ありがとう日本!

When I was a kid, I fell in love with the Sailormoon series. I loved it so much that everyone in school associated it with me, and I even cried several times when I missed it, or when I watched a particular episode where they all died and such. It was my first introduction to anime, and I thought that because I loved Sailormoon, I would probably like other anime, too. Eventually, I watched some, and then because I was such an otaku (or so I thought), I found this how to speak Japanese booklet at home and started trying to learn it, because I thought it was cool and all that.

Then I just lost interest, and never really looked back. (Except when I catch some Sailormoon episodes that they air here every now and then.)

Here’s the thing: I never had Japan in my bucket list. I have friends who love everything Japan and Japanese – from music to food to TV shows and all that, and every time they talk about it, I just nod politely and listen. It’s not that I didn’t want to go – I just didn’t have it in my list of places I wanted to go to. I wasn’t as fascinated with Japan as I was with New York City, or Europe.

Then late last year, a friend called me and asked if I wanted to go to Osaka because there was a seat sale and they were about to book a flight. Being a Yes-girl to a lot of travel stuff like that (which is how I got to go to Jakarta last year in the first place), I said yes, and then ta-da! I had a ticket to Japan!

I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t do much research until a few weeks before the trip when we were working out our itinerary. We had five days there – less, because we arrive in the evening on our first day – and there was just so much that everyone in our group of 9 wanted to do. In the end, after we got our visas, we decided to go crazy over it: Osaka – Tokyo – Kyoto. All in five days.

Let me tell you: it was ambitious and achievable, but prepare for aching feet, long rides, and very quick stops. Because friends, three cities in five days = crazy. Even more so, Japan in five days = NOT. ENOUGH.

Time to let the pictures speak for themselves! (Photo dump!)

大阪

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It was raining on our first night, and we got lost on our way to the hotel. :D
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First group selfie at the hotel! :D
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The next morning, near the Osaka Castle. :)

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Merci, Paris!

Also known as: The lovely city of Paris <3

Oh Paris. <3

I always thought people who fell in love with the city of Paris was, well, kind of cliche. Maybe I’m just avoiding being mainstream. Or maybe, I just thought other places — like Italy, for instance — would be way better, more romantic than Paris. Some of the people who has visited Europe before told me that if I should visit some countries there, Paris is just okay compared to say, Rome, which was amazing. But still, Paris is Paris, and I am not one to choose.

So after three-hour train ride (and an impromptu household to boot!) from Geneva, we arrived at Paris-Gare de Lyon. Bonjour, Paris!

Just disembarked from the train

We were welcomed by Ashley and Angela, two girls from YFC Paris and they led us through the metro to get to the girls’ host home at Ashley’s sister’s place. Interesting thing about our hosts (and most of the YFCs in Paris) is they are French citizens but they came from Filipino families, so they are fluent in Filipino and in French. It was actually quite nice to hear them speak in Filipino — think of Ilonggos speaking. It just sounded so nice! And when they all start talking in French, all we could do was listen in awe. :)

Anyway, we arrived at Mel’s (Ashley’s sister) place in Liege, where we were welcomed by Mel and Toto, who were busy cooking spaghetti dinner for us. What followed was a fun dinner full of plans for the next day and things to do and lots of awesome, awesome French talk that we could not understand but loved to hear. It was a fun evening, and they were all so nice that I haven’t even been in Paris for more than six hours and I already knew I loved the place. Maybe it’s Filipino hospitality, or maybe, the “Paris magic”1 has caught me. Needless to say, I was very excited to see the city the next day2.

Tourist Guide – Paris

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  1. Or at least, I’d like to believe it is! []
  2. Especially since I only had one day to go around, because the morning after that, I was headed for Vienna []

Bonjour, Geneva!

Also known as: The little city of Geneva

Our first stop for the mission was Geneva, not only because the mission volunteer for YFC Europe was based there, but also because the cheapest plane fare we could get was from Madrid to Geneva. After another day of “shopping” and booking tickets (for me to go to Vienna), two of the three mission groups headed to the Madrid Barajas airport for our flight to Geneva. As if to excite us further, we also met another WYD delegate in the airport who was going back home to Geneva and she started telling us about the different things we should do in the city. :)

Our Swiss Air flight was delayed, which I kind of didn’t mind even if I was separated from the group again (I have the worst luck with plane seats). I managed to get some reading done and also a nap, which helped a lot because we arrived in Geneva around midnight because of the delay. It was a short flight, but because of the travel stress, we were glad to get there. :)

Welcome!

We were all expecting it to be cold there — at least, colder than Madrid was — but alas, it wasn’t. Oh well.

The YFCs in Geneva picked us up from the airport and the couple coordinators for the area gave us a ride to go to our host home. Here’s an interesting part of our journey there. We arrived at Geneva, but our host home was actually across the French border. So in one night, we managed to be in three countries: Spain, Switzerland and France. Awesome. :)

We had late, late dinner at our host’s house, and I must say: Filipino hospitality extends even to the other side of the world. :) We were happy and full that night, even if I ended up sleeping by two in the morning to finalize the rest of the mission details. I also ended up rebooking my flight back from Geneva to Madrid so I can stay longer in Vienna — I thought it was only a 6-hour train ride from Vienna to Geneva…turns out it was 13. Heh. Ouch on the wallet!

Buenos días, Ginebra … er, Francia!

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