Sunday, 29 August 2010

6th kyu passed!

Today I passed my 6th kyu Karate test. Woo! It was tough work in the heat, the test being held between 1 and 3 in the afternoon, the hottest part of the day (and the heat and humidity here is abnormally high this year). Still, がんばった、ね。

Next stop, 5th kyu in late Autumn!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Fly away, little birdies!

Well, I managed to enjoy the company of Redbeard and his new clan for around week after I got back to Japan. Sadly though, they have all departed, their nest of dried mud and twigs now sits empty above my front door. Recently I have watched them all go crazy whenever I came home (I doubt they were happy to see me, more disturbed by me being so close to the nest), or from a night out, but now, after a week of remaining vigilant, I'm certain they have headed back west towards Thailand or Cambodia, wherever Redbeard came from originally. I will miss their excited chatter whenever I leave my house in the morning, but I have to say I won't miss the growing mound of poop they left on my doorstep. Which reminds me, I really should clear that up...

Monday, 16 August 2010

Takagi Matsuri

A year ago I stood in a crowd of people I didn't know, watching locals join in with a festival dance. The smell of the food stalls behind me, the summer heat, the brilliant hanabi (fireworks) exploding overhead were almost overwhelming for the senses. As I watched the finale, a taiko group performed a song from their repertoire while a framework of fireworks burned furiously behind them. I remember thinking how awesome it would have been to be up there, drumming away while people looked on and clapped and cheered.

This year I was part of that taiko group, drumming away while the people of my village looked on, clapping, cheering and enjoying the extensive firework display around us. We were onstage for no more than ten minutes or so, but the intensity of the realisation took my mind off the unbelievable humidity. It was at that point I realised that, in just a year, I'd managed to do something I've always wanted to; to put myself into a foreign culture and become a member of the community. For the millionth time this past year, I'm so very glad I took the steps I did to be here...

Friday, 13 August 2010

Nagano orientation

I can't believe it's been a year, I really can't. On Wednesday I headed to Nagano city to meet all the newbies in the ken, fresh-faced and eager. It seemed like such a short time ago I was one of those people, half excited, half frightened to death. It was an enjoyable day, I just wish the humidity had let up for just a moment, phew!

Incidently, the summer temperature here is consistently at around 33-35 degrees for virtually all the time the sun is up, the humidity in the 80's and 90's. I can't believe how much water I've sweated out the past few weeks!

I also realise I've been rather slack with blogs this month, although I chalk that up to the heat and humidity; I've wanted to do nothing in my free time except lounge around under my air-con in my underwear. Now there's a lovely image.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The 1 yr mark

That's right folks! It's been just over a year since I stepped onto a plane with a one-way ticket destined for the other side of the planet. At that point I'd spent the best part of a year bringing the plan to fruition. I'd also never lived, worked or spent any longer than two weeks away from home and family. That 12 hour plane journey was the first step towards a home away from home. The next step involved me soiling myself. After that, it was relatively smooth sailing.

Now a year later I can say I don't regret it for an instant. The people I've met, the adventures and experiences I've had so far have most certainly helped to shape my perceptions and attitudes, and for that I will always be grateful. If someone had told me a couple of years ago that in the summer of 2010 I'd have been living in Japan for a year I'd have told them to stop taking that rubbish, but alas here I am. Japan has certainly been well worth a year of my life, and I'm now in my second year.

"Hold on, hold on, I'm not done... one more time, with feeling!"