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


  1. Don't know how you have time to write, you seem to be so busy. Glad that all is going well, and that you are even enjoying the weather. Sounds as though you will need to remember some of those girls names, otherwise you could be in trouble. Nice to know that you have a few more warm clothes and that the heater in your room will now turn on automatically. What a great time you are having. Blessings Grandma & Grandad

  2. I told you that winter was the best season in Japan & udon noodles are the best. As grandad says you'd better learn the girls name. Very enjoyable reading keep it up :)