I’ve been dreaming to go to Japan for more or less 20 years, since the moment I understood that the cartoons I was watching with my big brother were called “anime” and were adapted from comic books called “mangas”. When people asked “why do you like mangas?” it’s like asking “why do you like Super Heroes?” Everybody loves Super Heroes, and let’s face it: what kind of heroes do we have in France? Bécassine?
Awesome drawing by Tico. Please visit the gallery of this artist on Deviantart!
With my big brother, we’ve been playing videos games and discovered heroes like Mario, Sonic, Link, Ryu, Chunli, Mai, Kyo and Iori. We’ve been worshipping Sangoku, Sailor Moon, Ken (Hokuto no Ken, not Barbie’s boyfriend….Well technically I had them too but that’s not the point!), Ranma when our parents were talking about Conan and American Comics. We were fascinated by this far away country and started to fancy Japan like our parents were dreaming of America when they were younger. Japan created a wonderland where we felt confortable, a fantastic world where we could be safe, far away from our daily life problems and/or bullies.
When growing up, internet helping, I fell in love with Japanese music, started to learn more about the culture, read books (real ones, without pictures, so hardcore!) about the pop culture in Japan, but also about geishas in ancient times (far from the polished image I had), about the troubles of a society that developed too much too fast, about work pressure, racism, teen prostitution. But I was also reading magazines about Japanese idols (you know, these guys that look like girls?), secretly dreamed of dressing up like a kogaru. I also read stories about students trying to enter Todai, stories about samurais wandering during Meiji Era, about angels being reincarnated, goddesses living on Earth, video girls coming out of the TV, and yes sometimes in all those stories you could find sex and/or violence but it was not the only thing there was, contrary to what the majority of people said.
Like every otaku, I started to draw and wanted to be a mangaka. I used half of my weekly lunch money to buy a manga every single week and slowly built my precious collection. I self-learned Japanese and then stopped when it got too complicated and taking classes was too expensive. I was called a weirdo in High School because I was still playing fighting video games instead of fixing my make-up like other girls. I bought Japanese cooking books that I seldom used. I wanted to eat watermelon on a wooden deck with paper doors behind me, watching the sakura trees blossom with a pig-shaped ceramic mosquito coil server by my side. I couldn’t sleep at night for years because I was scared that a girl in a white dress with long black hair covering her face would kill me and panicked whenever the phone rang in the middle of the night.
When I finally got to Paris after getting my Bachelor, I remember my brother took me to my first Japanimation convention. We were not weirdoes here, we found people like us, and for God’s sake they had goodies with a white kitten wearing a bow, how cute is that!? I had posters of Hyde next to Eminem (no need to say that I cried like a baby when he came to Paris with his group L’Arc-en-Ciel), watched Japanese dramas along with American TV shows, did musical video games competitions, learned strange dances in which you only move your arms, fiercely said to ignorant people “it’s not Chinese it’s JAPANESE!!!” and occasionally did cosplay as well.
I spent a good part of my childhood with two fingers firmly pressed on my forehead trying to teleport, walking around with a glittering pen that was supposed to transform me when I pointed it to the sky and shouting “Venus Power, Make-up!”, writing stories about how cold water would change me into an animal, throwing phone cards that never stuck in the wall with “Cat’s Eye” written on them or even holding a palm tree leaf while wearing a white dress, and when my desperate mother would ask “what the hell are you doing on the roof dressed like that holding this bloody leaf?” I would always give the same proud answer while the wind was blowing my hair in my face “I’m burning my cosmos!”
We just had different games….
After 20 years of saying “One day, I’ll go to Japan. You’ll see. One day.” I’m now looking at the blemished Kakashi phone chain my brother gave me 10 years ago when I moved from Reunion Island to Paris with a smile, thinking about our childhood. I even made a list of what I wanted to do, which places I wanted to visit. (Oh, when I say “a list” I mean the freaky one on Excel table with colors and sh*t…..What?)
So there it is. It’s Monday and I’m heading from Melbourne to Cairns and then catch a flight from Cairns to Narita, Japan. I told you I’ll be going there one day. And that day is today.
I left Melbourne to get to Belgrave for my new (and maybe last) Helpex where I’ll be staying for almost 10 days. I met my new host at the Belgrave train station, Miss Kooka, and we drove about 10 minutes to get to her house, located inMenzies Creek, in the Dandenong region. The house is surrounded by the rainforest’s gum trees; it almost looks like a modern version of Hobbiton: houses hidden in the forest!
On my first night here, Miss Kooka introduced me to her friends: a whole family of Kookaburras standing on the deck, waiting for food, a border Terrier and a guinea pig! We gave some Kangaroo minced to the seven Kookaburras and I got my fingers bitten several times.
My work here is mainly in the garden, and after the storm there’s quite a lot to do: cleaning the fallen barks, weeding, but also washing the car, cleaning the house and helping for the market during the first weekend of April. I work during four hours every day but it can get quite tiring for my back. Anyway, that’s always good to be busy especially because I was starting to be a little bored in Melbourne.
Miss Kooka usually cooks for both of us and I got to have some traditional Aussie meals: roasted lamb and Shepherd’s pie! The Sherpherd’s pie looks a bit like the French Hachis Parmentier except the meat used is lamb and the sauce used is gravy. That tasted awesomely good, as you reckon Miss Kooka can sure cook! I returned the favor by making my Reunion Island traditional Sweet Potatoes cake and Chiken Cari.
We went to see the Puffing Billy, located next door,a ” century-old steam train still runnning on its original mountain track from Belgrave to Gembrook, in the scenic Dandenong Ranges and is a genuine relic of more leisure days”. The train still runs thanks to the work of hundreds of volunteers and I had the strong feeling it would finally get me to Hogwarts…or maybe back to the Future?
We also visit some amazing veggie patches in Monbulk where we got no less than 5 different kinds of tomatoes, and on my day off we went to the Sherbrook forest in order to see the emblem of the region: Lyrebirds!
We woke up at 5.30AM (well 4AM for me actually), went to Sherbrook Forest (which is part of the Dandenong Ranges National Park) walked for a while, waited for dawn and finally got to see four of them, 3 females including one singing, and a male scratching the floor. Lyrebirds are quite famous for their perfect imitations of birds, chainsaw, camera shutters, alarms, but this usually happens during breeding season (June to September), when the male is trying to seduce the female by singing and dancing on the mount he prepared and flipping its tail over its head.
The female looks like a pheasant with a larger tail while the male looks like a peacock but when they are running, the first image I had was of Road Runner! We then had breakkie with Egyptian-eye toast made in the BBQ area nearby, surrounded by Cockatoes, Crimson Rosella and Galahs (Yes, they were “freed from desire”…*pom pom tchiii*) parrots. It was fdefinately worth it to wake up early!
On Sunday, I decided to stick to with my tiny list of free stuffs to do. I started by waiting next to Melbourne Central for the free city shuttle, that goes around Melbourne CBD and stops in front of every main building in town. They say you can also hear some historical facts in the train. Yeah, “they say”…..I waited 30 minutes before realizing that the city was not running today, as it was Children’s day and some roads were blocked.Dammit.
That didn’t stop me; I made a little detour when I spotted the Children’s Book Festival in front of my dear State Library and then headed to the National Gallery of Victoria, south of the CBD. On the way, I spotted a lot of people in orange shirt, sweaty, with hot pink cheeks from the run they just had. They just came back from the “Run for the Kids”, were having a break at the Sunday Market at the Arts Center or at Federal Square. In the streets, artists were painting, dancing, singing for money, giving to Melbourne its well-known artistic vibe. It felt like a modern version of our French Montmartre.
I arrived at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) around noon, sat at the entrance where paper and pen were provided under a sign saying “remove you shoes, have a sit and draw your comics, I’ll make a big comics with what everyone has done”. I sketched two drawings, had a first look around the dark grey stones of the building, the glass windows on the ceiling, and the metallic letters on the floor then waited for the 12.30PM free voluntary tour: Portraiture.
We went to see sculptures outside, upstairs on level 2 where some of the most valuable acquisitions of the Museum are exposed and finished with the Asian Arts exhibition. I met some old friends from my High School History of Arts days on the way: Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Pissarro, Rodin and met some new ones like the Australian artist Bea Maddock.
At 1PM we stopped to watch the dance event from the balcony of the Grand Hall. Every dancer was in a square, doing random choreography, each in a different style of dancing, some shouting, some using music, others doing a more elaborate mirrored routine. Then they all stopped at the same time, standing still, tall and straight, eyes shut. Like time was frozen, capturing the attention of the visitors who were suddenly waiting for something big or unexpected to happen. They tried to disturb the dancers, make them laugh like every visitor does when spotting the Royal Guard in front of Buckingham. We waited 2 minutes, 5 minutes, before they all began to dance again like before: ballet, modern jazz, hip hop, flamenco…
After the tour, I went to see two fashion collections: Ballet & Fashion on one hand and Dior & Yamamoto-The New Look, ended by the European gallery which consisted mainly in religious artifacts, sculptures and paintings from France, Italy, Germany, Spain…
If you like the smell of wood, the surrounding dim lights, the whispering of tour guides telling you secrets about a piece of history, the space and calm you can feel when sitting on one of the big black couch in every gallery, and finally if you come to enjoy what they call art throughout ages (out of passion, curiosity or even boredom), then NGV is definitely a must-stop.
For the past few days, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the State Library. I fell in love with this building. The architecture from the outside is almost as impressive as the one you can find inside. It’s very modern with the polished glossy stairs, the glass doors, the cold metallic elevators, the art gallery and the equipment you can borrow in the Art department, the videos on the big screen on the way to the reading room with a hint of old from the used cover of the books you find everywhere.
But the reason why I fell in love was when I first entered the Latrobe Reading Room. It looked like the library you see in Beauty and the Beast (okay, not quite as big) but it gave me the same feeling. A huge dome covering shelves of books on the balconies, long wooden tables with little green lamps, like the one you see in American teenage movies. I felt like wearing a “University of Melbourne” jumper to walk in the corridors (or my Harry Potter Hufflepuff cloak maybe)! Plus they have free Wifi…Praise the Lord!
I made new projects for later this year, spend time updating the blog, made some research, writing some articles about a bunch of things I had in mind, and of course like every single student in the room: I chatted on Facebook with my friends. Yes, just give it a look and you’ll spot a tiny blue banner on the screen of every single laptop around you.
Well, I didn’t spend all my time there. Almost not. I also had a long walk in the North of the city on Saturday when I wanted to visit the Rose Street Market on Saturday. Never found it (apparently it was close, I saw a lot of people looking for it and following me at the tram station…That’s a failed). Instead, I had a look at the Flower and Garden Show next to Melbourne Museum, deciding I was not passionate enough to spend money on it and just enjoy walking in the streets for 3 hours.
In case you had a doubt: yeah, this is a freaking big city.
On the list of the free things to do in Melbourne, I decided to start with the “I’m Free” tour. It’s a 3 hours walk around town guided by a local volunteer. So the tour is free and you can reward them with a tip (you choose the amount, of course). The concept already exists in Sydney and is quite new to Melbourne.
The meeting place is at 10.30AM in front of the statue of Sir Edmond Bary, at the State Library.
We walked to the State Library, the Old Jail, the Parliament, some arcades in the city, tiny streets to spot the famous street arts, China Town, Carlton Gardens (well, it was closed but still…), St Paul’s Cathedral, Theatres (Princess, her Majesty’s, Hamer Hall), Federation Square… Every stop was explained by our guide with some anecdotes, history facts, and personal impression about the town, the constructions, etc.
I just love the architecture of the city; you can find lots of different styles like old types and very new and modern ones, all mixed up on the same picture. I went to 2 churches as well: one close to the hostel called St Mary of the Sea, and St Paul’s Cathedral, in the city. I like going to churches, I think it’s very relaxing and intimate, plus it gives you a good idea of the type of art you can find in a city. But that’s only my opinion.
Melbourne had a gold rush period in the 1850s and it reflects on some of the buildings. It also seems that Melbourne and Sydney are always competing to get the title of “most popular city of Australia”. Melbourne is very art and culture oriented, it’s quite know for the street arts (you have to get in the tiny streets to spot some of them, it changes every time as the artists keep on painting over one another), and I found the whole thing quite….cosy.
I was not particularly interested in visiting big cities like Melbourne and Sydney (how boring is that…?) but I have to admit the city is indeed charming. You can find different precincts, and every culture is mixed and has its own. They also try to get inspired by all those immigrants’ culture to get a new cuisine. Something maybe more interesting, that could define Australia a bit more precisely, get a more unique taste (and God knows they need it, I mean seriously: sausage rolls??). Funny how it reminds me of Reunion Island sometimes (except that we don’t have precincts, everything is all mixed xD)
I found it very interesting; especially when you just arrived in town it also gives you a good orientation of the city. I would recommend this, especially because we all need a low budget activity sometimes, and there’s no nedd to book it, you can just show up and tours run every day!
As I told you in the previous article, when arrived in The Grampians, I decided to part with my friend. I won’t go into details as some of you expect (you can still send me a PM for that), but at this point I had: no transportation and no place to sleep. I checked the next bus and decided to go back to Melbourne. Why Melbourne? Well, because it was closer than Adelaide and my next Helpex in 10 days will be in the area.
I cancelled the accommodations I had in Adelaide and tried to find something for the next day in Melbourne. That was before I realized the next was Sunday. St Patrick’s Day. And this was the weekend of Melbourne’s Grand Prix. Great….So obviously every single room in Melbourne was booked. But, I managed to find a room, except that I had to pay 150$ for it. I didn’t really have a choice anyway and I really wanted to get out of here asap. I took my bus ticket and was pretty confident about my next move.
Except that on the departure morning I got a called from the hostel saying they made a mistake and that I couldn’t have the room. Oh great, so now I have nowhere to sleep. It just keeps getting better…
Luckily when I called back the manager told me they made a booking for me in another hostel nearby, the room is a bit more expensive but they will had the difference along with the deposit I made when refunding me. I got to Melbourne after 4 hours of travelling (bus and train), found the hostel after 1hour of walking, waiting for the tram, finding the good tram in the first place, thanking the tram driver for helping me found the street I was looking for and not making me pay, and checking-in. The room was on the ground level, next to everybody’s drinking and shouting because of St Patrick’s Day. I had a headache, I was exhausted and nervous but I had a double bed with an ensuite bathroom all for myself so I did what you’re not supposed to do in a backpacker’s hotel: I took a long shower. REBEL TIME!! I just squeezed my backpack for a little while and cried. I hate when things don’t go as they supposed to, this was supposed to be a vacation and turned out a disaster, I was missing Tasmania and if I knew I could have stayed there a bit longer.
Next day, I had a little walk around St Kilda before heading to the next hostel where I’ll be staying until March 27th. The place is a little bit out of the center, but next to the tram station and cleaner than expected. I was really happy, it was even better than the first hotel I went to last week! I took my laptop, and as I have to save money for Japan (yeah, I’m running out), I googled something useful even if it sounds stupid “free thing to do in Melbourne” and I found THIS.
I decided that nothing will spoil my year in Australia. No-thing. Even if I come back broke, I won’t go back to France until I get kicked out of the country. So I cheered up, made plans to fully enjoy Melbourne instead, put on some crappy K-pop music in my Ipod (my favourite, SHINee FTW <3) and after 1 day and a half of not eating because of stress I had a big plate of meat pasta and watched Once Upon a Time!
Afterall, my motto is “What does not kill you, makes you stronger” (or “stranger” depending on the version :p)
I left Tasmania after almost three months and joined a friend in Melbourne. He came on vacation especially from France and we decided to do the Great Ocean Road for the next 2 weeks and the first start was Melbourne. The afternoon I arrived, we just had a good walk around the town, had diner outside, catch up and went to bed early after planning the next day.
We started with a shop called Minautor that we saw on the way the day before. It’s a shop dedicated to pop culture. And we spent around a hour and half in it. It’s actually quite big and very well organized by theme: Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, American TV shows (The Simpsons, American dad, Big Bang Theory…), anime (Bleach, Naruto, Sailor Moon, yes Sailor Moon I cried and bought nothing but god knows it was hard not to…..), comics, Batman, Marvel, Justice League, mangas….Let’s just say this was a little piece of heaven.
After that we went to the Victoria Market, one of the biggest and most famous around here. There were like 600 little shops, it’s huge and covered.
We then decided to go to Melbourne Museum, one of the most impressive one I’ve done so far, quite different and divided in theme sections. We did the Evolution one and Body & Mind sections, and went to the IMAX Theater afterwards to see Oz, the Great & Powerful. Pretty nice, not fantastic but that was a nice movie.
When buying the movie ticket we got a 50% discount on the museum entry (which was only 10$ anyway), and you can re-enter the museum if you have time after the movie. Which we didn’t…But, instead we went to The Sherlock Holmes, a restaurant found completely by chance on the day before, you have stairs leading to the basement, decoration is rustic and perfectly fits the image you can have of Sherlock. I had one of the best meals (a bit rich though…): chicken filled with a bit of camembert and sun-dried tomatoes, wrapped in bacon, with a butter garlic cream on mashed potatoes. My stomach made me pay for this later on but it was worth it xD
The next day we drove to Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road. We stopped by Cape Otway to visit the most significant lighthouse of Victoria, as it is the first one to establish a connection to Tasmania. (My dear Tassie <3) We saw a lot of koalas on the way, mainly sleeping in trees but one of them was eating, making it a bit more interesting, otherwise it’s just big balls of fur not moving…
The third day we went to the Twelve Apostles. The landscape was wonderful but we had bad weather and I was feeling a bit sick s sadly I didn’t really enjoy it like I wish I had. I saw bay of islands too, it does look as stunning as the pictures I saw before, even under the rain.
We arrived at the end of the afternoon in The Grampians, which is a great national park, very peaceful, with awesome mountains and forest surrounding the YHA with a lot of wallabies in the backyard.
This is when a bit of drama happened, and I decided to stop the journey with my friend starting this day. Things were not going as planned, to be honest it’s was a catastrophy but I guess it’s part of the game when you’re travelling. Plus, I’ve been very lucky so far so at some point, I must have a sh*tty period to go through. It’s now.
Six months. It’s been six months that I’ve been travelling, working and meeting people around Australia. It went by so fast, in just a blink of an eye.
I saw many amazing landscape, awesome animals, met incredible people, learnt to do many things I’ve never even try beforeand got through some changes as well. Both physically (haircut, tan, tattooes) and mentally. This is a tiny post of mid-journey, I still find it incredible that I’ve come all the way to Australia and done so many things.
Tomorrow I’ll be leaving for Melbourne, I’ll meet a french friend who came on vacation here so we can do the Great Ocean Road during the next two weeks! Yeaaah, free time \o/ It’s a but sad through as I will be leaving Tasmania… *sigh*
Meanwhile, enjoy the video I made last November for a friend’s birthday to see some of the amazing things we’ve done!
Four months ago I decided that I wanted a new tattoo.(I have one on my left ankle which is almost 10 years old). The first idea came with a couple of friends, but as I don’t really like having the same design as someone else, no matter who they are, I decided to draw the design myself.
Then, after a month, one tattoo became two. Three months later, after sketching and finally getting what I wanted (and of course making up my mind on th question: “now, I know what, but where??”), I decided that I wanted to get tattooed in Tasmania.
That’s when I found Tassie Ink Tattoo & Percing. I took time to carefully look at the online portfolio, the comments, then went to the studio to have a look, show my designs and get a quote. Everything looked perfect to me, I learned that my tattooist was a girl named Candice, even better that would be a change for once, and took an appointment for the next month.
Waiting for the D-Day was really long and when finally I got to Hobart I was very VERY excited. Two of my friends came with me, the studio where Candice is decorated with things I love: Beetlejuice, The Crow, Elvis. She’s a big Elvis fan, just like my mom so you can guess taht I grew up listening to the King and seeing the statues were to me a sign that I did choose the perfect studio! Plus, I liked the boots she was wearing.
The job was done carefully, we took time to discuss the design, if I wanted shading, where exactly do I want to have it, Candice gave me advice about the wrist design to get something clean and pretty but also about where exactly to put it.
It took 2 hours more or less of work to get everything done, I was so thrilled I almost cry. I kept telling my friend to give me the camera back so I can have one more look to the design on my neck. And one more. Perfect!
Okay, just once more. Gosh, it’s pretty, I’m so happy! Wait, let me look at it a bit longer!
To those who asked me “so did it hurt?” The answer is: yes, of course it did. I mean it always do hurt at some point! The most difficult part was the middle circle on my wrist. But I kept my mouth shut, I didn’t want to make the artist unconfortable but crying or whining, it’s a choice you make, you know it’s going to hurt and there’s nothing the tattooist can do about it.
Anyway, I do recommend the place, have a look on their Facebook page and if you want to get tattooed, take your time, ask questions, go to the studio, and then: Enjoy :)