I thought I'd drop you all a note to let you know how hot the other hemisphere is…Hot and humid!
The Japanese language course is great but very intense with people from America and Taiwan making up the greatest numbers. We have all been graded and put into levelled classes. I am the only Australian so of course, with characters like Steve Irwin and Crocodile Dundee as our only famous representative on TV in those countries, I'm having some fun with them by convincing them that all Australians are like that.
Unfortunately my class mates have a distinct advantage over me in the daily kanji character testing, as Japanese writing originated from China. We have to learn 50 new kanji characters each day for testing the next morning. My head is about to pop. The spoken and Comprehension tasks are a breeze for me though, thanks to my previous time in Japan.
When class is finished I have been enjoying exploring Kyoto by bicycle. I bought a second hand bike and have negotiated a free parking space with a friend I have made who works at the local 7/11 convenience store. She provides parking for 5 weeks and I give her my bike at the end. Yes – you have to have a registered parking space in Kyoto as there is not much spare space in the streets. I found out the hard way.
If any of you get here in your travels, I'd recommend hiring a bike for the day to check out the bike paths along the rivers rather than dodging pedestrians who don't seem to stick to any particular side. You can actually get through temple grounds much quicker but if you want to get off you must park in the designated zones. Daily rentals about $10 A day.
A trip along the riverside offers an alternative insight into Japanese life (I recommend early morning.) Tai Chi and yoga, swooping eagles, crane-like birds standing in the water waiting for fish, a family of deer chomping on grass, net fishing, trumpet music practice under bridges because of great acoustics and annoyed neighbours. I was even given my own special demonstration of flag waving. I will include a few screen shots of my videos. Not good quality but you get the idea. Oh and the kids jumping in the river in my attached pics had already done it several times before I videoed them. They Narrowly missed rocks from 5 metres up. Crazy, school holidays.
Parking can be tricky in town unless you scout out the free parking stations in advance which are often underground, eg under playgrounds! or you keep a close eye on your bike. I actually stacked mine and now have a couple of gorgeous bruises but I will live. I went into a shop for 10 minutes to get some ice for my battered self esteem and the bike parking police confiscated my bike. 2 hours of walking and a long bus ride to the collection station to pay my ¥2300 ($25) fine and I'm on wheels again. The edge of the road has a tricky rise to it – watch out for that!
Loving my time here and I send you some warm weather wishes,