Japan-bound and cool as a cucumber | SierraSun.com

Japan-bound and cool as a cucumber

Renee Shadforth
Sierra Sun Assistant Editor

It’s usually about this time when I start to get distressed before leaving for vacation.

Earlier this year, two days before a trip to Europe ” and the first time I had left the continent in my life ” my boyfriend and I were sitting in the Tahoe Forest Hospital emergency room ” he with a nasty stomach flu and myself with a wretched case of stress-induced hives.

But as I sit at my computer ” two days before I’m supposed to hop on a plane to stay in Japan for an entire month ” I’m cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce (to steal a Beastie Boys line).

I haven’t even packed.

This trip, a month-long venture to Central Japan with Rotary’s Group Study Exchange team, is all planned out by our Rotarian friends in Japan. I don’t need to worry about looking up train schedules online. I don’t have to book any hostel or hotel rooms. All I need is my passport and a smile (and my team uniform).

Group Study Exchange is a program that is supported by the Rotary Foundation. Each year or so, they provide travel grants so four non-Rotarians (like me) can go to another country for one month to learn how people live abroad. We also receive funding from our local Rotary clubs, mine being the Rotary Club of Truckee.

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We will stay in people’s homes, observe people in our own vocations, eat their food and (hopefully) not drink too much of their sake.

Our days will be jam-packed with Rotary meetings, lunches, dinners and tours. I’ll be visiting newspapers and magazines in small and large Japanese cities. I get fatigued just thinking about it.

Soda Springs resident and local acupuncturist Tracy Rudnicki is also on the team. Fortunately, Tracy has lived in Japan before ” and she knows quite a bit of the language.

Me? I’ve been listening to as many language CDs as possible to and from work. I know the basics: please, thank you, and “If I eat clams, I will get hives.”

If you’re into traveling ” and you think you can finagle a month off of work ” I suggest you apply for the 2007 Group Study Exchange in Thailand. For me, Group Study Exchange has been an excellent experience, so far.

The rest remains to be seen. You can follow Rudnicki and I on our travels in Japan through my blog, “Journey Into Japan,” at http://www.sierrasun.com.

Renee Shadforth is assistant editor at the Sierra Sun. Contact her at rshadforth@sierrasun.com. For more information on Group Study Exchange, go to http://www.rotary.org/foundation/educational/gse/