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.

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.


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.


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:


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


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!


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