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Meeting My Host Family

JAPAN | Monday, 2 May 2016 | Views [612]

Do to a miscommunication, we ended up showing up to the place to meet with our host families at the same time our host families were arriving. This was a mistake, because they were supposed to have a brief orientation before meeting us. So they went in for the orientation, and we stayed outside the room, recharging our electronics and ourselves.

When it was time, we took off our shoes and went into the room. Standing in one line at the back of the room, we said our names and waited for our host families to step up and claim us. Then Ozaki-san told us that we should play jang-ken (rock paper scissors) with our host families, and the winner got to ask the loser one question. I recognized it as being the same ice breaker activity we'd done with Japanese roommates our second day in Osaka.

Yuki, my host mother for the weekend, was there with Yuma and Itsuki, her two children, agreed 5 and 7. I immediately decided that I would always play scissors, and see if anyone noticed. They never did. Whether intentionally or not, Yuki usually played rock, so she usually had to ask me the questions, but when playing against the children, I won a lot, so it was my turn to scramble for a good question to ask someone years younger than me.

And so in that way I learned important things about my host family, like what everyone's favorite colors were. Also my host mother learned actually important things about me, like that I don't like fish.

After that, the host family orientation was over, and we were free to leave. Since my host family lived in the countryside, Yuki explained that we would go grocery shopping now. She asked what kind of Japanese food I liked to eat, and I went with my new default of okonomiyaki.

Yuki: Really?

Me: Well, I live in Osaka, so I've grown fond of Osaka food. Like okonomiyaki and takoyaki.

Itsuki: Takoyaki! Takoyaki!

Yuki: see you all right having takoyaki this weekend?

Me: sounds good.

So, to Itsuki’s excitement, Yuki picked out octopus for dinner. Itsuki and Yuma didn’t seem too worried about sticking close to their mother, so I wandered around as well. And then after a few times of finding Yuki on my own, or finding one of her children. And then suddenly I couldn’t find any of them in the store. And I was just wandering around, exactly like a small child who had lost their mother and didn’t know what to do. But eventually I managed to find them again, no announcements necessary.

With groceries and family assembled, we got into the car and drove to the house. It was in the countryside, and night was falling by the time that we arrived, so I didn’t get to see the deer or goats that would apparently sometimes stop by their backyard. For that matter, I didn’t really get to see their backyard either.

Dinner that night was shabu-shabu, with meat and vegetables cooking in a communal pot in the middle. It was very tasty, and very plentiful. Youhei got back from his job a bit before dinner, so we ate as a family. Youhei worked near Osaka with something related to boats, I believe. He did a lot of travel internationally, to other Asian countries, and also to Europe, but hadn’t been on a business trip to the US, and neither of them had been to Chicago.

After dinner, Yuki found two old, small looms that had been tangled. The instructions were in Japanese and German, but since she knew I liked knitting (I’d knit on the way back) she thought I might want to give it a try. I could certainly untangle it, and then I thought I knew enough about the theory behind weaving to know how it worked. Especially when I noticed that there was knob near the top that changed the heights of the strings. Turn it one way and all of the odd-numbered strings would rise to be higher than the even-numbered strings. Turn it the other way and the even-numbered strings would be higher than the odd-numbered strings. Turn it in-between, and the two would be at the same level.

I undid a few rows that were funky looking, then added more rows of my own. It went well near the beginning, but then I got bored or tired or my inexperience simply started showing, because my tension was off and the piece was contracting too much. It was at that point that I got bored, and went to bed. Or at least to a gradual winding down phase to bed.

During dinner, Yuki had asked me what time I usually woke up. Bearing in mind what Ozaki-san had said a while back about the family that lived in the countryside and woke up really early, I went for a slight lie.

“Eight.” Left to my own devices, I will not wake up at 8. But it’s the time I’ve been getting up this school year because I’ve not been left to my own devices, and it’s a time that I can get up if I do have a reason.

“Oh. That’s kind of late. Yuma and Itsuki usually wake up around 6. What time do you usually go to sleep?”

“Heh. Heh.” I’ve been spending so much time around college students that I no longer know what a reasonable lie for that is anymore. And the truth is not self-consistent with my aforementioned waking up time.

The outcome of this was that I knew the next morning, I should probably get up at 8, so I went to bed earlier than I would have normally. My room was a traditional tatami room, with just a futon on the floor and a bean-filled pillow. The futon was the same as the one on top of my bed at my apartment, and it turned out there wasn’t much of a difference between a mattress on a bedframe and a mattress on the floor. And the bean pillow turned out to be surprisingly firm and comfortable. Too quiet, but otherwise nice.


Tags: beds, food, host family, jangken, sleep schedules

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