© 2013 Lions Clubs New Zealand
Seventeen-year-old Napier student Ben Newland was one of eight Hawkes Bay teenagers to exchange sun, sand and surf this summer, for record snowfalls in mid-winter Japan.
Ben saw an advertisement in the newspaper for sponsorship by local Lions Clubs to Japan and thought he’d always liked Japan – so why not. He paid for the trip, but Hastings Host Lions Club arranged the host stays. Ben spent five weeks in Japan, staying with two families in the historic city of Kyoto, which, he says, is really three cities in one.
“Lions were great – they were amazingly generous. One man picked me up from the airport and drove me over an hour. They really did look after me.”
The hardest thing about the experience, says Ben, was the language. Lions provided a translator at public functions he attended – but at home Ben found help through Google. He and his host family were able to converse with the aid of the computer.
The daughter of one family had a little English – but the other family did not speak any English. His second host family were also hosting a Malaysian boy at the same time as Ben.
“Actually I got by. I thought it would be harder than it was – but we were able to communicate without words much - through body language.”
One of the highlights of his experience in Japan was a trip to the ancient city of Nara. Nara was Japan’s first capital city and the home of the first emperor. With a population of 300,000 it is quite a small city by Japanese standards.
“I’ve been to lots of temples. Kyoto is a very historic town, and there are a lot of temples. After about 10, you start to think – I’ve seen enough temples.”
And then there was the snow. Japan was having a particularly cold winter and the snowfalls were very heavy.
“The snow in the northern hemisphere is different to what we get here. It was very heavy and deep. It snowed on Christmas Day and New Year - the whole city was covered in snow.”
Ben says he would definitely like to go back to Japan one day. He doesn’t know when that will be, it may be a long time coming – but one day he’ll return.
“Lions were great – I’d like to thank them for all they did. It was an amazing experience.”
For more information visit the Youth to Travel Website