Driving in Japan!

Okay – so you’re probably thinking; Tokyo drift!

Well, even if you’re not, I definitely thought of it when I knew I was given a ‘driving position’ as part of my teaching contract here and to be honest, I could’ve been more happier! I love the freedom and ability to drive anywhere I want in Japan without having to deal with crowded public transportation and the best thing is – you get to see and do  things you’d never be able to if you didn’t have your own transportation!

I’d like to say I’ve driven in most parts of Japan and have a large and unbiased view considering I’ve not only driven through the crazy hectic streets of Tokyo but also suburban towns and in rural areas crossing various prefectures in the Chubu region of Honshu Japan. However, I still have yet to drive through Japanese snowfall yet (despite having recently changed my tyres to winter ones).

        

The car on left is my current car I have been using but in last year I’ve been here, I’ve actually had two other cars. Why? I have no idea? Maybe because fixing or upgrading a car in Japan is cheap so the turnover is higher? Can’t really complain!

If you’re Australian and you’re a pretty decent driver – you’ll have no issues driving in Japan – the road rules (from my understanding at least :P) are that they’re essentially the same as Australia, in Japan they drive on the left too.

What you need: In order to be able to drive in Japan all you need is an International Drivers Permit (IDP) which allows you to drive as a foreigner in Japan for up to one year. These permits are valid for only 1 year anyway and can be obtained quite easily through visiting your local driving authority. I got mine at RAA for $30 AUD and it took less than 5 minutes.  When the IDP expires, you’ll be required to apply for a Japanese drivers licence and from my understanding, Australian’s have never had an issue with obtaining one (direct transfer – no test or anything needed… bad luck if you’re American though, a physical driving test is a standard requirement for you guys).

The roads in Japan are EXTREMELY small in some areas. Some of them can barely fit one car and yet are STILL 2 way roads, this means, if it happens that two people are driving towards each other, one must move (either reverse or turn into a different street) to allow the other person to pass. This is based on common sense and general courtesy – I’ve never had any issues. Japanese are extremely polite drivers – never once, in the past year have I heard a single person beep their horn!

This is an example of a very small road – it’s only about 2.2m wide

Toll ways: In Japan there are an abundance of toll ways – which if you don’t have what’s called an ETC (Electronic Toll Collector) it can be very expensive to pay upfront. An ETC is not worth getting if you aren’t a long term resident in Japan as it also cost money and is linked to a credit card – something very difficult to get if you aren’t Japanese or aren’t able to speak Japanese. An example of how expensive toll roads can be; I drove from my home in Japan to Narita Airport and back using toll and non-toll roads (some instances, I wasn’t able to avoid tolls) and it cost me over 10,000Yen return trip – that’s about 110AUD for just the tolls! Not to mention petrol cost, parking, etc. So rule of thumb – avoid tolls if you can, sometimes it doesn’t save you much time anyway.

You pay in cash as you pass through the toll gates or drive straight through if you’ve got an ETC.

This is a toll way road on the way to Yokohama – thankfully the traffic wasn’t bad at all. This cost me 2200 yen to get on and off (about 25AUD).

Parking in Japan: So for the past 3 weeks I’ve had quite a few visitors from Australia; some friends, my boyfriend as well as my brother (also the reason why this is a very late post) but their main question was.. is it compulsory to reverse park in Japan? My answer: No. But everyone does it. Only every so often you’ll see someone actually drive head first into a car park. Why? I have no idea.. They’ve even converted me and I’ve always HATED reverse parking! One thing they don’t have in Japan is reverse parallel parking! This makes me a tad nervous as I’ve pretty much forgotten how to – I wonder if I’ll be a better or worse driver when I’m back 😛

Every vehicle perfectly reversed parked!

Some things to be aware of:

The traffic lights in Japan can be a little bit confusing (probably a HUGE understatement). They don’t do the Green, Yellow, Red system here. It’s just green (well, bluey green) then red. But there’s all sorts of weird rules and traffic lights you will come across on different roads.

This was by far the most confusing traffic light I’ve come across. It’s red.. so can I still go? The answer is yes if you’re in the left or centre lane going straight but you can’t turn right. ARGH! Why not have a Green light and a red – right turn arrow!?

Some cars can be VERY small! I swear this car was about 1m wide and 1.3 m long. Literally the smallest car I’ve ever seen!!

Since it’s winter here right now (December), this has been my car every morning for the past 3 weeks. The windshield is icey and you need to either let it thaw or scrape off the ice! Not to mention it’s freezing cold.

Thanks for dropping by! I hope you enjoyed this post. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions.

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Did someone say food?! Japanese school lunches – kyuushoku (給食)

To follow on from my previous post of being an English teacher in Japan – I wanted to talk about food, in particular school lunches or in Japanese, kyuushoku (給食). As an ALT you have a choice of either eating school lunches or not – from my perspective, if you’re not allergic to anything or have any particular religious reliefs/food preferences preventing you from, you should definitely do it! It’s a really good opportunity to get a ‘real’ feel of what Japanese food is. In saying that, it’s not always Japanese food, as it can (and usually is, Japanese-inspired) such as pastas, curries and breads, etc. It’s also extremely cheap at about 2.80AUD a pop, it saves you plenty of money and saves you the trouble of preparing lunch every day. Everyone at school eats kyuushoku (給食) and it’s a really awesome display of the ‘community spirit’ of Japanese people.

So what is so special about kyuushoku (給食)?

In the Japanese school system (at least the public ones anyway) Kyuushoku means eating school lunch – together, with everyone. So at lunch time, all the students and teachers (most) will put on kitchen attire (apron, face mask, hair cap/bandana) and serve food to all members of their class from food trolleys prepared by the lunch staff. Kind of imagine a production line of students either serving or receiving food on a tray for one another, from tiny 1st graders to junior high school and even high school students. (Lol can anyone honestly imagine being in an Australian high school all dressed up in kitchen attire and serving food to one another?! Never going to happen…haha). So after everyone has received their food, we all sit down – two students (usually the class leaders for the day) will say some words (different depending on the class, school, grade) that resembles ‘giving thanks’ – we then all clap our hands together in prayer pose and say ‘itadakimasu’ – we proceed to eat. And if it’s a school with a big ‘whole school’ lunch room, it’s usually the senior leaders that talk on a microphone. And every student just sits with their corresponding class mates and teachers. There is generally always food left over and students are free to go out and top up their meals as required or a teacher/student leader goes around and serves food to those who want more (my hand is always up lol). I love eating with the little students because I get to eat more food 😛 (haha, I am such a piggy!) At a certain time, usually about 1.50pm (kyoshuku begins around 12.00pm), the class leaders say a few more things, get everyone’s attention, we clap our hands together and say ‘gochisosamadeshita’ (thanks for the food/we have finished). Make sure you’ve eaten ALL your food with no leftovers by this time. The students then all get up, neatly put back all their food trays, etc, wipe down the tables and finish lunch.

Some 4th graders serving food to their class mates

A typical lunch trolley that’s prepared before lunch and is either delivered or collected by the students from the production room

Students eating lunch – this is at a school that eats lunch altogether in a big lunch room

After lunch – everyone does their bit to clean up and violà! – All ready for the next day

Lunches are planned by nutritionists or dietitians and are usually made from scratch, using local, unfrozen ingredients. Portions are modestly sized, and the menus are carefully planned throughout the week to emphasize variety and nutrition. Of course there are occasional treats like tempura or even sugar/sweet breads (I even had a donut one time!) but overall, the foods do offer a lot of nutrition (especially if compared to western lunches!) There is no lack of calories in these meals though, as one must understand it is catered to young children (in my case of elementary school) so the idea is that growing children need plenty of calories for growth and to give them energy for study, play and physical activity. The milk that’s distributed for instance is full fat, not low fat, and many menus incorporate deep fried foods and so on – but in small quantities.

Weird part (in the eyes of a westerner): after lunch, we ALL sit together and BRUSH our teeth. After this, the students then are free to go out and enjoy their 30-45minute free time for lunch.

My handy little travel toothbrush that I bring with me to lunch so I can brush my teeth with the students afterwards

Personally I think it’s awesome – students preparing their own food, serving it to one another, politely eating, spending time with each other AND CLEANING UP after themselves!! Not to mention looking after their teeth. The food tastes great too – at least I think so! I haven’t had anything I don’t like and I’ve been introduced or at least tasted a majority of Japanese food I wouldn’t have otherwise eaten! Enjoy the following photos – various school lunches from my elementary schools over the year:

Another cool thing is, if it’s a special occasion, season or festival – the lunches usually reflect that. For example, a pumpkin pudding dessert for Halloween 🙂

Only thing is, I don’t drink the milk that’s provided because I’m not a fan of full fat milk and I haven’t drank it for years so I either give it away (the kids play rock,paper, scissors for it – always funny to watch) or I take it home to use in my cooking (^_^)

Thanks again for dropping by! Hope you enjoyed my post. Feel free to leave any comments or questions. Sending my love from freezing cold Japan – Akii xoxo.

Life as an English teacher/Language Instructor in Japan

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve been well since my last post, many people have been curious about what I do and how I go about being an English teacher/Language Instructor in Japan so here’s a basic summary – feel free to comment if you have any further questions :). Well firstly, we’re collectively called ‘ALTs’ – Assistant Language Teachers on our contracts, but our business cards say ‘Foreign Language Teacher’, our resident cards say Language Instructor – call it whatever you will but ultimately our job description is the same. I work for Interac so my experiences are solely Interac ones, many other companies or programmes exist in Japan – I’m not very familiar with any of them and didn’t even know they existed until I arrived here. This is because I did VERY LITTLE research upon moving here as I didn’t want to have any expectations or freak myself out so I just went with it and well, so far so good :). Everyone’s experiences at different companies/programmes vary and you can generally Google information about people’s opinions but here’s a link to get you started: http://risingdaikon.blogspot.jp/2012/02/jet-vs-interac-objective-comparison.html

 My business card and Hanko Stamp (specialised Japanese traditional stamp used instead of a Western signature) – supplied by Interac

My contract (everyone’s contracts will vary slightly): I’m an ALT at 5 elementary schools but I have other friends who only teach JHS or do a combination of JHS and elementary. And no,  not everyone has the same number of schools, again this depends on the specifics of your contract and what your Board of Education (BOE) requires.  I work from 8am-4pm everyday (when I mean work, it means I’m at my school/s) but teach between 1-6, 45minute lessons/day (50 minute classes are for JHS & HS). This means when I’m not actually teaching a class, I have A LOT of spare time on my hands where I would study, practice Japanese, browse the internet, do my budgeting, shopping lists (you name it lol) or work on my craft skills and oh, of course… lesson plan! haha . Yes – it’s kind of silly – I do HAVE to stay at school during the scheduled times of 8am-4pm regardless of whether I teach or not, unless instructed otherwise to go home. Some days I might only teach a few classes (one time I taught no classes) but the positive side of it is you can go have fun with students, get to know the staff at your school and just relax. You end up saving money and are more productive; no, you can’t sit at your desk on Facebook – you’ve got to at least look like you’re doing work lol 🙂

‘Hi-Friends’ text books Volume 1 (Grade 5) and Volume 2(Grade 6) – you’re only expected to teach 1 of these books for the ENTIRE year so you can spend time doing random games and singing songs with the kids to make life more fun for them!

The job itself is easy, you teach according to a scheduled text book if your students are in Grade 5 and  grade 6 and for younger grades, it’s free reign. You can choose to teach whatever you like as long as it’s simple enough & encourages English communication.

I’ll never get tired of hearing  – “Akii-sensei, Akii-sensei, HELLLLOOO!!!” (*insert Cute little Japanese school kid voice*). It’s really rewarding to see them try to speak English & develop their confidence in using English, even if it’s something little like hello by a tiny 1st grader or a ‘How are you?’ by a 5th or 6th grader.

Ultimately my job is to have fun while speaking English to Japanese public school kids, sounds easy enough right? Haha yeah it pretty much is – all the staff at my schools are amazingly friendly and supportive. Some definitely more than others but they’ve been impressed at how fast I’ve been picking up Japanese and how willing I am to learn. I came to Japan with no Japanese speaking ability and also had no clue what Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji were until I arrived. So although I can’t read Japanese very well at all, I’m gradually learning & my communication skills are at a somewhat decent level.

FAST FACTS:

  • Where you teach, what you teach (i.e. elementary, junior high school, high school) and how many schools you teach varies with whatever you preferences were when you applied as well as who your Board of Education are
  • What I wear to work: Smart casual/semi business attire
  • What time I get to work every day: Before 8am, I will shamelessly admit to being late  at a total of 3 times so far (due to very valid reasons lol and no, I didn’t get crucified)
  • What company do I work for? Interac (click for website & recruitment info, incl. FAQ)
  • Does my company sponsor my visa? Yes – Interac sponsored my working visa and assisted me with initial up in Japan
  • What’s the best part about my job? I live in Japan, I make money by instilling confidence in my students ability to speak my native language , I subconsciously learn a language and have many great opportunities to immerse myself in a new culture.
  • No – it’s not all fun and games, moving countries is hard, being alone is challenging but once you rise above all that, you realise how strong and independent you are – ANOTHER learning curve!

Enjoy the photos!

*Understandably, I cannot take photos of my students and/or the school stating the name due to privacy reasons.

This is my SLP (Scheduled Lesson Plan) and ‘Hanko’ (Special Japanese Stamp) Sheet – the SLP outlines what lessons I will be teaching for the day, what grade and what I should teach (guidelines are usually only for 5th & 6th grade whereas 1st-4th grade it’s entirely up to me). The Hanko Sheet is a stamp I collect from either the Principal, Vice Principal, Head Teacher or my Teacher in Charge (at that particular school) at the end of everyday. I teach at 5 different schools, so everyday is usually a different stamp or 2 stamps in one day :). The circles represent the actual lessons I taught – there are up 6th lesson slots in one day (1st – 6th period).

For those who are wondering about special education – I do occasionally teach special education classes, these are by far the most challenging classes to teach as sometimes the needs of the student are very difficult to meet. However, each time I have a class  I learn from them and develop specific ways to teach each one of my students.

Name cards from a few of my 5th grade students (Go Nensei – 5年生): I asked them to write their name in the middle, where they are from on the left top cornner, what they liked on the right top and bottom left corner & where they wanted to go on the left bottom corner!

Pretty much every morning (depending on which school) I am either greeted with green tea, special tea (like the one in this photo) or a cup of coffee + sugar/milk to add as I desire. The tea ladies at all of my schools a quite lovely 😀

My typical messy table – I think this was taken during exam period a few months back! I was sipping on some delicious black Japanese tea and munching on some biscuits I was given as omiyage (gift/souvenir) – I will do a special post on ‘gift giving in Japan’ at a later date!

This is a school lunch or ‘kyushuku’ 給食’ room! Some schools eat school lunch together as a whole school and some schools, I eat it in the separate classrooms with the students (changes every lunch time). It depends on how big the school is as to whether they have a lunch room. I also plan to do a ‘school lunch’ post for those who are wondering what I actually eat 😉

At one of my schools during a special ceremony blessing the swimming pool for a safe summer

Just a mirror selfie to show what I usually where to school – stupid ‘no show’ ballet flats are obviously showing! -_-” haha 😛

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Typical hall wall in one of my schools – this one is leading towards the lunch room, hence the food posters 🙂

Thanks for dropping by! I hope you enjoyed my post!

Please feel free to leave a comment, ask any questions or make suggestions on what I should blog about next. Love A xx

This has truly  been an awesome experience for me! I’ve met so many great people, made new friends and learned more things than I could ever imagine. I learned not only more about Japan, but also about myself & the rest of the world. I’ve grown to become a stronger and much more independent person as well – living alone in a rural town on the outskirts of a small city has allowed me to truly immerse myself in Japanese culture and traditions. I am thoroughly enjoying each moment here. In addition to working my full time job at Interac, I also do private tutoring sessions for some JHS students and an occasional community English classes! The opportunities are endless…

Volunteering (in Australia and overseas) & my experience at the 4th USLS (University Scholars Leadership Symposium): Manila, Philippines  

Someone once said to me “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”

I first started volunteering in 2010 after receiving a rude awakening of how short life is from the lost of a dear friend to a common enemy to most of us, cancer. I came to the strong realization that life is just simply way too short to not want to leave a positive lasting impression and to make a difference to the people and community around you. Of course I had done a lot of odd volunteering gigs here and there helping out with school festivities and lending a helping hand in the local cake stall. But this time, I meant it – I some research and signed myself up to many things. Surprisingly, the recruitment process to being a volunteer is not as simple as people might think with some obviously requiring things like national police checks, working with children checks and interviews.

A few months later, I was officially a volunteer for an amazing children’s organization called the Starlight Children’s Foundation, helping out in their newly developed Starlight Express Room  at Adelaide’s Women & Children’s Hospital. And also a volunteer for an equally special organization called Camp Quality where they take children with cancer, their siblings or their families on unique, out of this world-fun and most importantly for the campers, expense-free camps to various locations local and nationally. In addition to these two commitments, I became a mental health companion volunteer for St Vincent de Paul Society’s Compeer Program. I specifically choose this program because mental illness is close to my heart and I believe everyone deserves companionship regardless of their mental health status. These commitments required me to take time out of my days and weeks juggling school, work, social events and heath issues. But part of me knew, it was all worth it 🙂

First volunteering event I did for Starlight was Starlight Day in 2010 – Looking back & it was a lot of fun. With my friend B & Captain Awkward!

Compilation of photos at various Starlight events & being silly in the Starlight Express Room – random from 2010, 2011 & 2012 🙂

Fun times at Camp Quality! I met so many lovely people. From new volunteers, to playing games like Hungry Hippo and making Playdoh with young campers. Getting your face painted or even flying in a private plane to view the beautiful town of Robe.

I’ll be honest, there were definitely some occasions where I was definitely stressed out but at the end of the day it was really worth it. To experience a fulfillment like no other knowing your actions made someone else’s day better – someone who at that moment in time, is suffering. But was this enough for Akii? No, of course not.. the answer? Heck if I know, but I also became to annual organizer for Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea  for the Cancer Council Australia. Each year around the same time, I’d plan, organize, recruit and delegate people who would be willing and able to help me out with raising funds for the Cancer Council. This was a particularly special organization to me because although I had never used their services personally (I may elaborate further in a future post.. :)) I know how common and heart breaking cancer can be, especially after not only losing this friend but also my only uncle when I was just a child. I also became a team leader for two years supporting the Leukemia Foundation‘s Light the Night  in memorabilia of losing my dear friend who I mentioned earlier in this post. I became involved in anything and everything from Starlight Day, Pink Ribbon Day, Cupcake Day for the RSPCA , Adelaide’s annual City to Bay Fun Run and even became a Youth Mentor for High middle school students through the YWCA of Adelaide. I put my heart and soul into these events and from them, I not only became a better person I also received many positive new outlooks in life :). Not only that I was able to recruit and get so many of my family and friends to be involved in volunteering too! 😀

Pictures from the various Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea’s I hosted in 2010, 2011 & 2012. I held the first one in my home and raised a about 600 AUD and then decided to take it a little bit more seriously by applying for permit to host the event at UniSA City East Campus with both years raising over 1,500 AUD!!!! An incredible achievement which I couldn’t have done without the help of other self-less volunteers who not only helped me to bake, sell but also supported me through the process 🙂

‘Inspire’ was the name I gave to my team at the City to Bay – I think we were able to raise an impressive $1,400 for Starlight!

Myself & a bunch of other volunteers for various Cancer Council events! Meeting new people & raising funds!

Pink Ribbon Day stall in Rundle Mall, Adelaide with an incredible bunch of friends I was able to get to volunteer with me!

Helping out my animal-loving friend W for the RSPCA Cupcake Day in front of Pet Barn, Mile End.

Lighting the Night for the Leukemia Foundation in 2010 & 2011 – My sister and I had ‘Gold Lanterns’ in memory of our lost friend.

Youth mentoring for the Young Women’s Christan Association  for ‘Go Girls!‘ – not only serious conversations about life and growing up but also some seriously delicious foods, support & celebration with an amazing bunch of young individuals 🙂

What’s the point of me saying all of the above? Well, really it’s to express that although I had a lot going on with my life – volunteering not provided me with the opportunity to give back to my community but at the same time, it gave me back more than anyone could imagine, an overwhelming fulfillment that I may have changed someone’s life, even for just a moment. And I’m thankful of all the people I’ve met and stories I’ve heard along the way. People often asked me how I handled all the things that I did and my answer is I have no idea.. I’m only human and the stress took its toll at times – if only I didn’t have to work and still be able to do all these incredible things right? Unfortunately that’s the dream! But all I know is that for as long as I live, I’ll be proud of the contributions I made whether or not I am remembered for them – which I guess is a positive thing, since Australian volunteer rates are increasing at a great rate according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008). Yeah I know, I can’t believe I’m referencing on my blog – SEE, THIS IS WHAT TOO MUCH UNI DOES TO YOU! -__-‘ haha

Volunteering isn’t for everyone and is most definitely not an expectation – that’s why we’re called volunteers right? And like I’ve mentioned previously – I won’t lie, it can be stressful. But I think it’s all about finding what you’re passionate about and doing it. Some people may or may not find that – and that’s okay too. Plus you don’t have to go ‘volunteer-crazy’ like I obviously did :P. Regardless, I’ve enjoyed the journey so far!

However, after moving to Japan – I had to cease these commitments temporarily… meaning it’s likely that when I return to Australia, although I might not pick up exactly where I left off – I don’t think it’s possible for me to stop wanting to contribute and imprint some more of positive on the world :). Hopefully I’ll be able to find a suitable job position that allows me to do both.  Make a difference, no matter how small right? The people that you meet, the stories you hear and the changes you could make in people you’d least expect to. This leads to me to talk about my experiences volunteering in Japan & my attendance at the USLS…

In Japan I started volunteering at an organization called OIFA, short for, the Oyama International Friendship Association where I have contributed in various events including the Oxfam 2013 Japan Trail walker – I attended this event on May 11th 2013 which just happened to be my 21st birthday. Coincidence?! I think not 😛 At this event, I met so many people from all over the world and although the weather was a little worst for ware, the human spirit is truly amazing – the participants of this event hiked over 100km to raise funds to assist in alleviating world poverty and hunger. If that doesn’t leave a positive warmth in your heart, I don’t know what will.

Nowadays I volunteer by teaching free community English classes to 3-5year old Japanese toodlers and their parents. By giving them a positive boost and friendly environment, I hope to increase their chances of being positive about learning English as they grow! 😀

21st Birthday! 🙂 Me volunteering this year at the Japan Oxfam Trailwalker event in Shizuoka, Japan

In August 2013 this year I was invited to attend an event called the 4th University Scholars Leadership Symposium which was held in Manila, Philippines. The symposium was about social change and UN world millennium goals.  This event requires participants to be invited by their respective universities to attend or if independent participants wanted to go, they needed to submit an application form. The ladder is what I did as my university does not sponsor or have an association with this event (which personally I think is a shame). Unfortunately the only hiccup was that I there was a registration fee, attendance fee and then of course, I’d have to fly to Manila.

Thankfully for me, my boyfriend who is extremely and unconditionally supportive of all my volunteering pursuits – gave this event to me as a 21st birthday present, covering the cost of basically everything (including spending money) for me! I was gob smacked and thankful.

At this event I met SO MANY amazing people from all over the world – some of which, thanks to the power of social media – I still keep in contact with despite us all living in literally different regions of the world. Following are some photos and highlights of my symposium experience. Unfortunately because the symposium was literally 9-5 every single day while I was in Manila, I wasn’t able to explore THAT much of the country itself but I was able to do a few things here and there (mainly eat lol) which you’ll be able to see in the photos too.

Collection of photos from the USLS – so many people, so many great memories, so much inspiration! Thank you 🙂

Delicious foods of the amazing Philippines – from meats, seafood, exotic fruits & their speciality ‘Halo-Halo’ dessert!

Volunteering doesn’t always mean all work and no play – I had the opportunity to meet some great people and one of which is now a great friend. She gave me the opportunity to experience some Manila luxury at the Sofitel. Definitely recommended hotel 🙂

This post was a little longer than usual but I hope that it was a positive read. Please feel free to leave any comments, feedback or suggestions on this post or for future posts. Cheers for stopping by. I hope you’re all well – take care & keep smiling, Akii xoxo (^___^)

Ps. if anyone has any questions about volunteering, where to get started, any personal things – please feel free to shoot me a personal email or comment on this post.

Motivation! New blog theme & new look. A collection of some images that inspire me most♥

Wanted to blog? Every intention to blog? Said I’d do it regularly. Yeah.. no. Unfortunately I’ve been pretty slack when it comes to blogging, though I have had every intention to… ahh, like many things in life; we say we’ll do it, in the beginning it’s like we’re overwhelmed with motivation, all eager to start.. then out of the blue, somewhere along the lines.. it evaporates and all we’re left with are empty promises. Okay.. okay, maybe I’m being a little over dramatic and a little too deep referring to a ‘blogging’ but I’m not when it comes to many things in my life.

I’ve been trying and always continue to gather some motivation for myself, I’m a strong believer in the importance of words – when they’re used in the right context and the right frame of mind, they can make a whole lot of difference to your mentality. Positive reassurance and self-love a great motivators in pushing someone to have better thoughts. I believe that words can be powerful when the right ones are spoken. Following are a few beautiful photos, images and inspiration to which I have gathered to motivate myself (^_^). All images are not my own, unless otherwise stated.

For people who know me and even for people who don’t, I’ve got many goals and dreams in life. I’m a survivor and a fighter who believes that she can use what she’s experienced, suffered and fought through to inspire and hopefully, one day, give hope to people. I love volunteering and giving back to the community, I love to travel because I want to be less ignorant and I love to meet new people, because I know everyone has their own story. Think about the picture below:)

In addition to the inspirational pictures above, I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce the work’s of Julie’s Little World.

Julie is an incredibly talented friend of mine who has amazing skills in watercolours and paints beautiful works with words and vibrancy that warms my heart. A lot of Julie’s works are very inspirational to me and I know that whenever I’m feeling a little down or want some positive motivation, I always check our her facebook page Julie’s Little World | Facebook. Following a few photos of her artworks.. all of which can be found, bought & ordered on her website  Julie’s Little World Shop – Custom Painting & Handicrafts.

I always make an effort to purchase her once-only, limited edition hand made stuff with hope that one day, when I have a home of my own, I’ll be able to decorate my house with such positivity and love that I know came from her heart. Also, supporting local Australians:)

Anyways, thank you again for dropping by to read my blog – my next post will be up in a few days/end of next week. It will be about traveling in the Philippines, particularly Manila – however, I do want to go to the more beautiful beachy and tropical areas of Philippines one day but more about that in my next post. Which, I promise myself… won’t be delayed as this one!

Hope you’re all doing well. Feel free to leave any feedback, comments or suggestions.

Love, A xoxox

Korea, Seoul – 2013; Definitely a place to visit! Especially if you love Korean food or shopping!

If you’re living in Japan and are in need of a getaway – the best place you could go for a super cheap price is definitely South Korea! Flights, I found, were relatively cheap; approximately 200-250AUD, return. Since this was a surprise gift for my bf, I managed to book us both return airfare and accommodation for 2 people in Seoul for a total of about 650AUD. The best bit was, as Australian citizens or for myself, a resident of Japan – I could fly to Korea without the need of a visa or any other documentation. Migration and customs were as if I were flying interstate!

Since this was our first time to Korea, we did a lot of the touristy stuff! I really enjoyed coming to Korea especially having lived in Japan for about 5 months at the time. It definitely reminded me of the superb customer service and cleanliness in Japan – a completely different culture in Korea. I felt Korea was a more laid back version of Japan + Vietnam in a mash up. I say this because Korea was great in terms of public transport infrastructure – super fast, efficient and SO MUCH more cheaper than Japan, the city and sky scrapers were beautiful but at the same time, there was definitely a more authentic Asian feel – with all the markets and street foods. And of course, the exchange rate from Yen to Korean Won or Australian Dollar to Korean Won provided us with more money to do more things.

In total, I spent about 300AUD and my bf spent about 150AUD – hehe of course I spent double due to the amazing amount of shops, especially clothes and cosmetics! If you’re a girl and you’re into 1. cosmetics, 2. clothes, 3. food – Korea is the right city for you! Which let’s be honest, is any girl! 😛

Incheon International Airport – voted one of the world’s best airportsIncheon International Airport is named the Best Airport in Asia

What Korean Won looks like – it’s made out of a similar material to AUD

The summary of our trip is as follows:

1. We ate A LOT. I LOVE Korean food, especially it’s spicy goodness.

One of MANY street food vendors in Dongdaenum Markets, Seoul at night

Food & street markets were everywhere in Seoul, the night life was amazing!

Seriously delicious.

Note: Korea might not be the best place to go if you don’t eat meat, a majority of Korean foods and dishes are meat-based, but if you’re totally cool with eating sides then there’s plenty of veggie options to choose from 🙂

All you can eat buffet Korean BBQ – M clearly enjoying himself!

Bim Bi Bap – one of my most favourite Korean dishes!

Us at a morning market enjoying some noodles & sweet red bean dessert for breakfast

2. We pretty much stayed up every night to the early hours of the morning due to either watching a late movie at the 24hr cinema, shopping at 1am or eating around 1-2am every night. Because we are in a long distance relationship, a lot of the time we would just want to do things we haven’t done for a while and that would be to do the regular couple things – i.e. watch movies. Back when I was living in Australia, movies would be a weekly ritual for us 🙂 . But of course, there are many other awesome things to do in Korea!

Check these links out for a list of night markets in and around Seoul: Official Site of Korea Tourism Org.: Traditional Markets & 50 must-visit traditional markets in Korea | CNN Travel

Me at a the Dongdaenum night markets at around 1am at night – still pretty darn busy!

The photos pretty blurry because I was in an elevator – but all those yellow tents are market stalls at 2am! Crazy right?! 😀

24 hour cinemaMegabox Dongdaemun (메가박스 동대문) with cheaper tickets after 9pm!

BEST – movie snacks; caramel popcorn is my favourite guilty pleasure plus there were also some pretty funky drinks!

3. I did a lot of shopping while M waited patiently outside with the rest of the men (HAHAHA). Of course, he also did his own browsing too!

4. We visited the main tourist attractions of Seoul, visited Gangnam (just because :P) and went to the World’s Largest Indoor theme Park – Lotte World.

Lotte World, Korea :The Official Korea Tourism Guide Site

Other fun things we did:

I got my caricature done! The man was so friendly and it only cost 500 won (about 5 AUD)

Tried some delicious street candy in Seoul – it tasted like honeycomb but better! So addictive!

Indulged in my coffee deficiency from living in Japan – haha, as great as a country Japan is – it’s coffee kinda sucks.

M & I traveled around Seoul using their super easy public transport system where you buy a ‘refundable’ card to which when you’ve reached your required destination, you insert the card into a ‘refund’ machine which gives you back 500 Won (the card deposit). All the electronic machines where you can buy a ticket are very user-friendly and are in English.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT INFORMATION: Getting around Korea | Official Korean Tourism Organization

Overall, I really enjoyed Korea and visiting a different country. It’s always great to gather perspective from place especially when you’re currently living in a country that isn’t your own. I really appreciate understanding different ways of life and meeting people from all around the globe. Feel free to ask any questions if you plan on visiting Korea soon!

Thanks for popping by and checking out my blog – as always feel free to comment or leave some feed back :).

Hope you’re all well & smiling, love A xx

MIA from blogging! Adventures around Japan, Korea, Philippines & Taiwan!

Gosh can’t believe it’s been a whole month since my last post! The past 3-4 weeks have been an insane roller coaster for me! My boyfriend from Australia visited so we spent a lot of time with each other, traveling around Japan and Korea (plenty to post about there), then when he left, I spent 7 days in the Philippines, Manila (1st-7th August) at an international conference called the 2013 (4th) University Scholars Leadership Symposium  (a humanitarian conference for students and like-minded individuals from all around the world)  & also a spent a sneaky 1 day in Taiwan! So I haven’t neglected this blog – I’ve just got no idea where to start! My apartment is still sooo unbelievably messy and unorganised from trying to neatly unpack all my stuff from the past 4 weeks! Getting there slowly! Watch this space… blogs starting from Korea, Philippines, Taiwan and then back to daily life in Japan will come shortly! Hope y’all have been well & taking care of yourself.
Lots of love, A xx

Here’s a few photos just to see what I’ve been up to:

M & I at Studio Ghibli, Mitaka, Tokyo

Me at the Ghibli Museum Straw Cafe with the famous Strawberry Shortcake & delicious coffee 🙂

The beautiful Golden Pavilion in the amazingly beautiful city of Kyoto, Japan.

In Osaka, Japan – M & I indulged in the famous doteyaki sticks and street foods!

M taking random photos of me overlooking Tokyo from Roppongi Hills, Tokyo.

Funny picture of M – very excited about having our first meal in Seoul, Korea – Authentic Korean BBQ! It was very delicious!

Me at the front entrance of ‘Lotte World’ – the world’s largest indoor themepark (dubbed Korea’s version of Disneyland!)

M & I in front of the Lotte World Castle, Seoul, Korea.

Cheonggyecheon Stream, Seoul, Korea – a famous stream that runs throughout the city of Seoul.

M & I at Ōwakudani, a famous hot spring & youthful ‘black egg’ spot in Hakone, Japan.


Yokohama Chinatown, Asia’s largest Chinatown. M & I  stopped by on the way to Haneda Airport before I had to drop him off!

In the Philippines at the 2013 4th University Scholars Leaders Symposium with a few of the fellow delegates!

Me and the beautiful Robin Lim (founder of Yayasan Bumi Sehat) – ‘Mother Robin‘ wins CNN Hero of the Year – CNN.com

Myself & other amazing delegates volunteering for Habitat for Humanity Int’l, in Quezon City, Manila, Philippines.

Surrounded by the wonderful smiles of the Filipino children we were all working together to build a house for!

The power of humanity – we were all working together for a common cause. Manila, Philippines – University Scholars

Carrying bricks, one by one, in order to build the houses! It was a hot day but smiles all round! G & I, a delegate from Melbourne, Aus.

Despite all the hard work and energy put into this symposium, I was also able to experience luxury with an invitation to the Sofitel Manila Hotel.


A picture of me at one of the busy night markets in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
So as you all can see, I’ve had a heck of a month visiting 3 countries and traveling around Japan! I feel as though each photo deserves it’s very own post so hopefully I’ll be able to find time to make sure I do the photos and my travels justice.

Once again, thanks for checking out my blog! I really appreciate it and would love any feedback or comments. xxx