Monday, 17 March 2014

Adventures and Headaches

Better grab a coffee and sit down for this one 'cos it's going to be quite big. I have done so much over this last week and I'm pretty keen to talk about it.

So in my last blog I was lazing about no Saturday with not much to do, I was in my pyjamas all day wasn't expecting to be doing anything that night. Not long after I had finished writing I was reminded that we were going to a local neighbourhood meeting. So I chucked a hoodie on over my pyjamas and we walked down to this large building. I had no real idea of what was going on and to be honest I was quite confused.

We get inside this building and sit around this long table, there were a bunch of men eating sushi, drinking beer and talking loudly. I just sat there and ate, I couldn't make conversation with the guys because they were all slightly drunk and speaking too fast for me. Now of course I was a good student and didn't even touch any of the beer. They also had Japanese 'sake' which is like a rice wine. I wouldn't have a clue what it tastes like because I was totally alcohol free.

Jokes, sake is quite sweet and Japanese beer is as good as ever. I may have stumbled home a bit merrier than I expected to have been. It was a fun night.

Sunday was an amazing day. The host family and I went out on our first real 'sight-seeing' tour. We went to an old town called Gujo-Hachiman and had a great time. Firstly, it took a wee while to get there but the scenery was absolutely amazing. Japan is truly a beautiful country. Once we got there we were greeted with some pretty deceitful weather; it was a beautiful day but as cold as!
Kazu and I with a beaut river in the background.
Looking over the town was this big castle and it was pretty damn cool. It was high up on this big hill amongst the mountains and offered some pretty choice views.
What pose do you do infront of a castle? Thumbs up should be right.

I could of stayed there and just stared out over the town for ever

Authentic Japanese 16th century lighting
This statue shows the owner of the castle and his Mrs.
There is also a lady on the right who was important.
We had a great feed for lunch and were back off home for a rest. It was quite a big day of travelling and walking and what not. It was a really good day!

The next day decided to throw some exciting weather at us and went full blizzard. Oh man it was cold. We had a half day at school and I had to stay back for Kendo training. This will be fine I thought. Well training went for the usual two hours and I had to make my own way home afterwards. I missed the first train home because it left at the same time Kendo finished so I just hung out with the other guys and got up to nothing much. It was snowing pretty heavily outside and I still had to make my own way home.

I made it onto the next train and sat with some friends and had a good yarn. From the train station it takes a good hour to walk home if you walk at a normal pace so I got quite soaked with the blizzard weather and the fact that I didn't have an umbrella. My inner Kiwi said: "She'll be right, toughen up." And that was that.
It's pretty chilly
The weather was pretty shit, for lack of a better word. 
A look out over the river from the bridge, when the sun is shining this place is beautiful.
But I think it looks pretty cool anyway.
My host Mum and I went out to dinner that night to one of those sushi restaurants with the conveyor belts. It was great. I managed to spill my soup and make quite a mess but that was just fine, there was an overly friendly old lady sitting next to me who was only too happy to clean it up for me. It was a bit uncomfortable but whatever.
The soup was pretty tasty while it was still in the bowl

It's a bit hard to see but there is a conveyor belt moving sushi around.
I had to go to bed early that night because whilst there wasn't any school (I think we've finished school for a wee while) there was still Kendo training and for some reason it was at 9:30 am. This means I had to get up at 6:00 so I could get a ride to school. I had a few bad words to say as I got out of bed to find it was just as cold as yesterday.

I got to training and managed to avoid frostbite in my toes but I don't know how. Once we started training it was fine, I got to do some actual fighting which was an interesting experience. Because I'm still pretty new at Kendo I don't know how to block very well and we don't seem to cover it in normal training. By the end of the session I had a very sore head. It wasn't a good feeling and the headache stuck with me all day. 

I made it to the train this time by sprinting to the station as soon as training finished. I got a feed from the same place as last week but this time I took a photo.
Okonomi-yaki. It is divine.
Okonomi-yaki is like a big omelette. A big omelette with squid and noodles in it, all covered in some sort of bbq sauce and mayo. I could eat this everyday.

It was Tuesday so that meant Karate! I was pretty excited to go and get some new bruises and I did just that. Although, the combo of Kendo and Karate had my feet degrading again. I was pretty sure I had them healed but it was not so. They became worse later in the week. Tuesday night was another early night because I had made plans for a big adventure on Wednesday.

So I got up at 6:00 am and walked the dogs. I got a ride to the train station and managed to buy the correct tickets for the day's journey. I was going to Nagoya all by myself and I was ever so slightly nervous. Last time I went to Nagoya I navigated the trains by myself but had the more experienced exchange students show us newbies around the subway and the city. Today I was gonna do it all by myself! A real test.

I managed to miss a train at one of my transfers but that was just fine, it's all part of the adventure.
A look out over the train station during my extended wait.
 I ended up being an hour later than I would have liked but I wasn't too fussed. I got to Nagoya station and was almost washed away by the sea of people. It was ridiculous!
I almost got pushed over because I stopped to take a photo
I managed to make it through the subway system even though I was well and truly confused. I had  good laugh though. There seemed to be some foreign school expedition going on.

There was a big group of white kids and one man who was obviously a teacher. These kids were a little bit younger than I was and they clearly had no interest in listening to their teacher. They were loud and looking this way and that. Then this teacher yells quite loud: "Allright! See ya's later! Good Luck!" He was pretty mad and started walking off when all the kids suddenly realised that they were going to be lost without him and decided to listen. The teacher said something along the lines of: "You wont be able to make it around here by yourselves so listen up." Then I walked past, all by myself and just as foreign as them. It's pretty petty but I felt quite cool.

So after the maze of subway trains I got out into the big city and what a great time I had. I had food from street stalls and got lost in the city, I talked to strangers and looked in all the shops. It was really an awesome day.
A big day ahead.

There are shrines just about everywhere

Lost in the city

Feeling quite insignificant amongst the concrete jungle

Just going with the flow

The weather was pretty kind too

Still feeling small
I walked for a very long time just going places in the city and nearing the end of the day I realised I had very sore feet. I have pretty bad flat feet and need special inserts in my shoes but on this day I wasn't wearing them. (They don't fit in my cool shoes) I would come to regret not wearing them as my feet still hurt on Monday. I really need some new ones cos my current ones just have so many problems. All cut up and sore and what not.

I got home and didn't miss any trains this time. I home an was pretty keen for bed because Thursday was another adventure to be.

I got up and was pleased to see it wasn't snowing because I was walking to the train station. So whilst it wasn't snowing, it was bucketing down with rain. I had an umbrella but I still got pretty soaked. I was going by bus to Takayama with a few friends; a boy from my class who is going to be my 3rd host brother and the American boy who is also a Rotary student. It took a good hour to get to our destination so I slept on the bus. When we got there, the weather was just as bad.

We met up with some girls and then went off for lunch. It was great! Lunch was good too.
Shaky cam is used to show how seriously delicious lunch was.
So after the feed we walked in the rain to go bowling. I haven't bowled in such a long time. I must have been quite young last time cos the last time I went I can remember pushing the ball off of a frame. So this was like my first time bowling and it was down right embarrassing. I got six gutter balls in a row. Damn.
The bowling team.
After bowling we wandered through the town and got up to not much. We took those puricura photos and looked at the old buildings. The rain didn't let up but it was still a great day!
Perfect walking weather

I don't know what this statue is, but it's pretty odd
There's a fair bit of water in the river too
*sigh* foreigners...

Standard Engrish
Japanese photo technology that turns you into a doll

After all the walking we went and had a go at karaoke. This was pushing me out of the comfort zone because I'm not really a singing person but I thought: "Bugger it, have a go." And I had a really fun time! We stopped off for some good old McDonalds for dinner and just about missed the bus home. (Thanks to some fast running through the streets and the rain, we made it.) 

Once again it was off to bed early but this time it was for Kendo. The plan was to take the train to training, train and then take the bus to Ishikawa prefecture and train with a big group of schools. I didn't know what to expect so I was pretty excited. 

I got early for training on Friday, I had breakfast at home and then made my way the train station. It was snowing but it wasn't so bad. I was told training was from 12:30 until 3:00 pm. So it was going to be a long day. We did mock up tournament matches and I got to have a go. It was pretty fun. I didn't win any but I still had fun screaming in people's faces. Some people got a good yelling at so I guess they must have done something wrong. The Kendo teacher is not my favourite guy, he's pretty strict. 

So 3:00 pm came and passed and we kept training. I had missed a block and received a very hard hit to the head which gave me a killer head ache. Aw man, I was in pain. My head hurt and once again I was unable to understand anyone's Japanese. My mood dropped rapidly as I couldn't understand what to do and held up the training session. 

I was partnered up with this one guy who told me (in Japanese) that I had forgotten to shout with the last strike. When I finally understood that he was telling me to use my voice next time I had become pretty frustrated. I was just so mad from not being able to understand any of the commands and the fact that I had mucked up the previous technique that when I went to hit this guy I didn't just scream or shout, I literally roared, (scared myself a little bit) struck him and then pushed him over into the wall. He actually fell over. Woops.

Training finished and then we all boarded a bus and we were off and traveling to Ishikawa prefecture. We drove to a town called "Noto-Hanto." The bus was literally full to the brim with people and bags. Everyone had to hold some luggage on their laps and one poor kid even had to sit in the back underneath the baggage. It was chaotic.

We arrived at about 8 o clock and went out for dinner. I remembered that the last time I ate was at 8 in the morning. I was starving. I had a mean curry for dinner which would come to be a real pain in the ass later. No pun intended. 

We stayed in this big building designed for huge meets. There were heaps of bunk rooms and a huge dining room. There were a bunch of meeting rooms for presentations and the like as well. We settled into our bunk rooms (Boys and girls separate of course) and got got ready for bath time.

I think I was expecting cubicles and the like but nope. I'm in Japan. So I'm standing there in the changing room when everyone got completely butt naked. It was a bit of a culture shock but I thought: "Since they don't care, you don't need to care." It was slightly odd though, communal bathing.

The next morning we were up at six. We had a big breakfast and then had some free time. Or so I thought. It was something like 8 o clock and training started at 9. I had no idea that we were training at a different venue. I thought I had plenty of time for a trip to the toilet. I was nervous and whats more that curry was haunting me. During my stay, I heard my name called out from outside the bathroom. "Brennan, hurry up." oops. It turns out I made the whole team late. I was expecting someone to say: "We don't have time for your shit!" But such a pun never came.

I couldn't take any photos of the weekend because we were always on the move. When we weren't moving, we were whacking people with sticks. It was great fun. When you fight in Kendo, you often hit each other at the same time and collide with each other. When this happens, you can do a few things. Firstly, you are so close to your opponents face that you can almost head butt them. This is a big no no. But you can give them a real good shove. 

I had a fair bit of fun getting into this spot, I would lean in real close and then roar as loud as I could and then shove them as hard as I could. I would then get whacked in the head because I am too slow but it's fun nonetheless. My results were pretty poor with one draw and eight losses. But in optimistic style, it was fine because I had fun. (The classic: "As long as you have fun...")

Because our beloved Kendo Sensei is the way he is, when we showed him the day's results he was not amused. Because I'm foreign, the "Just have fun rule" applies to me. But everyone else got a good telling off for their failures. Even though over the weekend we (The B team) placed 3rd overall, he was not impressed. 

It was a long day with training starting at 9 in the morning and finishing at 4:30 in the afternoon. The next day was the same. 

Sensei was kind enough to take us all to the beach. We were allowed to leave the bus and take photos of the setting sun. 
It was pretty neat

So we did that and for a brief moment, Sensei was a kind man. Then as soon as our photos had been taken he drove past us and ordered us all to run after the bus. 

When Sensei says "run", you don't just run. You sprint. So we did. We sprinted a good kilometer before he thought we had earned a seat back on the bus.
The drive back was long and uncomfortable but I was glad to be back at home. It all sounds pretty negative but it was a great experience. When Sensei wasn't yelling at us, I had a great time. I didn't win any matches and some of the snobbier school students laughed at my shoddy techniques but I had a ton of fun yelling and stomping about. 

I had a match with this one guy who kept making this sound every time I hit him. It was like a disappointed sigh and sometimes he even laughed. My karate trained mind immediately picked up on what he was doing. It was to psyche me out but I knew that he was also just making fun of me. I wasn't phased though. I just yelled in his face louder and "accidentally" missed my strike so I landed fists on his mask instead of my sword.

Now it is Monday and I have been resting. Tomorrow (Tuesday) I will change host families. Every two months I change and I will have a total of six families during my stay here. This brings up some odd emotions. I'm quite excited to become part of a new family, I will have a sister who is the same age as me and an older brother. There is a Mum and Dad and also two grandparents. It will present a whole new lifestyle and many opportunities so I'm really looking forward to the change.

But I'm also deeply sad because I have come to be apart of my current family and it will be difficult to say goodbye. 

All part of the adventure. If you're not laughing or smiling, you're crying. I hope to be smiling.

If you've managed to get through all this: Thank you! Apologies for being late and for this long report.

Until next time!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds as though you are still doing well, as you say sorry to leave your first family, but looking forward to the next one's, presume you are still going to the same school. Have fun and keep warm