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YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAH

Writing this, I have found out that I have passed all of my finals, and received the credit for all 18 classes this semester. I have never been this busy in my life. The last three weeks of the semester were spent mostly at school, and I rarely came home before 9 or 10pm at night, ready to give in to exhaustion. Finding out I passed everything without any re-takes is just the best feeling ever!

Anyway, this last week I had no exams or reports, so I got to spend a little bit more time with my friends. I went to a post-exam night out with the class, an all-nighter in the Round1 arcade centre, and otherwise have just been tending to all the things that I didnt have time to before. Although I was planning to do some bill-paying and such boring stuff, it seems that Japan went into the "Obon" holliday, which basically means that EVERYTHING is closed. The school is closed, the hospital is closed, the bank is closed, the post office is closed... It is the only time of the year that the hard working japanese salarymen get some time off. I didnt take any pictures lately, but here are some taken by others!

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Caught in a very intense moment singing karaoke.

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Night out with my engineering school people!

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Fireworks at the beach at night.

I'll go back to Norway soon, after visiting friends and acquaintances in Miyazaki for almost a week. See you soon!
11 Aug 2012

An entry revolving surprisingly much around beer

Hello everyone. My blog is back from the dead, once again. The reason why I do not write so much here anymore is that this semester is so busy that I have had to prioritize my time otherwise. Because of this new way of prioritizing, my spare time is spend more on drinking beer rather than writing about it. Also, my camera has been laying in the same spot for almost a month now, because I rarely have a chance to use it.

We are now entering the rainy season here in Kyushu island. Whereas it has already been raining for the past few weeks up north, now also us southerners are entering what is usually about one month of almost constant rainfall. Perfect weather for studying, as we are approaching the last month of the semester. In engineering school terms, that last month is much like a hole in your life, with 90% of the time spent at school. Not looking forward to that, but I'm sure I'll make it through.

So what is with the title of this entry, you might ask. Well, I figured I'd liven up the entry with some pictures, and since the only recent pictures were taken with my phone, these are the only ones:

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Me and some friends put this bench together for a class at school. Can you believe I actually made that?

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Some concept store in Tenjin selling super distilled ice cold beer.

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A serving of our university made beer, "Q-beer". It was actually surprisingly good.

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Belgian beer in the grocery store, such a luxury. Some of my friends will understand why I took this one. Too lazy to rotate it, sorry.

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Kinda blurry picture taken at a Bayer Munich supporters pub, watching the CL final.
I seem to only take pictures involving beer. Oh, well.

Lastly, only moments ago my Iranian buddy brought me some delicious cheeseburgers from the Japanese chain "Mosburger". Thanks a lot, itadakimasu!
17 Jun 2012

Golden Week: Returning to Miyazaki

Hello again! Last week was what is commonly referred to as "Golden Week" in Japan. It is basically just three or four hollidays in a row, which makes it the one week that many people get off work during a year (of course excluding the service sector, which flourishes this week). All parks are crowded, every hotel is fully booked...
Anyway, I used this chance to go to Miyazaki. I started the four and a half hour bus ride early in the morning, met up with some old friends, stayed the night and went back the next evening. It was so much fun to meet up with those guys again!

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At a "居酒屋" (Izakaya, Japanese style bar).

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More friends.

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Back at friends house. Friend holding a Japanese favorite - 焼酎 (shochu) which litterally means "burning sake". Needless to say it is not a very pleasant drink for my taste.

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I don't like the way pictures come out under fluourescent lighting...

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Playing soccer games until the late hours.

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Miyazaki station the next day. 30+ degrees already... Miyazaki is HOT!

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Theres probably a reason why this guy is so grumpy, but unfortunately I didn't look into it. Taken in Karatsu city, a 30min drive from the dorm.

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Don't know why I included this picture in this entry, but anyways... This is the school cafeteria (on a Sunday).

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It's only the beginning of May, but already summer is all around. Rumor has it they had snowfall back home the other day.

That's all for this time. I have a bunch of other photos I didn't look through yet, so I'll probably post some of those in the near future.
08 May 2012

Jengaaaa~

On weekends, we sometimes get together in one of the many common rooms in the dormitory, usually just to talk or study, but sometimes also to do some game or watch TV. I brought a Jenga-game from Norway, and while most of the other guys in our class played DotA (some free online game I don't understand), we had some more traditional fun. Pictures follow!

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And, at last, we have our loser:
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28 Apr 2012

Lately

I meet so many new people lately! I am of course stoked to make a lot of new friends, but I feel really bad when I can't even remember half of the names. Now is the first semester for the Japanese students, so the university is crowded almost all day all week. At first I thought it was a bit annoying, as I hardly ever find a seat in the cafeteria, but my friend Ryan said something that I guess is true: This is what a university should be like. Anyways, the first graders are checking out uni clubs and circles, of course including the ones that I am in, resulting in an exponential growth in my friend count. Good stuff!

To welcome new members, my club arranged for us to go out drinking together. A LOT of people showed (I'd say at least 50 new faces), so some people could not even fit in the restaurant. If you wondered what it looks like when you go out drinking in Japan, it's a lot like this:
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I'll post again as soon as I get to transfering pictures to my computer.
26 Apr 2012

Ohori park with the camera club

Yesterday I went to a nearby park with the university camera club! I've been there once before, but it was nice to go there again as it is a really big and beautiful area. The Sakura blossoms are almost gone by now, but a few days of hot weather has given us a bunch of other flowers to look at. It was raining as I left the dorm, so I didn't bother putting on any sun lotion. That turned out to be a bad idea, as my face was red as a tomato when I came back. So much so that some people asked me if I had been drinking... I need to be more careful next time I guess. Which was today. Guess what, I just walked right out into the sun again, and this time, even with lotion, it got a bit worse. Being a white guy in Japan is so hard sometimes!

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People from the camera club. Oh, that sun!

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I never grow tired of these flowers...

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Some of the last cherry blossoms.

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Some very red flowers.

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1/4000s shutter time makes water look like jelly.

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Uploaded for its Japanese-ness.

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Upon taking picures of the turtles, I noticed the enormous carps underneath. Wouldn't want to swim here!

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My favorite picture from that day.

See you again soon!
15 Apr 2012

If I can survive this semester...

...then I guess I can do pretty much anything! The other day I registered to all of my classes, and even an extra one to get some more credit. If all goes according to plan (that is, if i don't fail any class), I will have a much more relaxed third semester in Japan. But that is a huuuuuge IF. In addition to not failing my hardest subjects, namely Mechanics B, Linear Algebra A and Electrical Engineering, I have a bunch of classes that require weekly homework and reports. For example, for the course "Introduction to Japanese Culture and Society", I will have to write a short essay before every class. I also registered to Biology class (the extra one), which I have yet to experience. I guess the main point is that I have a whole lot of classes this semester.

Anyway, I realized that I havent shown you a picture of my home yet. This picture is taken from campus, and I live in the furthest dormitory.
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As you can see, it is not really the best weather for studying lately...
12 Apr 2012

You'd think there would be some privacy

Hello everyone! Had my first day at school today. We're entering a week of syllabus-reading, book renting and getting to know some new teachers. A lot of classes just continue where they left off, like our Japanese classes and calculus.
Since I got a new camera, I've been taking a lot more pictures than before. I now see why people with a real camera seem to get really into photography after getting one! I was at the zoo with... ehm, the wife of a professor at my university who did faculty exchange in NTNU and met a friend of mine at the doctors course there. It was a nice day, and I took a few pictures, most of which I wasn't very happy. It's hard to take good pictures through the fences... But anyhow, here's a bear!

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And it was my first time seeing one of these in real life,
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A completely different story, when I came back to japan last week, there was almost nobody to see on the airport subway station. Quite a rare thing in Fukuoka! But chaos awaited when I was to take the bus to my dorm.

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What met me was this queue, extending far beyond this picture. It was the day of the entrance ceremony, talk about bad timing!

Now you might be wondering about the reason for the entry title. Well, I think this picture explains it all.

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Yes, there is no door to that toilet stall.

My class schedule is packed this semester, so I'll be staying on campus until the late hours for a few days now. A lot of interesting events coming up it seems though, stay tuned!
09 Apr 2012

Busybusybusy

Midterm tests this week. It's unbelieveably stressful, and the way the teachers present the exams really makes me sweat. For our chemistry test today I was so nervous I was shaking all over. It went OK, but I am still not comfortable wether I will pass or not. It is really a terrible feeling. We still have three more tests this week, the last one on saturday. These tests should be OK, but you can never be sure. I'm just a tiny bit worried about the physics test, but if I prepare as usual that shouldn't be a problem.

On top of this, I felt homesick for the first time today. It's not that I haven't made a lot of good friends here, because I really have, but I just suddenly started to miss my friends and family. But I trust that it will go over soon. In times like these, I always think that for every dark night, there comes a bright day after. So I really just have to hold on, and the good times will come, no doubt.

I won't be sending any christmas presents home in time for christmas, because the postal service all over the world is now probably already overloaded, so I figured I'd give them a break and just send them in January. For now I just wish my friends and family in Norway a good and happy christmas time with your families!
05 Dec 2011

University life in Japan

This update is just going to be some unstructured and random thoughts about life in a Japanese university.
It's been a whole month since school started, and I think I'm starting to get a taste of what my life is going to be like for the next few years. I wake up every morning at 7am, have breakfast, shower and go to school from 8:40. Then I have two classes before lunch, and usually two (sometimes three) after. On mondays I'm not finished until 6:20pm!
After school I go home, prepare dinner and do my homework. Depending on the workload that day, I spend most of my time studying. But there are other things to do here too.
Many of my classmates live in the same floor as me, and we sometimes get together to have dinner, play games or watch TV. On weekends there are sometimes parties here too. So far I'm enjoying dorm life, and I find it much easier to consentrate on studying here than back home.

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(The beach here is really nice, I can't wait for summer!)

The campus is only a 5 minute walk from the dorm, so getting there on time is no problem compared to my high school where I had to catch a bus every morning. My classes are mostly fine, and I like many of my teachers. In addition to the usual science subjects like mechanics and calculus, I also have to take classes like psychology and economics.

In the lunchtime we go to one of the school cafeterias and buy a set meal for roughly 300-400 yen, which I think is quite reasonable.
On weekends we go shopping in the Aeon-mall, which is a 15 min bus ride from the campus. There are quite a few shops over there, but its nothing compared to Fukuoka city. But if we want to go all the way downtown, it will cost us over 1000yen, so this far I only went there once. I got to say though; Fukuoka is the most beautiful Japanese city I have seen so far!


(My entire class at the entrance ceremony.)

Today there was a halloween party downtown, but I didn't go because the last bus back here leaves before 11pm, so I would have to stay out until the morning (and I really need my weekends to study).

Finally I would like to say that I'm doing just fine over here, and that I will try to be better at updating this blog when it is needed. Miss you all!
28 Oct 2011

No internet connection in my dormroom yet

There won't be any real entries here until I can get the dorm room internet working. I'll try to have it ready for skyping by this weekend! I also have an entry that is just waiting to be posted. Bear with me guys :)
11 Oct 2011

I hate goodbyes (updated x2)

I hate goodbyes. Leaving somewhat in a rush, I don't feel like I got to say a proper goodbye to a lot of people. But after all this is not goodbye at all, it's still just see you later. I spent my last night in Trondheim at Lerkendal stadium with one my best friends - I already miss you bad! And opposed to last time I left, I was actually about to burst into tears when I sat down in the airplane. But now I'm all optimistic, and I really can't wait for the journey to be over. I can't wait to meet the students of the university!

As for the document mentioned in the last entry, it turned out the document that I needed got sent to the wrong address. After countless phone calls, I finally arranged to pick it up at the terminal before it got sorted in the morning. Then, when I had just got out from local soccer game between Rosenborg and Sogndal, I got a call from the people at the terminal, saying that I could pick it up that very night! So I got the document and headed to Oslo the morning after to hand it personally to the embassy (which was actually closed, but opened specially for me). After waiting for about an hour I finally got the visa, so now I have a relaxing Saturday in front of me before I finally leave Norway on Sunday! I will try to update this entry during the weekend until I reach Fukuoka whenever I can.

Update#1 I am currently at the gate at the airport, waiting for my flight to Frankfurt. I got here 4 hours early so I've been waiting a while already! I have spent all of my Norwegian cash, and now I'm going to grab a quick snack for energy befoe I leave in about an hour! Phone will be on until I leave Frankfurt.

Update#2 I have now landed in Tokyo. My plane doesn't leave until at least three hours from now, so I'm just chilling with my computer listening to music. I got mild travel sickness from the flight (which was surprisingly turbulent). Japan first impression: This place is HOT!
23 Sep 2011

Last day at work!

camelsFirst of all; There's been little activity here lately, because I haven't prioritized the blog during the late few weeks. The reason for this is work and other things that have filled my stressful daily live before departure. I hope to continue with the updates before and after arriving in Japan, but it all depends on my access to the Internet at the given times.

Anyways... Today was my last day of part-time work this year! It feels good, but at the same time a bit strange. All of my savings, all of which I have worked myself to earn for over a year, is going to start disappearing. But this is it - This is what it was all for. Hopefully I'll be leaving home this weekend. Then, after spending a day with a good friend of mine who is studying at the university in Oslo, I will get on the plane to go to Japan. I've got it all worked out, and my pre-departure checklist is all crossed out.

But it doesn't all come down to whether I'm prepared or not. I am actually still waiting for an important document to arrive from Japan. I can't get a visa until I get it, and there aren't enough days for me to mail it to the embassy before I leave. Therefore, if I receive the document tomorrow, I'll have to go for a day-trip to Oslo. If not, my flight schedule will have to be changed to a later date. I really hope I can go this weekend, because I'd surely enjoy the extra time to settle in my new apartment before the semester starts. When I finally get my visa I can rest my head and start doing things like saying goodbye to friends and family, shopping and preparing.

I'm very excited to go, and I hope that the rest of the admission procedure will go more smoothly!

(The picture for this entry is a cool piece of art of which I do not know the origin. I just need a picture for each article for the blog to look neat and tidy...)
20 Sep 2011

Learning Japanese #2: Introducing Lang-8!

Lang-8Writing essays is undoubtedly a good way to learn Japanese, but there is not much help in that unless you have a native speaker to correct them when you are done. I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite sites for this. Lang-8 was founded by Yangyang Xi when he was studying Chinese back in 2006, and has since expanded rapidly as one of the most popular language learning sites out there.

The concept is that the user creates a profile, listing his fluent languages and the languages he is studying. Then, you write an essay in the language preferred, and it will pop up on the news-feed of any registered native speaker. They will then be able to analyze and correct your essay sentence by sentence, and maybe also give a comment on what to work extra on. The user then gives a "Thankyou-point" to the one correcting, and proceeds to correct an essay written in his own native language.

The site has a lot of users learning English, and many of them are Japanese. It also comes with a useful calendar for keeping track of the learning process, as well as numerous social features such as friends lists and photo albums (I didn't really get into those). If you have no opportunity to contact a native speaker of Japanese, Lang-8 is a really good alternative, and it does of course also work with other languages as well!

My journal at Lang-8
Lang-8 main site
31 Aug 2011

I guess I've learned something after all!

NotesMy Japanese used to be very bad. This may seem like the most obvious thing, but when learning a language it sometimes helps to look back at things you did a long time ago to see how you have progressed. I was cleaning out my room before going to Japan, and I found some old notebooks. The one I was particularly interested in was the one that I used when I was studying Japanese prior to going for the exchange year. It is all written in Hiragana, and seems to be my first attempt to writing something in Japanese. This is the little snippet that I found:
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Not only does it look like it was written by a Japanese 5-year-old, it is also riddled with mistakes. Thankfully my Japanese has progressed beyond this point, and now I can look back and laugh at myself. I can't believe it's been four years since I wrote this!

Maybe I should write something now, and look at it again in a few years time?
25 Aug 2011

AFS-weekend in Oslo

AFSweekendI spent last weekend in Oslo, as a volunteer at the AFS-Camp being held there. I have been volunteering with AFS for a while, but I had actually decided not to go to this camp this time, to make room for fresh leaders who will stay in the local chapter for the whole year. But there seemed to be a shortage of leaders, so I went anyway. I'm so glad I made that decision! It'd been a while since the last time I was at camp, and I guess I had forgotten how much fun it is. The picture is of me and one of my friends at the camp hotel (also the creator of the blog header, thanks!)

Meeting students from all over the world really is a unique and enjoyable experience. Lots of planning and very little sleep comes with the package, but I think this part only makes it more fun. Being a leader at a camp like this provides you with really applicable experience for your career too! The weekend consisted in work like receiving all students, a crash-course in Norwegian, and even a country talent show. It was really fun, and thanks to all the great volunteers and AFS-staff members everything went smoothly all weekend!

Maybe I can volunteer for AFS Fukuoka too, or at least participate in some of their chapter activities. Only one month until I leave home!
22 Aug 2011

Learning Japanese #1: How I learned the Kana!

fu For a beginner of Japanese, a natural thing to do is to learn the Kana. The Kana are the most basic characters of Japanese, and are separated into Hiragana and Katakana. The Hiragana is used for Japanese words and endings, and the Katakana are mostly used for foreign words and names. I actually learned all of them back in first year high school, when I decided I was going to Japan for an exchange. In this entry I want to provide learners of Japanese some tips on how to remember them efficiently!

First of all, I want to make one thing very clear: I am not a fluent speaker of Japanese. Not even close. I can have a meaningful conversation about the weather or a movie I saw last night, but I can not read a Japanese book or understand the news on Japanese TV. If you are still comfortable with me teaching you Japanese, keep reading.

What I did was use the flashcard-method. This method will not teach you how to write the Kana properly, so that will have to be learned separately. But first things first, you'll want to understand how to read before you start writing beautiful Japanese calligraphy. It's completely up to you which Kana you start with, but I'd suggest you start with the Katakana. They are commonly used for loan words, so after learning them you can easily begin to understand such magnificent words such as "toire" (toilet), "teeburu" (table) and "baabekyu" (barbecue).

The first thing you'll want to do is to get a large piece of cardboard, a permanent marker and a large rubber band. Cut the cardboard into cards of about 5x7cm, and write the katakana you want to learn on one side of the cards, it's reading on the other. Remember to use the right stroke order! Printing the cards out from your computer works as well, but the cards will turn out softer and not so durable. Any other blank surface cards will do the job too.

Now, stack the cards up and tie the rubber band around them. Now get to learning! You'll want to bring the cards with you at any time, and whenever you can spare a moment, have a look at them. Look at the Kana, and guess it's reading. Then flip it. Don't worry if you get it wrong, just try again the next time around and you'll get it eventually. Be sure to scramble the cards often, so you don't get used to the pattern. I remember looking at my cards at the bus stop every morning, and spent around 3 weeks for each set of Kana. The speed in which you learn does however depend on how often you look at your cards and your previous experience with learning languages.

You do of course also have to learn to write the Kana at some point, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Hopefully I'll make a few more "Learning Japanese" entries in the future, so stay tuned!

Good luck!
Martin

(Picture from Wikipedia)
28 Jul 2011

July 22nd, catastrophy struck our peaceful Norway

blackThis Friday, an unbelievably tragic event took place in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. A bomb went off by the government building, and a man dressed as a policeman massacred children on a political youth camp at Ut�ya island.
All my thoughts and condolences go to those dead or affected. I really hope all Norwegians can forget about any differences and be there for each other in the coming days. A Norwegian girl on CNN summed this up nicely: If one man can spread such hate all by himself, imagine how much love we as a people can give eachother.
24 Jul 2011

How to survive abroad for one year without a scholarship

Norske pengesedlerThis entry is going to be very informational, but I felt it was necessary to explain some of the money aspects that I had to consider before deciding to study abroad. Hopefully somebody out there might find this interesting!

Here in Norway, university education is tuition free, and the government will grant any student a student loan, as well as a modest scholarship. Unfortunately, this is not the case in most other countries. Because of the low cost of university education, most Norwegians do not have any kind of college fund when they graduate from high school. Getting to go to school for free is undoubtedly a great thing for students in Norway, but it also poses a challenge in financing ones studies abroad. But education in Japan is actually quite reasonable compared to many other countries.

When I chose to apply for a university, it is no secret that the price tag played an important role. As much as I would like to pick based only on my personal preferences, sky high tuitions render some choices unrealistic. But I was very glad to find that the tuition at Japanese public universities seem quite subsidized (I don't know if this is only applicable for international students), which makes things a lot easier for Norwegians without college funds.

The only major drawback is that the bachelors degree is one year longer than here. This is by no means a bad thing when it comes to the quality of the program itself, but it takes away my right to any student loans and scholarships from the Norwegian government for the whole first year. Essentially, what this means is that I will have to manage for the full first year with money made from my part-time job at the local supermarket.
So I'm currently doing my best to make as much money as possible within the roughly 10 weeks of summer holiday before I leave. Privately financing the first year may be a hard endeavor, but with it comes a great feeling of having survived a whole year of studying without any loan or scholarship. It really makes me feel good!

On another note, the results from the Math and Physics finals turned out as expected, and I feel ready to tackle new obstacles when moving to Fukuoka!


What is university tuition like where you live?
Martin
24 Jun 2011

Welcome to part II!

This is my new blog!
For those of you that don't know me, my name is Martin and I'm about to set out on my biggest adventure yet. About two years ago I went on a highschool exchange to Nichinan, Japan. Now, having been admitted to a good japanese university, the adventure is about to continue. This time I'm blogging in english to reach a broader audience, but I have to say that I am not a native speaker, so a few grammar and spelling mistakes are to be expected. Please bear with me, and I'm sure I'll improve a lot through writing here!

In the coming days before leaving I hope to let you in on some of my preparations. I'm planning to invest in a new camera (single-lens reflex), so expect a lot of pictures on this blog in the future! In the meantime, anyone interested may check out the previous entries (Part I in the left menu). They are mostly in norwegian.

The main purpose of this blog will be to inform friends and family back home of my whereabouts and recent activity, and to create an image of the life of an international student in Japan for anyone interested in going. Entries may come out often or seldom, so remember to check back!

As for this blog itself, it was programmed using basic html and css. For the news-system I used CuteNews, a free CMS which is both free and very user friendly.

And finally, thanks to Erik for hosting my blog on his domain. Appreciate it!

Martin
20 Jun 2011
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