10 December 2009
I had some time to call a friend, and listen to one of my favourite songs... it's a Japanese song you can watch/hear here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MX4M86YUAwA
Basically, the message of the song, I think, is when you are away from family and friends, it might be a bit lonely but someone is always with you. It's a really nice song, and, since I've just moved into a new place, it fitted in well with the video clip.
It's also given me time to think of my friends from Japan. I really miss everyone I met in Japan... kids, students, mum's and dad's, teachers, work colleagues, church members, people in the neighbourhood, people from the gaijin hangout group, people from travelling up and down Japan, and close friends who studied English & Bible together. I really I hope I can go back to Japan someday.
And, moving to this place has amazed me a little. It is very nice (quiet, very close to city, park-feel, nice view, plenty of light, clean, comfortable, tennis court, bbq, gym and pool), and in some ways I don't feel I deserve this.
I want to thank God for providing everything in my life, and for this place to stay. I want this home to be a place where God's Spirit can dwell, where people feel relaxed, where people feel accepted. I want to dedicate this place to the Creator God of heaven. I want to live in union with my Lord God.
07 December 2009
I'm now living in Southbank (just across the river from Melbourne City CBD) right at the bottom tip of Australia's mainland. It's a nice large Australian capital city with 4 million people. This will be home for the next couple of years.
So nice to be home. Good night!
20 October 2009
28 September 2009
The sun so bright
The wind so fresh
The air so clear
The fields so broad
The horizon so wide
The spaces so open
The feeling so free
The trees so tall
The flowers so colourful
The fences so long
The hills so rolling
The people so familiar
The language so easy
The food so congenial
The smells so homely
The moon so silver
The stars so bright
The night so dark
The silence so deafening
I am back in my home country... Australia.
[I (Brad) wrote this poem the day after I arrived back at my home in Australia after living in Japan for 2 years].
13 September 2009
It's nice to be back! Familiar scenery, people, language, brands, towns, shops and everything (as well as food). Now, I'm in Cairns and I'm staying at my Richard and Beckie's (my oldest brother's and sister-in-law's) place. They have a lovely baby girl, nearly 1 year now. She's so cute!
I've been resting and relaxing well. Today, apply for a job online, and just chill out. Tomorrow, we'll all go and meet up with Jared, my second older brother and hang out for the day. I'll stay at his house (also near Cairns) and then catch a train from Cairns to Brisbane on Thursday morning, arriving Friday afternoon.
In Brisbane, I'll go to Big Camp, a Christian conference where I'll catch up with many, many friends from school days and church. Really looking forward to it!
For now, just chilling out, and refreshing after 2 years of work in Japan. Enjoying!
11 September 2009
Good-bye Asia. I've been there for just over 2 years. On 20 August 2007, I entered Asia at Singapore for a 3 day stop before going to Japan to teach English and Bible for 2 years. I have so many good memories. Have made many good friends. Have shared the message of Jesus. I will miss many things about Asia, but mostly the people.
We are well an truly on our way back to Australia now. I can't see anymore lights. It's about 5 hours to Darwin, stop for a couple of hours, and then another couple of hours to Cairns. Finally back in my home country, Australia.
Today I got up early to have breakfast with John, the kind man who let me stay at his house. We chatted over breakfast, he went to work, and I had a bit more rest. I began the day late, did some emails, packed and left for Palau Ubin. It's a small island, part of Singapore, but just off the eastern edge of the main part of the country. It's not far from the airport.
By the time I caught the bus, the train, grabbed some lunch, caught another bus, waited for the boat and got onto the island, I only had a bit over an hour there. I rented a bike for $5 and cycled along the tracks there. It's a great little island for cycling. There are so many rental bikes there! Headed back to airport, checked in, had a shower for $8.40, caught up with Gaby for dinner and went through immigration.
The day before yeserday, I caught the train from KL to Singapore (about 7 hours). Before we crossed the boarder (from Malaysia to Singapore), a lady came through the train and stamped our passports to say we'd left Malaysia. After we crossed the water and entered Singapore, the train stopped, we all got off, walked through immigration to enter Singapore, and then got back on the same train and kept going. When I went through immigration, I didn't have the address of where I was to stay, since I was just planning to meet my friend at the train station, and I'd forgotten to write their phone number down too, and, I didn't have a printout of my plane ticket for leaving Singapore 2 days later.... not good! I consider it fortunate that they let me in (maybe because I'd been to Singapore before, and my passport looked reasonable and my attitude wasn't confrontational). Anyway, next time, I'm going to make sure I have an address, phone number and departure ticket with me.
Finally reached John's place about 11pm, and got some rest about midnight. Didn't think I'd need to set an alarm, fell asleep quickly, and the next thing I know (after dreaming) was .. Whao, it feels like I slept reeeeally well, and it's probably late! It was 10:03, so, I freshened up, headed down town and caught up with a good friend.
We went to St Andrews Church, the first church in Singapore. It was quite nice! Then, we saw soe of the Dead Sea Scrolls! Well, only a couple of fragments, but it was a pretty good display on the history of the Bible, including the ancient manuscripts, preservation, transcribing, translations, and even about the reformation. I was really glad I cold go, see it, and even see some of the original Dead Sea Scrolls!
We headed down by the river for lunch and ate some nice Thai food. Walked around a few other nice places, including the Merlion, museums, parks, shops etc. Overall, it was a very pleasant day.
Reflecting on my trip through Asia...
Well, basically I have travelled in Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore in the past 3 weeks.
From Tokyo, train to Shomonoseki (western Japan), night ferry to Busan (1 day), train to Seoul (5 days), night ferry to Tianjin (near Beijing in China) and bus to Beijing (5 days), night train to Shanghai (2 days), night train to Hong Kong (2 days), flight to Thailand (4 days), flight to Penang in Malaysia (1 day), night train to Kuala Lumpur (1 day), train to Singapore (2 days), night flight back to Australia.
I have to say, Singapore is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is quite aesthetic. Almost every part of the country (well, city) has a beautiful appearance. There is plenty of vegetain, trees and parkland in between the many apartments and office buildings. It is quite clean, well designed, and appealing to the eye. Unfortunately, there isn't much "untouched" or "virgin" land left in Singapore.
After being in Japan for 2 years, then travelling in Korea and then China (both of which have cars driving on the right-hand side of the road), when I arrived in Hong Kong, I felt refreshed, and I think it's because it was setup by the British. It just felt more "normal" (for me, that is), and more similar to Australia, which was also a British colony. I would have to say that Hong Kong (and also Singapore, since it was also setup by the British), are the most liveable of the places I visited in Asia. This is possibly true for most other Australians.
Thailand had a nice feel. It has more of a "mysterious" or "exotic" Asian feel... they kind of feeling you get when you hear/see the temples of Asia, the fine foods of the East, the soft-natured people and the tropical jungles. Bangkok was quite a well developed city with pretty much all you would expect in any world city. I had no problems there. The Thail massage was really good at AUD 10 for 1 hour!
I was quite tired most of my time in Malaysia, so I took it easy and enjoyed it. China was the least clean of the places I visited. The people were the most aggressive there, compared to the other countries I went to. Many people trying to sell you things. People pushing to get places, but not unbearable. Plenty of construction going on in China. Even though I was only really in Beijing and Shanghai, it was possible to see the strides China is making in it's development.
Korea was quite a fun place, probably because I was with groups of friends. Seoul is a very safe and convenient city. It was nice there.
After a while, all the train networks of the cities I went to felt the same. Tokyo, by far, had the most complicated one. Beijing had the most stable (least rocky) trains, maybe because of the wider gauge, and it was also the cheapest (at 40 cents anywhere in the city). Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul had the cleanest and nicest networks. Almost all of the cities had trains fairly frequently (every 5 minutes or so), which I thought was quite good.
Cars in China and Korea drive on the right-hand side of the road (same as US), but cars in Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore follow the UK (same as Australia).
Power plugs in Japan are same as US. In Korea, they use two round pins (like Europe, I think). In China, I found almost every power outlet had fittings for US, Europe or Australia type plugs, quite convenient. Thailand had 2 or 3 round plugs. Malaysia and Singapore had plugs like the British (3 large chunky plugs).
Am very glad I was able to see different parts of Asia on my way back to Australia after working in Japan. I travelled fairly cheaply, catching ferries and trains, budget flights and economy seats. Stayed at friends places or caught overnight transport mostly, paying for less than 7 nights. But, spent money when there was a chance to see something interesting or eat something declicious!
People are people. Around the world, people have the same hopes, same desires, same needs. The same hurts, same happinesses. We all want to live good lives. We all want safety, health, kindness and love. Many people have religions and want to be close to God, and want Someone to hear their prayers. Everyone deals with conflict and working together.
How should we live our lives? Live lives responsible to our origin. Where do we come from? We come from a Designer, a Creator who cares and loves each one of His children. We are also accountable to those who we know and interact with. As we come to be in harmony with the God of heaven, and seek peace between ourselves, we will be preparing for eternity.
08 September 2009
07 September 2009
I just locked the door to this 2-bed cabin on the train. Then put the chain on. The conductor emphasized to me that I should keep an eye on my things. A few minutes after we left Butterworth, I heard a small bang, an orange thing alight move towards the train and a few guys about 10 m from the train. I think it was harmless... maybe just some youths having some fun (I hope!) Anyway, hope it'll be a safe trip!
It's a nice cabin... TV, fan, mirror, sink, 2 beds (one up one down), little table, roomy enough. You can tell the train is kind of old, but this is comfortable. Nice clean comfy bed. And, some powerpoint which you can charge up your phone and laptop from :-)
There are toilets on the train (which you would expect). There are economy sleeper beds which are just beds... not real place to put your things, so not very safe as far as others taking your things is concerned. There are sitting cars (glad I don't have to try and sleep in that tonight). And, there's a restaurant car. They don't have much to buy... well, not now anyway. It's getting later in the evening.
And, the have the doors of the train open as it's cruizing along in the night at about 70 km/h. You could just fall out! Then I talked with the train officers and it's because the air-con is not working in that carriage. Bit dangerous, but I'm not complaining. To be honest, it's kinda cool. Sticking your head out the door of a moving train at night, feeling the wind blow past your face, is a nice experience.
Then, a bit later, I looked out the train door again as we were going along, I could see the moon in the night sky, the train slowed down for the corner, the wheels squeeked on the tracks, I could see the jungly-rainforest in the moonlight, and touched some of the leaves as we rolled along. Then we went through a tunnel and back out again into the dim-dark blue summer evening sky as the train continued to snake its way through the mountains and forest of remote Malaysia towards Kuala Lumpur.
Earlier today, I arrived at Penang Airport from Bangkok. Short trip of about 90 minutes, and had to change my clocks 1 hour forward. The first thing that caught my attention after arriving in Penang Airport was the presence of Muslim ladies having their heads covered. After being in predominantly Buddhist countries in my travels so far, and, Malaysia being the first coutry I've been in with a strong Muslim presence, this was quite noticable.
Also, there are many Indians, Chinese, Malay and also tourists, that I've seen. Most signs are in Malay (which uses English letters A-Z) but English speakers can't understand them. But, this is easier than Thai or Chinese etc. There is also lots of English, and a fair amount of Chinese.
The other thing that struck me after arriving in Penang, was that it really reminded me a lot of Queensland! It felt a little like home, and I was surprised at the similarities... the weather, the vegetation, building and town layout, and, probably some other subtle things. I've been in quite a few different Asian countries lately (and away from Australia for more than 8 months), and Penang has come the closest to being like my home, as far as physical appearances is concerned.
I was really tired after arriving in Penang (after only a few hours sleep the night before because I uploaded photos, got a Thai massage, and woke up at 4:30 am to get my 7am flight). Caught the bus to George Town, and then another bus to Batu Ferringa, which is a nice beach resort area. I was quite tired (and feeling a little sick because of the bus travel, but that passed soon).
Ate half a Malay-style pizza and relaxed down at the beach. I could have gone parasailing, jetskiing, horse-riding or probably something else, but I just decided to lie down and rest a bit, then I played in the sand and water for a bit. I needed this, and I felt good afterwards.
Then, after shower and massage, made my way across on the ferry from Penang to Butterworth to get on this train. Now for some sleep. Good night!
Arrive Thursday night late in the rain at Bangkok Airport. No dramas. Friends' friend picked me up and drove 2 hours to campus in the countryside.
Friday: Woke up nice and late, check out Uni campus where friend works, had beautiful Thai lunch under one of those wall-less hut type things in nice garden area with fountains and music! Checked out a local market... nice experience. Had campus worship at night and really enjoyed singing (it'd been so long since I'd song English songs with a good-sized group!)
Sabbath: Morning worship... felt closer to God. People from all different countries worshipping together. Enjoyed singing again! Shared lunch together... really nice food. Took bus into Bangkok.
Saturday Night: Ate out with friends at nice Korea restaurant and then enjoyed some night views of Bangkok over dessert from 17th floor. Stayed at church nearby.
Sunday: Enjoyed really nice buffet Japanese restaurant... man! It was good! Visited Grand Palace... very beautiful temple and palace. Took boat up and down the river. Met some new people and ate out at Thai restaurant... very cheap! Only about $1.
I'm enjoying traveling, and learning that "racing around trying to see
everything" is not the way to travel... I've been taking it easy and
just seeing a few things, and it's much nicer, more enjoyable. And,
after a while, every city, country, train network, motel and all that,
ends up looking much the same!
Many more thoughts to share, but need some sleep (after a good Thai massage!) before leaving about 4:30 am for airport tomorrow morning. Off to Penang, then train to KL and then Singapore. Last leg of Asia trip. Been great!
03 September 2009
Hong Kong... nice city. Caught up with two school teachers who taught me, plus a friend. Very pretty at night. Went up on the Peak Tram. Well worth the ride up. Hong Kong is big, many sky scrapers, plenty of shopping (and very nice), plenty of business and finance and commerce.
Well, off to Thailand now.
Had a good long sleep. 10 hours. Slept quite well, waking up a few times to turn over. I like sleeping on trains. Looked out the window after waking up, and found it to be fairly mountainous, but not high mountains. Hilly, you could say. On the flatter areas between the hills, there were old Chinese houses among the rice fields, vegetable patches and bushland. The odd lake and river. There are some banana trees, also, reminding me of this area's semi-tropical climate. This was about 2 hours by train north of Guangzhou.
At breakfast and did some reading...
I think we are now in Guangzhou. The train is meant to stop at Guangzhou East station, before travelling another 2 and a half hours before arrive in Hong Kong. Out the window, I see old apartment buildings about 5 stories high, industiral equipment (rail, factories etc), overcast weather, trees between buildings etc.
Interesting, when I left Shanghai, I asked the hostel staff about getting to the train earlier because I might have to go through immigration. Although Hong Kong is part of China now (since 1997 after the British handed it back to China), it is an SAR (Special Administrative Region) and, in may ways, still feels like a seperate country (eg. currency, economy, democracy, no internet controls, immigration, etc), and means that you need to pass the "border" (get passport stamped, and maybe need a visa etc) to go from China to Hong Kong or vice versa.
Anyway, the staff said I don't have to get my passport stamped, but if I come back to China from Hong Kong, I need to. Well, I allowed the 30 minutes they said, got a bite to eat with my last few Chinese money (now I'm down to about AUD 1, but I'll be in Hong Kong in a couple hours anyway). Then, I found I did have to go through immigration! Well, it was very painless and I was probably the last person to go through, but got on the train with no dramas.
Reflecting in Shanghai... Compared to Beijing, it's much more progressive. The buildings are much taller (a few more than 400 m) and much more stylish. The roadways are narrower (or, to me, seem more normal... the roads in Beijing, especially the main roads, were very wide!) Shanghai is much more of a commercial, financial and shopping city, whereas Beijing is more government, historic and cultural. Subways, buses and taxis are just a little more expensive in Shanghai. Shanghai is more internationalized, and would better qualify to be a world city. The driving in Shanghai is more aggressive and noisy (when I thought Beijing was interesting!)
In Shanghai, I went to Wu Gardens (old, historic district), a local market area (which sold frogs and snakes!), Nanjing Road shopping and walking streets (East and West), the Bund (a street by the river of western style sand-stone bank and government buildings), Shanghai World Financial Center (with the world's highest observation deck at 474 m on 100th floor), the Bund Sight-seeing Tunnel (it's ok). Just a short trip, but was happy to go there for 1.5 days. And, I was happy to see the Pearl TV Tower, the most iconic building in Shanghai.
I'll arrive in Hong Kong in just over 2 hours! There 2 days. Meet one of my high school teachers from Australia, fly to Bangkok Thursday night and spend a few days with a previous colleague from Melbourne :-)
A bit more about the train I'm on...
I got a hard [economy] sleeper. The beds are 3-high. I got the top bed which is about 2m off the floor. I can't sit up in bed, or I'll hit my head on the room. There are six beds to a "room", and seats in the side aisle. There are a few powerpoints in the aisle. In fact, in China, every powerpoint I've seen takes the Australia, US (and Japan) and European (and Korea) plug shapes, but the voltage is 240 volts.
The toilets are "pit" or "squat" toilets, which make for interesting balancing as the train goes along... not my favourite. There are some basins for cleaning teeth, washing face etc, which power plugs for shaving or hair dryers (althogh I haven't seen anyone use hairdryers here yet). I haven't seen any showers. There is no cold drinking water, but there is drinkable hot water, which is great for making up some instant noodles (bought before I got on the train).
After living in Japan for 2 years, and learning some Japanese, I got used to knowing a little bit of a second language. Coming to China, I now realize how much Japanese I did learn, and I feel like my linguistic "hands" have been chopped off! I can't speak a thing in Chinese (except 1 to 10, good morning and thank-you, basically). It's a bit of a let down, and I'm faced with the "new language" feeling again.
In Japan, I could often say a few words in English and someone could help me, but in China it is harder. One time, at the shop, I asked the clerk where the toilet was, but I couldn't communicate the message that well, but some young 10 year old boy who was there, helped me out. His English was pretty good!
Anyway, I have my Japanese phone with me and can write some Chinese characters (many of which are the same in Japanese and English, although many are different). So, sometimes I've communicated with Chinese people by writing on my phone and showing them the Chinese characters. An English-speaking Australian and a Chinese person communicating using a Japanese phone... interetings!
01 September 2009
last train, Asian cities starting with "S".
Tonight, it happened again! I was a bit surprised to find the last
train was before 11pm. After checking out "The Bund" and "Pearl
Tower" (at least trying to see it past all the contruction that's
going on), I was walking to the nearest station, when I saw a Dunkin
Donuts. I don't know why, but I just thought I'd have one.
That done, found the last train had finished. Walked to the next
line, and missed the train by about 10 seconds. Hmmm... So, taxi back
to the hostel. It was about 10 km, maybe 10 or 15 minutes. About 30
RMB or AUD 5... taxis are so much cheaper here in China! But, beware
of the rip-offs (unmetered, unofficial, dodgy ones). Just as a side
note, the trains are usually between 2 and 4 RMB (40 and 60 cents).
And, tonight was not the first time this happened. Last week in
Seoul, the same thing happened. Donut, miss last train, taxi back to
night's accommodation. That time is was about AUD 20, about 25
minutes drive, maybe 20 km? I don't know. Anyway, it was more
expensive, but still a whole lot cheaper than taxis in Australia, let
alone Japan. (And, Seoul trains are about $1 or $1.50 to most
So, what do I learn? I learn that it's ok to do this in China and
maybe Korea, but not in Japan (too expensive)! More importantly, I
1. Find out when the last trains are
2. Don't eat late at night
3. Don't eat too many sweet things
4. Get to bed at a decent hour
And, now, time for bed. Good night!
31 August 2009
On the train to Shanghai. Just left Beijing 20 minutes ago. The
train actually left 2 minutes early! Don't know why.
I can hear restful Chinese music playing as I lie on my sleeper. I
can smell the instant noodles I'm waiting for. I hear and feel the
train moving along the tracks fast enough to let me know this is no
old train. It's less than 1 year old. Ten hours to get between the
destinations. TV screen in front of me and 2 channels to choose from.
Air con. 4 beds in this cabin. It's a soft sleeper... not hard
sleeper. I wanted the cheaper hard sleeper (you could say, economy),
but there were none left. It was about 600 RMB (Chinese Yuan) which
is about $100 in Australia.
I feel sad leaving Beijing. Not exactly sure why... Maybe the music I
hear now... I made good friends at the hostel I stayed in... and
friendly staff. Met a good old friend. Saw some nice beaut spots
during the 4 days I was here: Temple of Heaven, Great Wall, Tiananmen
Square, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Olympic Stadium.
It was my first place to visit in China. I won't forget my first
memories of China.
My camera decided not to work yesterday when I was in church (strange
place for it to stop working... it's totally dead now). So, after
walking for a while in the rain trying to find the Olympic stadium, we
found Wu-Mart which provided a good place for me to get a new camera!
So, that was good. The price was 1400 RMB but bargained a bit and got
it down to 1250 Yuan, with 2Gb card and case, so, not bad for about
AUD 200. It's a Nikon, so I'm happy with the quality.
Time to get to those noodles. I'll miss the people I met in
Beijing... Chinese, hostel staff, old friends, church people, other
foreign travellers. I'll remember the nice sights I saw. I'll miss
30 August 2009
Tiananmen Square. The main road that goes past it is so wide! About
5 lanes each way with turning lanes, cycle lanes and pleeenty of space
on each side, and then when the road goes past the square, it doubles
The Square is so large! It's one of the largest in the world. I felt
the awe and power of the state of China as I rode my bike past it. I
could see the photo of Mao. Quite impressive! China is a world power
and you feel it when you're in the Square.
Rested Saturday afternoon. At night, ate a few noodles, then went
bargaining! Yes, it's lots of fun. Prices might start out at 180
yuan (about $40 Australian dollars), and I got a leather belt for 40
yuan. Then looked at a shoe shop... it's apparently leather (I'm
still not sure), but got 480 yuan shoes for 100 yuan, and then today
went back and got (apparently) 800 yuan shoes for 90 yuan! It's fun,
Today, went to the Forbidden City, which is where the Emperor used to
live for quite a number of years. It's the centre of Beijing. And,
just opposite, is Tiananmen Square. "Tiananmen" means "Heaven Peace
Gate". Took some photos, ate some lunch and got a taxi back to the
hostel (less than $2).
Now, packed, ready to go to Olympic Park. Then, catch overnight train
to Shanghai. Monday and Tuesday there. Tuesday night, overnight
train to Hong Kong. Thursday night, flight to Thailand.
Beijing's been great! Happy Dragon Hostel is really good, friendly,
clean, safe, good atmosphere, really good staff, English speaking, and
good price (about AUD 12 per night).
Glad I could come to Beijing.
29 August 2009
hostel here. Made my way, checking the map a few times, to one of the
Christian churches in Beijing. The outside of the church had an old
look to it. It wasn't cathedral style. Someone helped shoe me where
to park my bicycle and I headed inside.
I was greeted by a smiling member at the door who showed me to a seat.
Almost every seat was full, and there was another large room next to
the main building I was in. There was well over 500 people there. I
arrived about 9:30 am, I think, and it looked like they were having a
group Bible study.
Then we sang a song, that part of the program seemed to be over, and
the main worship begain about 10 am. About 25 members in the choir
entered as we sang a sacred opening song. People didn't sing quietly,
they sang with volume and spirit. The songs were familiar tunes, but,
of course, in Chinese. I couldn't understand the words, but I could
work out a few of the meanings of the Chinese characters (since I knew
some Japanese), and I could sing the odd note here and there.
Once or twice, as I was singing the songs, I recognized the words
"blood", "wash", and "white", and another time "Jesus", "love" and
"you". As I realized the meaning, and saw the large number of people
wanting to know God having strong faith, and that God is everywhere
(Australia, Japan, China), I couldn't help but feel my eyes become a
little watery. I felt I was closer to God and that it had been a
while since I'd been united in worship. All this, even though it was
all in Chinese and I didn't really understand.
But, one young man was able to translate the worship for me. He could
speak English and Chinese and I'm very glad he could help me. The
message was about being happy, and how our joy comes from Jesus. When
we are happy, our body's health and spiritual health is much better.
Sadness can cause more sickness. Jesus loves us, has forgiven us, and
we can have the joy from knowing He cares for us. It was a simple
message, but one that helped me.
At the end of the message, the pastor asked who had come for the first
time. About 20 or 30 people raised there hands. The pastor asked
them to come to the front; the choir sang; the pastor prayed for them,
and invited them to know more.
After church, was ate some of our own lunch and some others shared
with us. We saw people praying together and some with their Bibles
open as they ate lunch. There were at least 4 different programs that
afternoon: pre-baptism classes, post-baptism classes, youth classes,
English classes etc.
This church seems dynamic. The Spirit is working in this church.
People are coming to know Jesus.
I felt really blessed to attend. After lunch, I chatted with the man
who translated for me, and also another young man who'd just moved to
Beijing for work. It was pleasant to share lunch and to chat
together. I was encouraged. I'd like to attend again, but next
Sabbath, I'll be in Thailand.
God is Lord of all. He is in each country. His Spirit is available
everywhere. I want to be near this God who created all things, who
loves me deeply.
28 August 2009
the place. Plenty of history.
Temple of Heaven was my favourite. The icon of Beijing. As the sun
was getting lower in the sky, the buildings were a beautiful sight to
behold. I sense it may have its roots in the original religion of the
God of heaven. A must-see for visitors to Beijing.
At out for dinner with Mike, good friend from Beijing who I got to
know in Melbourne. Hadn't met for 2 years... real nice time catching
up. We then walked along a hutong (traditional, small, old
Chinese-style street) and ate some yoghurt. Pleasant evening.
Just gained an hour of time as we crossed over the into the Chinese
timezone. I can stay up another hour! :-)
We're cruizing west in the ferry between Korea and China. It's a
large ferry! I'd probably call it a ship. It's maybe about 100 m
long, 8 stories high. It's so large I can hardly feel any waves.
It's pretty flat all the way. If it's windy and stormy, it might be a
bit different, not sure. But, this ride is quite smoothe, with the
It's not super clean, but it's a fairly clean boat. Toilets are ok,
but have to get toilet paper from outside before going in to sit down.
Drinking water available. My own bed (like Japanese capsule hotel).
Restaurant, karaoke room, club area, lounges, shops for snacks, travel
books, souveneirs, showers and info desk.
It's nice being outside on deck at night in the middle of the sea.
Good time for feeling small, thinking about life, being close to
nature and close to God. Back inside, good place to meet people.
Mostly people are Chinese, I think, with good number of Koreans too.
There are a few other westerners too. I met a couple from Europe who
are cycling around the world! I kind of envy them, haha. Also, met a
couple of Korean guys who'll study in China for a year. Met one of
the shop assistants who taught me a bit of Chinese (yi, er, san, si,
wu, liu, chi, ba, jiu, shi; which is one to ten).
Already, I've felt the difference between Korean and Chinese people,
just as I did when I got on the ferry in Japan to come to Korea and
noticed how Koreans were different from Japanese. Chinese are louder
people, on average, and don't seem to worry as much about what other
people think, whereas Japanese people seem to be very conscious and
concerned about what other people think, hence, a much quiter and less
obvious way of conducting themselves.
One of the nicest things I saw this afternoon on the boat just as we
were getting out of sight of Korea, was of a father and her daughter.
She was throwing small pieces of food in the air to the birds who were
gliding in the wind behind the ferry. She was smiling and enjoying it
a lot, as a number of other took photos.
And, for some reason, my Japanese phone still works out here in the
middle of the sea, so I called one of my Chinese friends in Melbourne
to say "Hi!".
And, as the sun set, I took my last photos of my few days in Korea.
Now, for some rest, ready to wake up and begin 9 days in China.
10:30 am China time Wed
Had a goooood looooong sleep, got up couple of hours ago, saw all the
rain outside, couldn't see anything except sea, clouds and rain. Then
showered, ate a few instant noodles for breakfast along with some
nuts, fruit someone gave me, and peach drink. Did some stretches and
then some Bible reading, some prayer and focus thinking for the day.
Just finished now.
I looked up and saw the rain had stopped, and. Feels like we're
getting closer to China now, because there are many of these little
boats (don't know if they're fishing boats or what) and also a few
large tanker ships in the distance. This large ferry has to weave
between the little boats, one or two of which cut across our path,
slowing us down.
Now to practice a bit more Chinese.
27 August 2009
26 August 2009
Drive on opposite side is the easiest thing.
Much more pushy, in front to turn left and sideways. Cutting off is part of the game. Taxis and this bus I'm on and trucks join the game. beep!
Now on 110 km/hr expressway to Beijing where it's bumper-to-bumper and 2 lanes have turned into 3 or sometimes 4. Most vehicles could do with a good wash.
Road surface is pretty good. Let's just see how long it takes to get to Beijing.
25 August 2009
23 August 2009
The first thing I noticed was actually on the ferry before leaving Japan where there were a few Korean people. Naturally, I'll contrast Korea with Japan, since I've lived in Japan for 2 years and hadn't been to Korea yet.
Japanese people tend to be quieter, less subtle, not so verbose, and indirect in their communication. I noticed Koreans are more upfront, bit louder (but not loud), more aggressive, and not so shy in comparision. Koreans seem to be more relaxed in their movements and in how they conduct themselves, in contrast to Japanese people who have relatively more social protocols and pressures (although I'm not very familiar with Korea yet to make fair comparisions).
Respect for people older than you is also very strong in Korea. In Japan, there was still respect, but no like in Korea. Also, people of different ages don't mix as readily in Korea.
Things in Korea and Japan which are similar, include the "group" and "club" structure of society and thinking. Clubs are very important. Outside of the a group, there is not much reason to talk with a stranger. There seems to be more social expectations and "respects", compared to Australia.
Of course, Japanese and Korea people look very similar (from an Australian point of view), but I do notice a difference and can sometimes tell if someone is from Japan or Korea. I notice that glasses (for your eyes) in Korea typically have the thicker dark-rimmed simple style. Girls do their hair differently (the pony-tail tied up higher is quite common). Japan fashion seems more "out-there", modern, and crazy.
Korea seems more dynamic than Japan. Japan seems more closed and conservative in personal interaction, but when it comes to entertainment, Japan is more open, allowing or accepting more.
The mountains in Korea are less steep and tall, compared to the mountiains in Japan. Both countries have a lot of rice fields. The KTX train in Korea (from Busan to Seoul) I think was a little bit faster than the Shinkansen in Japan, and the Seoul metro is more simple and navigable than the Tokyo train network, but Japan overall has a more extensive fast-train and local train network.
Twice I've seen men in trains trying to sell something, which I never saw in Japan. Also, this morning when I went to buy a ticket, I saw junior-high school aged girls or guys (obviously employed by the train company) at the ticket gates standing there, helping people buy tickets. It was kind nice to see. In Japan, you would only see officially dressed, mature aged (or at least over 25) staff employed.
Anyway, the buildings are brighter, more colourful and have more variety than in Japan, where the buildings are closer to greys, browns and creams. They drive on the opposite side of the road in Korea (ie. US and Korea are the same and drive on the right-hand side, but in Japan and Australia cars drive on the left side). I have to be careful crossing the road!
I've enjoyed the time so far. Quick rundown on events:
Thursday night: Ferry from Shimonoseki, Japan overnight to Busan, South Korea. At Shimonoseki buying tickets, realised a few young Koreans were just a few yen short on buying a ticket to get back home. I lent them a few yen, and enjoyed chatting with them on the ferry over dinner and after. I enjoyed the ferry ride. Plenty of stuff on the ferry (baths, karaoke, dance room, restaurant, lounge area, games rooms). You can also go outside to see the night sea. Nice feeling. No rough sees. Slept really well. Woke up to rainy Busan.
Friday morn: Get of ferry. Breakfast with few new friends. Went to Beomeosa Temple in Busan, one of the most famous in Korea. It's a Buddhist temple, which is the dominant traditional religion in Korea. There are many churches in Korea also, with maybe about a third or a bit more Christian.
Friday afternoon: Caught KTX express train to Seoul. Travels at 304 km/h! Nice. About 3 hour trip. Comfy train, and has internet, but have to pay for it. Found my way to Mok-dong station and met Jason, my friend. Met some students, teachers and friends and enjoyed Friday night meeting.
Today: Slept really well, and woke up and met some good friends, and made a heap more friends. Played some games tonight and ate pizza!
Time to get a bit of rest. Seoul is a nice city! It feels quite safe, is quite beautiful from what I've seen, and has a good feel about it.
Off for a bit of sight seeing tomorrow and Monday!
21 August 2009
20 August 2009
Last night, arrived here in Nagoya to catch up over dinner with a good Japanese friend who I hadn't seen for a year. It's always sad to say good-bye, but I'm very thankful for the friends I have.
Just about to sneak in another hours sleep here at an internet cafe (and manga, or Japanese comics, cafe) before catching the first train towards Osaka.
After dinner last night, my friend showed me the cafe near the station. For a short night's stay of 8 hours, you cough up 1480 yen plus 100 yen for first time comers. When you walked in, I could smell the tabacco fairly strongly (not that I can see anyone smoking). The music playing is fairly quiet and similar to a normal cafe.... light jazz, etc.
Reclining chair in a cubicle with computer and internet, and the network let's me plug my own laptop in... handy. Free drinks... juice, softdrink, tea, coffee.
The funny thing... it's so quiet (except the odd click and keyboard clatter, another person slipping by for another cup of something)... but, with your eyes open, you can tell there's a whole lot more happening...
Well, it's a mange cafe too. And, many of these Japanese cartoons lends themselves to interesting depictions of the human body, along with magazines (which are not cartoons, but photos). I need not say anymore.
I guess for those who are seeking a life of purity and morality, this is disappointing. In the place of the world, these kinds of things are quite freely available with not much restriction.
It simply calls us to be even more careful not to slip into what we know is not right and will lead to dissatisfaction. May the reader of this blog be encouraged to life a pure life.
Time for a bit more sleep. Spent a bit of time just before planning the next part (or at least finalizing the details) of my trip.
It's very sad to leave Japan. I hope I will come back to Japan to live here again. Not sure what the future holds.
I'll trust in God.
18 August 2009
17 August 2009
03 July 2009
The Jinchon Ferry travels between Incheon and Tianjin. You can phone them on this phone number: +82-32-777-8260. A man spoke English well enough for me to ask and answer questions. The phone number in China is: +86-22-2311-2842.
The ferries leave Incheon on Tuesdays and Fridays. The Tuesday ferry leaves at 13:00 (Korea time) and it takes 24 hours to make the trip. I wanted an economy ticket which costs 128200 KRW (about 100 USD). The man said I don't need to make a reservation since there were plenty of spaces available (but I don't know if it's like that all the time). The ferry leaves from Incheon International Ferry Terminal number 2. You can buy tickets from the terminal on the day of departure. Access to the terminal here: http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/TR/TR_EN_5_1_5_2.jsp
Since you are going to China on this ferry, you will need to get a Chinese visa from a Chinese embassy. For Australians, many countries (like Japan, Korea, Singapore etc) will allow you to enter without a visa for tourist purposes (this is not legal adivce), but with China, you must get a visa, even to visit for a few days.
More Korea China Ferry info:
14 June 2009
02 June 2009
22 May 2009
Going to the doctor wasn't much different in Japan than Australia, at least for me this time, anyway. He spoke good English so that was very nice for me. Getting over my cold still but on the way to normal happy me.
03 May 2009
The area is so nice and green. Driving is very scenic and relaxing. So pretty! Takachiho Gorge and Shirakawa Waterhead are places we went to yesterday. Today we'll see Nagasaki and Tomorrow we'll go to Sasebo and Fukuoka before returning to Hiroshima on Tuesday.
We've seen very beautiful places ane had many interesting experiences! Tired but the onsens have helped :-)
27 April 2009
12 April 2009
Here's a map of my trip. Left at 12:30 lunch time, took some breaks along the way, arrived Kure at about 6:30 pm. So, 100 km in 6 hours is about what's doable for me on a bike with some hills, light load, small amount of wind, good weather.
20 March 2009
As I remember last year, the cold winter ended almost right on 20 March, and, just a few days ago, (after 2 degrees last Saturday), the temperature got a heat boost and we are now experiencing spring weather! It's so nice, and I'd say we won't get any more cold temps until next winter in October.
And, this time of year also means cherry blossoms! Japanese people just love them, and I do to, so I'll try grab a few pics.
The Japanese school year is April to March, which means this we had graduation. Primary School Grad was on last Sunday, and Kindergarten the day after. Even for Kindy, the grad is a big thing! After 3 years of kindy, it can be quite an emotional experience for kids and parents. A very nice occasion to conclude, remember and express appreciation.
Now, to the unaccepted gifts. David and I went for a bike ride two nights ago, just relaxingly cruizing around the rivers, enjoying the warmer, cool spring nights. We just felt like going to a Family Mart (like 7-Eleven) to buy something. Then I got the bright idea of buying something for the shop assistant.
Hmmm... so, got a little snack bar, bought it, and gave it to him. He didn't know what to do! He tried very hard to give it back to us and refuse the gift, but he was quite shocked, and almost panicked, so it seemed. Anyway, we left and he was left with the bar. I don't know what he did after. I think he probably ate it, but it probably didn't taste like a normal bar because of the apparently strange circumstances surrounding it.
And... bananas. They're always good food, so, on the way back from our bike ride, I stopped at some "open late" fruit stall and remembered I wanted to buy bananans. So, bought 200 yen bananas and gave the lady 250 yen, who, reluctantly accepted it.
David and I kept riding, found our favourite spot, swapped bikes and rode aroundin circles for a bit. I put the bananas on the edge of a wall and forgot to get them after we'd finished our little exercise.
Got back home, went up stairs and then remembered the bananas! Oh, well, in Japan, people don't usually steal things, so I thought I'd go back and get them in the morning, as long as the crows or ants hadn't gotten too excited about it.
Anyway, got up in the morning and forgot about the bananas, but then, lo and behold, the bananas were in the letter box! How on earth did they get there! Well, I thought David must have gone back to pick them up for me and left them there...
After talking with David, he said that the bananas were in his bike basket and that I hadn't left the bananas behind after all! I'd just left them in the bike basket downstairs from our apartment!
25 January 2009
Today is probably the coldest day I'll experience in Hiroshima. Got down to minus 2 this morning, snow falling at different intervals throughout the day with a max of 2.4. Doesn't get much colder than that in the city here. Of course, colder in the country side and mountains. But, didn't seem that cold since I was inside with good heating most of the time. Went for a bit of a bike ride with David in the afternoon, but didn't get that cold.
Spent too long in my room tonight in front of the heater using my computer. Was doing a little chart on Japanese history as well as looking at the history of Christianity in Japan. It's interesting. But, was couped up too much, thinking too hard, and got a headache! Still have it. But, after getting up and finding there was something missing, I had to replace it.
Well, the missing item is essential and is what I bought at 7-eleven. Well, I found the toilet paper easy enough and made my purchse. Didn't need to lock the apartment since that shop is so close (1 min bike ride). And, in Japan, people just don't seem to brake in much or steal things! I don't know why, but it's great! May it continue.
23 January 2009
Photos with narration on YouTube:
11 January 2009
So, made it back from the Australia trip. Now, after the terrible overnight bus trip (not good sleep), I'm surprisingly energetic! I don't' know why... it's Sunday morning and start of work... anway. Nice to be feeling good to start work. Only a 1 hour class today and tomorrow's a holiday, but then Tuesday it all starts.
So, happy new work year! Let's see what this year brings.
07 January 2009
Caught up with a Melbourne friend who lives in Sydney now. Nice to catch up. They're enjoying life here.
There's so much more grafitti in Australia compared to Japan, and, Australia is far more multi-cultural. Japan's demography is very homogenous. 99% of people are Japanese.
Last weekend caught up with friends in Melbourne. Well worth the very short stay of only 2 and a bit days, but far too short. Church was really good. Hadn't been to a good church in English for a long time. Really felt God's presence there. Felt a lot of spiritual and social release...
After living in Japan, Australia seems to relaxed about everything... at airports, at shops, at work, banks, and, of course, when people are on holidays too. Japan is a serious culture which doesn't seem to allow for mistakes, differences, things that are different, new, or unproven.
Since catching up with friends in Melbourne (mostly Chinese), I've realised how different the cultures in Japan and China are. Seems like I might like to do some more travel again. Kind of lost the travel bug after being in Japan a while, but picked it up again after coming home and mixing things up a bit.
My work finishes in August this year 2009. Not sure what to do after that. Might move on rather than stay another year. My experience in Japan has been really good. Might like to stay there a bit longer, but might be good to travel a bit first.
Well, the timer in the internet cafe is about to click off... I'll head to the backpackers, grab some sleep, get up 5:30 am, shower, catch train to airport, stop off at Gold Coast, fly to Tokyo, bus to Kyoto and home by Sunday.
God bless you.
02 January 2009
We drank some Maison, had our own little sparklers, took a photo and then I slept outside under the stars with my brother. The gum trees not far away, the odd shooting star, the insect sounds, and the cooler air made for nice sleeping.
Well, tonight's my last sleep here at home. Tomorrow I head to Melbourne to catch up with friends from church. Then to Newcastle on Monday to see Grandma and Pa and relatives for a few days. Then back to Tokyo on 8 Jan. I'll be in Kyoto 9 and 10 Jan, and then back in Hiroshima on 11 Jan for work.
Happy New Year! May the Spirit of Love and Peace fill your life this year.