I took over most of the fish feeding duties, while Doug has temporarily adopted a pig project for Act Ka Hti, a participant from Myanmar. The added responsibilities have kept us both on our toes and made us even more aware how important every person's contribution is to the life of the farm.
We got a break from our farm duties on Wednesday to visit a local school for children and youth with mental disabilities. We arrived about 10:00am and sang and played games for an hour, then made our own pizza, and enjoyed each others' company for the afternoon. It was a wonderful way for us to make connections and bring the Japanese culture closer to home--we could relate the experience at the school to our experience at the Robert R. Brown sessions at Camp Mitchell. Just like the campers we have grown to love over the years, the children and youth at the school are eager to play, love, and have a fun time.
|Doug leading "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, (Knees and Toes!)"|
|Red Light, Green Light (way different from U.S. version, we didn't know what was going on!)|
|Doug making pizza!|
After our fun day at the school, some of the volunteers and staff decided to have a relaxing evening at the "onsen" (Japanese hot springs). These pools are heated naturally via the geothermal and volcanic activity around Japan. I have been to natural hot pools before but the onsen was a little different in that males and females did not bathe together and yes, you guessed it, you bathe in the nude!
So Doug may have a different story to tell about the onsen, as we did not share this time together. I will briefly describe my experience, as a female, to you:
We walked into the locker room where women can keep their belongings, towel, hair-dryer, etc. It is here that you de-robe. Everyone takes a small towel into the bathing and spa area so that they can dry off before entering the locker room afterwards. Once inside, you are supposed to bathe before entering the pools. There is a short stool (almost like an overturned bucket) in front of each shower head, we can be removed for convenient washing). There are also bottles of shampoo, conditioner, soap, face wash, and face mask in between the shower heads for your use. The setup reminded me of old backstage theaters where there are rows of mirrors and lights for each person to use to prepare for the stage.
Once we were bathed, we could enter the pools! There were all kinds of pools, some with jets, some outside, some inside, some had small electric shocks that you could utilize to help with muscle pain etc. (I did not like those!). Of course, there were many saunas, and cold pools as well to suit any and all spa needs :)
The experience as a whole was very interesting and enlightening. I learned a lot about the Japanese culture, myself, and my body image in just the hour that I was in the spa. I am currently working on an essay describing in detail these learnings for a Japanese essay contest. Even if I do not win, I will share it with you here once I am done. Also, feel free to email us about anything you might have more questions or comments about.
(sorry, no pictures to show here!!)
Doug and I were asked to attend a local English class organized by Miki, the wife of Steven Cutting (head of ecumenical relations here at ARI). They try to have different guests attend each time who are not native to Japan, to tell a little about their hometown and give the students (young children and their parents) an opportunity to learn about different cultures and aspects of the English language.
We very much enjoyed our evening talking with members of the local community, they were kind enough to give us Japanese lessons as well, and they were sure to distinguish between the Tochigi (prefecture we are living in) dialect and the more formal "Japanese" dialect. Coming from Arkansas, we know a lot about differences in pronunciation and word choice :)
This Saturday was a working Saturday so we worked as usual in the morning and had the afternoon off. Doug and I took our usual bike trip to Trial Mart and afterwards, we deep cleaned our bathroom and bedroom, everything gets dirty when you work on a farm!! Seeing as our 11 month anniversary just passed, we spent Saturday evening sipping wine, playing farkle, and eating chocolate!
We got up early this (Sunday) morning to go hiking with Steven and Megan (Megan is the daughter of David Copley, our boss at The Episcopal Church Center in New York, she came just a couple days before we did to volunteer for a month!). We hiked this beautiful mountain up to a "swamp," which was really more like small lake in a field ;). Afterwards, we had tea and mochi (rice paste), delicious!
|A sauna in the middle of the woods, paradise!|
|I hope someone can read Japanese! (Are we going the right way?)|
|Just inchin' along (farmwork can feel this way sometimes)|
|Tea and mochi!|
|Doug and Steven cheesin'|
|I hope these bike rides never get old|
Seeing as Megan's time here at ARI is quickly coming to an end, the volunteers decided to treat her to lunch at a local Indian food restaurant (group bike ride!). Curry all around! It was, of course, delicious. We quizzed Megan about her "biggest learning" at ARI and all shared some of our thoughts on our experience so far. Wonderful fellowship over unlimited naan, can't beat it.