Posts Tagged ‘festival’


Chelsea: It’s 5 a.m., let’s pray!

September 27, 2011

Good morning to all!

I can’t believe it’s already Tuesday. It was a great weekend, but went by way too fast .

This weekend I stayed at home for the fiestas in my neighborhood, San Isidro del Inca. From my understanding, each neighborhood here has its own weekend of festivals in celebration of their “virgin”. This weekend my neighborhood was celebrating La Virgen Mercedes, which basically means 3 days of non-stop activities, music, and dancing! I’m glad I stayed in Quito for it, it was a lot of fun and interesting to see some unique traditions! 

The week before the festival, there is a special prayer service of the rosary every morning…at 5:00am. I went with my family on Friday and Saturday morning, and I’m glad I did! It was a little dark/chilly, but a very different experience! Everyone meets at the church, holding candles, and a big crowd walks the streets of the neighborhood praying/singing the rosary for about an hour. The steep streets and darkness make it a little more interesting, but I really enjoyed it!

I live right across the street from the church, which is where everything took place – so it’s safe to say I was right in the middle of the action. From Friday – Sunday, there were people selling arts & crafts, all types of food and drink, and bands and dancers everywhere! I loved seeing representations of native dances and hearing all of the great local bands play! It was a mixture of rain and sun this weekend, but that didn’t stop any of the festivities!

On Saturday and Sunday, I watched a lot of traditional dances and tried some new foods/drinks, including a few drinks made from varieties of corn! I watched a lot of the concerts and of course danced a lot myself! The traditional Ecuadorian dance is more of a side-to-side shuffle, so it wasn’t hard to learn…and after a few hours of the same dance to different songs, I think I’ve got it covered! 

Above is a picture from Saturday night from the fireworks! This is in the middle of the church plaza, where there is a circle of “yumbos” (representing the Amazon region) dancing around the firework structure. They brought in probably 5 different structures – a plane, cow, etc. and lit off fireworks….right in the middle of all of the people. Let’s just say it probably wasn’t the safest thing since people had to duck from all of the sparks – but…apparently that’s nothing new! I was alertly watching for an umbrella, a tree, or a person to spontaneously combust into flames, but from what I saw, it didn’t happen! 

Overall, a fun weekend!

For this week, I only have classes Monday & Tuesday and have a class trip Wednesday – Friday! I don’t exactly know where we’re going, but it’s somewhere to the South of Quito to visit local communities and see development and microfinance in action! 🙂


Connie: Yukata, Fireworks, No regrets

July 6, 2011

At the university there was a festival called Yukata Matsuri, with food stands and performances all day. As I’d very much enjoyed the School Festival near the beginning of the year, I knew that wearing a yukata would only up my excitement at this event. I slept the morning away and went in the afternoon. However, I would come to regret not having gone a little bit earlier.

“I want to meet that person at least one more time.”

Apparently during the morning my Pokemon Rival from the beginning of the year was at the festival. If I’d gone, I might have been able to see him once again, but I probably won’t have that chance from now. When I found out he was there when I wasn’t I felt quite down. Earlier that day one of my friends told me, “You said you wanted to live every day without regrets, right?” I thought that moment was a prime example of me not listening to my own advice.

In the end, however, I think living without regrets isn’t always going for it. I think part of it is realizing that you have no reason to regret something. Maybe it would have been nice to go in the morning, but not for that reason. If he didn’t bother to tell me he was going, why should I care? I should care about the people who say, “Don’t worry about him,” or follow me on my silly quest to play pool in yukata, or remember small details about me after a long time apart.

The festival itself was quite crowded. The JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) had been held on the Hiroshima campus that day, leading to an influx of foreigners wandering around. Of course there were tons of students, and some people from the general area. The area of the festival itself only took up a fraction of campus, so everyone was crowded around food booths trying to get some of the delicious, fried festival foods.

I think the people in our program were the only foreigners to wear yukata or 甚平 (jinbei). This gained a lot of stares and several people taking our pictures as they passed by. Most of the people complain about that kind of attention, but I always find it kind of interesting. I would never be stared at twice in America, but here I’m fascinating. I wonder if it’s bad to enjoy the limelight while it lasts?

Almost all of our friends ended up congregating in one area. We took photos like we were in a photoshoot. I ate some of the most delicious takoyaki I’ve had here, bought from a kid who tried his very best to speak some English. I also sampled some of my friend’s チヂミ (chizimi), which is like the Korean version of okonomiyaki. All the while we could hear the a capella group performing on the nearby stage. I could hear the sound of one of our friends, a Korean guy with a very powerful voice.

After the a capella group finished the dense crowd gathered around the stage started to shuffle. I regrouped with some of my friends and we pushed our way to a place where we could see. The next show up was a fashion show, and not only did I enjoy the one I’d seen the previous semester, but one of my friends was appearing in it. He’s just about one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, so the moment we saw him prepare to go onstage my friend and I pulled out our cameras like paparazzi.

After the fashion show was the Rhythmic Dance Circle, who are probably the most popular circle on campus. They do several kinds of dance, including hip-hop, break dancing, free-style, really anything modern that can be put to a heavy beat. They’re truly talented and tons of fun to watch. The influx of people when the circle came on was amazing. My friends and I all made sure to stay put so we wouldn’t lose our spots.

Finally, as the sky darkened around 8, there were fireworks. They only lasted a couple minutes, but they were still quite impressive. With a laugh I told everyone with me, “Happy early 4th of July!” The one British girl with us made a snide remark, naturally.

After this there was debate about what to do next. I had my mind pretty set on what I wanted to do – my favorite bar was offering a discount if you were wearing yukata. This coupled with the mental image of playing darts and pool in yukata was enough to convince me we should go. In the end most people were tired, so they returned to get some rest, particularly as it was a Sunday night. It was just three of us that went to take advantage of this discount.

It was while playing pool that I learned I’d missed my Pokemon Rival at the festival. And as I mentioned, for a bit I felt down about it, but in the end I think I can get over it. The two friends I went with are always supportive, even if I do or say stupid things. The friend who works there is always doting to some extent, even if I break their darts machines (sorry). These are the kind of people I need – they’d tell me if they went to a festival.

Actually, I’m going to miss these guys when I go back to America. I’m also going to miss those kinds of festivals. Time is running out, so I’m not going to sleep in and miss anything else!


Mark: La Fiesta de San Antoni0

June 15, 2011

A few days ago, we visted La Fiesta de San Antonio which takes place every year (one local told me for the past 400 years) in the barrio of, appropriately, San Antón here in Cuernavaca. The day-long celebration consists of about half a mile of amusment park rides, tiendas, fireworks and revelers. Young people also give twelve coins and pray to San Guadalupe to meet their soul mates at the church. The evening culminates in a giant close-and-personal pyrotecnic display and dancing. Last night we got the first significant rainfall in my nearly 4 weeks here, not that anyone let that snuff out the festivities.


Connie: Yukata Matsuri

June 10, 2011

This past weekend was the three day festival, Yukata Matsuri. Due to the price of commuting to the city, I only went on Saturday. I sort of regret not going every day, but I suppose there’s no point in regretting it now. Though I wish I could have seen more, the simple atmosphere of Japanese festivals pleases me enough. It’s a feeling completely different from street festivals in the United States. Perhaps it’s because the festivals always feel distinctly Japanese – there’s always something pointing back toward traditional culture integrated into the festivities.

We were to depart at 3. I started the task of putting on the yukata I’d previously purchased at Miyajima around 2. It took me until 2:30 to get the thing on, and though I really wanted to redo some parts, I knew I would have no time if I was going to make the bus. To be honest I was slightly nervous about going out for the first time in a yukata I’d tied by myself. One of the friends I went with does Japanese dance as a hobby and is particular about the way people wear traditional Japanese clothing. But when my friend saw me he actually did the opposite of what I’d expected and complimented the job I’d done my first time tying a yukata.

The day was full of mishaps. We had to wait for one of our friends at the station, so we didn’t make it into the city until 5. The trams running along the streets of Hiroshima city were incredibly packed – there was some kid uncomfortably close on the train whose parents had to literally hold his hands down so he wouldn’t touch me. When we reached our destination we were feeling fairly good and wanted to partake in some festival food – 唐揚げ (karage), or fried chicken, was our first stop. That was all fine and good until one of our friends started to choke on it and seemed quite peeved that none of us knew what to do in that kind of situation. I suppose I should learn the Heimlich before the next festival?

This bit of bad luck was all forgotten when we stopped to get crepes and snow cones. Sweets make it all better! Our moods were back to normal and we were admiring all of the people in yukata. As always, people-watching in Japan is fantastic. Since the festival was near the shady district of Hiroshima, when you wandered in the right area you would suddenly be surrounded by girls very improperly wearing their yukata, with their shoulders and cleavage exposed, or host-types with mile-high dyed hair and designer obi. Of course you also have normal people, college students, families with fathers carrying tired children, and for some reason Yukata Matsuri also translates in some girls’ heads to lolita fashion. Most of what we did was people-watch and eat. The dances we came across were too packed with people to see anything properly. A shame, since they did one dance I really enjoy, ソーラン節(Soran Bushi).

Out of the group of us, only two were dressed in Western clothing. One was a girl who had yet to buy a yukata, so we went with her to the shopping district, Hondoori, to find a kimono shop. The other was a Japanese guy, so we kept making fun of him for the irony in him being the only one not to wear a yukata.

When my friend bought her yukata, one of the women took her to a changing room and dressed her up perfectly. While we were waiting, one of the other women offered to retie another of our friends’ obi. The knot she did was intricate and beautiful – we were all in awe. When the girl who bought the yukata returned we were also in awe. It was a really colorful yukata, matching her usual style.

After leaving the shop, all but our one Japanese friend clad in yukata, we went to find an izakaya to get some food and drinks. We decided to head back toward home after this since we didn’t want to risk missing the last train. Turns out our friend, the one who does dance as a hobby, had accidentally fallen asleep on the last train the night before and ended up spending the night in the miniscule station two stops beyond Saijo. We didn’t want to risk that scenario again.

On the train we learned a valuable lesson – our poor friend who had purchased the yukata found out that having an obi tied too tightly can become really painful. The pressure on her stomach made her sick, especially on the swaying train. It was a relief for her to get off the bumpy train and untie the obi.

Not the best of our festival experiences, but I have no regrets in going (other than that I didn’t go every day). I got to see many interesting people, wear a yukata, eat lots of delicious food, and somewhere in there I managed to take a picture with a wandering host.

There is another Yukata Matsuri put on by Hiroshima University in July. I’m really looking forward to that! 


Britta: Chocolate-covered Perugia

October 19, 2010

Last weekend I took a short trip to Perugia to visit a friend and to see the largest chocolate festival in Italy: Eurochocolate.

Perugia is a quaint, medieval city in Umbria, almost right in the center of Italy. It has a beautiful view which on clear days you can see all the way to Assisi, and there are little hidden narrow streets everywhere.

This weekend the quaint, medieval, university city was swarming with people. There was chocolate everything. Chocolate kebabs, chocolate sculptures, chocolate cards, chocolate computers, chocolate lamps, chocolate running down the drains and the smell of chocolate in the air.

There was also every kind of chocolate: violet, rose, cannabis, orange, strawberry, almond, hazelnut, cinnamon, cayenne, rum, anise, mint, coconut, raspberry, coffee, banana,…

Apart from indulging in such a delicious treat, I met some of the nicest girls and enjoyed eating Neapolitan style pizza, walking around Perugia, making English pancakes, and just hanging out.


Connie: Sake Matsuri

October 15, 2010

酒祭り(Sake Matsuri) is a weekend long festival held every year in Saijo. I suppose it’s one of the larger events in Saijo—probably the largest. Apparently people come from all over Japan—there were plenty of foreigners too—to attend.  This year the first day of the festival was quite rainy, but this didn’t seem to discourage anyone. It made for a lost-and-found box full of umbrellas, though.  Two of my friends discovered that Sunday.

As a group the students in my program went on a tour conducted by one of the program leaders.  He took us to a fancy place with a beautiful balcony to sample some of the most expensive sake in Japan for free. Sake is, in my opinion, not very palatable. I failed to taste the subtle and pleasing differences and settled upon the most tolerable.

After that we went on to somewhere where the leader of our tour told us some about why Saijo is famous for its sake. Apparently in a certain regions of Saijo, the underground water is unusually pure. This makes the sake pure, so long as the rice is pure. From the olden days people came to Saijo for this pure sake. We were even shown a place where daimyo and other important figures stayed—a beautiful traditional building currently owned by a major player in a sake company—presumably to enjoy their time and sake in transit to elsewhere.

The tour was concluded with us being shown to the stage area where several local artists performed. The majority of the students with us opted out and instead went across the street to a section devoted to all-you-can-drink samples. The samples are labeled by prefecture, and you can choose from various drinks of that region.

If you are from anywhere in Japan, I probably drank to you. Particularly if I could remember your hometown.

Let me say, Sake Matsuri is a lot of fun.  But it’s definitely a good thing it’s only once a year. On Sunday, most of my friends had what in Japanese is called 二日酔い(futsuka yoi).  I’m sure you can use context to figure that one out.


Connie: Yomiura + Nabe

October 12, 2010

I really meant to write about the festival in Yoshiura, but the longer I waited the less I knew what to write. It was a week ago now. Time’s really flying!

The festival in Yoshiura was 蟹祭り(Kani Matsuri), or literally “Crab Festival.” Of course my name is pronounced like Kani, so I had to take the opportunity to call it my festival.

Yoshiura is about an hour away from Saijo. I’m sure we looked like a bus full of tourists as we snapped pictures of the scenery—actually at one point I likened it to Pokemon Snap (remember that game?) because you had to be quick to get pictures before the scenery got left behind. This area of the country is full of mountains, and between Saijo and Yoshiura there is lots of farmland and Japanese-style buildings. We actually drove over a mountain and crossed a nice little river.

We were warned that once we got off the bus we’d get attacked by a gang of demons. Not really, of course. At the festival there are plenty of people dressed up as demons, and their job is to clear the way. You see, at the festival the main event is a giant portable shrine being carried up to an actual shrine. Seeing the steps to the shrine made it very impressive—I would never have been able to do it. I was surprised the men carrying it didn’t pass out. They were sweating a lot by the time they got it up. And then they had to parade it back down again.

The festival itself was amazing to watch and very different from anything in the United States. But there was another interesting part about going to Yoshiura. Around the university in Saijo, I think the people are generally used to seeing people from all over the place. In Yoshiura there were probably some people who had never seen foreigners. We got stared at a lot, and lots of people took pictures of us. It was kind of a strange experience. At one point we overheard some Japanese boys talking about us, but saying they were too shy to come up to us. I wish they hadn’t been. I might have said something but I hadn’t been paying attention to their conversation, so I hadn’t heard what transpired.

Having grown up in the U.S., it’s hard to imagine seeing someone of a different race for the first time. I wonder what it’s like.

The following Monday, classes started. I’m starting to get settled in. I’m taking almost all Japanese classes, except for a class called “What is Peace” and a Korean class. (I wanted to take a class in Japanese, and since I have some background in Korean and love languages, I thought it would be a good way to get immersed.)

After having settled in, some friends who studied at my school from last year invited me and the other girl from Minnesota to eat nabe with them. Nabe literally means pot, but in this context is something more like hot pot. It’s usually eaten during the winter time, but since most of these Japanese students were in Minnesota during the last winter, they didn’t get the chance to eat it. It was like making up for lost time, they said.

It was delicious, and I can definitely see where it would be great to eat in the winter. But what I really liked about it was the way you feel kind of close to the people you’re eating it with. It somehow creates a really cozy atmosphere.

It was good for all of us to catch up. We talked about both my hometown and Saijo. All of the Japanese students started talking in Japanese, and though perhaps I couldn’t understand all of it, it was good practice. According to these friends of mine they felt the same way I do now when they arrived in the U.S. That is, only able to pick out parts of conversations. By the end they said they were able to understand much better. Right now it’s hard to believe, but who knows what will happen in a year?

I’m running out of money. I need to stop spending so much money on eating out and things I don’t need. I still have a week until I receive my first scholarship money. I’m sure I can make it though.


Connie: 100 Yen

October 10, 2010

It’s hard to keep up with that when I don’t have internet in my own room. Hopefully I can make up for my recent lack of posts by talking about my 百円(hyaku en), or one dollar, finds.

When students enter into my program they’re assigned a tutor who helps them with all of the basic things that might be hard for a foreigner to do on their own. A lot of this involves finding your way around, shopping for the basics, and doing paperwork. (Japanese word of the day: めんどくさい (mendokusai), which means something like troublesome, or perhaps better described as an adjective used for things you don’t want to do.  While doing paperwork, the word mendokusai comes up a lot.)

Being a Saturday, both my tutor and I had nothing but free time. The morning was spent resizing pictures that needed to be pasted onto several pieces of paperwork and searching for campus wifi. That was how my day started out. Facebook and paperwork.

After arriving at the library we looked around to discover that several other international students were there with us. Eventually we gathered together and the two tutors with us decided to take us somewhere. We ended up in a department store near Saijo Eki.

At first I was looking for Murakami Ryu’s 「五分後の世界」 (The World After Five Minutes), but neither my tutor nor I had any luck. That was when one of the other exchange students and I moved onto the music section. Let me tell you, the music section in a Japanese store is typically painful as CDs cost about twice as much as they do in America.  Your typical Japanese album will be 3000 yen, which is roughly $30.  Probably more since the dollar is so worthless right now. You can get as excited as you want when you see a SID album, but when you pick it up your heart is going to break a little.

That was when I noticed the 100 yen bin in the middle of the store calling to me like a beacon. My tutor showed up and glanced through, telling me they were all old CDs.  True enough – they were mostly from the early-to-mid 1990’s.  That was when I thought maybe – just maybe – I might be able to find some access.

And find I did.  I picked up access’ “Misty Heartbreak Re-sync Style”, Hiroyuki Takami’s “Wall”, Penicillin’s “Into the Valley of Dolls” and Shazna’s “Promise Eve”. 400 yen for these isn’t bad. They would probably be out of my price range on the internet. Not that the majority of you will recognize these names.  My Japanese tutor didn’t either.  Just know that I’m greatly pleased.

Spending the day getting to know the people who came along with me was nice. I got to know my tutor better. I got to practice lots of conversational Japanese. There was also lots of comparing between Japanese and other cultures going on. Sometimes I love the way the world seems to get smaller.

I’ll post about the Yoshiura Autumn Festival soon, which was about an hour away from here. I’m also looking forward to the Sake Festival next week. Did you know Higashi Hiroshima is famous for its sake?

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