Click on the picture to read about Samantha's adventure
On 9th January 2017 I travelled further away from home than I had ever been – Japan!I had a great time! I got to perform 2 shows, eat loads of new food, and party with some of the friendliest and most courteous people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.
Obviously I posed for loads of pictures, so I’ve posted them below, with a brief explanation of what (and when) they are. We did so many great things that I’m bound to forget some of it, and we met so many people I’d like to mention that I’ll probably mess that up too! (But I’ll do my best!)
Thank you all so much for having me and making me feel so welcome! I will definitely be coming back to Japan as soon as I can – I had a blast!
Andy (my manager) wouldn’t let me get away without taking pictures before we left England, even though we had to wake up at 4am!
After traveling for a few hours we arrived at Heathrow, waited (and took pictures) for 3 hours, and then boarded the plane. We stopped over in Germany for a short break, before embarking on the 12 hour flight to Nagoya Airport… 22 hours in transit (no wonder my skin was rebelling!)
After landing we were picked up by our brilliant hosts Charlee Laine (facebook.com/charleelaine) and his wife Yoshiko who live just outside of Nagoya. (more of them later!)
After some lovely meals in our hotel and a good long sleep we travelled to ‘The Venue’ for a tech rehearsal.
The Forum theatre in Kasugai. A huuuuuuge building with a lovely theatre, and extremely friendly, knowledgeable staff. Of course Andy insisted that we take some photos (yay). Including one that makes me look like an ant in comparison to the building!
Then, just as we went back indoors it started to snow, hard. It was beautiful!
The rehearsal went really well, so we were all looking forward to the day after next, when we did the most important part of my trip – the shows!
After sleeping, eating some great food, and meeting a great many people (Thanks for the lunch guys!) and sleeping again we woke up on the day of the performances.
We gathered our gear and went to the venue, set up the dressing room and got ready to perform.
The Shows went brilliantly, we were very lucky to have such great technicians and helpers, some of whom took the next few photos (as Andy was busy cue-ing the music).
I really wanted to do something nice for everyone, as they were being so nice to me, so Andy and I worked really hard to learn a song in Japanese. And I just about managed it! If you’re interested you can see it here . It’s Feed The Birds from Mary Poppins.
There were only 300-ish pictures of me performing to sort through (some of them catching me at very odd moments), but luckily there were a few that I liked.
I was touched to receive several bouquets of flowers – they smelt great and really brightened up our hotel room!
After the show some of us travelled through the snow to a Chinese restaurant (in Japan… weird!) for some really nice food. I’m glad I already knew how to use chopsticks!
After the busy day, Andy and I took a brief rest day. We wandered around Kachigawa, where our hotel was, and managed to buy ourselves some lunch!
Then it was off to the celebration meal organised by some friends of ours. They rented the whole bar/restaurant for us, and we were treated to some particularly good food (again!)
After that we all moved on down the street to a karaoke bar. They had rented that too, so we had a small, friendly competition (which I won – 93% not too bad!) It was so much fun, I didn’t want to leave. However Andy dragged me away when I started to fall asleep in my chair!
Our last few days were filled with trips to interesting places.
Our friend Maki-san took us to an amazing shopping area (Osu) where we visited a traditional Japanese temple, and we had a great time perusing the shops. We also laughed a little at the seemingly random and often confusing use of English on shop signs.
The day after that we went on the bullet train, past some beautiful snowy landscapes to Kyoto. We saw so many amazing things that we sometimes forgot to take pictures (oops!). We visited the Old Imperial Palace, the Golden Temple, an old-fashioned wooden shopping district in the hills and a whole bunch of other amazing sights. We walked around all day in the intermittent snow and it was astonishingly beautiful. It was a great way to spend our last day in Japan and we had an amazing time.
But we couldn’t stay out too late – we had to be up at 5am to pack for our flight home.
We arrived at Nagoya airport at 8am, and were surprised to see that it had been invaded by Ninjas! So surprised that we forgot to take any pictures (oops again!)
It was a long journey home, but we did manage to get a great shot of Mount Fugi from the plane.
During our flight we saw 3 sunrises in 1 day, and finally got home after a full 24 hours of traveling – whew~!
What a great trip – I definitely want to go back. In the mean time I’m looking forward to hosting some of my new Japanese friends when they visit England!
Just as the weather in England decided that it was actually summer after all, I traveled to Grahamstown, South Africa. Where it was winter... though the temperature was still 20C every day (all the locals were in coats and gloves!).
I was there to perform 'Samantha's Dubious History of Musical Comedy' at the National Arts Festival (South Africa's answer to the Edinburgh Festival). I performed 6 shows over 5 days to a fantastic audience, who got all my jokes, despite the culture barrier!
Then we had 2 days off before traveling home, so we booked into Addo Elephant Park overnight - WOW! Totally worth it!
It was an amazing trip! Thanks to everyone who made it so great, and who were so friendly and helpful. I couldn't have done it without you!
Even though we had a late flight 6:30pm, due to work commitments both Andy and I were up at 8am. Then we had 15 h ours of flights and many hours of waiting... so that by the time we'd got to our B&B we'd both been awake for 32 hours! Luckily, there's no jet-lag (only 1hr time difference).
Neither of us can sleep on planes... But lots of really good films on the in-flight entertainment saw us through. I had planned to work during the flight, but it was a night flight, so they turned all the lights off, and the personal lights were so bright they would have woken everyone around me. Oh well :)
We dropped off our luggage, then immediatly set off to The Monument (up a very steep hill) to sign in with the fringe and get our artiste passes (get in free to any show - as long as there are empty seats!).
The B&B is large and colonial (the view from the balcony to our room - or "stoop" as they say here - below) as one would expect, but the crime rate is a slight spoiler. It's not that you are likely to be robbed, it's just that you have to be aware that it might happen and take precautions every second of the day ... and that's such a shame. Every house of any value has walls, barbed wire and guard dogs. No one leaves anything in a parked car. The roads are wide. The busy ones are patrolled by black youths who will 'look after' your car while it's parked for a small tip (although they don't actually do anything!). However they don't threaten and if you don't pay they look annoyed but not aggressive.
We couldn't help but notice the views. It may be winter, but it's a stunning country!
After a long, long sleep, it was time to find our venue. Luckily for us it was on the main road. So we checked out the venue and checked in with our technicians Enock, Nelson and Tumi. We were really happy with the venue; great atmosphere, good lighting, nice accoustics and everyone we met there was so helpful!
Our first show was at 8:30pm so we had time to check out The Albany Club. Usually it's members only, but it was open to the public for the festival. This was our first real experiance of South African food. The meat is amazing! Andy had steak, and I had beef stew, and after tasting it we were very impressed. Large portions, fantastic meat and all at less than half the price of restaurants in England. Andy proceeded to have steak at least once every day we were there!
The first show was a sell out, which was fantastic for me, because I was a bit nervous. Its quite scary trying out comedy in a different culture - what if it doesn't translate! But luckilly for me the audience loved it, and gave me a standing ovation at the end! That made me feel better.
After that the audience size fluctuated (as you expect at a fringe) from 40 to 120, but every audience came in ready to laugh and we all had a great time. Mr Donkey was a particular favourite.
Becasue we had one show a day (apart from saturday) we had plenty of time to see the rest of the festival. There were loads of other shows, and there was a big fete called 'The Village Green' where there was dancing and art of all sorts.
It was a lot of fun (so we forgot to take pictures of most of it).
We were really impressed by the quality of the recycled art there. Tyre chairs, wire sculptures, crazy lawn ornaments and bead elephants all done to a very high standard - unfortunately none of the really cool stuff would fit in our luggage!
We also came across the best BBQ Andy had ever seen. Nothing but massive steaks!
We also saw another side to Grahamstown - the outskirts of the city. We were quite shocked at the living conditions there. Tiny huts, cobbled together with bits and bobs, donkeys and wild dogs in the street, and huge quantities of plasic rubbish everywhere. Racial inequality is still a huge problem, mostly due to a lack of education and opportunity for the majority of the black population.
Once all the shows were done, Andy and I could indulge in some sight-seeing. We decided to take a day to travel to the coast, first to Kenton-On-Sea then to Port Alfred. That brought us to the Indian Ocean, and beautiful white sand beaches. I love shells, and collect a few every time I get a chance. There were lots of very cool shells I'd never seen before, so I got to add to my collection :)
We would have gone in the sea, but it was very windy and the waves were very high. We decided it would be better to stay on the shore. Then, after some more steak for lunch, we headed back to Grahamstown.
On our journey we came across some wonderful spots. A silent pond next to the main road, to name but 1. And we were ammused by the local plants - they have the biggest succulants I've ever seen!
As we were travelling along the N2 (the motorway) we saw a wild Giraffe by the side of the road. We pulled over to take a picture and the Giraffe seemed to invite us to take a closer look. It was incredibly friendly and was quite happy to be stroked! I was shocked by how safe it seemed, considering how massive it's head was, and its teeth, but I wasn't in the least scared. It was like a big friendly dog. AMAZING!
We saved the best for last - a trip to Addo Elephant Park. We decided to spend Monday there, stay overnight, then explore the park some more before catching our flight at 6:30pm.
It was supprisingly cheap to stay there - the 2 days cost about £100! And when they say 'Elephant Park' they aren't kidding! the second thing we saw was a group of 4 elephants, 2 adults and 2 young, right on the road. The first thing we saw was a tiny Leopard Tortoise, which crossed the road in front of us - so cute!
We saw way more species, and in greater numbers than I could have hoped. It was astounding how unconcerned they all were by the car, and us taking pictures. Zebras, Kudu, Warthogs, Elephants, a huge variety of birds (including Blue Cranes and Ostrichs), Bushbuck, Turtles, Vervet Monkeys, Red Hartebeast, Buffalo (the whole herd crossed right in front of the car). At night they have a lit wateringhole, with a hide next to it. We sat in silence there as the sun went down, and for a few hours after dinner. It was great - though lots of people apparently dont have the patience for it. They'd pop in for maybe a minute, then walk off if there wasn't an animal right there... and they'd make a lot of noise too. They never saw anything, but if you wait quietly you might see what we did - Hyenas passing by and howling at each other, and a big bull elephant drinking for 15 mins at least.
Then we went to our log cabin, and went to sleep, becasue we knew we wanted to be the first people out in the park when it opened at sunrise. We were driving around, watching the sunrise, seeing the world waking it - it was a very cool moment, but we didn't see any new animals. Then we checked out, and decided to drive hrough the whole park and out the south exit, then on to Port Elizabeth and our plane home.
On the way we saw mostly what we'd seen the day before, magical, but not new, so we were not expecting to be flagged down by another car coming the other way. They told us that about 10 mins away was a fresh lion kill. 3 Lionesses had killed a Warthog a few feet from the road. We went in search and found exactly that. There are no rules at Addo about keeping your windows up - which made for some great photos, but a scary moment when one of the lions had eaten her fill and walked right past us. She stopped directly by us and looked into the car - it was very intimidating, but she was very calm - and full. What a fantastic way to end our 'Safari'.
We exited the park and made our way to Port Elizabeth. When we got there we decided it was still early, and grabbed a snack at a fancy-looking cafe, opposite the harbour. Then we hopped on a plane, then another plane, and finally got home at midday the next day. Because we got up at dawn on the Tuesday, by the time we got to our Jive Club on the wednesday night we'd been up 37 hours... then we slept really well afterwards.
What an amazing trip -I'll never forget it!