Visit Australia in 1999
27 July-22 August, 1999

My Seventh Visit to Australia  Written by Yoko Ishizuka
My First Homestay Experience  Written by Yoko Buto

My Seventh Visit to Australia
Written by Yoko Ishizuka
Translated into English by Yoshikazu Kondo

I thought I should not visit Australia that year because, being a woman of 70 years of age, I would not have sufficient time to study English, and writing Christmas cards to my many acquaintances there may have become a burden.

When a notice about the 1999 tour came from the Nara Japan-Australia Society, I assumed no one would apply for it since they had to bear the expense themselves.  Be that as it may, I put an ad in newspaper.  Together with Ms. Yoko Buto, a member of our Society, Mr. Hiroyuki Watanabe, a 21-year-old man, and also Ms. Shinada, a 19-year-old lady from Kashiwazaki joined the program.

Whenever I go anywhere with young people, I always look forward to it, that is to say, I look forward to being around young people's different attitudes to things.  When they leave to go somewhere, they look carefree and unworried; during a trip, they gradually change their attitudes; and when they return home, they look like different people, full of confidence and lively demeanor.  The expectation of this flexibility of attitude made me feel happy, which was something I noticed, as I merrily began to pack my suitcase.

On 27 July, we left from Kansai Airport.  We spent a night in Sydney, where I saw Rod, the son of ex-POW at Naoetsu.  If his new home was completed, I planned to extend my stay there.  However, to my regret, it was not.  What was more, on our way to dinner for the members of the tour, his car broke down and we were late.  Because he was such an amiable person, I found I couldn't dislike him.

In Canberra, we attended the National Conference of Australia-Japan Societies held on 31 August at Rydges Capital Hill Hotel.  The conference provided no interpreters, which had me worried at first.  However, later I learned that it was held to promote friendship among members of Australia/Japan and Japan/Australia Societies, and that therefore what they discussed was not a difficult subject to talk about.  I had a load taken off my mind and felt relieved.

Each society representative made a speech in turn.  When it was mine, I talked about our citizen's movement to build Peace Memorial Park at the former Naoetsu POW Campsite.  At every opportunity I make a speech, I intend to speak about not only Australian POWs but also executed Japanese guards and the sacrifices their families endured afterward.  When I finished my speech, I was greeted, to my delight, with unexpected applause.

Later that day, we had a party.  Some people there praised my speech, and I felt glad that I was able to communicate to them the message of peace from the citizens of Joetsu.  My visit was well worthwhile in that respect.

I spent four days at the home of Mrs. Carmel Ryan, a former President of Australia-Japan Society ACT.  Some high school students took me on a tour of Canberra and showed me their schools.  I prepared a rice and curry dish for Carmel, and, in return, she took me to a museum, a wealthy farmer's mansion in the suburbs of Canberra, Government House, and other places of interest.  Hiroyuki, being rather reserved by nature and inclined to keep to himself; he and I often went our separate ways.   I sometimes wondered if he was getting along well with his host families, but I need not have been concerned, as he seemed to have been very active himself.

After our time in Canberra, we spent one day in Cowra.  From 3 August, we stayed Molong, which was the third time I had visited the town, although it was the first meeting with my host family.  What annoyed me most about them was the way they used the English language.  While worrying about Hiroyuki, I was finding it very difficult to tune my ear to their accent.  When they talked to each other, in such a rapid-fire way, it sounded to me as if they spoke some other than English.  I couldn't catch what they said at all.

Hiroyuki said that because he tried to make his sentences grammatically correct, in the end all he could say was "Yes" and "No" for the first three days.  However, after a while he managed to make himself understood in English, and he seemed to communicate with them better and better, which at the same time made him more and more cheerful.

at Moolong Central School
 At Molong Central School
The right person in the first row is Kathy, my host sister two years ago.
Roger, the principal of one of Molong's schools, arranged for us to participate in school activities, providing us an opportunity to perform things like origami, calligraphy, tea ceremony, and a picture-card show.

We cooked and ate with the students.   The food we ate consisted of takoyaki (dumplings with a piece of octopus in them), gohei-mochi, (roasted rice cake with miso) and grilled chicken.  To my surprise, Hiroyuki was very good at cooking takoyaki.  When we observed wool shearing, he tried to shear sheep with a pair of clippers, but unfortunately cut his finger, which panicked him somewhat.  Afterwards, we made a leisurely trip to a zoo in Dubbo, which was some 110 km away and a dam, where we could enjoy water-skiing.

On 14 August, we flew from Orange Airport, where it had snowed lightly, to our next destination in Tasmania.  We made two stopovers, changing airplanes three times.  On our way, some people joined our tour in Sydney. Ms. Buto from Joetsu and Ms. Shinada from Kashiwazaki were among them.  My Tasmanian host family was the Kinch, with whom I stayed the year before.

I visited Brooklyn Primary School, which was some four kilometers away from my host family.  I was very envious that in Australia not only students but also teachers had time for morning tea after the second class and that they returned home to enjoy it.

Since Ms. Shinada was a university student, I didn't worry about her English language ability too much.  Yoko (Buto), who had studied English for three years with us at the Elementary English class organized by Japan-Australia Society of Joetsu, did a good job with the language.  She managed to communicate with her host family with the help of a dictionary, which was passed from one family member to another.  That way she learned a lot about them and was able to make herself understood.

Because the new members had joined us, we spent some time comparing notes as to what we had done.  Among those activities, tie-dyeing and the "apron theater" were two we did when we made a school visit.  Both the children and we enjoyed the activities very much.  Hiroyuki showed them how to tie-dye as if he were an expert.  Yoko made a spectacular showing of tea ceremony in her beautiful kimono.  As for me, I told a story of "Snow Woman" illustrated with picture cards painted by Mr. Inomata, a painter and one of our members.

A week passed quickly by and we had to leave.  The children held a warm farewell party, which moved us to tears.  A small waiting room of Burnie Airport was crowded with many host families, who had come to see us off.

In Sydney, Katherine, a niece of ex-POW, showed us around at Opera House and some other places, which we would not have otherwise seen on an ordinary tour.  When returning home to Japan from Sydney Airport, Mr. and Mrs. Cook came to see us off.

with Kathy
From left to right: Ms. Buto, myself, and Katherine

I had not enjoyed much of my own school life in Japan, but the trip gave me a chance to enjoy it again in Australia.  On the morning of 23 August, when we arrived at Naoetsu Station, we all appeared to be tireless and full of life.  Two members from Joetsu have seemed to discover something special during the trip, which was just as I had expected.  I was delighted they had enjoyed the trip so much.

My First Homestay Experience
Written by Yoko Buto
Translated into English by Yoshikazu Kondo

I have written about my own experience for the benefit of those who think they can't undertake a homestay in a foreign country because they are not good at English.

I spent six days in the town of Bernie in Tasmania, Australia, in the summer of 1999 as a member of the Japan-Australia Society.

I have never traveled abroad alone because my English is poor.  Accordingly all of the foreign travel I have ever done has been with package tours, which had a conductor who accompanied and took care of us.  I have always wanted to travel the World freely once I became proficient in English; however this opportunity came to me out of the blue. I was so taken with the idea of the trip that I readily jumped at the opportunity, but I had an awful lot of trouble down there in Australia because I couldn't speak English.

@Tea ceremony at Molong Central School

What that homestay meant to me was speaking and listening to English for some sixteen hours a day from morning till night.  So it was absolutely out of the question that I attempted to communicate in anything other than English.  At first, I quietly ate meals and most of the time watched TV programs I couldn't understand at all.  I regretted that I had not studied English harder, which made me depressed.  Nevertheless I had to face up to reality, and I didn't want to miss the chance.  Finally I made up my mind to speak up even when it was rather hard for me to communicate with them in English.  I spoke out only the words I knew and made conversation by means of writing, using a dictionary and notepaper.  My host family also helped me look up words and repeated the same things again and again; they were patient and spent a great deal of time with me.  After we spent long time trying to get our points of view across to each other, we finally came to know things about our respective businesses, families, and lives.  I spent a lot of energy to doing those things, but I believe it paid dividends for me.  Through the experience, I came to know them better and, as a result, felt close to them.  I wouldn't have felt so happy if I had kept silent. On the fifth day of my homestay, I could make out their jokes and respond to them immediately.  They said I became more talkative than when I had first arrived there.

It would be ideal that a person with a good command of English should undertake homestay.  However, on the contrary, a person like me, who gets an opportunity before becoming fluent in English, can make this time worthwhile, filling their days with wonderful experiences, which ordinary package tours would never offer.  The six days of my homestay were simultaneously filled with both desperate struggles and moving impressions.

Yoko with her host family
With her host family