Whenever I leave Japan, I'll miss the little things the most. Or, better put, I'll most nostalgically think back upon routine events and realize just how many little slivers of my heart I left back in Japan. This same concept probably applies to you as well, wherever you are. And these little things are not the things I had imagined I would miss when I came to Japan. I'll miss going to the grocery store and seeing one of my little students, and the multitude of their reactions, from pretending they didn't see me, to asking for a piggy back ride to astonished I'm not resting in between school days back in America. I'll miss playing catch one on one with a student during recess just because there was a ball lying around. I'll miss playing in the park with Japanese kids I don't know after church. I'll miss the weekly meetup with my two closest friends at Starbucks. The super late friday night dinners at Cocos with friends.
Yesterday, I found out four of my younger students would be performing some kind of dance at the nearby mall. When I asked one of the rumored participants, a third grade girl who also happens to be one of my most gregarious students, she told me a little and then finished it off defiantly saying, "Don't come! Don't come!" (in Japanese) And that sealed the deal, I was definitely going now. (Not sure if this was reverse psychology, which would be pretty spectacular for an 8 year old but it worked ha)
It turned out to be a Hip hop dance performance and it was super cool. I was definitely told by my teachers that only four of my students would perform (I teach at two elementary schools, they both have roughly 240 kids, so I"m still trying to learn their names), but there were probably ten and also some former 6th grade girls performing. It was super cute. They were all hip hopped out, fitted in oversized tee shirts, baggy overalls and flat bills. Their young hip hop dance teachers definitely fought the conformity stereotype of Japan, sporting haircuts and outfits that would tempt Portland hipsters to double take.
The performance was in a big pavilion at the mall and many were watching, I'd venture to say, about 150 and the event lasted about an hour. I'm fairly certain I was the only foreigner. Being the "only one" is something I'm used to, it can have it's advantages, but downsides exist too. One thing I've loved about the arts and sports here is their attractive ability to transcend the divisions of language and culture.
My students said they didn't notice me among the crowd during their performances. When my kids realized I had showed up they were really surprised and thrilled I was there, without me noticing they excitedly ran up to say hello. The girl who commanded me not to come yesterday was predictably happy and equally surprised I showed up. When I go to stuff like this I sometimes feel like I'm only 45 percent there. Japanese comes really difficult to me, I'm the random foreigner who sticks out, I'm not usually positive with everything going on around me and I'm not sure how my kids will respond when they see me, and if they want to talk I'll probably just misunderstand them or answer the wrong question, which is embarrassing, especially if their parents are there. After the show, one little first grade girl asked me to spin her around with her mom right there, I wasn't sure what to do so I just picked her up, which made her happy enough. The hip hop dance turned into a lot of fun.
Even though I can't speak the language and don't know a lot about the kids or their family background, or what they are going through, I hope they know I really care about them and want to be there for them. It's times like these which I will really cherish.
I've been able to read more Henri Nouwen, a book of his called Reaching Out, which has helped me make more time for meditation, something I really struggle to do. So much of my energy is wrapped around myself and my own vulnerabilities, I'm not as attentive in using my gift of looking out for the needs of others, such as the kids at school struggling or feeling down. Even though I know I am making a positive impact at school, I would like to be more attentive to the ways I can be there for my students even despite the obvious language barrier. I know if I am in meditation with God, the oftentimes covered needs of the children and teachers will come to light. For various reasons, it's probably a blessing I have to consciously remove thoughts of myself to recognize the needs of others. I'm sure that's the case for all of us.
Leading up to last Sunday, I spent a lot of time preparing for my first sermon ever at Mito Church and due to the bad weather it was moved to next week, Sunday, February 23rd. I plan to post it on here in some form soon after that. Tomorrow I'm going to a concert in Tokyo with a few friends. I'm really stoked to see what a big concert in Tokyo will be like as it will be my first big concert to attend here.
|found some Japanese, Americans and Canadians who share my love of basketball|
|Thanks to Jim and Patty's coffee for the rich taste of Portland's own, Black Tiger. Home feels a little closer and my breakfast lot more delicious with Black Tiger|
|Dinner at Keiko's! introducing Kazu to Blue Moon|
|Mason and Carmon, special people|
|Mason jammin at a Jazz club. He's really good.|
|Mason and Saiki! Love these guys|