My efforts to lie low in the weeks leading up to Vietnam have been nearly impossible. With the end of the year approaching, I can feel the tense energy in the air. Everyone is frantically trying to get that last lesson, practice, dinner, party or what have you in before the clock strikes 2009. Kodo, my sake-shop-owner friend threw me a little ‘going-away’ party last Wednesday night. Really, I think he jumps at any ol’ reason to invite his friends over, drink wine, eat cheese, bread, and various Japanese foods. It might have also been our last private English lesson as next year I’ll be teaching an actual public class on Wednesday nights at the Board of Education. I’ve been advertized in the town newspaper and get stopped everywhere I go by people saying that they’ve signed up!! The next night, I went to dinner in Arakawa with one of my favorite collogues from Kamikaifu Elementary. She’s one of my favorites because we both share a dangerous passion for food – AND she bought me an Advent Calendar the week before!! We meet at a restaurant that features the ‘Locomoco.’ Others might know this dish as ‘The Big Kahuna.’ It’s a hamburger, gravy, egg, vegetable, and rice combination that is quite possibly one of the greatest mesh of flavors ever!! Because she always gives me gifts, I felt the need to give back cookies and a CD, then she felt bad so gave me a CD out of her car, and then I felt bad so gave her another CD out of my car!! Oh, Japan!!
Earlier that Thursday was the Senami Elementary Kirakirakirakira Concert. Each grade except 1st (2nd~6th) put on a musical performance. Some classes danced and sang, others played instruments and sang. Hiki sensei invited me to sing and dance with her 2nd grade class. I practiced the dance once in the morning and was asked to stand in the front row during the afternoon performance!! Haha, imagine this: 20-something teeny tiny 7 year olds and big monster Naomi in the front row looking from side to side to try to keep up with the dance while singing ‘last Christmas I gave you my heart…’ When Hiki-sensei showed me the pictures I couldn’t stop laughing!! I still can’t stop laughing!! I’m going to need to ask for a copy of those pictures – hahaha!! Oh yes that was a memorable fun experience J
The next day was the weekend, and our last musical rehearsal. The practice was held in Maki, a bit south of Niigata City, and about 2 hours away from Murakami. Normally, I would stay the night with someone in the area, but due to another food invitation, I had to book it back north for Saturday night, then south again for Sunday’s rehearsal. I’m comforted to know that we got a ton done with the musical, but also know that with over a month off between now and the next and LAST LAST practice, haha we’ll just see how the next one goes.
So Saturday night, Kawamura-sense from Murakami-Minami Elementary invited me to his home for home-cooked food and a chance to meet his family. His wife cooked the most delicious miso soup, grated yam and maguro (fatty tuna) sashimi, salad with plum dressing, french fries, corn dogs, spring rolls, croquet, and tempura oyster!! When I said that I would have rice AND drink beer, I thought that was the norm, accept everything. Kawamura-sensei said that he would have beer, but no rice. That night was a night of new knowledge for both parties. I taught them about the USA, and they taught me that generally, men don’t eat rice with beer. Beer replaces the rice. I guess it’s a good carb-swap, but Niigata rice is SOOOO good, I could NEVER turn it down!! I fell in love with this family – both children, Moe and Taku swim and play baseball. Since both parents are teachers, it makes sense that they would use every opportunity presented to teach their kids something new. They all have a huge interest in traveling around Japan and internationally. This past summer, Kawamura-sensei and Moe did a 2-week home stay in Vancouver, during which it shows how much English they learned!! For dessert, I chose the purple sweet potato and chestnut cake. Taku showed me his coin collection ranging from olden times Japanese currency to current coins and bills from other countries. Moe explained in clear English the pictures of their family and her time in Canada. I gave them cookies and Advent Calendars (thanks mom!!) and they sent me home with the yummy leftovers.
The next day was back down to Maki for the dress rehearsal and then Kaitenzushi with Obaachan!!!
ridiculously awesome unicyclists: