Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rotary Meeting in Minou


This is the whole group standing in from of the infamous waterfall in Minou.
This last weekend was spectacular! I knew I was going to go to a Rotary meeting up in northern Osaka, but I had no idea it was going to be so fun. After gathering all the student up, we had a few workshops. 

The first was a samurai expert, demonstrating the different levels of expertise of sword fighting and bujitsu. He also brought a collection of ancient katana, some of which actually had killed people hundreds of years ago. The swords were pretty heavy, which I found out when I held one in my own hands!

 The next was a form of traditional Japanese puppetry. A man sang the story with koto accompaniment (a stringed instrument). Three people man each puppet, enabling them extremely realistic movements, like head moving, hands flexing, eyes blinking. It was creepy, yet REALLY COOL!

The third was an old fashioned play, which the theme was treating family with respect. The cast wore kimono and face paint, like in the old days. The props and set were also made to look like a traditional home. Unfortunately, I couldn't take a picture!

On the side of the mountain was a huge hotel/resort, where everything took place. The rooms were super nice. Our room had a beautiful view and I slept so well on their futon. The hotel also had a complimentary Onsen, or hot spring/public bath. It was my first time in one, and it was super relaxing (and a little embarrassing!)

Here are a couple of pictures of the landscape on our walk up to the Minou waterfall. It was really beautiful! There are aparently wild monkeys that live in the forests but we didn't see any. I was really disappointed!
Also, I added a picture of the entire group: Rotarians, Rotex, Inbounds, Host families and all.

The Rotary really took care of us on this trip! I feel privileged to have such an active and supportive group on my exchange.

Tomorrow is my schools Taiikusai, or Sports Day. I get to wear a yukata and dance with the thirds years (while I'm in 2nd year), which is a real treat! Keep an eye out for my journal entry.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A month in Japan.

Today, there is a really scary typhoon, so school is canceled. I am going to take this opportunity to write about my first month in Japan. And there sure as heck is a lot to write about.

When I stepped foot off the airplane, I was already in a bad mood. The plane was delayed 1 hour. Glancing in the mirror, I noticed a weird pink spot on my eye (Rachel had been worrying about catching pink eye the day before) so I was really nervous that I looked weird for my first impression. The woman gathered up the minors off the plane, taking her time, and 30 minutes passed. Then one of the other minors threw up everywhere so we waited for her for 30 minutes. After that, the hostess was running about because she had forgotten paperwork. She finally gave me to a new hostess who led me to a long line. We waited for 30 minutes. After my family and the Kaizuka Rotary Club had been waiting about 4 and a half hours, I finally picked up my luggage and met them.

We ate at a restaurant in the airport, and it was really fun. Everyone was nice!

Dinner with the Rotarians and my host family. I ordered sashimi and udon, and struggled with my chopsticks. Everyone laughed.

I went home with the Sampei's. Their daughter was at a concert that night, but they took me home and showed me around the apartment. It's really cozy and I love it. I unpacked and went to bed.

The next morning I went to my school to get fitted for my uniform. I rode on the back of my host sister's bike, to memorize the route to the train station. My host mom and I then rode to nearby Hagoromo. I met my teacher, who throughout this month has done so much for me. I also met the principal, who asked me what my hobbies and talents were, in order to place me in the correct classes. I feel my Japanese was pretty okay!
When we came back, I explored Izumiootsu from the apartment balcony. It's really a beautiful town, especially with the mountains in the backdrop.

That day I went out with my host sister and her friends. We went to Tennoji by train, and shopped at the huge mall nearby. Purikura, which are tricked out photobooths with green screens and doodling capabilities, soon became my obsession! You can send purikura to your phones digitally, as well as print them off at the booth as stickers.
Purikura with Mao, Nariko, Yuya, Ryosuke, and Saya.

School started on the 25th. For me, I didn't go to any classes, but instead gave a nerve wracking speech in English and Japanese in front of the whole student body during the entrance ceremony.

The next day was my real first day of school, and I met tons of friendly girls. I also decided to join the tennis club! The  club president, Miku, was really nice and so was the rest of the team. I exchanged emails with  everyone, and they all became close friends of mine over the month.

There was a Rotary meeting for the inbounds and outbounds of all the nearby districts. There were only 5 girls coming into this region! One was Brazilian, the rest were Americans. We all gave speeches and receieved a lot of info.

The Japanese girls were Rotexes from countries like Canada, US, France, Denmark, etc.

My host grandfather died from his bone cancer. This means that my host mom, who has to take care of her husband's parents, is going to be very busy for the next 3 days. 1st day, grandpa lies in his home in front of the shrine, in a kimono. 2nd day, at the funeral home, the public pays their respects. 3rd day, he is burned and family picks up his bones with chopsticks.

That day was the 2nd day of my host grandfather's funeral. It is customary for everyone attending to wear black, except for students, who wear their uniforms. After paying respects, the family members gathered for a meal, so grandpa could look down and see us happy. I met my host aunt, Keiko's second son, Shuya, who was really friendly and nice.

Finally, I'm up to date with the major events of my exchange thus far. I'm sure there were some important points I forgot, but there will be more entires over the rest of the year.

Stay tuned!