Thursday, October 28, 2010

Japan - by Sophie

This is an article Sophie wrote for the local Darkan newspaper The bleat. So many people have told me they enjoyed reading it, so I have posted it here for your reading pleasure. For background you will need to know that Sophie and I have recently spent 10 days in Japan, from 6-16th October.


I never really thought much of Japan before. I thought it was just another crowded Asian country. But attending the Bunbury-Setagaya Student Goodwill Visit 2010 changed all that. As the tour leader said it would be, it was an experience of lifetime. If I said the entire trip was fantastic, I’d be lying, but if I said none of it was either, that would also be lying. There were some times when I had to ask myself why I was there, but other times when I knew I’d been hooked (luckily there were more of the hooked times).

My favourite part was home stay (it was nice to have a break from the grumpy tour leaders). I was lucky enough to stay with the Miyatsu family – Mrs Tami Miyatsu, Mr Kazu Miyatsu, Miriu (12) and Erina (10). Their family home was nestled somewhere in Setagaya (a part of Tokyo) behind a little shop and was not at all Japanese. There were a few customs such as the removal of shoes at the front door and scrubbing yourself squeaky clean in the shower before soaking in the bath, but otherwise, their house was a little, modern, Ikea-ridden (Kazu worked for Ikea) townhouse, with a bright orange kitchen and a fridge that opened from both ways (you could open it from left or right!) Another thing that puzzled me was the shower. There was a special room just for the shower and bath that was sealed and water tight and the water from the hand-held shower just ran straight onto the floor!

I also admired the Japanese toilets and wherever we went I went to the toilet just for the sake of checking it out (though some where better than others). Most Japanese toilets were modern with buttons for bottom washes and bidets and flushes and seat warming. (I didn’t really work out all the buttons written in Japanese, but at home stay I did try the bidet. It unexpectedly started shooting water out and I got scared, jumped off the toilet and soaked my pyjama pants in the process, maybe next time I’ll be more experienced!) Other toilets were not at all nice; as they were just a hole in the ground (I’m glad we don’t have them in Australia!)

My favourite day of the whole trip was on home stay when we visited the hot springs. I didn’t expect the springs to be that hot, just a slight bit warm, but they were amazingly really hot, and some so hot that were like a sauna (yet Japanese people don’t seem to mind, even if it was too hot for me to even put my feet in). Luckily it was a springs in which you could wear bathers, but there was also one in which you couldn’t wear bathers, and it was a bit weird having these people stark naked just walking around. Another fun uniquely Japanese experience was taking photos in a photo booth where afterwards you could decorate them etc. So cute (or “kawaii” my new favourite Japanese word)!

So instead of boring you with more and more days of details of my stay in Japan, I’ll leave it at that and say... sayonara!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Barna Mia Wildlife Sanctuary Visit

Last night I took the girls, and their friend Imogen (who was staying over), to the Barna Mia wildlife sanctuary in the Dryandra forest between Wandering and Narrogin. It was nearly 100km from home. Three other families from Darkan also went.
The Barna Mia wildlife sanctuary is 4Ha (10 Acres) of natural bush which has been securely fenced to keep out predators (especially foxes and feral cats). Air-borne predators are still welcomed. The small marsupials that live there have been reintroduced to the area and are thriving. We saw Woylies (brush-tailed bettongs), Boodies (burrowing bettongs), Rufous Hare-Wallaby and a Bilby. The bilby was the most exciting to see. The Curlews were quite vocal and added to the atmosphere.
We arrived at six o'clock in the evening, which gave us time to register for the tour and watch a visual presentation to educate us a bit about the wildlife before it was dark enough to venture out to look at the animals. Although they are wild animals, they have become used to the feeding routine, and will come quite quickly to the feeding stations once the food has been put out. The guide uses a red light to allow the visitors to see the animals without disturbing them. This of course made it difficult to photograph the animals, which is why I have presented them as black and white images.

The visitors centre is built of straw bale construction, and is quite attractive

The percent for art scheme is evident in the stained glass windows and wall mural

Odette in front of the fabulous Ian Dickerson Mural

Bonnie signing the visitor book

Odette meeting a stuffed marsupial

Ready for the visual presentation

Lots of boodies at a feed station

This boodie has a baby in her pouch - can you see the bulge?

Everyone watching in the red light

The gorgeous bilby!

The bilby really was the highlight of the night for me. Bilbies are always depicted as being very cute, with large ears, a long snout, white tipped tail and interestingly coloured fur. The real bilby was almost a caricature of itself! I am so glad we were lucky enough to see one!