Thursday, September 19, 2013

Nara. Going Home!!! Basketball.

Tomorrow after school,  I'm excited to travel to Nara, Japan to explore the area and visit my Uncle John's childhood best friend, Michi. Japan is roughly the size of California and since I don't have a car here I will travel by trains and bullet trains. Mito, the city I live in is about a 70 miles Northeast of Tokyo, and from Tokyo, Nara is roughly another 300 miles Southwest. So, it is quite a distance. Nara is known as one of the most classical Japanese cities and contains rich Japanese heritage. 1300 years ago it was the capital of Japan. It's always fun to explore new places.

Mostly though, I'm excited to see Michi and his family. I know my entire family thought a lot of Michi and his family when they lived in Oregon. I'll make sure to take pictures and give an update on the blog about Nara.

I'm also super excited to say I will be coming home to Oregon for Christmas. Coming home sounds so nice...I will be in Oregon December 20th through the 5th of January. Please let me know if you'll be around!!

Some of the uncomfortableness here I've gotten used to, in other situations, it surprises me when the uncomfortableness still gets to me.

A few weeks ago, playing basketball with some kids in the daycare at school I discovered one of the young helpers plays every week, so I was able to invite myself  get invited even though she speaks very little English.

It was actually last Friday, the second time I played, which was a pretty good representation of my experience in Japan. I haven't played basketball since I came here about a year and a half ago, even worse, the hoops I had been shooting at the elementary school are only about 8 feet tall (instead of 10). Warming up, it was challenging just to hit the front of the rim, usually when I have space I am a pretty good shooter. I'm also in terrible basketball shape, and they play basketball fast here. Dribbling is the one thing which hasn't completely deserted me, well, that and my passing.

There are about 30 players. Demographically, most of the players are between the ages of 22 and 30, seventy percent male and don't speak any English. As I often do, I thought through the situation if the tables were reversed; how it would look if I was in America and a rusty Japanese basketball player who spoke pretty much no English came to play with a bunch of my friends. With regret but quite honestly, I don't think I would have reached out to the Japanese guy.

Shaky as I was on the basketball court, I wondered if they would conveniently leave me out on the sidelines. It's a lonely, vulnerable feeling, sitting on the sidelines, wondering if they're conspiring to keep you there. To my relief, they kindly let me take time from other players waiting to play. The worst feeling is being the last guy picked on a sports team, it's even worse when you don't speak their language.

About halfway through, I was shooting between games and the ball mercifully felt light again. In the next couple of games, I hit a couple jump shots and things came back to me. *** Several of the guys said, "Nice play" in their best Japanese English. It felt good to contribute.

***Some of the Japanese guys are Oklahoma City Thunder fan and when I made a play they made some reference to Westbrook or Harden (Thunder players). With my disdain for the Thunder, it made me laugh. I'm still trying to teach them about Damian Lillard ;)

A couple of the guys, were especially nice. One knows several of my favorite teachers at my schools. With one, we talked a little Red Hot Chili Peppers American Rock and I was able to compare Japanese sushi to the Miami Heat and American sushi to the Charlotte Bobcats. He loved that.

I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. Playing sports can quickly bind people into friends, but I came away with conflicted feelings, wondering how much they truly want me there. I do plan to keep going and seeing what happens. I don't like feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable but it's good for me. Maybe when I'm home it will help me remember when there is a foreigner I can look out for.

Here are some pictures I just received from a friend during my trip to Cambodia. The place remains a part of me.

Thanks for reading!

Giving my testimony to the Love and Serve team in Cambodia

Angkor Wat Temple

Gaku, love him.