A trip to Canada, a culturally maimed BBQ, and a fall full of festivals. It's been a great three months.
20.10.2008 16 °C
So! Here I am. I have not perished in Japan but am in fact living out a very happy and healthy life. Dad has been hounding me to put something on my blog for months and I have to admit I have been neglecting my blogging responsibilities for some time now. So, for those of you who are dying to know what is going on with me, here is an update.
Three months ago, when last I left you, it was springtime here in Japan. My friends and I enjoyed planting rice in a friend’s field, a rugby tournament in Tokushima, and an exciting trip to Tokyo. The last three months have been just as exciting with my trip home to Canada being the highlight of the summer. It was so great to get home and see my friends and family and spend some time at the lake. The best thing was seeing my niece and nephews and meeting the newest little addition to the Boonstra family, Liam. Liam was born in the spring and it was strange to know that there was a new member of my family across the world who I had not yet met. The time I spent with my brother’s kids was defiantly the highlight of my trip home. Just look how cute they are.
Before I left Japan for the summer, however, there were a few interesting events that are worth mentioning. The Sayonara Party to say goodbye to all the English teachers who were heading back home after their time in Japan was up. The AJET organization I volunteer for rented an old samurai house at the top of a mountain not far from the city. The views were spectacular and the party was a raging success.
Overlooking the valley
Checking out the view
Enjoying the entrance
Many beautiful views
Another event was the Ekaiwa BBQ. Ekaiwa means adult English class in Japanese. I have been teaching the Ekaiwa class since I arrived in Japan last year. I really enjoy meeting with the regular class members, as they are a great source of information for me about the community and about Japanese culture in general. I find that Japanese people don’t always get me and many don’t try. They often see me as strange and rude but the Ekaiwa people are usually very open to understanding me and the reasons why I think and do things the way I do. Still, despite their openness to me, there have still been some cultural bumps in our road. The Ekaiwa BBQ was one of them.
To begin with the BBQ wasn’t supposed to be a BBQ, it was supposed to be a simple bonfire with wieners and marshmallows. It came up because Melissa (the other English teacher in my town at the time) and myself had been lamenting to the class about missing campfires like we had at home. We explained it to them and they said there was a good place to do it at a local park. So, we started to plan. By the time the next Ekaiwa class rolled around the students had taken the simple bonfire and Japaneseized it. They turned what was supposed to be a simple evening of conversation and relaxation into and evening of hectic food preparation and prescribed behaviour. They can’t help it. It’s what they do. But, there was no way to stop the rollercoaster without inconveniencing some class members who had already taken it upon themselves to buy food.
So, on the day of the bonfire, one of the members of the Ekaiwa class and his wife went to the campsite at 4pm to start preparations for the 7pm BBQ. When I turned up at seven I found all the members of the Ekaiwa class there deep in the throws of chopping vegetables and fruit for various Japanese BBQ dishes. The majority of them had been there since 5pm. I was worried they wouldn’t know exactly what an actual campfire was but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lovely roaring fire when I turned up. What I was not overjoyed with was the two floodlights they cast on the fire so they could keep a close watch on the cooking. On top of the Japanese food that had been cooked, one man brought his wife along so she could BBQ meet for us. This is such a ridiculous Japanese male thing to do, to drag their wife places to do things for everyone else while the men enjoyed themselves. It ticks me off more that the women do it. So, there she stood next to a roaring fire, under two flood lights, cooking meat over a portable BBQ while us foreigners struggled to distract the people from their busy-bee absurdities in order for them to practice English conversation with us. Once the food was all finished, the Japanese people started cleaning up. They literally took their last bite of food and instantly started on the task of cleaning the whole thing up. So there they went, busy again.
Once everything was cleaned up they announced, “OK, we’re finished. It’s time to go home.” But the fire was still roaring and it was only 9pm. So we said, ok you can do what you like but we are going to stay. They didn’t get that at all. They do everything as a group in Japan and they can’t really handle people breaking away from the group so they all decided to stay, which was great. So we all sat around the fire and told some ghost storied and talked about a variety of very interesting things. Then it was 10pm and they said, OK, now we are finished. Once again we said you can do what you like but we are going to stay and enjoy the fire. There was lots more wood and it was a Friday night. We explained that at home we would likely stay until enjoy the fire and have conversations until late at night. They said that some people were tired and wanted to go home. We said, you don’t have to stay, please go home if you wish. Please stay if you wish. They said they needed to put out the fire. We said we could do it. They said Yokota-san was responsible for the campsite. We said we would take responsibility for the site and the fire. All the people left reluctantly and rather uncomfortably but Yokota-san stayed. He simply could not handle passing off the responsibility of the campsite to us. We stayed until 1:30am. Yokota-san stayed too. Yokota-san incidentally is the same man who dragged his wife along to suffer through cooking meat.
After the BBQ, the next major event in my life was the celebration of the Fourth of July. I find myself celebrating many American holidays here in Japan as so many of my friends here are American.
So this time it was American independence. Of course the whole thing is not a lot different than the Canada Day celebrations with the food and the friends and the flags. It might be an American holiday but it sure reminds me of home.
Then came my lovely three week vacation at home in Manitoba.
Certainly the highlights were the BBQ my folks threw for me with all my cousins when I got home, the camping trip with the extended family in Ontario, and the time spent with my niece and nephews. I also spent a great deal of time with friends as the Winnipeg Fringe Festival was on at the time. The Fringe of course draws all my theatre friends from all over Canada to Winnipeg, which means I got to see a pile of old school friends.
It was a wonderful and much needed vacation home.