Hello again! I’m very slowly catching up to the present with these posts. Once I catch up, they’ll probably be shorter, but for now, all these posts are going to be practically novellas. Sorry. ^.^
Alrighty, so right after I was introduced to my host family, I and the rest of the exchange students (both the American students and the NICS students) went on a field trip to Unzen. Woo! (My host brother also packed me some snacks from his cafe for the trip in case I got hungry because he is literally the nicest person I have ever met <3)
Friday morning, we all met up at school to get on the buses to Unzen. There are about 45 or so students from America and Europe and about 80 or so from Taiwan, China, and Korea (mostly China), so we needed three buses for all of us. On our way to Unzen, we stopped off at a couple of places to see the sights. First, we all stopped off to get lunch since we’d already been on the bus for almost two hours. We had a fairly traditional Japanese lunch together with the NICS students (NICS students are the ones from other parts of Asia) Up to this point, we hadn’t even met any of them since we had different orientations and different buses (all the JASIN students had orientation and instructions in English while all the NICS students had orientation and instructions in Japanese).
I really wanted to get to know some of the Chinese students since I didn’t want to make just American friends here, so I struck up a conversation with the three Chinese guys across from Gen and me. We all introduced ourselves and asked about hobbies, Japanese studies, etc. (All in Japanese, of course). Their names were Ryou, Ryuu, and Ra (I think in Chinese their names were more like Liao, Liu, and ….I have no idea, but after we butchered the Chinese pronunciation a couple of times, they told us to just use the Japanese pronunciation xp). Unfortunately, in Japanese, Ryuu means dragon (which is kinda cool), but Ryou means dormitory…..so I didn’t realize that he meant that Ryou was his name at first (I thought he was saying that he lives in the dorms, which he does….oh never mind). When I talk a lot, I eat pretty slowly, so everyone finished before me. Gen finished pretty fast so he ditched me to go explore (I didn’t mind). But while I was talking to the Chinese guys, I realized that while I wasn’t done, they had finished a while before. Everyone else had already finished and left. I asked them why they weren’t heading off to explore; they said that they were waiting because they didn’t want me to have to eat alone (Everyone here is just so nice!). After lunch, we talked for a while longer, but then we had to get back on the buses.
After lunch, we stopped at the Unzen Volcano Museum (I don’t know the actual English translation of it, that’s just what I translated from the kanji =p).
It was pretty interesting, but the only things most of us even sort of understood were the performances. One was interactive, the other was for kids, so the Japanese in it was super simple. Apparently the eruption of Mt. Unzen was the worst volcano eruption in Japanese history. The force of the eruption caused an earthquake (or maybe it was the other way around? I’m not sure) and the earthquake caused a tsunami. So the towns around Mt. Unzen were buried in ash and lava and whatever remained near the coast was obliterated by the tsunami. O.O
After that, we headed over to Shimabara Castle.
I’d never seen a castle before, so that was pretty awesome. It was also really really hot that day, so most of us hung out on the balconies on the top floor of the castle for a while because it was open and there was really strong wind to keep us cool. This was the view from the top of the castle:
(That’s Mt. Unzen…I think)
Most of the castle itself is a museum about the castle’s history and samurai and stuff.
After the castle, we walked for little while until we found the old samurai housing district and toured a few of their houses (they’ve been turned into essentially small museums detailing the history of the samurai family that lived there).
Then we finally got on the buses to head to the onsen (hot springs + hotel) in Unzen.
We each got assigned 2 or 3 roommates and went off to find our rooms. Once we were all settled, I went with my roommates down to get in the hot springs. In Japan, you get naked in a changing room, sit on a stool to wash your hair and body, then you rinse off and can go sit in the bath.
There were two baths in the girls’ side of the hot springs: indoor and outdoor. My roommate and I sat next to each other to wash up, but…I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so by the time I had finished, I didn’t realize that my roommate had already left, so I just scared the crap out of this Japanese lady who had sat where my roommate had been by speaking English to her. Woops.
After that, I joined my roommate and several of the other foreign students in the outdoor bath and we were all fairly insecure about being naked around each other at first, but once we all accepted that none of us were perfect, everybody relaxed. Oddly, when we were talking to the guys afterward, the guys had way more body issues than the girls did. After a brief moment of insecurity, the girls just flung the towels off and hung out together in the bath, but almost all the guys were like “maybe I’ll go late at night so no one sees me naked.” O.o Seriously, guys? I heard from one of the Chinese girls that it was the same with them. The girls were fine, but the dudes were really insecure xD.
(We were given these unbelievably comfortable yukata to wear around the hotel, I never wanted to take mine off, especially in the heat)
Then we all had dinner together again and it was amazing and delicious chanpon (a chinese inspired dish that’s essentially a hotpot).
After dinner, we all went to a huge open room for an activity that the teachers had planned for us to all get to know each other. We split into groups and were each given a sheet of paper with someone else’s name on it. Then we had to go around calling that person’s name until we found them and until we found the person who was looking for us as well (it took forever for me to find mine because he was Chinese and couldn’t recognize my butchered pronunciation of his name…). Once we had done that, we split into different groups and played a couple of games with cards that had us separating them into categories and collaborate with each other. No one really understood what was going on, but we were all talking to each other which was the point, I think. Ra was in my group, so he and I and another American student wandered around together trying to figure out where our cards fit in with everyone else’s (the last activity was trying to figure out which month was associated with the matching flower cards that we had…like I said, no one knew).
So that was fun, despite the confusion. After that, they brought in a karaoke machine and we had karaoke. Gen got up on the stage immediately and sang his heart out which I was extremely impressed by (you couldn’t have paid me to get up on that stage first). He loves karaoke. By this point, most of the other students had already left to go to the baths again or go to bed, but about 5 or 6 American students and 25 or so Chinese students stayed for karaoke. When the Americans started singing “Bad Romance” (seriously, like all five of them were singing it together over the microphone) I sidled over to Ryou and Ryuu who were hanging out by the wall and asked them if they knew the song. Ryou said that everyone even in China knew Lady Gaga, so yeah. Then they very soulfully sang Bohemian Rhapsody which was so funny to listen to. I didn’t know most of the songs that people sang after that, but I clapped with everyone else and got to know another 4 or 5 Chinese students a little bit. At the end, Ryou and Ryuu got up on the stage together and Ryuu did a rap while Ryou provided background vocals, it was hilarious and amazing. xD
In the morning, I went to the bath again, then we ate breakfast and headed out for the second day of our trip. We went to a town called Obama first (Yes, I know) and we found out that because of the name, there was an actual statue of president Obama, so we went out to find it….but it apparently got destroyed in a recent typhoon. So, if anyone asks, Obama is dead, he was killed in a typhoon. xp
Then we went to climb a mountain. I thought it was just going to be an easy hike….I was wrong, so wrong. Imagine going up stairs that are about a 1 and a half feet high…for 50 minutes straight, now imagine that there are rocks, and mud that slides when you try to stand on it to climb. Yup. That was fun. We all started off really positive, and practically dead by the end. Despite that, everyone was very supportive of each other. Whenever we stopped to take a short break, we’d hold out our hands to high five the students who were passing us and say “Ganbatte!” (“Keep going!” / “Do your best!”). Then they would do the same for us when we passed them on break. (Since we don’t speak Chinese and they don’t speak English, whenever we talk to the Chinese students or large groups of mixed students, we typically use Japanese, the language we all understand). Once we got to the top, it was so beautiful:
Then, I didn’t have my wallet on me, so I couldn’t ride the gondola thing down and had to hike back down, too……yup. By the time I got back to the bus, my legs were so shaky that I could barely walk on flat ground anymore. I was still raring to go, but my body had basically given up by that point…Which was fine because when we got back on the bus, it was to head back to Nagasaki.
So my hot springs trip was a blast and I had so much fun and made so many friends, but my body was essentially broken for the following two days. >.<
More posts to come! Take care, everybody!