Saturday, 9 November 2013

First Business Trip to Japan & America Job Training

In June 2013 I'd begun looking for a job and was approached by an American company who I began having a few interviews with. By September I'd got into a good position and had travelled to Detroit, Michigan where they're based. Things went well and later in the month I went on a business trip to Japan to meet the team in Isuzu that the American company work's with. I meant to post this sooner but I didn't...

September 22nd (20:52 UK)

It's weird that I'm going to be going to Japan tomorrow for one week. Really doesn't feel like it. Probably partially because I've never been to Japan for less than 4 months before! Also I'm absolutely sh**ing myself right now. This is gonna be a challenge I think and a big test on my Japanese skills. I have no confidence in my business Japanese abilities and I've been told I might have to interpret for one meeting. I'VE NEVER INTERPRETED BEFORE! D: And have no idea what the meeting will be on. I might have to take the guy who's organising it aside and ask him nicely not to leave me interpreting for any meetings because I honestly don't know the company or the field specific lexis well enough. The problem is he's a really laid back guy who's attitude is very much *shrug* "yeeeaaaahhh suuuurrre it'll be fiiine!" Which was nice when I was in Detroit but not so much now because he doesn't quite grasp that I have no business Japanese experience. Which is fine because I can work on that while I'm training including JLPT N1 practice that should get me up to scratch, but right now I don't feel like I'm up to that scratch.

I'm just trying not thing about it. I will take things as they come and deal with them when I need to deal with them. I can only ever try my best and possibly a bit harder than my best and see how things go. Flight's tomorrow. Let's do this.

September 23rd-28th

The business trip itself is now a bit of a blur. I'd never been to Japan for less than 4 months, so it was a bit surreal going for less than a week. Which meant I didn't have much time to get over the jet lag so was incredibly tired the whole time. It was me, George who was my guide in Detroit, and another American employee. We met with the team they deal with in Isuzu and I got a large stack of business cards (everyone introduced themselves at the same time so I forgot most of their names). We basically has long meetings (all in Japanese) that I could kind of understand. My main problem was I didn't know the American company or their dealings with Isuzu that well so I didn't know the context of most of the conversations. And jet lag meant my brain just wanted to sleep the whole time. The other guy couldn't understand Japanese at all so I think he was pretty bored although he was getting some work done on his laptop and George summarised their conversations. Oh yeah! I didn't have to interpret anything! Well nothing meetings wise, I did help out when we were out getting dinner and lunch. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
At the end of the week we had a day free so I took the opportunity to visit a friend who lives in Akihabara and he showed me around (which resulted in new comics and figurines that made me very happy).

After I got back from Japan life got...not very exciting. I had nothing to do and spent my days mostly watching TV series and playing video games. I did study Japanese everyday for a while but became de-motivated. I went to Canterbury to see friends when I could and made a cosplay to take to a convention. But the loneliness and boredom was driving me a bit crazy. Actually very crazy.

Job Training in Michigan - First Week

So two weeks ago I finally heard back from the American company about dates for training. I had hoped that I would get training before Halloween (so I could spend Halloween in the US) but that didn't work out and I got here Sunday 3rd November. With 3 weeks in Detroit for training, 1 week in Portland for Thanks Giving with Wes (yay), and another week of training before going back to the UK on the 7th. I'm hoping they'll start paying me at that point and I work from home until we get Japan sorted, or I might have to come back to Detroit for more on sight training. As always it's all very up in the air, but I think it'll be worth it.

My first week is over and I feel so much better. I feel less crazy and more motivated. The job is incredibly interesting and I'm really enjoying it so far. The position is basically project management so I'm having to learn everything about the entire company which means going to each employee and finding out what they do and how the system works from their perspective. It's mostly databases along with software and hardware programming rather than the technical/mechanical side of vehicles. It's an interesting system and I'm pleasantly surprised how quickly I'm grasping it (although there's still a lot more to do). As for the Japanese side of thing I've been translating a few e-mails of people trying to work out problems for practice and as I said it's not really technical stuff but there's still a vocabulary list I'm building up and need to work on before next week.

Everyone at the office is incredibly nice and supportive. We go out to lunch together every day and they get very excited about taking me to different restaurants in the area and have me try new things (like deep fried gherkins/pickles). They work incredibly hard and are amazingly smart, and are great at explaining things to mean and making sure I understand it.

So it's Saturday now and I'm just being lazy. I need to go to the shop and get some food and some other stuff, and then I'll be going to see my first ice hokey game with a lady from work. Then tomorrow I'm driving over to Katie's and we're going to go see Thor 2. *squeee*

So things are slowly working out and I feel more sane now that I've started working a full time job. I guess more news on the whole training trip and Thanks Giving later on.

UPDATE: I wrote the follow up but forgot to post it >_< Here is is

Monday, 30 September 2013

Engaging in a Larger Online Discourse

I apologise for going on a tangent and not talking about my travels to Japan but this is an issue that's close to my heart and I feel is important and relevant to myself, the people around me and my community at large. Also this will be VERY long (especially if you include all the videos) so feel free to skim or not read at all :)

As well as being a woman, bilingual, bisexual, anime fan, cosplayer, avid book reader, sci-fi/fantasy fan, lover of films and comics, I am also a gamer. Out of all these identities (and others, as we all have many identities) I do not identify myself as a feminist (although some people might think or classify me as one). I simply believe in equality, trying to the best of my ability to stop injustices, and that if you have nothing nice to say don't say anything at all! Critiquing is fine, but just being nasty for the sake of being nasty doesn't make sense to me. (The last one's not a popular belief online). And due to the fact that I am a gamer and I do believe in equality and the right to critic I've become quite interested in the larger online debate surrounding Anita Sarkeesian and her videos Troupe vs Women in video games.

Many people in the gaming and general online community will have heard about her so I won't repeat what everyone knows. (If you don't know what this is all about just click here)

Last week I came across the video "Do Video Games Need Anita Sarkeesian's Feminism?"

I loved this video so much that I put it on my facebook to share with my friends. One in particular loved it so much she put it on her facebook. The response that she got from her friends (in the US) compared to my own (in the UK) was surprising to say the least. One in particular was very negative saying:

Guy: "Sarkeesian is a liar. She acts like shes this video game expert but in reality she knows nothing. She acts like theres some sort of conspiracy against women in gaming and overly exaggerates the way woman are treated in games and fails to realize that there are more video games with positive female protagonists than she realizes. this guy says that everyone should be free to express there ideas but unfortunately Anita disables the comments section and rating system. This guy is an idiot!"

This began a very, very, very long discussion which I feel is important for people to see (and I will post it at the bottom if I can if people do want to read it). But for now I will sum it up.

This person's (who we shall call Guy) arguments were as follows:
  • Anita Sarkeesian is a liar (based on this video)
  • She is not a real gamer (based on the fact that she is a liar based on that video)
  • She has no experience in the subject she is talking about
  • She and other femenists are forcing their views on the industry 
  • They (Anita and feminists) do not belong in the gaming community
  • Feminists who claim to be harassed are just responding to opposing opinions
  • Anita is not a true critic because she disabled her youtube comments
  • There does need to be more female protagonists in games
  • There are already a large number of games with women, and who are not sexualised
  • Masoganistic games like GTAV shouldn't be taken seriously because they are a satire of society
  • There is sexism in the gaming industry
  • Sexualisation of women in games does not perpetrate rape, abuse or sexual harassment

    He also posted these videos to back his opinion (make of them what you will): 

His comments and arguments got me very angry. Although I agree with a few of his point that there needs to be more female protagonists, and there are games with women protagonists already (although I would argue these are very few and often not well known ones), I did not agree with most of what he was saying.

I decided to engage back. But my arguments fell on deaf ears and we essentially went around in circles.

My counter arguments:
  • Anita might have told a class of University students and her lecturer that she did not play games because she wanted to be respected. I myself have done the exact same thing, hiding one identity to gain more respect in the academic and professional world.
  • Lying about one identity in a certain social situation does not make that identity invalid.
  • She has proved again and again in her videos and on her site that she has the experience to talk about this.
  • She is not forcing her ideas on anyway, she is simply criticising the image of women in many (not all but many) games as a whole.
  • Who can say who has the "right" to be in a community or not? (The irony of this one is that this defence of 'them vs us' is addressed in the original video I posted Why Gamers Need Anita)
  • Anita disabled her comments due to the 24/7 abuse and harassment she received (as shown in this video)
  • There is not a lot of funding that goes into games with female protagonists due to the belief they won't sell as well as male driven ones (as argued by penny-arcade)

Our conversation then spilled over into a one-on-one discourse between myself and him on my friends facebook wall (which she was fine with because her Masters is based on the perceptions on gender in games so this was perfect for her research). At this point I was no longer angry, just amazed and bemused by this person's point of view. I had never come across anyone like him in person before and found his beliefs quite baffling. 

Our one-on-one discussion began today with this video where a man calmly breaks down MrRepzion's arguments slating Anita, and discusses why they are wrong. (MrRepzion's videos are the ones Guy mostly used to back his point of view). Our discussion, as I said, went in a bit of a circle with us both re-instating our views and arguments that I listed above.

I made the statement that Anita's videos were relevant because women are abused every day in the gaming community (as proved by Anita's own experience of abuse and others)

This was Guy's response:
"And women every day are abused by men in the video game world", I find that completely hilarious. I dare you to go out of your relatively comfortable life as an American citizen and go to an Islamic country where woman are truly abused. You along with most modern feminists need to stop trying to point your fingers at video games and look at the real problems facing society. But of course you don't want to look at the real problems and continue to bitch and moan about video games because its much easier to do than to go out of your way to actually help." 

So apparently criticising something or someone and engaging in a larger online discourse is "bitching and moaning" and that means we are not addressing "real problems" in the world. Because of course the issues Anita is discussing are not "real issues", and that the abuse women get for playing games or speaking out is not a "real issue".

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Motivation - Improve Yourself

I'm planning to post about my business trip to Japan (which I just got back from) but first I wanted to ramble on a bit about motivation. I know we've all had times when we've wanted to do something but we haven't done it. We've gone "I'm going to do this for at least 30mins every day and it's going to be amazing". But we don't. And the more we don't do it the more we like not doing it because we feel like we suck.

I've gone through that many a times with Japanese but I've noticed a lot of my friends are going through this same issue too lately. And it's important because with everyone (including myself) its to do with something that we love, to better ourselves in the area we love and to hopefully succeed in that area as more than just a hobby. Success isn't going to just fall on our laps, we need to work for it, no matter how long that takes.

I'll use a random/fictional example. A friend wants to become an author. (I believe you can do anything you set your mind to.) But she has no experienced or published works. So she plans to write 1000 words a day. Of anything, and upload them online for critic to improve her writing and then eventually enter them into competitions and editorials and publishers when she has a novel. She feels motivated and does it for 2 days. On the third day she feels like she's quite busy and can get it done in the evening. But she doesn't feel like writing then. Well if she writes 2000 words tomorrow then that'll make up for it. Ah so now she HAS to write 2000 words which is so much! Ok, then I'll just do it tomorrow and then another 2000 words the following day. Oh but I'm going out with friends tomorrow.....etc. etc. etc. And she looses all motivation. Suddenly a week, month, year has passed with no writing being done and she feels guilty and horrible and hates herself. And all in all doesn't want to write.

It's great to have dreams and to push yourself to want to achieve that dream, but when you are your hardest critic you will burn yourself out. And you won't enjoy what you love to/need to do. (Yes you can even love the things you need to do)

I've found a few things help get yourself back on track:
1. Don't worry! What's the point in worrying? It will only stress you out.
2. Don't make up for lost time. Trying to compensate for missed days/deadlines will only stress you out more. Just accept that it's happened and carry on the next day.
3. Do it in the morning. No matter what make time in the morning to do what you plan to do. Morning is good because a) you get it out of the way, b) you feel like you've done something productive, c) you can adjust morning times easily, d) you're more awake and focused compared to the evening when you want to spend all your time on the internet.

I don't always follow my own rules. This last week when I was away I did no Japanese study and now my anki flashcards are all up to 100 reviews ;_; BUT I will keep working on them because the 2 weeks before the trip I did a TINY bit everyday and found that I had improved a lot even after only 2 weeks! This motivates me to do more. I guess it's like quitting smoking but instead trying to take up a good habit rather than a bad one. It's hard to start, but once you get going you find you become more motivated.

Oh I forgot one thing:

4. Enjoy what you do! Even if you knock yourself down and make yourself feel like poop for not doing this for so long (me with violin), just let that go, do it and try to enjoy it! This is something you've been wanting to do, wanting to improve at for some reason or another. It shouldn't have to be a chore so don't make it one otherwise you'll never enjoy it.

(I wish all of my friends the best and want them to know that myself and others are there for them. It's often hard when you're unmotivated, and even harder to admit that you're having a hard time. I love the friends that have admitted it to me and I really try to push them to help themselves. Everyone has people that can help push, but you are ultimately the one that needs to do what you do need to do.)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Ram-blings (jewellery for sheep)

When I was young I imagined age as a line of white numbers in the dark that you could see from different perspectives. 10 was seen from the top to the left looking down, and 18 was from underneath to the right looking up. I could never imagine an age beyond 18 even though I knew that people were older than 18. I remember starting college at 16 and thinking that it was weird because it felt like college was still supposed to be so far away and that University was even further. Then I was at Uni and planning my year in Japan which felt impossibly far away, and I never even imagined graduating. And now I've graduated... It's been over a year since I graduated Uni and I'm starting my first ever job. I actually cannot believe it.

I had a plan when I started my final year of Uni because I knew graduating without one would be stupid. I decided to focus on Japanese because turns out Anthropology is shite unless you want to be an anthropologist or a spy. So I planned the trip earlier this year so that I'd pass the N1. Ok that didn't happen but I got the N2 and once again I forward planned and got a job! Wait...a job? I never imagined getting a job. I never imagined life beyond Japan this year. I hadn't planned months in advance how exactly it would work out and right now I am just riding the waves hoping my little boat doesn't capsize. And as Ingrid Michaelson says "Eyes on the prize and I can't capsize this time because there's somebody else in my boat".

So yes. I am suddenly 24 with a wonderful boyfriend and a brand new job. Jumping in the deep end and seeing where things go. I can't exactly plan things out from here but I'm hoping it all works out. As my mum says "cross that bridge when you get to it".

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Start of My Career in Japan!

I mentioned in a previous post that I was in the interview process with an American company who were after someone to work for them in Japan. Well long story short I GOT IT! \o/ After coming back from Japan I stayed for a few weeks in the UK before going out to Detroit (where they're based) to meet them. They are the nicest, hard working, down to earthiest company I've ever met! I am so lucky to be working with them.

What will my job be? Well I will be translator/project co-ordinator/company liaison for the American company working in Tokyo with their Japanese customers Isuzu. So I'll be their face, working for the American company but in the Isuzu offices.

Well work's not quite started yet, there is still a LOT to do. I'm going to Japan on the 23rd-29th September to join two of the American employees on a business trip and to meet the employees at Isuzu. Then I'll be back to the UK to finish sorting out my affairs before going to Detroit for a month or so for training. And then it's off to Japan permanently probably around January 2014!

As I said before it's an amazing opportunity for someone like me and I am incredibly excited but also incredibly anxious. It's a big thing going away to actually work in a country where it's not your native language. But I'm not going to let that stop me!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Review of NILS Language School Fukuoka

So I just finished 6 months in Fukuoka studying at a private school called NILS. They provide lessons from 1 month to 2 years for a variety of levels at a reasonable price. I've had a few people ask me about them and they want me to write a recommendation for their site so I figured why not kill two birds with one stone?

Overview of the school
NILS is based in Fukuoka. It has 2 campuses, one outside of Fukuoka (but not far away) for long term students who are there on the 1-2 year courses. Shorter term classes are based in a small office at Ohashi, about 20mins train ride from the centre of town. As well as a school that teaches Japanese to foreigners it also trains teachers to teach Japanese as a foreign language, so most of the teachers are trained by the school themselves. Not everyone who trains with the school (called New York Academy for Japanese Teachers) stay with the school, once they get their teaching certificate they move onto other schools.

I mentioned the school trains some of their teachers, but this doesn't mean the quality isn't good! And not all the teachers are originally from the school, a few come from different schools. They're all different ages (all women) from different backgrounds and different teaching styles. To be fair I had one teacher who I found her teaching style to be dull, but although she wasn't as engaging as other teachers what she taught me was useful and she was incredibly nice and talkative when we went on excursions! The teachers really were engaging and eager to help me learn as much as I could. When I didn't do homework (which wasn't compulsory) they gently prodded me in a way that made me work on it. They were incredibly kind and smart and I really wish they had been allowed to go to karaoke with us students.

Classes are from 9am to 12:30pm with breaks (3 hours of class a day). Lessons were slow at first because I was put with someone who was a slightly lower level. But because it was winter there weren't many students enrolled in short term (3 to be exact, including myself). Other students also found that the first month was spent going over things they felt they'd already learnt. However, I thought that although tedious this was incredibly useful to re-affirm the what I'd already learnt so that I had a good foundation to move onto.

Because the short term students were few (I think the most we ever had was 12 and that was spread over 3 different classes based on difficulty), classes were more personally catered. The teachers really tried to work on our weaknesses so that we'd improve relatively equally in all areas. They have a huge collection of work and text books which they choose based on y
our level and skill. I did N2 so they used Kanzen Master and Minna no Nihongo intermediate level. Other students used Minna no Nihongo beginners and the very beginners used Japanese in 45 hours. They also gave copies of each of the books to us for free (well its included in the initial costs)

I learnt a LOT in the 6 months I was there. I did 3 months of normal Japanese followed by 3 months of JLPT study, but the two of them blended together as they tried to get us working on JLPT stuff as soon as possible. What I found most useful was probably the regular practice tests where you could get a feel for the exam and see yourself improving. I stress though I did a LOT of studying at home too.

I think you do improve studying at a language school in Japan but it does help to self study, and talk to natives. I think if you do want to study for a long period of time (more than 2 weeks) the best way is probably for around 3 months (that's how long you can stay in Japan before you need a visa).

We would normally have at least one day a week in the morning (9am-1pm) where we would go out and do an activity. You can look through the back-log of the blog for the really knitty gritty details of each activity but to sum up we did things like, go to the post-office, parks, shrines and temples, zoo, sakura picnic, museums etc. The school really tried to let us experience as much as possible and if there was something we wanted to do before we left Japan they would try and organise it! All excursions were paid for and we had the option of staying longer if we wanted to.

Also if you want to know something the teachers were incredibly helpful! When I wanted practice with job interviews they were very kind to help me with questions and answers and would practice with me outside of class. You could normally do extra self study at the school twice a week after classes finished, which I found useful at times when I needed to not be distracted (by things like internet).

Overview of the City
Fukuoka is a really small but really green city. I lived on the border of the city and it only took 40mins to cycle to the centre of town (Tenjin and Hakata) and 1 hour to get to the other side where the sea is (Yahoo dome). It's incredibly nice with a lot to do! You can find your Round Ones at regular intervals if you enjoy arcade games or bowling. There are so many shops in Tenjin you'll find the time just running away from you! A lot of stores for all avoid otaku, and clubs/restaurants/bars for people who enjoy venturing outside at night. And that's all just in Tenjin! Hakata is the main station but venture outside of that and you enter the older part of the city with the main shrine, temple, architecture and traditions that you expect from visiting Japan.
If you're worried about not making Japanese friends fear not for there are many, many free events run by local people for language exchanges to take place! Such as the Speaking SalonMeetup Fukuoka, and for more private meetings My Language Exchange where you can find speaking partners where ever you are!

Living in Fukuoka
Soooo muuuuch fuuuuun!!! I love Fukuoka! Actually living in an apartment was great despite it's size and the freedom to sort out my own food meant I got to experiment with a jot of cooking and learnt a lot of Japanese recipes (thank you google!). It was also great just having my own space and freedom to do my own thing. Other students stayed in dorms which were often with Japanese university students rather than foreigners, which meant freedom and the chance to speak Japanese (if their neighbours were friendly enough). And a few did homestay which meant a lot of speaking practice and a 'native' experience of Japan but restricted freedom. It really depends on how you personally prefer to live and what you want out of your experience.

(It's bigger than it looks)

For me 6 months living in an apartment (with 1 other person) and classes came to about $9,000/£6000 which is pretty reasonable for both school and living! Bills were included in the price which was also nice. I had another £6000 ontop of that for living costs, stuff and travel (spent a bout £1000 of that on a holiday to Korea 3 months in). So that means that I could live comfortably including going out weekly on about £700/$1000 a month, with extra for a big holiday and for posting things home (by sea because that's always cheaper). It does mean that for a 6 month trip you need about £12,000 saved up because you CANT work in Japan without a student visa. But compared to other language schools which cater for short term students of about 2 weeks it was INCREDIBLY cheap! I've actually studied at Genki Jacs which is also in Fukuoka but I found NILS had a better quality of language study and was cheaper.

I should probably write something that was wrong with the school but I really can't think of much. I was surprised at first how tiny the school at Ohashi was but I got used to it and it worked for the number of students. I did miss home a lot towards the end but that was more myself rather than the school... If I wanted to study more of something I just had to ask and the teachers did their best to provide me with the knowledge I wanted (the teachers have weekly meetings to see how they can improve their lesson plans and teaching). To be honest NILS gave me everything I needed from a language school and more.

HOWEVER, if you're after a school that has a set curriculum and class structure then the short program with NILS is not for you. If that is what you want you'll be best going with the 1-2 year programs they offer. If you want structure and study for just a short period of time, you're probably better off looking at other schools or their long-term courses as it's difficult to have a structure for only a few weeks of class.

NILS is a fantastic school! The teachers are really engaging and try their hardest to cater to your needs and to help you with your weaknesses in the language (even if it did mean starting slow). Everyone at NILS was incredibly kind and it was great fun going out with the students and teachers every week to experience different parts of Fukuoka and Japanese culture. I made so many good friends at my time there that I know I will keep forever. I didn't think 3 hours of class a day would be enough but I was surprised how much I did and how much I learnt! After taking the JLPT course for N2 I felt like my brain was going to explode but I was able to use the knowledge and skills I gained at NILS to pass the exam and get a job working in Tokyo!

Fukuoka is a fantastic city to live in and NILS is a great school for Japanese study, I would recommend it to anyone!

June~July in Japan

Not many exciting things happened in June or July but things did happen. I also didn't make a note of dates...

Kate's leaving party

Kate had to leave us at the beginning of June! Waaaahhhh ;_; She's so amazing, and funny and charismatic and Wes and her got along so well! (They kept pretending to be black women and is was very amusing).
SO as a celebration we all went to karaoke along with people we'd gone with before and school people. It was good fun buuuuut there were times when certain people had no karaoke etiquette (it exists) and kept picking song after song after song not letting anyone else have a go -_-;; But Kate did sing at least and she's such an amazing singer!!! I am very jelly of her talents.

We were able to hang out with Kate one last time before she left though (the day before she left) because there was a ComicCity at the Yahoo dome! This meant the entire baseball stadium was full of fan made comics and cosplay! It was great but we were all so tired from walking around we left an hour early. I'd probably spent enough money by that point anyway. My best buy was defiantly the fan fiction of Top Gear in Wonderland!!!

Our next exciting trip out was with Miki, her son, and 2 friends of hers (one Swedish the other Japanese). We went to Karatsu castle! I'd been wanting to go since the first people we met mentioned it (they also mentioned amazing burgers but we didn't get any of that). Japanese castles always surprise me because of how small they are! That and I can't imagine lords getting up the ladders all those years ago in the clothes they wore. I still wonder how they did it...
After that we went to get lunch at a place in the mountains Miki had seen on TV. But it turned out that everyone and their mums had heard about it too and we were waiting for an hour in the car and then 30mins when we got there for food!!! ;_; We did entertain ourselves playing Mario Kart with Miki's son (always good beating a 9 year old at their own game). I was really annoyed by the time we got there too, but felt much better after a sugary drink (which scared Wes a bit hehe). The food was good! It was soumen, noodles which are run down fresh spring water in a bamboo, which you pick up with chop sticks, dip in a sauce and eat! 

And then we graduated! \o/ It was the Friday before the exam so we'd spent pretty much all of July studying. Well I had...Wes too but not as much but he's smart and doesn't have brain of a sieve.
I didn't feel sad when we left because I was so stressed, but I am a bit sad now. The teachers at NILS were so amazing. If I could go back I would!

(All of the flashcards!!!)

Once the exam was over Wes and I had a chance to chillax! That evening we celebrated with Mami, Sae and Eri in Tenji going to a yatai (street stand) for the first time ever for dinner! Fukuoka's famous for its yatai which pop up after dark and it was fantastic food and the guy running it was hilarious!

So our last event was the night after that going out with all our Japanese friends! We spent the day in Tenjin shopping for last minuet things and having our last Mr.Doughnuts. Then we met up with Sae-chan and went to a pub to wait for the others who showed up about an hour after us. Once we were all there we decided to go to Round One. We were going to bowl but instead did this thing were you can play on games, darts, internet, read manga, karaoke, and sports as much as you want for a few hours! It was really impressive! The floors were shut off except to people who had paid so we literally had free reign on the area! I got to try batting for the first time ever! 
It was really sad leaving Mami, Sae and Eri because they really had been the most amazing friends while we were in Fukuoka. I wish I could have found a job in Fukuoka just so I could hang out with them more!

The Wednesday of that week Wes and I flew back to our home countries (T_T). I was going to America anyway for a job interview/orientation so it didn't make sense for Wes to go back to the UK with me and then to America and then back again. And I needed to see friends and family again (missed them so much!) and I'm sure Wes needed the same. Kinda sucks we're back to long distance, but once Wes get a job in Tokyo we'll move in together and it'll be awesome! (I hope ><)

And just incase you were wondering JLPT results came out this week and Wes and I both passed N2!!! YAAAAY!!!! Wes did better than me because he's amazing but we both passed and that's what counts!

Monday, 26 August 2013

May in Fukuoka

Now I am aware May way 5 months ago and I have been very slow in updating as usual, however, better late than never.
Now May had a lot of goings on but I'll try and put it all into this one post so that I get it out of the way.

May 3 - Hakata Dontaku Festival
This was one of the major festivals that Fukuoka is famous for (the other was in July that I missed). I'm not entirely sure what it originated for but the festival itself consisted of local companies, NGOs, groups and organisations getting together to show off a performance or a parade. There were dance groups of children and teenagers showing off hip-hop, or middle aged women doing traditional dance. There were bands and musicians playing on small stages dotted around the centre of town. And food and games stalls in parks and along the streets. The main parade was massive and when on for hours over the course of the weekend. More details here:

So Wes and I met up with Kate and Lizzie (our amazing American and Australian friends) and wandered around the festival taking in the sights and sounds and standing around for the parade until we got too hungry to wait any longer. Street food in Japan is what it always is, expensive, not entirely tasty, but just what you need. Out of the millions of people that attended the festival we ran into a few people we knew!

May 11 - Nakamura Strawberry Farm
My first trip to Japan 5 years ago was to Fukuoka and while there I did WWOOF staying at 2 farms. One of them was a farm that did a variety of fruit but mostly strawberries which people could do 'all you can eat' for a set price. They also have a small shop that sells their own and local produce. So being in the area I decided to see them again this time with Wes.

It was a baking hot day, which wasn't helped by the fact that Nakamura got the wrong train station and was a bit late. But that was ok. He treated us to lunch at their shop (using the tables Mog and I had made 5 years before!) and I got to see his wife and son again! And his son even has a wife and 2 children which was new. Wes and I ate a load of strawberries and went to see some flowers and some really old tombs (about 1000 years old!) We had dinner with them and got the train back.

May 12 - Birthday trip to Aquarium
Wes and I had made a number of friends in Japan, and for once Japanese friends, so I really wanted to do something with them all. We hadn't been to the aquarium in Fukuoka so I thought that would be a good place to go. Lizzie, Mami, Saeko, Eri, Mayuko came along (Kate was in Tokyo) and we had a great day. The aquarium in Fukuoka was pretty amazing, much better than the one at Osaka. AND because it was my brithday I got to touch a dolphin! We also fed seals! And saw a dolphin show which was pretty amazing.

May 17 - Nomihoudai Lizzie's Goodbye Party
Lizzie had to leave us to go back to Australis *sadface* so we and her house mates went out to nomihoudai (all you can drink). It was at an 80s music style club that had record covers and posters all over the wall along with 80s Japanese music in the background. We had an hour and a half to drink as much as we wanted which was great but I hadn't realised that Lizzie's Japanese friends were all under age (they don't really check in Japan), so they all got rather drunk and one was very sick. But it was great fun! Was sad to see Lizzie go, but I'll see her again in Japan I'm sure :)

May 23 - Uminonakamichi Park
This was a theme park and gardens next to the Aquarium which we went to with the school. Kate, Wes and I went around together, and for once we were with the larger campus' students. We didn't talk to any of them in the end, but it did mean there were a LOT of foreigners walking around. There was a rose garden, a really awesome zoo (with tons of bunnies and guinea pigs!!), and a park with games, slides and a ferris wheel. The ferries wheel was awesome, a tad scary cos I hate heights, but awesome none the less.


Friday, 12 July 2013

Good To Be Home - JLPT N2 review/rant

I got back from Japan the other day (the 10th July), mostly because my visa was going to run out on the 12th and I had to be out of the country by the 11th. But I ended up coming back to the UK mostly because it was ridiculous how much I missed my family and friends, and English countryside with it's trees and hills, and home cooked food in an oven! I think this urge to just get home was probably mostly due to the fact that Wes and I stayed inside 90% of the time the last month studying a ridiculous amount for the exam.

I mentioned a while ago how stressed I was about the exam and doing mock tests. Well after I posted that I stopped caring so much, which actually helped because I was stressing out less about the exam and actually concentrating more because I wasn't worrying about how much I don't know. Well as the real exam got closer I began worrying again about how much I didn't know and when the exam did finally happen I just...I honestly don't know how well I did. There was a lot that I hadn't gone over in my books (and FYI for anyone who wants to do the JLPTs use Nihongo So-matome for N3 but not N2, I was disappointed at how much it missed out for the N2, although I did still find it useful and I learnt a lot from them, it just didn't go that extra useful mile). I think that it might partially be because a LOT of Chinese speaking people take the JLPT. There was about 6 out of 95 people in the test room who were not Asian, meaning that a lot of people have an unfair advantage when it comes to kanji because Chinese people use it A LOT. And what was even more unfair was any katakana words that were on the test (these are the English words that have been Japanafied) had notes attached to them explaining what they meant! If as an English speaking person I am expected to know the readings and meaning of over 2000 kanji and their 10,000+ combinations and word conjunctions, then Chinese speaking people with a kanji based language can learn the 1000+ katakana Japanafied English words that crop up every now and then. It's not that hard and it's frustrating when you work really hard for something just to see other people getting an unfair advantage (being tipped off on certain words, not the bringing brought up on kanji part). Mini rant over. 

My main point was that the JLPT N2 was hard, even after 6 months of intensive study it was still hard, BUT no matter what happens I will keep working on my Japanese with the new studying skills I've picked up. So I have a better idea for the next exam, which I'll take even if I haven't passed N2. My next goals for this year are to take the Japanese Business Proficiency Test (JBT) in November, followed by the JLPT N1 test in December. I also want to start taking the course in getting certified in the program Trados, which is a translating program. It won't be a certificate in Japanese-English translating but will show that I know how to use the tools for translating. And these are things I want to do even if I do or do not get a job in the next few months.

So pretty much the last month of Japan was spent not doing that much, although there were a few times we'd go to karaoke with friends or go shopping or relieve stress by going to the arcade and playing DDR (a dancing game) for an hour. But thanks to being horribly busy/stressing out over the last month I haven't updated this blog since May and that was about things I did in April!!! Which means there is 2ish months of things that I have not told people about like my birthday, or about the crazy things we've been up to with some of the amazing and crazy people we've met! (Or even just the scary crazy people we ran into in the last week!) So I will get to those and I will post about them slowly over the next week (for risk of giving too much information to everyone).

But right now this post is to say I'm back in the UK, Wes is safe in America with his family. I am able to relax for a bit after the exam and before my interview in the US in a few weeks. It's good to be home.

Monday, 17 June 2013

What I'll Been Up To

So I haven't written an update in the last month and that was about stuff that happened two months ago! I've been very busy and there's a lot to update people on including birthdays and trips out (not as many activities as we've been doing lots of N2 practice). But this isn't about what's been happening in Japan and it more about what I'll be up to in the coming months.

Just as a re-cap for anyone who's forgotten why I'm out here with Wes, basically we have been studying in Fukuoka, Japan for the last 5+ months, in order to brush up on our Japanese in preparation for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N2. We're still brushing up but should be ready for the exam in 3 weeks!!!

The next question is what to do after our course? For those who don't know my dream is to be a Japanese-English interpreter, I've yet to find my specialisation but it would be fun to work for a certain games company in Seattle... Anyway. I still have a long way to go and the ideal is to start off getting experience as a translator. I knew from others people's experiences that finding a job takes a while, so being super prepared I started looking over 2 months ago when Wes and I got back from Korea. Actually the day after we got back I spent about 6 hours on linkedin improving my profile and finding groups. I asked around a number of groups for tips on starting my career in Japan and got a lot of great advice and even a few possibilities!

One in particular jumped out after I got a message from someone in the company. I'd rather not jinx too much but it's an amazing opportunity where I'll be working in Tokyo (for an American company), learning a lot of new things, have a lot of responsibility and being a bit asset to a company. I've had a few interviews with some people over skype and now they want me to meet in person! So they're flying me out to Michigan for an in person interview at the end of July.

The plan now is to go back to the UK before my visa runs out and the Japanese government kick me out on the 10th July. That'll be for about 2 weeks visiting people and seeing my family and having wonderful home cooked food before flying out to Japan. Now it seems silly that Wes pay extra to come to the UK just to come to America with me 2 weeks later when he's not being covered for flight costs. So he'll stay in Japan while he finds work and then fly to America where we'll meet in July. Fingers crossed after the interview I'll get to visit his family for a bit ^__^

Then the plan gets kinda fuzzy but if things work out I'll have a month of training in Michigan, get my work vis and everything sorted, find an apartment in Tokyo and start working by the end of September! Fingers crossed Wes will find some work as we'll be together. It's a shame I won't be able to see people as much considering I'll be living in Toyko but it's a great opportunity and looks like the start of a great career. Fingers crossed I don't flail horribly!

I also don't think I'd been here today if it wasn't for all the support from my family and friends and people just being amazing. So thanks guys for being there for me. I hope that even though I'll be on the other side of the world you'll drop me a line via skype and keep in touch XXX

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

April Activities - Yanagawa - Dazaifu - Zoo

Once again there's a bit of a delay in updates of things going on so I'm cramming all of April's activities into one. Luckily there weren't that many because Wes and I went to Korea.

Yanagawa - Tuesday 2nd April

Yanagawa is a town close to Fukuoka city which I've been to 5 years ago. It's famous for it's canals, eel (which is delicious), and it's girl's festival decorations. Unfortunately it was horrible weather and we all got pretty soaked despite us all carrying umbrellas. First things first we visited a shop that sold the girls festival decorations. There's a tradition in Japan that when a girl is born in the family you buy these decorations (I think when she's 5) and put them up for show in February (or all year round). It's supposed to make the girl live a long healthy life. There's one decoration that's a hanging mobile consists of 52 balls and toys (one for each year of your life. This was an old tradition, I don't know if people were expected to live longer than 52). Another common decoration is one of an emperor and princess sitting on the top with their court below them, but I don't know the cultural significance of these. I just know that they're incredibly expensive. We visited a number of houses that had huge rooms of these decorations. Including one which was an open house and for 6 generations the grandmother would hand make all the decorations whenever a girl in the family was born. Resulting in the largest and oldest display of Hinamatsuri decorations in Yanagawa (it even appeared on TV).

We also visited an incredibly old European/Japanese house in the town. Half of it was Japanese style and the other was like an upper-class British house. It was really surreal. And even this house had a huge display of Hinamatsuri decorations! 

Daizaifu - Tuesday 16th April

So it was back to Dazaifu again, but this time with the school! We pretty much did everything we did before, go to the temple over the bridges and get fortunes (this time I got supper luck!). We went and got Umegaimochi, the anko filled cooked mochi (was so good), and went to the national museum (which we didn't do before). We actually didn't see much of the museum because we had to pay to see the exhibitions  so we just played around the area next to the gift shop that allows you to play with objects from other cultures. We did learn how to make pretty korean knots though!

(Wesley was best at making the Korean knots...even better than the girls...)

Zoo - Tuesday 23rd April

Fukuoka has it's own gardens and zoo with an assortment of pretty flowers and animals. It's actually divided into two sections so we went to the gardens first which was great because it was the perfect time for flowers! They had garden flowers, a rose garden (a bit early for that) and a huuuuge green house full of tropical plants.

The zoo was pretty impressive but not at the same time. There was a large variety of animals including tigers, lions, dear, snakes, lizards, red pandas, penguins, bears, a rhino, a giraffe, monkeys,  a petting area with rabbits and guinea pigs and ducks, and all kinds of birds. But most of the cages were small and concrete and there were often only 1 or 2 animals making it seem quite lonely. I always forget the difference in animal rights and welfare between Japan and the UK until I see things like this. They weren't living in horrible conditions (like Chinese zoos) but I felt they weren't as good as the UK.

(Red Panda's are so cute! In Japanese they're called "Lesser Pandas"

The place was also full of middle school children so as we walked along we'd often get people shouting "hello!" and even got our photos taken with a group of them! (They asked us, not the other way around). 

Monday, 13 May 2013

Study Block Rant

My brain feels like it's going to explode >_< I've been trying to study every day and last week was incredibly productive, but now it feels like it's all just piling up and there's so much I have to do and ahhhhh >_<

So let me start again, right now Wes and I are trying to study for the JLPT N2 (2nd highest level) and I'm sure we can pass it but to get a really good grade we need to do more studying. This includes kanji, kanji based vocabulary (there's about 5+ for each kanji which when you do the maths means over 5000 words), vocabulary (not kanji based ones), grammar, and then reading and listening. Listening is fine, but there's just so much to do and I have a long to-do list by the end of May and it's not getting done as fast as I'd like.

This weekend was my birthday so we were out all day Saturday and Sunday and with today (Monday) being the first day back to class I was just so tired. I was so tired that when we got home I fell asleep for about 3 hours and that was pretty much all my study time gone for the day! (We had spent the rest of the time shopping for food, cooking, checking e-mails etc). It's even more frustrating because we have another N2 practice test tomorrow. We've had one every Tuesday for the last 3 weeks (including this time) and each time we do it I've either burnt my brain out studying or am too tired to really concentrate. And I want to actually get better on these things but there's not much time between each of them to get a large chunk of study in my head. I mean enough to make a noticeable difference on the test.

I can tell my brain's beginning to get a block because even with simple conversations I'm forgetting words and getting sounds mixed up >_< It's  incredibly frustrating. I know I just need to rest and take it all slowly, one step at a time, because trying to study with brain in this state does not help, but there's still so much to doooo~~

*Deep breath*

Bleh. I'll get tomorrows test done and then get back to working through my to-do list. やればできる

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Jeju Island in South Korea - Part III South Jeju

Waterfall Day - Tuesday 10th April

Jeju Island is a pretty small island. It takes about 1 hour to take the bus from the south city of Seogwipo to the north city of Jeju. It takes 3 hours if you're taking the bus around the coast from both the west and east, which means that by bus it only takes 6 hours to get around the entire circumference of the island. So no surprises that it didn't take us long to get from our guest house in the north east to the city in the south. Also no surprises that we got off the bus one stop early and got lost....again....

BUT we soon realised that we were lost and decided to momentarily give up looking for our next hostel and go find a waterfall instead. That took a while but we eventually found our first site in Seogwipo, Jeongbang Waterfall. It's the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. What made me laugh was above the waterfall was a garden and a museum dedicated to a man called Seobul who was a servant of the Chinese emperor in the BC200's, who travelled to Jeju to find plants that would make the emperor immortal. On the wall under the fall he wrot“Seobulgwacha” which basically translates as "Seobul was here". What's even more ironic is that he's probably more famous in that area than the Chinese emperor ever was. Sadly I couldn't see the graffiti :(

Once we'd seen the sights we decided that the best way to find our hostel was to follow the coast rather than get lost in the back streets. So we followed the road down through food street, around the bay and into a valley that at the end of apparently had the next waterfall we were going to see. But we decided to find the hostel first so climbed up the cliff, walked a bit more and found it! Check in wasn't until 2pm though. We were allowed to pay and dump our bags behind the counter though so unburden we headed back down the cliff to Cheonjiyeon Waterfall.

This area was a lot more touristy than the last with buses of school kids, a few non-Asian tourists, restaurants and cafes (another Dunkin' doughnuts), and the tourist information centre for the city. After paying to get in it was only a short walk down the valley before we reached the waterfalls. The pool at the bottom of the falls is 20ms deep and the river is apparently full of eels.

We then decided to go to another waterfalls which was down the coast a bit, which meant we had to catch a bus. The only problem was we didn't know which bus to go on. We saw one at the top of the cliff and was going to ask but the woman there seemed really grumpy and ignored us, so we went to the bus station, which was no good cos we didn't understand any of the signs. At least we knew what direction it was was going in so I suggested we walk down the road to the next bus stop and grab the bus there....Let's just say 2 hours later we still hadn't found the frickin' bus. So we returned to the hostel and asked for directions. Guess was the first bus we'd seen with the grumpy lady!!! I felt a lot better once we'd got on the bus and on the way to the falls. Luckily we'd started the day off early and still had time, even more lucky was the fact the bus driver stopped outside the entrance and told us we were there (would have missed it otherwise).

The falls were on the otherside of the valley so to get there they'd built this massive red bridge with white goddesses all along it. It was pretty. It was also really high up and a surprisingly steep bridge. But we survived! We survived to see that the waterfall we'd been searching for looked like this......

I was a bit disappointed that the waterfall wasn't falling. I also read later that the waterfall was inside a cave (I think), so I guess that's why we couldn't see it. However, there were another 2 waterfalls which were grouped with this one which were further downstream and yes, they fell.

Just down the valley by the sea from those water falls was another sight we wanted to see. A place where lava had hit the sea and crystallised into hexagon shapes. We didn't time this one as well though cos there was a bus load of Chinese tourists. The sun was setting too so it was hard to get a good picture without over exposing it.

As we'd walked to the hexagon rocks we passed a huge building which I'd kept seeing on the maps as the island's duty free. What it was doing on the south of Jeju away from the airport I'm not sure, but it wasn't just a huge duty free but also a concert hall and conference venue with a huuuge hotel next to it. We explored a little and saw that everything was way too expensive for us, not that we could buy anything anyway because apparently it was illegal for non-Koreans to buy stuff from there. We managed to catch the bus ok this time and got back to the hostel safely. We were both pretty hungry so went out food hunting. That's when we found the BIGGEST burger EVER! It was about 17,000won ($17/£12) and sooo goood. It was about 12" in diameter and cut into 6 pieces. Wes and I halved it along with a bowl of creamy pasta. The burger was a flat port battie with cabbage, lettice, tomato, mayo, mustard, apple, pickles/gherkins, and ketchup. It was amazingly good!!!

The Day We Climbed Over a Huge Mountain - Wednesday 11th April

Climbing Mt Halla. 1950m tall inactive volcano in the middle of Jeju. We'd been looking forward to this climb all week. Well, Wes had, I'd been slightly dreading it. After climbing Mt Houmanzan in Japan I was worried that this was going to be just as brutal but worse because the climb was expected to take 9 hours up there and back down again. But I was still willing to give it a go, I would have regretted it otherwise. 

We got up at 7am, got dressed and ready so we could grab breakfast before getting the bus (which we checked in advance this time). It didn't take too long to get to the base of the south east trail, Seonpanak, which we'd chosen because it was the 2nd hardest trail and was supposed to have a beautiful flower field about 3/4 of the way up, so it if was too much we'd have lunch there and turn around.

When we arrived the place was full of people! Mostly buses of school kids but also buses of older people. Including one group of older people doing Gunamn Style as a warm up exercise.

The mountain climb was surprisingly easy actually. The crowds of school children made kept the pace slow, and it was mostly worn down wooden platforms and steps, and a few sections of giant rocks. We started at 600m and got to the flower field, which was 1500m up, after about 3 hours with no breaks and neither of us were tired. We took a short break anyway and had some water before heading up to the peak. It was shame the time time of year was still too cold for the flowers to be out. It was also hard to see any of the views because of the clouds, but now and again they would break and you could see down the island below.

(The southern city Seogwipo at the bottom of Mt Halla)

The last part of the climb was brutal though. It was much steeper and colder because we were so high up. When we finally got to the top we were inside a cloud that kept blowing frozen snow in our face. It was so cloudy we couldn't see the famous lake in the crater of the mountain. But we made it!

(I didn't realise how bad that waterproof jacket fitted me until after this climb -_- )

So then we just had to get down. We'd made it to the top in about 4 hours, but instead of climbing back own the way we came we decided to give the northern pass (the most difficult one) a go. I'm really glad we did too! We probably would have died climbing up because of how steep it was but climbing down was great! First of all there weren't any tourists, mostly climbers in proper climbing gear. It was north facing so all the trees near the top were covered in ice, and the views on the way down were spectacular. 

(The top of Mt Halla is the part covered in cloud at the back of the picture)

It took us another 3 hours and 20mins to reach the 450m mark at the base of the trail. On the way we could see Jeju city at the base of the mountain and came across the location of a hut that disappeared after a storm in 2007. Just disappeared...
Anyway. To say the least we were knackard by the end. We got a taxi to the bus stop, the bus back to Seogwipo. We only had dinner from the convenience store cos we were too tired to find anything else. But I'm glad to say my legs didn't hurt as much after that as after Houmanzan, and I actually think Houmanzan was a lot harder than Mt Halla. It was worth the climb.

Lazying Around Jeju City - Thursday 11th 

We got the same bus we took to Halla to get back to Jeju in an hour. We dumped our stuff at the hostel and wandered around the town, eating waffles, running into Korean Jehovah witnesses (who were very nice), and picking up food and presents from the market. It was not an exciting day but was a relaxing one.

Flying back to Japan - Friday 12th April

We flew back to Japan early Friday. It was pretty much uneventful apart from immigration which almost didn't let me back in because they couldn't understand why I was studying for 6 months on a tourist visa and not a student one (even though I explained the school wouldn't give me one). *sigh* That crisis was averted after they called NILS. So don't worry!! Wes and I were back in Japan safely with not too many disasters and many fun adventures to tell.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Jeju Island in South Korea - Part II East Jeju

Lava Tunnels and Mazes - Sunday 7th April

I mentioned before that we'd had problems trying to find an international phone, and Sunday 1am-5am was our last chance before the banks were shut until Tuesday. So in the end we got permission from the guesthouse owner to use her phone to call America, and to do it at 1am. We both woke up at 1am after a few hours of sleep and snuck downstairs to use the phone. Luckily Wes was able to get through and get things sorted so we left the Rainbow Guesthouse in Jeju early the following morning and headed to the airport again to get money out (it was the only place we could go). Once monies had been acquired we headed to the bus station to get the bus to our next location!

Our next hostel was called the Lefthander on the east of the island, but on the way was a number of lava tunnels that we wanted to check out. We got our tickets ok and the bus, but despite the fact that each stop was announced in Korean and English we missed our stop! Not only that but the stop buttons didn't work on the bus so it took us a while to indicated to the bus driver that we wanted to get off. Luckily public buses on Jeju are super cheap so we jumped on one coming the opposite direction. Although the sun was shinning it was a freezing cold day because the wind was so strong and cold. So when we got of the bus and a taxi stopped to offer us a ride to the caves we took it (it would have been another 20min walk ontop). Luckily that made up for lost time and it was cheap again.

So the lava tunnels are incredibly long but only 1km is open to the public. The lava tunnels and natural volcanic structures across Jeju are UNESCO World Heritage Conservation sites so they attract a lot of tourists. Meaning there were a lot of people at the tunnels, and the whole place was lit up with paths over the more rocky areas. What was insane was one we saw one woman with 3 inch heals walking out of the cave. I don't know how she managed to walk naturally in them let alone through a dark cave with uneven ground.

(At the end of the tunnel was this amazing lava column that I thought looked like a petrified undead goblin king)

Just down the road from the caves was a maze which we also wanted to check out. Luckily this wasn't too far so we walked it. At the maze someone had set up a wooden box with straw inside and a plastic roof and it had a cat inside! (When we'd finished the maze there were 2 cats with one asleep ontop of the other. It was adorabubble). The maze was good fun and a good level of difficulty. We got very lost before finding the middle. I think how they'd designed it was with a lot of long single pathways so if the choose the wrong way you end up following the path for a while before you realise it's no good.

As we wandered back to the main road we found the other 2 lava tunnels that had been discovered but the entrances were blocked off because they were dangerous. So we grabbed the bus again and headed to our next location in Sangdo-ri. Finding the hostel was a lot easier this time because they signs. So we dumped our stuff and went exploring. We were right by the sea and although it was windy it was really pretty. Right next to the beach was an amazingly nice cafe and the women there spoke English! So we got some hot chocolates and muffins which were amazing! The cafe itself was pretty modest with a seaside feel to it and a wood burner in the middle.

We explored the area a bit more after that but most of the restaurants in the area seemed really expensive. So when we got back to the hostel we asked if we could have dinner with them, which is another service they offer. For super cheap we had home cooked Korean food including kimchi, other spicy side dishes, duck and azuki rice. Korean food is very different from Japanese. It's similar in the way it had a main with lots of sides and perhaps some rice and soup, but those sides, rice and soup are all very very different. The soup was a seaweed soup, the sides were mostly spicy and the rice seemed to always be mixed with azuki beans. It was very good but very different.

Oreum Tour and Seongsan Ilchulbong - Monday 8th April

Another service the guest house offered was a free tour of some of the nearby oreums (volcanoes - I mentioned before there was about 360 small ones on the island). So we decided to go with the guy who owns the guest house and 4 other guests on this tour. It was early in the morning (9am) so we were finished by lunch time. The owner took us in his minivan to a nearby oreum explaining on the way how everything is made from volcanic rock especially the walls that separate the small farming fields. As we arrived to the first oreum (called Dragon Oreum because it looks like a sleeping dragon... apparently) he stopped the van to point out a number of mounds with carefully built walls around them. He explained that they were graves, a custom of burial unique to Jeju. And these weren't just really old graves but more recent ones as well mixed in. 

(Grave in front of the Dragon Oreum)

The oreums were mostly really small, no bigger than most hills in the UK. It only took us 30 mins to climb it and walk around the creator. We were the first group up there and were really lucky to get a glimps of a white dear which are rare but famous on the island of Jeju. We then climbed down and drove to another oreum just down the road called the King Oreum. This one was the second largest oreum on the island so took us a bit longer to climb up it. But climb it we did!  

That was the end of the tour but Wes and I had plans to go to Seongsan Ilchulbong (aka Sun Rise Peak, or to translate Castle Mountain) which was just down the coast. This is another pretty famous location on Jeju because it's a rock that formed 5000 years ago from a volcanic explosion. It's pretty iconic for the island as we saw so many pictures of it before we even got there. Sooo no surprise that it was full of tourists. That was 'mountain' 3 that we climbed that day, not bad practice for Mt Halla.
But before we did that we were starving and after some lunch. Unfortunately most of the resturants in the area seemed to be the expensive ones we'd seen before but we decided to give it a go. Although a number of things were expensive the portions seemed big enough that you're meant to share them so we got some grilled mackerel and Korean okonomiyaki which were both amazingly good! They also came with a pile of side dishes so we were pretty stuffed afterwards.

When we got down from that we climbed down some steps onto a beach under the rock where there was a restaurant and some female divers. The female divers of Jeju are again pretty famous. Long ago income taxes on working men was pretty high so to save money the women would help earn money through diving in the sea for octopuses, urchins and other sea creatures in the shallow water. They free swim up to 20m before the water and now get paid 2,000,000won ($2000/£1500) a month now because they're rare and they sell their produce to local restaurants and markets. Apparently there aren't many of them left so most of them are old, but there's a whole museum dedicated to them and you can see pictures of them all over island.

It was still pretty early in the day and neither of us felt like going back so we stopped off at the Dunkin Doughnuts (which Wes was excited about cos there aren't any on the west coast of the US but they were all over this tiny island in the south of South Korea) and got some cold drinks. We then just wandered down the road exploring this small temple and then the coast until we got bored enough to head back to town to get the bus. 

We had dinner again at the hostel which included a spicy mackerel stew and then got an early night. Then next day was going to be going to the south side of the island to the other city before climbing Mt Halla and heading home.