Friday, January 18, 2013

Halfway Home

As my halfway mark begins to rapidly appear on the horizon, January 15th, which happens to coincide with my birthday as well, I feel it a natural time to reflect on the past five. More specifically the past 2 month's, seeing as I have been incredibly inactive on the blogosphere. That, and my mother says I need to blog more.

Last time we spoke I was just moving out of my interim host family. I had stayed with a friend for two weeks as my current host family was visiting their daughter in the states. As much as I wanted to go to Yosemite, it might have been a bit detrimental to my exchange. That, along with the fact that I wasn't invited. But anyways, I have now moved in with them and they happen to be a lovely bunch of people filled with unique witticisms and bizarre hobbies. My host father happens to be a pigeon racing connoisseur and his free time is spent twiddling about in the two shacks which houses his vast collection of both racing and pacing pigeons. Apparently there is a difference.

I could bore you now with all my novel and petty thoughts regarding my first five months, and how my sense of time has gotten all distorted and such. A topic I have spent much time grappling with, manipulating a vast array of different thoughts and opinions. But in your own best interest, I am not going to. I am merely going to simply sum it up in a matter of words. Time is crazy. There you go, short, simple and sweet. Do with it what you will, interpret as you must. Quote me if need be.

Instead, I am merely going to bore you with my recent activity using only words. No pictures whatsoever, those can be found at the Fast Time's at Koryo High companion site, Way back in December, my host family was kind enough to take me along on a brief tour of Kyoto. For those of you unaware with Japan's history, Kyoto happens to be a place of great cultural significance and a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites are housed within the city's limits. I believe the number is 13, but I could be very well mistaken and looking it up would require too much energy. Anyways, we spent the weekend perusing various old temples and watching traditional Japanese theatre. I was told watching Kabuki, a form of old Japanese theatre in Kyoto, is comprable to watching a musical on Broadway. It goes without saying, that I am greatly appreciative of my current host family and words cannot express my gratitude.

The holiday season was a bit strange. As in it was practically nonexistent. Aside from the various signs adorning the walls of the mall wishing me a "Many Christmas", there was very little to remind of Jesus' birth. If I remember correctly, it was snowing when I awoke on Christmas day, albeit, it was all gone in a matter of moments. Quite literally, I went to reach for my camera and it was all gone. Poof, a Christmas miracle.

Looking forward unto the horizon, it appears February is going to be a bit slow. I switch host families at the end of the month, like the end of January. This action begs the question, didn't I just do that? And the answer is yes, I just did.

Finally, shout outs to Northfield Rotary Club, Hiroshima Jounan Rotary Club and Districts 2710, 5950 and 5960 for granting me this wonderful opportunity. To them all, I am eternally grateful.

So ends this rant

Pictures at

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Mere Reference

I hereby refer you to this companion site. I have decided to take more pictures and jump on the hipster bandwagon at the same time. Chances are the tumblr will be updated more frequently from here on out and will probably be of more interest than this place.

I will still rant from time to time, though. Don't you fret.

Until then.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The End of Era and an Ode to Art

Seeing as it has nearly been a month already since I have given a dispatch about my whereabouts I figured now to be a good time to have a little chat. And as I am planning this writing out, I realize it will turn into a rant rather than the usual story time that one would expect from an Evan Weselmann blog.

But on that note. Let's begin, shall we? Yesterday marked my final morning waking up in the beautiful apartment of the Matsuoka's. I awoke, showered, finished packing, ate my final bowl of brown sugar frosted flakes (this is the true tearjerker, I loved that cereal) and changed just in the nick of time as some Rotary members entered the house to whisk me away to my next destination.

Now, we had a little extra time on our hands, it was 10:30 and we didn't have to be at my current host families abode until 2. With this blessed amount of time we decided it'd best be spent at the Hiroshima Institute of Contemporary Art. Now, as many of may know, or currently don't know but will soon found out in a matter of moments, I like art. Especially modern art, and the idea of going to the institute elated me beyond belief. So we went on over to that. The HICA is currently exhibiting work from the rainbow artist himself, Ay-O. It was a remarkable exhibition, his latter work is truly incredible, albeit his early work is incredibly forgetful. I would recommend anyone to see it if they happen to be in the Hiroshima area. Hell, I will take them to it.

But anyways, now that the door has opened up I will take the opportunity to rant to all you people out there who are reading this. Perhaps its a bit egotistical to think people are actually reading this besides my mother? Art has become very important in my life in the past year, and especially the past 3 months.  I have always had a keen interest in the arts, I would like to believe its in my blood in a certain way, but as I spend more and more time in Japan, away from the warmth and comfort of my Minnesotan home, I am beginning to realize that art provides an escape for me that very few things, as in nothing else happens to provide.  Perhaps, escape is not the right word, but rather a way of dealing with some of the time and emotions that I seem to have a lot of. I have had a great deal of struggles here, as have all exchangers anywhere, I would say, it comes with the territory after all.  And everyone has their own of dealing with frustrations, angers, and the such. I happen to sit down with my paper, pen and pencil and draw. I have learned a lot from the study of art in the past 3 months alone and I feel this things can be translated to my year, and even my life as a whole. In past times, as in when I was in Minnesota, I would become very frustrated when a drawing did not turn out as I wished. Here, however, I am not worried about the final product and how closely it resembled the imprint it had in my mind. That no longer phases, I am beginning to accept each work for its uniqueness and distinctiveness. Sometimes when they stray from the image in my head, they turn out great other times, not so much. I feel this provides a fairly comparable analogy to my exchange year as a whole. There have been times where it hasn't fit the blueprint in my head, something went wrong, the line, it strayed. I have a had a fair bit of struggles here, there is no doubt about that, but in the end, the picture that is my exchange year thus far, as I reflect back on it at this point, is beautiful nonetheless. It might not be a flawless Michelangelo, perfectly painted, each line and shade executed masterfully. It might be more of a Klee, a bit rough around the edges, and far from perfection. But who's to say that one is more beautiful than the other?

I guess what I really meant to say was this year has taught me the importance of art in my life. And I just really like to draw.
Also I started Shamisen lessons this past week. It's a traditional Japanese instrument that bears great resemblance to the American banjo. It was nice to get my fingers working again as I haven't played guitar in nearly 2 months.
I will leave you with some pictures, seeing as that is why you are here

 Only in Japan. A paper mache Pikachu
 The end of an era. No more will I see this view again
 Senior pictures all over again. Mitakiji, or Temple of Three Waterfalls. Beautiful stuff

 Ay-O had an interesting way of painting genitalia
Potential candidate for best meal thus far. A classic Soba and Tempura dish. Simple yet so good.
The esteemed Kiyosaki Sensei chilling in front of 64 Buddha's. She happens to be the person responsible for teaching me the Japanese language.

That's all I have got. See you next time. In the meantime, take some time to draw. Make something. And don't worry about how it will turn out. It's all about the process.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Recent Happenings

Seeing as it's been something like two weeks or so since I have informed the mass populace of my whereabouts I feel now is a fit to share some of the whimsical anecdotes I have amassed over the past couple of weeks.

Last Saturday I was blessed with the opportunity to partake in my school's celebration of Taikusai, a sports festival so to speak.  For those Greenvale Alum's out there, it was a bit reminiscent of the old "Track and Field Day" festivities we used to have.  I ran in the 80m sprint, the 8x200m relay and some strange human pyramid-esque hat stealing game. Both the 80m and the relay are pretty self explanatory.  Our relay got 4th out of 11 classes in our grade level and I placed first, I believe, in my heat of 6 in the sprints.  The hat game is where it gets complex. Bare with me as I try to explain.  Each 'team' was composed of 4 males, three on the bottom, and the remaining one perched on their shoulders wearing either a red or white hat.  The objective of said game was to do what ever was humanly possible to steal the opposing colors hat. To give this some perspective, there was about 25 'teams' on a single color.  We lined up at opposing ends of the field, the whistle blew, and hell broke lose.  It was surprisingly violent, seeing as I was kicked and elbowed in the face, and I was one of the guy's on the bottom. It was far worse for the guy on top. My hat-wearer ended up breaking his glasses in the fight. Hardcore.
This was one of the more interesting events.  All the girls lined up at opposite sides of the track and then rushed in to pull and yank on tires in an effort to bring it back to their respective sides. Apparently, at least one girl breaks her arm each year, but it didn't happen this year.

The respective teams, The White Tigers (しろいとら)and the Red Dragons (あかい something)
The White Tigers ended up holding on to victory at the end of the day.

Seeing as I was allowed to bring my camera to school this day, I took the opportunity to snap some pictures of the classroom, or rather, the view from my class room.

The classroom

This boy requested to have a picture of his half eaten lunch taken, I gladly obliged. There you have it, a half eaten Japanese bento.

Oh you know, just making some okonomiyaki

The brave explorers

Various figures hidden in the rocks

Brews for the dudes above 

The crowd watching Karuga

The ceiling of the shrine

Kagura, this time with dragons

The bell in the shrine

That, that sprawl, is Hiroshima. If you look really hard you can see my apartment building

Kagura dancers. It is worth noting that this dancers wear up to 20 kilos of clothing at one time, and all the gold is genuine and real.

This past Saturday, I went to one of my friend's house and decided to climb a nearby mountain, which happened to also have a pagoda and a shrine. It simply rocked. Despite, the fact that the short hike was largely vertical and my calves screamed in agony most of the way up. Who would've thought that table tennis doesn't tone your calves? A good time was had by all. The shrine was empty, as it is not that well known, which made it all the more beautiful. Afterward's we hit some Kagura, a traditional Shinto dance which incorporates bits and pieces of story telling as well.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's Been One Month Since You Looked At Me

Sorry dearest reader,
I know it has been quite some time since we last spoke, I meant to get in contact, I really did. But time just ran away from me.  Seeing as it's been just a little over a month since I touched down in Japan I figured now would be a good time to drop some knowledge.

I sit here pondering and reflecting on the past month.  I feel obligated to mention the cliche exchange student line, of "Wow, its already been a month?" seeing as it really is true.  As a wise man once said (bonus points if you can guess this fabled  90's country music 'star') that time marches on.  Each day that passes finds me discovering something new, whether it be a new word, new food, or a new arcade game.

I hate to bore you with my mundane, reflective thoughts, so let's get to something a little more exciting. Not that much more exciting, but a little bit. Sukoshi, as the Japanese might say.  I would like to inform you dearest reader, of some of the things that have occupied my time in the past three weeks.  The first being school, which consumes a lot of time, somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 hours a day or so.  I start off my day by waking up bright and early at 6:00 and hop in the shower, eat some breakfast (what once was corn flakes has shifted into grapefruit nowadays) and head out the door around 7, clutching my Astram pass and my school bag, decked out in one of my many school uniform iterations.  Allow me to run off track here, but my school uniform is absolutely absurd.  In fact, when my counselor and I went to pick it up it required both of us carrying multiple bags of it.  This uniform for consists of three white short sleeve shirts, and summer pants which is the current iteration,  from the "summer wear" collection.  The fall collection consists of two long sleeved maroon shirts and a blue "formal" shirt along with the same lightweight summer pants.  The winter collection utilizes the same shirts as the fall collection but throws in two neckties, a sweater and a snazzy overcoat blazer type thing, in addition to more hardy winter pants.  All of this is tied together with three pairs of socks, some hideous commuting shoes, sandals for at school and a belt to boot.  All of this is for normal wear, however, I also have two short sleeved polos, a long sleeved polo, two pairs of shorts, sweatpants, indoor shoes, outdoor shoes and a lovely speedo, to which I have become closely connected with, all for physical education.  They aren't messing around at Koryo, they take their physical education very seriously. But I digress, I leave my house wearing the fine threads mentioned above and head for the Astram station, think of it as a subway.  This walk takes me roughly 15 minutes and I get to stroll through the Hiroshima Castle park and see some old man practice his gymnastics on the high bar every Thursday. I get to the station and board a subway esque thing bond for Koryo. I always sit in the same car with the same folks everyday, those people are for a different post though.  After exiting the train, after about a 35 minute ride, I have a nice walk of 10 minutes to school, all of it being uphill at a relatively steep pitch.  I then up walk four flights stairs to my classroom.  I then endure Japanese classes from 8:30 until 4 on Monday's and Thursdays, and 8:30 to 5 on the other days.  After school, I attend the Takayu club.  For those unfamiliar with the Japanese language, that's ping pong.  I play until around 6 and then head back to the apartment, ultimately arriving around 7, usually a wee bit later.

For something completely different, picture time

 Itsukushima at Miyajima.  One of the more picturesque sites in Japan
The releasing of balloons during the seventh inning stretch at Hiroshima Carps baseball game
 The beginnings of a tradition tea ceremony.  As it turns out my club's President is a master of the tea ceremony and it has been passed down in his family for 300 years.
 Some boys from class feeling dead after all-you-can-eat ramen.  I was able to keep pace, but had to throw in the towel after six bowls.  The champ for the night finished with nine
The holy grail of all arcade games. The infamous table flipping game.  This game is something to cherish. You are given a minute to bang and smash the table as much as possible and then at the end you flip up the table and watch as the table leaves behind a trail of carnage.  Too much fun.

Well, that is all for now.  I have missed a lot, but hopefully will be able to fill you guys in with the rest at a later date. Until next time.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On the Consumption of a Great Deal of Octopus

The past couple days have seemingly whizzed past me.  Each day is filled with a various touristy activity with a different member of Rotary.  Its nice to get to know these members though, I feel truly connected to the club now.  Its from my understanding that I am the first exchange student they have hosted in twenty years.  I don't know the validity of this as my host father mentioned it and he has become infamous for getting his facts jumbled up in translation.

Tuesday came around and I was given a tour of Koryo High School with Hiroshi and another member of Rotary.  The school is exquisite in design and seems pretty simple to navigate at this point, especially as I will be sitting in the same classroom for the better part of everyday.  I was surprised to learn that the students do all of the cleaning in the classroom and they have twenty minutes set aside everyday for it.  In addition, the schedule is equally as strange.  On Monday's and Thursday's I have school from 8:30 to 3:30, with club activity to follow after that, however, on Tuesday's, Wednesday's, and Friday's, I have a fabled 'seventh hour' which lasts until 5:15 or so.  Its safe to say school will consume my life, seeing as I have an hour commute one way.  I also have to give a speech on the first day of school introducing myself.  The issue being, it's in Japanese.  To the entire school.  And staff.  That's roughly 1,300 natural born human beings.  It's a bit daunting at this point.  I was then invited to play soccer with my 'host brother', he's 35 with a wife and two kids, I use the term loosely.  I was initially very scared seeing as he played in college and appeared to be pretty good.  With some people you can just tell.  It was a lot of fun despite the fact that I was far and away the worst player.  It's never good when people can't tell that you played in high school.  I even met a guy who had tried out for the Minnesota Thunder a couple years back, small world.

The next couple days were filled with various activities such as the hitting up the Hiroshima Art Museum, braving a Japanese Haunted House with a former race car driver and my first Rotary meeting.

Yesterday, I piled into a van with a Japanese family I had not met ever before, save for the father once or twice and headed to someplace.  Hiroshi had told me, but I had no idea what he meant.  This was one of the more horrifying experiences I have had.  But it turned out to be a lot of fun.  We drove to Shimane , the least populated area in Japan, and went to an aquarium.  The  drive was beautiful, as green mountains jetted up from both sides of the road.  The aquarium was nice and the ocean it was by was absolutely beautiful.  We stopped off at a fish market on the drive back and took in the sights and smells of a Japanese fish market.

As for the cuisine, its excellent.  However, they have been feeding a great deal of Octopus.  I have had octopus in various incarnations for the past three days, whether it be raw or fried.  Its not really my thing but its slowly growing on me.

All for now

My apartment building, as far as I know its the tallest building in Hiroshima
 Life's a beach sometimes
If you like your squid still respirating then the Shimane Fish Market is for you

This kid. Shongo, son of Shingo, at the futsal complex

Sunday, August 19, 2012

On Touching Down and the Beginning

I would like to start off by apologizing to everyone for my lack of presence upon this blog in the past days.  It was a struggle to find an internet connection, which I find to be very ironic due to Japan's notoriety for it's blazing fast internet.

But anyways, my journey began on August 15th at 9 a.m. and boarded a plane for Chicago.  After landing in Chicago I transferred onto a plane bound for Narita Airport located in Tokyo.  It was my first international flight and it was strange due to the fact that I was always flying into the sun.  A nice Singaporean couple sat to my left and whenever the wife opened the window it was always sunny, never dark.  After touching down, I helped them with their luggage seeing as they were only 5 feet tall on a good day.  I was initially very scared of the Tokyo airport, however, it proved to be easy to navigate.  I was able to find my small chartered flight to Hiroshima and boarded and promptly fell asleep as I was dead tired.  After waking up and landing, I picked up my luggage and walked out into the awaiting arms of my host dad, Hiroshi, and counselor, Genko.  I then hopped into Hiroshi's Toyota Prius and began the hour long drive to my new home.  We had a pleasant conversation, mainly revolving around his occupation and his sons.  I dined on some fruit and went to bed when I arrived.

The next day I awoke and had breakfast and Hiroshi and went for a walk around Hiroshima.  Its a beautiful city filled with many parks and green spaces.  He then took me to his office and introduced me to his son, Shinji.  Shinji is an Okonomiyaki chef at the restaurant Hiroshi owns.  We discussed my school, as he attended it for a year when he was in high school.  We then left and headed home and had lunch.  After lunch I was whisked away to the shopping arcade were I was fitted for my swanky school uniform.  For dinner when dined at my fathers restaurant on food prepared by my three host brothers.  There, I met several members of Rotary and my host niece and nephew.  The dinner was excellent, consisting of chicken throat, pig feet, and cow intestine.

The next day, in the morning I went to the Shuikken gardens with my host mother, Michiko.  The gardens were absolutely gorgeous.  And it was a two minute walk from my house!  Its so strange to be in the middle of everything.  After spending the afternoon at home, I traveled to my school with Hiroshi after dinner, to get used to the routine.  The baseball team was practicing, despite it being 8:30 in the evening on a Saturday.

And that brings us to Sunday.  In the morning I went with Hiroshi to the Hiroshima Castle and the nearby Shinto shrine.  It was an amazing experience to see the least.  I then spent the afternoon watching Japanese baseball (which I do quite frequently to kill the time) and drawing and called it a day  at 10 after having dinner of fried chicken, crab, and tofu with dried immature sardines.

Its now 9 a.m. in the morning and I believe I am going back to the restaurant this evening for dinner with some Rotary members.  School starts on the 30th, and I look forward to it immensely.  Both for its structure and for the fact that I will finally meet kids my own age (something that has yet to happen).

 The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Memorial
 The view from my bedroom
 Shuikken Gardens
 My host mom and niece and nephew
 Hiroshima Castle
 Shinji, my host brother, preparing Okonomiyaki
 Shinto shrine
 Another view of the shrine
Praying at the shrine and that about wraps it up