Seventeen-year-old former Timaru Boys' High School student Brennan Galpin is on a year-long Rotary Youth Exchange in Gero-shi, Japan.
Another month has zipped by and I am still having the time of my life. I'm still pretty tired all the time and it's still quite cold but that is all part and parcel.
My first month here was amazing; everything was brand new and a bit of a novelty but now the novelty is wearing off and I'm starting to get used to the way of life.
My dream was to live the Japanese way of life and that is what I am doing.
Part of settling in is making friends and I feel truly blessed to have made so many already.
At school, people don't treat me as the new kid any more but more like an old friend and I love it. Everyone in class is so helpful and there is no shortage of things to laugh about.
I have made more friends in my karate club here which is so cool. Karate is a huge part of my life as I trained for 11 years in New Zealand so, of course, while I'm in Japan, I'm going to be giving it a go one way or another.
At first, here at the dojo, it was ever so slightly awkward; I was brand new, from a different style and foreign.
But as time has gone on, I've been welcomed in by the all the students and I'm fast becoming good friends with the Sensei.
It's so much fun to be able to beat each other up then laugh and smile about it afterwards.
A similar sort of thing is happening in the kendo club. I've made some genuine friends here and it's simply the best. We all dress up in pyjama-like robes then don some cool-looking body armour. It only looks cool, it's actually really uncomfortable.
The helmet gives you this terrible tunnel vision and it's quite a tight fit.
After we are all geared up, we proceed to whack each other with bamboo sticks for a good two hours.
In kendo, the voice is very important. When you strike someone you scream out in a sort of battle cry. At first I was a bit shy and didn't yell very loud but, after a while, I found it quite liberating.
So, in a nutshell, life is good. It's still very cold, I'm always tired but regardless of the small inconveniences, I can always smile and normally I'm never smiling alone.
- The Timaru Herald