We are halfway through our 4th full day here in Japan and my how much we have already done, encountered, enjoyed, (and endured…that too). I have wanted for time to write but we have spent our fumbling attempt at rest time, thanks to jet lag, reading and drawing and once accidentally falling asleep for 4 hours in a heap on the floor to the sound of the Black Beauty audio book. That was our first full day here. Jet lag recovery is certainly underway, and quite the beast when you’re suffering it alongside 3 small children. We’ve been rising with the sun around 4:15 and setting with it around 7:45. I try desperately to stay up even a little past the kids to spend time with mom, but I think I’m still recovering from those 28 sleepless travel hours. My body is begging me to reclaim those lost hours wherever I can. I’m hopeful in the next 3 days I will feel normal again and not as though my face is going to explode if I don’t shut my eyes and collapse.
These early mornings have been so lovely, it’s our exclusive time with my mom in which we drink coffee, read and write quietly, with the occasional interruption from an eager grandchild, I’ll go for a run while the kids snuggle with their Baba, then we have our eggs and veggies and fruit and my mom’s homemade granola with yogurt. My mom leaves for work with the 5 interns living in and next to her house at 7 am, at which time the kids and I will fold up our futons, dress and prep for the day, then head outside for a walk through the neighborhood, past the rice fields and gardens to the lake and woody park, while the cool from the night lingers in the morning glow. I keep waiting for the kids to notice some major differences between the Japanese landscape and that of Virginia; the streets, cars, flora, urban design choices, etc. Alec has certainly noticed all the trains, coming and going every 3.5 minutes. It’s the greatest show on earth as far as he is concerned. And no matter what we are doing, he interrupts it to holler “Look Ma! Train! Train! Train Ma! Hi Train! Bye Train! Train, Ma!” 3.5 later we do it all over again. Anyhow, what I’ve noticed is that their enthusiasm about life, this world wherever we happen to be in it, is steadily curious, consistently observant. Certainly they notice the difference in language and look momentarily confused when someone speaks to them in Japanese, but they don’t mind not understanding everything right away. After all, they’ve spent their entire lives thus far in just such a state and are comfortably accustomed and even thrilled to watch the unknown and mysterious become familiar and understood.
Everywhere we have gone, Simone is eager to wave at kids that look remotely close to her age, and rattle off all the Japanese lines in her pocket that she’s been waiting to use. The kids at the park have clearly understood her, but in shyness they whisper and giggle among themselves and run away. Then she retreats to me to confirm that what she said was said properly and if there was any failure on her part that merited such a response. Of course I was sad to explain that they likely ran away because they just weren’t willing yet to get to know someone new and clearly quite different from them. We had just read the book “The Other Side” by Jacqueline Woodson, randomly picked from my mom’s beautiful collection of children’s books. Fresh on our minds was that tragic idea of human’s all too frequent unwillingness to reach across arbitrary social and cultural barriers in order to experience the riches of unconditional relationship. The following day we had a strikingly different experience.
Instead of hanging back and doing our own thing around the house and neighborhood, we joined my mom at the international school where she is the head mistress. There are about 60 kids, k-12th grade, that represent a variety of cultural origins. Kids started trickling in around 8 am, speaking English, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog or combinations thereof. Unscathed by the previous days events, Simone ran up to a young girl, tried her Japanese on her, and was graciously received and invited to run off and play. Her name is Homare, she doesn’t speak English yet, but that didn’t keep her from making a new friend. We stayed for morning worship, sang familiar songs and read scriptures in English and Japanese. It was such a gift to see my kids experience such welcoming kindness from these young kids, to be invited into their little community with all of our language and cultural differences. Simone and Evelyn ended up sticking around for the day, going to class and recess with the lower elementary kids. Meanwhile Alec and I went grocery shopping and I was able to stock up on a few of my favourites. It was all I could do not to rip open and devour the nato onigiri right there in the grocery store, I had at least enough self control to wait until we go to the car. I inhaled it and pleasantly licked my slimy lips.
I am deeply thankful for the chance to be here with my kids, for their chance to see and experience God in a new way, through the eyes of brothers and sisters they never knew before.