Thousands of Miles from Home


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Seems like every day around here is full of surprises. For the next few weeks I have something planned everyday so that always leaves something to look forward to (and makes these entries longer and longer (^_^) Yesterday's trip to Tsuyama (alone) started around 8 in the morning when I took the train from Uno station to Okayama. I met a few kids from school and sat with them on the way; one was joing to Kyoto for a japanese conversation contest or something of the sort. It's a little easier to relax on the bus to Okayama rather than the train, but I have to give the prize for best sights along the way to the train route. Especially when we got into the mountains rice fields stretch out into the horizon and bamboo forests can be seen from almost any window on the train.

In Okayama I met with Cori, the exchange student from Canada, and we both took the train to Tsuyama. Yet again some awesome scenery on our trip, including a whole settlement of wooden houses to which I could not discern a purpose. It didn't look like people were living there but I couldn't be certain. The train also went through various tunnels which was sort of spooky but also very cool. When we arrived in Tsuyama Janna, the exchange student from Virginia, and her host councellor met us at the train station. We were quickly shuttled away with another rotarian to a nearby hotel where I has some red orange juice (oishii) and we talked about the journey.

After being properly refreshed we walked outside into the beautiful autumn day and across the street to the Tsuyama Wonder Musuem, which was owned by Janna's host councellor. The place could only be described as one of the coolest museums I have ever been to, and probably the scariest at night. Apparently the owner's grandfather began collecting rare insects, animals, and various odds and ends about 40 years ago, and before his death massed a collection of (disclaimer: this is from memory) over 800 birds and animals, as well as countless butterflies, spiders, bugs, and other creepy crawlers (totalling 24,000 pieces). Of course everything is dead, but the sheer size of the collection is amazing. And the collection was completed before the 1975 Washington Treaty (banning the trade of rare animals), so all the rare animals were legally obtained (making this probably one of the best and only places to see this kind of collection). Some of the animals in a long list included the Snub-Nosed Monkey, Bongo, Indian Lion, Griffin Vulture, White Owl, Siberian Tiger, and Polar Bear. And belive me the list goes on. For most of these animals if was the first time I had ever seen them period, let alone TV. But for me, the kicker came when the owner of the museum (his name will be included once I remember it) told me that when his grandfather died he wanted his organs put on display in the museum. So sure enough in one room was the man's heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, etc. PRETTY CREEPY! But also awesome. I won't describe it but there were also fossils, shells, various fishes, japanese stones, and "nostalgic science and engineering parts," which included amatuer TV broadcast equipment, a starlab, and portable radio from 1935.

After the Tsuyama Wonder Museum we all piled into cars to head to Tomosue-san's house, the rotary member who was hosting the party. We rode through the countryside of Tsuyama for about 20 minutes until we turned to head up a hill into the mountains. When we came near the top we were confronted with a huge house, one of the largest in Japan. It even had a front yard of decent size, which I had never seen in japan. Feeling very taken care of I exited the car with Cori and Janna and went to the front gate which opened automatically. We walked through a small courtyard where I discovered the large house was actually three houses side by side, and into the main building where we were greeted by various rotary members. The interior of the house was strikingly american, a constast from most of the japanese style houses I haven been inside. We sat down in large recliners and chatted for a while in Japanese and Enlish until were we told the barbeque was to begin. On the back porch of the house about 10 people met for lunch (exchange students, rotary members, and wives) of Yakiniku and Hambergers. The Yakiniku was cooked on an old millstone with a fire in the middle, and featured meat and some vegetables. The hamburgers were cooked on a large propane grill along with some potatoes.

The whole afternoon was wonderful, with perfect autumn weather and delicious food. I found out that Janna got to be on a TV program for school which much have been exciting. After we ate and took a bunch of pictures, Cori, Janna, and I walked around the grounds to get a feel for the area. Up a small hill were a few shrines and a great view of Tsuyama below. Around 5 o' clock we headed back to Tsuyama station for the ride back to Okayama.

I am sure that I am leaving some parts out, but I will have a refreshed memory when Janna returns my camera on Wednesday which I left at Tomosue-san's house (oops). Today I took a trip to Hiroshima with Masatoshi, Shoko, and her mother, but I think that deserves it's own entry.


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