Rotary International District 5580 - to - Rotary International District 2760


Share our Excitement & Join our Journey

Welcome to the travel blog of Rotary District 5580's Group Study Exchange (GSE) Team which will embark on an exciting five week goodwill / vocational exchange to Nagoya, Japan in November, 2009.

Here, our hybrid American-Canadian team of enthusiastic and adventurous young professionals, along with our lovely, talented and fearless team leader, will share cultural experiences and engage in unique vocational learning opportunities.

If you have come to this site, you are likely: a Rotarian, family member, friend or colleague of one of the team members, or... are just plain blog-curious. Either way, we encourage you to check our site often to learn about us, follow our progress as a team and of course, keep in touch as we explore Japan.

We thank Rotary in advance for the adventure of a life time and to all readers, we invite you to share our excitement and join our journey.


GSE Team Japan 2009








GSEチーム ジャパン 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Royal Send-off in Nagoya (by Julie)

We know the old saying "all good things must come to an end" is absolutely true and Evonne and I experienced it firsthand on Tuesday when we returned from Magome. We had planned to spend our last night in Nagoya with maybe one or two Rotarians and GSE members but much to our suprise many others came out (Mr. Fukaya, Fumi, Alex, Takanori Suzuki (past Foundation Chair), Kash, Teddy Bear and Summer). We started the evening with dinner at a small restaurant where we were presented with beautiful watches from Mr. Fukaya. We also saw some magic tricks peformed by Takanori Suzuki and were challenged to some brainbusters (e.g. building a pyramid with two tiny blocks and calculating a math equation...thank goodness we all failed miserably...not just me).

The night ended with yet another karoke session (yes, we are completely hooked). Once again, the night was great fun.

In the morning our hosts and chaueffeur extraordinares took us to the airport for our royal sendoff. For both Evonne and I, it was a bit of an emotional send off. To help us through the flight to Tokyo, we began our official countdown to Winnipeg (the district conference), where we know we will see many of our Japanese friends.

A big THANK YOU to all for making our last night in Nagoya a memorable one.

Magome (By Evonne)

Julie and I were brought to the Nagoya Train Station by Kash and Fumi while the rest of the team headed for the airport on Sunday, November 29. Kash and Fumi had downloaded train and bus schedules for us and we made it there and back with no problem thanks to them. The area is absolutely beautiful. We stayed in a traditional Japanese Guest House where there were only two other guests. It was very fascinating and the food prepared for us was exceptional. Had we not experienced lots of traditional Japanese food prior to this visit, we would have been quite unprepared for what was served.

The day we got there we walked to Magome to Tsumago post road (7.7 km) through some very interesting terrain. The first half of the hike was straight up on old cobblestones until we reached the peak at 801 km and then we headed down into the town of Tsumago. These two post towns (from the Edo Period) have retained most of their historical authenticity. The trail between the two towns was full of historical shrines, morgues, temples, and other ruins.

After one night, we returned to Nagoya.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Safe Travels (by Rosie)

Sunday was the big day. It was a bitter sweet day as we had to say our final goodbyes to the many friends we'd made while in Japan but it was also a day where 3 of us would be seeing our families again. Ben, Rebecca and Rosie traveled back to the United States and were welcomed home by our loved ones. Julie and Evonne continued their travels in Japan for a few more days traveling to Magome and Tokyo and will finally fly home to their families on Thursday.

Thanks again to everyone that was involved with our memorable trip to Japan! "Domo Arigato Gozaimashita...da da da da...ting"!

My (Rosie) whole family met me at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport in Minnesota...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Farewell Party (by all of us) :-)

It’s hard to summarize a month of memories.

We made a total of 14 presentations and visited 16 Rotary Clubs. We also went to the District Conference in Toyohashi. It was always interesting to see what kind of wonderful food we would be served at these meetings. The Rotary Clubs were all very friendly and welcomed us. We even got some laughs at our presentation.
We would like to share some of our favorite memories about our time with the GSE Committee:

Kanai and Harano: We spent a whole week with you shopping and sightseeing and then we finally got to see you sing and have fun with us at karaoke. You also showed us how high you could jump. Pretty impressive.

Teddy Bear: The best shopper ever. He was too tired to sing with us the first night but then showed us his singing skills on karaoke night #2.

Hide: Oh, Hide. You are hilarious. Remember the lines, “Listen to me, please tell me what you want to drink.” We laughed so hard we almost cried. And you were the only one with the drink menu.

Nishi: How will we ever survive without our own personal camera man? And we are sure we saw your lips moving to “Hey Jude.”

Kashi: We had a lot of "lost in translation" moments with you when we'd talk to you and you would just stare straight ahead and smile. We knew you didn't understand a word we said. We were treated to your singing of a Japanese song that we did not understand but had fun listening to anyway.

Alex: The most funny man ever. We will always get a good laugh every time we see a red Panasonic hairdryer and whenever we hear "Hotel California"... we will think of you.

Fumi: You’re coming home with us, right? Move over John Denver. Fumi’s version of "Take Me Home Country Road" is way better. You are the best and we love you.

Thanks to everyone who made this trip one of the best experiences we have had in our lives.
And thanks to our GSE team members who also made this trip wonderful. We will all stay friends forever.

We just can't get enough...

After our wonderful farewell party, we didn’t want the night to end (nor do we want our journey to end), so our team convinced about 15 others to head off to Karaoke…again. It was another night filled with great music, great friends and great memories

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Last Vocational Visit (by Rosie)

Our last vocational visit was to the Aichi Konan College where about 400 students are enrolled. Their courses range from Interior Design to Nutritional Sciences to Business to Early Childhood Education. They also have an overseas Academic Exchange program with Selkirk College in BC Canada. We enjoyed their comprehensive presentation and tour of the facilities. We met a visiting professor from Canada who has been teaching English for about 1 1/2 years here and we were also able to visit an IT classroom, kitchen and watch the Elementary Education students teach kids about nutrition.

Sugihara Memorial Hall (by Rosie)

After our last presentation (given to the Konan Rotary Club) we visited the Chiune Sugihara Humanity Center in the beautiful hills of Yaotsu in the Gifu Prefecture. Sugihara was a Japanese Diplomat who issued visas and saved the lives of about 6000 Jews during WW2. The memorial is dedicated for sending a message of “Peace and Love” to the whole world. We arrived just in time to enjoy a unique musical ceremony as well.

Last Host Family (by Evonne)

Only one night was spent with my last host family but it was an awesome night. I stayed at Haruo Kumazawa and his family of wife and son. Their son is 36 years old and an artist. We stayed up talking for a long time and the son was able to practice his English skills. He is using a CD called "Speedy English." He assured me it was not speedy. I was given a traditional tatami room to sleep in and treated to a delicious breakfast sandwich made by the son. In the morning I realized I had forgotten my computer power cord at the Seto Park Hotel. He was very kind to drive all the way there (an hour away) and get my cord and bring it to the restaurant where I was having lunch. He stopped at the shrine next to the hotel and bought me a good luck token. He must have thought I needed it after forgetting my power cord.

Last Host Family (by Julie)

I had the pleasure of staying with the Ozeki's for one night before the official conclusion of our exchange. After meeting the Ozeki's at a party at a fabulous and ultra modern restaurant (La Casa), they welcomed me into their home. I couldn't believe my eyes when I got home to find a box of doughnuts waiting for me. I guess the Canadian love of doughnuts is recognized worldwide. While only there for one night the Ozeki's made me feel very comfortable and cooked a delcious breakfast. They also attended our farewell party which I found very touching. Thank you to the Ozekis.

Last Host Family (by Rosie)

It was a short trip to our host families this week. In fact we spent less than 24 hours with them. The Sugiura’s…Kenji, Sachiko and their daughter Tsugumi, her husband Kazuyuki and their daughters Miyu (3yrs) and Kanami (2mos) were a delightful treat. Miyu is learning the English language and would speak some to me. However she would also speak Japanese to me and when I wouldn’t know what to say back to her, she would just give me a big smile. Since it was such a short trip, I was glad to see Kenji & Sachiko some more at our farewell party.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our friends and family from Japan! We enjoyed a wonderful dinner last night at the Cafe de la Casa in Konan city with many members of the Konan Rotary Club and their spouses. Too much to our surprise, they had a whole chicken cooked just for us. Ben carved his first chicken and we enjoyed every bite of it as it was delicious. Evonne and Ben also had the honor of opening the champagne bottles to celebrate and we even ended the night with a pie... a delicious chocolate pie. Thank you so much for remembering our holiday and celebrating with us!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TAM (by Rosie)

The Toyota Automobile Museum(TAM) had a beautiful display of American and Japanese cars. We took our time admiring the cars. We also toured the Annex while we were there that focused on the history of the motorization of Japan from the perspective of popular culture and lifestyles. We were amazed to see so many items still in working order.