Saturday, July 10, 2010

Last Homestay and Kaisei

This past week has been wonderful and full of some lovely adventures.

Tuesday night I met the majority of my team in Nagasaki city to celebrate Daniel, a team member’s, birthday. We all came from either traveling or our various host families, and we just chilled, ate at a restaurant, and tried to find a public place in which to eat ice cream cake.

However, two others and I needed to be back at Nagasaki station at 10, and we were about 15 minutes walking distance away from the station at 9:45. We were trying to leave, but people kept holding us back for various reasons…which means we ran all the way back to the station! The four of us must have been a sight: me and Sean leading, I in a dress, flip flops, and carrying a giant purse (plus being a cripple), and Nick and Serge following us for 10 blocks. Crazy Americans…can’t even behave decently in a foreign city, eh? But we made it just in time =)

The next morning we headed off for a short 2 day camp up in the mountains near Fukuoaka. The view was incredible; pictures never do it justice. This time we were counseling our first elementary school, Kaisei, which brought a group of about 50 10-12 year olds. We actually didn’t do any English lessons with them, instead just interacting in English. We did a 3 hour orienteering hike, and my group was wonderful: I had three adorable boys and two amazing girls.

We hiked up mountains, through forests, and up and down way too many steps; it pretty much gave my knees a death sentence *laughs*. But it was fun! And just when I thought that my knees couldn’t take the last hill, my kids yelled, “Snake! Snake!” And sure enough, a 6 foot long snake was chilling on the hill above us; I call that God’s providence, eh? *smiles*

That night we had a campfire, and it was wonderful. It is probably my favorite activity from every camp, because I can just sing and dance and have fun trying to get the kids involved and make them smile. It’s not something I’d naturally do; I always think of how I appear to everyone else, and that makes me uncomfortable. However, I always had wanted to just let loose and have fn, so I’m glad for an opportunity that is conducive to craziness. I think the fact that I’m doing it for the kids, not for myself, makes getting out of my comfort zone even easier. When you see the really shy kid start doing the hand motions and singing along, you know that it’s a job well done. Oh, there was a quick break to get rid of a poisonous snake halfway through, too; it was a reminder that this is Japan, not MN.

The next day, we made curry and rice with the kids for about 4 hours! There were two big outdoor cooking areas with 6 sets of sinks and fireplaces, and we went at it.

Let me tell you, my kids and I can make some mean curry. So when I come back, if anyone wants curry, let me know! I’m in love with it right about now.

One thing I both respect and detest about the Japanese culture is its thoroughness. It took us an hour to clean up after ourselves, scrubbing the pots until they were absolutely spotless. We even had an inspection by one of the facility members before we could put our pots and pans away; I seriously felt as nervous about it as I would a midterm, due to the stern look on the man’s face. Good thing we passed ;)

Isn’t it funny how you can get attached to people so quickly, and then it subsequently feels so unnatural to leave? I’ll miss Saya and Ayami, my two wonderful girls. Saya even wrote me a letter! *cries* I hate thinking that I’ll probably never see them again; however, it definitely puts things in perspective to live in the present and for eternity, not for past and future.

Friday was wonderful. I got to sleep in, and then my host mom and her best friend took me over the mountains to see this adorable church and other cultural things. Most of it was in Japanese, but the landscape was absolutely beautiful. After, we ate ice cream and just chilled at a table overlooking the ocean, and it was wonderful.

They are two of the sweetest ladies EVER; Masako, her good friend, even bought me a going-away present! I’ve just been showered in love, and I feel so incredibly blessed.

On Saturday, my host dad, mom, and her best friend took me to Obama (city, not the president…although fun fact: apparently he did send the city a letter after his election to thank them for supporting him), where we visited the hot springs. On the way there, we stopped at a lotus water flower wild garden, and it was absolutely beautiful. Again, pictures don’t do God’s handiwork justice.

After that, we stopped at a small supermarket, where a Japanese man (either a creeper or very enthusiastic about practicing his English on a white person) proceeded to follow me around and try to sell me his products. At everything I looked at, it was either “Oh, dewecious!” or “Buudeful, no?” I smiled and responded and then found solace in the indoor part of the market. Or not…he followed me, saying, “Hot, no?” *laughs* My host dad just laughed at my predicament.

We continued on, eating lunch at a quaint restaurant, and then arriving at the hot springs.

We were there for twenty minutes, and then the rain started. However, it was a beautiful place. On the way back, we stopped at a small outdoor foot spa, which was incredible.

We also stopped at an old Samurai street, saw a castle from afar,

and ate the best vanilla soft serve ice cream that I’ve had in my life. No joke. I’m thinking that Japan might just be worth visiting to have the experience of a perfect ice cream cone. Oh, Mom, my host dad wanted me to tell you that I’d been to Heaven and Hell on Saturday. The Japanese believe that the lotus flower is the flower of Heaven, so the garden we visited represents that. And a Christian was killed at the hot springs during the Edo period, and it was said that as he was killed, the springs erupted. The Japanese word for this location’s hot springs means “Hell” (sorry, I can’t remember the actual word).

Aunt Dawn, I heard “Kokomo” in the store today, and I thought of you! “Aruba, Jamaica, oh I wanna take ya…” I still remember you singing that to me when i was young, and it made me laugh that the Japanese listen to that, too. Oh, that reminds me! On the way home, my host mom must have pitied me or something (after listening to japanese music for hours), for she put in a cd that played both Japanese and English 90’s Christmas songs. I couldn’t help but laugh as we cruised through the mountains, listening to Will Smith rap about Christmas cheer and family and who knows what else.

Since I'm leaving my host family tomorrow, I probably won't have much access to the Internet. So this could possibly be the last blog update, but I might be able to find an Internet cafe, so we'll see. Regardless, I hope you all have a fabulous two-and-a-half weeks =)

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