trip to the onsen and then going to see off the last of our seniors the next day in Nagoya.

A fun schedule.

We were going out for Yaki-niku, which is another one of those things where you pay money to cook food yourself.
More of these do it yourself restaurants.
It was actually divine, one of the top meals of had here.
We went from the restaurant with bloated bellies to the onsen. My town of Gero is very famous for it's onsen, they are ranked top 3 in Japan but I haven't been yet. 

I've been missing out! It was amazing! I had a great time relaxing in the baths and I even went and 'chilled' in the sauna for a while. A real sauna this time, not just my bedroom.

From the onsen we were going to stay the night at the Boss's house but on the way there we passed some sort of festival going on.
Hard to see but it was a 'taiko' demonstration.
The sound from these drums was phenomenal.
We had a look up and down the street at a whole heap of interesting stalls but we were keen to get home to sleep.

It was pretty late when everyone went to bed, regardless of the 3:30 am get up the next day.

I didn't get very much sleep at all. I didn't even sleep in the car! It's not nice to say but, the Rotary Boss's driving is the reason why there is such a bad stereotype on Asian driving. 

We arrived at Nagoya earlier than expected. We were there before Juliette was, and she was the one who was leaving. We waited for a while and she turned up with a whole heap of mates. She had so many friends come and say goodbye to her. It was actually awesome.

We said our farewells with tears in our eyes but we smiled more than we cried.
Juliette, the last of the 'seniors'

From here she is back off to France
She could speak fluent English, French and Japanese, that's pretty damn cool
Once she left, we all had breakfast and then went back home. I almost had a heart attack in the car, many times as our Boss was sleepy and still bunny hopping about. I offered quite a few times to drive but he said it was fine. It certainly wasn't fine and I was quite worried.

We went through a couple of red lights and narrowly avoided a collision at an intersection. The girls were asleep in the car and were none the wiser but shit, I was watching like a hawk. We got back at lunch time. 

Back at 'new' home, we had a mean curry for lunch and then watched a movie for the afternoon. I'm already getting along really well with this family and I can tell that there are fun times ahead. I'm pretty blessed to have been able to stay with so many nice people.

Also, my host Grandad is a barber so from here on out it's free trims!
"Listen here" I said, "I've had it up to here with this hair and I'd like it gone right here and now."
But that's all for now! It's really hot here but I'm settling in well.

Until next time! 
Safe travels!
We swapped glasses

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Neck deep in busy!

No really, I'm up to my neck in this stuff
So busy
I'll start with school;

Last week was pretty relaxed because of these 'parent-teacher conferences', which meant everyone could go home after lunch! And these interviews went on for the whole week! Brilliant!

I enjoy school but, you know, can't complain when you're told to go home!

Tuesday was pretty interesting. It started off with me dreading a whole afternoon's worth of kendo. I love kendo but I just had this feeling that because we finished school early, we were going to be doing extra practice.

But I had forgotten about a previous arrangement which saved the day! 

So I help out with this practical English class in school and we had been planning a trip to the local primary school. We were going to go and teach them the alphabet and play a few games using English. We had made big posters with letters on them and then pictures to go along with the corresponding letter.

For example, we would hold up a big "A" and a picture of an apple. We also had a chant to go along with it. The plan was that us students would chant it and have the kids (about 6-7 years old) repeat it back. There were 11 of us high schoolers and a couple of teachers.

It ended up being one of the teachers and I chanting while the other students mumbled. (Nothing against them, but Japanese students can be very shy.) Nevertheless, the kids chanted back.

We started off with an introduction in both English and Japanese. Our first guy got on the mic to introduce us as a group and the volume was, to be honest, a little bit loud. But one of the kids, (remember, 6-7 years old.) got up and yelled the Japanese equivalent of: "F**k that's loud!!"

He got a stern talking to from his teachers but us students just couldn't stop laughing.

I did a small speech in English and then repeated it in Japanese. I felt pretty important.

It all went smoothly and it was an awesome day!
A real cute bunch of young scholars
That night I got pretty beat up at karate. More than anything my pride hurts the most. Up until that night, I had never been knocked down via head kick. I've certainly been kicked in the head more times that I should have been but so far I haven't been kicked to the ground.

Until that night. Of course I was fighting with Fuyuki and this week was his 'turn' to win. I've probably said it before but I'll sat it again; I win one week and he wins the next, I get revenge the next and then he gets me back again. And it's a vicious cycle.

Fuyuki was working his magic and putting me through hell when he loaded up his favourite jump kick. And I took the bait and blocked his feint, which was followed up by his shin smashing across my jaw. 

I was stunned. I fell to my knees. Shit..... My vision was all blurry and I had to lay down for a while. It was an awesome kick. 

I got home and couldn't eat my dinner properly because my jaw wouldn't move right. I lost pretty bad. Bugger. No worries, my turn is next week. (writing from the future... It went my way!)

I had an interview on Wednesday and it was pretty chill. My host brother got the real deal, they talked about grades and shit but my one was more like:

"Are you having fun?... Cool as, keep it up!"

I had to leave kendo early for that. I would have liked to have done a full training session but once again, other plans got in the way.

My host brother had recently been sick with this thing called: "Micro-plasma"

I'd never heard of it before but surprise surprise, i got it too. We didn't know that yet but we were off to see the doctor with a few suspicions. He checked over me and pretty much said:

"Well, you'd better take a few days off school."
Taking hits from the nose-bong
I don't know what purpose this served.
Cooooooooool as. I was quarantined in the house because I was infected. I'm not gonna lie, I just had a sore throat, but the Doc ordered me home so I wasn't going to argue.

I also broke the "quarantine" and went out to get some noodles the next day. It was pretty chill. 

I wasn't allowed to do karate though which was a bit disappointing but I was actually for real carrying this virus. 

On Friday I was pretty much all healed and the Doc said I could do karate again, but might as well take the day off school. No problems there!!

My host Mum and I went and had a look around town at some of the nice areas and it was an all round good day.
I didn't even know this was pretty much 10 minute's walk from where I stay


There are a whole heap of red bridges here
Friday wasn't just a day off though; there was karate!

I had plans with (Karate) Sensei and Fuyuki to go to the beach on Saturday and Sunday, so that meant a lot of driving. Gifu province isn't connected to the sea so we had to go north quite a distance. Because of this, we were going to stay at Sensei's on Friday night and leave at some ungodly hour in the morning.

I didn't know it, but Sensei runs a Friday night class in a building near his house, so of course I was more than keen to have a go.

We trained and it was a decent session! I went back to Sensei's and we had a real good feed and ended up talking about world history. We talked about WWII and why the Japanese don't like the Chinese and vice versa.

It was a pretty cool night!

There was a lot more food before this picture
We went to sleep at around 12 am and then woke up at around 2:30 am and got on the move.

It was a pretty long drive to our destination but I couldn't sleep in the car. I talked to Fuyuki instead and the ride was over before we knew it. We arrived at around 6 am and the weather was pretty odd. 
Doesn't look terrible...

Behind me was a massive thunder storm
It was pretty damn loud

There was a harbour and stuff

It started raining pretty heavy so we took refuge in this innocent looking boat
Ready for the beach!
But I think I'm forgetting something...

We took turns at burying each other
You actually need to dig a very deep hole
 There was this old man who came up from behind us and asked what were doing. Then he saw that I was burying Fuyuki and he just went into hysterics. He couldn't stop laughing. He'd never seen anything like this before. He was literally in tears.

Then he asks how a father could do this to his son and then Fuyuki and I lost it. We had to explain that we were mates. It was a pretty random situation.
Sand is also surprisingly heavy! It was hard to breath but not so bad.
Impossible to get out of though

It was a good day, thunder, rain and shine.

We didn't have a place to stay so we were "homeless" for the night.
Fuyuki and I slept in the car while Sensei braved the tarpaulin
That's what I forgot!
That night we tried some fishing but caught nothing but seawater. Off to bed then, turns out it was midnight. This weekend's sleeping pattern was pretty erratic. 

So Fuyuki and I slept in the car with Sensei braving the elements outside until the elements got mad and kicked up a mean ruckus.

There was this great show of lightening whilst we were fishing but absolutely no sound. We figured the storm was pretty far away.

But it got close in the night. It brought rain, wind and the most thunder I've ever heard in my life.

I woke up to the car shaking violently and I got a hell of a fright! What kind of storm is this! Shit!

Turns out it was Sensei, all of our gear was flying off elsewhere and we were needed urgently.

We got out, picked our stuff up and moved back into the car, this time plus Sensei.

All good.

I just watched the lightening until I fell asleep. It was amazing. The sky would light up for over ten seconds at a time, and the thunder would shake the windows of the car and boom on for minutes on end. It was spectacular.

The next morning was fine, no signs of any storm whatsoever. (Save some missing gear.)

We caught a couple of wee fish and then went back to the beach. My back hurt so I was pretty lame and just chilled on the sand. But I had plenty of sunscreen on.

Some little girl walked up to me and Fuyuki, pulled a water gun from out behind her back and started shooting us.

Whaaaaaat. It was pretty funny but I was damn confused. One minute, I'm as warm as can be and nek minnit I'm soaked. 

We pakced up and decided to go to Shirakawago, that world heritage site I went to a while back.
It's still a pretty cool place
I hear there are silk worms in the tops of these buildings

Gotta love those shrines
We then went back to Sensei's and had another huge feed. Loving it!
Sensei bent the law and caught these oysters.

Next is cow's heart! Your choice of raw or cooked.
I had both. It was interesting.
It was a great weekend but a long one. I was pretty buggered and ready to go home so I could sleep on my own floor again. 

But this floor wont be mine for much longer, I'm moving again on the 26th and it's bringing back all these weird feelings. I've become real close with this family and I don't want to move but once again, I'm looking forward to meeting a new family and living a new life.

To be honest, I haven't thought about this move as much as I did the last. Mainly because when I do, I start to get all teary and it's not cool. I've been trying spend this time as best as I can while I've got it.I can't believe another two months have just about come to an end. 

It doesn't seem real, six months. Six months left. It feels like I only arrived yesterday. I can remember the cruel wind and the cold walk from the airport to the car. I can remember not being able to understand anything that was said to me and stuttering when I talked.

But whilst this time has flown, it has also crawled. It feels like I've been here forever. I think in Japanese and do Japanese things. I have Japanese friends and a Japanese family. The seasons have changed and I think I've changed a wee bit with them. 

People sometimes message me from back home and every now and then, someone says: 

"How is your trip?"

Don't get me wrong, I'm actually really humbled that people are taking interest in this adventure, it means a lot.

But that word, "trip" just doesn't fit. This isn't just a year away, it's not just an exchange, it certainly is not a trip or a holiday.

This is a life. It really is a life in a year and I don't know how to explain it. I don't know how to tell people about "how it's going." 

I feel completely at home here and I am starting to forget what everyday life was like back in NZ.

It's an odd feeling, but it's good I think.

That's all I've got for now.

This is pretty damn late, apologies for that!

Until next time!
Try though I might, I just couldn't stand up.
I was in "Seiza" which is Japanese for "proper sitting"
It's basically kneeling, and it hurts.