A very Australian Christmas (a 2013 retrospective)

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Where have I been you ask, did I drop off the face of the earth? Yes and no….. Over the Christmas and New Years period I returned home to the down under to spend the holidays with my family in Melbourne.

Now I did the same trip last year and expect I will do much the same this coming Christmas. However the relationship developed with a country left behind in lieu of another is a bittersweet one, the return to said country equally so.

Upon leaving Australia after my last trip I retained a residual distaste for the country, questioning whether I would ever want to return to live there in the future. Despite having spent a fantastic few weeks with my friends and family, I found myself longing to return to Japan. This year however I have returned to Kobe in quite the opposite headspace.

For so long firm in my mind was the firm belief that I was a black sheep, not only amongst my family and peers but also within my country of origin, that I was somehow different from everyone else’s.

If there is anything that can shatter long held beliefs and redefine a person it’s two things, time and distance. As the saying goes ‘you ain’t know what you got till it’s gone’.

I guess the major turning point for me was finding myself begin to contemplate my future, not in Japan but post-JET. I guess seeing my long term friends my age back home getting on with their lives caused me to reflect upon my own situation. What am I doing in Japan? What kind of career do I want in the future? Shall I return to university for further study? What will my life have shaped up to be by my later 20s?

Over the past few weeks I have sincerely had some of the greatest times of my life, simply enjoying the company of the family and friends I left behind half a world away. From this experience I experienced a major shift in my mindset of what exactly Japan and the JET program mean to me.

Having had aspired to reaching my alleged ‘ultimate goal’ of living in Japan for almost a decade. I can now see with definite clarity that I had put the country on a pedestal, the way one might put a pretty girl.

Now I’m not saying I thought the country was all Sushi, anime and geisha as many do who have never been fortunate enough to visit Japan. Nor would I want to downplay the profound respect I have developed for its people and culture. But instead I would like to put forth that yeah, if you get an awesome placement like Kobe on the JET program (or even if you don’t), Japan can be everything that you ever dreamed of and more. But at the end of the day the experience like anything in life is going to be what you make of it.

I know I have said this in past posts but you can grow up and discover where you want to go in life quite rapidly here, today is the 588th day of my journey here so I would hope to have made some progress. Whether that is the product of conquering the hardships of living alone in a foreign country for the first time or unique to JET I couldn’t say. However I am a firm believer that this experience has helped set me on the right track to becoming the man I always needed to become.

I arrived in Kobe coming up 2 years ago a person I can look back upon with distaste, self-righteous, unempathetic and stubborn as hell. I like to think I’ve made a little progress since then, yet I realize the road ahead is long but if I have gained any insight it’s this:

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of ones ignorance”
-Confucius

I don’t want to say that I have come to some great epiphany either, rather that I am just walking my own path one step at a time learning with each one.
What I have learnt is to truly appreciate and treasure those you who love you, whether they live next door or a world away. Rather than worrying about winning the affection of others and what they think of you, simply be the best you you can be. Show a sense of empathy, respect for others opinions and a sincere interest in what those around you say and you will never want for company.

I have met so many amazing people in Japan from all corners of the earth in the short part of my life that I have been here, but I will be sure never to forget those friends and family I had in Melbourne neither.

To all that I saw and spent time with during my visit home I thank you for making my trip amazing. Particularity the efforts of my parents who took every step imaginable to do anything and everything to make my visit home a memorable one.

Till next time,

-Dan

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Merry Christmas From Nihonomnom!

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Yo guys, I apologize post have been scarce lately as I returned home for the holidays and Australia really isn’t the country to inspire interesting, thought provoking blogging ideas. I figure most should be enjoying the festive season and not be reading my constant stream of consciousness anyway XD

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Regardless I have been busy getting into the holiday spirit…… as much as an Australian Christmas will allow. That said keeping to traditions is for those born prior to WW2 so alas I present to you the gingerbread castle of House Takoyaki!! Inspired by ‘A song of ice and fire’ which I am ever so obsessed with I couldn’t bring myself to make a simple house, that’s for regular jackoffs! Anyhow after sever hours of designing and baking the pieces yesterday morning, then enlisting the help of family last night, within 12 hours what was simply a figment of my imagination became a delicious Christmasy stronghold!

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Honestly though I couldn’t be happier to be back at home with my family and friends for the holidays, everyday I see posts from friends back in Kobe who decided to brave the holiday period without jumping country and its really just a tad depressing.

The Japanese seem to really have no grasp of what Christmas is or what it means for those who hail from countries where it is celebrated indigenously. Not that we really celebrate Christmas down under in all so much as what Europeans might consider a traditional sense but at least Aussie kids know the difference between Santa and Jesus 😛

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Anyhow wishing all my readers a happy holiday period where ever you are in the world and hope you have a delicious day ^______^

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I leave you with Fuji-san rocking his much appreciated Christmas bone!

-たこ焼き

Game of Thrones Inspired Dragon Egg Shortbread Cookies!

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In an attemp to get into the Christmas spirit after returning to Australia last night, I baked a batch of Christmas shortbread cookies with mother.

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Although appropriately we made a batch of Christmassy themed cookies, I was never one to settle for such mundane baked goods. Alongside this harbouring a great love for the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, I instantly knew what must be done when I saw the packet of slithered almonds in the pantry.

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Alas here I present to you my prototype ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ inspired dragon egg shortbread cookies.
Here is the dough prior to baking, the scales I created by painstakingly layering slithered almonds one by one.

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And here we have it, shortbread fitting for the khaleesi herself.
In the coming weeks I intend to try this recipe once again but with the addition of dying the almonds black and green to create the coloured eggs of Daeneyrs dragons Rhaegal and Drogon.

The basic shortbread recipe i used is as follows:

-250g butter, at room temperature
-100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
-300g (2 cups) plain flour, sifted
-90g (1/2 cup) rice flour, sifted
-Slithered almonds (for decoration)

Process:
Step 1
Preheat oven to 150°C. Using an electric cream butter and sugar in a bowl.

Step 2
Gradually add flour, beating on low speed, once crumbly kneed dough with hands until firm. Dough is then transferred to a lightly floured surface and flattened to 2cm with a rolling pin.

Step 3
Using a medium sized bowl cut 15cm circles in the dough, then shape the sides into an egg’esq shape by slicing off some dough on the upper half of each side. Now you will make your dragon scales, push the slithered almonds into the dough lightly in rows alternating a centimetre to the side so they end up in the centre of almonds in the row preceding.

Step 4
Bake the shortbread in oven, swapping the trays halfway through cooking, for 40 minutes or until light golden. Set aside on the trays for 10 minutes to cool before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Fire and Blood!

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