Tuesday, 23 September 2014

More roller coasters! (And a whole heap of other stuff)

Last week I left the blog on a Friday afternoon which turned into a relaxing Friday night. It was nice to have a small bit of down time and prepare for a big weekend. Man, every weekend is a big weekend.

But I love it.

I slept in on Saturday morning and had a bite for brunch. It was a pretty slow day for a start, I was doing practice for a speech due on the next Monday. I went on a few errands with my host Mum and while we were out and about, I learnt about this BBQ at one of host Dad's workmate's places. 

So that became the plan for Saturday night!
We bought some meat to take along and off we went!

I was dropped off first as host Mum had some business somewhere and host Dad was probably still working.

So here I was, with a bunch of strangers and not a clue as to what to say. 

It was pretty cool. 

I did my standard little intro and shook everyone's hands and then got stuck into the food. (I got stuck in after they said I could, I wouldn't be so rude as to just eat all of their food without permission.)

We had some amazing steak followed by some odd squid things. It wasn't bad! I'm still experiencing a whole heap of new flavours all the time even though I thought I had pretty much eaten it all.

Soon enough, a few more people showed up and finally my host parents too. The food kept coming and it was an amazing night. I made some new friends and got to teach a bit of Kiwi culture.
Looking like it's gonna be a good night!

And it sure was a good night!

The food was relentless
 What a night! We talked and laughed late into the night and I was pretty exhausted by the end of it. I got home, high off the good times and went to sleep with a big smile. I'm so lucky to have so many friends.

The next day was going to be awesome. A friend who I met in Hokkaido, two years ago was coming to a prefecture near mine. She helped me learn Japanese over last year and we of course wanted to meet up. It was a little difficult organising a place to meet up because whilst we were in neighbouring prefectures, we were still pretty far away.

But we managed to figure out what to do and with an early get up and some train rides, we got to meet up! It was awesome to see a good friend after so long!

These damn photo booths make me look like a baby

Me and Shiho, in front of some big old train

All the way from Hokkaido!
It was an awesome day! It was pretty hot though but that's alright because it's been cooling down lately.

I got home after a long day of traveling and fun. It turns out we are having steak for dinner. I was pretty happy. What an awesome day. This really was the best!

Aw yea! Dinner's gonna be mean!

Can't wait for a feed!

I was shunned into the corner. ordered to eat my rice quietly.

I even got some grass for my rice!
They said if I don't eat all of my rice then I could have it tomorrow.
It was a joke but it was pretty good fun. I got to eat the steak and I probably ate the most too. It was delicious! My host family asked me to cut the steak because I was the only one with the knowledge of how to use a knife and fork. I felt pretty damn important.

We had a great laugh over the whole thing but host Mum was scared someone would take it seriously and think they weren't feeding me properly.

Monday brought with it speeches and it went 'not bad'. For the first time in a wee moment while I made a pause because I forgot a small bit of my speech. Luckily it came back to me pretty quick but I was still a tad disappointed that I had that minor hiccup.

No worries, it went down well and everyone commented on how far my Japanese has come. It was good meeting!

Dinner was almost a repeat of the previous night except with less steak.

Back in my corner

I found some bugs on the way home so I got to have them for dinner
These are actually a delicacy called "hachino-ko"  which translates to: "Bee's kids." or "Baby bees." They are pretty expensive and so tasty. They had a slight honey taste and were a bit crunchy. They went well on rice.

So once again I wasn't actually forced into the corner to eat cold rice. It was another great night of laughs and good food. It always seems to be this way!

Tuesday was of course karate day so I was excited from six in the morning when I woke up. It was a regular day at school and I made some progress on my Japanese. I have a new plan for learning! I thought it would be cool to read comics in Japanese and get to know a bunch of new vocabulary as I went along.

I was looking forward to buying some comics after school and I did just that! 

Because it's quite far to go from school to home and then back to karate, I stay at my previous host family's house and then go. It's good because it's convenient and I get to catch up with my family!
The clouds were pretty spectacular on the way home
These are called "Hitsuji-gumo" in Japanese, literally "Sheep clouds"
This time I brought Emma along, the new exchange student in Gero. We stopped over at the Nunome house and had a good talk. I even got to meet their eldest daughter who was in university when I was staying with them. So it was great to actually get to meet her!

Before we went to karate we stopped off at the local comic shop and got my "text books." Awesome.

Karate was great! Fuyuki and I battled it out for the night and both walked away buggered. I think it was a draw which is cool because that means I didn't get beaten up too badly.

Fast forwarding to the weekend:

Saturday was essentially a free day, with no real plans or jobs to get done. I did have a karate thing on but that was from six o clock in the evening. So I got to have a nice sleep in and then enjoy the hot weather which is starting to become rare. It's still warm but it's often quite chilly in the mornings nowadays.

I got my haircut at host Grandad's shop (so it was free !) He asked if I wanted a shave and I said sure, why not? It turns out I've got soft skin or something because I was cut up pretty badly after the trim. No worries, it stung a little but I had the smoothest face!
It felt worse than it looked haha
 Then host Mum and I thought it would be cool to go to the local temple and have a look around. It sure was cool. It was amazing.
There were all these little statues all over the place and a few bigger ones too

I think this is where the magic happens
 We got to meet a monk and it was pretty surreal. He had this sort of calm aura about him and he was pretty nice to talk to. We talked for ages to the lady who was attending the temple, I don't know how she fits into the whole scheme of the temple but she was pretty nice too. She gave me a bead bracelet for free and that was awesome.

For dinner, we went out for udon noodles. There was this shop on the way to where I was going for karate and apparently they have these big dishes. Host Mum told me that she can't normally eat it all so I took it as a challenge.

I can eat a fair bit so I was keen as for a big lot of noodles.
Neat looking shop

Tenpura and udon. Maybe I can't eat all of this...
I gave it my all. But it was just too much. I ate all of the tenpura and a decent amount of noodles but man, there was just too much. I felt like I was going to pop and I had to be at karate in a few hours. Luckily today's session was to be a referee workshop.

Hopefully not too much moving about because I was already having trouble standing up.

I got to Sensei's house and met up with a few others from our dojo. Off we went to learn how to be good refs.

We drove to a nearby-ish town called "Ena" where we met up with a whole heap of black belts. We did some learning and because it was actually pretty fun, time flew by and soon enough we were on our way back home.

It was about 11 when I got back home. And it was straight to bed because we had a 3:00 AM get up the next day!

We were going to "Fuji-Q Highland" amusement park. It was promising to be a good day, especially since my host family had been amping it up since I first arrived at their house. They had told me that Fuji-Q houses the scariest roller coasters in Japan.

So up we got, and off we went! We left at about 4 in the morning and arrived at about 7:30 - 8:00 am. Halfway there, host Dad and I decided we should stop off for breakfast. So whilst the girls were asleep in the car we dashed inside a roadside station for a bite to eat.

We didn't think it was very smart to eat too much before the roller coasters so we looked around for something light.


We looked for something light but ended up getting a big bowl of ramen each. I also had some fried chicken because I'm not very smart.

A light breakfast
We ate so fast that we got pretty bloated. It looked as though I had swallowed all the noodles at once and the bowl as well. I had the biggest belly and it was pretty gross. We had a good laugh over it though.

The girls laughed at us when we got back to the car because of how stupid we were. "I hope none of this comes back up" I thought.

We arrived to find the park not open yet. And a huge line of people all waiting for the park to open.

We joined the line and made it up to the ticket place. Everyone was getting checked through and sprinting to their favourite ride so they could beat the lines.

We decided to run straight for the worlds steepest roller coaster.
It's legit
It stops at the top and then drops down at a 121 degree angle. Oh dear
We managed to get there pretty quick and only waited for 15 minutes. We were sitting in the car, ready to go when it started moving slowly. It started off indoors so it was quite dark.

It was pitch black and I was waiting for it to go outside and start but I almost had a heart attack when the ground disappeared from underneath us and we dropped, sped and spun this way and that before we even got outside. I couldn't see a thing yet I knew I was upside down and moving fast.

We got outside and zipped around this crazy trick before we suddenly stopped in front of this wall. Except it wasn't a wall, it was the track!

I looked to my left, Kumi and my host Mum were smiling and laughing because of the sheer awesomeness of this ride but to the far left, it looked as though host Dad was gonna die. We all looked at him and he looked back with fear in his eyes and we all fell into hysterics.

It was hilarious! But then we were being dragged up at a 90 degree angle and it took hours. At least it felt like that. It was insane. We got to the top and it stopped before dropping us. Kumi and I managed to get a cool pose in before we died.
I blinked, damnit! I'll have to ride it again
Then it dropped and oh my god it was crazy. The track went back on itself and it was amazing. I love roller coasters.
We ran next to the fastest ride in the park. The "Dodonpa". It was supposedly going to shoot us away at 172 kmph. I was pretty excited.

Host Dad was not. After we got off the first ride he said:
"That's it. I'm done, going home!" 

But of course we got him on this ride. We waited for around an 45 minutes this time. It seemed to take ages but we got there eventually. 

Kumi was pretty scared this time. I asked her if she was going to put her arms in the air but she said that was impossible, this thing is too fast.

I didn't really believe her.

There was a countdown before we went flying. I got my arms ready to throw in the air but the car went from zero to 172 just like that. My arms were pinned to my chest and I couldn't even scream. 

The ride zoomed by so fast but it was so exhilarating. We planned a cool pose before we got on and this time it worked out pretty well.

Host Dad looks like he's crying
We had lunch next. I got a couple of Turkish kebabs and they were pretty delicious. I also got a photo with one of the park mascots who I felt pretty sorry for.
Bugger wearing that costume all day, it's way too hot!
Next, my host Mum and I lined up for another record holding ride.
Most of this is going to be done upside down
And it was. After we waited for three hours in the line. It took forever! We were waiting three hours for a two minute ride.

But eventually, we got there. We were definitely in Japan, there were students studying as they waited! The last thing on my mind when I'm waiting to get on a roller coaster is study. The work ethic is pretty damn awesome.

Host Mum and I lined up, ready to sit on this odd contraption. It didn't look like a conventional roller coaster. It had seats which rotated so even if the track was the right way up, you'd probably be upside down.

We got strapped in and man it was tight. The ride started backwards. We were facing the wrong way? Next thing, our feet were in the air. We started upside down. It was pretty crazy.

Over the next minutes we were thrown this way and that, upside down, right side up, downup rightside, I just didn't even know. At one point I thought I was going to fall out of my seat and to my death but as soon as I thought that we were spinning in a different direction.

It was a pretty amazing ride. 

I don't know what to say about this
Off we went, in search of more fun. We rode the teacups!

Host Mum and Dad

Kumi and I
Kumi made me ride one of those viking ships that swings back and forth, doing horrible things to your stomach. This one did full revolutions though so my guts were not impressed.

Once that was over, we went to see how the last big ride of the park was looking. It was a big, exciting looking roller coaster with a line bigger than that of the previous one. Another three hours for a two minute ride? 

Nah, that's a bit too much. A total of six hours in lines is about the equivalent to a whole school day. Except it would be spent standing in a line.

We decided to pick up some souvenirs and go home.

It was a thrilling day!
 On the way home we stopped off at a Taiwanese restaurant where I ate more than I should have. I must of eaten my own body weight's worth of fried rice and then some. It wasn't very smart but it tasted great.

I got home and wrote up some more stuff for uni. It was a little stressful so after a while I decided to call it a day and went to bed.

I woke up at around three in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep so I just lay in bed, waiting for the 5:30 am alarm. We were going to Nagoya today! (Monday was a holiday so of course us exchange students made plans.)

Finally we would get to be the real seniors and show the newbies around Nagoya. And it was awesome!

The weather was good and so was the company.
The Gero-Takayama contingent, Emma and Victoria, plus myself on arrival at the station
 Victoria, from Norway also writes a blog, it's cool to see a different perspective on the exchange so if you're interested I recommend checking out her site:

Emma also does a video blog on youtube so have a look at that too!

We had some time to kill before the other exchange students arrived so we went and found a starbucks for a coffee. I was pretty tired from the big weekend already and I guess I was a little bit down. But when I bought my drink, the lady who made my coffee told me I have a lovely smile and it really made my day.

I wanted to talk to the lady so I asked her what it was like to work in Suta-ba (Japanese for Starbucks) and she said it was fun. She gave me some compliment that sort of bounced off me, it's pretty bad to say but I've become a bit desensitized to the usual "your Japanese is great!" so when I heard, "Mr, you have a lovely smile" I was taken aback and had to ask: "What did you say?"

I got all flustered and couldn't even reply properly, it really did make my day.
A look over Nagoya from one of the station towers at about 9:30 in the morning
Sore feet so Jake gave me a ride!

Purikura, making us all look like dolls

We found Mario

Found some babes too
We got kebabs and showed the newbies around town and it was so cool. We wondered if our seniors felt as we did now. We remembered looking up to the seniors with this awe and respect, they could speak Japanese, they knew the city backwards and all these great things.

On our way back to the station at the end of the day, I thought I recognised a guy who was walking in the opposite direction from us. I swear I had seen this guy before. I turned around as we walked past and so did he. It turns out I met him at the Gero festival from a while back! We high fived and went back to our own paths. It was pretty awesome.

I really enjoyed the day but I was buggered by the time I got home. So off to bed in preparation for school the next day.

School was normal, I got some study done and read some comics. (That counts as study too!)

Karate today!!

Emma and I went back to the Nunome's and had a small feed of takoyaki, little dumpling like things with octopus in them. Yum! Naoko, another one of the sisters who wasn't there when I was staying with, (shes been in the blog once or twice) had just come back from a small holiday in France. 

And she brought back some real good salami, something you can't find in Japan.

We got a photo and set off on our way in search of a fight.
I heard Naoko speak English for the first time today, I didn't know she could!
Turns out she's fluent in English, French and Japanese. Too cool
At karate we fought as per usual. It wasn't until the last fight that Fuyuki and I could have our proper showdown.

And it was awesome.

Sensei yells at us and tells us this is the last fight for the night. Everyone else was to stand back and watch.

Gloves off. One minute. Full power.


We smashed into each other and very quickly Fuyuki hooked me a good one in the ribs, as he always seems to do. I got him pretty good in the legs but from his reaction it seems he got the better out of small trade. 

I pushed forwards, determined not to walk backwards. I couldn't find an opening so I made a few dummy hits and then threw my leg up in the air for an axe kick. I brought it down and it landed true! I felt a little guilty for doing it though, it's not nice having a sweaty foot land on your nose and slide down your face.

He was right back to it though and got me good again with his punches.

We stood there for maybe 10 seconds and just traded hits. We were trying to block and retaliate to each other's shots but we just ended up hitting one another with total disregard to what we were receiving.

We split away from each other and I went straight back in with a barrage of punches. I backed off for a second and then so did Fuyuki. 

He said he couldn't do it and he lay down on the ground. We had a good laugh when he said he almost lost his dinner during our punch trade.

It was a good night. I'm sure he'll deck me next time.

I really shouldn't have been at karate because I had a cold but I couldn't possibly miss a session. I payed for it the next day when I woke up dead. I had to take the day off and I just stayed in bed all day. I was pretty beat.

But I was all keen for dinner!
I've forgotten what it's called but the noodles are like a mix between udon and mochi
Mochi is like a Japanese rice cake, they're quite soft and a bit chewy. This dish was amazing. It was spicy and full of flavour. 

School on Thursday was good. I'm studying for the next JLPT test and I learnt some new grammar for the first time in a long time which was cool as. I can understand most of what I here nowadays but there is obviously still a lot of vocabulary that I don't know.

And every now and then, there is some grammar that totally loses me. Because I've got the basic stuff down, I need to learn the harder stuff that isn't used as often so it's quite hard to remember because I don't get to use it very much.

It's still great fun though!

I didn't go to karate on Thursday because we had an official welcoming dinner for Emma at that Italian restaurant where I went with Nunome-Host Mum. The place where we were the very first customers!

It was pretty nostalgic even though it wasn't all that long ago when I was being welcomed in.

All of Emma's future host families came to the dinner and it turns out we have all of the same hosts except one. My last host family will be different to Emma's last but other than that, it was like a big family reunion for me!

I got to sit beside the Kaneyama family; my second hosts. Their daughter, Mayuko is in New Zealand at the moment on exchange. I sat beside my host Mum and we had a great catch up.

It was an awesome night full of awesome food (i ate too much again) and awesome people. I talked to the boss about the next meeting and he told me to prepare a three to four minute speech.

I asked: "Just four minutes? Really?"

He told me that I have an allocated time slot at the meeting and this time it would be in front of over a thousand people. 

Something to look forward to, I guess! The meeting is on October the 18th, so there is plenty of time to get this done. It's gonna have to be my best speech yet and here's hoping for no damn stutters or memory failures. 

Friday brought with it some more good study, I got through some really hard grammar and had a good time in P.E. Well, it was good until I dived for the ball (volley ball) and had rebound into my face. Then it went from good to funny and slightly painful. 

Saturday started off as a lazy day but would turn into one of the best weekends.

I woke up at 10:30 AM and started my usual routine of writing stuff. Blog, uni, reports and a whole heap of other stuff. We had a really nice curry for lunch and host Dad must have eaten about three people's worth because his plate was massive.

But soon enough it was time for another BBQ. This time I was going back to the Kaneyama's, my 2nd host family.

My old host Dad came and picked me up and it felt just like home. We listened to the same jazz that he always listens to and I couldn't help but smile like an idiot.

We got back home in the town of Kanayama. (Yes, that's the biggest pain, the Kaneyama family lives in Kanayama. So many misunderstandings have become of this.)

The house looked just the same as it always did from the outside. I walked through the back door and said: "Tadaima!" Which pretty much means "I'm home!"

This is always returned with "Okaerinasai!" Which is "Welcome back!"

My host Mum looked at me in the doorway and said:

"It's not weird at all, just like old!"

I sat down in the lounge and we all laughed, it really was like old. I felt at home, it was so nice. The lounge had been re-arranged a bit but it was just as I remembered. My name was still on the doorway from when I left about four months ago.
The day I left. From left to right is:
Mayuko (now in NZ) Yukiko (host Mum) Saori (with baby bump) Myself (minus some badges) and Yuuki (Host Dad isn't in the photo)

It was only host Mum and Dad home at the moment but soon enough, Saori came back. When I stayed here, Saori was pregnant and always had this big baby bump. But when she came through the door there wasn't any bump. 

It was a bit odd to see her without it! I soon met Sona, her daughter.

Sona is three months old

It was like she remembered my voice!

With the new Mum and Dad

So soon enough, everyone turned up for dinner. It was too cold to do a BBQ outside so we set up the fry pans and got to work inside.

And it was an amazing night.
Start of the night
 Mum had made that salad I love and I'm pretty sure I ate most of it! There was so much meat, there was even sushi at one point! I ate so much, I was stuffed! It was just so awesome to be back with these guys, I can't really express it in words properly. It was magic.
Went over the road, met some friends and ate some more food.
We ate and talked and laughed until about midnight when it was time to go to bed. It was the merriest of nights.

I talked so much with my family and told them so many stories. I hadn't talked to them for only four months but it felt like so much had happened since then. It really was an amazing night. 

I went up to my room and it was just like home. I slept like a baby and got up at around 9:30 am.

I went downstairs and found this:
Just when I thought she couldn't get any cuter!
 I had breakfast and chatted away to everyone. Everyone was working around the house so I was the babysitter!

Wee Sona fell asleep in my arms at one point and I think I had a moment. I wish I could take the baby home with me haha!

We soon decided that we should do something with the day so off we went for a drive, Mum, Dad, Saori, Sona and I.

I don't know if we knew where we were going but we soon decided to go to this place called "Bokka no Sato" which is like a big open garden/market/farm/beautiful place near a town called Gujo in the Gifu province.

Some of us slept in the car because it was a bit of a long drive but we were all ready to go once we got there. It was hot and the sun was shining. It was a beaut day!
That's host Dad, with his back to the camera, I couldn't get a photo with him!

There was some clown doing something over there

There was this big little church

It was a pretty stunning place

Saori and I

I rode a horse! I was just eating horse meat a few weeks ago so I felt a tad guilty haha
 There were also some sheep which we of course had to go and pet because I'm from NZ and it was so nostalgic. They asked if it felt like home when I was petting the sheep and it sure did.
Saori, Myself and Host Mum
We had burgers for lunch and ice creams for afternoon tea. It was awesome.

We were walking around the souvenir shop and I was carrying Sona and I saw this lady who was also carrying a baby. She looked at me and smiled but the look was like the one you give to other foreigners in Japan. The "We're in the same boat" look. I just rolled with it and pretended Sona was my kid. We had a good laugh about it though because it did look that way.

They dropped me back off home and it turns out we were having a BBQ for dinner!

I hugged the Kaneyama's goodbye and sat down, slightly tired but ready for another night of good food.

yum yum
It was a slightly chilly night, but a sweat shirt fixed that
It looks like he's about to feed me but he actually just rubbed the hot steak over my face, I got to eat it after so no worries
We went to bed late after a good night. And that was the end of the week. I will be moving families again on Saturday.

Time flies so fast it's actually unbelievable.

I've had so much on lately and it's been a bit stressful but I'm still loving it more than anything. I look forward to becoming a part of a new family but I'm not looking forward to moving away from this one.

I know now that I haven't left any of the families I've been with but rather just moved away, much like what I've done by coming from NZ to Japan. I haven't been removed from any families, I'm just away. 

I have so much family now, so many Mums and Dads, a couple of brothers and a whole heap of sisters. There's even a niece in there now. It's amazing. I love them all. 

If you've stuck with it and read this far, thanks! I'm sorry this is late again, I feel pretty bad about not getting it done. 

I've got some reports to write after this so I'd best finish it here. 

Until next time!
I really can't get over this wee girl

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