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Making Friends like in Elementary School

JAPAN | Saturday, 30 April 2016 | Views [305]

Before class began on Friday, Dan asked me if I’d gotten an omiyage (literally “souvenir,” more generally, gift) for my host family this weekend. Which stole the exact question I’d intended to ask him, simply because the program had been vague about whether we’d needed one or not. So as I’d been packing the night before (well… that morning, but who was counting) I’d tried to quickly throw together things into a bag that wouldn’t make them look like they’d just been thrown together randomly.

First of all… Yes! Someone had at one point given me something in a nice paper bag, so I could regift that instead of using a plastic bag from a konbini. What to put in it… I had a lot of prints that I’d gotten from various Kickstarters and brought along to decorate. Since my apartment this semester didn’t really have the means or good locations to be put up (if I could put a picture there, I’d probably rather hang wet laundry to dry) so they were just together in a pile. That was a nice picture of Alice, from Alice in Wonderland. I also had a Japanese children’s book that I’d picked up in Japanese while it was on sale in Paris. I’d liked that book when I was younger, but let’s be honest- I wasn’t going to read it. Into the bag. I’m… not entirely sure what that trinket was, but it looked potentially interesting. Might as well throw it in. Tea… yes? No? Hmm… depended on how much the host family was expecting a thank you gift. I’d bring it, but ask other students before I decided if I should include it or not.

On the way to school, Brian had asked Dan if he’d gotten his host family an omiyage. The answer was basically “Oh dang! No!” So between class ending and us getting on a train to Sanda about twenty minutes later, Dan asked for and received permission to run to the Super and pick up a gift for his host family. The rest of us met up with Young-sensei in the downstairs lobby of the school and headed to the station. Dan met up with us there, and we got onto a train and rode it for a while.

We got off, followed Young-sensei for a while, and then stopped at a restaurant for lunch. About two weeks earlier, we’d needed to place our orders for the restaurant. CET had then presumably called those orders in, because the dishes were brought out shortly after we arrived without us doing anything. Somehow, we managed to remember our orders, and a quick, quiet meal later, we were ready to go. Young-sensei, who had been fretting a bit about keeping to our schedule, was surprised by how quickly we ate, but it meant that we were not rushing to get to the next place on time, so that was nice.

The next thing on our schedule was essentially a before, after, and supplemental to school program for elementary school students. Young-sensei’s two sons were both there, as were probably another dozen students. We arrived, Aaron gave an introduction of the United States, and then we split into smaller groups for self-introductions. I’m tired of giving the same self-introductions, especially since the ones to younger students (which I’ve had to do a lot) tend not to mention either my college or my major. At this point in my life, leaving those things off feels weird.

I forget what the next activity is called in either English or Japanese, but it brought back fond memories of my childhood.

Beads

Then we had a create-your-own-miniature-pizza-things. We got to go up three times to add ingredients, and though I kind of didn’t want to after the failure that was my first one, I decided to anyway. For starters, the “tomato sauce” they’d had for the base was in fact ketchup, and even though I’d been suspicious enough to not add it in full force on my pizza, it was still ketchup. Also, something I’d thought was chicken turned out to be tuna. So that was less good. But with mochi and corn, it turned out to be pretty good, if pretty non-resemblant to pizza.

After snack time, we went outside to play. One girl went running to the opposite side of the playground, and after Midh and I watched her for a little bit, I realized she was not turning back and someone should probably go to make sure she didn’t run off completely or something. So I went running after her.

From that point forward, we were best friends.

She had slight stilt-like things, which she filled with sand and left in the sun, because then the insides would be warm. It wasn’t that cold outside, and given the “stilts” were about the size of a soda can, it’s not effective for warming much more than a finger. But it was still interesting to see that was her idea of fun time.

We played on the swings for a bit, then I suggested we go back to the rest of the group, so off we went, running, of course. We caught the tail-end of a game I didn’t understand, though from what I could tell it was a game of fast-zombie-tag. (Not a real name. Basically just means you start with a small number of people who are oni, or in my naming, zombies, and they go along tagging people, and anyone they tag become oni as well.) Not being aware of what was going on, I was tagged almost immediately by Dan.

The next game was a game of Oni Freeze Tag. (Again, not the literal name. It was a game of freeze tag, just where the “it” people are called “oni,” or demons.) The girl that I’d befriended earlier was one of the oni, so her friendship proved anti-helpful as it meant she was hanging around and tagging me more often. Little kids are so nice…

After that game eventually finished, the girl went on to play on the jungle gym while I watched. I was too short for the monkey bars, and too lacking-the-determination-and-physical-strength-of-Mulan for the other. So I let myself get shown up by an 8-year-old. It would be a running theme for the weekend.

Climbing Pole

When it was time for us to leave, my newest friend very much did not want me to go. She said “bye” to the others, but she clung to my arm like if she just held on I would change my mind and stay with her forever. It was pretty cute, and it was nice to be that appreciated.

And then on the way back to the train station, Dan realized that he’d forgotten his omiyage for his host family back at the school. And so, for the second time that day, he needed to go running back to get it.

Tags: children, crafts, omiyage, oni games, self-introductions

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