Michael Chiong
2009-10 Outbound to Japan

Hometown: Vero Beach, Florida
School: St. Edwards School
Sponsor: Vero Beach Sunrise Rotary Club, District 6930, Florida
Host: Hakusan Rotary Club, District 2610, Japan

Michael C's Bio

KONNICHI WA!!! or HELLO!!! I'm Michael Chiong. I am 15 and a sophomore at Saint Edward School in the quiet little town of Vero Beach, but Vero is only quiet when I'm not around, because I love my music. I am proficient in violin, piano, and guitar; however, I have played many other instruments and hope to learn more as times goes by. I am also interested in politics on the educational level with AP Gov online and being a member/co-founder of the Indian river TARS (Teenage Republicans).

I openly admit to being a computer geek and I have no problem with that seeing as it's what I love to do. I have my fair share of video games and computer software, but that became insufficient for me. I wanted to know how it was done, so...guess what I'm taking - AP computer science and I've learned all the hidden bells and whistles of a computer because it's something I have a passion for.

When school is over you can find me playing for my school football team, rowing on the crew team, or making up my own music. Outside of my school activities I literally am outside. I love outdoor activities especially rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, scuba diving, anything outdoors.

My friends are great; they come from every high school in Indian River County and John Carroll and I love spending time with them. They're all so funny and all have different attributes that make them my friends. Some people call me crazy, creative, funny, strange, strong, and a significant amount of people call me cob. Strange name right? But, as you can see I'm considered a strange guy. I like being strange sometimes, it makes me different from the crowd. I love learning about new things and learning new skills that most of my peers don't want to do so I guess I could be considered daring, but the knowledge and understanding gained is far too great to pass up. That's why I'm so thankful that Rotary Youth Exchange has given me a far greater opportunity then anything I have done before - it's a chance to learn and experience new things on a waaaay broader scale, in Japan.

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Michael C's Journals

September 28 Journal

WOO!!!!! First journal o ya!!!! How to start off… I guess the only way to do justice to the past month that I’ve been in Japan is start way back in the beginning. But this story doesn’t start on the 7:58 flight out of Orlando on August 21nd… this story begins two days earlier. Now you're probably asking “why does it start 2 days earlier” and the simplest way to answer that is with word… Monster. I’m not talking about a literal monster, I’m talking about the energy drink. Starting from Wednesday night I was already packing and everything, getting set, saying goodbye, and getting a wee bit stressed out. By the time I was completely set and ready for my departure, it was already 12:30 am and I was leaving for the airport at 3 am. Obviously I had no intention of sleeping so I just chilled out for a couple of hours. For three days Monster was what kept me alive/awake up until my arrival in Japan. Ugh now we gotta rewind a little. Ok back to my departure. It was a cold morning and to tell you the truth I had no idea what was going on. I just let my feet move and my body consume more Monster. I still remember stopping at 7-11 and getting….hey hey hey guess what? A Monster. After that it was a smooth and silent ride to the airport.

After checking in and getting my guitar a nice spoofy “fragile” sticker, I was set and ready to go. My parents and I just sat around for a little bit to kill time until I had to leave and for the most part it was silent. But when the time for me to go through the security check point came, my heart was pounding, my parents were talking, and felt a rush of “HOLY S**T THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENIN.” haha At least that’s what should have happened. In reality I was so spent and crashed from all the energy drinks that I really didn’t realize I was leaving. I gave my mom and dad hugs then went through the first check point while saying “SEE YOU IN A YEAR!” then I was off in the wild Japanese yonder. The flight was very VERY silent and yet no sleep grasped me.

When I finally made it to O’Hare I was on a mission “find Melissa and Grant” but in their place what do I find???? A MASS OF ABOUT 20 ROTARY BLAZERS ALL CLUSTERED AROUND THE CHARGER STATION. This was the first time I met some of the people I’d be spending a year in Kanazawa with. It would also be the last time I saw them for around 13 hours considering the fact that on the plane I had a window seat next to 2 unmoving Japanese guys. I was pretty much confined to that seat the whole trip and believe me it was as bad as it sounds, zero sleep was achieved that whole flight. By the time we arrived at Narita we were all so pumped and ready that the lack of sleep really had no effect on us. Unfortunately for some of us - by some of us, I mean the Florida, Canada, and New York people - we had to wait for our connecting flights. At the main entrance is where I finally said “see ya” to my comrades Grant and Melissa and grouped up with my 2610 homies Ashleigh, Sandra, Marielle, and Jared as we made our way to the domestic flight area. But our flight wasn’t for another few hours so our Rotary escort, Hiro, showed us around the airport, which is basically a MASSIVE mall. He was a pretty cool dude; he was a former exchange student and basically Rotary paid him to show us around up until our departure to Komatsu. By the time we got on the plane, I really couldn’t count how many hours awake I had been and seriously I just sat in my chair and crashed instantly for about… 25 minutes…

After that I met up with my WHOLE club and a former exchange student from Australia that would become one of my best friends here. Sam (former exchange student from Australia doing Uni. in Tokyo) was on summer break so he decided to visit his old Rotary club in Ishikawa and got hosted and everything - it was a pretty sick deal. He took it upon himself to show me around, set me up with a good Japanese teacher, and basically taught me everything I need to know to get by.

Anyways, once again we need to back up. Well that night I met my host dad and host sister at the airport and then had to deal with a 30 minute drive to their house. And if this is sounding very bland, it’s because I was in an exhausted stupor at the time. The house was right in the center of town which is pretty awesome. Once inside I met my other host sister, host mom, and host sister’s boyfriend - all were really nice and still are J. But all I remember was greeting everybody, getting some water, and crashing for the night. The next day was right back to business, woke up and was immediately on my way to Kanazawa station for a day of exploring with my host sisters. It was great: we saw Kanazawa Castle, Kenroku-en Garden, some of the city and Higashi-Chayamachi which, is a really big geisha district.

For another week I was just getting oriented with everything: getting uniforms, saying bye to my host sisters when they left for college, going to my school, my first Rotary meeting, exploring, all sorts of stuff. However, once the first day of school came, I was in a state of panic. Seriously if I could make a chart of how panicked I was, it would probably look something like this: PANIC LEVEL 1 2 3 4 [5]. But, it really wasn’t that bad - I gave a speech which was really awkward … I started out with the speech in English and all the girls went crazy with the giggling ugh, but when I did the speech AGAIN in Japanese it was a completely different story. I just stood there as the room went from intense giggling to complete and utter silence, then extremely loud clapping. Throughout the day it was unbelievable how many random people would come up, stare and/or say random things to me and when I left… I got on my bike and girls opened windows just to scream bye to me… it was so strange…

Oh! I also forgot to mention the fact that I did a speech on camera when I met the mayor… that was pretty interesting hahahahaha. And speaking of that I forgot to mention that I was wearing the snazzy District 6930 Rotary polo which really comes in handy here… THANKS TRACY!!!!!!!! Hmmm, now I’m sort of struggling to remember all this, haha I knew I should have done this earlier.

Anyways, here in District 2610 there are 9 exchange students: 3 from the USA, 3 from Canada, and 3 from Australia. We’re all really close by each other, so it’s really easy to hang out and the city is REALLY big so there’s always something new to do. For instance, we just recently had a jazz festival during silver week (5 day national holiday). And guess what … Jared and I got interviewed and I was on TV… AGAIN. Of course we looked like bumbling idiots seeing as we can’t really speak Japanese, but they pressed us with questions anyways…

Things have pretty much settled down ever since I got here but, the Kanazawa night life still amazes me every time I visit some place like downtown, Korinbo, Katamachi, and Matsushi Gatsuji. Haha I’m having the time of my life here and I’m so happy I came to Japan. I know it’s only my first journal, but it’s never too early to say thanks so “THANKS ROTARY” for giving me this opportunity. I’d write more but I’m exhausted, so until next time!!!

November 14 Journal

So? What's new with me??? Well, the answer would be something like FESTIVAL FESTIVAL FESTIVAL SAT!! But, I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s so hard to believe that I’ve been here for almost 3 months!!!! Time is just flying by as I enjoy my time in Japan. I’ve experienced so much since my last journal and my Japanese has increased quite a bit haha.

Well awhile ago we had a Rotary weekend at Takaoka for this really big festival. Got to see some interesting stuff naw mean??? The weekend started off with an hour long train ride followed by a Rotary meeting where we met these 2 non-Rotary girls from Australia. Haha, those Aussies always have such Interesting personalities.

Anyways from there we received happi’s (traditional Japanese festival attire), met up with the people that would be hosting us for our stay, and prepared for the coming festivities. For each host family there were 2 exchange students, so I was bunking with my Aussie friend Josh. When dinner arrived we noticed all the food was American: pizza, burgers, corn dogs, chicken nuggets. Josh told me that the only reason we were eating American was because of me but, hey I wasn’t complaining. The next day was the actual festival and it was amazing. In the morning we traveled to different locations by means of boat and eventually stopped at the place where we would be pushing these massive, yet beautiful, floats around the city. It was ridiculous, they were heavy and so sketchy in that there were only 4 wheels and there were guys using hammers to make sure they stayed on the float…but it was all fun. After that we met the mayor, who has seriously got to be insane, he just bursts into the room with a funny hat, a happi, and hysterical laughing. Later that night was more festivities, lots of lights, stalls, food, all sorts of stuff. Our last day there we just spent kind of hanging out, got some food, then we were off back to Ishikawa.

A few days after our return, my city, Hakusan, had its city festival too!!! But, it wasn’t as cool, because the floats were kind of lame and there weren’t as many stalls but I got to see some sword fighting and some strange Japanese plays on this big stage. Unfortunately I found out about this whole shindig when I was woken up by the battle screams of people fighting right outside my window *sigh* the whole festival was right outside my house so guess who woke up early haha.

Right up next is ANOTHER festival except this one is my school festival. Now before I go into detail about the festival let me start off with: my school is an agricultural school, meaning on Monday out of 6 periods, 4 of them are farming. So my job at the school festival was help set up a vegetable stand and …SELL VEGETABLES! Set up was ridiculous, because first we brought too many flowers and had to bring some back, then we had too little, and it was all pretty ridiculous AND in the rain which made it like 10 times worse. All in all that was a bad day for me - I woke up, rode my bike to school only to get hit by a hail storm, then the festival and man, I’m just gonna change the topic now.

Then the following weekend I went to Osaka to take the SAT. Note for future exchange students: in case you didn’t know, you can take the SAT in pretty much any country, so don’t freak out. Also for all you people that are considering coming to Japan, prepare to get spoiled by your Rotary clubs. This is one of the first things all the other exchange students and I learned when we got here, Rotary will spoil you like crazy.

Recently things have once again calmed down. I’m changing host families soon and the holidays are just flying by as if they never existed. I haven’t really experienced homesickness my whole time here, but as Christmas gets closer I’m starting to think about what I’m gonna miss haha, because Japanese don’t celebrate Christmas like we do back home. From what I’ve gathered, Japanese Christmas is like eating KFC and Christmas cake, then that’s it L.

LANGUAGE UPDATE- my Japanese has actually gotten pretty decent, and by decent I mean karaoke in Japanese hahaha with my amazing singing skills *sarcasm*

I almost forgot to mention!!!! All the drinks and food and stuff changed this month haha. For some reason Japan likes to mix things up a lot, they always change their stuff monthly or seasonally to keep things interesting haha. And I’ve kind of run out of things to write about because of my poor memory so until next time またね!!!!

March 9 Journal

Alright time for number 3…it’s been too long since I did a journal…and I mean long as in, November long…lots of stuffs has happened in the almost 4 months since my last journal. So I’m gonna give a quick recap of what I have been up to.

I guess we can start with Christmas, but Christmas wasn’t particularly eventful…all I did was go to midnight mass and meet some foreign people…”hooray”. New Years was a little bit more interesting, I went to a festival and got to ring some giant Shinto bell thing and had some good food but, that’s about it for the holidays…last month we got new Australians which is cool…which brings me to something interesting. For some reason Australians coming after us northern hemisphere people sparks interest in Australia, it’s just so weird meeting these people that are pretty much the same as us Americans and Canadians but have funny accents and say stuff like “bogun” and “maccas”. I dunno just sayin.

OK so now that I got all that stuff out of the way I can get to the stuff that I find interesting to bring up. Being in Japan has pretty much ruined my Floridian-ness. I snowboard every week now…the sun shining is now a horrible sign, because that means the snow is gonna be horrible, which means I won’t go snowboarding. Snowboarding has pretty much consumed my life. I take every chance I can to go which can range from 1-3 times a week. As Brandon has noticed I’ve turned into a snowboard freak…cuz that’s all I talk about now hahaha. And the best part is, most of the time I don’t have to pay…at all…or if I do it’s at a discounted cost. Which makes going back to Florida harder than I already imagined it to be. Because, we all now Florida has heaps of snow and big mountains n stuff.

SPEAKING of Florida I’ve noticed many many many misconceptions about the sunshine state made by Americans and non-Americans. The Americans that have the wrong image of Florida are generally northerners. But EVERYONE Japanese and gaijin alike ALL think Florida is basically a northern state full of tourists, theme parks, and old people ONLY. They do not believe that Florida is in-fact a very southern state. A good example of this would be my sponsor rotary club. They, in my opinion, are a very jolly group of southern gentlemen. But, whenever I try explaining this to people they just give me looks of disbelief and call out the fact that I have no accent, if only they knew hahahaha.

Ok future stuff woohoo. In a few weeks I have a Rotary trip to Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima, and some other place. It’s bound to be heaps of fun and I’m really pumped for it but, as I anticipate the arrival of said trip a depressing thought flies through my head. I want the trip to come fast but, wanting that is like wanting my departure to come faster which, is something I do NOT want. Every time I think of going home…I get depressed. It sucks I really REALLY REEEAAALLLLYYYYY don’t want to go home. I only have a little over 3 months left before I go home…and I try my hardest to not think about it but, it’s hard not to think about how little time I have left. The new exchange students are getting pumped for their departures and it’s exciting knowing the new generation is on its way but that also means me returning :’(.

Anyways I’m going snowboarding tomorrow or Thursday probably the last time in Japan but the snow is great and I’m pumped rawr!!!!! And I don’t really know what else to put in this so I guess owata for now!!!

May 17 Journal

So, this is it eh??? A little over a month left and I figure the world needs an update on my life.

Well to begin with, my snowboarding frenzy is over. The snow is melted and it is getting really hot, not Florida hot but still pretty hot. Every time people ask me whether Japan is hotter than Florida, I always give them an idea by telling them that you could probably cook a full breakfast on the street alone. It's always interesting being out in the heat, I tend to get a little nostalgic about home. Now don't get me wrong - it's not homesickness because I still have little desire to go home. But, the heat just makes me feel like I am at home because, in my opinion Japan is home away from home. A few weeks ago I went "farming" I guess you could say for baby bamboo with my friend, his family, and his mother and they actually said I WAS part of their family. They aren't even my host family and for some reason it kinda touched my soul hahahaha...Just stuff I've been thinking about. Anyways time to see what I've been up to.

Alright so, the Rotary trip...WAS AMAZING! We went to Hiroshima, Miyajima, Osaka, and Nara. Hiroshima was kind of depressing as you can imagine. We visited that genbaku dome and a museum with all this information on the bomb and destruction. What really caught my attention though, was the little replica of Hiroshima after the bomb because, as we walked through the city you could see through all the modernization where exactly you where in relation to the replica, the most obvious one being a bridge that survived but was rebuilt and we eventually walked on, kinda surprised me a bit. Miyajima was pretty cool, it's the big red Torii gate that EVERYONE goes to. Me and 2 of the other guy exchange students went around being ninjas hahaha, scaling walls, jumping off stuff even doing back flips. It was fun hahaha all this traditional Japanese stuff and then 3 gaijin jumping around like idiots. Osaka was definitely the best part of the trip - 2 nights there. We went to Universal Studios Japan but, I mean really coming from Florida it's just "meh". We Floridians exist to go to theme parks haha. Other than that we went to Osaka Jo (the castle) made Taco yaki (octopus balls) and went to Shinsaibashi. Shinsaibashi is like the big district of EVERYTHING shops, restaurants, anything you can imagine. By the time we made it to Nara we were spent. The little deer just pissed us all off and the biggest Buddha in Japan looked like something from a weird dream. But, we livened up a little trying to get through this pillar with a hole that you where supposed to get through as a way of going through Buddhas nose hahaha. I want to upload pictures, but my computer broke so guess that can't be helped.

After normality returned and I was back at home nothing particularly extravagant happened. I went to 三年生(3rd years) and am taking almost ALL farming classes haha but it's all good. I am also learning the Japanese Koto now which, is similar to guitar, so it was easy to pick up and play. Last week I had a big Rotary speech for my club, didn't go too bad but, it was a little shorter than I had hoped for. Beginning of June I have a presentation for the place I learn Japanese, a farewell party from Rotary, and a Rotary orientation so I'm going to be very busy very soon.

Other than that things are pretty normal in my Japanese life...I'm broke (as usual) hahaha. I need to stop going out hahaha but, I only have one month left here so I'm going to make the most of all my remaining time here. That's all that really comes to mind right now, I know I'm forgetting some stuff I was going to put in earlier, but I plan on doing another journal before I leave so look forward to it world!!!!!