Friday, October 31, 2008

Home Stay

Saturday afternoon was the start of the long awaited home stay. Honestly, I was very nervous as my teacher friends and I waited for our host families to pick us up. In a way, especially since we were so far away from our own families, we felt like we were being adopted!

Sazuko, my host family “mom”, arrived and warmly greeted me. We packed my many large bags into her car, which was smaller than my American car. The Hasegawa family lives just a few minutes from the center of the town. During the short drive to her home I sat in the front seat on the left side, since the steering wheels on Japanese cars are on the right side of the car. (In Japan people drive on the left side of the road.)

When we arrived we unpacked the car and headed into the house. I noticed the house looked a lot like my own from the outside. There was a paved driveway, a garage, a lawn with grass and a persimmon tree, and a house with doors and windows. When we entered the front door we were warmly greeted by the entire extended family. Like many families in Japan, Sazuko and her husband share a home with their son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons.

We took off our shoes and left them in the genkan (entry of the house) and slipped into our slippers. Next, we headed into their traditional Japanese living room. We had to remove our slippers before we entered. The floor was covered with tatami mats. We sat on zabutons (floor cushions) around a kotatsu (a low wood table frame covered by a blanket or futon and has heat beneath it). I was given a special seat because I was the guest. We went around the table and formally introduced ourselves. We told each other our names and talked a little about ourselves. Sazuko’s son, Shuji, used an internet translator on his computer to talk with me. Would you like to speak with someone in this way?

Soon it was time to make dinner and I was invited to help. After staying in hotels for a few weeks, it felt great to be with a family in a real kitchen. I wore an adorable pink flowered apron that actually was not too long on me! (Later that evening Sazuko gave me the apron as a present. I can’t wait to show it to you.) I learned how to make tempura (battered and fried vegetables). We mixed the batter using flower, water, and eggs. Then we used chops sticks to dip eggplant, a special type of radishes, and peppers into the batter and then into the hot oil. Carefully, we fried the vegetables until they were golden brown. The tempura was my favorite part of the feast the Hasegawa family prepared for me!

After dinner we took pictures together. Then, Sazuko and her husband Kenshichirou invited me to go out and sing karaoke. At first I was a little embarrassed because I am not a great singer, but I just tried my best and laughed OFTEN. We sang Christmas carols together. When we returned home we had tea. Over tea we talked about Lincoln School and I shared your writing with them. Then I took my first real Japanese bath. I showered outside of the tub with my soap and then just relaxed in the large tub filled with hot water. It was great! That night I felt like the Princess and the Pea as I slept on a pile of colorful futons, sheets, and blankets in a wonderful traditional tatami room. It was terrific and so much more comfortable than I ever imagined!

After a nice breakfast the next morning we were very busy. First, we visited Sazuko and Kenshichirou's daughter, son-in-law, and other two grandchildren. When her grandson first met me he asked, “Where did she come from?” He wrote out his ABC’s in English and gave them to me. Next, we visited a shrine. Then, we had lunch. After that we went to see the beach. There I saw another shrine, a lighthouse, and the Pacific Ocean. When we got back in the car it was time to take me back to my group. It certainly was a day I will never forget!

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