Monday, October 15, 2018


I finally got to travel outside of Hikone! Kyoto is about an hour away by train, so it's not too bad. I went with a German friend, Alex. We didn't set out with any super specific goals, just the bamboo forest and the Golden Pavillion. That left us with plenty of time to just wander and explore.

We found some temples and a lovely path that led us to the bamboo forest. Now I had never even thought about what a bamboo forest would be like, so I was delighted at their spooky vibe. I don't know any other way to describe it, but it was wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though my phone camera would never do it justice. After the forest we stumbled upon a large set of stairs that led to a hiking trail. Neither of us were prepared to hike so we continued to wander.

We found more temples and paths that led us further up a mountain. It was absolutely stunning. A beautiful as it is green, I want to go back in the fall. It will be incredible. I also saw a cat for the first time since arriving! I love cats, so this was very exciting to me. At the top of this path, we could look over the entire city. It was really cool.

Then we made our way to the Golden Pavillion, which was quite impressive. It was also much more crowded than the other places we'd been. We then got lost and just wandered around the city hoping to find something cool before things started closing.

We found a castle that we barely made it too before they stopped allowing people to enter the actual castle. The artwork was mesmerizing though we weren't allowed to take photos. The grounds inside the walls surrounding the castle were also really nice. I love that they have these spaces reserved within the cities. It's quiet and peaceful, but you can still see the city around it.

It was a really great end to the day. I was quite exhausted by the time we got back. I fell asleep with all the lights still on. Definitely worth it.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Just Say "Hi"

Before I left for England, I was talking to a friend and mentor who had recently returned from traveling through Europe for several weeks. She was telling me about their trip and the lovely people they met; she told me, "just say 'hi.'" That little opening led her to some great conversations, and she made some amazing friends on the trip whom she was keeping in contact with, even after returning to the US.

I'm not a very assertive person by any means - I'm shy and introverted, and I tend to keep to myself, even when I'm not being shy and embarrassed - but her words resonated with me, and I've been putting them into practice more these past few days. It's just a simple, "hello" - nothing fancy or difficult. Sometimes conversations develop and sometimes they don't, but it's just a small amount of effort, that doesn't really cost anything, in exchange for some unimaginable possibilities.

As reserved as I am, I love meeting new people, and I'm very happy with the people I've met. And I'm happy to be initiating conversation, rather than passively standing by and being passed over so much. Every person we interact with has so much to them - they bring their unique ideas, perspectives, opinions, knowledge, talents - and we bring our own, and the combination can be quite powerful. You never know how fascinating the person beside you can be and how much you're missing by not saying "hi." Maybe it's just a polite smile or maybe it's a brief exchange, but it's usually very pleasant and sometimes exceeds expectations. Maybe it's actually nothing, and there's just an awkward pause that follows or a stiff reaction, but it's still worth it; at least you still gave it a try, and it didn't hurt. I don't say "hi" to every person I pass by, but I try not to pass by every person I come across either
Photo Credit: Heather Goffrier

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Oct. 11, 2018

Second week of classes almost over. I like the way classes are set up here; once a week, except my Japanese language class which meets three times, for hour and a half time slots. I also enjoy the project based classes. The entire class is for a single, extensive project. It's quite interesting. There's also the lecture/seminar that I've come to like. There's a lecture one week, and a seminar the next based on the lecture and some extra reading.

The two most difficult things about being here are eating and sleeping. I recently went on a vegan diet, but discovered I would likely starve here because meat based meals are very prevalent. Even vegetarian has been difficult, but I'm managing. Not being able to bake is a slight inconvenience because I love baking. As for sleeping, it's taken a while for my body to even start adjusting to sleeping on a futon set on the ground. Well technically loft, but still, ground. I can slowly feel it being less uncomfortable, but I have definitely had to adjust the way I sleep.

Hikone and the campus are both beautiful. It's really cool to have a moat with ducks that I get to see everyday. As for the spiders, I'm not too big of a fan. I usually don't have an issue with spiders, but these are easily an inch across and their webs are right at my face level... I have been told they aren't dangerous, but regardless, I do not want one on me or my face.

When I first got here, I was falling asleep at 8 or 9 pm and waking up at 5 am. I didn't mind the waking up that early, but falling asleep that early was very different. I have finally adjusted to a schedule I can work with, which is going to sleep later, but still waking up between 5 and 6. The sun rises at this hour, so I kind of like it. It's peaceful.

The international community here is delightful. I've met many wonderful people from all over. We have a group chat that includes everyone, and they often invite everyone or anyone to go out to eat or hang out. It's very inclusive.

And lastly, two random things that wouldn't fit in a paragraph on their own. Apparently there was a small earthquake the other morning (I didn't realize it, but my neighbor told me about it), and it appears I've caught a cold. Not ideal, but it happens.

Attached are a few photos from campus and Hikone and the spiders.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Seriously Though

Yesterday, a friend and I tried something new - something I'd never heard of, and she'd only tried once, a long time ago. We did mortifying badly and were teased about it endlessly, but it was fun. And I was glad to be mocked, because it reminded me not to take myself so seriously. My first reaction was to be embarrassed and bashful, but, funny enough, their laughing set me at ease. They made me able to laugh at myself and laugh it off. Making fun of us was the best way to make us feel better, rather than trying to be too conscientious and polite, overly sympathetic. It was all new and just for fun, and they kept it that way. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves, not take ourselves too seriously

They were laughing at us, but they were also impressed and remarked on our behaviour towards each other, because we didn't get upset or rude. We worked well together - in regards to compatibility, not effectiveness haha. And to me, that was the most important part. Being serious is a good thing, but being focused is more important. You are serious when you're focused, but, when you're too serious, you lose focus of what you're doing and what it's all about. 

It made a great shared experience and fun memory. Because of how silly we were, it made us relish it even better afterwards, rather than just doing it and being done. If it was easy, it wouldn't have meant as much. But it was hard, so we got more out of it in several ways 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Cathedral

Canterbury is famous for Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, but it's also famous for its Cathedral. So many tourists pay to visit that all students are given free, unlimited access - which is a major discount because of how many students are in Canterbury. It was one of the first local sites I visited, and I fell in love with it. I've gone back several times - nearly every day since. The building is beautiful, the inside is grand, and the grounds are beautiful. I've taken so many pictures, but I'm always a bit disappointed with them, because they truly cannot capture the intricate detail and vivid splendor. I'm not a photographer, by any means, but even the professional shots cannot compare the grandeur. Sometimes photos make something normal seem better than it really is, but sometimes the photographs simply cannot do justice. No picture, no matter how well it's portrayed and/or edited, can properly convey seeing the Cathedral. I've taken so many and sent them to people, but they can't truly begin to show what it's like. I've seen lots of pictures of grand structures - ones even more grand than the Canterbury Cathedral - but, even today, technology cannot surpass personal experience. I take pictures and share them with others, but they're really for memory, not accuracy. They're really for my personal memory that no one else can access

Monday, October 1, 2018

Accomplishing Appreciation: Lessons at Sunset

Canterbury is small, but, unlike Columbia, it's designed so that you can easily walk anywhere. They have good facilities and accommodations for pedestrians and public transport, so it contains perks of a big city, and then it also has the perks of a small town without bothersome traffic. I like being able to walk everywhere - because I've always enjoyed walking and because I dislike driving so - but it is time-consuming. I don't mind the walking, but the time it takes me to get to campus or City Centre really does affect how I block out activities and schedule my days. And sometimes I think it's such a shame that I spend so much time just walking, feeling unproductive. I hate waste, and wasting time is one of the worst types of waste.

But waste just means getting nothing out of the experience. Maybe I'm not accomplishing much on my walks - a bit of exercise, a bit of travel - but I think life is just as much, if not more, about appreciation as it is about accomplishment. As I was leaving campus for the night, I enjoyed the most beautiful sky. Unfortunately, I was walking away from it, but walking away from sunset was still absolutely lovely with soft clouds, pale gradients, and subtle textures. I stopped and took so many pictures on the way home. And every time I turned around to look back at receding sun, I was stunned, as if I hadn't see it before.

I see the sky every day. Nature is gorgeous, and the sky is one of my favorite features - sky and water. I live out in the country; one of my favorite things to do is work outside and enjoy the air and view. But even now, I am still amazed by the splendor. I still admire its breathtaking beauty and am swept away by it. Nature's beauty is everywhere - country and the city.

Life isn't just about what I can do or get done. It's about appreciating what already is

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Free Days

Sept. 24

Brett Clements, who studied abroad here at USP a few years ago, visited Hikone today, so Ayame, Rei and I went to dinner with him. It was a small CC reunion. We ate at an Indian restaurant down Bell Street. It's quite lovely at night with lights strung up in the shape of bells. I'm enjoying these last few free days though I am looking forward to having some structure and having something to do. Thursday is orientation and classes start Friday.
(Attached are photos from today. Photo credit goes to Ayame)

Sept. 25

We were taken to city hall to take care of a few things today. Though it should have been a fairly uneventful day, it wasn't so...
I went to the convenience store in the morning, and halfway home I realized I didn't have my phone. I searched frantically both retracing my steps twice and thoroughly searching my apartment. Not a great way to start the day, I must say. I have had this phone for three years and have never lost it. Wouldn't it just be my luck to lose it in another country? It never occurred to me to file a report that it was missing because in America I would have cut my losses and got a new phone, but the woman who took us to city hall took me to the police station to see if someone had turned it in or found it. Lo and behold, someone had turned it in. It was an emotional roller coaster of a day, and I missed out on taking a few pictures, but I'm so very glad to have my phone back.
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