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I always wanted to go overseas after I finished school, take a gap year and travel. I thought that it would be easier if I joined an exchange program as they seem to provide more insurance (literally) and at least I have concrete terms of engagement. I chose to travel by Rotary Youth Exchange to Japan, since it has a remarkably different and quite interesting culture and language. I also want to learn Guitar...

Diary Entries

Sunday, 06 April 2008

Location: Kanazawa, Japan

Japanese Food is Awesome

Im sure I will say this often, and you have read it on everyone else travel blog. Come to Japan WHEVER you get the chance. The food here is honestly awesome. Some of it can be too sweet, but all the savoury stuff is just sublime. The obvious ones like sushi and sushimi you have probably tried before, so you know how good they are. Sushimi is remarkably good considering what it is; raw fish, rice and wasabi (a green paste that gives a quick, powerful hit to the tastebuds. (contrary to popular belief, it isnt actually spicy like chilli)). But sushimi works well when they are all brought together. the rice does a good job of breaking up the wasabi, and adding soy sauce gives it a counterpoint to the fish. Sushi is pretty straight forward, for some reason, the Japanese are the only people who can make something wrapped in seaweed nigh on addictive. Then, there is Yakisoba and Okinomiaki. They are both similar, kind of like an giant omlette with noodles or cabbage respectively. They get mixed up with egg, flour and some kind of meat (unless its vegetarian). After the fry up (by them or you depending on where you go), you put on a special sauce, mayonnaise, dried fish and spices. Some of you might say that it is too many condiments, but the thing is that they all work well together when combined with noodle/cabbage omlette thing (not my most convincing argument) trust me. There is also Shabu Shabu, which is simply awesome. You get plates of raw meat and veggetables and a boiling pot of water. Put two and two together and you get awesome. After boiling(?) the food, you add different types of sauces; creamy, chilli, soy sauce, tangy ect. It means that you can get many different flavours in one sitting. There is also just the normal food we eat at dinner, Japanese curry, hokkaido noodles, even leftover stew tastes really good.

Just had to get that one out of my system (har har).

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Location: kanazawa, Japan

You update now or I sing...(only Warcraft fans will get that one)

So, I havent updated for quite a while, I bet that you are all clamouring to hear of my exploits. Firstly must again reiterate the beauty of Japan, I have now been around quite alot of Kanazawa and it is one of those places where you can just walk for hours and never see and ugly sight. Maybe this is by design but it is certainly one of Japans most attractive attractions.

A long time ago, in fact the day after my last post, I went round Kanazawa with a man named Matthew. matthew is another one of the rotary excahnge students, from NSW. Although you wouldnt notice it, as he is Malay and fits right in. He laments this fact though, as he would rather stand out in a crowd than hide in it. Cant say I agree with him. Anyway, he and his host sister took me around the town, we went shopping and had lunch at a family restaurant named 'Cocos' (Japan seems to have alot of family restaurants, like America). After that we went to a very large electronics store and had a look around. You would be amazed at the things that they have in these stores. everything from Gameboy Advance games to completely useless yet amazingly tecchy pieces of equipment, that stereotypically seem to pervade these establishments. The only thing that was conspicuosly absent was PC games, which I spent about an hour looking for while Matthew (who speaks almost fluent Japanese) ummed and ahhed over several different digital cameras, trying to optimse ridiculous gimmicks versus amazingly cheap price.

Then came the fun stuff. After we left the electronics store, with a new digital camera, Matthew suggested we try out one of Japan's famous Karaoke bars. I agreed, to humour him more than anything else (I swear!) and we went to one nearby. Along the way, Matthew revealed to me that he was, in fact, a karaoke buff of sorts and lamented the fact that there was an underabundance (I have my own dictionary) of karaoke bars in Australia, despite his avid attempts to find them. Not only that, but apparently the Australian karaoke bars are filled with the drunk and the spineless so it was him up on the stand more often than not. This filled me with trepidation as we pulled in to the carpark, the building looking for all the world like (to my trained eyes) a nightclub, except a little brighter. We walked in, and matthew and his sister start talking in rapid japanese to the man behind the counter, as I looked around for the door to the karaoke area. This continued for a while until I realised that instead of there being an open karaoke space, with a bar and a stage, it was a small set of 'soundproof' rooms (the man in the closest room seemed intent on disproving that) which were hired out to groups of 2-7 people. I was stunned, and not in the least bit relieved. We went into the room and Mat immediately picked up the remote and chose a song, and started singing. He really got into it too, scrunching up his face and gesticulating with his hands. His host sister went next, although she seemed a little more reserved, shy even. I have to say that I did sing myself, although Im sure that I was out, especially during the duets. Oddest way to bond ever.

The day after that, I had dinner with Matthew's host family and tried my first taste of Japanese Tempura. It was really really tasty, I cant describe in mere words, with their horrible conveyance of feeling the absolute edibility (choked on the theasurisims) of this style of cooking. I swear I ate almost a dinner plate sized portion of the tempura alone, I also had miso soup (which tastes a hell of a lot better in Japan let me tell you) and this great salad. For those of you about to say that I shouldnt eat people out of house and home, I tell you that I tried to stop, I tried to limit myself, but the family kept telling me to eat more! They were so honoured that I liked their cooking that they had no problems with me eating the vast majority of it. Im exaggerating a little, Matthew was also there, you'd swear that a man so thin couldnt eat so much.

So that day was fun. the next three weeks were relatively boring, I bought a guitar, (yes!) played Super Smash Bros. on my host family's Gamecube (Yes!) and spent the rest of the time reading or playing guitar and computer games (I am a multitasking god!). I tried my hardest to bludge those few weeks since when they ended, school began...

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Location: Kanazawa, Japan

Silent Hill, Kanazawa...

You think "Doom" was hard, try taking on a horde of fifty-odd schoolgirls trying to tear you apart...twice.

I am told that I wont have to go to school for two weeks as they are currently in a major examination period and it wouldnt be prudent. I did however, visit the school. It is alot different to my school since it is built up, with four floors instead of four buildings, probably a smater move, if not more comfortable. I didnt notice much of this at the time though, becuase I was literally being attacked by the schoolgirls. They swarmed me...twice. I seriously thought that I was going to be something of a novelty, something people were midly interested in and then soon lost interest. I was damn wrong. If anything, that would be my reason for wanting to come home, I think Im allergic to swarms.

Otherwise I am having a wonderful time! The language barrier is a problem but Mum is sending over some textbooks and I have spent most of my spare time studying hiragana, which I now understand, as well as a few basic phrases. A yell out to all people trying to learn a new language, keep a small pocket sized notebook with you to write in all the things you learn, because you might think that you will remember it, but this is better. If anything, it means that you can give it to a japanese person (or your equivalent) an point at the word. Which I, thankfully havent had to resort to yet. Of course that may change as today I am attending my first Rotary meeting and although I am assured that I wont have to speak, I know from our meetings that it is not very likely for that to be true...I which case I may have some trouble...since I dont know how to say "I am having a good time" in Japanese. But like hell Im going to do my first presentation in English! Blasphemy!

Regardless, on the 25th, there is an Orientation in which I do have to make a short presentation, which may pan out to be a slight problem. Ah well, I do have a couple of contacts, such as one of the other exchange students from NSW who is living up the road from me, and whom speaks fluent (although he would deny it) Japanese, having done it for one of his HSC papers. (but bizzarley isnt going to the same school...mores the pity) I am also celebrating 50 years of Rotary on the 29th, and I expect I will have to give a speech there. Whether it will be the same as the 25ths (contrived set of letters there...) will remain dependant on whether I get the textbooks, or how confident I am with my grasp of the language. I am thinking of simply writing it all in hiragana and then handing out phtotcopies. Opinions, please.

Also, Im sorry for not having any piccies yet, they are taken, but I cant understand the software since it is in Japanese.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Location: Kanazawa, Japan

Vending Machines...

Everyone knows that Japan has alot of vending machines. However, nothing could prepare me for the vast amount of machines that were around. They were everywhere! If you dont believe me, I have photographic proof that they are outside my house! outside my house! vending machines, in the housing district! WTF! Just to show you, here is a list of the vending machines that I could find in Japan.
This entry will be updated the more veding machines I find.

So far, the list stands at:
Regular American Coke Drink Vendors
A Variety of Japanese Drinks Vendors
Some of them have screens!!!

Monday, 21 January 2008

Location: Kanazawa (Woot!), Japan

Rice for breakfast.

The plane trip over went well, there were no problems, (unless you cont a stupidly inane route, in which i went two sides of a triangle, as opposed to one) and it left me with a very lasting image; the view of the nullabour plain from 1200km up. It really does go on for ever, and ever, and ever, we were moving at about 700km/h and it still seemed as if we were in the same place. I am so happy Im out of Australia. :-P. When I got into Kamatsu, my family was waiting for me with a large, christmas tinseld sign, I waved to them and ten spent the next twenty minutes in the full of their vision, trying to get my bag. Awkward.
The major difference between Australia and Japan that I saw within those first few minutes was the landscape. Australian landscape is rugged and bare, very manly yet very barren (kind of like a jock). Japanese landscape on the other hand is regal and high toned, (if you can imagine that), very picturesque and delicate. It was truly beautiful. The mountains were also amazing, outlined in blue, with white streaks of snow breaking up the dark forest of green.
The houses in Japan are different as well, they look like the old samurai castles that you see in the movies only smaller, and sometimes with different walls. It is very peaceful in Kanazawa, since it is a realtively small city and each household has a small area of land around it. But there are no fences, so you can look down the street and see all the little houses. They are built up instead of out, so as to provide more space for other houses, (I believe that the extra land is in fact other housing blocks that no-one has yet built upon.) the offshoot of this is of course the compactness of it with everyone in the family together all the time. I enjoy that kind of feeling though, and it seems to have brought the family together, as they seem to get along very well. They are all very polite and nice to me, despite the fact that I still have to grasp the language.
Dinner was a family affair, we all helped to make it, since the frying pan was put on the dining table and everything was cooked in front of us. I learnt to use chopstick for almost everything, although I am nowhere near as good as even the youngest son, who can pick up grain of rice! The father (Akihiko) would fry some pork strips as the youngest son (Koje) and I mixed up a pancake type of paste, which we then put over the prok to make a type of omlette. the mother (Tomo) then asked me to cook some hudon noodles (with my chopsticks), while the older son (Yusuke) cooked up some more pork. We then served ourselves out of the frying pan, so that we could cook more when the first batch had been eaten. That was very different to an Australian dinner as well, I usually only cook if it is just me or my sisters at home, and I was very apprehensive of making mistakes. The family seemed to realise this, as they continually talked to each other in rapid Japanese and then looked at me. One good thing though is that seem to understand sarcasm, as they subjected it to me at least three times in those first few minutes.
Breakfast the next morning was also different, as I had two rolls and rice...rice, for breakfast! the mind reels.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Location: Brisbane, Australia

Trepidation is the word of the day...

About to leave, I think that I am supposed to savor these emotions, since they tell me just how hard a man I really am. Although, as Declan would say, it's a 'system' exchange so there's absolutely no chances for anything going wrong at all...ever... This simultaneously fills me with both calm and indignation. Now however, as I sit at my comfortable, reassuringly familiar computer, I start to get anxious. Scared that I have forgotten something, things are going to go wrong with the plane, or no-one will like me over there. I can't go to sleep like this, so I will probably end up tired and cranky tomorrow. It's a vicious cycle! Love those stomach butterflies...


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Recent Messages

From jac
hey cal sorry i couldn't get you on skype last night. your site is awesome.
From Kels
It is very good that they seem to understand sarcasm! for you, my dear friend, are the King of Sarcasm. And I truly believe that, were sarcasm not an accepted thing - you would be In very grave danger!
Response: For the record, sarcasm isnt the accepted thing, it seems that only my family understands it
From Justin
So you haven't found the vending machines with underwear yet? You may not believe me now, but just look around a bit more....
Response: I might be in the wrong area, I dont think they have them in country towns, the perverts would get too much leeway
From jac
oh and find out what makes the voices of the anime voiceover artists so squeaky. and get me some.
Response: That would be pocky...
From jac
who is crayon shin chan? research him for me.
From jac
can you learn to say "your mum has an outie bellybutton" in japanese? please?
Response: No...okay.
From Mum
Hi Cal - this is the first time I've been able to access this site for a while! I hope that things are going well and look forward to the next update of your travels!
Your club here wanted me to send you their best wishes.

Thinking of you lots
Mum
From Peter Turner
Hi Callan,

What a great time you will have there. Don't worry about the language, it will come soon enough. Just relax and take in the sounds, speak it and you will be amazed how soon you will become fluent. See if a member of the "swarm brigade" can help you learn.

I am off to Manilla on Thursday evening for 3 weeks ( project work). Keep sending the news and I shall read it when I return home.

Enjoy yourself

Yours in Rotary

Peter Turner
Response: I dont think that I can understand high pitched squeals.
From Mum
Hi Cal, just a note to say gday on Australia Day here! We are helping at a Rotary citizenship do this morning going to help some friends celebrate becoming Aussies this evening. In the meantime we are going to attack the garden - agghhhh!! The weeds are attacking the other weeds and it's a battle down there...

More soon - I hope that things are good with you. I sent you a small English-Japanese dictionary in case it's useful. Did you get your textbooks? I sent them to Ayumi's address (on her Rotary card) - I hope that this was right.
From Mum
Of course one of your first messages has to be from your mum! It's great to hear that you are going well, and getting enough to eat, and managing with the language, and coping with the swarms...I personally think that with your good looks and charming personality (taken from your father of course), the swarming would happen anywhere - but then, I'm your mum.

I sent your books yesterday - they will take 4-6 days - so hopefully you will be able to deliver your various talks rather than resort to sign language.

Please say hello to your family for us and thank them for their hospitality (I have no idea of the Japanese word for that!)

Love you!
Mum

ps - this is also notice that we know about this planetranger site and will tell all the family, so beware if you have particular observations that us oldies shouldn't read!

From u forgot me already?
just a follow-up

you only mentioned me once! and even then it was with jaky! well you can just stik ur head in a rain buckett and drown. soz i do luv u but you shouldnt take for granted your sister's beauty! lol (lots of love) , gab
Response: gab, please try to edit your work, and only mildly butcher the english language.
From your dam sister!
okay from the top -

y arnt u dat funny wen i talk 2 u?
also - since wen do you write descripitive (take that english teacher) sentences, and wen did you use words like "pisturesc," and "delikate." (spelling is for people with too much time on their hnds!). just my oppinion.
luv u and missing you here - 2day i had to clean ALL 3 BATHROOMS!!! enjoy yourself and there is nothing wrong with swarms of girls - your a guy, you should like that kind of stuff! (haha, go feminism!). sorry, back to my heartfelt farewell * luv u and missing you here dear brother, fondest love (excuse me while i barf) and warmest well-wishes, your darling sister, Gabbi
lol =)
Response: Did you realise that your spelling and grammar got significantly better as your prose progressed? For the record, I tend to write in overly descriptive scentences since thats how I wrote most of my essays, and it has become and unfortunate habit.