I have a lot to say!

6 May 2011 § Leave a comment

As of Saturday the 7th, I have been here 100 days. Not that I’m counting. (But actually…). After three months of being here, I have only used up one stick of deodorant, leading me to believe that I probably have enough with me to last at least a couple years. Better safe than sorry. I am proud of myself for having been able to maintain a relatively clean and tidy apartment for the duration of my time here so far. I consider it an accomplishment (anyone who knows me really well – or at least my parents and brother and cat –  can probably understand why). I’ve tried a variety of new food (but not too  much. That would be uncharacteristic of me!). I’ve met a fair amount of people. I’ve been to a decent number of places so far. The most recent of which are Hiroshima and Miyajima, where I spent two days checking things out on my own.

For the worst of reasons, Hiroshima needs no introduction. Each year millions of visitors are drawn to the city where so many people were wiped out in one instant of apocalyptic destruction. An unusual tourist attraction… (Eyewitness Travel: Japan)

From what little I saw of it – which was basically just Peace Memorial Park and whatever it contains – Hiroshima seems like a nice city. It’s hard to believe sixty-six years ago, it was left unrecognizable by an atomic bomb.  It was eerie seeing the A-Bomb Dome for the first time. It was the first thing I saw as I walked into the park after getting off the tram and it’s jarring. It’s unbelievable. It stands in stark contract to everything around it, but that’s the point (“…we shall not repeat the evil”). After spending a lot of time just staring at the Dome from different angles, I walked through part of the park, looking at different monuments. Most of the monuments are decorated with thousands and thousands and thousands of paper cranes. It’s amazing. Apparently after a chain of cranes has been hanging for so long, they are collected and recycled into notebooks and stationary (I might have bought a few notebooks!).

The monument that I spent the longest standing in front of was the Children’s Peace Monument. When I was in grade 5, my class read about Sadako Sasaki in the story “Sadako and the Thousand Cranes”. I remember hearing about this monument, years ago. I never forgot the story. And for so long, that’s all it was – some story. Nearly fictional. Whenever people have seem me folding paper cranes in the past ten years, I’ve related the story to them, but often in reference to a book I read in grade 5 – not in reference to actual events in a real person’s life. And then there I was, this past Monday, standing in front of this memorial that people – that children – demanded be built in her memory and in the memory of all the children who died in the bombing. I left my chain of 1000 cranes, that I started folding in 2008 and finished this past Sunday, in one of the plastic-covered display cases, with a small note attached at one end. A couple hours later, I found myself standing in the museum, looking at paper cranes that were actually folded by Sadako Sasaki herself. Then after that, walking around again, I went back to where I had dropped off my cranes and they had been hung up.

Looking at some other monuments along the way, I went to the Peace Memorial Museum. As it should be, it is a very stern looking building. It’s difficult to fully express the emotions I went through in the hours I spent in there because I had to partially forget them as soon as I experienced them because they were too negative, too conflicting, too upsetting. I mean, obviously the bombing was awful and had horrific after effects. We all know that. But the things I read in there, and the first-person accounts of people’s experiences immediately after the bombing and the long term effects, were a description of hell. I wouldn’t even want to recount to people some of the details I read in there. Once I was finished walking through the museum, I spent a couple more hours in the park before it got dark, checking out some other monuments. It’s a beautiful park. Beautiful and sad, but full of reminders of peace.

I spent the next day on Miyajima, a sacred island which is home to Mt Misen (on which is a primeval forest which has been designated a World Heritage Site), Itsukushima Shrine, and the “floating” torii (said to be one of the three most scenic views in Japan).

…no, there is not more beauty here than elsewhere, and all these objects, continuously admired by generations and patched and mended by workmen’s hands, signify nothing, are nothing, and have no heart and no value; – but there is much beauty here, because there is much beauty everywhere. (Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 33)

As I followed a climbing path up Mt Misen, I was in awe of how beautiful it was. Every time I see something beautiful in nature, I have this feeling like it is the most beautiful thing ever. I kept stopping and looking around, amazed. The sound of water, also close by, from streams running down the mountain. The sound of birds. So many trees. Beautiful trees. Away from all the tourists that were on the island. Fresh air. I took my sweet time getting to the top. Of course, this was largely because I’m not particularly fit and I needed to stop several times just to cool off, but also because I stopped a lot just to take in the view! Around five minutes away from the top, I found a nice big rock that looked out at the rest of the island and the other mountains in the area, and I climbed atop and just took it all in for awhile. It was wonderful. I did a bunch more on Miyajima, too… but Misen was my favorite. Miyajima seems to be known for it’s maple trees too. Rightfully so! Lovely maple trees. Tons of maple trees. Japanese maples? or are they called momiji? I don’t know. Whatever they are (they look like Japanese maples), they’re gorgeous. The way they catch the light. Their vibrant green. Their delicate leaves. I could go on about Miyajima, but you’d probably get bored.

I want to put up pictures for you, but they’re on my external hard drive. There are pictures on Facebook, and if you’re not on Facebook (I know at least a few of you who aren’t!!), then when you’re visiting with friends who are on Facebook who are our mutual friends, then ask to check out some pictures then. At least until I get some up on here! 🙂

It was my first time travelling like that on my own. It was nice. I was able to do things at my own pace, and just have some time to be alone with my thoughts. It’s not how I’d always want to travel, but I think it was a good place to do it. My favorite thing about those two days was probably being around trees and close to water. Oh I miss trees and being close to water so badly. Knowing that Lake Ontario was only a five minute drive away. Seeing trees out my window. That was certainly the best thing, especially about being on Miyajima. Last week, when we were walking to our hotel in Shirahama, when we came across the beach by the Pacific, I immediately dropped my things and ran across the sand to the water I was so excited.

There’s a lot more I could write about. My first time staying in a hostel (so-so; met a couple neat people). The awesome Hiroshima okonomiyaki (awesome). My first time on the Shinkansen (awesome). The depressing book of poetry I bought (not so awesome; interesting). Running into another English teacher from Osaka at the end of my day on Miyajima. The deer on Miyajima (more approachable than the deer in Nara). Plenty more to write about. But I think the important stuff has been said. And really, isn’t this update already long enough?

P.S. I have a new laptop charger! Just in case you wondering, after my previous blog post…


one more week.

28 January 2011 § 1 Comment

I have enough deodorant to last me a good year and a half, I think. At least I’m prepared. Everyone’s been saying to make sure to stock up on stick deodorant because all there is in Japan is roll on and spray. I think I have about sixteen sticks. I have no idea how long one lasts me.

I also have a giant stack of books that I want to bring with me. Mostly poetry, books on Japan, and a variety of works by C.S. Lewis. But this girl I know who’s been living there for several years said that I should make sure that, along with lots of deodorant, I bring a bunch of books because English literature’s hard to find in Japan. I’m trying to use this as an excuse to bring a lot of books with me. I’m still in the midst of packing, though, so we’ll see how it all fits.

In exactly one week, I will nearly be at KIX, arriving in Japan to stay for fourteen months. It will be close to 4:30 PM there. No one is meeting me at the airport. Which is a shame, really, seeing as it would have been a great opportunity for someone to hold up a sign with my name on it. I’ve always wanted to arrive at an airport where some stranger is waiting for me with my name on a sign.

Yes, I’m excited. Yes, I’m scared. I’m also confident that everything will be fine and that I will have an amazing time.

A part of me feels like I should be studying up on useful Japanese phrases instead of staying up starting up a blog, but that’s what the twenty hour flight is for, right? I’m all stocked up on non-drowsy Gravol. Then, I’m also stocked up on normal, drowsy Gravol to help me sleep through a good portion of the flight. At least I know how to ask people where they’re going and if they speak any English, and comment on the apple being delicious.

Okay, so my excitement isn’t always apparent. I’m mostly preoccupied with trying to pack, seeing people, and thinking about all the dear friends that I’m going to miss. There are a lot of great people that I am going to miss.

Tomorrow I organize all my papers and make photocopies of important documents. Pretty boring stuff. But then I get to spend time with some of those dear, great people. I suppose I’d better call it a night then.

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