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.


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