Chelsea Neal
2009-10 Outbound to Japan

Hometown: Naples, Florida
School: Naples HS
Sponsor: Naples Rotary Club, District 6960, Florida
Host: Sendai South Rotary Club, District 2520, Japan

Chelsea's Bio

Konnichiwa! I’m Chelsea A. Neal, but my friends call me Hat. I am totally excited about going to Japan; it has been my dream to go there since the Pokemon era, about… ten to eleven years ago. I am a junior at Naples High School, home of the Golden Eagles.

I live with my mom, sister, and 6 cats. All my cats have been rescued from somewhere and they are more like us than anyone would think. My sister is a senior at Naples High and is aspiring to go to England. My mom works for D. Garret Construction Co. and for Maxwell’s Restaurant. Even between these jobs she has time to have fun with us.

I love music a ton, mainly listening to it, but I play a variety of instruments. I play the piano, harmonica, and a little bit of trumpet. I mainly love to try and play songs just by listening to them but if that doesn’t work I print out sheet music. I usually like to play anime theme music, like from Inuyasha, Naruto, Kingdom Hearts, Bleach, and a lot more.

What I love to do the most is to play Yugioh cards. Most of my closest friends play too, and together, we have a ball. We go to tournaments in Cape Coral, most of the time to play, trade, and mess around. In the future we all hope to open our own gaming store, but the details I won’t reveal. My friends are the greatest; they are always fun to be around even if we’re just lying around in the grass.

My life is really laid back; through the week it’s just school, friends on the weekend, then more school. School usually has me bogged down with work and with nary a break for rest. That’s why my weekends I devote to hanging out with my friends.

That about sums up my life; house, hobbies, and friends. I thank everyone that helped to get me to where I am. My parents for being so supportive, my friends for always having my back, and my city for being the most rocking place I know of. And to the Rotary for helping me to realize my dream.

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Chelsea's Journals

August 24 Journal

Starting off, Japan is a wonderful country full of adventure around every corner big and small. I never experienced so much in a year back in America as I have in one month here.

The people I’ve met have all been so generous to me. From my host family consisting of Rotary Youth Exchange Officer, and also my host father, Shuji Kato, his wife Midori Kato and three daughters Natsuki, Tamaki, and Mizuki.

So many other people have truly helped me a lot and from different areas. To Rotary members Mr. Matsuda and Mr. Brian is my Principal and Co-homeroom teacher respectively. Plus my new international friends, Rotary exchanges Rhys from Kansas, Victor from France, and Karin from Mexico. All the Rotexes are very helpful as well, especially my good friend Chihiro who had just returned from her exchange in Florida and also Ryota who just came back from Minnesota. We are all good friends. At school the day I posted this, I met my class - there are only nine students including myself so this should be a fun and close group.

With every good adventure come some amazing places. First day as a group the Inbounds and Rotexes followed some Rotary members around through an open market. Every kind of fish you could imagine could be found there, including octopus, and squid, crabs of all different variety, plus slippery eels.

While Japan is great, in the city there is nothing like visiting a Shinto shrine or a Buddhist temple. Lucky for me I have visited two different Shrines and Temples for many different reasons each time. The first shrine however was probably the most memorable. We inbounds were taken inside the shrine, and that is a very rare thing to be able to do, and were all blessed by the Shinto priests and their gods. My temple experiences were quite enjoyable as well. My first summer festival I went to a Buddhist temple and was honored by a group of dancers with an excellent present of pride.

The city of Sendai itself is a large adventure. I have gotten lost almost every time I enter the city, but finding two distinct locations make travel much easier.

One of these places is Ichiban Chou, the biggest mall I’ve ever seen. This mall is an outdoor mall but it stretches out across many of the major streets of Sendai, it would take about a half hour just to cross all of it. Especially during Tanabata festival. This festival is to celebrate the union of two stars who are parted by the Milky Way. As celebration all of Sendai is decorated with large paper decorations hanging from large bamboo poles in the middle of the walkways of Ichiban Chou while millions of people are walking through admiring the colorful and unique designs.

Another important place my school, Tokiwagi Gakuen. When typing this journal I had just come back from my first day of school. Such a wonderful campus with clean floors and warm smiles. I’m lucky enough to be right on time to see their school festival this weekend, which should be exciting.

Another great adventure within the adventure is the exploration of food. Food is so vast and colorful in Japan, not like the colorful ads of fast food restaurants. So interesting is their food, from octopus rolled up into deep battered dough, green rice with a hint of sugary flavor, and most importantly the many varieties of ramen. Not the ramen from a cup but genuine ramen straight from the cook.

That is it for my review of this past month’s adventure in Japan. I hope that everyone around the world reading this have a wonderful loads of happiness, luck, health, and adventure every day.

Until next time we meet

October 24 Journal

Hello everyone, welcome to this month’s update! How is everyone? I hope you’re all having some great adventures. I’ve had quite a few.

First thing was the three weeks of barbeques in a row. There was a barbeque for three Sundays straight. Quite fun, the first and second barbeques were at Kato-san’s house. At the first barbeque, I met my little sister Mizuki’s Assistant Language Teacher Topaz, who is from Jamaica, and her colleague, who is also an Assistant Language Teacher at Mizuki’s school, Renata from Barbados. The second barbeque I met some of Kato-san’s friends. One of them says hi to my dad! He is a fellow Rat of the Chinese zodiac.

Third barbeque was way north of the city of Sendai. We were surrounded by chestnut trees, which is an autumn favorite here. We all picked chestnuts and the women and children, plus the Rotary club Chairman, went to pick apples. People at the picnic were of course Kato-san and Tamaki, Mito-sensei an English teacher from school who helps me out a lot. My principal Mr. Matsura, I also met his wife, and most surprisingly I met someone from Italy, I forget exactly where in Italy but she is from the northern part of Italy.

I ate quite a lot at each barbeque and all were different styles and dishes. Most memorable food would be a special traditional autumn soup, scallops, oysters, octopus, and most regrettably pig intestines. Everything on this list was beyond awesome except the pig intestines. I’m not even going to describe why because just the name itself should sound too weird to be good.

Next interesting thing that happened, I have moved. Yes I have moved from the Kato’s house. I do miss the Kato’s but my new family is beyond nice. The new family are called Gushi and they consist of Tomokatsu (Papa), Minako (Mama), older sister Honoka (Hono), younger sister Wakana who goes to the same school as me, and 2 year old baby Kuryu (Ku-chan). They are tons of mega fun, although I moved in with them about 2 weeks ago it still feels new to me since I went on my school trip like right after moving.

And now here is the most exciting part of the update: Chelsea Neal’s Japanese School Trip to Kansai!!!!

Kansai is an area of Japan west of Tokyo. The cities I went to are Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara for 6 days and 5 nights. There were a total of 130 girls on the trip. We were all split into four major groups depending on our teacher and again split into smaller groups. My group consisted of five girls, Shiori and Yuka, who are the leaders of our bigger group, Hikaru, and Arisa. There was also Miho who would hang out with us whenever we had free time.

First was getting to Osaka airport. We all flew to the Osaka Itami airport from Sendai and when we took off and landed all the 130 girls on the trip started freaking out and screaming. I guess they’ve never been on a plane before haha.

When we got to the airport we took a bus to the train station where we were to ride a Shidensha! Or Bullet Train! When it came into the station I was able to take a picture of it so I’m happy. In the shidensha it is super comfortable, even though I had my backpack with me (instead of doing the smart thing and putting it in the truck with all the other girl’s wheelie bags) I had plenty of leg room.

So the the Shidensha went all the way to Hiroshima, from there we drove and took a boat to the Miyajima Shrine. Some of you may know it as the shrine with a giant gate out in the ocean. Although it was low tide that day so I saw it on land. We traveled around the island that the shrine was on and the whole entire island had tons of deer on it. The deer were just walking around sometimes following people. The tour guide said that if we want we were allowed to feed the deer paper.

The shrine itself is extremely massive; it took about a half hour to 45 minutes just to tour the whole thing. Although I didn’t get to get up close to the gate. Another part of the shrine is a large Pagoda; I took many pictures of it.

On the island there are numerous shops and funnily a lot of foreign tourists. Apparently the island’s special product are wooden rice paddles, they even have a giant rice paddle. So I bought a rice paddle… I may never use it since in America I don’t own a rice cooker.

After the island we took a yacht, yes, 130 girls all on a yacht, to our hotel the Grand Prince Hotel Hiroshima. Such a strange hotel, in the lobby there is a flat marble like surface that during the day water flows over it with a church like walkway (for weddings I suppose) and what I believe to be Jesus riding a Dolphin behind a podium.

The rooms were huge and had the most comfortable beds in all of foreverdom. And at dinner… I felt like I was at Hogwarts in the great hall. Don’t laugh - I mean it! We were all seated at four tables separated by our groups (I hope I was in Gryffindor) and food kept magically appearing on the tables when we were eating. Well, magically is an exaggeration, more like the butlers kept bringing out different dishes. There were these awesome potatoes that tasted like Alfredo pasta, I wish there would have been some shrimp with it.

Next day we went to the Hiroshima memorial peace park, so much sad stories and pictures I dare not put them up. Although the experience was a great one.

After that we went to eat a special Kansai specialty called Okinomiyaki. It is basically noodles plus pretty much anything with over easy eggs as the covering with a very special sauce, it was very delicious.

Then we went to Kobe where there is an area that is designed like the olden days of Japan. In it we went to an art gallery that had a bunch of paintings by famous artists such as Monet, and Renoir. After the gallery we all walked around the street, fed the koi fish and my group went to a tea house and ate green tea ice cream.

Next we went to the famous Kobe Bay where we went on a dinner cruise around Kobe Bay. So much good food it was awesome. After everyone ate we went on top of the deck and everyone was making references to Titanic.

Next day, we went to see a play. The theater is called Takarazuka and this theater is very famous for its very melodramatic performances, lavish costumes, and most importantly, all the actors are women. Yes no male actors and all the women doing male roles did extraordinary jobs at their roles, so well sometimes I got confused and thought they were guys. This play was the most special one, for one of their top leading actresses was retiring (by now is retried) so she took the starring role. There were actually two separate performances separated by a lunch break. The first performance was a drama about a pianist name Alister who almost died playing piano and so gave it up, ended up joining a new friend named Christopher as an Antique dealer, with squabbles with gang members along the way. The second was a stage show called Heat on Beat where many different music types were explored in a very flashy manner. At the end all of the girl actresses and the two lead boy actresses came out in very feathery attire. The lead who was retiring was in the most feathery; with a large white peacock like tail and many feathery accessories (Peta would have a fit).

After that we went to a section of Kobe where long ago western foreigners built magnificent houses. The area is called the Old Foreigners Market. And close to the major section where there are many old buildings to visit, my group went to a nearby Teddy Bear Museum. Yes, a Teddy Bear Museum. The museum owner is a very intelligent woman who is an English teacher. Here is how good she is, all the English teachers in Osaka city once a year all go to her to learn English, and she helps with contracts in between countries. Remarkable.

Then we went all the way to the Universal Studios Japan Port Hotel. Right next to the park. We went to eat at the Chinese food buffet. Again, lots of food.

Then the next day we went to Universal Studios Japan! To tell you the truth it wasn’t as much fun for me, well I don’t ride roller coasters so I waited while my group (which was on that day moment Hikaru, Arisa, and Miho). Although I rode on both the Jaws ride and the Spiderman ride. The Jaws ride was hilarious; the boat driver was an amazingly funny actor. But the Spiderman ride kind of freaked me out. It was a 3D ride where you drive around a bit, no rollercoaster like drops but there was a ton of spinning and getting freaked out by the villains. After that we went shopping, I only got one thing though (saving money) but I can’t tell you what it is, it’s a present for a friend who reads this update.

After the park we traveled straight to our hotel in Kyoto.

Then FREE DAY IN KYOTO!

Kyoto was fun; we went to this gold temple (although the gold part was being repaired) where there was this love stone, it is said that whoever walks safely with their eyes closed from one stone to the other something super special awesome will happen with their love life. If you fail it will be a long time till you experience love. I did the test just so I could test how well I could do it and I passed. I don’t think anything will happen though.

After the temple my group on that day (Shiori, Yuka, and two friends from a different group) wanted to hang out just them, so I got to hang out with the sensei’s rest of the day. We went to a restaurant where most of the dishes are tofu of some sort, although there was this mountain potato gruel type stuff that tasted wonderful on rice. Then we went to a special park. This park is actually a studio lot used by one of the biggest TV show companies, Toei Studios, where they shoot dramas. What kind of dramas? Awesome samurai and ninja old school fighting dramas! The park was amazing, all the buildings were in the old style of ancient Kyoto and I met a samurai and a ninja! I also took part in a shuriken (ninja throwing stars) throwing game and won a Harisen, a stage prop that looks like a fan frequently used for hitting people (my friends better run hehe). I also bought my own shuriken which I’ll be making into a necklace… I really hope when I get home that I won’t be questioned as a terrorist or something.

Well that’s really all of Kyoto. So on to the last day in Nara.

It was actually pretty boring, great places but boring. Nara Park like at the Miyajima shrine had a ton of deer, including lots of baby deer. We saw the giant Buddha statue in the largest Buddhist temple. After that we went to another temple which (sadly) completely bored me because I couldn’t take any pictures of the statues and almost none of the buildings.

Overall though my trip was a massive amount of fun and a great experience, now I’m at home finally resting. Wondering what my next great adventure will be.

I must make a big shout out. HI ELAINE WELCOME HOME!

Today my sister Elaine has come back from her three months in Marines Boot Camp and I’m happy to hear she’s in one piece, I hope to talk with her on skype, make sure if you have at least my mother’s email give her a hello. I’d give you Elaine’s email myself, but truthfully she never has given it to me.

Until next month Sayonara! And have a Happy Halloween!

November 24th Journal

When I got back from my trip, all of my classmates of international 2nd year went to America on their exchange and wouldn’t be back for two weeks. So instead of just me by myself in the 2nd year class, the teachers placed me in my little sister’s class, the 1st year international class!

I forgot to mention this about my school, but there are actually two separate buildings, an old building and a new building. The old building has almost all of the 1st years and 2nd years, and the new building has all the third years, 1st and 2nd year music class, and 2nd year classes 6, 7, 8, and international. So when I transferred to my sister’s class I had to go to the other building. Not much of a difference though, all chalkboards in all the classes.

The homeroom teachers for the first years are Alex the Canadian, and another English teacher Mrs. Miyuki. Mrs. Miyuki is a superbly nice person and fun too. The students were all fun to hang out with too. But, my past theory about international students getting to have no math is now proven wrong.

New class, new schedule, not much difference, except only one type of Japanese class, Japanese history switched to World History (very fun since I understand world history), and every day I had a math class. Unlike other classes where you stay in the same class and the teachers come to your class, we went to a different class. The teachers still had to come to us though. Either way I still was very confused in math class. Thought I’d understand it since, hey it’s the language of math, but no I never understood math language either.

The first exciting event to happen though was of course HALLOWEEN! On the Wednesday before Halloween we had just come back from math for our long homeroom to see the class covered with Halloween decorations. Alex’s favorite holiday is Halloween so he asked his family back at home to send him decorations, and for long homeroom we all helped to decorate the room.

But then Friday, day before Halloween, we had to move the decorations to the 2nd year international classroom because not only was it Halloween, it was also the open house for the school to try and get middle schoolers to come to our school next year.

On Halloween I had to go to the school to help everyone out, we played some Halloween games with the middle school students that came and gave reports on the awesomeness that is Tokiwagi exchange program. Not much else happened that day so now onto the month of November!

Throughout this month I’ve been introduced to many members of the Gushi family, and they are all tons of fun. There is Grandma (Obaasan), Ki-chan (Mama’s sister), Ryusei (Ki-chan’s 7 year old son), Yasai Obasan (Mama’s aunt who grows vegetables=yasai), and Chi-chan (Mama’s cousin).

That next Tuesday the 3rd was a Japanese culture day! And so Monday night Papa, Mama, Waka, Hono, Ku-chan, Ryusei, and I went to a hot spring. If you don’t know what a hot spring is I’ll explain. A hot spring, or in Japanese, onsen, is an open air bathhouse that is commonly near a volcano or other area of warm activity that naturally heats up the water for a refreshing experience. It was a separated bath, so girls to one side, boys to the other, except Ku-chan, he doesn’t like to be away from Mama.

Next day on culture day Obaasan, Ki-chan, and Ryusei all came over and we had a big dinner, it was very fun.

On that next Friday I returned to my regular 2nd year international class. It was great to have them back but I will miss the fun of the younger class. But in one class or the other it didn’t make much of a difference, because everyone in the school was preparing for the midterm exam, which when I’m typing this the first day of exams have been completed. I’m actually not taking exams because 1. I wasn’t here for the first semester of classes so I would not know of that material, and 2. I will be taking a test to test my current level of Japanese, mainly with Kanji.

The next exciting thing that happened was about two weeks later. Alex and Miyuki-sensei asked me to go with them to a middle school a little ways off to the north to talk to some middle school students and get them to come to our school. The middle schoolers were really fun, we played some games with them and taught them a little English. We only taught two classes but kids would stop Alex and I to try and practice their English. Their English was really good too. In one game they had to write words on the board that began with the last words last letter and they used words I wouldn’t see being taught and remembered using, like mode. And many of them spelled orange right which is hard because here orange is pronounced o-ren-ji.

Also, Christmas is just around the corner, and even though not even 1% of the Japanese people are Christian, Christmas is still very much celebrated. But, as Brian-sensei from Ireland told me, unlike in America the sales don’t happen till after New Years. There is this tradition here in Sendai that during these sales a lot of the shops sell bags of goods that, for example, cost $50 but what is inside the bag is a bundle of goods worth about $150. I might try to find a video game shop or any other shop and try to get one. It is all a part of embracing the culture right?

There was also this holiday back on the 7th called Shichi-go-san which means 7-5-3. It is the day where boys and girls, girls of 7 and 3 and boys of 5, go to Japanese shrines to get blessed. Mama, Ku-chan, and I went to see the festivities at the biggest shrine in the area and Mama told me about the gods that lived there. Afterwards I started studying more about these gods and other gods in the area.

The shrine is called Shiogama Shrine in Shiogama city. The god who rules there is named Shiogama, of course, which means Salt Kiln in Japanese. Shiogama is a very large god who rules over the ocean nearby to Shiogama city. He is also the god of successful childbirth, matchmaking, and of luck in financial business. He also happens to have a small shrine in Sendai that I pass by on my way to school so I always stop to say good morning.

Next two gods are Shiogama’s subordinates, Shiwahiko (Will Wave), and Okama (Kiln). Shiwahiko is also a god of the ocean, but just the ocean, he lives at the same big shrine as Shiogama. Okama is the god of salt; he is very small and lives nearby Shiogama but not in the main shrine.

There’s also this god that I refer to as Sanko, because I do not know his name. He lives at the Shiogama’s small shrine in Sendai. I just noticed him today so tomorrow I’ll read about him and see what he does and tell you about him.

Last god is my current awesome favorite. His name is Gongoro Kagemasa. He is the closest god to my house living at Kamakura Shrine right next to the station I go to. It is a very small shrine, looking very much like a tool shed. At the shrine there are these three stray cats, a mother and two kittens, they are so cute! But I’m not sure if I should report them to someone or what, but I think they are happy where they are. Anyway, Gongoro really isn’t a god but a samurai who is forever famous for his brave accomplishments in battle. So brave, that when he died the people of the city he lived in, which is much farther south than where I am, built a shrine for him. The shrine here is again, just a small shrine, but with the same importance as his larger shrine.

That’s about all the exciting things that happened. Well until next time ...

To the Americans, Happy Thanksgiving!

To all the other countries, Happy Holidays.

And to everyone, I miss you and wish you all the luck, health, and happiness in the world.

Love always,

Chelsea Neal

a.k.a. Keeping Many People Happy

December 24th Journal

The first thing to happen in October was the Rotary Club Annual Picnic. We drove a long ways up north to what I believe to be on top of some large hill or small mountain.

We were in a small clearing surrounded by chestnut trees (yes from the Christmas song). The women and children including me were able to pick apples and afterwards everyone enjoyed a big feast of barbeque meat and veggies. After eating, we all went and picked some chestnuts, very difficult, for your hands keep getting prickled with thorns.

A few days after the picnic I had to move to my 2nd host family called the Gushi family. Although it didn’t feel like that’s when I moved since two days after that I went on my school trip to Kansai.

My school trip was a 6 day 5 night trip to the cities of Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. The first day we went to Miyajima Island which is right off the coast of Hiroshima. The island is not only famous for the gate on the water but also for its great number of deer, and rice paddles.

Second day we went to the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park, there were many sad places in the park. The thing that impacted me the most though was in the memorial museum was on one of the first walls was a message saying,

“A dragonfly flitted in front of me

And stopped on a fence.

I stood up, took my cap in my hands,

And was about to catch the dragon fly

When…”

It shows that before the bomb this was a regular day just like any other.

After that and some okonomyaki, we all went to the small city of Kurashiki to visit an art museum and explore the old fashioned street. Then a long drive to Kobe to sail on the bay in a dinner buffet cruise.

Next day we went to see a special showing of a Takarazuka play, which is a theater troop made entirely of women. We ate lunch there, then departed for the old foreigners' market, where one could find many buildings from when European settlers built themselves homes. Some buildings were turned into museums, including a teddy bear museum. After that we went to Universal Studios Japan to settle into our hotel and eat at a Chinese buffet.

The next day was the all day adventure through Universal Studios Japan. I explored pretty much everywhere and rode on the Jaws and Spiderman rides. Both were a very fun experience to ride on.

The free day in Kyoto the next day was my favorite; my group went to the golden temple although the golden part was being reconstructed. Then I went to a studio lot park where Toei studios films Japanese war dramas among other things.

Last day we went to Nara to visit Nara Park, which had many deer, and two Buddhist temples. One had the large Nara Buddha inside it, and the other wouldn’t allow pictures.

When I got back from my trip my classmates of 2nd year international were in America on a short school trip. So until they returned I stayed in the 1st International class with my new host sister Wakana. In that class I had to undergo math, world history, and home economics.

But we all got to celebrate Halloween since Alex-sensei is the homeroom teacher. So Alex brought in some decorations and during the middle school open house played some fun Halloween games with the middle school student that was interested in joining Tokiwagi.

My 2nd host family was very kind to me for the two months I lived there. With my host mother, sisters, little brother Ku-chan, cousin Ryu, and many other relatives I explored much of the culture of Japan. I believe 3 times I was able to go to a hot spring with my family.

And my host mother took Ku-chan and I to a large shrine in Shiogama city, one of the three great sites in Japan, and also took Aunt Ki-chan and Ryu along to another shrine.

The seasons in Japan are really beautiful, from the autumn leaves to the cheerful feelings of Christmas. I love how you can celebrate Christmas without actually being Christian.

Near the start of December and the end of my stay with my 2nd host family I went on a trip with fellow Rotary inbounds, Rhys, Karen, and Victor, to pretty much share our culture with some college students. In the middle of the first day Sato-san took us to a large famous temple that had a golden hall used to protect ancestors.

We had an amazing time; the hotel had an onsen, an ice skating rink, a small playground, and most awesomely, a golf course. Most of the above we all did with the college students, but Rhys, Karen, and I all found the golf game and found it to be quite fun, then later on we got Victor to play too.

After that fun filled three days I returned home and almost immediately was switched to my 3rd host family. So far in this new house I’ve had experienced great fun although I’ve only been with this family for almost 2 weeks.

I went to a soccer game with my younger host sister, who happens to be going to Oklahoma for a short term Rotary youth exchange. My family also took me out to the Hikari no Pageant, Pageant of Light. An annual celebration here in Sendai. All the trees were lit, one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

And just yesterday I learned how to make mochi, mashed rice, it is supremely easy and really fun. It’s healthy for you too.

Lastly I am happy to say that it started snowing here in Japan. I haven’t seen snow for over five years so I’m really happy to be able to experience the warm feeling you get when you see snow.

And the immense amount of fun. Before our school went to winter break we all in my class messed around outside on the balcony and in the classroom throwing snowballs at each other.

And that is the end of my update. One wise word and a bit of exciting news you all may have not realized yet.

I’m at the half way point of my journey here; I’ve spent exactly five months here in Japan and according to what the Florida Youth Exchange heads have told me I have five more to go.

My advice is, have an adventure everyday no matter how small. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m going to end this now.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year of the Tiger

Loving everyone always and forever,

Chelsea Neal

a.k.a Hat

Keeping Many People Happy

P.S. instead of uploading the pictures like usual, I made a slide show of pictures from my trip, starting from where I left off in the October update. Here is the link to the video: http://video.yahoo.com/watch/6657017/17291620 

March 24 Journal

Hello everyone! And welcome to the March Monthly Update. I’m sorry that there was no update last month, I had quite a lot on my plate and afterwards had to rest for quite a bit, thank goodness we had some holiday time here in Japan.

So I’ll start off with all the excitement of February. First in school there was a chorus contest where we had to sing 2 songs, a pre-chosen song and a song of our class’s choice. This contest was actually supposed to be in December but so many students caught the influenza that the contest had to be postponed. So after months of practice and lunch time nap deprivation the chorus contest was a great success. There were many great vocals including one of a well known Japanese song called Yell by Ikimonogakari or if you can read this on your computer いきものがかり. My class didn’t place but we got an honorable mention because our class was the only that both songs were played on the piano by the same person (since we only have 11 people in the class).

And right after that a sports contest was announced, this involved all the 2nd years competing in dodge ball, volleyball, and basketball. We didn’t train for this as much for we were on a crunch for time with studying for exams so when the game competition day came we did kind of bad. But we had tons of fun anyway. It was interesting watching the teachers vs. students in volleyball and basketball. My principal Matsura-sensei even played basketball, before game he was showing off by getting constant 3 pointers.

All of the school contests now are over and done with and all the students were busy studying for exams… except me. I had a Rotary club Japanese speech contest. Prior to these other contests and a little afterwards I studied and memorized my speech to my best ability, mid way having to completely change my speech. Day of I was really nervous as I get extremely uncomfortable with going on stages. Yes, I know that I’m known for my acting skills by some of you but behind the scenes I tremble in my boots. The worst part was though I was the first person to make my speech. So I said my speech, I bet poorly and when on a crunch for time superbly improvised, a ways into the contest after my friend Karen’s speech I had to leave early. There was a tsunami coming and my host grandma, who happened to come and watch, had to go evacuate her house. So you know, everyone and everything is ok, there was no damage done to relatives houses. Afterwards I asked Karen about what went on with the contest and someone from South Korea had won the contest.

During all this the 3rd years at school had all taken their exams and after the speech contest was their graduation ceremony. There was a going away performance some time before that and all the teachers put on a couple of hilarious performances, I wish I could have taken pictures but I don’t think I was allowed to. They even did a Michael Jackson “Guess that ghost teacher” kind of performance. There were two teachers starring as Michael Jackson and everyone was like ‘who’s that second Michael Jackson’ but… it was so obviously Matsura-sensei. I’m surprised that everyone else was surprised. So at the actual ceremony many tears were shed as the 2nd and 1st years had to say goodbye to their mentors. I even cried, because there was this one moment when all the third years all together thank they’re mothers and fathers and home room teachers and it was just so sweet how they all seriously were going to miss their school and I know that will never EVER happen in an American school… ever.

And so the tiresome month of February came to an end. Next was the very interesting month of March.

The 2nd and 1st years took their exams as I kind of chilled and worked on Florida Virtual School stuff. After all that we got school off although it wasn’t technically spring break yet. It was mostly just relaxing getting work done but two very important events happened within this time.

First on the 14th was the anniversary of the death of my host mother’s father, so some relatives got together to mourn and properly place him in the Buddhist temple’s graveyard. Day before though I went with my host sisters, little brother, aunt Ki-chan and her son Ryu, Grandma, and two uncles, Yoshi and Hide, went to a bowling alley. It was great amounts of fun, especially seeing the two brothers battle it out. Uncle Yoshi is from Okinawa and had just gotten here, a very fun person (all the beer in your fridge will be gone by the time he leaves) he’s the type of uncle that likes to spoil people so Ryu somehow coaxed him into buying him a DSi since he liked playing with mine so much. After bowling we went to Mama’s job to eat (for free I think) until Mama got off work. Papa joined us there too, he had just come all the way from Gunma-ken (way down south of Miyagi-ken) to come and visit.

Anyways with the funeral we all wore black (no not kimonos sorry) and went into the temple to pray and offer incenses. After that we all went to Grandma’s house, which happened to be a bar, and we all ate snacks, watched TV, and talked about various things. Later that night we went to a special restaurant where you cook the food you order in front of you. For the first time I was able to try Sendai’s most well known food… cow tongue! It was actually really delicious to my surprise though quite hard to chew. There were all sorts of other tasty cow parts too which I don’t know from where they were from. But I’ll probably not eat any of these again, especially once I get back to the states where we lack such exotic tastes.

And thus ended the interesting funeral day. But the next week was another similar and interesting adventure.

I went with my host mother and host grandmother, plus little brother Ku-chan of course, we went to the temple where the ceremony from last time was to put up fresh flowers and offer incenses again. But the most interesting was that we went to visit a, to me, new relative. From my perspective I was thinking, huh this is an interesting house I wonder why we’re here. Living there was a woman in a wheel chair named Kozue who is my host mother’s cousin, she takes care of the true owner of the house. Her name is Tomeno, she is my host grandmother’s grandmother at the age of 97 or 98. I was just simply amazed by not only the fact that I was meeting probably the oldest member of the family but that, though she was bed stricken, was still very much alive and well. Shows how much a family can care for each other. Right after we left that house some more relatives had just gotten there as well.

And lastly today was the last official day of school, we went to school just to have our closing ceremony and say goodbye to each other for students will switch classes and I may actually have to be in the 2nd year international course one more time instead of advancing to the 3rd year. This day was interesting, first I was actually able to understand my principal’s speech, which I think was the first time I could understand a whole speech spoken in normal speed. I also was able to sing almost my entire school anthem with everyone. In homeroom, our last homeroom, we had fun just hanging out taking pictures, we said our goodbyes to our homeroom teachers and that was that.

So now I just await my next adventure, which would be Spring Camp. I will be going with fellow foreign exchange students Rhys, Karen, and Victor to Yamagata-ken to help new future outbounds to get ready for their exchange trip. My host sister Wakana will be getting ready to go to Brazil, very exciting.

In other news I will be moving again for the 5th time to my 4th host family although I only have 2 months left in Japan. I start my return home on the 27th of May, approved by all Rotarians that needed to approve it.

It’s really coming down to the wire now; the next update will probably be the last one. So till then, I wish ever one all the best luck and happiness in the world.

From World Traveler,

Chelsea Neal

Keeping Many People Happy

April 24 Journal

Hello everyone around the world. Welcome to the April Edition of the monthly update! This month started the ever so famous spring of Japan. Only just a few days ago the Sakura cherry blossom trees began to bloom all over Sendai. Though this spring is by far the coldest I’ve ever experienced at 44 degrees everyday and occasional rain showers.

There was lots of goings on with the Rotary Club this month. First up was the Spring Camp that I had mentioned last update. This was a meeting and training camp very much similar to the camps that I had went to before leaving for Japan. It was in Yamagata prefecture which is directly west of my prefecture Miyagi. Not just my District but another Rotary District was there.

There were many Rotarians but also some new exchange student friends plus some local assistant language teachers. The other inbounds were all very fun to hang out with, there is Travis from Canada an interesting guy, and considering this meeting was right after the Winter Olympics we had plenty to talk about, Michelle another American this time from Oregon, she loves to listen to music and sing karaoke, and Manon from France a well cultured girl for sure very polite and loves the hot springs. The new students going abroad included my host sister Wakana who is going to Brazil, a boy from my district named Shinji who is going to Minnesota, another girl named Wakana going to Ohio, and 3 more girls one going to Mexico, one to France, and another to Oregon. And lastly the ALT’s all were very fun and I wish I could have talked with them more. There were two English guys, 2 girls from New Zealand and 1 girl from California. And there were many new Rotexs that went all over, most all were girls but a significant few were guys. Including Stitch! Yes his name is Stitch he went to America.

So at the camp we pretty much just helped the future outbounds with their English/French/Spanish/ Portuguese and had fun with doing it through different “What do you do?” scenarios like a cafeteria and an airport. It was all around fun, though I was extremely tired the whole weekend for some reason I still managed to stay active. Although we did all stay up till way late one night, Victor and I were the only ones I think that got any sleep and that was at like 3 in the morning.

Now onto the next event, the District 2520 Gala Event Special! First thing after lunch me and my host sister Wakana plus a couple more Tokiwagi students went to help hold up some signboards showing all the Rotary members from all of the clubs in the entire district in two whole prefectures where a meeting was being held. Then afterwards we exchange students and some Rotex went onto a huge stage (on the 6th floor of a hotel) and Kato-san, my first host father and chairman of the Rotary Youth Exchange over here, and Rhys, exchange student from Kansas, made a small speech about the program. Then all of us Rotex and exchange students plus Wakana and Shinji went to Pirikura (Japanese arcade’s special photo booth) and a café to hang out. Then some time later we returned to a different hotel. This hotel was filled with tons of elaborate paintings and statues from all over the world; I could barely keep myself from jumping around from all the culture around me. But the “piece de resistance” on the 5th floor we enter a large room. Do you know of when you watch a movie and you see all the rich people gathered in a large hall and they're all eating from a tremendously large buffet and drinking expensive wine and beer? That’s where I was - most amazing spread of people and food in my life. In all honesty I think I almost passed out there were just so many people. But I got through it, had some educational conversations with a few of the Rotarians including one Rotarian from Iwate who loves to go to movies, we had tons to talk about and a Chinese man who I know from my own club. Probably never again will I be able to be in such an awesome gala event like that but the memory is with me forever (but no pictures, my camera died).

The last Rotary event of the month, I went to an Ohanami or Sakura viewing party, this event was all districts as well but only a few representatives from each district. Among the people from my district were Kato-san, Shiromatsu-san president of my club and a famous photographer. This event was held at Shiromatsu-san’s Shiromatsu snacks factory, I can’t believe I didn’t realize the free snacks I won at Christmas bingo came from the president. even though there technically was no Sakura, the party was really an excuse just to drink and have fun (don’t worry I didn’t drink, scout's honor). The party was great I was given a small tour of the two Shrines that were there, one’s name is Shrio-Kitsune and the other was (something)-Matsu. Also Shiromatsu-san’s older brother Ichiro Shiromatsu decided to plan a big birthday party for me May 2nd, I tried to deny politely but they insisted, especially Kato-san. Though this will be awesome, because my sister will be coming to visit then from Okinawa.

This month I also went to the local zoo. There were many sorts of animals including Red Pandas, Polar Bears and my favorite a Tanuki, or falsely known as a Korean dog. I went with my host mom, host brother, mom’s sister, and nephew Ryu. It was my little brother’s first visit to the zoo and he had quite a lot of fun at the goat area where some zoo keepers gave kids leaves so they could feed the goats.

This month also started my days as a 3rd year in high school. So now I’m a senior in both America and Japan. My classmates are the same except one of them Ayaka was switched to a different room. But luckily she still comes to eat with us and is in all our P.E. classes. Also we have new homeroom teachers, Kuroda-sensei also our English reading teacher and Kishi-sensei our Global Understanding teacher. Though I only have a month left here I will make the most of it.

If you don’t already know I’m scheduled to return to America on May 27th, I still have a few more great adventures ahead of me during this trip.

This month has taught me a great deal. That no matter who we are or where we come from, differences never matter when we all come together to party and socialize. And even if you may never see someone again every person you meet is important and for whatever reason you should welcome the reason with open arms and a perceptive mind.

One last thing, I have a new name now and it is very fitting with this new spring season. Here in Japan my name Chelsea is pronounced Cherushi. Most people call me Cheru-chan but some call me Cheri-chan (-chan is a suffix used with young girls and small children). Cheri sounds like Cherry and Cherry Blossom is Sakura. Plus Sea is Umi. So my newest name is Sakura-Umi, Sea of Cherry Blossoms. I like this name - it gives me many bounds of happiness.

I leave you now with this. The Sakura though beautiful pink and bright will only stay for a fleeting moment, and so does the beautiful season of spring that breaks the coldness of winter. But never let the end of this season and the falling petals make you lose your smile, keep the warm spring of happiness within your heart and soul, and like the proud Sakura tree bloom and brighten for all the world to see. And perhaps through the warm sun of your spring smile you may let another heart’s spring bloom bright.

Hope everyone has a wonderful spring and all the luck this season has to bring.

From,

Chelsea Neal

Sakura-Umi

Keeping Many People Happy