This second post regarding some of my adventures is not only to encourage students to do likewise, thus practising their writing, but to stimulate people into class discussion on the topics students have written about and shared.
I have always found writing about my personal experiences easier than writing about an imaginary situation which I have never been through. I therefore usually encourage people to base their writing work on something familiar to them and then adapt it to the written assignment making changes where necessary and enriching with adjectives and our imagination.
Before having children all my free time was dedicated to globetrotting and I had started writing a book about my travels. Many of those stories are outdated as times change, countries develop...
Should anyone like to comment & let me know how things have changed since I visited these countries, it would be welcome feedback.
A WEARY TRAVELLER'S TALES
Tragicomic Episodes from a Globe-Trotter's Diary
As a young, well-travelled globe-trotter, I prefer visiting countries in order to get to know the people, their customs and traditions, rather than only seeing the sights from an air-conditioned bus after having left an anonymous first-class hotel. On my travels I have come across many tragicomic episodes worth recounting, which are not only amusing in themselves but offer a great insight into the ways and being of different peoples in far off countries.
The best way to appreciate other mentalities and ways of life is to try and integrate oneself with the people by travelling with local forms of transport, eating in local restaurants and sleeping in hotels where one can mix with the locals rather than with tourists.
JAPAN (written in 1990):
The Japanese are notoriously clean, leaving their street shoes at the front door. For the uninitiated foreigner this means a lot of practice is needed in slipper changing. Japanese Ryokan are small, but homely hotels in true Japanese style. At the entrance one encounters rows of street shoes neatly lined up under the first step which leads inside. On the step are numerous slippers ready to be donned by anyone who wishes to enter. Once inside these slippers are only to be worn in the halls, never in the rooms, which have 'tatami' mat floors on which one walks in socks or barefoot. Just inside the bathroom, whether private or shared, are other slippers. This means that if I leave my room to use the toilet, I must put on my hall slippers and take them off outside the toilet, because the toilet slippers are just inside. And wo betide the tourist who is caught walking around the hall with the toilet slippers he forgot to slip off again!!
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Precision is another asset of the Japanese and having lived in Germany, I am quite used to it. However, lining up to catch arriving trains in Japan certainly amazed me. If you buy a ticket with a reservation, you need only to look at the numbered signs along the platform. Besides pointing out where your carriage will stop, the markings on the ground tell you exactly where to stand so you will enter the door which is nearest to your seat number. In fact the train halts exactly with its doors parallel to these markings. This is amazing considering the fact that the Shikansen Bullet Train travels at speeds of up to 250km per hour!
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In a country like Japan, where a large population is concentrated in a small area, getting away from it all can be most difficult. One Sunday we had the brilliant idea of going to Hakone, a famous national park just outside Tokyo, in order to spend a nice relaxing day next to the mountain lake, hoping to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji peeking from behind the clouds and carrying a bathing costume to wear in one of the thermal pools of the area. At 8.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning Tokyo station was unusually busy with extra stalls set up to sell "bento"s (packed lunches) and families loaded with small rucksacks hurrying to the trains. Once off the Shinkansen train at Odawara station, we lined up to get our onward tickets. A fifteen minute train ride brought us to Yumoto but by the time we got off, our next train was jam packed and we crammed in to stand like sardines for the half hour trip. At Gora a twenty-minute queue allowed us to get tickets for the cog-wheel train in which we actually sat for the very few minutes it took to get to the top, Souzuno. There we queued for another fifteen minutes in order to catch the longest cable car in Asia. The view was impressive and at the first station we stopped off to see some geysers, which were definitely not worth the time we spent waiting to get back on. At the second station we had intended getting off to bathe in the thermal pools but the staff told us we would never get back on, since no empty cars were coming through. At the top, Togendai was where we found our mountain lake but there seemed to be nowhere to relax. We were not able to enjoy the peacefulness we had been looking forward to because the area was just not peaceful. So we lined up to cross the lake on the red and gold painted boat, camouflaged as an old sailing ship and once finally on it, we tried to relax for the forty minutes we stood on the crowded boat. The lake of volcanic origin was extremely beautiful but at that point we were so stressed that we were unable to enjoy it. Not finding anywhere to sit down and relax because the buses were belching black fumes on the lake front, not having even caught a tiny glimpse of Mount Fuji, we decided to take the bus back down and three-quarters of an hour later we were in Yumoto again. On the short train ride to Odawara, we decided to let everyone else rush home to Tokyo whilst we stopped in this calm, uncrowded town of little interest to have a relaxing meal.
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.... next episode coming soon!
Have you ever had any tragi-comic experiences?
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My name is Susan Brodar, born in London into a multilingual family and brought up bilingual English / Italian.