March 2012 - Vikingess Voyages

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Weekend Trip to Okayama!

7:33:00 PM
This Sunday some of my friends and I went on a short trip to Okayama and Hyogo-ken, where Ken's family has a cottage. Originally this was a trip intended only for the Japanese students who studied two years in America with the DUDP-program at Ritsumeikan, but since only a few of them were able to go Yuma decided to bring me along too!
We had rented a car in Kyoto, and after a couple of hours drive we arrived at the cottage where we basically just stopped to leave our luggage.
Group picture @ the terrace of Ken's cottage
 It was a very nice place up in the mountain where we had good view, and although we had expected it to be cold it turned out that it wasn't bad at all. We stopped to take a group photo before going down the hillside to visit the harbor.
The cottage seen from the road
A sign by the road to the cottage
 By the harbor there was a local fish market called 五味の市, or Gomi no Shi, where gomi can refer to the five flavors of sweet, bitter, sour, salty and spicy. Shi means market, fare or city, and thus Gomi no Shi can be translated to Market of the five flavors.
Inside Gomi no shi
Here they were selling all sorts of sea food; from octopus to squid, ordinary fishes and oysters.
A tank with a fish in it
Dried fish
In the market you can negotiate, and after a bit of talking we got a huuuge bag of oysters for just 2000 yen. 
Entrance to 五味の市
 After having looked around in the market and done some oyster-shopping we went to a place right across the street where they provided barbecue grills for 1000 yen/90 minutes. It was crammed with people and the line with people waiting was long, but luckily Ken knew one of the ladies working there so we got to skip the line..! Lucky! Further, Ken had brought some barbecue-sauce, and with the huge bag with oysters we had bought in the market there was plenty of food for all of us.
Grilling oysters!
The oysters tasted really good! However, it was almost a bit scary because some of them exploded so that both parts of the shell and the oysters themselves flew and hit our clothes.. Apparently we should not have brought nice clothes after all.. Haha.. Anyway, we all got happily stuffed after this meal.
Grilling oysters! 
Empty oyster-shells.. As you can see, this place was quite popular..!
Oyster-ice cream! Not everybody looks convinced that it looks good though :P
We went back to the market where Ryo tried a local speciality: Oyster-ice cream!! We all got to try, and it wasn't all too bad, but I don't think it is something I will actively try to get my hands on again, to put it that way.

After a short break at Ken's cottage it was time to check out a local onsen. It was in a hotel nearby, and since the onsen was situated in the 6th floor we had a great view of the nearby area. Even better, there was nobody else in the girl's onsen, so I could take a photo of how it looked like:)
 We had spent some time here when I started feeling bad. Turns out that I had gotten sick from eating the oysters earlier that day, and unfortunately Ryo got sick too.. So we had to go searching for some medicine instead of returning directly to the cottage. This part of the story is so long, I've decided to leave it out.. Anyway, when we got back to the cottage it was already quite late, and we were all pretty tired. Or perhaps exhausted is more fitting.
Back in the cottage, ready for karaoke
We decided to sing some karaoke, but since all of us already were half asleep we did not go on for too long. Unfortunately we never got quite the funny evening we had hoped for.
Ken singing karaoke, and Yuma sleeping.
Still, the trip was unforgettable in many ways, and I'm happy that I got to come along. Hopefully all of us can hang out again some time in the future too, but most of my friends starts working in April so it might not be possible anytime soon. I'm pretty sure I'll be back with new adventures soon though! But first comes rehabilitation of my arm.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Graduation Day at Ritsumeikan!

8:12:00 PM
 After a couple of weeks in Kobe where Yuma`s family has helped me recovering from my surfing accident in Bali I am now back in Kyoto again ready for another semester at Ritsumeikan.
However, while some of us are going back to school there are a lot of my Japanese friends who are graduating, and will start their working-life as so-called 社会人s in April. My boyfriend Yuma is one of them; he is moving to Tokyo in a couple of weeks to start working for Hitachi. Life in Kyoto will not be the same without him, but at least Tokyo is not too far away so we can still visit each other from time to time..
Today was the big graduation day at Ritsumeikan, and although I got to school a bit late I still got the chance to congratulate most of my graduating friends. The Japanese job system seems pretty rough, especially compared to what I am used to from my home country.. I really hope that their working-days won't be as hard as I imagine it might be..
Yuma got some flowers, so we used them to cover my arm.. haha..
Anyway, today is going to be a day for celebration, and tonight we are having a big party! So this blog-post turned out quite short, since I'm leaving for the party soon and I have to get ready.
Party, party! ...Well, truth is, since I went through a surgery just a couple of weeks ago I will have to take it a bit easy.. No dancing tonight I suppose.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

One Year Since the Tohoku Earthquake

9:53:00 PM
Now it has already been a whole year since the Tohoku earthquake with the following tsunami that killed nearly 20.000 people in the northern part of Japan’s main island Honshu. My travel buddy Adaora and I were on a round trip in Asia when the earthquake happened, and I remember the shock it was to sit in Taiwan and seeing the the disaster unfolding back in my host country on TV.
As an exchange student in Japan I had already lived in this beautiful country for half a year, and my thoughts immediately went to all my friends in Japan. I knew my boyfriend had gone to Tokyo for some job interviews a day or so ago, and I was so worried that something might have happened to him that I could’t hold my tears back.
It turned out that my worries had been ungrounded though, he had gone back to Kyoto by the night bus and was safe, like the rest of my friends. Although they had felt the earthquake also in Kyoto it did not cause any big damages, and of course there hadn’t been any tsunami either.
But the drama wasn’t over for us. First it was the worries about the tsunami; it was being predicted that a big tsunami would hit Taiwan, and with the capital Taipei being situated in the north not far from the coast all we could do was to stay inside and hope we wouldn’t be washed away by the giant wave.. Outside the wind was gathering its strength, and the rain was pouring down. It was a pretty scary evening. But again we were lucky, and the tsunami never stroke after all.
Although we never experienced the earthquake nor the tsunami directly, the following month was strongly influenced by the situation in Japan. We followed the situation closely, which wasn’t hard since wherever we went people were worrying about the situation in Japan, and I remember seeing posters in Thailand urging people to help the Japanese by donating money.
As the days went by the situation in Fukushima also got more and more serious, and both Adaora and me were faced with a difficult decision: When our trip through Asia was over, should we take the chance and go back to Japan, or rather return to our own countries? In Japan the term Flyjin had been created, describing how the foreigners (gaijin) were escaping out of the country by plane in fear of radiation. Fear was spreading through the foreign mass media, describing how the end was near for Japan, and although our friends in Kyoto told us the city was physically unaffected by the catastrophe there was a lot of pressure from outside urging us to give up on going back to Japan.
When the earthquake happened we had only spent a few days abroad, and luckily we had planned to travel for a whole month. Although the happenings in Japan certainly had a negative effect on our moods throughout the whole trip the fact that we had a whole month on our hands gave us time to consider the situation more carefully, to consult our schools and friends and in the end make a choice. When the month was up we both made the decision to go back to Japan and continue our studies at Ritsumeikan University.
Looking back at it now I do believe I made the right choice. It has been a year full of new experiences I wouldn’t have been without, and despite the crazy picture painted by the media we were never in danger in Japan. In November I even went up to Ishinomaki-shi to take a look at the situation there myself, and my plan was to travel back to this tsunami-stricken area by night bus this evening and spend the last couple of weeks of my spring-break volunteering. However, I was a bit unfortunate last week when I broke my shoulder while surfing in Bali, so I had to give up those plans.. If I get the chance, however, I hope to go back to Ishinomaki-shi once my shoulder has become usable again and contribute if just a little to the recovery of the area. What happened a year ago was terrible, and I have to say that I deeply admire the Japanese for the strength they have showed each other and the rest of the world. At the same time I hope that we have gained some knowledge from the disastre, so that we can take measures to avoid such a catastrophe ever happens again. Only the future can tell..


Flowers and teddybears in front of an elementary school in Ishinomaki-shi

Friday, March 9, 2012

Movie Recommendation: "Mother: Caring for 7 Billion"

7:34:00 PM
With my blog I have so far mainly written about my life as a student in Japan, and about my travels to various parts of the world since I started blogging in September 2010. However, throughout my travels I feel that I have gained a lot of valuable knowledge worth sharing with others. Not only by meeting all kinds of people and seeing this world’s richness and beauty, but also by seeing for myself the great number people living in poverty and filth, and the damage that we cause on the planet.
I believe that each and one of us have the possibility, but also responsibility, to help change the world even by just a little bit, to make it a better place also for future generations. Right now I am in Japan with a newly operated shoulder, unable to even go to the Tohoku area to volunteer, as was my original plan for the rest of my spring break. Thus, my tiny little contribution to a better world right now will be to try and raise awareness of some of you who might stumble upon this post in my blog.

If you are going to watch just one documentary during 2012, than this should be the one.

"Mother, the film, breaks a 40-year taboo by bringing to light an issue that silently fuels our most pressing environmental, humanitarian and social crises - population growth. In 2011 the world population reached 7 billion, a startling seven-fold increase since the first billion occurred 200 years ago. 

Population was once at the top of the international agenda, dominating the first Earth Day and the subject of best-selling books like “The Population Bomb”. Since the 1960s the world population has nearly doubled, adding more than 3 billion people.  At the same time, talking about population has become politically incorrect because of the sensitivity of the issues surrounding the topic–religion, economics, family planning and gender inequality. Yet it is an issue we cannot afford to ignore.

Today, nearly 1 billion people still suffer from chronic hunger even though the Green Revolution that has fed billions will soon come to an end due to the diminishing availability of its main ingredients–oil and water.  Compounded with our ravenous appetite for natural resources, population growth is putting an unprecedented burden on the life system we all depend on, as we refuse to face the fact that more people equals more problems.

The film illustrates both the overconsumption and the inequity side of the population issue by following Beth, a mother and a child-rights activist as she comes to discover, along with the audience, the thorny complexities of the population issue.  Beth – who comes from a large American family of 12 and has adopted an African-born daughter–travels to Ethiopia where she meets Zinet, the oldest daughter of a desperately poor family of 12.  Zinet has found the courage to break free from thousand-year-old-cultural barriers, and their encounter will change Beth forever.

Grounded in the theories of social scientist Riane Eisler, the film strives not to blame but to educate, to highlight a different path for humanity.  Overpopulation is merely a symptom of an even larger problem - a "domination system" that for most of human history has glorified the domination of man over nature, man over child and man over woman. To break this pattern, the film demonstrates that we must change our conquering mindset into a nurturing one. And the first step is to raise the status of women worldwide.

"Mother: Caring for 7 Billion" features world-renown experts and scientists  including biologist Paul Ehrlich, author of “The Population Bomb;" economist Mathis Wackernagel, the creator of the ground-breaking Footprint Network; Malcolm Potts, a pioneer in human reproductive health; and Riane Eisler, whose book “The Chalice and the Blade” has been published in 23 countries."

You can find the documentary here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hospitalized in Bali..

10:38:00 PM
Yesterday I was going to try out surfing for my second time. Kuta beach is world famous for its great surfing conditions, and Yuma and me wanted to spend a fun day at the beach. We got up early and went down to the beach, rented a couple of boards and got into the water. We had rented the boards for two hours, and since Yuma already has some surfing experience he helped me out teaching me the basis.

We had a lot of fun, until there were only ten minutes left of the session. A big wave was coming, and I was concentrating on the wave trying to surf on it. As the wave lift me up I realized that the direction of my board was heading straight towards a man standing in the water facing the beach; he didn't notice me coming at all. I tried to scream at him, but at sea I supposed it is hard to hear. Everything happened so fast, because the wave was so strong. My only thought was that if I continued straight I would hit the man in the back with my board, so I tried to push the board out of his way to the left. I succeeded, but instead of the board it was I who slammed into his back with my shoulder first.. I got up and asked him if he was ok, and he said he was. Me, on the other hand, had a strong pain in my shoulder so I decided to get out of the water. Some lifeguards tried to help me, but it did not seem like they knew what to do. Might have been a language problem or something, because even though I told them I had had an accident they suggested that my arm hurt because I had been in the water for too long.
Luckily an Australian woman came up to me; she had apparently worked with physiotherapy for many years and after a short examination she asked the lifeguards to call for an ambulance.
And so my day ended with many long hours at the hospital: first with x-rays where they concluded that I needed an operation: the bone in my shoulder had broken close to the joint and the doctor recommended operating in a wire that could hold the bone together.
As an exchange student I do have insurance through ANSA - Association of Norwegian Students Abroad - and although this insurance main purpose is to cover for any problems that might happen while I'm studying in Japan it does also provide me with a travel insurance for travels abroad up to 45 days. This truly saved me - just the examinations in itself would have cost over 350 US dollars, and the operation more than 3000 dollars.. Getting operated abroad sure is expensive, and this experience really shows how important it is to have a good insurance.
Yesterday evening I got the operation, and now all I can do is to wait for the doctor's decision regarding when I can leave. There was a lot I wanted to do here in Bali - diving, salsa, yoga etc.. I also had plans to go back to Ishinomaki-shi to volunteer once I got back to Japan, but now it seems that all these things probably are impossible.
Still, I feel very lucky after all. The damage could have been much bigger.. Also I am really fortunate to have Yuma here supporting me, as well as my family back home on skype. It has been about 24 hour since the operation now, and hopefully I'll be able to leave the hospital tomorrow.
Edit: Two days after the surgery, ready to leave. The nurse fixed my hair, but I was too weak from the medication to tell her I didn't like my new hair style. The other nurses laughed when they saw me. I kinda understand why. Haha..

About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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