Episode thirty one: the invasion of the Canadians
Aug 5, 2006
|Date: August 1st - August 9th
On August the 1st Takeoseiryo played host to 16 students and 4 adults on a 10 day exchange to Japan from Sacred Hearts School in Canada.
As a member of the 'English staff' at Seiryo High School, and the fact I could obviously converse easily with the Canadian's who didn't speak Japanese, I was required to attend a number of their events. This included a couple of day trips to some tourist spots.
Turns out having a year away from western teenagers was a godsend. It was very weird to be around these kids, and even weirder because of the fact I could understand everything they were saying. I actually spent a good deal more time talking with the adults, wow, I feel so grown up now!
The first trip was to Kumamoto-ken where we visited Mt Aso and then Kumamoto-jo (castle). Having already been to these places I have to admit I was not too excited at the prospect of a whole day on a bus. However, things looked up with I boarded the almost full bus to find there had been one space left... where? Middle of the back row, that's where!! I can't believe the best spot on the bus was left open. I quickly filled it and became a "back seat bandit". While I talked a bit with the Canadians the real highlight for me was being able to hang out with the Japanese students in a less formal environment. Getting the kids out of a classroom and into a one-on-one type of situation is really the best way to get them speaking English and not worrying about making mistakes or getting shy. Thus, the bus ride, and days activities provided the perfect setting.
Before summating Mt Aso, we stopped off for lunch and were given the chance to make 'soba' noodles from scratch, something I had never seen done before. While the noodles were just so-so, the view from the window as we ate was stunning.
After filling our stomachs with a healthy Japanese lunch, we marched back onto the bus for the long and winding road (random, I'm actually listening to The long and winding road on my ipod as I write this...) to the top of Aso. The views were majestic both looking out to the mountains and looking down into the crater of the active volcano. However, we had but a mere half an hour at the top before it was back onto the bus for the trip off the mountain and into the heart of Kumamoto city to visit the castle.
My third trip in the space of three months was rather a tad on the unimpressive side, but I used the opportunity to take many photos in the smaller castle. Being a weekday the place was deserted as the few people that were there headed straight for the big, main, touristy castle. I think the smaller castle is much nicer as it has been kept in tact and preserved from its hay day when samurai roamed it hundred of years ago.
After an action packed weekend, of which the details can be found in its own separate post, it was time for another day on the bus as, this time, we stayed within the confines of Saga-ken. Our first port of call was some caves with famous carvings on the walls and many small statues. While I say it is 'famous', I should also point out I had never heard of this place and as such had never been. It was nice to see something new for a change. Again, however, the only downside was the tight schedule we were on which meant we had but only a little time to scratch the surface of what looks like a fascinating place. I will have to go back with Karen for sure.
The main location for the day was Karatsu, the most "beachy" city of our prefecture. Lunch came in the form of the famously cool Karatsu Burgers. Karatsu burgers are found at a small, caravan in the middle of a massive forrest. Although we had pre-ordered the burgers for 40 odd people it still took a while before we were loaded with food sitting on the bus and made our painfully slow way to the top of a look out point where we were finally given the go-ahead and allowed to eat while enjoying the view over Karatsu and its beaches.
The afternoon was sweet. It was a nice chilled couple of hours on a beach. I opted not to swim this time, as the previous day had taken its toll on me and I was definitely looking rather "pinchy", far to red for another lashing from the sun. Everyone had a ball, and the water was as warm as a bath. The beach reminded me in many ways of a kiwi beach with the large amount of drift wood and garbage I saw while on a mini-exploration.
Pretty soon it was time for some group photos of the Canadians and their Japanese home stay brothers or sisters. Everyone had smiles on their faces and seemed to have benefited from a chilled afternoon on a Japanese beach. After a million and one photos we boarded the bus for the journey back to Takeo.
Two days later and everyone filled in a small hall for a 'leaving party'. It was evident to everyone involved what a wonderful success the whole exchange was and I am sure there will be many kind words said about Japan from all of the Canadians who visited. Japanese people really are the most kind and generous hosts anyone could hope for. And, while there were some events I was dreading doing, in retrospect the visit by them kept me a little busy at least and provided me with yet more ammunition for why I love Japanese people so much.