Kan Wei Yeng, Vanessa (Hokkaido, Sapporo City)

12 ~ 19 Nov 2004

The Start of a Beautiful Friendship with 2 countries

What is home stay? Basically, it's staying in a home away from one's own home or so I thought. With much curiosity and excitement I signed up for this program. Since this is not a tour and it's my first time participating, I was overjoyed when I learnt that I was accepted and was really looking forward to it.

My previous visits to Japan and Korea were solely for leisure. Since my last visit, I fell in love with Japan and Korea, a love I cannot explain. I was fascinated by their culture where the new (modernization of technologies) meets the old (traditions).

I consider myself adventurous but I still experienced some sort of cultural shock when I was there. Like their everyday lifestyle, mannerism, culture and etc, although it's only 8 days in Sapporo and 4 days in Seoul short stay with them. In Sapporo, I visited Marika's elementary school presentation for my 7 year old host sister; wore a Kimono; attended a tea ceremony; sang in a Karaoke and bathed in a special 3 in 1 "Onsen" (Japanese public bath) which they also have a heated swimming pool and water rides facilities. Since this is a cultural exchange program, we were encouraged to share with them about our Malaysian culture like 'batik' and 'curry'.

Language was most of the time a guessing game. So our communication needs to be creative. As myself only speak a limited Japanese and English for my Japanese host family, we tried "charade" (a type of signing game), use a bilingual electronic dictionary and sometimes a "translator"! Whereas in Korea, language was not much of a barrier as most of my host family members can communicate in English. The only challenge I had to face was their famous "Kimchi" meals in korea!

Kan Wei Yeng, Vanessa (Korea, Kyunggi-do)
. 19 ~ 22 Nov 2004

My Korean parents took me sight seeing. We went to Yoido Church (the biggest in Seoul with 2 million members); Museum of Korean History; Namsan; Mt. Oh-Du Unification Observatory (where one can over look the borders of North Korea with binoculars); Insadong (where a lot of art galleries were located) and of course dressed up in their national costume, "Han Bok" (specially arranged by the courtesy of my host parents' neighbor). In Korea, they too have public bath or spa, it's called "Jim-ji-bong" or "Jim-ji-bang". Slightly different from the Japanese version but it was just as fun. I was rather disappointed by the fact that our home stay in Korea was just 4 days, and that included the plane and bus rides.

What really touched me most were their hospitality, generosity, integrity and politeness which they displayed and extended to us. They welcomed us like we are their family members. In actual fact we are strangers and we only meet them when we reached their country. But the effort and time they put in, to make sure we were well accommodated in our basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, well being and safety, really moved me to tears. They are so genuine and sincere. I would like to stress on their generosity because those whom we meet for the first time, gave gifts. I'm not sure if it's their culture or some other reasons. But their kind gesture took me by surprise. I believe the purpose of hosting us was purely for friendship and getting to know the culture of other nations because I was told that they did it at no charge at all. For that reason our friendship is more meaningful. I must confess that every time I visit these 2 countries, my passion for their language, culture and land grew deeper.

I have learnt a lot more by living with my home stay families than by what I have read in books or watched on television programs. Because this is an experience that I went through personally and I believe at the end of my stay with them is the start of a beautiful friendship.

by: Kan Wei Yeng, Vanessa - Customer Service