tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
My first night in Köln, I fell down the stairs.

I was trying to find my way back to my room after going online last night - it was pitch black and I was lost. I went through a corridor and pened a door, thinking ti would lead me to the corridor to my room.

The door led immediately to a staircase, and in the dark I tumbled over, falling till the end. I yelled out for help; I was dizzy and delirious and my right foto hurt like hel.

One of the Fathers found me and a few of them took me to my room. I know I passed out a few times becuase there were moments where I thought I´d be somewhere and next thing I know I was somewhere else. Eston saw me in my room and we all decided to call Bob.

After that, they called an ambulance, and I was sent to the hospital nearby. I had a very painful foot, my head and back hurt, I was dizzy and nauseous. The hospital visit seemed like forever - I had X-Rays (painful because of my foot) and thankfully there are no fractures, just a very sprained ankle.

They put a bandage on my ankle and gave me crutches, and then I had to be injected to prevent thrombosis since I would be immobile. OW. I also got some painkillers; I took one that night.

I barely slept, and next morning we went back to the hospital - my bandage was changed and I got another injection. That injection made me really, really nauseous and I was miserable and depressed the whole morning and afternoon. The crew were doing a city tour and a mayor reception and I was feeling left out.

I talked to my parents and sister and texted my best friend, which helped a bit. I could stand on that foot then, just not walk on it. I needed to walk on it because if I don´t I have to get injected moer - and that´s PAINFUL.

Bob, Gaby, and Carrina (one of the Advance Team LOCs) came by to visit me. We talked a bit about what happened with me and the crew and also the more practical stuff like showing up during the week or moving around or even insurance. They also passed on some notes from the crew, as well as some chocolate and an apple - that really, really made my day. I felt tons better.

I now can walk on that foot, though it´s still sore. Parstof my back and neck still hurt,but it´s not as bad as last night. Tomorrow is a Personal Day and I´m kind of hoping I´ll get visitors but we´ll see. Hopefully I´ll recover enough to return on Thursday, even if it meant sitting down a lot.

I wonder how Anke and Che-Ri did it, man. I felt so not strong these past day or so. Hopefully I´ll get better.

Köln!

Nov. 14th, 2005 08:43 pm
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
OK very quick update.

Before reaching Köln, we all stopped at Bonn, former captial of Germany. Some of us - me included - went to the Deutsche Welle media station and saw how they did their radio shows. I got to do a voice sample, woo! Too bad I don´t speak German otherwise I could apply for an internship or a place at their Akademie...

Our host code? Singing a given song. My song? Aqua´s Barbie Girl. Danni deliberately chose that for me, I know it.

I´m staying with Eston, and 15 Fathers and Brothers in a missionary house. (They work as missionaries in Africa and this is the admin area) The only other woman here besides me and the Virgin Mary is a secretary that comes in during the day. And the Internet apparently costs €1 for God knows how long.

God help me.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
ARGH! I had this long entry and then the connection DIED on me. Grr. Took me an hour on this crazy keyboard.

We did so much this city. Amnesty Belgium was pretty interesting - they had a nice office, pretty big and spacious. They had a cartoon on their fridge which said "Think Globally Act Locally Panic Internally" - ha! describes us well.

Our CI for this week was Life Philosophies - a look into different religions of the world. We first went to a Holding Camp – like a Concentration Camp except they send people out to Germany after a while. Our guide acted as a SS guard and treated us almost like the prisoners – it was painful seeing what the actual prisoners had to go through. I can’t even begin to imagine why anyone could think of such a thing. Nina was in our group and she understood the German that the guide/guard was randomly yelling at us (she IS German) so it seemed a bit more painful for her.

There was a bouquet of flowers at the Execution area – almost made me break down. I really needed physical contact afterwards. That was just harrowing.

We then went to a Hare Krishna center – complete contrast! Chanting and prayer and talk about light and actual food. For some of us it was a bit bizarre (we were expecting only lunch) but they were really nice. After that, some of us went to a Muslim community center and talked to a young man from Othman – it was funny and frank, though we did get into some sort of battle-of-the-sexes thing, mwaha.

Next day we went to a Free Thinking Humanists group, with a workshop about issues like manipulation and freedom. It did get a bit tense (I felt at some point they were being manipulative) but it was an engaging discussion. (The rest of the group were happy to get free beer!) We then went to a synagogue; a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and the closest I’ll ever get to understanding Judaism up close. Great experiences, all of them.

We all went to the Night Of The Proms – a major concert with both pop and classical music. Loads of big names were there – Belgian Idol Natalya, Ace of Base, Donna Summer, people from The Who, and of course various orchestras. SO MUCH FUN.

The Applied Education Dept planned Anti Discrimination week, and their main activity was providing different treatment to people based on what colour paper you got. Orange (which I got) was High Class, with special meals and random compliments during Morning Meetings (which was even funnier since I was coordinating Morning Meetings this week!) and candy and reserved seats. Pink was Middle Class, which got OK treatment. Yellow, the majority, was Lower Class, which were practically ignored. I figured out what was going on as soon as I got the paper – and when Bob shook my hand and gave me candy – and I just laughed my head off whenever the staff went all out to compliment us and pamper us. I wasn’t sure I particularly liked being “high class” since it was so lonely but it was really funny…

Celebration was MAD. And that was GOOD. I passed on the hat to Christie H and Brandy; and I got an award for my public speaking story thing in Utrecht, yay! Melissa’s parents are SO CUTE; Nina’s parents were really serious but I caught them sneaking a smile or two once in a while! Tom and Melissa (Melissa even more) had The Glow From Home ™ and now Nina will too. Awh!

I am a week behind on Nano and I am sure I have forgotten something in this entry, so feel free to ask me questions. And it’s 12:30 and I haven’t had anything to eat yet. HUNGRY!

Giving

Nov. 5th, 2005 06:09 pm
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Utrecht has given me so much.

It has given me a chance to celebrate Eid with a new family of friends from all over the world.

It has given me perspective on my upbringing and my heritage.

It has given me brand new friends who look out for me even when I don't ask for it out loud.

It has given me the Leadership Hat.

It has given me bread, cheese, hummus, calendars, and tin cups.

It has given me a potrait of myself drawn by Ah Reum using only flowers, dirt, and leaves.

It has given me a chance to say how I feel about the city.

It has given me a chance to hear people respond.

It has given me a chance to take charge in something I truly enjoy.

It has given me a chance to work in a field I thought I wouldn't get a chance in.

It has given me the space to be a Honourary Intern.

It has given me a friendly host family.

It has given me a loft bed.

It has given me hugs.

It has given me free bus rides.

It has given me gorgeous autumn leaves in the afternoon sun.

It has given me a nature trail for ants.

It has given me the perfume of nature.

It has given me seashells in the forest.

It has given me encouragement.

It has given me a package from NaNoWriMo with a T-shirt and buttons.

It has given me chocolate in my initial.

It has given me the feeling of being counted.

It has given me freedom.

It has given me oh so much.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
OK, a slightly fuller update on what's new in my adventure.

We took a bus from a university in Abiko to Narita airport. All the "Willy"s we freed kind of came back; they allowed check-ins of two bags both totalling 34kg. At least I didn't have to lug my carryon.

I was seated in the same row as Diana, Marina, and a Greek guy (I thought he was Indian) - the rest of the crew were around our section. Our group were split into 2 flights - one in the morning (20 people) and our flight with 30 people. We could definitely feel the difference.

None of us really stayed in the same seat through the flight - people kept changing about. Tom and Melissa as well as Jessica and Peder were snuggled up next to each other, aww. We kept leaning out of their windows to see Siberia (ooh!) and a perpetual sunrise - at one point Peder woke up and cursed us out for congregating around his chair.

I wore faerie wings and sprinkled faerie dust, which got a fair bit of stares.

Laura found herself her calling: hand massages. Apparently her grandmother is a masseuse (she also does reiki! nifty) and taught her a few things. She went around giving everyone in the crew hand massages - oh they were so good. She really does have a talent for them. I suspect she will be busy on every Travel Day from now on...

I wrote a short story on the flight about Danni, Chris, and Peder being lost in The Netherlands and having to cycle around. Just a random story, but it got good comments. Huzzah.

We arrived in Munich - welcome to Europe! - and it was 5 degrees Celsius. Brr. Well, not really; I was the least covered out of the group - I had long johns underneath a rather sheer top but that was it for me - but I didn't feel that cold, not even when we had to walk outside to get to the plane. Our plane was rather tiny; Peder still faced some difficulty fitting through the door! Everyone was knocked out on the plane, we were just so exhausted.

We arrived around 8 or 9 in Amsterdam - to my surprise, there was a casino in the airport. Funky. Nina and Christie greeted us; Christie has new hair, and Nina has new jacket! Way cool. It was really great to see them again.

They brought us to the Stayokay youth hostel by bus - we were all nearly rammed by cyclists (and I thought Japan was bad). The youth hostel was, to our surprise and delight, very nice; great colours, rooms were clean, seemed very cozy. After an introduction by our Event Coordinator, Nelleke (who was in both Up With People the tour and WorldSmart), and some general rules, we went off to our rooms. I was rooming with Cristy P, Noelle, Andrea, Marcelle, and Kara; there were 3 bunk beds and I had the top bunk of a bed (with Cristy P). Those bunk beds can be deadly; it took me a while to figure out how to use the unwieldly steps!

I was super exhausted and flopped to sleep at midnight (after cursing my alarm clock, which stuck firmly to Japan time). By one o`clock, though, I was super awake. I decided to spend the rest of the night writing my NaNoWriMo novel; by the time we left for breakfast (with a 2-hour nap in between), I had already written the first chapter. 2384 words. Some people were asking about the novel and was amazed that I had already done a chapter. Hey, inspiration strikes at night sometimes.

The next morning we had breakfast at the youth hostel - bread and meat and cheese and cereal. And HOT CHOCOLATE. My lifeblood. There were some random European cakes that I didn't quite like, ick. Me, Christie, Yoga, Atsushi, Bob, and Anke were at a table together, talking about Utrecht and how things got stolen sometimes - Bob's workbag with all his important possessions got stolen in Utrecht last year. Yikes! I had lost my PDA that morning and was worried that I left it at the shuttle bus in Munich; thankfully I found it in my room, hiding under my backpack.

After morning meeting, some of us took a walk. Laurence, Yoshimi, Hiroko, and I trekked down a road near the hostel (we were close to downtown), checking out the shops and the cafes. I found an English bookstore and we all went in to look at all the books - especially the tiny gift ones. I bought myself an incense set; that's going to be my Dutch lucky charm.

Laurence was enthralled by a group of people playing giant chess. We had to nearly pry him away.

That afternoon, we had a boad ride around Amsterdam, learning about its history and all its architecture. Amsterdam in autumn is GORGEOUS - the warm-coloured leaves floating on water, the multitudes of houseboats, the very interesting buildings (their port looks like a fish), even a near run in with President Putin. The people on deck kept yelling everytime they went under a tunnel; if this becomes some sort of good-luck ritual in the future, you know why! I fell in love with Amsterdam immediately.

We travelled by bus to Utrecht; I got to talk to Nelleke for a while. She is quite a fascinating person, and so sweet too. And she likes elephants. Heh.

We had a guest speaker coming in talking about freedom of expression in journalism, especially since it was the anniversary of Theo van Gogh's murder the next day. It definitely made me think of a few things, especially about absolute vs. relative freedom of expression, where to draw the line, and about perception. If I wasn't so exhausted I'd probably be able to phrase my thoughts better then!

My host family are a pair of IT experts - one is a consultant, another is a programmer. The programmer (my host mum) also does event photography. They have 3 children - their youngest is a psycho, heh. My schedule said they had a pet chipmunk; what they really had were a pair of guinea pigs, Winky and Coco. It's odd that I remember the guinea pigs' names but not that of the kids. Oops.

They had heard about needing to set rules for us but couldn't really think of anything. "Rules for the bathroom...sometimes it can be occupied."

Today for Personal Day I wanted to go ice skating - 4 of us had signed up for free ice skating at Vestebachen (I am so spelling that wrong). After a bit of a briefing from my host mum, I took the bus - yay free bus passes! - to the area. That particular area had street names named after different parts of the world - Amazondreef, Bogotadreef, Colombiadreef, Nevadadreef, Californiadreef...it was insane! Apparently nearby that area the names include Africa (Ghanadreef, Gambiadreef) and Asia (Maniladreef, Singaporedreef - I am not kidding). And then there is Lombok, near where I live, where all the streets have something to do with Malaysia or Indonesia. Mad.

Anyway, I made my way to the ice skating rink and managed to get in free. However, the other 3 people weren't there. There also seemed to be a bit of miscommunication; we were told that we could get free ice skates, but the ice skate people hadn't heard of such a plan. I had no one there who could back me up, and I have never ice skated before, so I just waited...after two hours I gave up and went back to the Central station.

I walked to Hoog Catherina, a shopping mall...I was wandering around a bit and ran into Sammy and Rie. They too were wandering; no one really had any plans. What a nice surprise. I bought myself a sandwich (tandoori - didn't really taste like it) and went to another cafe, where I sat down and wrote the second chapter of my NaNo novel, with hot chocolate. A guy sitting near me talked to me for a while; quite interesting. People are nice here.

I got back home around two or three - two of the kids were back, nut that's all. I finished up the second chapter; it sounds so depressing! ack. I wish I knew what else was there to do in Utrecht, just so my Personal Day doesn't feel like so much of a waste. Perhaps I should have gone to Amsterdam.

Our schedule is really random this week. Tomorrow, Thursday - Project Time and Regional Learning. Friday? Regional Learning and Celebration. Saturday? Community Impact. It's all backwards, like Nina said.

I miss Nanu. Her father passed away a couple of weeks ago; maybe we'll never see her again in the tour. I wish she was back. Irina's also missing; due to visa problems, she can only show up in Antwerpen onwards. Gah. Our group really is a Survivor group. Even my novel has a bit of a Lost feel to it.

Europe is intriguing.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
The last Celebration in Japan went really well. I wasn't terribly woozy, the Circles actually made sense, and we had two people for Shima Uta (which was fun). People were gossiping about my homeless-person-ness (I wish I knew what they were saying exactly, it was kinda funny) and even Peder was laughing, calling me "my little homeless person".

Danni got stood up this time; Kara missed her cue. Usually it's the other way around. And while flinging my gloves away after the Work Dance, I hit an audience member (everyone was on the floor). Oops.

Tom had been watching my Statistics speech the past few weeks and was giving me feedback. This week he exclaimed "Yes!" (he asked me if I heard him from the stage - I didn't) because I apparently improved a lot and actually got it perfect. Too bad it's probably the last time I'll be doing Statistics, since the format is going to change when we arrive in Europe.

Speaking of Tom. He's become even more affectionate towards me - I didn't even think that was possible. He's now calling me "my love" and he has even told me "I love you". I told him Melissa would kill me - or us - and he told me not to worry because apparently Melissa is open about this kind of thing. Or something. Reminds me of this random conversation we had on a train in Tokyo:

Tom, Melissa, Brandy, Me: *something random about petting people - probably Brandy saying she doesn't like to be petted even though her host dad does it a lot*
Tom: *jokingly pets Brandy and tickles me*
Me: MEEP!
Brandy: That's probably illegal over here...*something about public displays of affection*
Melissa: Yeah, cheating on me while I'm there!
Tom: That's what turns me on, baby.

Melissa is awesome - or, using her word, "super". We get along very well too. And she is adorable. Huzzah polyamoury, or something. No one can really tell when Tom's kidding or when he's serious anyway, so no point worrying about it. Just play along.

Tom spent his school days being the only boy in a mainly girls' school. Now apparently he's the female in the relationship and Melissa's the male. Har.

There is another guy out there that likes me. He is reading this, most likely, so hello. This is all way too new an experience for me. Right now the only option I know of is to blush as red as a tomato. Heh.

My sister says I'm "growing up". Heh.

I FINALLY found a place in this whole prefecture that does binding. Now my stories are a book. Looks more professional, and hopefully loads more permanent.

Monday - EUROPE! My goodness the time has flown. Then it'll be over and I'll be extremely depressed and WAH. What shall I do with my life. But for now...new continent, new adventure. And Nina and Christie again! On Halloween too. Our first night is with everyone in a youth hostel - this should prove interesting.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Huning had a dream about me last night. She dreamt that we were doing a Maths test but she couldn't finish it and I didn't do it at all. I then told her that I was pregnant with 4 babies and that I was going to marry myself. And that my mum was really excited about the wedding.

This morning I go for Community Impact in an elementary school. What do I get as a "souvenier"? Maths homework.

I desperately hope Huning isn't completely psychic.

For CI Wrapup Brianne and Natsuko had devised some sort of a relay race, involving running with slippers and pulling down letters and all sorts of random stuff. Shimpei and I had to run down a corridor, changing slippers a few times, and when I reached the end I slipped and fell on my side. I think I'm ok, no broken bones or anything, but my left leg and my right shoulder hurt. I might has made my vertabrae out of alignment too (tm Nina). Itai. Hopefully it gets better.

And here I go with the questions! I might develop these questions into a future project, so please keep sending them in.

From [livejournal.com profile] yiliang:

t's been the absolute best moment of your Worldsmart experience?

Gee, I can't really choose one best moment; there's just too many. Reactions on faces, the Murou audience immediately responding to Rhythm Of The World, Nina talking to me when I most needed her, people loving my short stories for them, so many things. It just keeps getting better and better.

What would you say has been the most important life lesson you've learnt through/thanks to Worldsmart?

Again, this is not something I can choose just one. Right now the experience is so mindblowing and allconsuming that I think I'll only figure out the real life lessons when all of this is over.

One thing I definitely learnt is that people can really surprise you, and that doesn't necessarily have to be a negative thing. Be ok with being vunerable.

What has been the easiest way for you to keep in contact with family and friends, while travelling?

Email! Mainly because I'm on a computer almost 24/7 - I miss my laptop! Timezones and costs haven't really made phonecalls all that feasible but email's a good bet. This journal has helped a lot too. Also, sending out postcards along my journey has definitely made people smile.

What do you most look forward to doing after Worldsmart ends?

I would definitely want to devote more time to Up With People. It's an organization that fits exactly what I'm looking for and what I'm interested in, and I can definitely offer them things that they need. Other than that, I'd like to do something similar - travel, out-of-the-box, educational, creative, fun.

Has Worldsmart changed you radically as a person?

That's rather relative; I suppose people who knew me before WorldSmart would say I'm a very different person now. It's hard to gauge change when you are in the middle of it. I have definitely changed in some ways though.

If yes, how and in what ways?

I've become a lot more independent and I know how to cope with far mor varied situations. I also now have an idea of how to deal with all sorts of people - even types of people I couldn't run into back home.

Where in your upcoming Worldsmart destinations do you look forward to going to next?

Melissa and Tom keep going on about the food in Belgium - HOT CHOCOLATE! WAFFLES! FRENCH FRIES! - and now I'm really hungry. Europe as a whole would be interesting because I've not been to any of the places in the tour before and I really do not know what to expect.

What do you miss the most about Malaysia?

The food (that's such a typical Malaysian answer) and the Manglish/Singlish. I'm so glad Reuben is here because just the way he speaks brings that back. Manglish rocks.

What don't you miss about Malaysia/feel happy to be away from?

Everything else. I don't actually miss Malaysia all that much. I'm quite the nomad; I can't be tied into one place. So I'm glad that I have this opportunity to move around and actually experience things from all over the world. Even for a place as diverse as Malaysia, there's still racial issues and major underrepresentation from places like South America - lack of awareness.

What would you feel is your most character building experience so far, on the Worldsmart adventure?

The whole experience is character-building! Every single aspect of it, even things that aren't necessarily on the schedule. As I said before, it's so intense and all consuming and varied - everything's a test, everything's a challenge, everything's a puzzle. To come out of this experience without having learnt something is an exercise in futility.

OK, now some questions from Elaine:

How do we apply for scholarships?

While applying for the program proper, there will be an option to fill out an application for scholarships - take that option. Also, communicate with the office staff and see if they can get you some resources for fundraising activities in your area. They could even get you in touch with alumni in your area to help you out.

What are we expected to do there, eg talk? make friends? do art?

Tough question. What you will be doing there involves loads of things - community service (a whole varied pile of things in and of itself), learning about communities and cultures, living in host families, interact with all sorts of people, perform...so on and so forth. "Talk", "make friends", and "do art" don't even cover a fraction of it.

What's expected of you is basic - respect. There are guidelines and rules you have to follow; breaking them too many times can get you dismissed (it's happened in our group and we're apparently one of the more "good" ones). These rules are basic common sense, and they all fall on one main principle: respect others no matter who they are.

Give your all and respect other's efforts, and you'll be fine.

Anyone there who doesn't speak English?

You do need to understand and speak some English because the whole program is conducted in English. However, there are quite a number of people (from Japan especially) for whom English is a second language, and there are plenty of people who are willing to help out. For instance, Reuben and Brianne have set up this initiative for a language exchange, and it's been really helpful.

Send me your questions!
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Today we had a Group Check-In - sitting in a circle talking about our experiences so far. Originally it was supposed to be just 2 words about how we feel, but that quickly grew to sharing what's in our hearts and minds. Host family frustrations, exhaustion, happiness, all sorts of things.

I talked about the loneliness I felt and how people like Nina came up to help me, though it was something I still need to work on. Knowing people deeper and being comfortable with being vunerable and asking for help. I said I didn't know the crew all that well, and that it would really be a shame for me to leave this amazing program and yet not have a close connection with anyone (since Nanu left).

This sparked a big conversation about getting time to know each other, getting time for ourselves, and just close connections to the group in general. What do we know about each other? What are we telling our host families that we aren't telling the crew? How can we connect?

Somewhere in that discussion Jessica spoke up about needing to know each other better. She then referred to my earlier point and told me (and everyone else) that it wasn't true that I didn't know anyone - my Thank-You Stories (the stories I wrote for each crew member, given to them once they return my NaNo survey) were spot-on, that I captured everyone perfectly through my writing. So really, I did know people more than I thought. Quite a few people agreed with her on that, which surprised me.

This became a bit of a theme for the whole day. I had printed an extra copy of the stories for the whole crew to share amongst themselves (originally the crew members had their own stories to keep). It got passed around, with rave reviews.

Eli kept telling me how amazed she was by the writing, especially the final sentences. She told me that this was really my mode of communication and that it's odd that not many people know about this side of me.

Jessica and Danni were my PR people for this project, always raving about the stories to others. I'm really glad they liked them, I think they were one of the first few to read them.

Krista told me that it was something I should share more. Currently she has the big book; maybe she'll illustrate some of the stories! When I told her that Nina liked my story for her (she told me it was nice and thanked me for it), she said I had perfect timing with the story. I know Nina's been stressed a lot lately but that she doesn't usually show her emotions a lot - she's not extremely affectionate (at least not like Tom, Marco, or I) and she keeps to herself often. I hope my story really did help her feel appreciated, because she is.

Chris came up to me later that night and told me that it was great that I wrote all these notes for everyone and that he really respects me for that. I felt bad because I've been quite an ass to him the first few weeks and here he was being this perfect gentleman. Hopefully things get better.

It's strange, in a way, because I have never really envisioned this kind of reaction. Sure, I hoped people liked it. But it was something I did for a few days because I was ill and bored and needed to write something even though it wasn't November yet. Most of the stories were intensely challenging and half the time I wasn't sure I had captured anyone's personality for real. So all this? Just wow. Amazing.

Now I can't wait till November, just to see how they'll react to the novel. It'll be a lot crazier, but hopefully a lot more fun.

(I'll get to the questions soon! But please send in more!)

Abiko!

Oct. 24th, 2005 08:31 pm
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Here I am in Abiko, Chiba.

It doesn't feel like a new week because we got here by train, not bus. It feels like some random CI or Regional Learning Day.

We had whale-weighing today - our luggages being those mysterious whales. Anything over 20kg and you get a Free Willy tag (which I painstakingly made!). My carryon, oddly enough, is heavier than my checkin...

Last week in Japan. Not sure what else to report, really. I'm not sure everyone is in the Japan spirit anymore, everyone wants to go to Europe now. And I miss Nina and Christie. Man.

I'll get to your questions soon! Keep them coming!
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Just a few things first.

Celebration went awesome, though for some weird reason I still felt woozy during the Statistics. This after using Nina and Rob's tips. I don't get it, man.

I took over Natsuko's role as homeless person for the street scene. Apparently I rocked.

Nina and Christie H are leaving Monday morning for Uthrecht. I miss Nina already. It seems that we had just broken a barrier between us and now she'll disappear for a week. Sigh.

OK. I have something for all you readers.

Ask me all the questions you want.

They can be about WorldSmart, about Up With People, about my trip, about me, about whatever. But please, give me questions. Give me 5, give me 20, give me 205. Give me as many questions as you can concievably think of.

Every so often I'll go through the questions and answer them in here, so do check back.

But please, ask me anything! I promise I'll try my best to answer you.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
There seems to be quite a lot of magic here in Tama. Little surprises here and there.

My host mum shares a birthday with me.

Her English teacher is Malaysian (and still maintains a Malaysian accent).

I actually have a bed.

One of the intepreters in this city is Singaporean.

Reuben has started a cheer that is extremely Singaporean. ("WORLDSMART WORLDSMART IS SO SOLID! ACTUALLY EVERYBODY ALSO SOLID!")

The Lai Lai See Lai game of primary school days has gained popularity here.

I got partnered with Danni for one of the class CIs.

Tom actually does want to come to Malaysia.

Nina randomly comes up to me and we have a great heart-to-heart chat, just when I wished she would.

The heart-to-heart chat comes just when I really needed it and wished someone would spare the time for it.

I wish for food and it arrives.

I wish for a payphone and I find one - in a city where they are nearly extinct.

A long-lost friend from school days is looking for me, just after I tried looking for her.

Myongshin randomly comes up to me when I am alone and we chat for a while.

Jessica tells me that she wants to party with me someday soon.

We went to a university to see kendo and judo - we got to see sumo as an extra surprise.

We were greeted at the Parthenon building by groups of junior high school choirs.

We felt an earthquake for the first time in our Japan trip - in a country that's supposed to have them frequently.

I got to see the Ghibli Museum, housing Miyazai's works - so much Totoro.

Said museum also has a lot of bats. BATS!

We look for food along a street that doesn't have much restaurants - and find a very nice Chinese restaurant.

I get unagi and Malaysian-style tofu for me - and only me.

We finally get the NaNoWriMo ML thing sorted.

I wish for postcards - and find really cute ones of cats playing pianos.

My host mum sighs because she forgot her camera for the museum - no need to worry, since photography wasn't allowed anyway.

The museum requires advanced booking for entry. We get tickets the night before.

The Italian restaurant we went to has really nice rose tea.

We see a magic show in the welcome party.

We hear news from Nanu! She's practically moved into the hospital, she still has hope to return but she's not sure, she really misses us.

People love my little thank-you stories - they say I got them spot on.

The two busiest people in the crew, Bob and Anke, actually returned my surveys to me.

McDonalds gave us a plastic knife when we needed one but couldn't find one.

The Malaysian Prime Minister's wife has returned to God in the holiest month of her faith's year. Sure, this may not seem like the same class of magic as the rest; it is sad news, she seemed like a really nice lady and we were actually supposed to meet her (we got to meet the Prime Minister - her husband - last year).

But perhaps there can be grace and magic and miracles in everything, if we only just look.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
I got lost this everning.

I was walking home from the train station to my house - initially I thought my host mum would walk me back, since it was my first time walking back (she followed me to the train station this morning) but she wasn't there so I just walked alone.

I followed the map she drew out for me. Turn at signal...walk past two signals...turn at first T-junction. I turned at the first T-Junction - not my road! Nothing was familiar. There were two big fact cats on bicycles; I couldn't figure out why.

I walked to the next T-junction - not familiar either. Now I was getting worried. There was no one I could stop to ask, I had no mobile phone, no real address, it was dark, I was alone. I remembered my best friend telling me to keep my head up and walk confidently - but inside I was thinking about tomorrow's morning announcement being "Tiara got kidnapped". I was scared.

I walked to a house and asked on the intercom if I could borrow their phone - they refused. They probably thought I was trying to sell something.

I retraced my steps and walked to a convenience store. I called my host mum on a payphone (one of the very few in Tokyo!) - thankfully she was there. I asked her to pick me up; she found me a few minutes later.

We drove home, and I found out that it wasn't the first T-junction. There were 2 T-junctions to go before reaching the one nearest to the house. Only difference is, this particular road was at the top half of the T. So much for confusing.

I'm sure my parents are most likely panicking right now. They worry about me travelling alone, relying on public transport. I worry too, especially in an unfamiliar city, and especially at night! Thank goodness I was safe and nothing of consequence happened. Too bad the people aren't exactly the friendliest - or perhaps it's just my language barrier in the way.

I think many of us will be lost tonight. A few of us are taking the trains and walking home and most of them don't know how to get back home exactly. I wonder how many will survive the trip?

The thank-you gifts got a good reaction. I was surprisingly accurate on some of them. I even managed to guess some traits; in Gaby's story I called him a "cyber MacGyver" but I didn't know that MacGyver actually was the inspiration for his name until he told me. Huh. Psychic writing.

I have a new special project! "Free Willy" - a project to lighten the load of our luggage before Europe. It was something done last year and Bob knew I was getting bored with nothing much to do so he gave me this to work on. I'm adding a twist; there will be a Stuff Swap, where people can contribute things to discard and they can either get swapped or donated. Noelle is also doing something baggage-related so let's see how that works.

I didn't have anything much to do for Project Time - the Yearbook team were involved in Advance Team training, and I didn't have any computer to work on (oh how I miss my laptop) so I got bored for a while. I ended up running errands for people - I bought oranges (well, one), string, and scissors for the crew's projects, hunted down a plastic knife, mailed postcards, and made copies of receipts. Now this is interning.

I miss being an intern.

The orange was for a Stone Soup presentation on conflict. Part of the presentation was a skit about different types of conflict - Nina and Yoshimi acted as two sisters fighting over an orange; Nina wanted it for a science project while Yoshimi was hungry. Tom and Anke were their "parents" - oh they were hilarious! Even down to "how come they are suddenly my children when there is a problem?!?" har. What an odd couple.

Nina's such a fussy nut ("I want the peel whole! Don't break it!") and Yoshimi's just plain silly...now I have this image of mini (chibi?) Nina and Yoshimi running around fighting over oranges. OH GOODNESS. (If you can draw this, please do...) I'm just worried about how they were when they were mini themselves...

Tomorrow, Community Impact. We'll be going to an elementary school to hang out with the kids. Should be fun.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Firstly, thank you so much to everyone that sent me emails and comments from my second-last entry. I know I sounded really dire then, but I'm feeling better. It's just that tiredness and exhaustion and sudden bad news and illness and fatigue came together and boom! major effect on me.

I did take a couple of days off due to the flu. On the first day, in the afternoon I joined the crew at Murouji temple - I was feeling a bit better. Apparently this wasn't a good idea. For one thing, I'm just spreading the bug around. But most importantly, I'm giving the impression that people can pick and choose where they want to go. Never mind that this was a last-minute decision.

I found the policy, while understandable, quite odd - most people came up to me and said it was great that I made the effort to come. And I was obviously still flu-ey; I suppose people can tell when someone is faking it. But what to do...considering the various forms of chaos we've been through, sometimes such things are necessary...

We had a sharing discussion time about different philosophies and faiths, and I shared some thoughts about my own beliefs. I got quite a number of interesting questions, some of which made me pause and ponder. I know many other people have many other questions (we just didn't have time) and I would like to share some more, but it did make me think more about why I believe what I believe, and perhaps how exactly to structure that.

One thing I've learnt from this program so far is that I can be horribly ignorant about things I should know about. I barely know about Malaysia's policies with other countries. (Heck, I didn't even know what a free-trade agreement was until the ASEAN + 3 + 2 summit.) I barely know about Bangladesh's own problems. I barely know about some basic things about my own culture. I've forgotten the children's songs. Laurence knows more Bangla than I do. It's quite surprising really, how much you think you know but you actually don't...how deep you think you know but how much is really just surface level...

The second day of my sick time off, the group went on a hike. One of the checkpoints was the temple I lived in, so my host mum gave me a task as some form of a greeter. I basically stood outside waving Japanese flags and saying hi to the crew that came up. Nina took my photo, Chris jokingly said I had "sexy hair" (it was soaking from a shower), some people joked about me purposely skipping this...the LOCs wanted me to come in and listen to the talk about Buddhism, and I wanted to, but I didn't want to run afoul of the policy again and just sat at home. As it is, they sent Jessica a message for me telling me to stay home and get better. Har.

I worked on some thank-you gifts for my NaNoWriMo surveys for a few days - short stories about each crew member. They will receive this story once they return my survey to me. At first they were barely a hundred words...then things got harder but they got longer...now they're around 200-300 words (some are still in the hundreds), and for some reason Tici's is a page long. Meep. A few people have read their thank-you gifts, and they liked it, so hopefully the rest will too!

The Celebration was fantastic. We had a children's choir beforehand and they were really entertaining. Japanese children's songs are a lot of fun, and they brought some Sound of Music classics. We all got up and danced by the time they sang It's A Small World.

That energy was reciprocated during our Celebration - when I walked out on stage for Rhythm Of The World, everyone immediately clapped in rhythm to my instrument. That has NEVER happened before. People were animatedly talking about the photos in the slideshow (with an "extended remix" version of the soundtrack - basically the slideshow was longer than the song) and the kids even developed clapping games for Song Of Peace and Up With People. Such enthusiasm! They even cheered during our little Expo stuff.

The kids from the choir ran up to me and gave me their namecards. How adorable.

Rie unfortunately was tired and she had to rest during Celebration and Host Family Day. Aaww poor baby. We were just talking about how she never falls ill and now she does. Oops.

For Host Family Day I was taken to the Blue Mountain Plateu, where there are about 24 windmills (counted them all!) - and, for some odd reason that day, a group of colourful motorcyclists and a pile of Toyota convertibles racing. Huh. I took some photos of me trying to be like a windmill - I look more like a wind-blown penguin...

I tried one of the painkiller pills the Nara doctors prescribed to me for my back pain. The pain only got worse, and I had weird hallucinations for almost the whole night. That pill did something to my brain. I'm definitely not taking it again, that's for sure...

The Nara host families are really dedicated to us. They even ran to some distance along our journey just to say goodbye. They really loved us.

There was some sort of odd carousel-like music playing on the bus. Really creepy; almost Hitchcock-like. It sounds innocent but you just know something isn't right. Thankfully they stopped the music, otherwise we would have become a Hitchcock movie ourselves...

Tama looks a bit like Johor Bahru and Singapore combined. The sort of city I'm used to - except they still have the confusing train system (confusing because I can't read Japanese that well). Our facility is quite big and modern, and the welcoming ceremony was typical - they even had a drum circle again! Still awesome, still amazing, and we got a chance to play the drums too, which was great. Los Angeles all over again.

Miho and Cristy were calling out the names of crew and host families - Miho kept making random comments about each person. I half-suspect she's trying to flirt with us or something. Even Bob found it amusing; he was using it as a memory device!

We were told that our host families are driving us to and fro the facility - not in our case! Sammy and I are taking the trains this time around. We even had to take the train to get back today; imagine us with our suitcases in a nearly-packed train. Omoshiroi.

The house I live in is really quite modern and Western compared to the ones I've been in Japan so far. I have a room to myself - with an actual BED. Not a mattress on the floor, an actual bed. (I'm sure my sore back is in glee.) There's a ton of flat-screen TVs, even one in my room. Their son has a music room, filled with vinyl records - he DJs as a hobby, so there are 2 turntables there too, and a keyboard as well. They even have a dishwasher.

My host mum enjoys travelling - she just returned from Canada, and is planning to go to Hungary, Prague, and Austria later this year. She loves sushi and Chinese and Italian food - Japanese traditional food is somewhere lower in her preferences. That was reflected in our dinner - corn soup, potato croquettes, broccoli, toast. Definitely not Japanese.

I'm staying in a house that many might consider to be their dream house, since it's quite ultra-modern in comparsion. Proper bed, modern food, Internet, printer, cable television - and hey, what about that record room, eh? I wonder how the reaction will be like. I already have people asking me how the heck was I lucky enough to get Internet in every house, even in a village like Murou. (This isn't accurate; there was no Internet in my house in Maruko. But the Murou one was quite random.) They'll probably envy me, mwahaha.

Modern house, walking to the train station, beer factory visits, judo and kendo. This will be quite an interesting week.

Ich bien moo.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
The February 2006 semester of what would have been the Up With People Global Education Program has been cancelled.

They basically don't have enough people who can afford to pay for the program - less than 50 enrolled and only 3 can pay. THREE. It costs US$30000 for the company for each student; we pay only circa US$11800-14500. Even less if you're on a scholarship. So therein lies the dilemma.

Apparently the August 2006 numbers look a lot better so it's going to continue then. Hopefully it will, at least. The staff would be pretty much unemployed by the time this tour is over so they're all worried. We're very surprised and somewhat in shock. A couple of us wanted to be staff but that doesn't seem to likely anymore. This is all very strange.

Personally for me this is quite frustrating. My dream of being a staff member has been pretty much pushed back. It looks like I have to return to Plan B - return to college. The pro? At least it's still there. The cons? Let's see...disorganized administration, unhelpfulness, accusations of plagiarism that were never settled or proven, a general waste of time and money, everyone's telling me not to return anyway...

Even applying for a university overseas will take time, and I want to keep the option for Up With People employment open. The NGO I was trying to start seems to be in extreme hibernation since no one is doing anything while I'm away. And obviously I don't have a major job (or husband) waiting for me when I return. My parents are most likely fed up of me and my constant breaks; they'd rather I go to college and actually STAY there. Yet they're retiring, so money is an issue.

What am I to do when I return?

This is starting to look like mid 2002 all over again. A TV station that I fell in love with and eventually befriended all of a sudden got bought over, and everyone but 2 people were basically chucked out. The station became something completely different and unrecognizable afterwards. For a long time I wasn't in contact with anyone, not even my best friend (whom I met through said channel). As it is, I was battling panic disorder and depression, as well as a crappy school system, so it was basically multiple layers of stress. The happiest I've ever been turned into a nightmare.

Now it's not even the end of the program and I'm worried it'll turn into another nightmare. I have no plans, nothing to do. I am clueless, without direction. I am basically lost. It doesn't help that right now I'm tired (exhausted, perhaps) and I am rather under the weather, with headaches and nausea and back pains and weird foot ailments. And then there's the hormones. But why now?

I was so tired and frustrated this evening, I just wanted to go away and cry...but dinner took so long for everyone to finish, just when you thought it was over someone went for seconds...I was ready to cry at the dinner table, but that seemed rude. But I'm just so tired.

I don't think I can talk to the staff about this because they have their own worries. Already I'm feeling guilty that I'm using up their time and money for my own personal novel project. It seems like such a waste. But I don't know what to do.

I have ideas - mainly some sorts of admissions/promotion/mini-tour around Malaysia. Perhaps involving the BRATs and the College of DOOOOM (which, despite its faults, seems like the perfect place to promote the program due to its diversity). But will we get it organized? Will all parties be open to the idea? Can they even afford it? Malaysia isn't exactly next door to Denver...

I wish I knew what on Earth was going on, or will be going on. I live in a temple; I should offer tons of prayers. Now I know what the brush against my shoulder meant.

Hiro showed us a chart of our mood cycles and I thought I would never reach the lowest point. Now I have.

I'm so tired, confused, frustrated. I wish I could stay forever but even tomorrow seems difficult.

Favour for everyone who reads this - especially buddies, personal friends, family: Could you please send me an email over at divabat@gmail.com, about anything? I need something new to read, maybe someone to talk to...
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
The parade was pretty - you know the word - interesting.

We were all dressed in green - it was new for everyone, so I went around like a pixie and pinched everyone for good luck. (Got a few questions, and very much noticed!) Miho, Scott, and I volunteered to help carry our banner, while some other people went off on the tricycles (flower carts). The rest marched behind us; supposedly in lines of five, but it quickly turned into a jellyfish-like clump. We had Elizabeth's cousin from New Jersey (lived in Japan for 6 months and counting) join us so that was really nifty.

There were tons of other floats and marching groups besides ours, including a Brazillian samba group and a Korean float with a famous Korean actor on it. Yoshimi, the MC, and two Tsubomichans (the NGO mascot) were on the float proper, talking to the audience, while we walked behind them.

There were bubbles from our float. LOADS OF BUBBLES.

The banner people changed from time to time, and even the people in our group just moved around here and there. I saw quite a number of foreigners in the audience, even some I suspect to be Bangladeshi and Malaysian. I was yelling out "Shagatem" and "Selamat petang" to them...I wonder if they heard me.

Danni and I started singing Up With People a few times but stopped because Yoshimi was giving us the "O_O DON'T DO THAT" look. Oopsy. That would have been fun though.

We all got some flowers (looked plasticy to me but they were real) and I gave some to my host mum and her sister who came by. Her sister's a webdesigner too so it was really great to meet her. Cristy and Eli were supposed to follow us bhack to Kyoto for the bamboo festival but they decided to hang out with the rest of the crew at the Hard Rock Cafe instead. So my host family and I went back on our own...we had dinner - bento boxes with all sorts of random stuff - and then we went to the Bamboo Festival at the temple right in front of our house.

Basically, since the temple is right next to a bamboo forest, they cut chunks of bamboo and placed them all over the forest, with candles in them. The only light in the whole area are these bamboo candles (and some flashlights and cameras, which to be honest spoiled the effect). Some of these bamboo candles were arranged in the kanji for "dai" - if my memory serves me right I think it means "big". And it was definitely BIG.

In the middle of the dark bamboo forest was a taiko drum performance. After a while they stopped, and everyone was given a couple of thin bamboo sticks. The idea was that the drum would provide the bass sound of thunder, and our drumming on the bamboo stalks that were still up would sound like rain, thereby creating a musical storm. And oh what a storm it was! It was just like the drum circle in LA, but with a more natural, spiritual side. I honestly felt that we were calling down the rain.

(It didn't rain though. Perhaps soon.)

We then got to take one of the bamboo candles back home. The first one I carried blew out before we reached the exit, so I took another one and placed it in front of my host house.

My host family keep giving me things! They gave me their umbrella when they heard mine was broken. They gave me hurikake (flavourings for cooked rice - REALLY GOOD) when I said that I have to go buy some to take home. They even gave me ¥100 when I calculated my travel allowance and was that amount short (I probably overpaid a bus ticket). And it seemed so rude to refuse.

The next day was a bit chaotic - my period came that morning. Ack. Last minute laundry involving blowing a hairdryer on my clothes. My host mum showed up, understood what was going on, and gave my clothes a good wash. It's still not really 100% clean (I need bleach) and it's damp but it's better than nothing! But what timing, really.

OK, enough of the too much information.

We met up at the Osaka Riverside Hotel, said goodbye to Miho, Cristy and Marco (they'll be working in Tokyo) and left for Nara. I really felt that it was hard to leave this Osaka/Kyoto family; they were my favourite Japan family, so kind and funny and generous. They wrote in my book about how they felt that I was having a hard time because they didn't speak much English; I had an amazing time, really, it lifted me out of my culture shock phase.

Oddly enough, on the way to Nara we returned to Kyoto - nowhere near where I lived, but to another large temple, designated a World Heritage site. They mentioned the statue of Kannon (Kwan Yin) at the entrance but I'm not sure I saw her, unless she also has a form of being a red and black being.

There were quite a number of fortune things at the temple, such as prayer slabs (write a prayer on slabs of wood), bronze statues to be patted for good luck, even Japanese versions of worry dolls (write your worries on the doll, drop it in water; when the paper doll dissolves, so will your worries).

One of the more intriguing things were these two stones where you had to cross between them with eyes closed - if you make it to the other side, your wishes will come true. Gaby helped me across the first time - I made it through, but partway through the walk someone brushed past my right shoulder. I don't know if this means I'll acheive my dreams after some hard knocks or something. I helped Gaby back, his was much smoother. I felt a twinge in my heart afterwards, like something opened, and I could then feel the energy of the place.

The rocks were called "Love Fortune Telling Rocks" so I'm half wondering if there will be something between Gaby and I...har...

We left a bit later than expected because Katie was missing. I was really worried about her but she made it fine, thank goodness. Huning and I (we were bus buddies) spent the rest of the trip talking to Bob and Anke, who were right next to us. Interesting conversations; photos, accents, colonization. We have really fascinating program leaders, I tell you.

We had a bit of an incident reaching Murou - our bus wouldn't fit under the bridge. Bob and Anke were joking about my planned NaNoWriMo novel being true and how I should really take notes; I laughed it off but it got a bit weirder by a few minutes and I was starting to wonder if my muses were working overtime!

We made it through eventually, and met up with Jessica and Aya again. Yay! We had our schedules, styled like ancient Japanese scrolls; Jessica wrote positive appreciation messages for each of us in our schedules so that was an awesome surprise. Mine said "Thank you for your sparkling energy and positivity you bring! :)" - awww...

Rie's my roommate! Yay! I've been wanting to room with Rie for a while - she's such a sweetheart - so I'm glad I have my chance.

(ooo! The sirens went off! Around 8 am, noon, 5 pm, and 9 pm, sirens go off to tell the farmers when to start and stop. This will get interesting.)

There's 10 of us in the same general area - Rie & I, Chris, Che-Ri and Ana, Ah-Reum and Jessica, Tici, Elizabeth, and Danni. Oono people - either Uno (#1) or Oh No, depending on what happens. As Danni said, "It's the HOOD, yo."

Our host family meeting was once again ceremonial - and once again there were drums. And this was honestly the best, most entrancing drum performance I've ever seen. I could feel the communication and magic and energy being channeled; it was like they were trying to get access to another realm, then they were raising energy, then they were celebration and making loads of magic. Completely amazing.

Our host mum is the 2nd generation in 4 generations living around this area - her parents, her and her husband, her son and wife, and their 2 kids. Interesting.

Imagine this:

We are in a village barely touched by modern civilization.
We live on top of a mountain.
We live in a temple.
Very few host families have Internet access.
WE ARE ONE OF THESE FAMILIES.

It's dialup - just like back home in Malaysia. It took a while for the connection to work but the battery is dying so I have to be quick. But wow! Of all the random places to get online! We are so the envy of the group.

Tomorrow - new internships! Special Projects for me; NaNo doesn't start till November so I'll probably be working on the Yearbook. Or at least be Free For Hire.

I leave you all with a prayer.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Yesterday was the midway point of the program. We are now officially in the second half of the tour. ANd it gets more and more maddening.

It was a bit chaotic yesterday because we were let off really early and not all of us were sure whether to go back or stay or wander around. Add someone running around with surveys (me) and it gets even more confusing. Most of the crew went to explore Osaka, but I decided to go back home.

I slept on the train! And did not miss my stop! I truly am Japanese.

I watched Totoro yesterday - it's a movie about these 2 sisters who see forest spirits/trolls. My host mum in Maruko told me that they were owls; I couldn't quite grasp that because the Totoro stuff I had (her birthday present for me) had a character with whiskers on. After watching the movie, and going online, I found out that they were supposed to be a hybrid of owls, cats, and raccons, though their general shape is mainly the creation of the director. They are based after "oni", or trolls, and my Osaka/Kyoto host mum drew me one - looks like a Totoro all right!

There's 3 of them - Chibi Totoro (white and tiny), Chu Totoro (blue, toddler-sized, and always carrying a sack of acorns), and Oh Totoro (a giant grey thing who yawns often and has a liking for umbrellas). There's also a Catbus, which is basically a cat that is a bus. (No kidding. God bless Japanese anime.) They look vaguely creepy but pretty cute too!

Today we will be going to Universal Studios Japan. I've only been to the City Walk in LA, not the actual LA Studios, so this would be quite interesting indeed.

Omoshiroi

Oct. 5th, 2005 06:29 am
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
I conducted a brass band. I got lost amongst strip clubs. I placed magical signs up on pillars. I ate eel. I played on taiko drums. I got lost again. I was a fish that became a dragon and went to heaven. I potted flowers. I was on Japanese news live. I spoke in Malay to a crowd of shoppers. I did the Chicken Dance. I did all sorts of dances.

All this in just one day.

Something interesting (in the Chinese sense of the word) happened to me yesterday night. I was taking the train to Nagaokakyo back to my host family, and I was in the Ladies Only compartment. One stop before mine, a guy came into our compartment. He sat there and looked intently at all the women remaining. I was standing; he was looking at me up and down a few times. We got off at the same station, and I was so afraid of him following me that I just ran out of the station - missing my host mum in the process. I didn't want him near me.

Today, while boarding the Ladies Only compartment, once again we were joined by a guy. No action taken; no police or anything. It felt so much more unsafe compared to the normal compartments because you (well, I) start to wonder about the guy: can he read? Is there a reason he's here? Can't he tell he's in the wrong place? What does he want from us? It's seriously creepy. I think I'll just go with the normal compartments from now on; at least you know what the men are there for.

We had the local news crew come film us today - some got picked for personal interviews, the rest of us just waved and greeted. It was live so I wonder if anyone eventually noticed us. We were potting plants and hanging them up (with some funky messages of hope and love written by us) on the pillars in the shopping street. Apparently it'll be there for ages. Yay for glamourbombing.

Some of us did recordings of a special message for shoppers in our language. I did mine in Malay; man have I forgotten the language. It took me a while to get simple words like "membeli-belah" out. We had to give out flyers and flower seeds for an event organized by an environmental NGO our group is working with this week; Danni and some others were super successful, while I just gave up halfway and gave the rest to Elizabeth. I'm sure there's some code word in Japanese that I'm missing.

Yoga shocked me today; he told me that I complain a lot about Malaysia and my faith. It's really odd because I'm not the sort to condemn other things (well perhaps my school but that's another story). I'm in a dilemma now; what did I say? When did "not for me" become "it sucks"? It's strange. huh.

We had a mini-Celebration today, with performances from a junior high school brass band, us (a way shortened version of our Whisks plus a fashion show and the Chicken Dance), a women's group, and a taiko drum group. The Taiko drum girls were really funny; they learnt the Chicken Dance and One To One very quickly! They're cool. We had flashing light rings today but the battery on mine was dead.

Speaking of the brass band - they had offered one UWP person to be a guest conductor for one song. I volunteered (well I had to play Scissors Paper Stone/Jan Kem Po with Peder to get it) and it was quite something. At first I looked at the kids and they looked at me because neither of us could figure out who starts first. With some prodding (in Japanese) from their teacher, I managed to do it. Fun! Not really as trancey as the Drum Circle but still cool.

I miss the Huddle.

And now I'm back. And I'm way sleepy. But I'm starting to like Osaka. It's fun.

Osaka!

Oct. 3rd, 2005 10:17 pm
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Just a few quick notes on Maruko before I move on to this city.

I forgot to mention this, but some of us got to meet the mayor of Maruko. He's quite a nice guy; we didn't really spend that much time together but he was cool. And now I can drink coffee without getting a panic attack! Yay!

Our Celebration was extra special because we had the staff join in. Atsushi was especially happy to be there; it's his biggest dream. (Well his biggest dream involves singing on stage for Room For Everyone, but hey, take what you can.) Rob and Nina also joined in for the full version of Up With People, which was a great surprise. The atmosphere almost felt like it was the last Celebration, which is kind of strange, but it was so much fun!

I tried grasshoppers and larvae in Maruko. They're not that bad actually.

Temples in Japan and awesome. I got myself a fortune - a Fisherman, which denotes good luck with career and studies (but I need to consult my parents before getting a boyfriend). There was even a temple for Kwan Yin, or Kannon as they called her here. The most intriguing thing was this underground tunnel which is meant to signify rebirth and the path towards Heaven...it's pitch black and the only way to get around is by touching the wall. It's rather scary but it really builds you up.

OK! Now I'm in my next city:

OSAKA!

But my host family lives somewhere else so really half the time I am also in:

KYOTO!

It's really nice so far. I think I'm liking this better now, heh. Their kids are hilarious.

I'm really worried about my best friend. She might have been in Bali when it got bombed. I haven't heard from her at all. I hope she's ok, please pray for her...

Oh yes, my article in 17! HERE!
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Oh man. So much has happened since my birthday that I don't know where to begin. Looks like I need another numerical list.

1. Nanu has gone back to Nepal - her father is very ill. We don't know if we can see her again. Understandably I am quite upset. I'm coping, but it's hard sometimes.

2. Maruko is an official Up With People town. And they're REALLY into Up With People. The first thing you see in the Town Hall are Up With People photos. They even had a GRAND welcoming ceremony for us, with speeches and a stage and all sorts of things. We were like celebrities.

3. We will be even more celebrity-like in Maruko - the news camera crew is following us all week. I've already been interviewed once, something about a community service project involving pulling up a certain weed that's taking over Japan.

4. Thanks to that damn weed, I now hate gardening.

5. Japan has some of the most random games in the world.

6. Act silly and the kids will lighten up.

7. Irina has this wicked (both evil and good) trick involving a "scorpion". Peder's face on receiving the trick must be seen to be believed.

8. Can someone please scan in the article from the October issue of Malaysia's Seventeen and email it to me? I really need it. Thank you!

9. My NaNoWriMo novel is going to be a monster of an Up With People one. Already I have plenty of juicy information.

10. I can't wait till November.

11. Carolynn Lee, another UWP legend, came to speak with us for a while. She's ok, though it was funny how she got Bob and Anke to do some (fantastic) acting. Mwaha!

12. My host family is obsessed with Disney. They even named one of their border collies (they have 2) Goofy.

13. I'm not sure I care for border collies.

14. Aaah heated toilet seats!

15. Natto is awful.

16. We're going to an onsen (hot spring public bath) after this. Should be interesting.

17. Just today the staff dressed up as waiters and started serving us lunch. It was hilarious and very surreal. I am convinced it's supposed to be a hint about something.

18. DAMNIT. I had this long entry planned and now I can't think of what to say. So please, ask me questions! The more the merrier!
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
By the time I get this posted, I will be 20 years old.

Finally legal in Japan - and oddly enough, right at this moment there is a birthday party going on on TV. Apparently there is a coming-of-age ceremony done earlier in the year for those turning 20...I missed it, but I'm sure I'll have a ceremony of sorts for my own.

My host family is waiting up for me, who knows why. They've been ultra sweet to me this past week, even though I've spent most of the week being ill and flu-ey and frustrated at not being completely capable at handling Japan. They keep giving Noelle and I things...fans, purses, toys, scarves, disposable cameras even.

They got me birthday cake! They thought I was turning 19 at first but then I explained my age and they were a lot happier. They plan on coming to see us in Nara, which is even cooler. So generous.

My sister called! Finally got to talk to her after about two months. I miss her voice, I miss talking to her. She was about two hours early but that's ok, at least I got to talk to her.

The article about me and my webmistressing has shown up in Seventeen's October issue back in Malaysia. If you can get your hands on it, please do. I haven't read it yet; I hope it's good! The day of the interview was really a series of mishaps so I'm a bit worried. If you have scans, do send them over.

Saturday was a really long day. A whole bunch of us went trekking around Nagoya - Nagoya Castle was quite nice, Zen-like almost. Unfortunately I grossly overestimated my health, and by the time we got downtown for lunch I was sick and dizzy. It didn't help that I had the worst time trying to figure out food (it took FOREVER to find something without pork and which was affordable - I still ended up paying through my nose), drinks (thank Goddess for an English-speaking person), and directions (why did the bookstore have to be one million miles away?!).

Everyone wanted to go for karaoke; I honestly wanted to go home, but I didn't want to be a wet blanket, and besides it didn't seem like they particularly cared about how I felt anyway. (Bally and Cristy were among the very, very few who cared enough to ask.) Karaoke wasn't too bad - they had Shima Uta, the Japanese song we're singing for the Celebration, so that made it funny.

We had all sorts of barbeque today at our host mum's sister's house - including cow tongue, which tastes like the rest of cow really. And Indian food! Of all the places to finish a glass of lassi, I had to do it in Japan. I normally avoid lassi since it's too sour for me, but the one I had today was actually quite nice.

This time period seems to be one of much change. There are people I know who have deep relationships broken. Some people are changing plans for life. Even I have made changes to plans; though really, it's not so much a change of plans as it is following my principle of taking the best opportunity that comes my way. (And I'm not a planner to boot.)

Before this trip I planned to finish off the second semester of my first year in college once I return from here. That's not likely to happen anymore. Right now the Up With People crew are looking out for people to return next semester as staff, and I am really looking forward to being one of those people. I can be Tom's assistant, since I keep doing the PR stuff anyway. Or some other External Relations thing. Or maybe something with Creative Productions or even Operations. Heck, make me the Official Webmistress, since that's part of my role at the moment (and I really have to buck up; I owe Tom an article. Oops.).

If I get offered a job, I'll take it - which means I won't be returning to LUCT. Most likely, if I get the job, I'll work there for a while and then continue college (or an even better opportunity) elsewhere. But not LUCT. Not the place that screwed me over at the worst time ever. I'm not giving them any more money.

Let's just hope I get offered a job, because Plan B doesn't look too inviting.

Ah, my host family has left for bed. Thank Goddess; I didn't want them to stay up late just because I'm following my tradition of staying up till it hits midnight September 26th, my birthday. (I'd like it if they'd join me, but I don't want to deprive them of sleep.) There's less than 10 minutes left...

Hopefully I'll get better at this Japan business. Hopefully I won't have to deal with even more illnesses. I suspect the humidity has much to do with this, since I get just as sick back home. Worse, even.

I wonder if it'll be weird to not be a teenager anymore. 20 is a strange sort of age; sure, it's the legal age in Japan, but in most places it's the in-between age. You're not quite adult but you're not a teenager either. It's like a trial year, with your actual initiation in 21.

There will be something quite interesting about 20, at least for me since I'm already on the road during it. It's the first time since I was about 4 that I've had a birthday overseas - as far as I remember anyway. And it's on a Travel Day to boot, so I'm moving around even more.

Miho's birthday is today! September 25th! We still have three minutes! We can both party on the bus, it'll be fun.

I wonder (yet, again) if anyone's sending me text messages on my birthday. I won't be able to check them since Japan's on a completely alien cell system. Too bad Maxis doesn't offer some sort of online text message checking service...they really should, it would be ultra useful.

One minute more. And even then it won't be my birthday officially. I was born at 11:07 AM Malaysian time - 12:07 PM Japan time. I still have half the day: maybe we'd already be in Maruko by then.

DING! DING! It's September 26th 2005; happy 20th birthday to ME!

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