26 December 2007

Trip begins...

Just now I'm about to leave for Nagasaki, then Kagoshima, then Tokyo over next 10 days. Hope to take some good pics, enjoy some onsens, visit a volcano and catch up with friends.

18 December 2007


Why else does the Hiroshima Central Post Office stay open 24/7, except so that you can post Christmas cards at 2:00 am for Australia (to hopefully arrive in time for 25 December), feel like your riding your bike around in a fridge at 4 degrees C, and have a policeman tell you to put a light on your bicycle...

And Route 2 (main road) still has cars and trucks going along it!

Good night!


It's 11:52 pm. Should be in bed, but, I did say I'd get the monthly reports done before tomorrow. I'm at school listening to Christmas music. Let me share something...

Listening to this, looking at the names of these Japanese kids I teach English to, remembering their faces, knowing it's end of year, knowing we've had lots of fun together in class this year, sharing many good times, disciplining, teaching, learning, giving cards, gifts to each other... I've really learnt to like them.

God loves us as His children so much more than I might like to think I care for these kids. God loves us without limit. He loves us forever with infinite love.

Christmas is upon us... Christmas is all about CHRIST! His name was also called "Emmanuel", which means, "God with us."

Can you imagine that? Think of the mighty power of God who flung the universe into existence and carefully designed the complexities of the human body... think of this God coming to live with us on this earth! How could He?

Christmas is about God coming to be with us, to give us peace, to give us hope, to give us eternal life.

Christmas is about us returning to God, coming to God, to receive this peace, hope and life.

God will give you rest, if you come to Him.

17 December 2007

Primary School Christmas Photos


Bikes and Parties

Yesterday we had a Christmas Party for all the kids and their parents from the English School. It was a stack of fun with the kids and nice to meet their parents. We sang a few Christmas songs, played some fun games, opened presents, and had a nice meal together. Then we blew up balloons and popped them! Came home to relax for the evening.

Bicycles are far more common here in Hiroshima than in Australia. In Australia, bikes are relegated to Sunday afternoon fun, serious cyclists, and a smaller group of people who use them as their primary mode of transport.

But, here in Hiroshima (and probably most of Japan, I'm guessing), it seems most people use bikes to get around. Yes, there are a lot of cars, but also lots of bikes! When I first got to Hiroshima, I saw the bikes here, and most of them look like the old-style bikes you'd see in Australia 50 years ago... but, many of them are actually new. You can buy these types of bikes new.

Around the streets, you see pretty much anyone riding a bike... dressed up business men in the suits and ties, office laides in the smart attire, school boys and girls, mothers with their kids riding on the back of the bike, grandfathers slowly pedalling along... everyone's in it together. And, parking can be quite a challenge here. In Australia, just park your bike were you like (almost), even in the CBD of the large cities. But here, because there are so many bikes, you can usually only park in designated areas, costing 100 yen for parking etc.

15 December 2007

Concerts & Christmas

... and Christmas Concerts!

Well, a lot has happened. Let's work backwards from today :-)

Got up nice and late, but got to church ready for leading out in English Sabbath School where we sing, pray and study the Bible. Saw some of the young people from church, and then saw a baptism at church. That was really nice. Good lunch afterwards followed by Japanese choir practice for Christmas program on 24 Dec at church. I can sing it, but don't understand the meaning of it! Relaxed at home the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Yesterday, George and I ventured out a bit more to the sports centre (Green Arena), found out what sports we can do there and tried out the swimming pool for 600 yen. Met some nice people.

Headed to the world headquaters of Mazda Corporation (they make cars) located in Hiroshima, Japan, only a 20 minute bike ride from our apartment. We booked a free English tour of Mazda Museum. Saw the history of Mazda, how they make cars, saw them actually making cars in the factory (no photo's allowed, hehe). Well worth the visit, especially since it was free. I found it interesting, even though I'm not a real car freak. They make about 4000 cars each day in the Mazda plant in Hiroshima. One car takes about 15 hours to get assembled. Most Mazda cars in Australia are probably made in this plant that we saw, which means my lovely little blue Mazda 323 (1983 model) which I sold a few months ago (and was my first and only car so far) was probably made right in the factory we saw! Anyway, we could take pictures in the museum (not factory) and the showroom... got some good shots... of me in some of the nice new models :-) They also gave us a little car with red lights and pull-back action... bonus! So, that was the bee's knees of Mazda... and used one of the computers in the showroom in their head office building to update my blog :-) Don't tell them. By the way, they had a racing car simulation you could test out for free in the showroom. The steering wheel wobbled according to the ground (eg. if you went off the road, the wheel would shudder etc). George and I had a stack of fun!

Last night we invited one of the youth from church over for dinner. Although he didn't speak much English and we didn't speak much Japanese, we had a lot of fun! We ate, shared, talked, and used Google Translate to communicate :-)

Last Wednesday was also a great day... had the usual afternoon English school classes to teach. The evening class was shifted an hour earlier because the lady and daughter who come wanted to go to a concert I wanted to go to as well! The SDA High School near Hiroshima has an outstanding choir and handbell group. The junior and senior high school choirs and handbell choirs performed the best high school concert I'd heard. The sang and played a range of Christmas and Christian songs ranging from choral, classical, contemporary works. And, it was free! (to raise funds for ADRA). Then, my English students kindly took me out for dinner afterwards. A very nice evening. Nice people, nice music, nice food.

Also attended the Hiroshima SDA Primary School Christmas Pageant two weeks ago. Saw the kids I teach up the front doing their Japanese Christmas songs, acting out the Christmas story, and singing "Away In A Manger" in English (which we taught them). It was really nice to see. I felt proud of the kids.

As Christmas comes and end of year draws near, many gifts are exchanged. Japan is a gift-giving culture. At times, offence can be made if a gift is not given at the appropriate occasion. But, many parents of the kids, kids them selves (which I teach English to), and different people have been very kind to me. I really do feel welcome here, and accepted by the people. I appreciate their love and care. Many from church or school bring food or other things for us. I'm very thankful.

And, the flu has hit hard at school. Two weeks ago, almost half the students were gone. Thankful I've escaped so far. The worst is over for now. Many "mikan's" (mandarines, oranges etc) are in season now. These help with avoiding a cold. Weather is colder. Zero degrees is coldest morning so far, with average max of 15 and average min of about 6 celcius. Next month is coldest.

I really want the best for the children I teach. I hope they grow to be good citizens, and come to know God and experience the love and peace He gives. I don't know where they will all be in 10 or 20 years time, but I hope they have happy lives. They are so accepting, so innocent... The often run up and give me hug, show me the things they make, the places they hurt themselves (sore elbow etc), practice their English. I enjoy sharing time with them both in class and out of class.

We've pretty much settled into our new apartment. Bit noisy, but very comfortable, with a few people saying it's quite spacious. I'm very thankful to God. We prayed for a good place, and He has allowed us to have this place. The Internet is on now (wireless 8 Mbit/s unlimited download for about AU$25/month), aircon installed, everything you need to live.

For the future... primary school classes have finished already (so my mornings are free), but English school classes continue until this Thursday, then we have break until Sunday 6 January. During the break, I'll relax a little. Visit a few more places around Hiroshima (ice skating maybe, onsens, might leave the skiing for January when there's more snow). Try catch up with a few friends from church and work. Go to Christmas program at the SDA Church on 24 December (playing piano and singing in the choir).

Not sure what I'll do for Christmas day yet, but will surely miss our typical Aussie family Christmas with all the relatives, opening presents, stinking hot day, play a bit of cricket or go to the beach, eat lots of food and have a nice time together. I'll miss my brothers and Mum and Dad, but should be able to phone them up.

26 Dec I'll head off to Kyushu for just over a week. Plan to stay at Nagasaki for 2 nights, and Hayato, Kagoshima, for nearly a week. Hope to see Sakurajima (the big volcano) in Kagoshima and try out the onsens, and see what else there is down there. Come back on 2 January. I'm using the special "Seishun 18 Kippu" ticket making trian travel super slow, but super cheap. If you have time, you should use it (if you don't mind stopping at nearly every train station on the way to your destination).

Some handy sites I use for Travel in Japan are these:
English Train Timetables: http://grace.hyperdia.com/cgi-english/hyperWeb.cgi
Japan Travel (attractions, info): Japan Guide
Japanese / English converter: Google Translate
Encyclopedia: Wikipedia

Christmas in Japan is a big thing, but only commercially and for some smaller groups or communities. Januray 1 is the big annual day. It's the big family day in Japan (the equivalent of the Aussie Christmas where everyone gets together). Christmas is very well done in the shops here (can't miss the Christmas advertising), and the Peace Avenue here in Hiroshima is very well lit up with what they call "illumination". Stacks of Christmas lights and very nicely done too. But, most Japanese go to work on Christmas Day. Thankfully, I have the day off. But, almost everything shuts for a few days over New Years. This is the big time to start new things, have a clean house, meet family, give gifts, etc.

Enough raving on, and if you're still reading, it's probably time you went to bed (like I should do now).

Peace to you.

14 December 2007

Mazda Corp

This blog entry was made from Mazda Corp headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan

29 November 2007

New, nice

Well, here we are! The best house move I've ever done. Less than 24 hours to do it all!

We moved from an older apartment in Otemachi to a newer apartment in Takeyacho (both in Naka-ku, Hiroshima, Japan), only about 2 km apart. The new apartment is newer and much nicer, has an extra room, is on 3rd floor with not quite as good a view, but still a nice open feel.

Our new place has few extra mod cons like: video intercom for visitors, set the timer for the bath to be ready at a certain temperature (eg. 43 degrees C), at a certain time after work. Air con, wireless internet, and everything else you need. And I can't forget the special, Japanese-style toilet... no more cold toilet seats, and, well, it's got plenty of buttons and controls :-)

It's situated just back from Route 2, the main highway down the south-east coast of Japan which connects Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukuoka--quite busy! (and a tad noisy). But, apartment faces south, which gives nice sunshine from about noon to 4 or 5pm. Good for washing.

It only took 1 hour and 15 min for removalists to take everything out of the old apartment! (and about the same time to move into new apartment). So, after waking up this morning in an old apartment, to now, in the new apartment with most things in their place (and doing 5 hours work this afternoon as well), I'm very happy! That's what moving a house in Japan is like :-)

...and, this is the first time I've ridden my bike during house move. The last time was by plane (from Australia to Japan). Before that, by car (Melbourne to Toowoomba). Our apartment is in the order of seconds bike ride from work (about 2 min walk). I'll have to time it one day.

Keep your posessions limited, don't hoard things, throw out what you haven't used in the past 12 months, and your life will be simpler!

I thank God for this apartment. We prayed for a nice place, a place we can invite people over to, a place where we can live for God. Thanks to our LORD God!

28 November 2007

Last glimpse

Almost time to rip the internet out of the wall...
Moving house. In 4 hours, we'll be gone! New apartment will be nice :-)

26 November 2007

Retreat (from battle)

The annual staff retreat for SDA English teachers in Japan this year was great! Just nice to hang out with about 20 other gaijins (from India, US, Canada, Jamaica, UK, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Africa) who teach in SDA English schools in Tokyo, Yokahama, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kagoshima, Tokuyama, Hayato and Okinawa. Social benefits, spiritual inspiration, physical rest. Thanks to God and everyone one helped and came. It's was a beautiful time together.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/geraldchristo2/MissionaryRetreat

Retreat Blog: http://sdaelsjapan.blogspot.com

Moving to a new apartment on Wednesday! Very close to work (2 min walk).

21 November 2007

Are you an SDA?

I am...

(after following the above link, click "Show Transcript" to read article)

Or listen here:
ABC News feature about Seventh-day Adventists' spirituality and health.

PS: What to live longer? more vibrant? National Geographic article...
(click on the "Sights and Sounds" for a flash video about longevity")

Not hot

Yes, it's cold. Here in Hiroshima, Japan, it's getting cold. First snow in Japan this season, but not here of course.

Yesterday, min 4 degrees, max of about 12 (which are typical December temperatures). It forced me to finally by a warm jacket (to keep me warm riding my bike around town). Still have another month or so of cooling off. Average monthly temps for Hiroshima are here: http://weather.yahoo.com/climo/JAXX0018_c.html

Annual retreat for SDA English teachers around Japan this weekend. Thurs night to Sunday arvo. It's about 1 hour out of Hiroshima city. Be great to catchup with everyone!

Also, this time next week I'll be living in a different apartment. They're refurbishing the apartment here and almose everyone from the 10 story building has gone now. Very noisy! (concrete drills etc). But, because they're redoing the apartment and kicking us out (with very little time to move), we don't have to clean the place, and, they are paying for removal fees!

New apartment will mean I only ride my bike 2 minutes to school, instead of 5 or 6 minutes (so I think I'll just walk). The view is not as good and on 3rd floor, not the 9th. It's a bit noisier, but there are some good advantages... much newer and nicer, closer to school. I think it's a good move. And thankfully, we found a good place in time!

16 November 2007

Monkeys Riding Bikes

Check out the video from our trip to Miyajima:

Yes, the monkey also walks on stilts. See otters running around and Itsukushima Shrine.

15 November 2007

Breakfast, Bells, Phone, Trash, Christmas

I picked an orange out of the frig this morning and saw a sticker on it... it had a kangaroo on it, and the sticker told me it was from Australia! Wow! I ate an aussie orange for breakky! Felt good.

At the primary school here, I (as well as everyone else) hears the "Big Ben" ding dong bell bong chimes for the start of class and lunch etc. Yet another "western thing in the east".

Finally got my MP3's from my computer onto my phone! To transfer music from my computer to my new phone, I have to use this special program (SD Audio Jukebox by Panasonic). Tried installing it on my English Windows XP computer but didn't work. After much grumbling and annoyance, I tried to install it at work (which is Japanese Windows XP) and it works! What a relief! With a 1 Gb card, I can fit enough good songs and Japanese audio lessons on my phone to keep me happy. Also finally worked out how to transfer photos to and from computer and phone. It's a bit long winded, complicated and NOT intuitive, but finally accomplished. My phone is a P903i by NTT Docomo. Email me if you want tips. Phone can also read PDF's, so I got the Bible on my phone, together with song books and other good reading. Also can use my phone as TV remote controller. Enough of that.

It's 8am and I wake up to the sound of my apartment being trashed! My flat mate and I are one of the last residents to leave the 10 story apartment building. Everyone else has moved out. In a few weeks, the whole building will be refurbished. We will soon not be living here. The nice view over the river will be gone. But, hopefully, a newer, nicer place, but probably not as good view. Not sure where we're going yet.

Plans for Christmas coming along. First holiday is Friday 21 December. Will stay in Hiroshima for Christmas program at church (24th) and Christmas day. Not sure what I'll do. First Christmas away from family! Hmmm... might try an onsen for Christmas, or find some gaijins (other foreigners... maybe Aussies) to do Christmas. Boxing day (26th) hope to get leave for Kyushu, the southern most of the 4 major islands in Japan. It has lots of good onsens (hot springs) especially at Beppu. Hope to briefly visit Fukuoka, Nagasaki as well. Mt Aso might be appealing too. But, Kagoshima is where I'd like to get. Volcano to visit there, as well as some good church friends. I plan on using cheap accommodation (youth hostels) and a 5 day rail pass which can be used on any LOCAL trains (not express or bullet trians) anywhere in Japan for about $120!

14 November 2007

Mominoki & Miyajima

kLast weekend was quite full. Went for a bike ride (cycling) up into the mountains north-west of Hiroshima city. Up early. Left at 8am from Hiroshima. Went on Route 2 to Itsukaichi city, about 15 km south-west on the coast line. Took route 41 inland (under a Shinkansen line) and followed signs to Yuki. Plenty of up hill from here on. One lane each way. Stopped by a nice dam on the way.

Followed on to Route 433 and headed west onto Route 488. Came to Yuki, one of the best onsen places in Hiroshima. Hiroshima does not have excellent onsens (better ones south of here in Kyushu or further east or north in Kansai, Kanto regions).

Didn't stop for an onsen here, but kept riding up to Mominoki Forest Park. The autumn leaves were just beautiful. I'd say early to mid November is the best time to see the leaves near Mominoki. On the ride to the park, I rode through between, over and through some really steep mountains with tall pine trees, beside some fresh, clear water streams, under the canopy of rainforest and autumn leaf trees.

Had lunch at Mominoki and had no time to spare. Took 5 hours to get there from home. The ride down the moutains was so fun! Just wished I could have captured on video what I saw. Cruizing down the mountains past the different coloured trees, clear blue skies, and streams.

Enjoyed a nice onsen at Yuki. Nice onsen, but the one at Geihoku Oak Garden is better. Rode down the rest of the mountain back into the city and then back home. Just over 100km riding for the day. Slept for more than 12 hourse after that. A nice, inexpenseive day trip... only paid for food and onsen (less than 1500 yen).

Sunday, went with English school students (kids and parents) to Miyajima, one of the most famous islands or shrines in Japan. Very nice place. Interesting shrine and torii. I want to go back and take a bit more time to look around the place. Only got to see just a small portion of it. I really enjoyed it, hanging out with the kids. Went to the aquarium. Fed some fish. Saw the shrine, ignored the deer, and ate some sweet bean cakes... yum!

Next weekend won't be so busy (at least in the "touristy" way, anyhow)!

05 November 2007

Photos - October - Hiroshima


Photos from home, work, church, city and out of town.

31 October 2007


Sunday is Sunday. There's something about it... it's more relaxed, time to chill out a bit, do whatever. Last Sunday was like that.

Had the usual 1 hour adult English class. Met up with some of the kindy teachers for lunch. That was a lot of fun. We each practiced our second languages (English for them, Japanese for us). 1500 yen (AU$15) for all you can eat at a nicely designed Japanese restaurant in the city. Good to get to know the teachers a bit better.

Browsed down-town a little (near Hondori, the main shopping mall in Hiroshima) and then headed off for a bike ride up Ou-gon-zan, the closest tall hill to the city centre. The hill is about 200 m above sea level. Most of the city is not much above sea level. So, the mountain gives good views over the city centre, suburbs, sea, bay, mountains, rivers, islands etc. The suburbs spead out like "star" shapes, pushing up the narrow areas of flat land between the mountains, on either side of rivers. Tall, steep mountains break up the urban sprawl.

We rode past some nice Japanese suburbs and houses. Some of the lanes are soooo small! No wonder the cars are (on average) much smaller here. The houses are very close to the road and each other. Cars are parked just centimeters from walls, houses, roads etc.

The houses near Ou-gonzan have a nice, quiet, neighourhood feel about them--Kids playing, youths chatting, adults relaxing, with the nearby mountain behind. Rode past a cemetry. Cemetries in Japan are different. Graves are about one foot square (not the length of a body) because bodies are burned. They are almost all grey. Ashes from multiple family members are placed under the one grey "pillar", which is less than a metre high.

The city scape of Hiroshima is quite different to Aussie cities. Aussie cities have a well defined area of tall buildings sky scraper towers (40 to 100 stories), usually a few square kilometers in area. It's clear to see where the CBD is. Then, medium height buildings (10 to 20 stories) in the nearby suburbs, and the rest of the city is houses with back yards etc. In Hiroshima, there are only a few buildings of more than 30 stories. Less than 10 buildings, I'd say. These dot the central area. Then, much of rest of the city is made up of apartments and office buildings of between 10 and 20 stories, not just close to the city, but right across it. With about 1 million people in Hiroshima city (largest city this end of Japan's main island), it has a flatter city centre, but "taller" suburbs, than, say, Brisbane or Melbourne. Hiroshima city does feel not so big as Brisbane, even though it's more than half the size.

The visual design of technology in Japan is, what I'd call, "square". The mobile phones are a lot more square looking than the Aussie phones, and the cars are also a lot more square. Not exactly sure why, but square things are more efficient with space and area. Maybe they also look more technologically advanced? Anyhow, I don't mind it. Kind of looks good.

Well, my students have arrived. Must go to teach some more English.

Church is like this

Life's good! Had a great weekend a few days ago. Friday, finally got sorted out (tidy room, organized, clean house, shopping [so there's food to eat!], and attempted a haircut but ran out of time).

Friday night we had vespers. Opened Sabbath, sang some songs, heard a Bible talk and ate some dinner together with friends at the church. A person came who had not been for a long time... that was good! After going home, spent some time reading the "Adventist World", my favourite magazine--excellent news from the world church, inspiring articles, encouraging teachings.

Saturday at church. Everything in Japanese like usual. I don't understand much of it, but at times, someone translates, so that's quite helpful. We sing songs (hymns) that I know in English, but the words are in Japanese. I try to read the hiragana and can sing most of the songs, not understanding what I'm singing... just sounding out the words. But since I know the hymns in English, I know what the songs are about. It's nice to praise God in Japanese! ... while I'm standing in church with my slippers off (usual). It's also good practice reading hiragana (Japanese writing), because the music does not stop for you.

And, there was a baptism at church! I only found out a minutes before it happened. Really nice to see some people decide to follow God and be baptized, signalling their commitment to Jesus. Very nice time. Two ladies were baptized.

I find I'm understanding more of the words at church now... I can understand 2% of it now, rather than 1% :-). Nice lunch afterwards. Had curry and rice with other nice Japanese dishes. Ate with some of the kids and mothers. Caught up with some of the youth and other church members also. Felt a nice sense of warmth from the church members--kids, youth and adults. Did some Bible study with Jehovah's Witnesses in the afternoon/evening. Interesting to study what they believe.

26 October 2007

Good batteries...

The battery in my phone lasts 7 days! good capacitance

21 October 2007

Winter is coming...

7 degrees Celsius this morning

18 October 2007

Mountains, cooler, nicer

Another work-week is almost done. The work week ends for me at 8:30 pm Thursday night after teaching a Bible class and 7 other classes that day. It's the longest day. Fridays and Saturdays there are no classes. One class Sunday morning. All other classes are Monday to Thursday, usually between about 10 or 11 am and 6 or 7 pm. The weekend is just around the corner! [anticipation]

Last weekend was great. Went to the Hiroshima San-iku High School (SDA School), which is connected to the elementary school here (where I teach). The High School is in the mountains about 45 minutes drive out of Hiroshima city. It's in a beautiful setting... quite, clean, fresh and peaceful. Caught up with the other gaijin English teachers there. Made good friends with them. Look forward to more good times. The High School has an awesome 80-voice choir. Heard them practice... made me wish I could join them.

We left Hiroshima Friday afternoon, caught the train to get to the High School. I was too busy on my phone, trying to work out how to use the GPS functionality. After guessing what the Japanese writing meant, I finally worked out how to have a map showing the path we were travelling on the train... zoom in and out, and position updated every 1 or 2 seconds (accuracy to about 50 m). It was great!... until I saw on the GPS map that we had passed the train station we were meant to get off!

So, GPS came in handy after all! (although if I didn't have it, I would not have been distracted, and I would not have missed the stop!) Anyway, we got off at the next station and then wondered how long till the next train... (here's were I use another function on my phone). On the phone, I searched for the nearest train station (GPS determines the nearest stations showing distances from each). Selected the train station we were at, select the train line and direction, then the phone lists the departure times of trains for the rest of the day, showing a countdown timer for the next train.

The countdown timer showed only 50 seconds till the next train! Just as I realised, the music at the station came on (which happens before a train comes), and I saw the trian coming around the corner! We were lucky to have the train come so soon (next one was 30 min later and someone was waiting to pick us up). So, we were driven to San-iku after arriving back at the missed train stop. I checked the countdown timer another time and the train arrived within 5 seconds of the scheduled time. That is soooo Japan! That's the style of schedules here. I like it! And all of this was "out in the country". Time is still kept on time "in the bush".

We spent Friday and Saturday night at San-iku High School, which has about 300 students (east north east of Hiroshima). Sunday morning, caught the train back to Hiroshima. Raced home, freshened up, did a class at the English School, caught another train to Iwakuni (45 min train ride south-west) and met some friends there. Had a great time, they shared a meal with us, and we encouraged each other in our Christian faith. Came home tired late Sunday night after an enjoyable weekend.

Well, the cooler weather has finally come. Minimums of about 12 and max of about 25. Really nice Autumn weather. The skies seem clearer (bluer) and mornings are fresher (and nicer). Got the quilt on my bed now (instead of surviving with just a sheet).

Went to Hiroshima International Centre [actually "Center"] for the first time yesterday. They have many good activites for foreigners. They have free Japanese classes and free one on one Japanese lessons. I signed up for one and waiting for response. It's also a good place to hang out and meet other gaijins (foreigners) and practice English or Japanese or anything else, make friends, learn new cultures etc. I met another Aussie there who went to school in the same town I used to live (Warwick, QLD)! And another Japanese who lived in Melbourne (where I also used to live). So, it's a place I think I'll hang out a bit. Make friends and learn Japanese.

Class begins in 5 minutes... ja mata!

07 October 2007

Castle, Sermon, Birthday, Weather

Today was nice... relaxing. One short English class in the morning.

Went to Hiroshima Castle this afternoon. Taking a step back in time in Japanese history and culture. The castle is on few acres of land which is surrounded by water, close to the centre of Hiroshima city centre. Inside the castle, there was much to see. Historical accounts of the settling of Hiroshima beginning about 8th century AD. Many old writings, armour, living items, samurai swords, photos and other fascinating objects and writings. Even got to try on some of the traditional fighting clothes :-) The view from the top of the castle (about 12 metres up) was nice!

Yesterday I preached for the first time in Japan. The normal Japanese worship program operated as usual, but we had an English service which about 15 to 20 people came to. We sang, prayed, gave thanks to God and then I spoke.

I shared my story of why I believe in God, how I know He is real and how I know the Bible is true. It formed an introductory talk to the 10-part "uncover! Seminar" which will be run at the English school. We'll be looking at some foundational teachings contained within the Bible. There was a summary sheet from the talk I gave. I've also uploaded the full transcript of the talk on the seminar website (bilingual): http://bwis.net/uncover

Also, it was Mum's birthday! Happy Birthday Mum! (yes, I did call her)

Tomorrow is a Sport's Day in Japan (which is a public holiday). The Kindergarten is having some games at the school and I'll be there helping out, running around, having fun!

Next week we hope to go to the Hiroshima SDA Academy (boarding highschool). It's located well out of the city up in the mountains. It's the only Adventist high school in Japan. I'm sure it'll be a nice time... catch up with some of the other foreign English teachers there, meet some of the high school students.

Weather is nicely cooling off! It reminds me of the month of March in Toowoomba a little bit, but here it's more moist and the sky not so clear blue.

03 October 2007

Lost forever?... really?

Yesterday was a very quiet day at school. The gr 6 boys weren't kicking around the soccer ball... no-one was playing baseball... the gr 2 kids weren't running up and down the stairs... no white and navy uniforms... no teachers... no laughing and sounds of play like usual... school was closed... there was a funeral.

One of the gr 3 girls passed away last Sunday.
Another girl, sister of one of the gr 2 boys, also passed away.

Boating accident...

Why? Why does it happen. Why can't you talk to them anymore? Why was it these two girls? Why so young. Why does death have to be a part of life? We know we will all die, but why can't we accept it when it happens?

The girls died on Sunday. I didn't know. I arrived a school Monday. Almost everyone was at school, but it was strangely quiet. Then I found out the news. Monday night, there was a service in a nearby city we went to. Well over 500 people attended. Many year 3 classmates were hit hard. I expressed my sympathy to the father, shook hands, bowed for a few moments...

She was resting in the box at the front... she looked peaceful and calm, unaware of the sorrow around her. Does she, will she ever have knowledge of life again? Where is she now?

"Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted." You can depend on this promise. The One who gave life, can give life again. An enemy has taken life. Another will give life again.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

30 September 2007

New Phone & Bike Ride Pics

Yawn... should be in bed, but got carried away tinkering on my new phone. These new fangled devices have many bells and whistles these days. I chose a phone which costs 1 yen on a two year plan and 3 months of compusory sign up to extra services at 1500yen/month (which I'll cancel as soon as I can). It's a P903i signed up with NTT DoCoMo. It has a GPS (yes, that's right!), you can swipe your phone to purchase items at shops or train stations etc, it has a barcode reader, text reader, email, web, and all the usual guff (camera, video, music, calender, txt, phone). Some phones had your regular TV (free-to-air) but I wasn't bothered with paying extra money for that. My new Japanese mobile phone number is here: bradwarden.com/contact

The Japanese phone system here is quite different... but one thing remains the same... complicated! There's the three companies (NTT DoCoMo, AU KDDI, Softbank Vodafone). Docomo = Telstra (big, semi-government style operation). AU = Optus. SMS is "old hat" (not really used that much here). Almost everyone uses mobile email addresses (which emails to and from normal email addresses... very well integrated). i-mode is used for this email service. Costs are charged per data packet (per kilobyte). In my opinion, I think mobile costs here are still quite expensive, which was different to my expectations. But, one thing that did meet my expectation, was the "advanced-ness" of the mobile networks here.

And, the 100 or so pics from our bike trip are uploaded (thanks to fast internet here): http://picasaweb.google.com.au/bradwarden/JapanHamadaBikeRide

27 September 2007

Hamada Bike Ride Videos

Yes, YouTube.com strikes again...

View downhill and tunnel bike ride videos, and also traditional Japanese Autumn festival clips from our last bike bike ride (4 new videos):


We cycled about 150 km over last long weekend. Sunburnt, bit sore, but definitely not sorry... it was a blast! (read previous blog posts)

24 September 2007

No injuries... not dead

George and I arrived home safe and sound just an hour or two ago! Thankfully, we're not dead. Thoroughly enjoyed the 4 day trip! May attempt a few more bike rides in Japan.

This morning, we checked out, went to a nearby beach. It was quite a nice beach! So, we swam in the Sea of Japan. Not really good waves, although there were quite a number of surfers trying to have some fun. Waves quite small and irregular.

Tried to find the onsen close by, but ended up being over 12km away! Rode bike back to centre of Hamada in the rain. Looking like drowned rats, we tried to get our bikes on the bus. One lady said we can't. Then another man said we can. We got both bikes on, then they said there was no room for us to be passengers on the bus. Language barrier again... they were kind to let George go on the bus, but they said I had to catch the next bus, which I was happy with. It gave me time to eat lunch, and the next bus left about 1 hour later... that's ok.

Found Georage at Hiroshima Bus Centre, packed up and rode home in the rain (again). Now, time for shower, unpack, dinner, relax, bed, and then back to work tomorrow!

Don't worry, photos will come :-)

23 September 2007

Definitely NOT routine...

... that is, going for a 120 km bike ride across Japan without training... but, that's what having a long, long weekend gives the opportunity for.

Just in an Internet cafe in Hamada now. Tried a bit of super-broken Japanese (like: "intarnetto" etc) to ask if I could use one of the computers. There are not many English speaking people this part of the country. Have been using 'one-word' Japanese most of the trip. Let me share a few brief experieces before I write the more detailed one at home.

Low down: Friday AM 9:00 left Hiroshima, headed north to get out of Hiroshima. Followed Route 191 along some beautiful rivers out of the city. Magnificent mountains, much steeper than the Aussie variety. Lunch by the river after a swim (hoping the locals wouldn't mind). Easy riding until this point (about 40km out of town).

Tough up hill, ascending about 800m, not really knowing where we would stay. Had sleeping bags, but no tent, no real idea what accommodation lay ahead. Just an our before Sabbath, we finally got to an onsen (hot spring) place, and it did have accommodation!

Long story short, one of the kind Japanese men who worked there gave us twin for price of single, then offered us his home for the second night! Friday night and Saturday relaxed... sooo nice. Spent some good time reading "End Time Living" by Mark Finely. Good spiritual, devotional book. Perfect opportunity to think about life and direction, etc.

At the Geihoku Oak Garden (where we stayed), there we went to the hot spring, and did the whole Japanese onsen style (read about it somewhere else). Beautiful surrounds, trees, grass, moon, stars, air con, kimono, tatami, futon... very nicely Japanese. The people are very polite and accommodating. You can't really repay them.

Saturday night... traditional culture. The kind man took us there and showed us the Autumn festival (end of harvest, Sep 22). Many cultural dances, rituals, shinto icons, priests, and very authentic. I left the sake alone, but enjoyed trying to talk with the locals. Amazing!

Bike ride almost all down hill today! So much fun. Clocked 61km/h. Rode through road tunnels. Arrived Hamada. Booked bus (ensuring our bikes could go on as well). Found accommodation and relaxed.

Tomorrow, bus back to Hiroshima. Hope to not stay so sunburnt. Legs ached yesterday when I woke up, but, hot spring, relaxing, light stroll, good food and Sabbath rest helped revive us for the last 30 km today.

In the morning, George and I will see some sights around Hamada. I hear there a beach, a hot spring, some ice skating, and some cultural things, so we'll see what happens. After a hot, sweaty bike ride, it's nice to be clean, cool and calm.

21 September 2007

Big Bike Trip

George and I are just about to leave... for a bike ride across Japan!

Being such a narrow country, it's less than 100km (as the crow flies) across, but it's very mountainous, windy roads, tunnels and hilly. We have from Friday morning to Monday night to pedal hard and make it to the Sea of Japan.

We're aiming for either Hamada or Masuda. Hope to try an onsen (hot spring) along the way, see some 1200m mountains, some waterfalls and whatever else there is. Here's the rough outline of our trip:

Routh 54 north
Routh 191 west
Routh 186 north to Hamada OR Route 191 west to Masuda
Return to Hiroshima by Monday night

Google Maps (we won't be going off this map): http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=34.608345,132.19574&spn=0.809286,1.439209&z=10&om=1

We've got a map... we've prayed... we hope it will not rain too much! I have a camera... you'll see the results. Ja mata!

20 September 2007

New Bike!

Bought a new one today (push bike, or bicycle, with no motor). Feel like a little kid at Christmas time! Good price. It will be well used this weekend. Speedo included :-) [I'm so excited, I've got my bike inside the apartment... hmm... bringing a bike inside... not very Japanese.]

18 September 2007

Into a routine

Another week... There are quite a few public holidays this time of year in Japan. Just had "respect for the aged" day (holiday yesterday) and next Monday is Equinnox public holiday. Planning on going away next weekend for a few days to see some more of the Chugoku region which is the south-western portion of Honshu, the largest island in Japan. Hiroshima is the largest city of this region. Might head up to the mountains towards to north of Hiroshima.

Yay! Got my gaijin card on Friday. This enables me to not carry my passport everywhere and is an official document to prove I am an alien in Japan :-) Opened a bank account so I can get paid... nice. Spent some time looking for a new bike (push bike, that is... the one on which you have to work hard to get places). Also looked a getting a phone. Mobile phone costs here are similar to Australia and maybe a tad more expensive. Phone plans are a bit different. Emails on mobile phones are used instead of SMS here. Phones have fancy features... GPS, TV (normal free to air TV), Internet and email (of course!), swipe your phone to pay for shinkansen ticket, camera, and you can even use a phone to talk to someone!

Weather still hot and humid. The sky is the clearest I've seen it yet (after rain and cool change). The skies I've seen here in Hiroshima (and few days in Singapore and Tokyo) are quite hazy (dusty, smoggy, cloudy or something). The real blue sky is not that common, at least this time of year. I kind of miss the deep cobalt blue skies of a clear Toowoomba day in winter.

The night sky does not present very many stars. Probably from the haze and also city lights. I see the odd bright star, but don't recognize them much, since I'm familiar with the southern skies. The sun is in the southern sky here, too, not in the northern sky, but I'm mostly used to that now.

Things here in Japan are packaged very well. Inidividual straws (and sometimes, toothpicks) are wrapped. When I bought one small bottle of herbs, it was placed in some fancy papery/cardboard bag. Many things are packaged, and packged very presentably and attractively. It's creates more stuff to throw out when you get home, but, I suppose, it's nice... people take pride in things, and things have value (not cheap junky stuff).

And... things are also very small and compact (except the usual bread slices which are twice the size!) 6-foot doorways (bang your head), 7-foot ceilings, tiny carparks, small cars (of course, the medium cars are there too), narrow streets, smaller food packages, shorter beds, tight apartments, many things very close. It's the Japan way. Space is valuable. How else to you fit 127 million people (6 times the population of Australia) in a country smaller than half the size of NSW (most of which is uninhabitted mountains)?

And, the slipper rule. Usually when you enter a house, office or somewhere, you take off your shoes and put on some slippers. Then, in some places, you take those slippers off to enter. Then I found that there is a special set of slippers in the toilets. So, change slippers there. And, when I walked into the kitchen, again, presented to me, were some different slippers. If you come to Japan, try to get shoelaceless shoes.

As an aside, there are trams here. And since I ride my bike a lot, the trams and bikes remind me of Melbourne :-)

Things are ticking over well. The language being the most difficult things... mainly when the washing machine breaks down, or trying to microwave something, going shopping (especially for complicated mobile phone plans, or finding vegetarian food... can't read ingredients). Would really like to be able to talk more with the people at church, esp the youth. A handfull of people speak English, so that's nice. When shopping, it's rare to find a good English speaker. Opening bank accounts, getting gaijin card, buying a phone, anything like that, you really do need to have a translator (or, just learn the language!). So, the incentive is there for me to learn Japanese. Have been practicing writing hiragana, have pretty much learnt to recognize all hiragana and katakana. Time for kanji, and learning more vocab and grammar.

12 September 2007

Contact details and Shinkansen Video

View my current contact details and Google Map (street map or satellite image) location of where I'm staying:

Pics from Shinkansen (bullet train) trip 2 weeks ago (Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Okayama, Fukuyama, Hiroshima):

Two videos form Shinkansen (YouTube.com):

10 September 2007

Pics from Yokohama, Tokyo

Here are some pics from a week or two ago of Yokohama, the Japan SDA Union Conference Office, where we stayed, the new English teachers, some training classes, and Tokyo suburbs: http://picasaweb.google.com/bradwarden/JapanYokohama

A bit more...

George (the other English teacher here at Hiroshima SDA English School) and I live in a nice sized apartment about 2km south of the city centre. We live in Naka-ku (central ward or equivalent of "inner suburbs"). It's a short 5 to 10 minute bike ride to the city. School is on the southern edge of the city and only a 5 to 10 minute ride away also.

We live on the 9th floor of a 10 story apartment building (very common right across the city) and have a nice view overlooking one of the 6 or so rivers that flow through Hiroshima. The river is tidal, and many people exercise along the path next to the river. We can see up to the nearby mountains, and have nice night city views reflecting off the river.

My room is about 3 by 4 m and has a door to the living area and another door to a balcony (where the washing gets dry) facing west over the river. The floor is made of 6 tatami mats, which are mats made from rice staw, about 1 by 2 m each and are firm but they have a certain softness to them. I sleep on a futon on the floor which gets folded and put away during the day. The living area (kitchen, dining) is about the size of 2 bedrooms. Kitchen is quite normal. Bathroom is another story.

The toilet is quite fancy... it's a western style one with the normal Japanese additions (heated seat, backside washing functionality, etc). The other Japanese style toilet is another kettle of fish and is quite common. If you want to know the details... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_toilet

The weather here is quite warm. It feels tropical. I didn't think it would be this warm! A typical day so far has been 23 degrees minimum up to 32 degrees (sometimes more) with plenty of humidity. One night at 9pm it was almost 30 degrees still. Have with no covers since leaving Australia except for 1 or 2 nights. Today is slightly cooler and less humid. But, winter is cold. Average temperatures in mid winter are min 0 and max 8 degrees. Usually snow in the city here.

Last Friday was a nice day. Met up with Mari and Fukuyo from Tokyo who I'd briefly met in Australia last September! It was great to catch up and was quite a coincidence they came to Hiroshima for a holiday just after I arrived here! Also, last Sunday, I caught up with my Mum's cousin, Jim, who is an English teacher from Ube city (about 1 hour from Hiroshima). He's the first person I have met in Japan who I previous knew! Nice to have some family here. He's been in Japan more than 10 years. I learnt a lot about Japan from him. We had a nice lunch meal together at Sunday Sun. We'll catch up again sometime.

Skype is excellent. Very cheap to call family back home (3 yen per minute). I also think of my previous work at USQ and my colleagues. Wonder how things are. Also of my friends from Melbourne and what they've been up to. Even though I'm in the northern hemisphere, techonolgy makes Australia seem not so far away at all. Family and friends are family and friends anywhere. And, no matter where I am, God is still there as well. He's always there.

After 10 days...

Just between classes now. Taught my first week of classes last week. I have one class on Sunday mornings, then about 7 classes each day from Monday to Thursday. Friday and Saturday are days off.

I usually have 2 primary school English classes each morning or early afternoon. Then about 3 or so small English classes of between 1 and 5 kids. During the week, there I'll teach 2 Bible classes in the evenings, and also a few adult classes each week.

The kids classes are fun! It's like being on Play School :-) only without the TV cameras. Many games, activites, sounding out letters, words and sentences. They're lots of fun. The adult classes are great too. I get to learn a lot about Japanese culture and build some good friendships with some of the people here in Hiroshima. I look forward to growing the numbers at the Bible classes.

There are so many bicycles here! Most bikes ride of footpathes and share crossing with pedestrians (different to Australia). The traffic flow of cars, bikes and pedestrians is less "aggressive" and more "polite" you could say. Not as hectic. I don't think "helmet" is in the vocabulary of the people here in Hiroshima. No-one wheres helmets. Often you see bikes with umbrellas attached to handle bars to give shade or keep the rain off. At night, bikes usually have one white head light, but I haven't seen a red tail light yet. It's quite relaxed. Haven't felt stressed.

And, I think I need to moderate the frequency of my visits to the hyaku-en shoppu (Hundred yen shop). It's like Crazy Clarks or Silly Solly's, but the 100yen shops are better (in my opinion). Unless priced otherwise, everything is only 100 yen (or about one Aussie dollar). Items range from towels to food, electical cables to seeds, chopsticks to hammers. It's great! (but I've been spending too much there). Good cheap maps of Japan and Hiroshima, kids books for me to learn Hiragana, writing paper and plastic containers are some good things I've bought. But there's one catch... the first time I bought only one item from the 100yen shop, I handed over a 100yen coin, and the shopkeeper looked at me funny... then I realized that 5% sales tax was added to the price... so in actual fact, everything costs 105yen. I highly recommend shopping there.

Went for a great bike yesterday with George! I thought it was time to head towards one of the many mountains that surround Hiroshima. It's very mountainous here (actually, all over Japan). We rode almost half way to Miyajimaguchi (west). We rode through some quite neighbourhoods. Everything is so compact. Parking is a headache if you don't have a pre-planned position. But, really nice Japanese homes. Quiet. We rode part way up a mountain and got a good view of Hiroshima. Then found our way back home following Route 2. There are so many rivers, islands and bridges in Hiroshima!

Church is interesting. Have been twice so far. Not so many youth. Mainly older people, some families, and some children. Met some youth already, and look forward to making some good friends here and inviting more people to come. There are about 100 to 200 people here. It's all in Japanese, and sometimes some translates for George and me. The songs here are hymns that I know in English. I don't understand the words, but I know what the words mean because I know the English words to them. I can read the Hiragana and sing along in Japanese (as long as the song is not too fast) but I don't understand the words. The members here are very friendly, often wanting to help. They share their food with us and make us feel welcome and supported. Sachiko (Director of English school) and Daniel (her Australian husband) are great friends.

Shopping for food is fun. Not really knowing if something is soy sauce or some aloholic beverage. Most written in Japanese. Prices in Japanese. Can't read ingredients, so I make good use of pictures. I can read some of the katakana which has helped a few times (eg. ハンドソオプ = hunddo sorpu = hand soap). Daniel and Sachiko helped us out yesterday and showed us where a few really good cheap import shops. The import liquor shop had some great stuff... actually, I don't get alcohol there, but very cheap rice (2500 yen for 10 kg... normally about 4000 for 10 kg... so much more expense for rice here in Japan), and cheap other western type foods. Also tucking in some Asian foods... okinomiyaki :-) Prices for foods here are more expensive, but other material things can be cheaper (elecronics are cheaper, some furniture and household things are cheaper). Petrol is about 140 yen per litre.

Internet here is comfortable... to say the least. 4 Mbit/sec is a basic connection and we have this speed at home. It's relatively quite cheap here compared to Australia. Unlimited downloads. Not meaning to make anyone feel envious or anything...

The people here are nice. Quite polite and decent. I'm looking forward to making some great friends, learning Japanese, and appreciating a different way of living.

Time for class...

30 August 2007

Arrived in Hiroshima

Here we are in Hiroshima... the place I'll call home for 12 months! Hard to think I'll be here that long. Many things will happen... many things will change.

Sachiko-sensei (director of the English school) met me at the train station. She took me to the school and showed me around here. I met the pastor, director of school and quite a few other staff.

On this building location (in the heart of Hiroshima), there is the Hiroshima SDA (Seventh-day Adventist Christian) English school, Hiroshima SDA Primary School, SDA Kindergarten, Japanese Church (weekly), and English church (monthly). I can look forward to worshipping God in Japanese!

Haven't been to my new home yet or met my flat mate. His name is George and is from Papua New Guinea. Look forward to meeting him! He also teaches here. Our apartment is about 5 min bike ride from the school.

Grabbed a bite to eat and will head out for dinner with the director. Many things to learn. Lunch tomorrow with the staff. Church on Sabbath. Sunday? Monday... probably preparing for teaching, and then Tuesday it all begins.

On the Shinkansen

Here we are on the shinkansen. We made our first stop at Nagoya just a few minutes ago after 1.5hrs and about 300 km. We left Yokohama (about 50 km south of Tokyo, but still part of Tokyo) at 10:32 am. It's fast! About 300km/h. The buildings wiz past, and by the time you see something you want to take a photo of, it's almost too late because you've already past it!

The train tilts (but it doesn't feel like you are tilting) and sometimes you look out the window and the ground looks like it's sloping... only because the trian is tilted. The weather is warm and humid (like usual), thin cloud overcast weather with the odd bit of drizzle.

Since leaving Tokyo, there's been pretty much houses and towns continuously along the way. There are patches of crops and some unbuiltup areas, but mostly populated. Many Japanese style houses (about 2 storeys) built close together with taller apartment and office buildings scatterred throughout. Plenty of powerlines and mobile phone towers. Have seen some mountains in the distance and one or two large rivers flowing quite well. The vegetation is quite green here, compared to dryer areas of Australia.

Before the next stop at Kyoto, we head inland and through some mountains. After that, the next stop is Osaka (where Jermaine and Joseph get off). Then Kobe, Okayama and Fukuyama before arriving at Hiroshima, where I stop at about 2pm. After that, the train goes to Shin-Yamaguchi, Kokura, and across to Hakata in Fukuoka prefecture on the island of Kyushu.

It was just raining before and the water drops on the window were dribbling almost horizontally. The crop fields are becoming more frequent as we get further from Tokyo. When the train staff enter or exit the front of the carriage, they stop, bow and keep going. The ride is quite smoothe (a cup of water would not spill if it was on the edge of the table). You don't have to worry about things sliding or moving around (eg. laptops on tables). Take off and braking is quite gradual too. There's a fair bit of room in front of me before the next seat. Air con is good.

Unfortunately, the scrolling text telling us where we are, what station is next, how fast we are going etc is all in Japanese. Occasionally a sentance is in English (usually close to a place the train stops). The train is mostly full (or at least this carriage). Us 3 people are the only non-Japanese I've seen on the train so far. After being surpised at the amount of English writing and speaking in Tokyo, the further we go from Tokyo, the less English we'll see. Prepare for culture :-) Looking forward to it.

Have gone past a large solar panel park, wind generator, many brand buildings (Suzuki, Toyota, Toshiba, Yamaha, Mitsubishi). There are many tunnels... some up to 10 or 20 km's long! Sometimes in the tunnels the air pressure changes and my ears build up pressure. We've just stopped in a tunnel to let another trian pass.

On the train there are toilets, telephone, vending machines (food, snacks, drinks), smoking or non-smoking cars, a green (luxury) car (more expensive seats, larger seats, foot rests, more leg room, better service), and a lady walks up and down with food to buy every now and again.

Mobile phone coverage has been very good. Coverage pretty much all the way from Tokyo to Osaka and even coverage in the tunnels. There are some patches where there is no coverage though. Also, in all trains and buses I've been on, you have to turn your mobile phone to silent mode and you can't talk on it while you're on the bus or train! Pity.

29 August 2007

Leaving Yokohama

We just finished our last day of training at Yokohama and tomorrow head to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen (bullet train)! Can’t wait to ride it. It’s really smooth and speeds up to 300 km/h. Looks like there’s a few tunnels along the way, so it should be good.

Joseph (from Canada) and Jermaine (from Jamaica) and I are travelling together. They are beginning their 12 month English teaching term at Osaka and get off the train before me. It takes about 4 hours to get to Hiroshima from Yokohama (Tokyo).

Well it finally started to rain today, but didn’t give us a break from the hot weather. It was cloudy last night and didn’t get to see the lunar eclipse last night :-( Did you see it?

In Japan, you do a lot of bowing your head. It’s often done when you meet someone, say goodbye, during conversation etc. Also, don’t wear your shoes inside! Take them off outside and leave them facing out (not just in a big jumble to shoes). The cars drive on the same side of the road as they do in Australia.

Hmmm… not much else to say. Arrive in my apartment in Hiroshima tomorrow. It’s on 7th floor and close to the centre of the city from what I can work out. Church on Sabbath and it’s an English church, so that’ll be good. Work begins Sunday!

27 August 2007

2 Days in Tokyo

Good evening! Presently, I'm Japan Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (headquaters for the SDA Church in Japan) about 17km from Yokohama, within Tokyo metro area. We're staying here until this Thursday when we finish training and go to our various English schools. We had training yesterday and today, and will continue tomorrow and the next day.

The training is quite good, and helps us get ideas for lesson plans for teaching English to Japanese kids, school students and adults. It sounds a lot of fun, but for me it will take some effort to start the cogs turning in the creative part of my brain. I anticipate that it will be difficult at the start, but after a while, once I get into it, it will become more natural and enjoyable.

There are about 7 new English teachers from UK, US, Canada, Jamaica, Phillippines and Jamaica. We are all staying in Yokohama for about a week during training. We'll be sent out to various SDA English Schools in Japan including places such as Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima (where I'll be), Kagoshima and another place on Kyushu. We'll be teaching English and also Bible classes. We teach English in a safe, positive, fun environment, and give students the opportunity to know God through Bible classes. Having known the benefits (peace, security, purpose, acceptance) of knowing God is real and that He cares, I have a desire to share that with people, and this presents an excellent opportuinty to do this.

Other reasons for coming to Japan include giving me a broader perspective on life through experiencing a brand new culture (compared to western-Australian culture); the opportunity to really understand people from a different background, which will help me learn more about myself; perfect chance to learn a new langauge (which is fun so far); able to share my faith as part of my occupation; chance to develop the more creative side of myself and to develop teaching skills; learn what it's like to be a "gaijin" (foreigner) and away from home... ultimately, it's to help me learn more about God, people and myself.

By the way, there's an eclipse tomorrow! On Tuesday, 28 Aug, there'll be a partial/total lunar eclipse in areas of Australia, Asia etc starting from sunset and I'll be able to see it from Japan! More info at the NASA website.

Man alive! Tokyo is biiiiigggg! Akashi-san arranged for Rachel (from our group) and I to take the bus from Narita airport, across Tokyo, to Yokohama. We drove through past a LOT of city. About 20 minutes after leaving the Airport on the bus to head for Yokohama, we got to the edge of Tokyo. The industrial buildings are large; apartment buildings began appearing. And from then on, the buildngs just got bigger and closer together, until there was endless buildings. We drove about 1.5 hours on express way (some parts slowed down because of traffic, not during peak hour), and almost all of it was in Tokyo, and surrounded by buildings. Again, Tokyo is big. It makes Melbourne look very small. Tokyo is overflowing with industry, commerce and business. I have to say the parts I saw were not that attractive (industrial looking, since it was all along the highway), but, Japan, overall, for me, has been quite nice.

After finally arriving at Yokohama, we met some colleages and ate some lunch (interesting asking questions when you don't know the language... just point and count using fingers!) Being vegetarian is a fun challenge in Japan, especially when you can't talk the language and ask questions! Nevertheless, we settled in here in Yokohama, spent Friday night together as a group of new arrivees in Japan, and got some well needed rest.

Sabbath morning at church was nice. A small English church meets in Yokohama here. Good Sabbath School and excellent sermon! I thank God for the message because it really spoke to me, encouraging me to be committed, and experience the power of God in my life.

We headed into Tokyo proper on the train Sabbath afternoon (after a nice lunch), changed trains at Shibuya, visited Tokyo Central SDA Church in Harajuku (including the International church) and met a few members there. Caught another train to Shinjuku, which is one of the busiest train stations in the world. Once there, we then went up one of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings for a free view of the city! (I recommend doing it if you are on a budget in Tokyo). The view was incredible... endless buildings and city. HUGE! Shinjuku is a trendy, fashionable, and youthy suburb, with also many commercial buildings.

We ate out at La Pausa (I think the name was) which was a pizza place on the 29th floor and great views of the city, tasty food and nicem cheap price too (about 800yen for large pizza). Walked the city a bit, took a few photos of Tokyo Tower after arriving at Roppongi station (where there's a large spider statue). We also went through Yoyogi station. Finally made our way back home.

Pictures from Tokyo: http://picasaweb.google.com/bradwarden/JapanTokyo

Reflecting on the Tokyo tour, it's not a small place. Plenty happening, plenty to see and do, plenty to get distracted with, never-ending, plenty of people (quite squashy on the train, which is apparently not that bad comapred to peak-hour during the week), plenty of lights, plenty of stations, trains, ads, shops, food, entertainment, distractions from the things in life that matter. Well over 95% of the people are Japanese, compared to a much more multi-cultural mix in Australian cities, or Singapore. But, the people have been quite polite and haven't had the "cold shoulder" or anything like that.

I'm also really surprised at the amount of English in Tokyo! There's English everywhere! Almost all of the train signs have Japanese and English. Many brand names are only in English. Many restaurants have English menus. There are "Kornu Fulairku" (Corn Flakes) for breakfast. English is clearly becoming the International language. Many Japanese know or are learning English.

The weather here is not really pleasant. It's been about 25 to 30 degrees (maybe a bit more) and high humidity in Tokyo since we've arrived. It doesn't cool off a lot at night, but it a bit nicer. No real rain so far, but not really clear skies. There's clouds, but then I'm not sure if I'm seeing smog, haze, fog, clouds or dust. Hmmm, I think it's a comination of cloud and pollution. Not terribly blue skies though. I hear that winter gives clearer skies. I haven't worn more than just pants and shirt-sleeve shirts since Australia... Singapore and Japan are having the last couple of weeks of summer.

It still does not seem like I'm in Japan! It's just like I'm visiting another city in Australia and they've changed all the writing to Japanese, as well as there are many Japanese people. Toilets are a bit different here. Bathrooms are smaller. Seats have less room. Everything is a bit more compact. Yen is used, not dollars. Roads have slightly different signs (but same general idea). Some houses bit different. I see some differnt types of trees every now and again. The sun is in the southern sky, not the northern sky (like it is in the southern hemisphere). The moon is upside down. The stars are not as visible. It's hard to communicate at restaurants and shops. Phone calls back home are more expensive. TV is a bit differnt too.

Well, the differences will become more apparent as I begin to mix more with Japanese people after our training. We've pretty much had mostly western food and been surrounded by westerners so far, so it will hit home soon once I get to Hiroshima and have been there a little bit. I'm looking forward to learning more of the language. Watching Japanese kids TV I think will be a good idea (I'm not kidding :-).

It's quite exciting and new at the moment. I'm enjoying the different environment, the fun of being in a totally different place, meeting new people, and trying to get myself to realize that I'm really in Japan! For now, there a bit more training, a few days to settle in after arriving in Hiroshima this Thursday, and then... into it! Teaching starts this Sunday!

Man, the Internet here is fast!

24 August 2007

In Japan

Arrived! The plane touched down 7:30 am and got through quarantine, immigration and customs with no dramas and met Akashi-san who will help me get to Yokohama today. We're just waiting for another person to arrive and both of us will travel by bus. So, what do you do when your waiting, but... shopping!

So, I bought some long-awiated jeans, couple of postcards and a bit of bread. As you would expect, the shop keepers speak Japanese and I don't really know what they say, but I just say "arigato gozaimasu" (thank-you) and "hai" (yes).

I'm thankful to God everything has gone well. After getting served a snack at 1:00 am on the plane, settling down, and then being woken up about 5:00 am for breakfast by the flight attendant, it left me with about 90 minutes sleep (interrupted by a view of a city of the Phillippines on the horizon).

Yes, it's Japan, and fun so far. The time will come when I miss home. For now, I'm here for a year. To teach English and serve God. I pray He gives me the ability to do this. I'm looking forward to Sabbath tonight.

Reflecting on Singapore

Up in the air again on the way to Narita (Tokyo) from Singapore. It's just gone past mid-night tonight (Singapore time) so I can offically say I'll be in Japan today! And I suppose I should change my computer's timezone from Singapore to Tokyo.

We're cruizing at about 900km/h. About 5300km flight taking between 6 and 7 hours. We took off from Changi Airport going west, but did a quick U-turn to the south and travelled East for a bit. The view of Singapore was nice, seeing all the lights including the city, but didn't last long. We'll fly across the South China Sea, between Phillipines and Taiwan, across the East China Sea, and then up to Tokyo.

changi Airport (the airport in Singapore) is very nice. Modern, clean, tidy, well signed etc. To get onto the plane was rather painless... immigration was straight forward and security checks not too much of a rigmarole. And... there's free Internet! There are some computers setup for anyone to use for free, and if you have your own laptop (and network cable), you can plug in the use free Internet (but Outlook wouldn't let me send emails, but I could receive). So, that was great. I uploaded a stack of photos and did some emails, checked news etc.

Japan has started to make itself known to me. I hopped on the plane (with not much time to spare after spending a bit much time on the free Internet at Changi Airport), and noticed the flight attendants looked more Japanese (compared to my previous flight with singapore Airlines). They spoke Japanese, the flight info is in Japanese, they hand out Japanese newspapers and I'd say most of the people on the plane are Japanese, but thankfully, everything is in English as well, which help me. There's no one sitting next to me (I'm next to the window), but the person on the other side of the spare seat is a Japanese man from Kyushu. I introduced myself to him in Japanese, but had to quickly let him know I don't really know that much Japanese, and reverted back to English. It was nice talking with him.

They (flight attendants) just gave me a vege-tuna and lettuce roll (nice). The attendants are a bit more energetic compared to last flight. I think it's more the Japanese way. I look out the window and can't see a thing (pitch black). The ride is a little more rocky and mildly bumpy than the flight to Singapore... not rough though.

And now to reflect on Singapore...

Well, it's more Asian than I thought. I'd say more than 95% of people are Asia. Major groups of people include Chinese, Malay and Indian. Public notices often are written in 4 languages (English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil (India)).

I thought Melbourne was multicultural, but I think Singapore wins... There is a Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street, not to mention the English/Western influence and Malay. I am in the East, so I could expect to find a greater amount of eastern religion, and that's what I saw. There were many places where once could burn incense in front of an image. There are also many Muslims and many Indians dressed in their traditional clothing. Walking down the stree (or in an apartment), you'd smell a variety of different cooking odours (rice, oriental etc) and/or incense, plus other things.

Ten to 20 story apartment buildings seem to be the way people build residential buildings in Singapore. They are not confined to the city (like in Australian cities) but spread right throughout the city.
Vivocity carparks have sensors which detect if I car is parked there or not. This determines if a green light will show above the carpark for drivers to easily find a vacant park. It also allows signs to tell drivers how many parks are available ahead or in different turns.

There wasn't one public toilet that I went to that wasn't clean and didn't have automatic flush. Some pedestrian crossings tell you how many seconds you have left to cross the road. Some drinking fountains detect if you are near it and then turn on. I appreciated this kind of stuff.

One word that you might want to learn before you come to Singapore is "alight". It's used often to mean "get off the train". So, to "alight at the next station" means to "get off at the next train". Most people probably can work out what it means, but I just haven't heard it used that much in that context before.

The pace of life here seems to be relaxed. Often walking to or from the train I see people just walking casually along. In the city it's more moderate pace. People seem to be quite well behaved and neat, tidy and well dressed. People seem to keep to themselves and not cause much disturbance, but just go about whatever they have to do. It's quite nice to be in this kind of environment. There's a "safe" feel about almost all of the parts of Singapore I went to. Although people aren't super-friendly, they are generally trusting and will chat with you if you show an interest in them. I also see many families doing things together.

I notice the music played around the city seems to be "lighter" and more musical, in general, compared to Australia. Easy listening/pop seems to be the way, rather than rock/metal. Almost public place indoors is air-con, to escape the very predictable 25-30 degrees with moderate to high humidity. The shops are very nice. Clothes are cheaper than Australia. Public transport is cheaper. Meals are cheaper ($3 or $4 for a good meal). Harder to find vegetarian meals, except in little India or Arab St. Electrical things are cheaper too.

Today (actually yesterday), I went to the Bird Park at Jurong. When I got off the train (MRT) to catch the bus to the park, I met a Korean lady who's husband is in Singapore for work. Turns out she is a Christian and does Violin tutoring, so it was nice to spend time at the park with a new acquaintance, rather than just walk around like a loner.

The Bird show at 11am was excellent. Pelicans, toucans, macaws, doing tricks, flying through hoops, catching things etc. That was the highlight... and the lady in front of us paid for both of our tickets! I don't know why she did, but that was very kind of her. And then my taxi fare back to the city was paid also! I'm quite thankful for the generosity.

Spent the afternoon the walking around the city near Suntec City. Saw the world's largest water fountain (but unfortunatly it was not the right time of day to see it working). Saw Raffles Hotel, War memorial, Little India, Arab Street, Orchard Rd, and many, many shopping malls... they're everywhere! Headed home, had a quick swim, showered, packed, gobbled some dinner and headed to the airport.

Well, 2:30 am (UTC+9) now... can just see some stars outside now that the lights inside the plane are out. Will settle down... try get some sleep, and wake up to...

The sun rising over the land of the rising sun! ... the far, far east.

Ja mata...

Pics from Singapore


23 August 2007

Last moments in Singapore

I'm about to leave...

Singapore... nice!

After being here a couple of days, you start to get a feel for the place and begin to know how to get around. I have to say I like Singapore. Things are done very well here. It's very clean, tidy, organized, structured and aesthetic. I can feel the regulation and "red-tape" oozing out of the city here, but it's worth it, because it makes it one of the nicest cities I've been to. I haven't come across a "grungy" place yet.

Today I'll be headed to Jurong Bird Park which is one of the world's best. I'll cruise around the city for a bit and then fly out to Tokyo tonight, arriving 7:30 am tomorrow. Yesterday I spent on Sentosa, a resort/holiday island just to the south of the city. It's the southern most point of continental Asia. There was a cable car ride across to the island (great views of the city). Went up the Sky Tower, to Underwater World, Butterfly Park, walked along the beach, Dolphin Show and Songs of the Sea. There was so much beauty in all of that! A very well designed island. Plenty of nice things to see, natural surrounds, and relaxed feel.

21 August 2007


So here we are at Singapore! Well, its a very nice airport at Changi and the weather is humid and varies between 25 and 30 degrees during the day. Cloudy at the moment and expected showers/storms on and off for the 3 days I'm here.

Lolita met me at the airport and we caught the MRT (train) to a friends place. Staying on 12th floor, so have a good view of the suburbs. The building colors are quite light (creams, oranges, browns etc) compared to Australian cities, and there are many more apartments compared to suburban houses.

Slept and woke up early (because my body thought it was still in Australia... 2 hrs ahead). But worked out well because I needed the extra sleep.

Off to the city after lunch today... look at the shops (Orchard Rd), see Chinatown and Little India. Might do Night Safari tonight and Sentosa Island tomorrow. Nothing definitely planned yet. Nice to know my Telstra phone works here.

I'll duck out for a swim in the pool and walk around outside now...

Pics from the flight last night and of view from where I'm staying are here: http://picasaweb.google.com/bradwarden/Singapore

20 August 2007

Brisbane to Singapore

Good-bye Australia! Just caught my last glimpse of Australia as we cross the coastline near Darwin. Won't be seeing Oz for a while. Been flying for about 4 hours, which means we're halfway from Brisbane to Singapore on our 8 hour flight of about 6000 km.

Australia is a biiiiiiig country! We left overcast Brisbane and made our way above the clouds. Clouds cleared and we flew over Longreach, missed Mt Isa, flew over Katherine and passed to the south of Darwin. There are some awesome land formations over western Queensland and Northern Territory. Rivers, hills, mountain ranges, rock formations, and you can see how the water and floods have sculptured the landscape of Australia's centre. It was quite I sight for me since I haven't seen a lot of real inland Australia. We'll be heading over parts of Indonesia and Malaysia before reaching Singapore.

Well, after having mostly flown budget domestic flights, I have to say I was impressed with Singapore Airlines! The first difference I noticed was that the plane is about 50% larger (more seats, larger wings, longer to take off). There was relaxing music when rather than pop/rock, which was a nice change. More leg room after moving the blanket and pillow supplied. Meals included, plus afternoon tea, refreshments and complementary drinks (which I found out after asking how much an orange juice was!)

They gave us a hot towel to freshen up before the flight, then toothbrush and paste later. You can watch TV and listen to radio of all sorts (movies, documentaires, travel videos, news and everything in between). Play games, learn a language through their interactive programs, read news/weather and find info about cities right round the world. Also can watch a map and track the plane flight telling you that we are crusing at about 11km above sea level at about 850 km/h and temperature of -50 degrees C outside! As an aside, you can also make phone calls (if you want to pay 10cents per second!)

I'm practising my hiragana and katakana (Japanese), trying to interpret some of the info booklets in the plane. If I can learn all the characters before I get to Japan on Friday, I'll be pleased. I've got some already learnt from when I learnt some Japanese in primary school.

Plenty of things to do up here in the plane. The staff are well presented, nice and friendly. For now, I'll write a few emails, practice my Japanese (eat some dinner when it comes out), and relax!

Cairns to Brisbane

Here we are cruising at about 35,000 feet... on my way back to Brisbane after a few days in Cairns. Stayed with Richard (my bro) and Beckie (his wife). Unfortunately, it was cloudy the whole time I was in Cairns! Nevertheless, we saw some nice sights up around Port Douglass and Daintree area. Very relaxed up in Cairns. Didn't feel like winter at all. And, not dry at all... the air was moist (unlike Toowoomba) and temperatures probably 20 to 25 degrees for the whole weekend.

Off to Singapore today! Flight leaves about 2:45 pm from Brisbane and arrives in Singapore 8:45 pm Singapore time (2 hours behind Brisbane). Got up at 3:13 am this morning to get the flight from Cairns, so it'll be a loooong day. Mum, Dad and Jared will see me off at the airport today, which will be nice.

Didn't get to see any crocodiles in Cairns, but better that than getting eaten :-) You have to be careful up here, but you don't have to freak out about them. Just don't go silly places. It's quite cloudy all the way from Cairns to Brisbane today. Of course it's fine weather up here. we're about to start heading down to Brisbane soon.

During my time in Cairns, we spent time at home just catching up, went to church on Saturday, and drove around a few places. Lots of sugar cane and cane trains. Also lots of rainforest area and plenty of water (even thought it's apparently the dry season!). Went across the Daintree river on the car ferry, looked at one of the lookouts, and walked along Cow Bay Beach. Plenty of windy roads and have to make sure you don't get car sick.

Last Thursday was my last day at home. Managed to pack everything into one (not two!) suitcases, plus a backpack and laptop case. Was some task to sort out all my stuff before I left. Some for storing in the garage and some to be gotten rid of.

Spent some nice times with Mum, Dad and Jared before I left. Ate out at Chinese restaurant (Marco Polo) in Toowoomba. Went for some walks around home. It's hard to think I won't see my neighbourhood for over a year. I'll miss the rolling hills, the gum trees, quite, spread out housing, the back yards, and I'll probably even miss the dry.

So, for now it's off to Japan with a 3 day stop in Singapore. Be interesting to see what Singapore is like... I'm expecting it to be quite hot, since it is about 200km from the equator.

The reason for going to Japan is to teach English. It will be at Hiroshima Seventh-day Adventist English School, which is a Christian school which holds English classes. I'll also be teaching Bible classes at the school.

12 August 2007

Finish Work at USQ

Last Friday was my last day of work at USQ. I really enjoyed working there and made a lot of good friends. It gave me a good start to my IT career. I'll miss my colleagues and work there.

Have plenty of things to do before I go. Sort out money, insurance, finalise accommodation, sell my car (what to buy it?), contact details etc etc. Just a brief overview of the plan from here:

Thu 16 Aug arvo: Fly Brisbane to Cairns
- spend time with bro in Cairns
Mon 20 Aug morn: Fly Cairns to Brisbane
Mon 20 Aug arvo/night: Fly Brisbane to Singapore
- tour Singapore
Thu 23 Aug night/morn: Fly Singapore to Tokyo
- English Teacher training
Fri 31 Aug morn: Tokyo to Hiroshima (tentative)
- begin English Teaching for 12 months

06 August 2007

Preparing for Japan

Less than 10 days to go! Plenty of things to do before I leave for Japan. Been quite busy the last few weeks. This is my last week of work at USQ. It's been great to work there.

Last Friday I booked flights with Singapore Airlines. Fly out of Brisbane next Monday (20 Aug) for Singapore. Stay there for 3 days and fly to Tokyo to arrive Friday (24 Aug) morning. Looking foward to Singapore... never been there before. I hear the "Night Safari" is worth going on, so I'll have to do that.

I'll be catching up with Richard and Beckie in Cairns from next Thursday 16 Aug to the Monday. It's going to be really nice to see them. It's been about 9 months since I've seen them. The weather and scenery in Cairns this time of year I'm expecting to be really nice.

Had a cold the last week or so. Took some days off work which gave me some time to sort out a few things!

Spent the weekend before last with Jared in Brisbane. Caught up with friends (some from >10 years ago from school!) from all over south-east Qld at Ben's place where they had a youth program... all unexpected! Went to Eden's Landing church and shared some of the experience I had in Melbourne. Caught up with Suki and Tina (also from Melbourne), and was a highlight to hear their stories and their perspective on the 6 months we spent there serving God through mission work. Serving God is a privilege, challenge and a rewarding time!

Got my car to sell, medical check-ups before travelling, final arrangements, store all my stuff I'm not taking to Japan, pack the things I am taking, catchup with people etc. It'll be a busy few days... but... I'm really excited!

26 July 2007

Work at USQ

I'm sitting in the K103 Mac lab at USQ waiting for these computers to copy the new install across. Had a few dramas getting them to work, but we'll get there in the end.

Getting closer to going to Japan. I need to arrive in Tokyo on Thu 23 Aug to begin a week's training, and then start work soon after that. I'll be teaching English at the Hiroshima SDA English School in Japan for 1 year. Hiroshima is the 7th largest city in Japan with about 2 million people (bit larger than Brisbane, smaller than Melbourne).

I'm really excited about going. I've been to Vanuatu (in the Pacific Islands), but apart from that, I have not been outside Australia. It's my first time to Asia! Have been listening to JapanesePod101.com podcasts on my way to work each day to try and learn a bit of Japanese. I'm looking forward to experiencing a new culture, and learning more about the world we live in.

Should be able to get my visa next week. Finish work at USQ on Fri 10 Aug. Spend time at home with family for a few days. Will try to see Richard and Beckie (brother and sister-in-law) on the weekend of 18/19 Aug in Cairns. Then plan to head out of Australia. Stop by Asia on the way for a couple of nights (if you have ideas [flights, cities etc], let me know), and arrive in Japan Wed or Thu 23 Aug.

Anyhow, computers have finished copying, so I have to go...

18 July 2007

Back at work in Queensland

Well, it's my third day back at work in Toowoomba after living in Melbourne for 6 months. I work at USQ (the uni in Toowoomba) about 2 hours west (inland) of Brisbane, Queensland. My role is to provide support for the Mac computers across campus. It's a good job.

Last Tuesday (10 July) I left Melbourne about 8am and headed for home in Queensland, planning to get near the VIC-NSW border that day. It was foggy and quite cold up to near Seymore, but then the weather was just beautiful! Green rolling hills, clear blue skies. I made my way to Mansfield, got some info about the snow, and found myself on Mt Sterling (near Mt Buller) in the snow have a nice time. Did some tobogganning, relaxed in the tranquil surrounds of King's Saddle, relaxed on the snow in the sun and built a snowman. Made a quick trip to Mt Buller around sunset time, did two quick slides on the toboggan and spent the night at Camp Howqua, a restful campground near a small river with cabins and gum trees, 30 mines from Mansfield, Victoria. Pics from today found here: http://picasaweb.google.com/bradwarden/MelbourneVictoriaTrip

Up the next day (11 July) and zoomed along the Hume Freeway to Newcastle (1.5hrs north Sydney) to stay at Grandma and Pa's. Excellent 110km/h concrete freeway almost all the way. Caught up with relatives on Thursday... Jamie and Auntie Ash, Grandma Warden, Kerri & Shaun and Livinia, and Grandma Reid and Pa.

03 July 2007

Grampians Hike

At the stroke of mid-night on Saturday night, ending the financial year, I found myself completing an EFTPOS transaction in Safeway (at QV in Melbourne's CBD) to buy food for no ordinary camping trip. That moment ended a special day, 30 June. It was the last day of my 6 month term as a Youth Bible Worker. We had a "Thanksgiving" service to conclude the program, which included praise, singing, prayer, giving thanks to God, showing appreciation to many people who supported the program, testimonies, and stories of how God has lead in people's live.

This first half of this year was an unforgettable experience. It really gave me a greater faith in God and deeper spiritual experience--God is real, I've experienced Him in my own life, seen Him work in people's lives and change them.

After the service, we had hotpot at Tina's place with my caregroup at Southbank. It was a nice warm meal together and we shared our farewells as I will be leaving Melbourne next week. I've really grown close to my friends at caregroup, as we have shared many meals, experiences and times together.

I then rode my bike home and couldn't avoid the wet, rainy night. Water spraying up from the wheels, I accomplished the task of drenching my trousers before proceeding to purchase some bread and things from Safeway that night. Got home, showered, got some things ready for the camp and slept late... only to wake early.

So, Sunday morning, 5:40 am, found me quickly packing to leave by 7:00 am... Henry and I were off to the Grampians, a majestic mountain range less than 4 hours west of Melbourne, Australia.

We hiked about 15 km on Sunday through clouds, fog, rain, wind and cold, and came to the consensus that the theme of the camp was: "That's what we came here for." Lunch was miserable on the top of Mt Difficult, so we pressed on, finding some semi-clear sky to see a nice view from the bluff. A hot noddle dinner with chocolate did us well, until we tried to retire comfortably, managing to gain an average sleep... tossing and turning, and not quite warm enough.

Monday, we hiked back to the car (after a good breakfast), seeing some great scenery along the way--waterfall, caves, nice views, splendid rock formations, mountains and little water brooks. After arriving at Halls Gap (and feeling a bit car sick after windy roads), we agreed on this point... we considered the rain, the cold, that we would leave early anyway, not had a shower since yesterday morning, the restless sleep that night, and the hot shower, comfy bed, dry clothes back in the city... it was time to head home. We had Chinese dinner at Bendigo, unpacked back home in Melbourne, had a hot shower and rested reeeeeeeally well.

09 May 2007

Teaching soon...

Well, if you know who I am, you might be surprised to know that I might be off to Japan...