Konnichiwa! Hello! Just returned home from the stay with Matsumura San this weekend. Driving away from the familiarity of my week- old home in Hakuhodai with a stranger lady at the wheel was a bit tense. But it's in your most uncomfortable and new experiences that you learn a lot, I have come to think. We spent the day in Kyoto and picked up one of her son's friends to be an English guide for me. That wasn't in the plan, but fortunately, Hiroshi turned out to be a dear and gracious fellow. We visited Nijo Castle, underwent a traditional tea ceremony, and walked the streets of Kyoto. Matsumura San even bought my mother some expensive stationery and fine green tea. These two women don't even know each other! We had yakitori for dinner, different types of chicken on a stick. She had paid for everything thus far and commenced to pay for us to have some drinks as well. I don't know if it was the Japanese plum wine or the deceptive chicken hearts, but I was ready to heave at the end of dinner. (I didn't.) Plus, this lady is a crazy driver, with lurching stops and a lead foot. I slept off most of my drunken stupor as she drove to us ... a funeral. Yes, I passively tagged along, what was I thinking. Let's just say that it was supremely awkward stepping into a room full of a hushed family members all dressed in black, while I was looking disheveled and dressed so casually. However, after being introduced, a fatherly- looking man started speaking to me in excellent English. He was the son- in- law of the deceased and as we chatted, he expressed that it was good for me to experience a traditional Japanese funeral and explained the ceremony. Turns out he lived in Richardson, Texas for a year and worked at my mother's current company, Nortel. Small world! I would've taken a picture of the interesting occasion, but even a foreigner like me sensed how that might not have been such a good idea.
Matsumura San's house was very large and traditional, with sliding paper windows and trees all around. I slept on a tatami floor. Or, should I say, laid there, since I have no recollection of ever falling asleep. She calls me "Lee" (or "Ree", phonetically). The next morning, I met her 22- year old daughter, Yuki, who is a medical student. Her English is not bad, especially when she is equipped with the ubiquitious electronic Japanese- English dictionary. We spent the afternoon at the Nara deer park feeding them round crackers, running away from aggressive deer (Yuki), grabbing evasive antlers (me), and at the adjacent Todaiji Temple, which houses some rather large Buddha statues. [And then my camera battery died.] Then dinner at a second- floor restaurant which only seats 12 people, whose menu changes every month, and offers 10- ish small dishes for dinner at the master chef's discretion. I really enjoyed spending time with someone around my age and I think Yuki and I are friends now. (Although, her teeth aren't that great for someone whose father is a dentist.) I've also made it a point to try everything at least once, meaning sashimi, but I've not acquired a taste for it. Raw meat? Not my style, but at least you can drown undelectable things in wasabi.
My English is deteriorating, while my Japanese is bettering (bettering? ah, improving). It also just occurred to me during a quiet car ride back home that it seems awfully rude of me to accept compliments. Like, someone will say something nice and I'll just nod and thank them. Then, silence. Everyone else in Japan vehemently protests with five to eight 'No!'s while shaking their heads and chuckling, pleased as punch. Perhaps that's why Americans are viewed as arrogant?
Missed, missed going to All Saints this morning. I unwisely planned on waking up earlier to listening to a sermon on the iPod, but actually "slept" til 11:30 since the room was so closed off that no sunlight could enter. Sigh. And when I try to pray before meals, they misinterpret it for a traditional saying (itta taki mas) while folding your hands before a meal.
Our poor tree back in Dallas is special: it has gotten hit by lightning three times (!), and since three times does the trick, the old clunker finally fell over this time, crushing our swing. Hm!
In the meantime, I am tricking people to read my writing by sending things out to the rest of the world.